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)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Therapy dogs give struggling young readers in Lithuania the positive attention and confidence they need to become happy bookworms

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rotterdam tightens rules on dangerous dog breeds

DutchNews, November 2, 2017

Rotterdam is stepping up measures to curb dangerous dogs in response to a series of biting incidents in the city. 

Dogs belonging to ‘high risk breeds’, such as pitbulls, will be forced to wear muzzles in public and banned from communal spaces such as shopping centres and playgrounds. A hotline where people can report dangerous dogs is also being set up. 

Animals that bite people will be put down by order of the council and the owner banned from owning dangerous breeds in future. 

The stricter rules have been proposed by alderman Joost Eerdmans, who is responsible for animal welfare. A team of six enforcement officials will check that owners are complying with the rules on muzzling and leashing. 

In August an eight-year-old girl was seriously injured when she was bitten by a pitbull owned by a man whose dogs had been involved in previous biting incidents.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lions, chimps, sharks get added protection under UN convention

Yahoo – AFP, October 28, 2017

Ponso, the only surviving chimpanzee of a colony of 20 apes, sits in a tree on
Chimpanzee Island in Ivory Coast, where the ape population has plummeted by
90 percent in just two decades (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

Lions, chimpanzees, giraffes, leopards and a wide variety of sharks received added protection at a UN wildlife conference in the Philippines, organisers said Saturday.

Some 34 endangered species were selected to receive heightened conservation efforts at the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) conference that just concluded in Manila.

Protecting migratory species poses particular difficulties since they cross borders, including possibly moving to countries with less stringent wildlife protection systems said Bradnee Chambers, CMS executive secretary.

"If the species is moving around all of these countries, everybody has to pitch in," he said at the end of the week-long conference.

Lions, leopards and chimpanzees were singled out as needing more conservation work. The chimpanzee in particular is at risk as their numbers have dropped in recent years due to habitat loss, the organisers said.

The giraffe, which is in decline throughout Africa with fewer than 90,000 animals left in the wild, was also listed.

All four of these African mammals were approved by a "wide majority" for additional protection measures, a CMS statement noted.

Other animals that were listed were three species of shark including the whale shark, the largest fish in the world. Host country the Philippines had lobbied for this creature, which has become a major tourist attraction.

More than 120 states are party to the CMS, but this does not include China and many other Asian countries.

"We're trying to work to bring China onboard as a member of the convention. We have been engaging them and they are actually doing quite a bit," Chambers told reporters.

"What it required is positive engagement with the country to see how to find solutions instead of just bashing the country and looking at the negative side."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Puppy eyes: The tail wagging the dog?

Yahoo – AFP, October 19, 2017

New research suggests dogs are masters of body language and use their facial
expressions to communicate and manipulate their owners

Your dog may be a master manipulator, deliberately making puppy eyes to pull at your heart strings, according to a study Thursday into a ploy many mutt owners have long suspected.

The research suggests that dogs may be in control of their facial expressions, using them to communicate, researchers reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Until now, it was assumed that dog expressions were involuntary.

The new study suggests, however, that man's best friend may be very well aware of the reaction a scowl or grin will elicit from its master.

"The findings appear to support evidence... that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate," said study co-author Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth.

In a series of experiments with different types of pet dogs, the team discovered that the animals "move their faces" more when humans were paying attention to them.

Raising the brows, which makes the eyes appear bigger to produce heart-melting "puppy dog eyes", was the most commonly-used expression, the researchers found.

When humans had their backs turned, or were distracted, the dogs' faces were much less active -- regardless of whether the human was offering a food treat or not.

Previous research has shown that dogs are aware of how attentive humans are.

One study, for example, showed they stole food more often when a human had their back turned or eyes closed.

"We now know dogs make more facial expressions when the human is paying attention," said Kaminski.

It was too soon, however, to state categorically that dogs have a perception of what a human may be thinking or feeling -- a state of awareness considered a sign of high intelligence displayed by humans, the team added.

Research in non-human primates has suggested some of our far-flung cousins may also be aware that others can read their facial expressions -- which changed when they had an audience.

1,600 Dutch meat farmers qualify for ‘better life’ trade mark

DutchNews, October 19, 2017

Pigs on a factory farm. Photo:

Some 1,600 Dutch farmers now rear chickens and pigs under the ‘Beter Leven’ trade-mark, which indicates better living conditions for the animals. 

The scheme was launched ten years ago when six poultry farmers gave their hens more room and a covered outdoor space to forage, so qualifying for the trade mark just launched by animal protection group Dierenbescherming. 

By 2012 the number of participating farms had reached 800 and now 31 million animals are being reared under ‘better life’ conditions, broadcaster NOS said on Thursday. The trade mark has a three-star system – the more stars the better the way the animals are reared. 

Despite the shift to more animal friendly farms, some 2,500 Dutch poultry, pig and other farmers still offer their animals no additional facilities, NOS said. Much of their meat is sent abroad to countries where animal welfare is not as high on the agenda. 

‘We are leading the way in the Netherlands, but we are not yet done,’ Niels Dorland of  Dierenbescherming told NOS. ‘We have to keep on going because 2,500 is still far too many.’ 


Earlier this month, animal rights lobby group Wakker Dier said supermarkets are still not doing enough to encourage the sale of chicken with a quality label and some are selling more of the cheapest meat to produce. 

The organisation conducted a random test among 12 big supermarket chains and found that two thirds of chicken products did not have any form of quality label. ‘That means supermarkets are promoting the sale of chickens raised in the poorest circumstances,’ a Wakker Dier spokesperson said. 

Almost 30% of chicken products now have some form of quality label, up seven percentage points compared to last year. But given that last year’s increase was 25%, this year’s figures are not good news, the organisation said. 

Related Article:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Two tigers rescued from Aleppo find new Dutch home

Yahoo – AFP, October 13, 2017

Four Paws: One of the tigers rescued from the destroyed Magic World
amusement park near Aleppo. (AFP Photo/Ahu Savan An)

The Hague (AFP) - Two tigers rescued from an abandoned zoo in the war-torn Syrian town of Aleppo are to be given a new home in a Dutch sanctuary, the animal refuge said Friday.

Brother and sister, Sultan and Sayeeda, will arrive Monday in The Netherlands after they were among 13 animals evacuated earlier this year from the "Magic World" zoo and amusement park in the ravaged Syrian city.

The Four Paws charity, which goes to the aid of animals in distress around the world, brought the tigers out of Syria and into Turkey at the end of July along with five lions, two bears, two hyenas and two dogs.

After a short stay in Turkey to be cared for and treated for neglect, the animals were taken to Jordan in mid-August. While most of the 13 beasts are staying there, Sultan and Sayeeda, who were badly emaciated and de-hydrated, are to be cared for at the Felida refuge in northern Nijeberkoop.

The felines, which will be housed in the sanctuary's quietest areas, will receive special medical treatment to help them get over the trauma of the war and develop a more natural behaviour.

They "were living in a war zone. They were thirsty and hungry. They could hear lots of noise from the bombings" and suffered a lot of stress as a result, said Simone Schuls, the director of the refuge.

"It's a great second chance for these animals," she said, adding the pair may eventually be rehoused elsewhere depending on their recovery.

In April in a tough mission in Iraq, Four Paws also rescued a lion and a bear, the last survivors of the ravaged zoo in Mosul.

Related Articles:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

‘World first CO2 neutral eggs’ are laid in Limburg

DutchNews, October 10, 2017


A chicken farm in Castenray, in the province of Limburg, claims to have produced the first CO2 neutral egg, public broadcaster NOS reports. 

Kipster, which advertises itself as ‘the world’s most animal and environmentally friendly chicken farm’, says the CO2 neutral egg is a ‘world first’.

‘Our chickens are white. They weigh less than brown chickens and eat less. So we save on raw materials. They eat what are called ‘residual flows’ such as left over bread and agricultural by-products. We don’t feed them corn, for instance,’ chicken farmer Ruud Zanders told NOS. 

The farm has also been fitted with 1,100 solar panels to boost sustainable energy usage. ‘We use 40% of the energy we generate and sell the rest. This makes our farm, and the eggs, CO2 neutral,’ NOS quotes Zanders as saying. 

The chickens’ living quarters, which were designed with the input of the animal protection organisation Dierenbescherming, consists of a glass covered inside garden with trees and tree trunks for the birds, and two outside spaces. ‘Retired’ chickens, the Kipster website writes, ‘are not dumped in Africa to disrupt the market there but are processed here into high-quality products’.

The eggs will cost 23 to 24 cents apiece compared to 16 to 17 cents for a conventional free-range egg. The entire stock for the next five years has been sold to supermarket Lidl, where they will go on sale later this month, NOS said.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Panda diplomacy: Two giant pandas from China land in Indonesia

Yahoo – AFP, 28 September 2017

One of two giant pandas stays inside a cage as they arrive at the
Sukarno-Hatta airport in Indonesia

Two giant pandas from China arrived in Indonesia on Thursday in an act of "panda diplomacy" aimed at celebrating 60 years of bilateral ties.

Cai Tao and Hu Chun, both aged seven, arrived from Sichuan province and will be housed at a safari zoo in Bogor, a city near the capital Jakarta.

The pandas were lent by Beijing to mark the diplomatic anniversary despite recent tensions between the nations, with a number of clashes between Chinese and Indonesian vessels in the South China Sea.

The delivery is the first time Indonesia has been lent pandas, the country's forest and environment ministry said, making it the 16th country to be gifted with the animals by China.

A safari zoo will be their home for the next ten years once they clear an initial month-long quarantine.

"We hope we can breed them, that Hu Chun and Cai Tao will mate so they'll have offspring while they're here," said Yulius Suprihardo, a spokesman for Taman Safari Indonesia.

The zoo has built a 1,300 metres squared panda home for Cai Tao, who weighs 128kg (282 pounds), and Hu Chun, who weighs 113 kg (249 pounds).

Giant pandas are considered vulnerable and there are only about 1,800 in the wild, according to conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

China's use of giant pandas -- a national icon -- as gifts has a long history and has been dubbed "panda diplomacy".

Indonesia maintains it has no maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea, unlike other Asian nations, and does not contest ownership of reefs or islets there.

But Beijing's expansive claims in the sea overlap Indonesia's exclusive economic zone -- waters where a state has the right to exploit resources -- around the remote Natuna Islands.

The skirmishes have prompted Indonesia to bolster defences there.

In July, Indonesia changed the name South China Sea to North Natuna Sea to show its sovereignty in the waters, prompting criticism from Beijing.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Frida, the four-legged heroine of Mexico's quake rescues

Yahoo – AFP, Yemeli ORTEGA, September 23, 2017

Frida, a rescue dog belonging to the Mexican Navy, with her handler Israel Arauz
 Salinas, takes a break while participating in the effort to look for people trapped at
the Rebsamen school in Mexico City, on September 22, 2017 (AFP Photo/

Mexico City (AFP) - With protective goggles fitted under her furry ears and boots on all four paws, Frida wags her tail as she scales the mountains of rubble left by this week's devastating earthquake in Mexico.

The golden labrador is using her sense of smell to try to detect any survivors left in the wreckage of buildings brought down on Tuesday by the 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

The courageous canine has become iconic in Mexico, a four-legged symbol of the solidarity behind the rescue operations whose fame has been spread on television and social media.

One man in Mexico's northeast has even had her image tattooed on his arm. And a t-shirt maker is selling a line with her face above the slogan "We can be heroes."

The dog is part of the Canine Unit of Mexico's Navy, which has been active at the sites of 39 buildings brought down in the quake.

Frida was notably deployed at a collapsed school in the capital's south where 19 children and six adults died. Officials say there is still the possibility that an adult is trapped alive in the debris.

"Frida is a specialist in detecting people alive under rubble," her handler, Petty Officer Israel Arauz told AFP.

In her career, which included being sent to Ecuador for a major earthquake last year, she has saved 12 lives, he said.

When she turns up, many Marines drop their stern military demeanor to rush to pet her and have a photo taken alongside her.

"She brings joy, tenderness and hope. Civilians salute her and applaud her in the street," said one soldier as he rubbed her belly.

The dog's personality is "very gentle, but also very strong temperamentally," Arauz said, adding that she would likely be retired next year when she turns eight.

"For me, it's an honor to handle her on these missions," he said.

Frida, a rescue dog belonging to the Mexican Navy, with her handler Israel Arauz 
Salinas, takes a break while participating in the effort to look for people trapped at
the Rebsamen school in Mexico City, on September 22, 2017 (AFP Photo/OMAR TORRES)

Dogs lost and found

The spontaneous display of solidarity in Mexico against natural disasters has been a source of surprise and inspiration internationally.

Media around the world covering this week's quake have highlighted the generosity of Mexicans who have donated food, medicine and basic supplies, as well as the volunteers who have leaped forward to help professional emergency crews to remove rubble.

That same rush to help can be seen with dog-owners.

"We have come to support the UNAM brigade to detect people and rescue them," said Jean Louis Zuniga, an amateur dog trainer who turned up at a collapsed building with several of his charges, including a labrador, a border collie, a boxer and a pitbull.

But dogs weren't only part of the rescue teams -- they were also among the quake's victims. Several died, others became trapped in the rubble after losing their owners or becoming injured.

Many have been rescued, with some being hauled out of windows on ropes.

There are also free veterinarian clinics dotted around the city to look after injured animals, and centers dispensing dog food and medicine.

"I'm so desperate, I am looking for my Candy," said Cecilia Vega, a university student ceaselessly going to each center, with a photograph in hand of her chihuahua missing since the earthquake.

Like Candy, many dogs have been found without owners. Images of them have started to circulate on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, on forums created especially.

"She's called Precious and she got lost during the earthquake. She has problems breathing and is skittish," read one posting on the Twitter feed of @MascotasSismo (translated as QuakePets), under the image of a white dog with the tongue hanging out.

"Back with his owners!" read another, showing Brook, a grey pitbull.

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.

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."