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.

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)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Indonesia's toxic haze affecting Borneo's orangutans – rescuers

Yahoo – AFP, 17 September 2019

Orangutans at a rehabilitation centre in Nyaru Menten, central Kalimantan are
showing signs of respiratory illness as a result of choking forest fires

Massive forest fires in Indonesia that have caused a toxic haze to spread as far as Singapore and peninsular Malaysia are also seriously affecting endangered orangutans and their habitat, a rescue foundation said Tuesday.

Jakarta has deployed thousands of troops as temporary fireman and deployed dozens of water-bombing aircraft to battle blazes that are turning pristine forest into charred landscape in Sumatra and Borneo islands.

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed a choking haze across parts of southeast Asia.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said Tuesday that the haze was affecting hundreds of great apes in its care at rescue centres and wildlife re-introduction shelters.

"The thick smoke does not only endanger the health of our staff... but also it affects the 355 orangutans we currently care for", the foundation said in a statement, referring to just once cetre in Kalimantan.

The toxic haze was so bad in parts of Kalimantan that rescuers at an 
Orangutan shelter were keeping the great apes indoors for much of the day

"As many as 37 young orangutans are suspected to have contracted a mild respiratory infection," it added.

Conditions were so bad at their Samboja Lestari facility in East Kalimantan that outdoor activities for the animals had been restricted to a few hours a day.

Orangutans have been particularly vulnerable to commercial land clearances and have seen their natural habitat shrink dramatically in the last few decades.

The population of orangutan in Borneo has plummeted from about 288,500 in 1973 to about 100,000 today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The toxic smoke caused by the forest fires is an annual problem for Indonesia and its neighbours, but has been worsened this year by particularly dry weather.

On Borneo island, which Indonesia shares with Malaysia and Brunei, pollution levels were "hazardous", according to environment ministry data.

Hundreds of schools across Indonesia and Malaysia were shut.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Minister pledges action on animal transports during heat waves

DutchNews, September 5, 2019 


Farm minister Carola Schouten is bringing in a ban on live animal transports when temperatures reach at least 35 Celsius, she told MPs on Thursday. Voluntary agreements, the minister said, are too easily ignored and the time is now right to anchor the limit in law. 

While factory farmers and slaughterhouses had taken steps to protect animals against the heat, government inspectors had noted several serious incidents during the high temperatures, the minister said. In one case, 90% of the chickens in transport crates had died during their journey. 

Esther Ouwehand told the minister during Thursday’s debate that while she welcomed the minister’s action, 35 Celsius is still far too high a temperature to be moving animals.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Denmark to retire its last four circus elephants

Yahoo – AFP, August 31, 2019

Denmark is set to retire its last four circus elephants. Here, firefighters spray water
 to cool an elephant in high temperatures at the Arene circus in Gilleleje (AFP
Photo/Mads Claus Rasmussen)

Copenhagen (AFP) - The government of Denmark will buy the country's last four circus elephants in order to retire them, a minister said Saturday, as more countries move to shield wild animals from the practice.

Highly regulated, though still controversial, elephants, sea lions and zebras are the only animals that can be used in circuses in Denmark.

But a new anti-cruelty law will be introduced to parliament soon to impose a blanket ban for all animals, the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries said in a statement.

The government will pay 11 million krone ($1.6 million, 1.4 million euros) to buy Ramboline, Lara, Djunga and Jenny, it said.

The animals will be sent to a zoo to live out their last days, though it is not yet clear which one.

"The elephants will be sent to the establishment that can offer them the highest level of well-being," said the ministry.

More than 40 countries around the world, about half of them in Europe, have restricted or banned the use of wild animals in zoos.

Related Article:


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

CITES agrees on near-total ban on sending wild elephants to zoos

France24 – AFP, 27 August 2019


Geneva (AFP) - The regulator of global wildlife trade will impose a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos after a final vote on the issue on Tuesday.

Following a heated debate at a meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva, countries approved a proposed text after a revision by the European Union watered down the ban slightly.

The decision met with strong opposition from Zimbabwe in particular, which tried in vain to block the vote.

But with 87 in favour, 29 against and 25 abstaining, the vote for the amended text secured the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

The vote in plenary altered slightly a decision decided at the start of the 12-day conference, set to wrap up Wednesday, prohibiting the transfer of all African elephants caught in the wild to so-called captive facilities.

Specifically, the countries voted to limit trade in live wild African elephants only to conservation in their natural habitats, basically ending the practice of capturing elephants and sending them to zoos and entertainment venues around the world.

But the EU amendments to the text added a loophole, saying the elephants should remain in their "natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where ... it is considered that a transfer to ex-situ locations will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants."

The clause, which also opened for such transfers "in emergency situations," said the decision should only be made in consultation with the CITES Animals Committee, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) elephant specialist group.

The EU amendment also made clear that African elephants caught in the wild and already in zoos could be transferred to other facilities outside of Africa.

While elephants in western, central and eastern Africa have long been listed among the species in need of most protection under CITES, and thus banned from all trade, some trade has been permitted in southern Africa, where elephant populations are healthier.

Zimbabwe has for instance captured and exported more than 100 baby elephants to Chinese zoos since 2012, according to the Humane Society International.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Wildlife meeting backs more protection for giraffes

France24 – AFP, 22 August 2019


Geneva (AFP) - Wildlife-supporting countries on Thursday backed regulating international trade in giraffes in a bid to offer more protection to the gentle giants, feared to be facing a "silent extinction".

The vote in Geneva by parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) recognises for the first time that international trade is part of the threat facing giraffes.

The decision, which passed with 106 votes in favour to 21 votes opposed and seven abstaining, took place in committee and still needs a stamp of approval by the full CITES conference before it wraps up on August 28.

The African giraffe population as a whole has shrunk by an estimated 40 percent over the past three decades, to just under 100,000 animals, according to the best figures available to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

And yet Thursday's vote, which implies listing all giraffes under CITES Appendix II and thus requiring tracking and regulation of all trade in the species, was highly controversial.

The proposal to list the giraffe came from a range of countries in western, central and eastern Africa, where giraffe populations have been particularly hard hit.

Chad's representative argued that "illegal cross-border trade (poses) a significant threat to the survival of giraffes."

But they met harsh resistance from southern African countries where the populations have traditionally been better protected and are healthier.

Countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania, maintained there was little evidence that international trade is contributing to the decline of the giraffe.

And they argued that imposing international regulations was unfair to countries that have strived to protect their giraffes.

"Such a decision fails to recognise our conservation achievements," the Tanzanian representative said.

The vote implies that legal trade in giraffe parts, including those obtained by trophy hunters on Africa's legal game reserves, will be globally regulated.

Countries will be required to record the export of giraffe parts or artefacts, something only the United States currently does, and permits would be required for their trade.

The CITES Secretariat itself had voiced scepticism that trade was a major factor behind the decline of the giraffe, which has largely been linked to habitat loss.

But supporters argued that without a CITES listing, there is little available data on international trade.

They also pointed to US data indicating that in the decade prior to 2015 around 40,000 giraffe parts, mainly bones, had been traded.

Conservationists hailed the vote.

"This listing could not come soon enough," Adam Peyman, head of the Humane Society International?s wildlife programme, said in a statement.

"Securing CITES Appendix II protection for the giraffe throws a vital lifeline to this majestic species, which has been going quietly extinct for years."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ban on sending wild elephants to zoos a step closer

Yahoo – AFP, August 18, 2019

A large majority of countries voted in Geneva to ban the transfer of elephants
caught in the wild to zoos (AFP Photo/Tony KARUMBA)

Geneva (AFP) - The regulator of global wildlife trade will likely ban sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos after countries supported the move Sunday, in what conservationists hailed as a "historic win".

A large majority of countries voted in Geneva to prohibit the transfer of elephants caught in the wild to so-called captive facilities -- a practice animal protection groups have long described as "cruel".

The vote was the first rendered during a 12-day meeting of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which kicked off on Saturday with thousands of conservationists and policymakers from more than 180 countries in attendance.

With 46 in favour, 18 against and 19 abstaining, the vote cast in one of two committees secured the two-thirds majority needed to pass, but will still needs to be approved by the full conference before the meeting concludes on August 28.

"This decision will save countless elephants from being ripped away from their families in the wild and forced to spend their lifetimes imprisoned in substandard conditions at zoos," Iris Ho, a senior wildlife specialist with Humane Society International (HSI), said in a statement.

Specifically, the countries voted to limit trade in live wild African elephants only to conservation in their natural habitats, effectively ending the practice of capturing elephants and sending them to zoos and entertainment venus around the world.

While elephants in western, central and eastern Africa have long been listed among the species in need of most protection under CITES, and thus banned from all trade, some trade has been permitted in southern Africa, where elephant populations are healthier.

Zimbabwe has for instance captured and exported more than 100 baby elephants to Chinese zoos since 2012, according to HSI.

"The preliminary decision is a remarkable recognition that elephants don't belong in the entertainment industry," Cassandra Koenen, who heads the wildlife division at World Animal Protection, said in a statement.

"It's a huge step in the right direction."

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ghost month grub: Dead pets get earthly feast at Vietnam animal cemetery

Yahoo – AFP, Tran Thi Minh Ha, Jenny VAUGHAN, August 15, 2019

For Nguyen Thi Xuan Trang, giving her dog Quoc -- who she thought of as a son --
a proper burial has brought her peace of mind (AFP Photo/Nhac NGUYEN)

Sausages, grapes, milk and mooncakes are laid at the gravestones of beloved cats and dogs at Hanoi's pet cemetery -- an earthly feast for the souls of dead animals believed to return from the afterlife for a meal to mark ghost month.

Dozens of pet owners turned out for a solemn ceremony at the "Te Dong Vat Nga" pagoda -- which means all lives are equal -- where thousands of dogs and cats have been laid to rest in the burial grounds on site.

It is a feasting ritual more often performed across Vietnam for dead ancestors whose souls are believed to wander the earth during ghost month and are honoured with a large meal offering before it closes at the end of August.

But the charismatic dog-loving Buddhist who runs the pet graveyard believes animal souls should be treated with the same dignity as human ones.

"We love dogs and cats not just in this life but in the next life as well," said Nguyen Bao Sinh, who opened the graveyard 50 years ago.

Thousands of dogs and cats have been laid to rest at Hanoi's pet cemetary (AFP 
Photo/Nhac NGUYEN)

He says he's cremated or buried around 10,000 animals -- including the odd turtle, bird or fish -- and charges $45 to $65 a year to pet owners to set up plaques and mini gravestones for their lost pets.

It's a small price to pay for those who want to make sure their beloved animals are comfortable in the afterlife.

"Bon deserves to have a decent resting place permanently so that he can be at peace," Nguyen Anh Minh told AFP after leaving milk, yoghurt and grapes for his husky who died earlier this year.

For Nguyen Thi Xuan Trang, giving her dog Quoc -- who she thought of as a son -- a proper burial has brought her peace of mind.

"I bought him peanuts and a mooncake because those were his favourite foods," she said.

Cemetary owner Nguyen Bao Sinh said people thought he was crazy when he 
opened the site in a country where dog and cat meat is sometimes offered as menu 
items for hungry diners (AFP Photo/Nhac NGUYEN)

Cemetery owner Sinh said people thought he was crazy when he opened the site in a country where dog and cat meat is sometimes offered as menu items for hungry diners.

Though cats and dogs are more commonly kept as pets in Vietnam these days, it's not unusual to see guard dogs confined to cages or illicit animal parts like rhino horn or pangolin scales used in traditional medicine.

Sinh, a former soldier who's now deceased dog accompanied him to the battlefield during the Vietnam War, hopes the pet graveyard will help people see animals in a new light -- and spread a message of kindness.

"Animals and humans are equal," he said. "When you love an animal you will not be cruel to human beings."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Singapore to ban sale of elephant ivory from 2021

Yahoo – AFP, August 12, 2019

Singapore authorities made their largest ever seizure of smuggled ivory last month,
impounding a haul of nearly nine tonnes of contraband tusks from an estimated
300 African elephants valued at $12.9 million (AFP Photo/Handout)

Singapore said Monday it will impose a blanket ban on the domestic sale of elephant ivory and products from 2021 as the government tightens its campaign against illegal wildlife trade.

The announcement on World Elephant Day followed two years of consultations with non-government groups, ivory retailers and the public.

Authorities in the city-state made their largest ever seizure of smuggled ivory last month, impounding a haul of nearly nine tonnes of contraband tusks from an estimated 300 African elephants valued at $12.9 million.

The illegal cargo was discovered in a container from the Democratic Republic of the Congo being shipped to Vietnam via Singapore and also included a huge stash of pangolin scales.

Singapore has banned international trade in all forms of elephant ivory products since 1990.

Such items could be sold domestically if traders could prove they were imported before that year or acquired prior to the inclusion of the relevant elephant species in an international convention protecting endangered species.

In a statement Monday, Singapore's National Parks Board banned the sale of elephant ivory and products with effect from September 1, 2021.

Violators face a jail term of up to one year and fines on conviction.

Traders can donate their ivory stocks to institutions or keep them after the ban takes effect, the board said.

Public consultation by the government last year showed that 99 percent of those who responded were in favour of a total ban.

Elephant ivory is coveted because it can be fashioned into items like combs, pendants and other jewellery.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after the population of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Mushroom never seen before in the Netherlands pops up in Drenthe

DutchNews, August 8, 2019

A sample of pycnoporellus fulgens. Photo: Mushroom Observer via
Wikimedia Commons

In national park Drents-Friese Wold a species of mushroom has been found that had never been seen before in the Netherlands, RTV Drenthe reports. 

Pycnoporellus fulgens, which has no Dutch name because it never needed one before, only occurs in ancient pine forests where human intervention has been kept to a minimum. 

‘The find shows that the beautiful old pine forests in Drenthe can be compared to the natural, unspoilt pine forests in Scandinavia,’ said mycologist Rob Chrispijn who discovered the mushroom. 

The species is rare and usually grows in mountainous areas. Mycologists are now trying to find out why the mushroom suddenly put in an appearance in the lowlands. 

The Dutch Mycological Society has proposed to name the species the ‘Oranje sparrenhoutzwam’, or Orange sprucewood mushroom.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Indonesian man walking in reverse to save forests

Yahoo – AFP, August 5, 2019


Medi Bastoni walks 20 to 30 kilometres backwards every day under the scorching sun,
with a rear-view mirror attached to his backpack to avoid bumping into objects (AFP
Photo/Medi BASTONI)

Jakarta (AFP) - An Indonesian man is walking 700 kilometres (435 miles) from his home on a volcano in East Java to Jakarta in the hope of drawing attention to the archipelago's quickly shrinking forests -- and he is doing it backwards.

Medi Bastoni, a 43-year-old father of four, set out on his arduous, in-reverse journey in mid-July, with the goal of reaching the capital by August 16, a day before the Southeast Asian nation's independence day anniversary.

"Of course I'm exhausted, but I'm willing to do this to fight for the next generation," Bastoni told AFP.

"(My home) is losing all of its trees so I have to do something. I can take the pain and fatigue."

Walking backwards is a siganl to Indonesians to reflect on the past and remember 
how national heroes fought for the good of the country (AFP Photo/Medi BASTONI)

When he arrives, Bastoni said he hopes to meet with president Joko Widodo and highlight deforestation across the archipelago including at his home on Mt. Wilis, a dormant volcano.

Indonesia suffers from one of the high rates of deforestation in the world, according to Greenpeace.

Bastoni walks 20 to 30 kilometres backwards every day under the scorching sun, with a rear-view mirror attached to his backpack to avoid bumping into objects.

Along the way, supporters cheer him on, offer him meals or a place to stay overnight. But Bastoni always leaves at dawn to stay on schedule.

Walking backwards is meant as a siganl to Indonesians to reflect on the past and remember how national heroes fought for the good of the country, he said.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Seven dead tigers found in car in Vietnam

Yahoo – AFP, July 26, 2019

Three Vietnamese men were arrested after police found seven dead tigers
in their car (AFP Photo/Nam GIANG)

Hanoi (AFP) - A haul of frozen tiger carcasses found in a car in Hanoi has led to the arrest of a key wildlife trafficking suspect, Vietnamese state media said Friday, as the country tries to tackle a well-worn smuggling route from Laos.

Nguyen Huu Hue, who is believed to have smuggled animals in from neighbouring Laos for years, was arrested Thursday with two other people after seven dead tigers were discovered in their vehicle at a parking lot, according to Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper.

"Hue set up a company... which sells building material as a cover for the illegal trading of tigers and wildlife," Cong An Nhan Dan, the official mouthpiece of the Ministry of Public Security, reported.

All seven tigers appeared to be cubs, according to photos of the seizure.

It was not immediately clear if the dead tigers had come from the wild or from the many illegal tiger farms in Laos, which supply much of Asia's demand for tiger meat and parts.

Police have previously busted several other members of the same wildlife trafficking ring, which has been running for several years from a central province which shares a border with Laos.

Vietnam is both a consumption hub and popular smuggling route for illegal wildlife -- from tigers to elephant tusks, pangolins and rhino horn.

Some of it is destined for domestic consumption in Vietnam, while the rest is smuggled on to China.

Tiger parts are used for traditional medicine or jewellery in Vietnam, where the once-large population of the endangered cats has dwindled dramatically.

Their bones are commonly boiled down and mixed with rice wine to make an elixir believed to treat arthritis and promote strength.

The smugglers' arrest in Hanoi follows a record seizure in Singapore this week of nearly nine tonnes of ivory and a huge stash of pangolin scales destined for Vietnam.

Hanoi has long vowed to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade, though conservationists say the black market persists thanks to weak law enforcement.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Manmade ruin adds 7,000 species to endangered 'Red List'

Yahoo – AFP, Patrick GALEY, July 18, 2019

The Roloway Monkey of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana has fewer than 2,000 left in the
wild (AFP Photo/SEBASTIEN BOZON)

Paris (AFP) - Mankind's destruction of nature is driving species to the brink of extinction at an "unprecedented" rate, the leading wildlife conservation body warned Thursday as it added more than 7,000 animals, fish and plants to its endangered "Red List".

From the canopies of tropical forests to the ocean floor, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said iconic species of primates, rays, fish and trees were now classified as critically endangered.

The group has now assessed more than 105,000 species worldwide, around 28,000 of which risk extinction.

While each group of organisms face specific threats, human behaviour, including overfishing and deforestation, was the biggest driver of plummeting populations.

"Nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history," said IUCN acting director general, Grethel Aguilar. "We must wake up to the fact that conserving nature's diversity is in our interest."

In May the United Nations released its generational assessment of the state of the environment. It made for grim reading.

The report warned that as many as one million species were now at risk of extinction, many within decades, as human consumption of freshwater, fossil fuels and other natural resources skyrockets.

It found that more than 90 percent of marine fish stocks are now either overfished or fished to the limit of sustainability.

The IUCN singled out a number of sea and freshwater fish that now occupy its highest threat category of "critically endangered" -- the next step on the Red List is extinction.

Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes, known collectively as Rhino Rays due to their elongated snouts, are now the most imperilled marine families on Earth.

The False Shark Ray is on the brink of extinction after overfishing in the waters off of Mauritania saw its population collapse 80 percent in the last 45 years.

Seven species of primate are closer to extinction on the new list, including the Roloway Monkey of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, with fewer than 2,000 individuals left in the wild.

Prime culprits are humans hunting the animals for bushmeat and "severe habitat loss" as forest is converted to land to grow food.

40 percent of all primates in West and Central Africa are now threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN.

"Species targeted by humans for food tend to become endangered much more quickly," Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List Unit, told AFP.

"Species in environments with lots of deforestation for agriculture end up being impacted."

'Millions of years of evolution'

The updated list shows that over half of Japan's freshwater fish and more than a third of Mexico's are threatened with extinction due to the loss of free-flowing rivers and increasing pollution.

More than 500 deep-sea bony fish and molluscs have been added to the list for the first time posing something of a conservation conundrum as the space they inhabit -- 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) beneath the surface -- is often beyond national boundaries.

"The alarm bell has been sounding again and again concerning the unravelling crisis in freshwater and marine wildlife," said Andrew Terry, director of conservation and policy at the Zoological Society of London.

"Many of these ancient marine species have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and losing just one of these species would represent a loss of millions of years of evolutionary history."

Monday, July 15, 2019

Let's talk about gay penguins: Munich zoo joins Pride week

Yahoo – AFP, Pauline CURTET, July 13, 2019

Biologists say giraffes are bisexual. In some groups, 90 percent of the acts
observed are in fact homosexual in nature (AFP Photo/Christof STACHE)

Munich (Germany) (AFP) - Organisers of this year's Gay Pride week in Munich have a group of rather wild partners -- penguins, giraffes and lions at the city zoo where tours are being run about same-sex love in the animal kingdom.

The Munich zoo has joined Pride week with an unusual look into the intimate lives of all creatures great and small, seeking to boost tolerance among humans.

"It is important for us to talk about" homosexuality in the animal kingdom and show that same-sex love has its place in Nature, said Munich zoo spokesman Dennis Spaeth.

"Because unfortunately in Germany we see more and more people from the reactionary right attacking LGBTQI rights."

While even mostly-Catholic Bavaria has grown more accepting and lawmakers legalised gay marriage in 2017, non-heterosexuals are sometimes still a target for violence.

Police recorded 91 attacks based on the victim's sexual orientation last year.

In the safe confines of the zoo, the first stop on the Pride tour is the giraffes. The blotchy animals spare visitors only occasional curious glances from behind their long eyelashes as they enjoy a meal of hay.

"Giraffes are bisexual. In some groups, 90 percent of the acts observed are in fact homosexual in nature," explained biologist Guenter Strauss.

The Munich zoo has joined Pride week with an unusual look into the intimate lives
of all creatures great and small, seeking to boost tolerance among humans (AFP 
Photo/Christof STACHE)

A few enclosures down, there is little to distinguish a male-male couple of black-faced Humboldt penguins squatting together from other, mixed pairs.

That is until the guide points out that with no egg to care for, the pair has taken to brooding a rock instead.

This is no one-off fling, as "penguins conduct homosexual relationships that can last a whole lifetime, something very rare in the animal kingdom," said Strauss.

Scientific taboo

In fact, hundreds of animal species, from elephants to snakes and birds, display homosexual behaviour.

But unlike most humans, the sexual preference of our four-legged or feathered friends is often quite fluid.

"Among people, we grow up with a specific sexual orientation. That's often not true for animals," said Strauss.

Unlike most humans, the sexual preference of our four-legged or feathered friends 
is often quite fluid (AFP Photo/Christof STACHE)

"They are in fact bisexual. They adopt certain sexual behaviour at specific moments."

One case in point are lions, and the zoo's male big cat greets the group with a loud roar.

"Servus!" responded Strauss in a regional greeting redolent of traditional, conservative Bavarian culture.

"Eight percent of sex acts among lions are homosexual. As for lionesses, they only show lesbian behaviour when they're kept in captivity," he explained.

While same-sex love among animals is commonplace, the topic was long a taboo for scientists of more hidebound eras.

"On one expedition to the South Pole at the start of the 20th century, a doctor saw males (penguins) copulating -- but he left out the pages dealing with the behaviour when he published the results of his research," Strauss recounted.

Considered unpalatable back then, the valuable pages were only rediscovered "eight or nine years ago" in a library in Britain, he added.

Times have changed since then.

London Zoo, for its contribution to Pride week, mounted a banner above its penguin beach, declaring: "Some penguins are gay. Get over it," a nod to a human anti-homophobic campaign.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Nine deer dead in Japan after eating plastic: wildlife group

Yahoo – AFP, July 10, 2019

Tourists are forbidden from feeding the deer any food other than the crackers
(AFP Photo/Behrouz MEHRI)

Tokyo (AFP) - Nine deer have died after swallowing plastic bags in Japan's Nara Park, a wildlife group said on Wednesday, warning that a surge in tourism may be to blame.

The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation said that masses of plastic bags and snack packets were found in the stomachs of the deer which died between March and June this year.

"The biggest litter found in one of the nine amounted to 4.3 kilograms (9.5 pounds)," foundation official Yoshitaka Ashimura told AFP.

"We were surprised. It was so big," he said.

The picturesque park in Japan's ancient capital is home to more than 1,000 deer, which can even be found roaming the streets in search of special tasty crackers offered by tourists.

Tourists are forbidden from feeding the deer any food besides the crackers but Ashimura said some visitors offer the animals other types of snacks.

"The deer probably think that the snacks and the plastic packs covering them are both food," he said, adding the animals normally eat grass and acorns.

"They might also eat plastic bags dropped on the ground," he said, adding that he believed such cases had increased recently "due to the growing number of visitors".

"The only way to prevent this is to remove all the garbage."

The sprawling park that also includes wooden temples and shrines built centuries ago is a major tourist attraction.

The number of tourists visiting Nara city where the park is located has increased in recent years, with 16 million visitors in 2017.

The deer at the park -- numbering on average about 1,200 -- are protected as a national treasure.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Dogs trained to offer support to troubled US veterans

Yahoo – AFP, Catherine TRIOMPHE, June 16, 2019

US military veteran Michael Kidd and his companion dog Millie leave after a training
session at the Paws of War office in Nesconset, New York -- Millie helps Kidd navigate
the difficulties of post-traumatic stress disorder (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)

Nesconset (United States) (AFP) - Michael Kidd, now 84 years old, fought in the Korean War. His young German shepherd Millie helps calm him down when things start to swirl, usually at night.

Harry Stolberg -- a 42-year-old former Marine who served in Bosnia, Liberia and Nigeria -- has a chocolate Labrador named Rocky who wakes him up from his troubled dreams.

And 31-year-old Phil Davanzo -- who carried the bodies of fallen comrades during a hostage rescue operation that went wrong off Somalia in 2011 -- hopes his Rottweiler puppy will soon be trained to support him during his panic attacks.

The three US veterans, who all live on New York's Long Island, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have sought solace through pet therapy -- namely, a loyal dog to keep them company.

The shelter animals are either trained or being trained to help them through difficult times by Paws of War, an association funded entirely by private donations that then provides the service dogs free of charge.

The group will also train a veteran's dog if he or she already has one.

Veteran Harry Stolberg says his dog Rocky helps him wake up from the nightmares that 
have come after his service overseas in the Marine Corps (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)

"The biggest thing is he wakes me up from nightmares," Stolberg says of three-year-old Rocky.

"He can open the door, come in my room, turn on the lights, take my blinders off me... and lick my hands so I wake up."

Rocky, whose 18 months of training were completed six months ago, also helps Stolberg navigate large crowds, which can be triggering.

"If I can't move, he will get me out of that crowd -- he will pick up on that. He will walk around me and look at it and if I don't respond, he will walk away from the crowd with me hooked up to him," he says.

Paws of War -- their acronym is a play on POW, used to signify prisoners of war -- has been active since 2014.

More than 100 dogs have been trained so far, and the therapeutic results for their masters have been significant.

Michael Kidd's dog Millie, seen here, is being trained at Paws of War to help Kidd 
when times are tough -- he says her assistance has led to a reduced need for 
medication (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)

Off the meds

Kidd, who suffers from severe PTSD, has been able to reduce his intake of medication thanks to Millie.

At night when things are tough, "she will come over to me, she will put her paw on my shoulder, on my chest, and just give me a big slobber," says Kidd, whose father was in Normandy on D-Day.

"That's just saying, 'I am here for you.'"

Stolberg used to need sleeping pills to get through the night, but not anymore, thanks to Rocky.

"Sleeping was my biggest problem. (...) Now I only have a nightmare once or twice a month, instead of every day," he explains.

"A lot of that is also because I know that when I go to sleep, he is in the room -- he is going to wake me up no matter what."

Rebecca Stromski, a senior trainer for Paws of War whose husband served in 
Afghanistan and Kuwait, says it takes 18 to 24 months to teach dogs what to do when 
a troubled veteran sends distress signals (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)

'Quite a process'

It takes 18 to 24 months to teach dogs what to do when a troubled veteran sends distress signals, according to Rebecca Stromski, a senior trainer for Paws of War whose husband served in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

"It's quite a process actually, creating a mutual respect and a connection between the service dude and the service dog," she says.

"Once the foundations are in place and the dog starts feeling if things are going well or not for the veterans, they start to do certain motions when the guys are fidgeting," Stromski explains.

"I can start and cue that behavior and use that as an alert."

In the face of seemingly interminable wars for US military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq, deployments which began in 2001, veterans are experiencing PTSD symptoms on a regular basis.

Paws of War has more requests for service animals than it can fulfill, with 50 veterans on the waiting list, according to the group's co-founder Dori Scofield.

So far, Paws of War has trained more than 100 dogs to help troubled veterans on Long 
Island, and has more applications than it can currently fulfill (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)

Both ends of the leash

After running an animal shelter for 30 years, Scofield launched Paws of War after being contacted by veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Those soldiers had become attached to dogs they had found in those countries, but were unable to bring them back home.

Through word of mouth recommendations, the association quickly became a top meeting place for the 75,000-strong veteran community on Long Island, one of the biggest in the United States.

"We get applications every day -- we can't keep up," Scofield says. "I can't train enough dogs fast enough."

She has opened satellite offices in Florida and in northern New York state. She has also launched a free mobile veterinary clinic where veterans can bring their companion animals.

Dogs who might have ended up put to sleep in shelters now have homes, and veterans are rediscovering "a reason to get up every day, get moving, get out," Scofield says.

"It has been just so awesome, helping both ends of the leash."