Animals
Amazing Animal Stories!

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Tony Maphosa, who was wanted by authorities in Zimbabwe since 2013, has been arrested for allegedly poisoning the water supply of more than 100 elephants. He was arrested last Wednesday in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe after authorities received a tip.

A team of rangers from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority apprehended their suspect and confiscated two pieces of ivory from him upon arrest.

“A man from Tsholotso was arrested on Wednesday with two elephant tusks,” Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said in a statement confirming the arrest of Maphosa. Authorities are on the lookout for accomplices after two more elephants were poisoned using cyanide on Monday.

Last month, 10 elephants were found poisoned using cyanide in the national park. The consequences of these poisonings extends well beyond the elephants. When water sources are poisoned, animals like zebras, antelope, lions, jackals, and even vultures are killed as well. These deaths are slow and agonizing. In Zimbabwe, cyanide can be easily purchased, making it easier to commit these crimes.

In every sense, Maphosa is lucky he was apprehended without violence. Rangers in Hwange National Park and other parks throughout the country have been given “clear shoot-to-kill” orders regarding poachers, according to Trevor Lane, co-founder of the Bhejane Trust.

“Poachers are lucky to be captured alive,” said Lane. Anyone caught with ivory or poison in the parks are given a minimum sentence of 9 years.

Even though sentencing is harsh and poaching comes at an enormous personal risk, economic forces will likely continue pushing animals like elephants toward extinction in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. As long as people are poor and tusks fetch a high price, poaching is here to stay.


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Two years ago, Cecil the lion was killed by a Minnesota-based dentist in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, sparking international outrage. Earlier this month, Xanda, the son of Cecil the lion, suffered the same fate.

Officials have been following the movements of Xanda the lion via a GPS collar outfitted back in 2015. Lack of movement on July 7th indicated that the lion had died, and sources familiar with the hunt confirmed the kill.

Xanda strayed outside the boundaries of the National Park, where lions have essentially no protection from game hunters who can legally shoot the animals if the proper permit is obtained.

Researchers are mourning the animal’s death.

“He was shot two kilometers from the park boundary in the Ngamo Forest,” Dr. Andrew Loveridge, a project leader and research fellow with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit said. “As researchers, we are saddened at the death of a well-known study animal we have monitored since birth.”

The circumstances surrounding Xanda’s death are still fuzzy. In 2015 when his father was killed, he was lured outside of the park’s boundary with food before being killed.

Humane Society International has condemned the killing.

“The killing of Xanda just goes to show that trophy hunters have learned nothing from the international outcry that followed Cecil’s death. They continue at a time when lions face a conservation crisis in Africa, with as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild. Xanda was a well-studied lion like this father and critical to conservation efforts in Zimbabwe,” Humane Society’s Masha Kalina said in a statement.


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Last week, TreeHugger came out with a somewhat controversial article, Worried About The Planet? Avoid That Extra Kid. By and large, I agree with what they had to say. Of course you can’t shame people for the kids they already have, but it underscores the need to have a dialog about family planning and make safe family planning methods affordable or free to women and men alike.

But what about our pets? What are the carbon footprints of our furry, four-legged friends?

People love pets, and that includes me. I have a dog and a cat, both of whom I rescued from the pound. For the sake of being better educated about the carbon footprints of animals, I decided to dive into the numbers. Here’s what I found.

Dogs.

Meet Ham. Ham’s my 3-year-old medium size mix of something or other. According to the authors of ‘Time To Eat The Dog?’,  feeding Ham for the duration of his life, say, 12-15 years, will require .84 hectares of land, more than the total ecological footprint of a Vietnamese citizen and almost twice as much as the ecological footprint of driving an SUV 10,000 km.

There’s not much I can do to drive down the carbon footprint of Ham. Dogs aren’t vegan, and though some people try to push the idea that a dog can be fed a vegan diet, it’s not based in reality and you can harm your pet by doing so. Dogs are omnivores and they cannot survive without meat. If having a 100% vegan household is an important thing to you, get a rabbit or another type of herbivore as a pet.

For my existing dog, there’s just about no way to drive down his carbon footprint. For future dogs, I have options.

Adopt a shelter dog.

In the United States, 3.3 million dogs are delivered to animal shelters each year. 670,000 of them will not make it out of the ordeal alive. There are a lot of dogs who are born and have nowhere in particular to be. If you’re thinking of adding a dog to your family, consider looking to your local animal shelters and rescues first.

Avoid pet stores and breeders.

I’d never tell you that you can’t have a special breed of dog, no more than I’d tell you you can’t have another kid. It’s your life; you do you. If you have a very specific reason for adopting a pure bred dog, like requiring a hypoallergenic breed or a breed bred to perform a specific work function, then by all means.

But pet stores tend to carry puppies born at puppy mills, places that imprison adult dogs and force them to breed and give birth, often discarding them when they’re no longer of use. There is no excuse for adopting a pet store puppy unless it’s specifically a rescue dog.

Spay and neuter your dog.

That happy dog you see above was neutered before I adopted him, and it’s for the best. With more than half a million shelter dogs facing euthanasia every year, Ham doesn’t need to be contributing to the surplus population.

There are some who argue it’s inhumane to do so and that animals should be left intact, but I don’t subscribe to that belief. Talk with your vet about the best time to spay or neuter your dog.

Cats.

Meet Sylvie. She’s old as hell and full of piss and vinegar. She’s loud, demanding, and wakes me up about a thousand times a night. Her favorite hobbies are walking on my face, shitting on the bathroom mat, sleeping, and being on the wrong side of the door.

What were we talking about again?

Oh yeah. Carbon footprints. According to a study conducted at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington in 2009, a cat has about the same carbon footprint as a car driven for a year. With cats, there are more options to decreasing their ecological impacts than dogs. Though like dogs, cats are not vegan. Do not try to put your cat on a vegan diet. If you can’t handle a meat eating pet, get an herbivore, like a rabbit.

Keep your cat indoors.

What kills the most outdoor birds? Hunting? Oil spills? Wind turbines? None of the above.

Windows. But second to windows are cats. High estimates indicate that cats, both feral and domesticated, result in about 3.7 billion bird deaths a year. Kitty kills a bird and you probably shrug it off. It’s just one bird, right? But there are 75 million cats in the US. If they all kill a bird or two each year, that’ll really add up fast.

Of course, I don’t see Sylvie catching much of anything these days.

Spay and neuter your cats.

I’ve had it happen before. While cat sitting for a friend’s cat who wasn’t spayed, cat gets loose for a couple days, comes back, and pops out 6 kittens after a few weeks. So now the world has 6 more cats when, every year, 860,000 cats are euthanized at animal shelters. My bad, ya’ll.

I found homes for the kittens, but at the end of the day, those kittens have a negative impact. The mother cat should have been spayed and the kittens shouldn’t have been born. Plus I gave one of them to a friend and he turned out to be kind of a dick.

His name is Cheesepuff and we’re not really on great terms. He is neutered though.

Ignore pet store cat toys.

Every time I see cat toys in the pet store, it just strikes me as a waste of money. A cat will enjoy a cardboard box about as much as they enjoy a cat tree. They’re not hard to please. Or they’re impossible to please. Cats vary widely.

Adopt from shelters and rescues.

The same rules for adopting dogs applies to cats too. Always choose a shelter cat over a pet store cat unless of course you need a specific breed for a specific reason.

Rabbits.

 

Rabbits are awesome. Their poop makes great garden fertilizer, they have unique personalities, and when raised well, they’re pretty relaxed creatures. They also eat a vegetarian diet and can eat some of your food waste like carrot tops, the bases of lettuce and celery, and more.

I had trouble finding data on their overall ecological footprints. Due to the nature of their diet and their (usually) smaller size, I can surmise it’s dramatically less than cats or dogs. But there are still things you need to watch out for.

If you can, don’t buy from a pet store or a feed store.

Rabbits are not as common in animal shelters as cats and dogs, but they still wind up there pretty frequently. If your family wants a pet rabbit, consider keeping an eye on your local animal shelter’s website or look for a local rabbit rescue. Check craigslist and other local postings for anyone looking to rehome their rabbit.

If you have a rabbit and can’t care for it anymore, don’t just leave it somewhere in nature. It will not survive.

Spay and neuter your rabbits.

This tip is often overlooked. Rabbits should be spayed and neutered. Spayed rabbits have a reduced risk of reproductive cancers and neutered males tend to live longer too, as they are less tempted to be aggressive.

Rabbits, domesticated and wild, are prolific breeders. And just as with dogs and cats, there are plenty of rabbits in shelters right now, some some accidental rabbit babies should be avoided at all costs.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough:

Conclusion.

So to summarize:

Dogs have a large carbon footprint due to the meat in their diet. Don’t try to make a dog vegan. Spay them, neuter them, and adopt before you buy.

Cats have a smaller carbon footprint, but it’s still high because of the meat in their diet. Don’t try to make a cat vegan. Spay and neuter your cats, don’t let them go outside, and rescue if you can.

Rabbits have the smaller carbon footprint, but some considerations are needed. If having a vegan household is your goal, rabbits are the right pets. Try to rescue if you can and always spay and neuter your pet rabbits.


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I love stories of good humans doing good things!

Sage is a 12-year-old happy-go-lucky Labrador, but she happens to be blind. So when Sage wandered away from her home where she lives with the Cole family, she couldn’t find her way back.

Sage calls Boulder Creek, California home. Boulder Creek is surrounded by some of the most beautiful forests around. But the area’s natural environment made it even harder to find her.

Eight days passed with no sign of Sage anywhere. Dan Estrada, the family’s next door neighbor, decided to take his two dogs for a hike through the surrounding forest. About 15 minutes into the hike, they found her stuck at the bottom of a steep slope near a stream.

At first he thought she was a trashbag that someone tossed down there, but when he realized who it was, he knew he had to step in and do something.

“I climbed a lot quicker, jumped into the stream and hustled over to her,” Estrada said in an interview with The Dodo. “I put my arms around her and kissed her and started to pet her. And she was able to hold her head up and wag her tail.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Estrada

When Sage was finally returned home, the Cole family offered a $1,000 reward, but Estrada wouldn’t take it. He asked that the money be donated to an animal rescue group instead.

Good human.


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Featured image by Randy Anderson – Chinese praying mantis with a ruby-throated hummingbird.

Praying mantises are one of my favorite insects. I had a near-obsession with them when I was a kid and continue to think they’re pretty damn neat. But a new study conducted by zoologists in Switzerland in conjunction with a U.S. team discovered something rather alarming – an invasive species of mantis is hunting hummingbirds in the U.S.

“The fact that eating of birds is so widespread in praying mantises, both taxonomically as well as geographically speaking, is a spectacular discovery,” says Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel and lead author of the study.

But the news was hardly uplifting to many. Of the 147 documented cases of mantises eating birds, 70% occurred inside the United States. Most of those birds were hummingbirds.

Several decades ago, European and Chinese mantises became a popular go-to for pest control in the United States. Using insects to battle insects is absolutely the right idea, but using non-native mantises wasn’t a wise choise.

The authors say these mantises “now constitute a new potential threat to hummingbirds and small passerine birds.”

“Our compilation suggests that praying mantises frequently prey on hummingbirds in gardens in North America; therefore, we suggest caution in use of large-sized mantids, particularly non-native mantids, in gardens for insect pest control.”


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President Donald Trump is following through on a promise: that he will review 27 national monuments established by 3 former presidents and allow for new energy development on those sites. Put simply: your favorite national monuments could someday soon feature fracking wells.

First on the list is Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would like to reduce the size of in order to open it up for oil and gas drilling. Bears Ears has been a political target in particular, as it was designated during the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The national monument protects land deemed sacred by the Navajo Nation, encompassing 100,000 different archaeological sites as well as ancient abandoned cliff dwellings. Today, members of the tribe visit these sites for ceremonies and rituals.

These national monuments don’t just protect human antiquities, but fragile wildlife as well.

Giant Sequoia National Monument was established during Bill Clinton’s presidency, much to the dismay of logging companies. Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument serves to protect a myriad of oceanic life, like whales and sea turtles, from human encroachment.

All of the national monuments on the list will be reviewed by August.


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Pollution will be one of the lasting legacies of our era. You can look no further than Henderson Island, an atoll in the Pacific, for proof of that.

Henderson Island is a tiny chunk of land with no human inhabitants. In a sense, you could argue that humans have left it mostly untouched. And yet, our touch is still present on this pristine island.

Researchers have concluded that more than 3,500 pieces of trash wash up on the island every day, adding to the 38 million pieces of ocean-moved garbage already present on the island. Almost all of this trash is plastic.

“The quantity of plastic there is truly alarming,” Jennifer Lavers, a co-author of the report, said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It’s both beautiful and terrifying.”

Images like the one above, provided by Lavers, shows the variety of trash that washes up on the island, anything from plastic nets, helmets, water bottles, and even plastic garden planting buckets.

These pieces of plastic travel thousands upon thousands of miles through the South Pacific Gyre, a central point where tons of plastic trash accumulate.

Researchers spent a total of three months researching Henderson Island in 2015, analyzing the garbage. Most of the trash was found to come fro industrialized countries around the Pacific rim as well as Europe.

If there isn’t real action soon, the fate of Henderson Island could be seen around the world.


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Spring break isn’t exactly a celebration known for bringing the best out in people, but this is a new low for humanity.

A video (which I will not link to) showing a group of college bros, shared on the Total Frat Move Instagram account two days ago, forcing a beached shark to shotgun a beer has received more than 570,000 views and has sparked serious outrage.

As you can imagine, comments ranged from frustration at the mistreatment of an animal in trouble to one person remarking that “sharks r gay.”

This behavior is absolute rock bottom for humanity. You can argue that environmental destruction for the cause of furthering humanity is justified, but such disgusting disrespect for living creatures is a shame we all carry with us.

I expect so much more out of our dipshit college bros.


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Last week it was pretty widely reported that Gustavito, a beloved hippopotamus who lived at the National Zoo of El Salvador, had been beaten and stabbed to death by unknown assailants.

Prosecutors are now saying that it looks like Gustavito died of poor care after no signs of wounds were found on the hippo’s body during post-mortem exam.

Gustavito, who was 15, died last Sunday.

A more detailed exam indicated that the hippo died of a pulmonary haemorrhage. The hippo was likely unable to breathe because of blood in the lungs.

The zoo reported that Gustavito had been beaten brutally which naturally prompted international outrage. No attack was caught on any of the zoo’s cameras as there were none in Gustavito’s enclosure.

Officials aren’t completely ruling out that Gustavito was attacked, but at this time, it doesn’t look like that’s what happened.


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El Salvador has become known for violence. It’s among the world’s most violent countries, with an average of 14 people murdered each day. Most of the killings are carried out by various street gangs.

This violence now extends beyond people with the brutal beating of Gustavito, a well known, beloved hippopotamus who lived at the nation’s only zoo.

Many Salvadorans took to social media to mourn the loss of Gustavito. Some went to the zoo to pay their respects and leave flowers. Gustavito’s section of the zoo is closed until further notice.

“Here we’re used to seeing the dead every day,” Martin Castillo, a street vendor said Monday. “They kill us like flies, but this tops it all. They killed an animal that only entertained us.”

The attack happened last Tuesday night. Zookeepers did not see the hippo’s injuries until Thursday. Gustavo died late Sunday night.

The country’s justice minister has opened an investigation.


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