Monday, December 30, 2013

Dolphins do drugs

If you read this blog, you already know the truth about dolphins: they like to kill babies (of their own species and others), commit sexual assault (on their own species and as in the video above, ours), and don't always push drowning swimmers towards shore.

What's left? You won't be surprised to learn that they've figured out how to abuse drugs. On a BBC program set to air in Britain later this week, they're shown getting high on puffer fish, which contain a toxin that gets them high:

"This was a case of young dolphins purposefully experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating," said Rob Pilley, a zoologist who worked as a producer on the series

"After chewing the puffer and gently passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection."
Mr Pilley said that the dolphins treated the puffer fish differently to their regular prey, which they usually rip apart.
And like any experienced drug user, dolphins appear to know their product.
"The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care. Dolphins seem to be experts on how to prepare puffers and how to handle them."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Animals on Santa's "Naughty" List

A couple of animals that got into holiday trouble:

-In Alberta, Canada, an elk got tangled in Christmas lights and needed to be rescued:
The bull elk was spotted wandering near the Alberta mountain town with lights and candy cane ornaments strung up in his antlers. 
Parks Canada, which responded to a resident's call, tranquillized the elk to get him untangled. About 4½​ metres of lights were trailing behind him. 
"We thought that it could get wrapped up in its legs and cause some injury and/or get wrapped up in a bush," said resource management officer Blair Fyten.
Their calm reaction is due to the fact that this is actually nothing new:
"Every couple of years we'll get an animal that's got Christmas lights on him and sometimes they're able to shed the lights themselves, and sometimes they're wrapped up so tight that we have to intervene."
This year, at least two animals have been trapped in Christmas lights, he said.
And in Australia, one croc is already on the list for only getting coal next year after being greedy when Santa visited Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin:
Saint Nick took a dip in the Cage of Death to cool off and say hello to 5.5m-long croc Chopper.
"The water was really refreshing - I'm not used to all this heat and humidity," the North Pole dweller said.
But when Santa dropped in on another inmate named Burt, the 700kg monster made like the Grinch and stole the big man's sack.
The staff at Croc Cove leapt into action to save Christmas and to ensure Burt - who is a sizeable specimen at 5.1m - didn't end up with a bellyache.
They failed to tempt the seasoned reptilian negotiator away from his stolen booty until handlers upped the ante with a whole chicken. He dropped the sack and ate the chook- feathers and all.
Santa said the 80-year-old croc would be blacklisted for many a Christmas to come.
"Most of the crocs will get some nice big bits of special Territory ham (wild boar) but old Burt will only find coal in his stocking when I come back on Christmas Eve," he said.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Local Heroine in the War Against Bad Animals

We've seen it time and time again on this blog: people are left at the mercy of bad animals by the very agencies and authorities that ought to be in charge of helping them. But to be slightly cheerful for the holiday season, here's a sort of encouraging story of an unconventional success.

In one part of India that's plagued by elephants, state officials proclaimed themselves helpless in the face of a herd that entered the city of Rourkela back in July. They corralled the beasts into a football stadium but then had no idea how to get them back to the forest.

Who did they turn to? A 14-year-old girl, named Nirmala Toppo.

The BBC explains her methods:
Nirmala says she talks to the herd in her local tribal dialect - Mundaari - and persuades the animals to "return to where they belong".
"First I pray and then talk to the herd. They understand what I say. I tell them this is not your home. You should return where you belong," says Nirmala who is a Roman Catholic.
Her mother, she says, was killed by wild elephants and that was when she decided to learn the technique to drive them away.
In her work, she is assisted by her father and a group of boys from her village.
"We surround the herd. Then I go near them and pray and talk to them."
Some city folk are skeptical of her abilities, but locals say that people who live among elephants have to know how to cope with their bad behavior.
Niel Justin Beck, a member of the district council in Jharkhand's Simdega area, where Nirmala comes from, says due to their co-existence with the wild animals, the tribal people know how to deal with them.
"In Jharkhand, we call Nirmala a lady Tarzan. Whenever marauding elephants enter a village or destroys crops, the local forest department officials never turn up.
"It is then that the villagers approach Nirmala for help. And she is able to successfully drive away the herd after talking to them."
This is not an entirely heartwarming tale - after all, this is an animal that's been the cause of 800 human deaths in the state in the past decade, and the goverment has to rely on a child to solve the problem? But at least they knew who to ask - and they paid her, too - so we're going to chalk this one up as a success.

Good advice photographed by Flickr user brett burton.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dogs Down Under

As if Australia didn't have enough animal problems, what with half the animals being venomous and the other half being invasive species eating all the cute native ones and the GIANT FERAL GOLDFISH, man's supposed best friend really isn't helping:

- They've got one amazingly efficient bad dog:
A jaywalking dog has caused a four-car collision, a five-woman fight and a two-man punch-up in Katherine.
The dog ran in front of a car, which managed to stop in time, as did two more vehicles following But then things went downhill:
"However, the driver of a fourth vehicle travelling behind was apparently distracted and was unable to brake in time to avoid rear-ending the vehicle in front, which pushed all of them into the rears of each other."
Supt Foley said a heated exchange between the women followed. An intoxicated man who witnessed the incident reportedly got into a scuffle with one of the women's boyfriends, who turned up on the scene.
-Elsewhere, toad-licking to get high is apparently becoming a canine epidemic:
QUEENSLAND dogs are getting addicted to the hallucinogenic sweat that oozes off the backs of cane toads.

Vets warn that some dogs are so desperate for a fix they deliberately hunt down the amphibians to stimulate the excretion of the deadly poison, then lick their prey.

Like all addicts, the pooches are risking their lives for their cheap thrill.
Jonathon Cochrane from the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science said there were some dogs he dubbed "serial lickers" who would be treated for cane toad poisoning a few times a year.
"To say a dog or a cat is having an hallucination is impossible, but some do star gaze or track something across the room that isn't there and others just stare out of the cage while we're monitoring them," he said.
One commenter on the article tells of a particularly persistent pooch:
My parents' dog 'enjoys' an occasional froth at the mouth, dilated pupils and convulsions. Has been 'enjoying' it for years....We have tried everything to get rid of the toads but when the dog wants one it will find it. Even when it is colder. It is almost like the dog has them 'stashed' somewhere.
 -However, if it's any comfort, unlike so much other Australian fauna, at least dogs usually won't kill you - but watch out for your fellow citizens, and caterpillars:
Human Bites Kill More Than Dog Bites in Australia
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians are more likely to die from caterpillar bite, gas cylinder explosion and falling off the bed.
Hot water taps, for some uncanny reasons, seem to kill more people than venomous spiders... Poisonous plants and animals killed much more than lizards and snakes.

Ominous cane toad by Flickr user tubagooba.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cats inspire year-long crime spree

Cat lovers, we know how you rationalize it. Whatever number of cats you have, it's not too many - only other people are crazy cat ladies. And whatever you buy to spoil your kitties is just the basic necessities.

One Japanese man, I am sure, used to be just like you. And it led to a year-long crime spree where police say he stole 18.5 million yen (that's around 185,000 in US dollars) so that around 120 cats (that's around 120 in US cats) could eat only the best:

Mamoru Demizu, 48, is suspected of breaking into houses to steal cash and jewels on 32 separate occasions.

He told police that he stole things to come up with the money to feed scores of his feline friends, spending up to 25,000 yen a day, an officer said.

“He said he felt happiest when he rubbed his cheek against cats,” the officer said.

Unemployed Demizu kept one animal at his home in Izumi City, and about 20 in a nearby warehouse, while feeding 100 more strays that lived in the neighborhood, the police said.

“He would give them fresh fish and chicken, not cheap canned food,” he said.
Cat lovers, take heed: you're on a slippery slope.

Many Japanese cats - of the only good kind - by Flickr user Wintersweet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Unemployed Huskies Turn to Crime

Some breeds of dogs were bred to do a job. And like humans, when they can't get work, they may turn to a life of crime.

A Dollar General store in South Carolina was robbed twice within a few minutes in broad daylight of dog treats, dog food, pig ears and beef bones. Fortunately, security cameras were rolling, revealing that the thief was a husky named Cato. From what his owner says, the dog had no excuse, but he's obviously been practicing:
She said she’s not sure if this is his first theft, but he has gotten into other local businesses. “He’s gotten into Ingles. He’s gotten into BI-LO. He goes to Pizza Hut. And he goes up to Yo Cup which is downtown too,” she said.
Darden said he’s not hungry. “Look at him, he’s fat,” she laughed. “Yes! I feed him. There’s food in there. There’s treats in there.”
This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened - in 2009, a husky did the same thing in Utah, after disregarding an electronic fence and making a round trip of twelve miles to a grocery store.

So if you've got a husky and no sleds for it to pull, do your duty to the community and keep close tabs on it. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


As if Australia didn't have enough animal problems, what with half the animals being venomous and the other half being invasive species eating all the cute native ones, LOOK AT THIS.

The scientist interviewed in this article is concerned about the fact that fish dumped into the local waterways by irresponsible pet owners can introduce diseases. And goldfish can do their own special damage: they like to dig around in the muck, which can cause algal blooms. Worse, apparently when the eat the algae, it doesn't kill it - it passes through their gut "reinvigorated."

But come on, surely that is not the scariest part, this is:
Dr Morgan said that his team had discovered 40 centimetre-long feral goldfish that weighed up to two kilograms.
"In WA, we have the fastest growing goldfish in the world," Dr Morgan said.
"They just eat and eat and grow and grow."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The truth about animal relationships

You should go read this post at The Toast, because there is nothing I could write today, or possibly any other day, that would equal it:

A Slideshow Of Different Animals Who Are Not Friends And Have Never Met


Photo by Flickr user Leo Koolhoven via the interesting Animals Sitting On Capybaras Tumblr, which you should also check out, but without assuming that they are enjoying it, you know?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tools and shoes

I can't think of a way to make a connection between these stories except to make a bad pun about the Crocs, and no one wants to hear that. So let's just leave it at: here are my favorite two stories I've collected since last week.

-We've seen plenty of cats who make collections of stolen items from around their neighborhood, but this one in New Zealand is impressive for her focus on a single type of rather large prey: she collects shoes.
A cat-burglar with a penchant for footwear is behind the disappearance of about 50 shoes in Arataki.

The cat has brought back all sorts of shoes from gumboots to Crocs, individual shoes to pairs, kids to adults and even a boxing glove. He drags those that will fit through the cat door while the rest remain on the drive or in the garden.
"The crazy thing is that there are pairs sometimes so he must be going back because he couldn't carry two," Miss Graham said.
-It was once thought that tool use was one of the things that separated humans from other animals. It's long been clear that this isn't true, and of course, once you can use tools, you can use them to behave badly.  A recent paper describes crocodiles in India and alligators in the US that will lurk around egret and heron colonies with sticks balanced on their snouts. As blogger Darren Naish explains:
Birds approach to collect the sticks for use in nest building and… well, let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for the birds.
It's pretty clear this is no accident: the crocs only do it during nesting season.

(And if you still aren't convinced that this is something animals can do, follow the link to read about a bunch more animals that use bait to attract prey.)