Sunday, September 27, 2015

Population of African Penguins along South Africa’s West Coast has dropped by 90%

African penguins, the tourist attraction near Cape Town, South Africa, which are the continents only flightless bird are on the verge of being extinct. This rapid decline has led to a ban on commercial fishing in four key areas seven years ago to see whether that could help save the penguins
Although officials have put a ban on fishing in almost four key areas seven years ago to help save the penguins. But still scientists are debating whether fishing is the only major threat to the population of the species.

As per experts, if the present situation continued, then in no time the specie will disappear. In the 1930s, South Africa's largest colony had a several million of African penguins. But at present only 100,000 of the birds remain in all of South Africa and neighboring Namibia, the only places where the species exists.
Anchovies and sardines, which are the biggest components of South Africa's fishing industry, are also the primary food sources of the African penguins. Both fisheries scientists and bird specialists agree that the decline of the penguin began around 2004 with a shift in anchovies and sardines away from the colonies.

Scientists said they are still not sure why the fish have moved from the colonies, but they hypotheses that the possible cause could be climate change, overfishing and natural fluctuations.

So far several penguins have died or abandoned their chicks, with hundreds winding up in the crowded outdoor pens of a rehabilitation center run by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, which releases rehabilitated penguins into the wild every week.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This is why you care more about some animals than you care about humans

Following the death of my childhood pet—a black cat named Neo—I had an extended mourning period that included a lot of open weeping and melodramatic Instagram posts.

We humans love animals. We house some of them in our homes, treating our pets like family. We stage funerals for those household pets—some places even offer cremation services specifically for animals, like this place in Whitman—and we also mourn the loss of creatures we never even saw in real life. We get indignant when animals are abused, talking about it passionately on social media. We react very strongly when animals are killed–sometimes even more strongly than we do when humans are killed.

How do we get so attached to animals?

A visitor pets a cat at the pop-up "Cat cafe", a cafe where patrons can interact and adopt cats, in New York, April 25, 2014. Cat Cafe, a pop up cafe which opened for only four days until April 27, 2014, allows visitors to have a coffee and interact with 21 cats and adopt one if they want. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Hal Herzog is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University who analyzes humans’ interactions with animals. Speaking about household pets in particular, Herzog said said that people get attached to animals for a number of reasons, but that it’s mostly a combination of our biology and our need for affection.

As for the biology: “When you touch and look at your pet, it makes your brain release chemicals that make you feel good,” Herzog said.
President Barack Obama crouches to greet his dog, Bo, outside the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, DC, 3-15-12.
As for the need for affection: That boils down to the fact that pets offer unconditional love (mostly). And unconditional love feels good.

This partly explains why so many people–about 60 percent of households, according to the Humane Society of the United States–currently own pets in the U.S. But making us feel better can’t be the only reason animals have climbed up the social ranks to be nearly equal with other humans, which is something that Herzog said is definitely not culturally universal.

Herzog said that while animals, especially dogs, are part of the lives of humans in many countries, they are not revered as family members in most other cultures. Americans have specifically come to idealize two animals–cats and dogs–more than any other.

Somewhere along the line, Westerners came to love certain animals so much that we allow them to sleep in our beds.

  Herzog pointed to the influence of pet-centric media and advertising. The pet industry markets pets as desirable companions, loving creatures that will make you feel less lonely and make your life more satisfying.

Herzog also noted the impact of animals’ portrayals in popular culture and how that might be related to our desire to own pets.

“When I was a kid, we got a TV, and my favorite show was Lassie,” Herzog said. “And Lassie was Teddy’s best friend. And they treated him like a member of the family.”
Marley & Me didn’t fail to deliver gut-punches that tapped into the way some of us feel about dogs. 
Moreover, changing demographics are motivating people to get more and more pets, Herzog said. As the structure of the average American household continues to change, spaces are created that are easily occupied by animals.

“American demographics have changed, and more people are living alone. People are getting married later, if they get married at all. They’re having fewer kids,” Herzog said. “People are more attached to their pets [because they’re filling a hole].”

That all accounts for why we like them so much. But do we really like them more than human beings?

Herzog doesn’t think so.

We only allow two types of animals to become family members: cats and dogs. Barring that, we don’t really develop deep, emotional bonds with animals (well, most of us don’t). Second in the hierarchy of critters-that-matter-to-people are what Herzog calls “charismatic megafauna,” or what he describes as “big, cool animals.” These are, he said, “giraffes, lions, orcas, dolphins, chimpanzees,” and the like.

Lions like Cecil, the 13-year-old Southwest African Lion whose death in July sparked worldwide outrage.
Herzog said that Cecil had the right combination of positive characteristics to cause public outrage about animal cruelty. Not only did he fall into the category of beasts that we, as Americans, care about, he also had a few other things going for him:

“Cecil wasn’t just any lion. He was really well-known,” Herzog said. “He was charismatic. There were pictures of him everywhere.”

Combine that with the fact that there was a clear, identifiable killer with a history of engaging animal cruelty, and Cecil’s death became the exact sort of thing we care about.

“It was the perfect storm of how to get the whole world in a tizzy,” Herzog said of the circumstances surrounding Cecil’s death.

According to Herzog, any animal that doesn’t belong to one of two categories–household pets or adorable zoo animals–doesn’t matter to us as much. Just looking at America’s propensity to eat certain critters on the regular proves that we seriously prioritize the lives of some animals over others.
“There’s a general principal in psychology called the collapse of compassion,” Herzog said. “This principle [says] that the bigger the tragedy, the less people care. So people don’t care that much about the slaughter of chickens and the treatment of cattle. What gets people going is pictures of the individual suffering of animals.”

Take, for instance, the death of a dog. It certainly doesn’t happen as frequently as the death of cows and chickens, and it doesn’t tend to happen en masse. The stories that spread like wildfire are ones about small, individual injustices, like when a dog was bound and shot in Key Largo, Florida, last year. Or, as Herzog pointed out (and wrote about in an op-ed for Wired magazine), a dog named Arfee from Idaho was shot by police officers in the summer of 2014.

Arfee’s death received more attention than the deaths of  42 million cows that are killed for human consumption each year. And it got even more media attention than the death of a pregnant Idaho woman who was shot by police officers on the exact same day. But still: Herzog is adamant that, overall, we don’t care about animals more than humans.

“I just don’t think it’s true that we care about animals than people. When you look at the big picture, it’s just not true,” Herzog said.

“What we care about is individuals,” Herzog said. “Especially ones that are helpless.”

This was best demonstrated by a study out of Northeastern University that tracked people’s reactions to fake news stories about beatings that happened to either dogs, puppies, human adults, or human babies. According to the study, which was conducted by professors Jack Levin, an expert in violent crimes and mass murderers, and Arnold Arluke, a professor of sociology who studies the psychological and emotional link between animals and humans, “adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full grown dog victims.”

So it’s not the difference between human and animal–it’s the innocence of the victim.

Yusuf the kitten waits for adoption at the 'Best Friends' rescue shelter group at the inaugural CatConLa event in Los Angeles, California on June 7, 2015. The two day cat expo for cat people claims to be the first of its kind in North America and showcases everything to do with felines. AFP PHOTO/MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
“Humans can speak for themselves, as a group, while animals are helpless,” Herzog said. “People are [sometimes] more interested in helping animals because animals can’t help themselves.”

So there’s the reason you weep at the Sarah McLachlan commercials (the song doesn’t help), and why I cried for days after my cat died, and why we talk a lot about animals who were killed unfairly.

We don’t feel bad for them because they’re animals. We feel bad for them because, for the most part, they’re innocent.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How Aquariums Can Actually Save Animals in the Wild

When pup 681 (later known as Luna) first arrived at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, she wasn’t able to use her paws to eat, and the animal care team had to hand-feed her. In November 2014, she progressed from taking small pieces of clam from a trainer’s fingers to moving food placed on her paws into her mouth. Her menu also expanded to include pieces of shrimp. Sea otters eat 25 percent of their body weight daily. ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
The orphaned baby sea otter was as sad and winsome as any cartoon animal Disney ever put on screen. Last October, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay Aquarium rescued a tiny pup that appeared to be abandoned by her mother on a beach near Santa Cruz. Stranded and crying, she was thought to be less than a week old and weighed just over 2 pounds, the smallest baby otter found in years.
Luna_shedd Luna the sea otter was rescued as a tiny pup by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She resides at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where she is tended to by animal trainers 24/7. ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
The aquarium gave pup 681 (she was the 681st rescued in the facility’s history) intensive care for four weeks, but its Sea Otter Program does not provide long-term animal care. At the end of the month, mammal trainers and veterinarians took her to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, one of the few U.S. facilities with the available space and staff to care for infant otters.
Luna_sheddseaotter A trainer helps Luna during feeding time at the Shedd Aquarium. ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
In December, the Shedd staff started a naming campaign, hosting a vote online with names for the public to choose: Cali, Ellie, Luna, Poppy, Ana, Anya. Meanwhile, trainers ministered to the pup 24/7, ensuring she developed certain behaviors like grooming, foraging, feeding and even regulating her own body temperature. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted her choice: “Luna, of course.”

Luna Lovegood, after all, is a heroine at the Hogwarts school of wizardry. Like magic, the name won.
Luna appeared on lots of news outlet lists of the cutest animals of 2014. But it’s not just about cute. “Luna has captured the attention of millions of people and highlighted the plight of sea otters,” says Tim Binder, who oversees animal care and the rescue rehab program at Shedd. “She’s become a great ambassador for research and been a great ambassador for the conservation work not just for Shedd but for all zoos and aquariums.”

Luna was a rare occasion when public opinion seemed to turn, if just slightly, toward supporting a belief that many in the animal conservation world hold: that captivity, when done right, is a valuable conservation tool.

It’s a hot button issue, to be sure. SeaWorld is perhaps the biggest red target for those who say animal captivity is inherently wrong. The criticism of SeaWorld’s theme parks—from the influential 2013 documentary Blackfish to Harry Styles of the British boy band One Direction shouting “Does anybody like dolphins?” and then “Don’t go to SeaWorld” onstage in San Diego on July 9—has set in motion plenty of public outcry. For the past few years, attendance and revenue have generally declined, although earlier in 2015 there were signs of a potential bounce-back.

But it’s also caused waves of consternation in nonprofit aquariums and zoos. “The film is not fully accurate, and it portrays events that happened 30 years ago as contemporary,” says Binder. “The unfortunate thing is that people are taking that film at face value.”

Their concern is that aquariumgoers now feel conflicted and confused when they see sea mammals in captivity and with animal trainers, after seeing and hearing emotion-evoking claims about poor treatment of “captive” animals. But many of the animals and fish in facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are rehab and rescue animals, some deemed “non-releasable” by wildlife officials.

“Almost all black bears, brown—grizzly and Kodiak—bears, puma, bobcat, harbor seals, walrus, sea otters and moose are rehab animals,” says AZA executive Rob Vernon. With a few zoo and aquarium-born exceptions, most sea lions and gray seals in accredited AZA facilities are non-releasable, rehabilitated animals. Fish like sturgeon or pupfish in AZA tanks are part of zoo and aquarium-based breeding and release programs for the federal or state endangered species recovery program.

“No matter what rescue animal you see at the Shedd—Luna, Nickel the sea turtle or our blind sea lion—they’ve all survived because the trainers have taught them how to help them live,” says Ken Ramirez, animal care and training adviser at Shedd.
Luna3_shedd Lana Vanagasem, manager of penguins, sea otters and dogs at the Shedd Aquarium, is one of six to eight animal care experts on a rotating schedule who provided care and attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the sea otter pup. ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Shedd’s otter program was launched in 1989 as an emergency rescue during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Over the years, all but one of its otters have been rescued as pups. And indeed, the study of Luna by Shedd’s aquarists has directly contributed to the preservation of her species. The Southern California population from which Luna came is threatened. By studying her, Shedd scientists have gleaned new information about otters and their upkeep—for example, we now know exactly what’s required for an otter to grow from 2 to a healthy 30 pounds, from the caloric intake to the activity levels needed. Wildlife managers can use that information to help manage otter populations in the wild.

The majority of public zoos and aquariums consider conservation and research to be their key missions. For example, last year the New England Aquarium rehabilitated and released 733 sea turtles (of both threatened and endangered species) stranded on the beaches of Cape Cod. It was part of an annual event that typically releases 90 of the creatures (2014 was a banner year). The New England Aquarium has also been studying the North Atlantic right whale in the wild for the past 40 years and is involved in changing government policy to decrease human-caused mortality by entanglement, marine gear and vessel collision. On top of that, the aquarium has designed fishing gear that’s less likely to snare whales.

Last summer, the Vancouver Aquarium rescued a marooned false killer whale (not directly related to the killer whale) calf that it named Chester. The aquarium has been rehabbing Chester, who was deemed non-releasable by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In a YouTube-worthy tale of animal friendship, Chester is now rooming with Helen, a rescued Pacific white-sided dolphin. Vancouver animal care staff say the integration has exceeded their expectations. “I am extremely impressed by his medical behaviors already,” reports head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.

SeaWorld is an interesting case study. The organization has a documented history of poor environmental stewardship—killer whales and their pods were disrupted by the repeated SeaWorld captures of the same Puget Sound pods in the 1960s and 1970s—but also a pretty good track record of conservation. SeaWorld says it has not taken any whales or dolphins from the wild in the past 35 years.

Over the past 50 years, SeaWorld has rescued more than 26,000 ocean animals. SeaWorld scientists have published some 300 research papers that have been shared with the scientific community, including ones on killer whales’ metabolism, reproduction and vocal learning. SeaWorld is an institution accredited by the AZA. The SeaWorld park in San Diego was first accredited by the AZA in 1981, and each of its other parks has continually met AZA standards in a vetting process that takes place every five years.

Critics contend that for a long time, SeaWorld didn’t take conservation seriously enough. “While SeaWorld has done good work over the years with marine mammal rescues off Florida and California, its record with regard to research and conservation work that helps wild orca populations is not very impressive,” says Tim Zimmerman, the associate producer of Blackfish and writer of the Outside feature “Killer in the Pool” on which the documentary was based.

“Prior to Blackfish, as best we could calculate, SeaWorld spent considerably less than 1 percent of its annual revenues on conservation work,” Zimmerman says. “And very little, if any, of that was devoted to helping the endangered southern resident killer whales, which are a threatened population in part because of the generation of young female breeders that SeaWorld and other marine parks removed from the population in the 1960s and 1970s.”

Similarly, he argues, most of the research SeaWorld conducted on killer whales didn’t benefit wild populations. Rather, it was directed toward captive husbandry and breeding that “could help SeaWorld better care for and expand its captive killer whale population. In short, Blackfish helped push SeaWorld to start matching its actions on conservation and research with its long-standing claims regarding conservation and research.”

After Blackfish was released, SeaWorld promised to donate $10 million to fund research and conservation for killer whales in the wild. (SeaWorld says that the announcement was unrelated to the film.) Recently, it committed $1.5 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as part of that pledge. And earlier this month the company announced it will no longer accept any of the 18 captured Russian beluga whales it had planned on housing as part of a breeding loan from the Georgia Aquarium, which, in turn, has been trying to import them from their home at Russia’s Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station. A statement from SeaWorld says the decision not to accept the animals “reflects an evolution in SeaWorld’s position since this project began more than eight years ago.”
killer-whale-research SeaWorld gives universities and research organizations access to its animals. Scientists conduct studies on subjects such as killer whales’ metabolism, vocal learning, sleep patterns, life history, reproduction and the impact of toxins and viruses on wild whales. SeaWorld
Many of SeaWorld’s online critics see this about-face as a vindication of recent protests. Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite says that since the film’s release, SeaWorld has been in “damage control mode.” However, she adds, “although we consider that progress, we continue to wonder why SeaWorld needs performing orcas to continue conservation work.”

Meanwhile, the Blackfish backlash has affected not only how people view animals in captivity at both for-profit water parks and conservation centers like SeaWorld but also nonprofit zoos and aquariums, particularly when these latter programs are designed to entertain animals as well as humans. Consider Shedd, which was targeted in a Blackfish-inspired “Empty the Tanks” protest in 2013, during which activists called for the release of captive whales and dolphins. Shedd’s long history of marine wildlife rescue and rehab programs includes extensive studies of its beluga whales; aquarists there say that their training program is essential for the beluga's welfare. Though some people might view the training process of the whales as abuse for human entertainment, the aquarists say this is a misunderstanding.

“Sometimes someone might say, ‘Aww, you made him do something he didn’t want to do,’” says Ramirez, who has been training animals for 30 years. “But if you see someone throw a tennis ball and a dog chases it, you wouldn’t say, ‘The dog didn’t want to do that.’ That’s dog behavior.”
He adds, “A lot of people aren’t aware that in modern training at zoos and aquariums today there is no punishment. Most training is done through gaining the cooperation of the animal and building that relationship through positive reinforcement.”

In the larger scheme of things, keeping wildlife in captivity poses little threat to the survival of the species. The Dolphin Research Center and the World Wildlife Foundation have stated that the main menaces to whales and dolphins are climate change, whaling, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, pollutants, toxic contamination and the oil industry. Aquariums and research institutes do not make their lists. The main immediate dangers to the mammals are “almost certainly entanglement or entrapment in fishing gear,” says Randall Reeves, the chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Of course, the practice of purposefully capturing sea mammals for display, study and entertainment raises ethical issues, many of which are still being heatedly debated. The wild killer whales that were the subject of Blackfish are still being disrupted by captures in Russia today and sent to new aquariums in China and Moscow, says Erich Hoyt of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, in England, and the Far East Russia Orca Project.

But aquariums that host and study rescued marine mammals might have a role to play in saving, for example, New Zealand’s Maui dolphin and West Africa’s Atlantic humpbacked dolphin, which are so endangered that Reeves warns they could disappear within a decade. As Bindi Irwin, a SeaWorld “youth ambassador” and daughter of the late Australian naturalist and TV personality Steve Irwin, asks, “If we didn’t have animals in captivity, would we be inspired to save them?”
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Monday, September 21, 2015

4 Amazing Animal Sanctuaries Who Need Your Help to Continue Saving Animals

In a world where the lives of animals are nearly always considered to be unimportant and disposable, it is almost miraculous that so many humans out there are beginning to say “no” to that concept, and do whatever they can to provide animals with the care and consideration that they need.

Some of the lessons that animal sanctuaries can teach us include: we are not the only species on this Earth deserving of love and respect; other animals have thoughts, feelings, and desires of their own – which deserve to be acknowledged, even if we cannot fully understand them; and their right to life should supersede any “services” that we believe they should perform for us. The continued presence of these places, where threatened, neglected, or abused animals can live in peace, is vitally important.

However, a significant number of these places are struggling to keep performing their incredible work. With this mind, we decided to profile a selection of awe-inspiring sanctuaries that are sadly hovering on the brink of closure, and provide more detail as to how you can help them.

1. SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary, South Africa

SanWild is an incredible organization which cares for big cats rescued from the canned hunting industry, in addition to combating illegal wildlife poaching, engaging in life-saving wildlife rehabilitation work, and operating a dedicated rhino sanctuary. Founder Louise Joubert was inspired to establish SanWild after she became “increasingly empathetic to the animals caught up in South Africa’s wildlife industry,” and decided to dedicate the rest of her life to advocating on these animals’ behalf.

Sadly, SanWild has been threatened by the prospect of closure on a number of occasions. Last year, Joubert warned that unless long-term sponsorship could be found, the “very harsh reality” of closure could be imminent. It has weathered many storms but is now struggling to cope once again after being hit by one of the worst droughts it has seen in many years.

On Facebook, the organization said the current dry spell has been “the worst since the inception of our trust in 2000. We are desperate to find sufficient funding to ensure we can provide a little bit of a helping hand for our animals and prevent them from starving until the first rains arrive around mid-December. We are doing what we can, but we simply do not have sufficient funding to provide the animals with what they need. As they are living inside an area fenced off for their protection they have nowhere else to turn for food. As one drives through the reserve wild animals run after our vehicle in order to get a bit of what we can afford to provide. The situation is dire and we are all suffering emotionally but for the sake of those that really need us, we need to be strong and need to continue to knock on all doors to get them the help they need to survive.”

You can help SanWild at this critical time by making a donation through their website.

2. Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, Oregon

The Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary – named in honor of a local beacon on Oregon’s Yaquina Head which has “guided those in need to protection and safe harbor” since 1872 – aims to “guide animals in need to the safety of calm waters.” Its residents include over 100 cows, goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs, llamas, rabbits, horses, and geese.

One of their recent rescues, a sweet white-and-brown rabbit named Popeye, came to Lighthouse with a severe eye injury that required surgical treatment. During his time with the staff and volunteers of the sanctuary, Popeye learned how to “warm up to human affection and even seem(ed) not to mind receiving meeds while snuggled on a loving lap.” After undergoing surgery to help fix his eye, and being neutered, he was at last ready to go to “his new forever home!”

The Lighthouse team consider their residents to be friends: “They light up our day, strengthen our resolve and fill a spiritual space with love, acceptance, trust and calm. We could learn a lot from their acceptance of each other – they don’t seem to mind what color someone’s hair is or the size of their waist or the language they speak. When it comes to nap time it’s one big snugglefest!”

In July, we reported on this organization’s efforts to tackle a crippling debt problem that has sadly been creeping up on them over time. Paula Fordham, Lighthouse treasurer, said of their financial situation, “I want the public to know that … we’re all committed to the sanctuary’s success. All of us have used our own money to pay for veterinary care for some of these animals.” The dedicated Lighthouse team have set up a YouCaring campaign page to help save the sanctuary, which has attracted $27,151 in donations at the time of writing. Their total  fundraising goal is $325,000. You can also donate directly to their website, or apply to work as a volunteer.

3. Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, Colombia

Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, located in the Andes mountains, is the first farm animal refuge of its kind in Colombia, and one of only two such sanctuaries in South America. It is also the ONLY sanctuary in South America that protects cows, in a continent famed for ”its rearing of cattle to support the expanding burger industries in the United States, China and Europe.” It was founded in 2009, “with a desire to protect one of the most abused animals in the world: cows.”

Future plans include the sponsoring of a mass trap-neuter-return program for the estimated 350,000 street dogs of Bogotà, along with various education and reconnection programs for schoolchildren to bring about a change in their perception of farm animals. Through their new Lunes Sin Carne website, they hope to start running vegan cooking classes and educate the public about the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Juliana’s Farm Sanctuary does not receive any government funding. Unfortunately, the prevalence of poverty and social problems in the country (up to 50 percent of Colombian people are believed to live below the poverty line) has limited many animal-loving Colombians’ ability to help the sanctuary. Earlier this year, founder Juliana Castaneda Turner told One Green Planet, “I’ve been working alone the last nine years trying to support my project, and at most I would receive on average about $25 in donations from Colombians. It’s not that people don’t care about animals, many do, but their focus is on more critical things like putting food on the table and paying their bills.”

A YouCaring campaign page – called Help Pola the Pig to Save Colombia’s Only Animal Sanctuary, in reference to one of its adorable residents, Pola the Freedom-Fighting Pig – has currently raised $8,067 out of its $25,000 goal. A recent update to the page reminded all potential donors that “every dollar counts. Even $5 goes a long way in this country. We are getting closer and closer to our goal.” You can choose to donate to this trail-blazing organization through the YouCaring page or their website. Alternatively, why not become a member, or even volunteer?

4. Santuario Gaia, Spain

In February, we profiled the amazing Santuario Gaia, a Spanish farm animal sanctuary working to change popular perceptions of farm animals by showing people what unique individuals they really are. Co-founder Coque Fernández explained, “The peacefulness of the place is ideal for the nonhuman animals who arrive here, most of them in a terrible state, both physical and emotional. It helps them to recover faster and provides them with a home to live in peace and harmony.”

Unfortunately, the sanctuary has lost its original home … but Fernandéz and the rest of the team are now seeking to start afresh on a different piece of land. They have stated on their new YouCaring page, Help Us Build the New Santuario Gaia: “Santuario Gaia is a shelter for so-considered farm animals. A place where those have suffered exploitation, abuse and neglect, receive the necessary life-long care to spend with dignity the rest of their natural days. Until now, the sanctuary has been situated in Ogassa (Girona, Spain) on a privileged spot, surrounded by forests, rivers and mountains, but unfortunately we lost this place and we’ve been through a very difficult time. However, the sun always comes up after the storm and today a new era has started for the sanctuary as we are moving to a new place. Now we, and the animals at the sanctuary, need your support more than ever.”

As you can tell, the Gaia team are not about to give up on the 260 animals who depend on their care without a fight. To help them with their goal of rebuild a new home, why not donate through their YouCaring page or their website? You can also apply to be a part-time or full-time volunteer.

There is no doubt about it … attempting to run and finance an animal sanctuary, in a world where most people only value animals as commodities, can be incredibly difficult. As animal lovers, one of the most important things we can do for them is to raise awareness of their plight in any way that we can, and support all those who have the courage to speak out and work tirelessly on their behalf. Share this article to spread awareness of these awesome sanctuaries’ work, and be sure to support any other amazing rescue organizations whose mission is close to your heart!
Lead image source: Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary/Facebook
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Photos of Wild Animals Getting Space-Age Medical Care

baby kangaroo
Seeing images of wild animals in a hospital — a setting normally reserved for humans — conjures up a few emotions.
There's an immediate sadness of seeing an animal that is sick or in need of medical care, but there's also a feeling of awe and gratitude.
We very rarely get to see such beautiful and regal creatures up close and personal and so vulnerable. While some of these images can evoke feelings of anguish, they also remind us that some animals are fortunate enough to receive some of the best and most nurturing medical care on the planet.
Reuters photographers have taken incredible photos of animals receiving top-notch treatment in veterinary hospitals, clinics, and zoos across the globe. Check out these unbelievable photos below.

A 2-year-old orangutan gets a checkup at Kao Pratubchang Conservation Centre in Ratchaburi, Thailand.

A 2-year-old orangutan gets a checkup at Kao Pratubchang Conservation Centre in Ratchaburi, Thailand.
Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Veterinarians at an animal hospital in Shenyang, China steady a Eurasian eagle-owl, who suffered a bone fracture in its right wing, during an x-ray.

Veterinarians at an animal hospital in Shenyang, China steady a Eurasian eagle-owl, who suffered a bone fracture in its right wing, during an x-ray.
China Stringer Network/Reuters

Veterinarians give a cheetah cub a health check at Chester Zoo in northern England.

Veterinarians give a cheetah cub a health check at Chester Zoo in northern England.
Phil Noble/Reuters

Budapest Zoo's oldest gorilla, Liesel, is prepped for an operation in Budapest. She was 32 at the time of this photo, which was taken in 2009.

Budapest Zoo's oldest gorilla, Liesel, is prepped for an operation in Budapest. She was 32 at the time of this photo, which was taken in 2009.
POOL New/Reuters

Giant panda Lin Hui's cub is measured by a veterinarian at the Chiang Mai Zoo in the Thailand.

Giant panda Lin Hui's cub is measured by a veterinarian at the Chiang Mai Zoo in the Thailand.
Stringer Thailand/Reuters

Zoo staff prep 19-year-old brown bear, Mango, for surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv, Israel.

Zoo staff prep 19-year-old brown bear, Mango, for surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv, Israel.
Nir Elias/Reuters

A koala named Petra gets medication after an operation at Sydney Wildlife World in Australia.

A koala named Petra gets medication after an operation at Sydney Wildlife World in Australia.
Mick Tsikas/Reuters

A biologist applies medicine to a freshwater turtle in a clinic in La Garita de Alajuela, Costa Rica.

A biologist applies medicine to a freshwater turtle in a clinic in La Garita de Alajuela, Costa Rica.
Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

Tango, an 11-year-old male jaguar, gets his teeth cleaned during a full medical examination at the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina.

Tango, an 11-year-old male jaguar, gets his teeth cleaned during a full medical examination at the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina.
Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

A team of veterinarians and zoo staff prepare 8-year-old lion, Samuni, for surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari Zoo near Tel Aviv, Israel.

A team of veterinarians and zoo staff prepare 8-year-old lion, Samuni, for surgery at the Ramat Gan Safari Zoo near Tel Aviv, Israel.
Baz Ratner/Reuters

Nearly 18-year-old lioness, Fafa, gets a scanned at a veterinary clinic in Brazil.

Nearly 18-year-old lioness, Fafa, gets a scanned at a veterinary clinic in Brazil.
Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Baby kangaroo, Tijana, peeks out of an incubator in the Belgrade zoo in Serbia.

Baby kangaroo, Tijana, peeks out of an incubator in the Belgrade zoo in Serbia.
Ivan Milutinovic/Reuters

20-year-old marine loggerhead turtle, Fender, gets a scan in Beit Dagan, Israel.

20-year-old marine loggerhead turtle, Fender, gets a scan in Beit Dagan, Israel.
Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters

Thai veterinarians give a smuggled orangutan a health check-up and draw blood for a DNA test in Ratchaburi, Thailand.

Thai veterinarians give a smuggled orangutan a health check-up and draw blood for a DNA test in Ratchaburi, Thailand.
Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters

An injured panda is prepped for a scan at the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi'an, China.

An injured panda is prepped for a scan at the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi'an, China.
China Daily China Daily Information Corp/Reuters

A veterinarian in Pontianak, Indonesia gives Anyin, a sick orangutan, a check-up as it awaits transportation to a hospital.

A veterinarian in Pontianak, Indonesia gives Anyin, a sick orangutan, a check-up as it awaits transportation to a hospital.
Stringer Indonesia/Reuters

Pedang, a 14-year-old male Sumatran tiger suffering from a chronic ear infection, is treated with acupuncture at the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv, Israel.

Pedang, a 14-year-old male Sumatran tiger suffering from a chronic ear infection, is treated with acupuncture at the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv, Israel.
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Saturday, September 19, 2015

10 Brainy Animals Who Can Help You Ace Your Studies

It’s time for students to heave a collective groan and start hitting the books again. While PETA doesn’t condone copycatting, there are many brainy animals who would be great cats to copy from if your kids found themselves seated next to one. As hundreds of studies have shown, other animals can understand cause-and-effect relationships, form abstract thoughts, solve problems, use language, make tools and more—just like us.
For example, in algebra class, your kids should buddy up with a dolphin. These math-minded mammals rely on complex nonlinear mathematics to navigate the vast ocean and find food.
Happy Dolphins in Ocean at Sunset©
For help with sociology, hire a rat for tutoring. Empathetic rats will free their restrained cagemates, even if it means they will then have to share a mound of chocolate. So they’ll have no problem helping your kids learn about patterns of behavior in social groups.
Cute Rat in a Cup (7)
Would-be broadcasters who sign up for speech classes will find a whale of a class partner in a sperm whale. These whales use different accents to identify members of their extended family and whales from other regions of the world.
Sperm whale©
Bees could be a huge help in political science. When a decision affects the whole hive, they put it to a vote. So no matter which side of the aisle students’ political beliefs fall on, bees can help them understand the democratic process.
In physical education, blackpoll warblers should always get picked first. Every fall, these tiny birds make the 1,700-mile trip from New England to the Caribbean without stopping. So if your children have to run laps, thinking about a blackpoll warbler’s grueling trek will make them feel a whole lot better about it.
Blackpoll warbler©
College students struggling with engineering courses should try to sit next to a beaver. The dams these natural builders make increase water supplies for farms, help prevent erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitats. Scientists are even starting to turn to beavers for tips on dealing with climate change.
In psychology, students can never go wrong studying with an elephant. These highly intelligent animals have complex social structures and relationships so intimate that they flirt with one another and even argue about directions. Elephants will likely always be up for a rousing “Mars vs. Venus” debate.
African Elephants Playing©
For language arts classes, baboons are a student’s best bet. These clever monkeys can tell whether a group of letters is a real word or just gobbledygook—and they might even help out with that Grapes of Wrath paper that went awry.
Baboon© Gijsbers
For help studying for just about any other class, encourage your kids to get chummy with goldfish, who have longer sustained attention spans than we do. In a study done by Microsoft, goldfish were able to concentrate for nine seconds, while humans managed to do so for only eight.
And if your kids are looking to make some new friends this school year, help them get in good with crows. When a girl named Gabi started feeding crows in her garden, the birds recognized that they’d made a friend and started waiting for her to get off the bus. They also expressed their thanks by leaving her gifts, including a pearl-colored heart, an earring and a tiny piece of metal with the word “best” printed on it. The crows have even found and returned objects that Gabi’s family lost outside.
But perhaps the most important thing we can learn from other animals is compassion. Once we learn more about animals’ intelligence, needs and interests, we begin to recognize that it is our duty to treat them with respect for who they are—rather than what they can do for us.
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Friday, September 18, 2015

The Deception Behind the Tiger Who Adopted Piglets in Stripes

This viral story has made millions of us go “awwww!”

According to the tale: “A mother tiger lost her cubs and became depressed. She wouldn’t eat and drink and zoo staff didn’t know what to do to help, until they tricked her into adopting a group of piglets dressed up in stripes.”

If this sounds far-fetched to you, and it should. And yet so many people have reblogged, shared and otherwise believed the pictures, with no thought at all for the absurdity of the tale. For this photo is nothing but a sick ploy to lure tourists and garner attention – from a zoo with a horrible reputation – the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand.

This zoo frequently separates babies from mothers and swaps them with a different species, resulting in stress and psychological problems. The zoo’s website promises: “Hold the tiger cub in your arms, feeding milk and take a memorable picture. See how the sow can play a role of the tiger cubs’ nanny.” If that wasn’t enough, the zoo also has a daily tiger show, with cats forced to jump through rings of fire, and elephants are made to carry people around the park and do tricks for them. The cubs are also passed around for photos with the guests, which leads onto the next topic…
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

9 “Ugly” Animals Going Extinct That Need Love Too

The Ugly Animal Conservation Society uses comedy to shine a light on ugly endangered species often not spoken about.

Biologist, science communicator and comedian Simon Watt founded the society because he was bored of people always asking questions about the same more aesthetically pleasing endangered species, like pandas and tigers. “I do a lot of lectures about biology and spreading the word about conservation as a whole,” he told BuzzFeed Science. “I got very bored of people always asking the same questions about the same species.”

1. Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus)

Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus)
Bjørn Christian Tørrissen / Wikipedia Commons / Via
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
There’s a very good reason male proboscis monkeys have huge, fleshy noses: because the female proboscis monkeys can’t get enough of it. Sadly, over the last 40 years, the numbers of proboscis monkeys have decreased rapidly.

2. Purple Pig-Nosed Frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis)

Purple Pig-Nosed Frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis)
Karthickbala / Wikipedia Commons / Via
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
The purple pig-nosed frog is extremely rare, and its existence was unknown to humans until about 13 years ago.

3. Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)

Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
Tom Junek / Wikipedia Commons / Via
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
Aye-ayes are nocturnal creatures unique to the island of Madagascar. Many native Madagascans consider the aye-aye to be an omen of bad luck, which is why it is often hunted and killed.

4. Bald-headed Uakari (Cacajao calvus)

Bald-headed Uakari (Cacajao calvus)
Giovanni Mari / Flickr / Via Flickr: giovannimari
IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
Bald-headed uakari are social, intelligent creatures. However, they currently face extinction since their habitat is threatened by the timber industry, and they are often hunted by indigenous peoples for food.

5. Pig-nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)

Pig-nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)
Ryantwood / Wikipedia Commons / Via
IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
Pig-nosed turtles are very large freshwater turtles. They can be found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. Their noses resemble a pigs snout, which is where they get their name.

6. Aquatic Scrotum Frog (Telmatobius culeus)

Aquatic Scrotum Frog (Telmatobius culeus)
Hostdy / YouTube / Via
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered
The Titicaca water frog is nicknamed the “scrotum frog” because of the extremely loose skin that hangs from its body. Its population has rapidly declined over the past 20 years, mostly due to over-harvesting for human consumption.

7. Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)
Wheel Cosmic / Flickr / Via Flickr: wheelcosmic
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered
Axolotl are unique to Xochimilco, near Mexico City. They also live permanently in water, which is not the case for other types of salamander.

8. The Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei)

The Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei)
Phó Nháy / Wikipedia Commons / Via
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered
The yangtze giant softshell turtle is the most critically endangered species in the world, with only four known turtles remaining.

9. Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius)

Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius)
Ali Arsh / Flickr / Via Flickr: ali_arsh
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
The greater adjutant has a slow gait resembling a military officer’s, which is where it gets its name. They have a very small population, declining rapidly.

Watt’s favourite ugly animal is the blue-grey taildropper slug. “If you scare it, its bum falls off” he said. “It’s a very cool way of avoiding predators. If something grabs hold of you, you can just lose your tail.”

Simon Watt

The society focuses on animals that are locally or globally endangered.

They hold events including comedy tours where six comedians each champion a different endangered species. At the end the audience votes and the winner becomes the “Ugly Animal Mascot” for that city or town.
Earlier this year, Dublin voted for the lesser horseshoe bat to be the city’s ugly animal mascot. “I don’t think it’s globally endangered but it’s locally endangered there,” Watt said. “[It] meant that the people in the audience could go out and do something a bit more hands-on.”

“We think it’s possible that maybe 200 or so species are becoming extinct every single day,” Watt said.

“The crisis is as bad as that. We’re trying to get more people talking about conservation as a whole. Using comedy to talk about it is as good a way as any.”

You can find out more about the society on their website, or find them on Twitter.

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