Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Elephants hide by day, forage at night to evade poachers

Yahoo – AFP, Marlowe HOOD, September 13, 2017

Normally elephants forage for food and migrate in daylight, while resting
under cover of darkness (AFP Photo/TONY KARUMBA)

Paris (AFP) - Like escaped convicts, elephants in eastern Africa have learned to travel at night and hide during the day to avoid poachers who are hunting tuskers into extinction, researchers reported Wednesday.

Normally elephants forage for food and migrate in daylight, while resting under cover of darkness.

But a sharp increase in illegal hunting driven by the global trade in ivory has forced the massive land mammals -- against their nature -- to upend their usual habits.

"As most poaching occurs during the daytime, their transition to nocturnal behaviour appears to be a direct result of prevailing poaching levels," said Festus Ihwagi, a researcher at the University of Twente in The Netherlands.

In an upcoming study, Ihwagi details his findings, based on data gathered from 60 elephants in northern Kenya tracked with GPS devices for up to three years during the period 2002 to 2012.

Working with the NGO Save the Elephants, which has fitted more than 100 of the animals with GPS collars, Ihwagi monitored the movements of 28 females and 32 males in and around the Laikipa-Samburu ecosystem.

Females live in close-knit families and often have young calves at their side, while bulls tend to be more solitary.

To determine how, and to what extent, poaching had changed elephant behaviour, he compared two sets of data.

The first measured the distances travelled during the day and at night, and was logged as a ratio between the two.

The second -- drawing from the Illegal Killing of Elephant programme database -- identified zones and time periods when poaching was more or less severe.

Slaughtered for ivory

"Simultaneous elephant tracking and monitoring of causes of death presented a perfect 'natural laboratory'," said Ihwagi.

The nighttime movements of the elephants increased significantly in sync with poaching levels, especially for females.

In high-danger zones, females reduced daytime activity by about 50 percent on average compared to low-danger zones, Ihwagi told AFP.

Changing their behaviour in this way may help keep elephants alive in the short run, but could have long term implications for their survival, he added.

Despite their intelligence, deeply ingrained foraging strategies and mating patterns developed on an evolutionary timescale may limit the capacity to adapt.

"For mothers with very young calves, the risk of predation of the calves by lions or hyenas would be higher at night," Ihwagi said.

"For the mature elephants, it implies an alteration of their normal social life."

The real-time data from GPS devices could be used as an early warning system to alert environmentalists and park rangers, the researchers noted.

A sudden uptick in nocturnal travel, for example, could signal that elephants feel threatened.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the number of African elephants has fallen by around 111,000 to 415,000 over the past decade.

The killing shows no sign of abating with around 30,000 elephants slaughtered for their ivory every year, mainly to satisfy demand in the Asian market for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols.

"The escalation of poaching has become the greatest immediate threat to the survival of elephants," Ihwagi said.

The findings will appear in the January issue of the Journal of Ecological Indicators.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dutch give big cats hunting lessons in return to the wild

Yahoo – AFP, Sophie MIGNON, September 6, 2017

The hunting simulator is operated by a joystick and aims to return the big
cats to peak condition and ultimately, possibly, to the wild (AFP Photo)

Anna Paulowna (Netherlands) (AFP) - Suspended from a large butcher's hook, a prime piece of raw steak glides and then zigzags through the air in a big arena under the watchful eye of Dumi, the lioness.

With her hunter's instinct taking over, the big cat runs down her "prey" across the rocks and ponds of an artificial savannah at a lion sanctuary north of Amsterdam, then hooks her claws into her quarry after a spectacular leap.

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Perhaps one day, thanks to this unique hunting simulator manipulated by a joystick, former circus performer Dumi will be able to hunt on African plains.

"It's a system which is meant to train the animals and not only give them back a little of their instinct, but also improve their motor control, their muscles, strength and reactions," said Daphne Pels, a keeper at the Stichting Leeuw (Lion Foundation) refuge.

There are 35 wild cats at the sanctuary in the small town of Anna Paulowna, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Amsterdam.

Most have been born in captivity, and the foundation aims to get the big felines -- lions, tigers, cougars and leopards -- back into peak condition to improve their lives and ultimately, even to hunt in the wild.

The big cats train in an artificial savannah and are challenged according to
their physical condition, while some have become lazy in captivity (AFP Photo)

 'Dependent on humans'

The cats were mostly rescued from inexperienced and sometimes malicious private owners.

Some are survivors of circuses that used wild animal acts -- now partially or totally banned in some EU countries -- and find it too expensive to feed the rapacious carnivores that can devour up to six kilogrammes (13 pounds) of meat a day.

Like Omar. Used as a cub by a circus to attract tourists who could hug the baby lion for selfies, Omar was eventually sold to a Slovakian mafia boss, who kept him in his garden as a pet.

When the foundation rescued Omar in March 2015, the male lion suffered from advanced malnutrition and was basically just skin and bones, with no muscle, and covered in sores and faeces.

It took Omar two years to recover. He now sports a large fawn-coloured mane, but he bears a scar on his muzzle and his small, amber eyes remain vigilant and mistrustful.

"These are animals that depend on humans a lot because they were bottle-fed, born in the circus and declawed" by their tamers or owners, said Pels.

"We can't just put them back in the wild," she told AFP.

Established in 2011 by a passionate businessman, the Stichting Leeuw (Lion 
Foundation) refuge in The Netherlands is looking after 35 wild cats (AFP Photo)

Chasing prey

Now Sarabi, the lioness, and Ambra and Laxmi, two tigresses, regularly train in this "playground" of roughly 80 metres by 50 metres (262 feet by 164 feet), which took three years to build.

Prey can vary: sometimes it's a toy, sometimes a piece of meat and even, when there's no audience, a dead rabbit or pigeon to help rekindle their hunting instincts.

The cats' target is suspended a few feet up in the air and moved around in a random fashion by keepers using the joystick in a small control room. The aim is to push the cats, which have sometimes become lazy in captivity, to chase their prey.

The small, artificial savannah is dotted with obstacles such as rocks, pools and tree trunks "so the animals have to learn how to watch and run at the same time," Pels said.

"The first few times we see them maybe bump their noses or accidentally fall into the water," she said laughing.

Training is adapted to each individual depending on its physical condition, age and needs.

"We are able to give the animals some training (too), but it's natural training. They don't have to jump through a hoop."

A puma, as well as lions, tigers, cougars and leopards, are among the big 
felines at the foundation and most were born in captivity (AFP Photo)

Back to Africa

Established in 2011 by a passionate businessman and financed through private donations, the foundation hopes to relocate Omar back to Africa this year "to give him a family."

Relocation costs 25,000 euros ($29,700).

Now aged five, Omar will join five other lions already living at the Emoya sanctuary in the Bahati wildlife estate in northern South Africa. Two Bengal tigers are also expected to join the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand (WFFT).

Once in their new homes, the felines have to learn to adapt. Those too dependent on humans will live in a small one- to two-acre area of savannah.

Others move on to the next stage, living in an enclosure of 50 to 100 hectares learning to hunt for real.

But it's a long-term project.

"We have to start with small prey and have to observe whether they will develop skills" to be able to feed themselves before introducing larger animals, Pels said.

"For now the most important thing is to bring the animals to Emoya to upgrade their lives and free up space for new animals that need help," Pels added.

This includes elephants, which the foundation hopes to take in in the future.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

93-year-old American woman donates $22 mn to Cologne Zoo

Yahoo – AFP, September 1, 2017

Snow leopard mother Siri stands next to her male cub Barid on August 13, 2015 
at the zoo in Cologne, western Germany (AFP Photo/Federico GAMBARINI)

Berlin (AFP) - A 93-year-old widow from the United States has donated $22 million to the zoo in Cologne, Germany, saying she wanted to give back to the city where she and her husband met during World War II, German media reported Friday.

"We never forgot Cologne," Elizabeth Reichert told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper by phone from her home in Philadelphia.

She said she and her Jewish husband Arnulf Reichert both grew up in the western German city. They met in 1944, she recalled, when Arnulf lived in hiding to avoid being discovered by the Nazis.

They married a year after the war ended and briefly moved to Israel before settling in the US, where they lived the American dream and made their fortune.

Reichert said she worked as a hairdresser, while her husband took a job for a wholesaler selling pets and pet supplies, before setting up his own business and making millions.

Shortly before her husband died in 1998, the childless couple agreed to bequeath their money to the Cologne Zoo after their deaths.

"When you start thinking about who you want to leave your money to, memories play a big role. With the zoo, the money is well spent," Reichert said.

The couple had already shown their affection for the zoo in 1954, when they gifted a soft-shell turtle.

The considerably larger donation this time will come into effect after Reichert's death, when a foundation named after her husband will provide the zoo with an annual payment.

The zoo's director, Christopher Landsberg, said he was taken aback when he learned of the windfall from across the pond.

"I nearly fell off my chair," he told the DPA news agency.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dutch dairy cows to be sent to Siberia, in a bid to up milk production

DutchNews, August 29, 2017

French dairy company Danone, owner of Dutch company Numico, is going to export five thousand Dutch and German dairy cows to Russia, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday. 

The animals will be transported over a distance of 4,500 kilometres to a farm in Tyumen in Western Siberia. 

The reason for the move by Danone, which does not normally trade in cattle, are the rising milk prices in Russia. The country closed its borders to Western European cheese in a reaction to the European boycott over Ukraine. That, in turn, means local milk is now used to make Russian cheese causing milk prices to spike.

This year alone milk prices have gone up by 14% in Russia. ‘ This is endangering the production of dairy products, such as yoghurt,’ head of Danone’s Russian unit told Bloomberg. By having the cattle graze in Russia the company is hoping to bring down the price of milk. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Palestinian ex-banker devotes her life to West Bank dogs

Yahoo – AFP, Majeda El-Batsh, August 26, 2017

Diana Babish spent much of her own money on setting up the shelter but now
receives funding from international groups, including the France-based Brigitte Bardot
Foundation as well as from British and German charities (AFP Photo/Musa AL SHAER)

Beit Sahour (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian Diana Babish enters a cage full of dogs at a rare shelter in the West Bank and is immediately swamped by puppies clamouring to be picked up or petted.

Babish, in her 40s, runs the shelter in the Israeli-occupied territory, where residents are not all known to be dog lovers.

The shelter opened 18 months ago in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem after Babish gave up a 20-year career in banking to devote her life to care for the animals.

As she makes her way into the shelter, she pats each puppy as she searches for one particular dog that needs an injection for a bite injury.

Babish has no veterinary or medical background, but the shelter, which is now home to around 40 dogs, has become her labour of love and she has learned to give shots and other medical treatment.

About 200 puppies and 130 mature dogs have been treated, given affection, fed and prepared for adoption since the shelter opened.

"In the Palestinian areas animals are subjected to abuse. These animals were created by God," says Babish, who wears discreet jewellery and make-up.

10,000 strays in Bethlehem

"These animals can't talk. So we have to talk for them because they need our help," she says.

Babish spent much of her own money on setting up the shelter, but eventually needed outside help to meet the steep cost of running the refuge.

Now the shelter receives funding from international groups, including the France-based Brigitte Bardot Foundation as well as from British and German charities.

Shelter founder Diana Babish estimates there are about 10,000 stray dogs in the
 Bethlehem district alone, and many people favour poisoning or shooting them (AFP 
Photo/Musa AL SHAER)

The cost of running the shelter is high -- around $60,000 a year, says Babish, as the dogs need 50 kilos of food each day, much of it leftovers from nearby chicken farms.

She says the biggest challenge is not acquiring the funding but "getting people to accept the idea that animals can live in the streets and you should not exterminate them".

Babish estimates that there are about 10,000 stray dogs in the Bethlehem district alone, and many people favour poisoning or shooting them.

The local government has committed to not killing them and Babish says they are working together to find ways to reduce canine birth rates.

Islam generally calls for people to be kind to animals.

A savage attack

The Prophet Mohammed once told the story of a man who saw a dog panting with thirst and gave him water. The man was rewarded by God for his good deed and allowed to enter heaven.

And yet many religious authorities consider dogs to be unclean or impure.

Last year, a shelter opened in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement.

Kareema Allan, a Palestinian teacher who lives in a town south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, recalls how she called Babish in a panic when a stray dog had puppies under a tree on her property.

It was during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and she gave the dog food and water.

But one day, "I woke up to the dog's screams" and found the mother "stabbed in the neck, while her puppies were still breastfeeding".

Allan cleaned the animal's wound with iodine and fed the puppies.

She then phoned the shelter and Babish quickly arrived and took both the mother and her puppies to the vet.

They all survived.

An average of two dogs a week are adopted from the Beit Sahour shelter, most of them finding new homes in Israel.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Australian prison provides rehab for inmates and animals

Yahoo – AFP, August 24, 2017

Australian prisoners are caring for animals that have been abandoned, attacked by
 predators, hit by cars or even seized in a drug bust as part of a rehabilitation
programme. (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Sydney (AFP) - Australian prisoners are caring for animals that have been abandoned, attacked by predators, hit by cars or even seized in a drug bust as part of a rehabilitation programme.

Kangaroos, emus, wombats, snakes and cockatoos are just some of the native creatures being nursed back to health by inmates at a wildlife centre based in the John Morony Correctional Complex outside Sydney.

Officials say the scheme helps instil a sense of responsibility and develops life skills for offenders preparing for the outside world.

"Animals show that (love and respect) unconditionally, they don't judge, so over time they (inmates) form relationships with the animals," the wildlife centre's senior officer Ian Mitchell told AFP.

"It is a real positive impact and the animals can actually sometimes help people heal."

Selected inmates are given responsibility for a particular enclosure and are expected to feed and build shelters for the animals, while being taught how to care for their injuries or condition.

Kangaroos, emus, wombats, snakes and cockatoos are just some of the native 
creatures being nursed back to health by inmates at a wildlife centre based in 
the John Morony Correctional Complex outside Sydney. (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Some animals never leave as they would be vulnerable to predators having become accustomed to the enclosure.

But most are later released back into the wild, or found a home via the animal rescue organisation that first brought them there.

One of the more unlikely cases the centre handled was a python that was seized in a drug raid, with criminals holding the reptile as a deterrent.

The snake had become addicted to meth after absorbing the narcotic through its skin and required treatment before it was released back into the wild.

"To have watched an animal rehabilitate from something like that, it's just another dynamic," Mitchell says.

Some former offenders who have left prison continue to work with wildlife, with one teaching people how to handle venomous snakes.

Surrounded by about a dozen squawking white cockatoos -- known for their ability to mimic speech -- one inmate said he had discovered "a lot of caring I didn't know I had" working with the animals.

Tasked with feeding the nocturnal wildlife, like the possums and wombats, he added he hopes to continue to care for animals after his jail term ends.

"I'm going to miss this place," he said.

"Each corner you turn, you are greeted -- in their way.

"The ones that can talk will say 'hello' but the other ones that can't talk, they will make a sign to say g'day."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rare white koala born at Australian zoo

Yahoo – AFP, August 22, 2017

This undated handout from the Australia Zoo received on August 22, 2017 shows a
white koala joey on her mother Tia at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast

A koala at an Australian zoo has given birth to a rare white joey, staff announced Tuesday.

Handlers at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast say the pale animal born in January owes its white fur to a recessive gene inherited from mother Tia.

The mother has given birth to light-coloured joeys in the past.

"In veterinary science it’s often referred to as the 'silvering gene' where animals are born with white or very pale fur and, just like baby teeth, they eventually shed their baby fur and the regular adult colouration comes through," said the zoo's wildlife hospital director Rosie Booth in a statement.

Koala fur differs in colour -- from light grey to brown -- depending on their environment. Animals in the south of Australia tend to have thicker and darker fur than those in the north.

But a white koala is incredibly rare, Booth said, and "quite unfortunate" if born in the wild, since it is more visible to predators.

The much-loved koala has been under increasing threat across Australia in recent decades, particularly from habitat loss, disease, dog attacks and bushfires.

The joey is yet to be named and Tourism Australia is set to encourage suggestions.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rare white elk draws crowds in Sweden -- and a warning

Yahoo – AFP, August 15, 2017

Experts have warned people flocking to catch a glimpse of a rare white elk in
Sweden have urged them to be cautious (AFP Photo/Tommy PEDERSEN)

Stockholm (AFP) - Experts on Tuesday urged sightseers flocking to catch a glimpse of a rare white elk in Sweden to take care, warning that the animal could be dangerous.

Video footage of the animal posted online has gone viral in recent days, prompting people to head for the central Varmland region where it was spotted.

"Elks can get irritated,...and then they're dangerous," said Goran Ericsson, a professor of animal ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

"I would advise people to keep their distance," he told AFP. A typical elk weighed between 400 and 600 kilos (880 to 1,320 pounds), he pointed out.

Authorities in the central Varmland region said Monday crowds of people had been following the elk in the forest and on private property, disturbing locals and nature lovers.

Local politician Hans Nilsson filmed the elk and posted the clip on his Facebook page.

The elk -- or moose, as they are called in the United States -- is completely white, even its antlers, due to a recessive gene that is not uncommon among elks in the area, Ericsson said.

Between 50 and 100 elks in the region are white, and in all of Sweden there are around 1,000 white elks out of a total of 300,000 elks.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bugs on the menu at Swiss supermarket

Yahoo – AFP, August 14, 2017

Protein-rich mealworms make up the bulk of the "insect balls" due to go on
sale at Switzerland's Coop supermarket (AFP Photo/Dieter Nagl)

Geneva (AFP) - Switzerland's first insect-based food aimed at humans will go on sale next week following a revision of the country's food safety laws, a supermarket chain said Monday.

Switzerland's second-largest supermarket chain, Coop, announced it would begin selling an insect burger, and insect balls, based on protein-rich mealworm.

The products, made by a Swiss start-up called Essento, will be available in a handful of Coop branches, including in Geneva, Bern and Zurich, as of August 21, according to a statement.

Switzerland is the first European country to authorise the sale of insect-based food items for human consumption, a spokeswoman for the country's food safety authority told AFP.

Swiss food safety laws were changed last May to allow for the sale of food items containing three types of insects: crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms, which are the larval form of the mealworm beetle.

These insects, long used in animal feed, must be bred under strict supervision for four generations before they are considered appropriate for human consumption, according to Swiss law.

Local production will thus take a few months to get started.

In the meantime, imports are possible under strict conditions -- the insects must be raised in accordance with the Swiss requirements at a company submitted to inspections by national food safety authorities.

Related Article:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dutch egg probe widens to chicken meat tests

Yahoo – AFP, Charlotte van Ouwerkerk and Jan Hennop, August 8, 2017

"Chickens have feelings too": Dutch animal activists wave banners and placards
as they stage a protest at a poultry farm in Witteveen (AFP Photo/Erik Brinkhorst)

The Hague (AFP) - In a new twist in Europe's tainted egg scandal, Dutch authorities announced Tuesday they had started testing chicken meat coming from affected poultry farms to determine whether it was also contaminated.

Scientists are looking for the presence of the insecticide fipronil, a substance potentially dangerous to humans, after supermarkets in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland pulled millions of eggs from the shelves.

"We are currently testing chicken meat in the poultry farms where eggs were infected to determine whether the meat is contaminated as well," Tjitte Mastenbroek, spokesman for food security agency NVWA, told AFP.

The probe focuses on "a few dozen" farms that produce both eggs and chicken meat, NVWA said.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Safety Board, the country's agency looking into civilian safety issues, announced it was opening its own probe into why fipronil was not detected earlier in eggs as well as "the role in this of the poultry sector and Dutch government."

"The way consumers have been informed about the risks of fipronil are also being investigated," the Hague-based OVV said in a statement.

Millions of chickens now face being culled in the Netherlands as the scandal widens across Europe.

Hard-hit Germany on Tuesday called on Belgian and Dutch authorities to quickly shed light on what it termed a "criminal network" involved in the contamination of eggs with fipronil.

"When one sees a criminal energy that's almost organised as a network it's unacceptable," said German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt.

He again criticised Belgian and Dutch authorities' tardy response to the crisis.

Belgium's top agricultural official Monday ordered the country's food safety agency to report within a day why it failed to notify neighbouring countries until July 20 despite knowing about fipronil contamination since June.

"It's not in the spirit of the early warning system to be aware in June but only to inform us by the end of July," Schmidt said.

Mastenbroek told AFP that a criminal probe by the NVWA under Dutch prosecution authorities and assisted by Belgium is continuing, looking at the role of companies in contaminating Dutch poultry farms with fipronil.

Meanwhile, the French government said Monday "thirteen batches of contaminated eggs from The Netherlands" were delivered in July to food processing companies located in central-western France.

First egg, now chicken

Mastenbroek said so far her agency's "highest priority" has been the detection of contaminated eggs.

"But now we also have the time to look at meat as a precautionary measure," she said.

Most farms exclusively produce one or the other, said Eric Hubers at LTO, a Dutch farming organisation.

If the meat tests are negative for fipronil, producers will be cleared to resume sales, Mastenbroek said.

LTO said the probability of chicken meat found to be infected was small.

However, if fipronil was detected "farming will be completely suspended," Mastenbroek said.

'Cutting costs'

The contaminated egg scandal erupted last week when up to 180 Dutch farms were shuttered due to the presence of fipronil discovered in some of the eggs.

It is believed the toxic substance was introduced to poultry farms by a Dutch business named Chickfriend brought in to treat red lice, a parasite in chickens.

Dutch and Belgian media reports that the substance containing the insecticide was supplied to Chickfriend -- a small company operating out of the Dutch poultry heartland in the central town of Barneveld -- by a Belgian firm have not been confirmed.

Currently Dutch authorities have closed down 138 poultry farms -- about a fifth of those across the country -- and warned that eggs from another 59 farms contained enough levels of fipronil that they should not be eaten by children.

Belgium has blocked production from 51 farms -- a quarter of those nationwide -- with fipronil found at 21 farms, although levels were ten times below the maximum EU limit, the country's food and safety authority AFSCA said.

Other European countries including Austria, Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal and Romania said they were analysing imported eggs, but so far no contaminated eggs were found.

Enviromental group Greenpeace on Tuesday called for massive reforms in the food supply system to become safer, healthier and more transparent and to do away with so-called "factory farming".

"Factory farming has been at the centre of a number of scandals, from Mad cow (disease) to bird flu, from swine flu to horsemeat," said Davin Hutchins, Greenpeace senior food campaigner.

"These are symptoms of a system trying to cut costs at every corner to maximise profits at the expense of public health and the environment," he said.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Icy treat for panda stars' birthday in Dutch zoo

Yahoo – AFP, August 8, 2017

Giant panda Xing Ya celebrated his fourth birthday with an ice cake in Ouwehands
Dierenpark zoo. Xing Ya and Wu Wen are on loan from China and will stay in the
Dutch Zoo for the next 15 years (AFP Photo/Remko DE WAAL)

The Hague (AFP) - Two multi-layered "cakes" made from ice, vegetable juice and fruit greeted a pair of giant pandas at a Dutch zoo Tuesday for their first birthday party since arriving from China.

Female Wu Wen (Beautiful Powerful Cloud) and her male companion Xing Ya (Elegant Star) both turn four this month and officials at the Ouwehands Dierenpark in the central town of Rheenen decided to throw a joint party.

"At first they both approached the cakes with caution, with the male panda giving his an exploratory lick," said animal biologist Jose Kok.

"Then they became curious and realised 'hang on, this is something nice in my enclosure' and not long after that, the cake's layers were separated," Kok told AFP with a laugh.

It took a week to prepare the icy treats, which where also layered with the pandas' favourite food: bamboo shoots.

The two panda "superstars" arrived in The Netherlands in mid-April after an 8,000 kilometre (5,000 mile) journey from China, following years of negotiations in what has been dubbed "panda diplomacy".

Officials decided to hold their birthday on August 8, the eighth day of the eighth 
month, figures which according to Chinese culture means good luck (AFP Photo/
Remko DE WAAL)

Male panda Xing Ya turned four on August 5, while Wu Wen was born on August 11.

Officials decided to hold their birthday on August 8, the eighth day of the eighth month, figures which according to Chinese culture means good luck, Kok said.

Dozens of delighted visitors were also treated to a real birthday cake in the form of a giant panda.

The two pandas will be housed at the zoo for the next 15 years and for now are being kept in two separate enclosures, specially built for them at a price of seven million euros ($8 million).

But Kok said it is hoped that the two bears would mate within the next year to help replenish global panda numbers.

Some 1,864 pandas remain in the wild in China, an increase from around 1,000 in the late 1970s, according to the environmental group WWF.

And just over 400 pandas live in zoos around the world, in conservation projects set up with Beijing.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

For guide dogs, 'tough love' is best, even as puppies

Yahoo – AFP, August 7, 2017

Researchers say that the best guide dogs had mothers that showed them
"tough love" when they were puppies (AFP Photo/JACQUES DEMARTHON)

Miami (AFP) - Only certain canines have the discipline to become guide dogs for the blind, and the best ones had mothers that showed them "tough love" when they were puppies, researchers said Monday.

When dog moms allowed their puppies to learn on their own in their first five weeks of life, without coddling them too much, their puppies grew up to be better guide dogs, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Puppies with mothers who doted on them grew up to be anxious and more afraid of new situations, and tended to fail out of a rigorous training program to assist the blind.

The study was done at a facility in New Jersey called The Seeing Eye, which breeds and trains seeing eye dogs.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania essentially embedded themselves at The Seeing Eye, taking video and closely observing 23 mothers and their 98 puppies for their first five weeks of life, said the report.

"We wanted to know if we could differentiate the moms based on how they interacted with their puppies," said lead author Emily Bray.

"We documented things like her nursing position, how much time she spent looking away from the puppies and how much time she spent in close proximity to her puppies or licking and grooming them."

Two years later, researchers went back to catch up with the dogs and found that those with more attentive mothers were less likely to graduate and become guide dogs.

A key measure of success was whether puppies' mothers nursed them while standing, or lying down.

"If a mother is lying on her stomach, the puppies basically have free access to milk, but, if the mother is standing up, then the puppies have to work to get it," said co-author Robert Seyfarth.

"A hypothesis might be that you have to provide your offspring with minor obstacles that they can overcome for them to succeed later in life because, as we know, life as an adult involves obstacles."

Parallels could certainly be drawn to human behavior, as experts warn that "helicopter parenting" can be detrimental to kids' well-being, while fostering independence and grit in the face of adversity have lifelong benefits.

When it comes to dogs, researchers are continuing to study how a mother's anxiety might be passed on to her puppies.

Are the overcoddled puppies picking up on their mother's anxiety? Are they reacting to their upbringing somehow? Or are they inheriting genes that make them more fearful?

"With mothering, it seems like it's a delicate balance," said Bray.

"It's easy to be like, 'Oh, smothering moms are the worst,' but we aren't exactly sure of the mechanisms yet and we don't want to tip too far in the other direction either."