Calgary snakes escape down drain

March 9, 2010

A pair of snakes at Calgary zoo slithered their way towards freedom through an open drain, CBC News reports.

The brace of Malagasy giant hognose snakes were returned to confinement following an exhaustive search of 274 metres of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine.

Zoo officials were at pains to point out that the snakes could not have entered the city’s sewer system, nor are they venomous: probably points one and two on the public’s escaped snake panic card.

Having snake-shaped tunnels littered around the vivarium might seem a bit of a blunder on the part of the zoo’s designers, but Cathy Gaviller, Calgary zoo’s director of conservation, education and research, laid the blame squarely at the door of the Human Error department:

“A normal procedure that was put in place seven years ago when we opened the building wasn’t followed,” she frowned.

No prizes for guessing that the “normal procedure”, in this case, involves closing the drain after cleaning it.

The hognosed snakes were closely followed by a hogbodied python that proved too fat to fit through the pipework, stage-whispering “Go on without me; I’ll only slow you down.”

CBC News notes that Calgary zoo has attracted the opprobrium of animal rights activists, who point to the zoo’s dismal record of keeping its inmates alive.

In recent years, the zoo has failed in its duty of care to a baby elephant, a hippo, a suicidal wild goat, four gorillas, more than 40 asphyxiated stingrays, and a solitary capybara that was crushed to death by a hydraulic gate.

Happily, on this occasion, all three snakes lived to escape another day.

Tortoise cheats death on London motorway

November 2, 2009

A tortoise narrowly avoided coming to a sticky end on the M25 thanks to the intervention of an eagle-eyed motorist, BBC News reports.

John Formby, of Worthing, West Sussex, had his interest piqued when some debris on the slip road at Junction 7 of the London Orbital unexpectedly sprouted a head.

Formby immediately pulled over to the hard shoulder, dodging traffic to bring the kamikaze chelonian to safety.

“Some other cars were coming up and a couple went round the tortoise. Two cars and a van drove straight over it, straddling it, but it didn’t go back into its shell,” he told the BBC.

Having secured the creature in the footwell of his car, Formby stopped at a local supermarket for some lettuce and a few tomatoes. Vets later discovered the reptilian pedestrian had been microchipped by its owners.

Billy Elliott, of Worthing and District Animal Rescue Service, who is not the ballet-dancing son of a coal miner for the fifteen millionth time thanks very much, said: “He must be someone’s pet and the family have relocated from abroad and brought him with them.”

“He’s very lucky to have survived. It would be the icing on the cake if we could reunite him with his owners.”

Eric the croc terrorises Aussie clotheshorse

August 18, 2009

In further crocodile news, Miss Universe Australia had the pants scared off her by a 16ft (4.5m) crocodile named Eric, balanced and reliable Fox News reports.

Stunner [sic] Rachael Finch was visiting Crocodylus Park in Nothern Territory when the beast lunged at her.

“As soon as I saw him move I got nervous,” she told Northern Territory News. Nervousness rapidly gave way to abject horror as the scaly monster attempted to make her his lunch.

According to Ms Finch’s Facebook page, she and the crocodile are “not talking”. However, should Eric wish to discuss the matter, he faces an arduous swim from Darwin to the Bahamas, where the beauty queen is representing her country in the Miss Universe pageant.

Tiny crocodile terrorises airline passengers

August 18, 2009

A tiny crocodile terrified passengers aboard an Egypt Air flight from Abu Dhabi to Cairo BBC News reports.

The reptile, measuring a mere 30 cm in length, escaped carry-on luggage and wandered about the cabin, scaring passengers witless. Egyptian authorities quizzed the (human) passengers, yet none admitted carrying the creature aboard. The animal will be donated to a zoo.

As yet no-one seems to have raised the two pertinent questions: why, when the Nile is infested with the damn things, would you donate a crocodile to an Egyptian zoo? And who the hell is scanning the carry-on at AUH?

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.

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.

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?

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