Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Amelia the Tropicat

Liz Clark could think of plenty of reasons not to keep a cat onboard her boat. She'd been sailing around the world on her 40-foot sailboat, the Swell, since 2006, and didn't intend to stop anytime soon. That couldn't be much fun for a cat, right? Besides, Clark was often busy with boat maintenance. Then, of course, there was her surfing addiction.

But when Clark stopped in French Polynesia and found a 6-month-old kitten in an abandoned house, everything changed. Clark took the kitten back to the Swell to feed her and give her some love. She didn't intend to keep the kitten — she'd just watch her until she found someone who could take better care of her.
The problem was, Clark couldn't actually find anyone who'd take better care of the kitten than she could herself. So she named the cat Amelia after the trailblazing pilot Amelia Earhart, and decided to see if Amelia could get her sea legs.
At first, Amelia didn't seem too sure about life onboard. In fact, she seemed to hate the ocean …

… especially when she fell into the water.

Still unsure about what was best for Amelia, Clark took her kitty companion ashore with her.

"I knew she needed to climb trees and stretch her legs," Clark tells The Dodo. "So I figured I would bring her ashore in a safe place, and if she ran off, then I'd know she was unhappy on the boat and that would be that."

But Amelia didn't run off, and she reboarded the Swell with Clark. From then on, Clark knew Amelia would be OK, as long as she had the opportunity to walk on land sometimes.
It didn't take long for Amelia to get used to life aboard a sailboat.
She had lots of places to climb …

... and jump ...

... and play ...

... and play.

She earned the captain's trust to take the helm …

... and learned that she was nothing short of a rockstar on this boat. She was Amelia — Amelia the Tropicat!

One thing Amelia didn't seem too keen on was Clark's vegan food …

… so she tended to shirk galley duty.

Amelia did run away once, disappearing on a tropical island for 42 days. Clark never stopped looking for her, but tried to come to terms with the fact that Amelia might not want to come back.

But eventually, Amelia did come back. She hasn't left Clark's side since. She accompanies Clark to dinners on other boats, restaurants, pool halls and other places on land. She's also learned to travel on dinghies, cars, motorbikes and canoes.

"She keeps her cool through it all, so long as I'm reassuring and not far away," Clark tells The Dodo. "We've grown to share a beautiful trust in each other, and I know she feels safe with me even when she's out of her comfort zone. Building trust with an animal is one of the most rewarding opportunities to come into my life. The more liberty and respect I give her, the more she surprises me with her intelligence, individuality and desire to show me love."

Want to know more about Amelia the Tropicat? Check out this video:

You can also follow Liz Clark's adventures by following her blog and instagram account.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hedgehog Cafe Opens in Tokyo

Cuddles offered alongside coffee ‘to show people the charm of hedgehogs, which give the impression of being hard to handle’, says cafe worker

For those Tokyo residents wanting more than just your average cat, rabbit, owl, hawk or even snake-themed cafe there is a new choice – a hedgehog-themed cafe.

Customers at “Harry” – a play on the animal’s name in Japanese – have been lining up to spend time at a bright room in the Roppongi entertainment district where 20 to 30 hedgehogs of different breeds scrabble and snooze in glass tanks.

A fee of 1,000 yen ($9) on weekdays and 1,300 yen ($12) on holidays brings an hour of playing with and cuddling – carefully – the prickly mammals, which have long been sold in Japan as pets.

Anna Cheung, an 11-year-old visitor from Britain, said: “All of these hedgehogs are friendly even though some of them might spike you.”

Cafe worker Mizuki Murata, who also works in a rabbit cafe in the same building, said the shop had been popular since its opening in February, with customers often having to queue.

“We wanted to show people the charm of hedgehogs, which give the impression of being hard to handle. We wanted to get rid of that image by letting people touch them,” Murata said.

“The cutest thing about hedgehogs is getting them to finally open up and show you their face.”
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Bolivian Zoo Becomes Refuge for Trafficked Animals

The zoo says an increasing number of trafficked animals seized by the authorities are arriving every month.
zoo animals
It’s another busy day at the Vesty Pakos Zoo in La Paz. Hundreds of screaming schoolchildren are running from one enclosure to another excitedly pointing at the lions, tigers and other exotic creatures on display.
zoo animals
Most of them don’t know that the majority of the inhabitants of this unique zoo have been rescued from unloved homes all around the country.
zoo animals
The animal population stands at just over 540. There are pumas, jaguars, Andean bears, condors, turtles among many others. Many have gone through a long process of rehabilitation before they can face the public.

Andrea Morales, director of the Vesty Pakos Zoo, told teleSUR, "80 percent of the animals and birds have been donated or abandoned. Sadly we are also seeing more and more cases of animals that have been illegally trafficked."

The vast majority of the animals and exotic birds arrive in very poor condition. Some birds have no feathers, their legs are broken and they can’t fly. Other larger animals have been badly mistreated by their previous owners. Many are missing their fur, dehydrated and badly malnourished.

They’re starving not just for food but also for attention. The most dramatic case that the zoo has dealt with so far this year is that of the Andean bear named Ajayu.

"He arrived dying two months ago, his owners in Cochabamba had beaten him until he was blind,’’ said Silvana Gili, a staff member at the zoo.

Ajayu was one of the lucky animals. He managed to survive and is now integrated with the other seven Andean bears that were also saved from terrible conditions.

Silvana Gili told teleSUR, "Often the animals arrive in a very bad state. We do everything we can to save them."

Fifteen years ago the zoo decided to stop buying animals. They didn’t need to as stocks were high and they were overwhelmed with the numbers of trafficked and abandoned animals arriving every day.

"One day we arrived at work and there was a box left outside the front entrance,'' said Francisco Quispe, head of the game keepers at the zoo. "When we opened the box, to our surprise we found a puma inside." They called the puma Carmel and nursed her back to life by bottle feeding her for weeks until she regained her strength.

The zoo is now almost full to capacity and the authorities say they can’t take in many more new cases.

Most of the animals at the Vesty Pakos Zoo should be living in their natural habitats in the Andan highlands or in the tropical jungles in the North of the country. But poachers trap the most precious and rare animals mostly for trafficking. Depending on the size and type of animal or how exotic they are, they can fetch up to US$50,000 on the illegal market.

Two months ago in the town of Patacamaya villagers found a rare Andean cat walking down main street said Andrea Morales. The Andean cat is a species that normally lives in the highlands of Bolivia, Peru and Chile and is in danger of extinction.

The arrival of the cat brought biologists from all over the country to the zoo because "it was so rare to see this cat up close" Andrea Morales told teleSUR. The biologists are still carrying out tests to rule out any infections. If he is deemed healthy, he will be returned to his natural habitat.

The Bolivian government is trying to clamp down on poachers removing these animals from their natural habitats. "We try to educate families and school children about the dangers of these actions,’’ said Francisco Quispe.

But judging by the number of new animals turning up on their doorstep every week, its clear some people are not getting the message.
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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Taxidermied Animals Come Back to Life

Taxidermy had not held much interest for Lynn Savarese, until she signed on as a volunteer photographer for New York City's American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Though she was simultaneously working on numerous projects in travel, interior, and portrait photography, and as well as works featuring abstracted flowers in decay, her experience with the AMNH made her enamored of the world of dead animals.
“I grew mesmerized by this art form when photographing bird mounts for the AMNH’s archival digitization project,” Savarese tells The Creators Project. “Overwhelmed by the heartbreaking charm of these figures and their disquieting embodiment of both life and death, I sought to understand the medium better. I hadn’t known, for instance, that John James Audubon’s masterful rendering of birds depended on his proficiency as a taxidermist, or that Charles Darwin’s taxidermy skills were essential to his scientific pursuits.”
Rat and Bunting 14
During her time as a volunteer, Savarese began to see a narrative among the animals that displayed how life could be carried over into still form. “Through scientific knowledge and acute observation, precise sculptural artistry and theatrical intuition, the taxidermist aims to achieve the illusion of life through the remains of death.” Savarese explains. “Rarely are life and death portrayed simultaneously with such quiet force and wonder.”
Rat and Bunting 3
“While enthralled by the enigmatic beauty and character of these specimens, I never lose sight of man’s hubris in turning animals into replicas of themselves and the inherent irony in attempting to achieve immortality for them through killing them. Doubly ironic, however, is that I've never felt more deeply the wonder and beauty of our animal kin than in my close-up encounters with these mounted creatures.”
Plumis Zmaragdus
In her first taxidermy series, My Still Life Aviary, Savarese focused on the fate of mounted birds in limbo. “These specimens were too old and tattered to be put on public display, but federal and state law forbids the sale of any that are endangered species to any other party who might have an interest in preserving and protecting them," she tells us. In her second series, The Death and Life Adventures of Rat and Indigo Bunting, she was inspired by E.B. White's masterful portrayal of anthropomorphized animals. Recently, Savarese has started work on a more abstract series called Plumigeri, in which she examines the extraordinarily intricate patterns appearing on the feathered backs of mounted birds.
“In My Still Life Aviary series, my aim was to capture not only the haunting charisma of the mounted birds but also the ethical challenges they present, as well as their power to convey the endangerment and threat of extinction many bird species face today. Paying them tribute through photography became, for me, an almost reverential mission,” says Savarese. “In the future, I would like to experiment with different environments, and draw upon a greater variety of mounted animals.”
“I am excited to be revisiting mounted birds from a new perspective, and enjoying the much more abstract images that emerge when my focus is exclusively on their feathers.”
Prometheus Vinctus
Rat and Bunting 9
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Monday, January 11, 2016

Animals up close at The Dubai Mall

Otters, rays and crocodiles, oh my! Go behind the scenes and explore what animals get up to with the new Animal Encounter Experience at the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo in the Dubai Mall. The encounter will showcase the marvels of the aquatic world, with guests will having the opportunity to get up close and personal with three incredible species - otters, rays and salt-water crocodiles.
Each encounter will offer information on how the animals are cared for at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo and highlight several species conservation initiatives.

Animal Encounters are held every hour, daily from 11am to 10pm. Each Animal Encounter is priced Dhs200 per person.

Book online as there is limited space available. For more information, visit:
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Sunday, December 20, 2015

These Animals Are Helping to Slow Climate Change—But They’re Dying

Animals play a key role keeping forests healthy

The decline in animal populations in tropical forests may play a role in accelerating climate change, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows how the loss of animals reduces the ability of forests to store carbon that would otherwise accelerate global warming. Large animals like large primates, tapirs and toucans play a key role distributing the seeds of the large trees that store the most carbon and in turn ensuring a healthy forest. The researchers note that tropical forests store 40% of the world’s carbon, but that carbon is released into the air when forests are degraded or destroyed. The decline in those animal populations thus has a tangible effect on how well their habitat can prevent carbon from reaching the atmosphere.

Deforestation has been a hot topic in discussions about how to reduce climate change, but the focus on animals has been less prominent. The new research adds relevance to campaigns to protect endangered animals in tropical forest areas where populations are on the decline due to everything from hunting to logging.
The study also adds to a growing area of research focused on how to address climate change by restoring nature.
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Monday, December 14, 2015

Queensland farm a haven for injured animals

Storybook Farm provides a secure home for animals with disabilities, injuries and special needs.
Storybook Farm provides a home and care for injured animals.
Storybook Farm provides a home and care for injured animals.

A little farm with a big heart is helping three-legged dogs, blind horses and anxious donkeys live long and happy lives.

Storybook Farm, in south-east Queensland, houses animals of all shapes and sizes with special needs on a small plot of land in the Scenic Rim.

Lisa Jane Cameron along with her family have been helping animals for more than 30 years.

The one-of-a-kind farm began after their family dog, Mr Waddles, became paralysed and they could not find a support service for disabled animals.

“Since then we’ve welcomed brain-damaged whippets, Matthew a blind staffy and Krumb our wheelchair-bound dachshund,” she said.

“If the animals have the will, we will find a way and that’s what it’s about.”

A passion for problem solving
It is not just the animals that Ms Cameron has to assist.

Owners of the animals turn to her for emotional support too.

“Our main aim is to keep families together where possible, and if not we visit the families with their pet,” she said.

“For many of the people we help their pet is the only living thing they have seen all day and if you remove that it’s detrimental to the person as well.

“We’ve seen families who thought it was the end and they were traumatised families and now they are back together again.

“We do it because we love it and we want to help.”
One of the goats is being nursed back to health after breaking his leg. Photo: ABC

The small sanctuary focuses on giving a new lease on life to special needs animals and also severe cruelty cases.

“We’re developing wheels that can be used on the beach [for disabled dogs],” Ms Cameron said.

“With the blind dogs, we’ve learnt to place furniture in the right places and we teach them about different sounds.

“For the dogs that can’t walk we have drag bags and we’re inventing better ones that are cooler for Queensland – we’re problem solvers and we do it every day.”
Krumb the dog is one of the well-known characters on the farm. Photo: ABC

Helping animals with a strong will to live

Ms Cameron has been called many things including Molly from A Country Practice and Doctor Doolittle.

She sees her work as a way to give back to the community – and to animals too.

“Animals do so much for us, they protect us, they’re therapy dogs, they help us see and help with cancer patients,” she said.
LJ Cameron holds one of the whippet dogs who has an injured skull. Photo: ABC
“People’s blood pressure lowers when they pat a cat and nursing homes are better with an animal in it.

“We’re not here to save all animals but if they have a strong will to live we will give them a way.”

Ms Cameron’s children, Alex and Jonah, help on a daily basis with feeding, walking and working closely with each of the animals.

“I couldn’t do it without my children,” she said.

“It has taught them to respond. It makes them better people as they are more compassionate, tolerant and they have understanding.”

Making a difference

When people ask Ms Cameron why she does what she does, she tells them that she wants to make a difference.

“You get up and you make a difference, as I think that’s what we’re here for,” she said.

“I think we owe the animals more than they owe us.

Alex Cameron nurses one of the blind goats on the farm. Photo: ABC

“We find many people find the dogs confronting, especially the dogs in wheelchairs – as they see the wheelchair, not the dog in the wheelchair.

“I let people spend time with them and within minutes people are in tears.”
The blind dogs on the arm have collars detailing their vision-impairment. Photo: ABC
The future for Storybook Farm

In the future, Ms Cameron hopes to bring literacy and her animals together with storytelling sessions for children to be held at the farm.

She also hopes to register Storybook as a charity in 2016 and find more people to come onboard and help.

“Inside each bit of fur, feather or scale there’s a someone and it’s not a Disney-fied sort of attitude,” she said.
One of the three-legged dogs running around the farm. Photo: ABC
“My aim is to build the sanctuary and make it secure and strong enough that it’s a legacy that goes way past me.

“We hope to get a stable property to set-up a permanent base and we want to go to more schools and hospitals next year.”
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Friday, December 11, 2015

Steamy Calendar With Vet Students And Animals Is All We Want For Christmas

With this calendar, you'll never have a bad month.
Omega Tau Sigma veterinary fraternity at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine recently released its 2016 Men of Vet School calendar to the public. The steamy calendar, which is an annual project, features students alongside adorable animals.

Vet Students And Animals
Omega Tau Sigma/Cornell University
And as if that wasn't splendid enough, 15 percent of the calendar's profits will go toward the Patient Assistance Fund to help owners in need afford veterinary care for their pets.

Vet Students And Animals
Omega Tau Sigma/Cornell University
Samantha Lovering, this year's calendar chair, told The Huffington Post that the calendar features 33 veterinary school students, and took a few months to shoot. She also mentioned that hours of brainstorming went into creating each scene. The toughest one was the November shoot, which incorporated chickens.

Vet Students And Animals
Omega Tau Sigma/Cornell University
"We had never done a shoot with chickens before and thought it would be fun and interesting," Lovering said. "But they were a challenge to hold onto!"
Of course the calendar wasn't just hard work -- it ended up being a blast to work on for many involved.

Vet Students And Animals
Omega Tau Sigma/Cornell University
"As veterinary students, we always love working with animals!" Lovering told HuffPost. "Many of the animals are owned by members of Omega Tau Sigma, and everyone is always excited to have their animals photographed."

Vet Students And Animals
Omega Tau Sigma/Cornell University
Well, now we know what to get the animal lover in our lives for Christmas!
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Monday, December 7, 2015

Australian Zoo Animals Enjoy Christmas Treats!

Animals at Sydney's Taronga Zoo enjoyed an early delivery from Santa this year and were treated to edible Christmas presents Friday.
aussie zoo christmas treats
Animals at Sydney's Taronga Zoo enjoyed an early delivery from Santa this year and were treated to edible Christmas presents Friday.
The Taronga Zoo said the chimpanzees, including babies Fumo and Sudi, woke to find gift-wrapped food treats prepared by keepers and volunteers, inside their enclosure.
Local media reported that Fumo, a 15-month-old baby chimpanzee, spent the day playing with Christmas paper and boxes.

According to the zoo, Esmeralda the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, who is the zoo's oldest resident, also enjoyed a festive treat in the form of watermelons carved in the shape of Christmas trees.
Zoo officials said the treats, while edible, were also educational in nature, designed to challenge and encourage the animals' natural skills.
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The Reindeer

The first thing you need to know about reindeer is that, like a spy or a pro wrestler, they go by different names depending on where they are. If you're reading this in the Russian taiga or in the fjords of Lapland, you're familiar with reindeer, rangifer tarandus, the antlered species of deer that roam around munching on lichens and growing a crown of antlers that can range in size from cute to terrifying. If you're reading this in Greenland or the Canadian tundra, however, you only know of Caribou, rangifer tarandus, those hooved cuties that roam around avoiding wolves and hanging out in sometimes massive herds.
 Just kidding! Everyone knows about reindeer. Due to their place in the pagan-Christian Santa Claus mythology of the western world, they are a pop culturally protected species, disproportionately beloved and sought after, especially in the winter months. There's the song, of course, then there's the Rankin/Bass Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, then there's the 1989 film Prancer which I remember sending me into a spiral of existential despair sometime in the second grade. There's also a reindeer sidekick in the extraordinarily popular Disney film Frozen, which you know kicked up its numbers on Google Trends.
But what's really the difference between a reindeer and a caribou? This should be obvious by now: a reindeer is a charismatic and charming celebrity animal, a caribou is that gross moose type thing you skip at the zoo.

That's not the only thing reindeer have going for themselves. Reindeer get to live in objectively the best part of the world (the Arctic circle), and unlike some of their neighbors up there, they're not even close to endangered. Part of this is just because most of their predators (wolves, bears) only pick off the smallest and weakest of the herd, and part of this is that like so many deer species, reindeer have a handy way of breeding way past the point of practicality. I mean, if you were this cute and glamorous, you would too.

But back to the predators — why will nobody step to the reindeer? Is it their antlers? I mean, if you think about it, antlers are pretty fucking crazy. Just close your eyes, and forget that reindeer have antlers and moose have antlers and there are antlers on the wall of that artisanal whiskey bar in your neighborhood. Now open your eyes and look at a reindeer.

Antlers are so weird! What are antlers, you ask? Well, they're just a bone like any other bone ... if any other bone grew into a massive biological chandelier covered in a soft layer of skin which then molted off. And if that bone then died and hung around on top of your head for a while before falling off. And if that happened every year. Antlers are used for combat and sexual selection (a.k.a. fightin' and fuckin'), two of the greatest hobbies of the animal kingdom.
So maybe that's freaking out all the would-be reindeer eaters. But you know who's not freaked out? Mosquitoes.
Yes, believe it or not, one of the greatest threats to the modern reindeer are mosquitos. Not bears. Not wolves. Not idiot humans looking for decorations for their billiard rooms. Mosquito bites, especially in the summer, can cause so much stress to reindeer that they stop feeding — both adults and calves. Here is a picture of some reindeer huddling on snow to avoid their bites. Look at it and try to imagine anything more pathetic.


Look, I can sympathize. I'm the kind of person who gets ten times as many bug bites as everyone else during an average summer picnic; when I cry out in disgust and shame at my befouled limbs, at least one person always says, "aw, it's just ‘cause you're so sweet." I'm sure all those reindeer have heard the same line. Well, guess what: just because you're sweet and wonderful doesn't mean that's an invitation for bloodsuckers and users to feed off all your positive energy. Maybe it's not the toughest thing to be brought low by a tiny biting insect, but the stress is real.

But the fact that this is one of the only real Achilles heels of the reindeer just goes to show how resilient they are. And did I even mention how many flavors they come in? My personal favorite is the Svalbard reindeer, one of the northernmost subspecies, which looks like a sporty little dog or jackalope. Look at it go!

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