Pigs capture pig

March 31, 2009

A rampaging pig was returned to captivity following the brave intervention of a police officer late of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Commandos, the BBC reports.

The beautiful seaside town of Margate was spared ruin by the intervention of heroic Pc Chris Wiltshire, whose “way with animals” subdued the rampaging porker.

Inspector Simon[s?] Collins of the Kent Constabulary told BBC News: “It is quite a large pig and, although it was not aggressive, a number of the younger officers were quite daunted.”

“Pepper” of Ethelbert Road, Margate, together with an unnamed rabbit accomplice, had inadvertently been liberated by a potting-shed burglar.

The pig apparently enjoyed its stay with the Peelers, catching some shuteye under a blanket in the police kennels.

“It was the subject of some attention – all the early shift patrols have been over to have a look at it,” Collins added.

Nevertheless, the breakfast menu of Margate Police Station remains defiantly unchanged.

Escaped goat slain by police

March 31, 2009

The Twin Cities are significantly safer after an escaped goat was gunned down by police, the Pioneer Press reports.

The caprine menace escaped from a meat processing plant, marauding the mean streets of South St Paul, Minnesota, before being dispatched by an officer with a 12-gauge loaded with buckshot.

Police Chief Dan Vujovich defended the officer’s decision to use a shotgun (rather than, for example, a meat cleaver or hand grenade).

“I also think that if there was a situation where a goat did injure somebody, there would be more of an outrage of why we didn’t take more aggressive action when we had the opportunity,” Vujovich continued, before perusing the menu of a local Jamaican restaurant.

Controversy surrounds the goat’s demeanour. Concord Fresh Meat employees claimed the animal was so agressive that it could not be persuaded to return to its pen. St Paul resident Glenn Boche, on the other hand, describes a much more circumspect animal. He witnessed the goat contemplating Christmas reindeer figures in his yard, perhaps wondering when the hell Boche planned to take his decorations down.

In addition to expressing disgust at the bloody entrails left at the scene, South St. Paul residents feared their beloved Oreo, a law-abiding goat who has lived locally for some years, might die in a cruel case of mistaken identity. Happily, Oreo still browses the verdant slopes of Minnesota unmolested.

The escaped goat had been at large for ten days before it was finally brought to justice.

Penguin drowns in bucket during escape attempt

March 25, 2009

Auckland is a couple of penguins short of a zoo after a series of mysterious deaths, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Four of the zoo’s six-strong colony of Little (Blue) penguins have died of a “mysterious ailment.” Symptoms included an unusually oily coat, which can (somewhat counterintuitively) lead to waterlogging and subsequent hypothermia. The convalescent sphenisciformes were hand-fed and washed daily to encourage a return to a maritime existence, but, despite the efforts of their keepers, all passed beyond the veil.

A fifth penguin staged a daring escape from an emergency enclosure, but went straight to Davy Jones’ Locker, having fallen headlong into a bucket of water.

“It was just one of those things you wouldn’t think about in advance – a penguin drowning,” said the zoo’s veterinarian John Potter.

Auckland Zoo hopes to restock with rescue penguins whose injuries compromise their ability to feed in the wild.

Escaped lion shot dead at Australian zoo

March 23, 2009

A lioness escaped from her enclosure at Mogo Zoo in New South Wales, was seen “moving slowly” towards visitors and licking her lips, before being shot dead by keepers, Reuters reports.

What makes this different from a run of the mill lion-escapes-gets-killed story is the volume of hate mail subsequently received by zoo staff. Sally Padey, owner of the zoo, said she had received letters from people angered that Jamelia had been killed, rather than tranquillized and returned to confinement.

“I’ve never had to make that decision ever in my entire life, in a blink of an eye, and I did yesterday and everybody is safe. When you’ve got to make a split decision like I had to yesterday, especially with a lion that’s so very dear to me, it’s not easy,” Padey said.

Tranquillzing the animal was not an option, explained the zoo’s business manager John Appleby. Drugs would have taken about ten minutes to take effect in a lioness of Jamelia’s size.

“If we’d put a tranquilliser dart in her bum, believe me they get a little cranky about it, and then if she went into that public area and took 10 minutes to get put down, there is a huge risk,” Appleby told the Sydney Morning Herald, mixing tense, mood and number like a round of Martinis.

Life in the shadows

March 14, 2009

Not as we know it

Last week saw the successful launch of the Kepler Space Telescope, designed to search our region of the Milky Way for extrasolar planets. One of the goals of the mission is to discover the frequency of “terrestrial” planets, rocky worlds between half and twice the size of Earth, and especially those in the habitable zone where life might arise. What would such life look like, were we able to visit?

Read the rest of this entry »

Stone-throwing chimp plans his attacks

March 11, 2009

A chimpanzee at a Swedish zoo has shown an ability to plan for future events by hoarding stones to fling at visitors.

The surly chimp calmly collects stones and broken pieces of concrete while no-one’s around, and stockpiles them for later use. When zoo visitors later appear at his fence to ogle him, he unleashes his cache of weaponry in an “agitated state”.

“We’ve done experimental studies, and the chimps … show very clearly that they do plan for future needs, but … perhaps this was an experimental artefact,” Dr Mathias Osvath, a cognitive scientist from Lund University, told BBC News.

“Now we have this spontaneous behaviour, which is always in some sense better evidence.”

The chimpanzee, named Santino, seems singularly ill-disposed to zoo visitors. Keepers have removed hundreds of his missiles over the years, which are only ever used to pelt members of the public. During zoo-closure periods, Santino neither hoards nor throws his missiles.

The angry ape shows a surprising determination to batter Joe Public. Even when stones are in short supply, he taps portions of his concrete enclosure and listens for weak points, before breaking off pieces loosened by the Scandinavian frost.

During threat displays, chimpanzees are known to throw whatever comes to hand. Frequently, however, this has come straight out of their arses.

“Spontaneous and unambiguous planning behaviours for future states by non-humans have not previously been reported,” Osvath writes in an article for Current Biology.

Kangaroo placed in headlock during bedroom attack

March 9, 2009

A kangaroo crashed through an Australian couple’s bedroom window and subjected them to a bewildering attack before being half-nelsoned into submission. The six foot marsupial leaped up and down on Beat Ettlin’s marital bed as the couple cowered under the duvet, until its claws began to rip through the fabric, prompting a drastic course of action from the Canberra resident.

“I just saw this black thing. I thought it was a lunatic ninja, an intruder. It just fell on top of us on the bed. A couple of seconds later I realised it was a kangaroo,” Ettlin told Sky News Online.

The bounder then set about terrorising the couple’s ten-year-old son, which was too much for Ettlin to bear. “I got him in a headlock and pressed him to the ground.”

After a brief struggle, the ninety-pound beast was shown the door, and sprang off into the night to nurse superficial injuries in his outback lair.

A video of the interview is available on Sky’s website.

“Pearl” the white roebuck marked for death

March 9, 2009

An extremely rare white roe deer may have only three weeks to live if trophy hunters get their way. A German huntsman has offered £5,400 for the right to stalk and kill the animal, nearly four times the regular price for a roebuck.

Kevin Stuart, owner of stalking rights at the Kirkconnel estate in Dumfries and Galloway, told the Daily Fail that he will not entertain any bids for the beast.

“While it is on this estate it will be safe. I don’t care how much anybody offers to kill it, I want to preserve it and make sure it has a long life,” he said.

The yearling, named Pearl by animal rights activists keen to stay his execution, is a “once in a decade” specimen, according to Charlie Jacoby, editor of Sporting Rifle magazine. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Jacoby described it as having a “teddy-bear face” and a “kangaroo head”.

The Times has a picture of Pearl, with which you can compare Jacoby’s assessment.

“It can be shot because it is a freak,” he added, stating that we have a “duty to the species” to prevent its peculiarities propagating throughout the population.

Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free foundation, bemoaned the bloodlust, pointing out that in Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism white animals are revered and “may not be killed for religious or economic purposes”.

We might also note that such deer are celebrated in British culture, with 431 pubs and a football stadium named after the White Hart.

“No parking” sign is new species of tree

March 6, 2009

A previously unknown species of tree discovered in Devon has been named the No Parking Whitebeam.

Long known to Watersmeet residents as the “No Parking Tree” because of the sign affixed to its trunk, botanists have given it the Linnaean binomial Sorbus admonitor. Classically-educated readers may now indulge in a knowing chuckle.

The tree is one of fourteen newly-discovered species of rowan and whitebeam classified by botanists from the Universities of Wales, Bristol, Exeter and Oxford, and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Novel plants don’t ordinarily get the coverage afforded newly-discovered species of animals, but are of course no less important in a biodiversity assessment. The IUCN Red List puts the total number of described plant species at around 299,000 (compared with 61,000 vertebrates and 1.2 million invertebrates). 3% of plants are classed as “threatened”.

In 2007, the BBC reported the discovery of a new species of tree in Scotland. It too is a Rowan-Whitebeam hybrid, though Sorbus seems particularly susceptible to hybridisation, and debate continues over whether they can be classed separate species.

The present study used genetic evidence to tease apart the trees’ heritage.

Pink dolphin spotted in Louisiana lake

March 3, 2009

Cajun cetacean vit sa vie en rose

A bright-pink bottlenose dolphin has been sighted in a lake in Louisiana, USA, The Telegraph reports.

Charter boat captain Erik Rue has seen the creature “40 to 50 times” in Louisiana’s saltwater Calcasieu Lake, and taken several photographs. Regina Asmutis-Silvia of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, on the other hand, has “never seen a dolphin coloured this way in all [her] carreer”.

“Pinky”, as it has imaginatively been named, is in fact an albino, its beady red eyes betraying the genetic quirk.

Lurid cetaceans are not entirely unheard of. Last year, an albino Southern Right Whale calf was spotted in Western Australia’s Flinder’s Bay, while the Amazon River Dolphin, or “boto”, is naturally pink.