Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Amelia the Tropicat


Liz Clark could think of plenty of reasons not to keep a cat onboard her boat. She'd been sailing around the world on her 40-foot sailboat, the Swell, since 2006, and didn't intend to stop anytime soon. That couldn't be much fun for a cat, right? Besides, Clark was often busy with boat maintenance. Then, of course, there was her surfing addiction.

But when Clark stopped in French Polynesia and found a 6-month-old kitten in an abandoned house, everything changed. Clark took the kitten back to the Swell to feed her and give her some love. She didn't intend to keep the kitten — she'd just watch her until she found someone who could take better care of her.
The problem was, Clark couldn't actually find anyone who'd take better care of the kitten than she could herself. So she named the cat Amelia after the trailblazing pilot Amelia Earhart, and decided to see if Amelia could get her sea legs.
At first, Amelia didn't seem too sure about life onboard. In fact, she seemed to hate the ocean …

… especially when she fell into the water.

Still unsure about what was best for Amelia, Clark took her kitty companion ashore with her.

"I knew she needed to climb trees and stretch her legs," Clark tells The Dodo. "So I figured I would bring her ashore in a safe place, and if she ran off, then I'd know she was unhappy on the boat and that would be that."

But Amelia didn't run off, and she reboarded the Swell with Clark. From then on, Clark knew Amelia would be OK, as long as she had the opportunity to walk on land sometimes.
It didn't take long for Amelia to get used to life aboard a sailboat.
She had lots of places to climb …

... and jump ...

... and play ...

... and play.

She earned the captain's trust to take the helm …

... and learned that she was nothing short of a rockstar on this boat. She was Amelia — Amelia the Tropicat!

One thing Amelia didn't seem too keen on was Clark's vegan food …

… so she tended to shirk galley duty.

Amelia did run away once, disappearing on a tropical island for 42 days. Clark never stopped looking for her, but tried to come to terms with the fact that Amelia might not want to come back.

But eventually, Amelia did come back. She hasn't left Clark's side since. She accompanies Clark to dinners on other boats, restaurants, pool halls and other places on land. She's also learned to travel on dinghies, cars, motorbikes and canoes.

"She keeps her cool through it all, so long as I'm reassuring and not far away," Clark tells The Dodo. "We've grown to share a beautiful trust in each other, and I know she feels safe with me even when she's out of her comfort zone. Building trust with an animal is one of the most rewarding opportunities to come into my life. The more liberty and respect I give her, the more she surprises me with her intelligence, individuality and desire to show me love."

Want to know more about Amelia the Tropicat? Check out this video:

You can also follow Liz Clark's adventures by following her blog and instagram account.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hedgehog Cafe Opens in Tokyo


Cuddles offered alongside coffee ‘to show people the charm of hedgehogs, which give the impression of being hard to handle’, says cafe worker


For those Tokyo residents wanting more than just your average cat, rabbit, owl, hawk or even snake-themed cafe there is a new choice – a hedgehog-themed cafe.

Customers at “Harry” – a play on the animal’s name in Japanese – have been lining up to spend time at a bright room in the Roppongi entertainment district where 20 to 30 hedgehogs of different breeds scrabble and snooze in glass tanks.

A fee of 1,000 yen ($9) on weekdays and 1,300 yen ($12) on holidays brings an hour of playing with and cuddling – carefully – the prickly mammals, which have long been sold in Japan as pets.

Anna Cheung, an 11-year-old visitor from Britain, said: “All of these hedgehogs are friendly even though some of them might spike you.”

Cafe worker Mizuki Murata, who also works in a rabbit cafe in the same building, said the shop had been popular since its opening in February, with customers often having to queue.

“We wanted to show people the charm of hedgehogs, which give the impression of being hard to handle. We wanted to get rid of that image by letting people touch them,” Murata said.

“The cutest thing about hedgehogs is getting them to finally open up and show you their face.”
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Bolivian Zoo Becomes Refuge for Trafficked Animals


The zoo says an increasing number of trafficked animals seized by the authorities are arriving every month.
zoo animals
It’s another busy day at the Vesty Pakos Zoo in La Paz. Hundreds of screaming schoolchildren are running from one enclosure to another excitedly pointing at the lions, tigers and other exotic creatures on display.
zoo animals
Most of them don’t know that the majority of the inhabitants of this unique zoo have been rescued from unloved homes all around the country.
zoo animals
The animal population stands at just over 540. There are pumas, jaguars, Andean bears, condors, turtles among many others. Many have gone through a long process of rehabilitation before they can face the public.

Andrea Morales, director of the Vesty Pakos Zoo, told teleSUR, "80 percent of the animals and birds have been donated or abandoned. Sadly we are also seeing more and more cases of animals that have been illegally trafficked."

The vast majority of the animals and exotic birds arrive in very poor condition. Some birds have no feathers, their legs are broken and they can’t fly. Other larger animals have been badly mistreated by their previous owners. Many are missing their fur, dehydrated and badly malnourished.

They’re starving not just for food but also for attention. The most dramatic case that the zoo has dealt with so far this year is that of the Andean bear named Ajayu.

"He arrived dying two months ago, his owners in Cochabamba had beaten him until he was blind,’’ said Silvana Gili, a staff member at the zoo.

Ajayu was one of the lucky animals. He managed to survive and is now integrated with the other seven Andean bears that were also saved from terrible conditions.

Silvana Gili told teleSUR, "Often the animals arrive in a very bad state. We do everything we can to save them."

Fifteen years ago the zoo decided to stop buying animals. They didn’t need to as stocks were high and they were overwhelmed with the numbers of trafficked and abandoned animals arriving every day.

"One day we arrived at work and there was a box left outside the front entrance,'' said Francisco Quispe, head of the game keepers at the zoo. "When we opened the box, to our surprise we found a puma inside." They called the puma Carmel and nursed her back to life by bottle feeding her for weeks until she regained her strength.

The zoo is now almost full to capacity and the authorities say they can’t take in many more new cases.

Most of the animals at the Vesty Pakos Zoo should be living in their natural habitats in the Andan highlands or in the tropical jungles in the North of the country. But poachers trap the most precious and rare animals mostly for trafficking. Depending on the size and type of animal or how exotic they are, they can fetch up to US$50,000 on the illegal market.

Two months ago in the town of Patacamaya villagers found a rare Andean cat walking down main street said Andrea Morales. The Andean cat is a species that normally lives in the highlands of Bolivia, Peru and Chile and is in danger of extinction.

The arrival of the cat brought biologists from all over the country to the zoo because "it was so rare to see this cat up close" Andrea Morales told teleSUR. The biologists are still carrying out tests to rule out any infections. If he is deemed healthy, he will be returned to his natural habitat.

The Bolivian government is trying to clamp down on poachers removing these animals from their natural habitats. "We try to educate families and school children about the dangers of these actions,’’ said Francisco Quispe.

But judging by the number of new animals turning up on their doorstep every week, its clear some people are not getting the message.
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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Taxidermied Animals Come Back to Life


Taxidermy had not held much interest for Lynn Savarese, until she signed on as a volunteer photographer for New York City's American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Though she was simultaneously working on numerous projects in travel, interior, and portrait photography, and as well as works featuring abstracted flowers in decay, her experience with the AMNH made her enamored of the world of dead animals.
“I grew mesmerized by this art form when photographing bird mounts for the AMNH’s archival digitization project,” Savarese tells The Creators Project. “Overwhelmed by the heartbreaking charm of these figures and their disquieting embodiment of both life and death, I sought to understand the medium better. I hadn’t known, for instance, that John James Audubon’s masterful rendering of birds depended on his proficiency as a taxidermist, or that Charles Darwin’s taxidermy skills were essential to his scientific pursuits.”
 
Rat and Bunting 14
During her time as a volunteer, Savarese began to see a narrative among the animals that displayed how life could be carried over into still form. “Through scientific knowledge and acute observation, precise sculptural artistry and theatrical intuition, the taxidermist aims to achieve the illusion of life through the remains of death.” Savarese explains. “Rarely are life and death portrayed simultaneously with such quiet force and wonder.”
 
Rat and Bunting 3
“While enthralled by the enigmatic beauty and character of these specimens, I never lose sight of man’s hubris in turning animals into replicas of themselves and the inherent irony in attempting to achieve immortality for them through killing them. Doubly ironic, however, is that I've never felt more deeply the wonder and beauty of our animal kin than in my close-up encounters with these mounted creatures.”
 
Plumis Zmaragdus
In her first taxidermy series, My Still Life Aviary, Savarese focused on the fate of mounted birds in limbo. “These specimens were too old and tattered to be put on public display, but federal and state law forbids the sale of any that are endangered species to any other party who might have an interest in preserving and protecting them," she tells us. In her second series, The Death and Life Adventures of Rat and Indigo Bunting, she was inspired by E.B. White's masterful portrayal of anthropomorphized animals. Recently, Savarese has started work on a more abstract series called Plumigeri, in which she examines the extraordinarily intricate patterns appearing on the feathered backs of mounted birds.
“In My Still Life Aviary series, my aim was to capture not only the haunting charisma of the mounted birds but also the ethical challenges they present, as well as their power to convey the endangerment and threat of extinction many bird species face today. Paying them tribute through photography became, for me, an almost reverential mission,” says Savarese. “In the future, I would like to experiment with different environments, and draw upon a greater variety of mounted animals.”
“I am excited to be revisiting mounted birds from a new perspective, and enjoying the much more abstract images that emerge when my focus is exclusively on their feathers.”
 
Prometheus Vinctus
 
Afigo
 
Rat and Bunting 9
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