Scottish ‘big cat’ captured on video

July 28, 2009

An MoD dog handler has captured video footage of a big cat wandering across railway tracks in Argyll, BBC Scotland reports.

Pc Chris Swallow, a dog handler stationed at HMNB Clyde, Faslane, was helping a friend clear their garden when he spotted the “labrador sized” creature on the tracks.

“There were trains coming and going throughout the day and I was a bit concerned, but when I looked again I saw that the animal wasn’t moving the way I expected a dog to,” he told BBC Scotland.

“It was then I realised that what I was seeing was a big cat and I shouted on my friend to come and have a look. We were stunned.”

Pc Swallow raced to his car to retrieve his camera phone, and succeeded in taking some remarkable footage of the beast.

John Belshaw, pest control officer at the Faslane naval base, said: “I have had a look at Chris’s footage and have to say that I do not believe it is a domestic cat or a dog …. You can tell from the size of the track that it is much larger than a house cat.”

Shaun Stevens, of Big Cats in Britain, said “Knowing the width of the rail tracks in Chris’s video is 4ft 8.5in, the animal photographed by him is clearly in excess of 4ft and as such is certainly not a domestic cat. Initial first impressions are very exciting, as I think this could be one of the best pieces of footage of a big cat in the UK ever.”

Not to be outdone, Stevens boasted “I myself have photographed a black hybrid cat of over 3.5ft in length”.

Knowsley baboons unpack roof-rack

July 22, 2009

Anyone considering a trip to Knowsley Safari Park in a car equipped with a roof box are advised to think again. Knowsley’s baboons have developed a technique for prizing them open.

The heftiest of the troupe leaps up and down on top of the roof box until the locks are sprung. The remaining baboons make merry with the contents of the box, as this video attests:

Park staff have served the simians with Anti-Social Baboon Orders, according to the Liverpool Daily Post

“When the first luggage box was broken into, we didn’t really take an awful lot of notice – we just thought it was a one-off incident with a faulty box or lock,” general manager David Ross told the Post.

“However, when the problem kept happening, it quickly became clear the baboons have an unfortunate new skill.”

Any resemblance between the above video and a Saturday afternoon at the Church Street Primark are purely coincidental.

Man battles mountain lion with chainsaw

July 18, 2009

The global war on wildlife took a bizarre turn this week as a mountain lion attack was successfully repelled with a chainsaw, the Associated Press reports.

Mechanic and ex-US Marine Dustin Britton was minding his own damn business choppin’ some wood when he noticed the predator observing him from nearby bushes. When the cougar pounced, Britton raised the whirling blades of the chainsaw to defend himself.

“It batted me three or four times with its front paws and as quick as I hit it with that saw it just turned away,” said Britton.

The beast retreated to its mountain lair, having been given a “six-to-eight-inch” lesson by the outdoorsman, who phlegmatically shrugged off a small puncture-wound to his forearm.

“You would think if you hit an animal with a chainsaw it would dig right in. I might as well have hit it with a hockey stick,” Britton said, acknowledging the deadly nature of English public schoolgirls.

The fractuous feline was eventually gunned down by the authorities after it attacked a tracking dog. By way of justification, Wyoming Game and Fish representatives said the lion was in “poor physical condition” and “appeared to be starving”.

In the past ten years, eight cases of mountain lion attacks on humans have been recorded in Wyoming. The state has no previous record of chainsaw attacks on lions.

Argentine ants plot global domination

July 13, 2009

Humanity’s inevitable subjugation under the merciless lash of the invertebrates came one step closer today, as the BBC reports the encirclement of the globe by a vast, unbroken colony of Argentine ants.

Scientists presently cowering in Japan, Europe and the United States discovered a horrifying degree of fraternisation between geographically-disparate colonies of Linepithema humile, a species of ant once endemic to South America. Unwittingly, clay-footed humans have introduced the sextuped horde to every continent save Antarctica.

The ants are implacably hostile to other L. humile individuals who are not demonstrably members of their own colony. Kinship is gleaned from specific chemical signals issued from the ants’ carapaces.

Researchers have shown, for example, that encounters between the dominant European super-colony and the smaller Catalan colony inevitably result in scuffles; the sunburnt Europeans boistrously guzzle sangria and toss garden furniture into the pool, whilst mustachioed Iberian ants casually grope European females and overcharge for accommodation.

Somewhat unexpectedly, however, when ants from the European super-colony met representatives from the Japanese super-colony, it was all smiles. The ants “rubbed antennae with one another, never became aggressive, or tried to avoid one another.” Similar behaviour was observed between the Californians and Japanese, and indeed the Californians and Europeans.

The only plausible explanation, researchers claim, is that ants from the three dominant super-colonies are more closely related to one another than they are to members of the minor colonies.

“Absence or low levels of aggression at transcontinental scale, which may have derived from low genetic variation, may help introduced Argentine ants maintain expansive supercolonies,” the puny humans report in Insectes Sociaux.

“The enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society,” they continue.

Readers tempted to quote Kent Brockman are hereby relieved of duty.

Another Aussie orangutan briefly escapes

July 13, 2009

An orangutan at Perth Zoo savoured the sweet taste of freedom for five fleeting minutes before voluntarily returning to her enclosure, WAToday reports.

The escape is remarkably similar to that of Karta, who defeated the electric fence at her Adelaide Zoo enclosure in May, only to give herself up minutes later.

Perth’s pongid Houdini is named Pulang, which, appropriately enough, means “come home” in Malay.

Once again, where humans design new enclosures for apes, hubris swiftly follows: WAToday reports Pulang’s new home was “state of the art”, and designed to “mimic the Sumatran jungle”. Its shortcomings were sufficiently obvious to the fifteen-year-old primate that she immediately loosened a rope from a fixing bolt and swung her way to freedom.

As is now traditional, a largely pointless “security review” has been ordered by zoo top brass. Chief executive Susan Hunt noted that “orangutans are [one] of the world’s most intelligent, inquisitive and agile creatures … capable of picking locks and undoing bolts and screws.

Drunk badger halts traffic

July 13, 2009

An intoxicated badger brought traffic to a standstill in Germany, Reuters reports.

Polizei Niedersachen officers responding to a report of a dead badger in Goslar found an animal very much alive, albeit utterly inebriated. The macerated mustelid had apparently dined on fermented windfall from a nearby cherry tree before it wandered into the road, sang a few ribald songs, and fell soundly asleep.

Officers were initially unable to shoo the bibulous brock to safety, but eventually dislodged it with a broom.

Fermented fruit is a common cause of animal dipsomania. The most famous wilderness symposium is held annually in Africa, when elephants, baboons, giraffes, ostriches and wildebeeste eat fermenting Marula fruit and make, er… beasts of themselves.

Invading turtles bring JFK to standstill

July 9, 2009

Flights at JFK airport, New York, were brought to a standstill by an invasion of turtles, the Associated Press reports.

The leisurely incursion began at 0830 EDT when an American Eagle pilot reported three turtles at the end of a runway, causing the tower to suspend flghts for 12 minutes while ground staff herded the reptiles to safety.

Flights were eventually diverted to an alternate strip as the turtles’ numbers gradually swelled to a “massive” 78.

FAA spokesman Jim Peters told AP: “Apparently, this is something the tower has experienced before. I guess it’s the season for spawning.”

The chelonian encroachment comes six months after geese downed a US Airways jet leaving nearby La Guardia airport. Famously, the pilot successfully ditched in the Hudson with no loss of life.

Shortly thereafter, New Scientists’s Feedback column expressed disbelief that the FAA’s Wildlife Strike Database featured 80 turtle strikes.

Now we know why.

Monkeys loose aboot this hoose

July 7, 2009

Several monkeys escaped the clutches of Edinburgh Zoo on Friday, and five remain at large, Scottish independent broadcaster STV reports.

Auld Reekie zookeepers are even now trying to tempt the Barbary macaques, recently arrived from a zoo in Germany, down from the trees with bananas, nuts and seeds.

Edinburgh zoo committed the schoolboy error of trying to move primates between enclosures when the macaques discovered a “chink in the armour” of their new pen, according to BBC Scotland.

Head zookeeper Lorna Hughes said: “We moved our 12 barbary macaques to a new enclosure within the zoo and, being inquisitive animals, they decided to explore their enclosure and found a certain little weakness where they could climb up a certain part of the wall and make their way under the electric fence at the top.”

The escaped macaques are more commonly known as “Barbary Apes”, famous for infesting the rock of Gibraltar. Additional pub quiz trivia: despite their common name, they are not, in fact apes, and they are the only extant European non-human primate.

Rumours that a smouldering American macaque stole a Triumph TR6 Trophy and attempted to vault the barbed wire before being brutally slain by keepers remain unconfirmed.

Chimpanzee army storms zoo foodstore

July 7, 2009

A thirty-strong platoon of chimpanzees escaped their enclosure at Chester Zoo and sacked the keepers’ food-preparation area, Reuters reports.

The hungry hominins’ escape prompted a precautionary evacuation of the zoo. An unnamed spokeswoman told Reuters: “We had an army of chimps eating their way through the keeper’s kitchen and the decision was taken, quite rightly, to evacuate.

“By around 4 pm we had managed to get all the chimps back in their enclosure, some of them with very full bellies.”

Zoo director general Gordon McGregor Reid told BBCNews: “It was a bit like an old-fashioned chimps tea party… they’ve certainly had a ball in that room that’s for sure.”

An enquiry is underway to understand how the apes made good their escape. The zoo’s blacksmith has been summoned to inspect door latches.

Although the foodstore was pillaged, the chimpanzee raiding party mercifully failed to discover the powder magazine.

French village menaced by crocodile

July 2, 2009

The sleepy French village of Xertigny is on high alert following multiple sightings of a crocodile, Reuters reports.

Campaigning local newspaper L’Est Republicain has set up a webcam to record instances of the terrifying reptile crusing the local waterways, but has yet to capture anything more threatening than a water vole.

In the style of Parc Jurassique, a chicken has been tethered to a nerby fence in an effort to tempt the scaly monster from its lair, but the bird has so far eluded its jaws. Frustrated authorities are said to be considering draining the pool in a quest for answers.

“I think it’s carp,” said local angler Bruno Aime, to nods from the assembled reporters, moments before they checked their typing.

“[My amateurish homemade sonar] equipment doesn’t let you see the difference between a pike of a metre long and a caiman of 1.50 metres,” Aime shrugged.

Laughable tales of crocodilians patrolling the sewers of major urban centres were popular in the 20th century, yet may be grounded in fact. Indeed, if ancient Khmer art is any guide, such stories might have been more commonplace than we have thusfar dared to fear.