Frogs in Scotland are being told to get a room, and for the good of the species, earth-conscious volunteers are helping them. As part of the Action Earth campaign, volunteers have constructed what they describe as an underground beehive to provide a safe place for frogs to mate, since their usual mating location—near ponds or other bodies of water—leaves them vulnerable to predators like foxes and herons.
Guests at the frog hotel, an enclosed, two-tiered space made from wood and recycled materials, are first greeted with a complimentary snack in the compost cafe, where insects and bees abound. They are then led up a ramp into the “sleeping area,” where they can, er, socialize to their hearts’ content, safe from attack and left only in the company of other frogs—up to 20 of them at a time.
• Surfing may become a more earth-friendly sport, with boards made from at least 50 percent renewable materials reducing the use of petroleum, traditionally the primary component in surfboards.
• By discovering the gene that helps convert carbohydrate into fat in the liver, researchers may have inched closer to developing a genetic equivalent of the Atkins diet.
• In good news for endangered species, conservationists have developed a way to use 3-D imaging to track tiger populations—and then, in bad news for an already-extinct species, a celebrated paleontologist who discovered the world’s best-preserved dinosaur will now plead guilty for stealing dinosaur bones from federal land.
Lest ye think humans are the only recipients of prosthetics, here’s proof otherwise: Mosha, a three-year-old elephant in Thailand, has just successfully received her second prosthetic leg. The pachyderm was just a baby when she stepped on a landmine and lost part of her front leg. (Unfortunately, this is not a rarity in Thailand, whose borders with Cambodia and Myanmar are populated with elephants and littered with landmines.)
After her injury, she was brought to a sanctuary, where the staff didn’t have much hope for her. But an amputation expert who normally works with humans fitted her for a prosthetic, which not only helped her walk, but even changed her social life.
Other elephants at the sanctuary, who at first rejected Mosha, began to accept her once she had regained a fourth limb. After eating 200 pounds of food a day, she outgrew her old leg and needed to be fitted for a new one, which is made of plastic, metal, and sawdust (yes, sawdust).
Amazingly enough, Mosha is not alone in the world of animal prostheses. Lovey, a horse in Arkansas, deserves special mention after a prosthetic successfully replaced her leg, which had been caught in a fence last year. Given that horses are usually shot the instant they break a leg, Lovey’s limb is a striking achievement.
The tumor on his genitals had made Henry into an old grouch. At his new home in the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, he was aggressive and unpopular with the ladies. Sure, Henry was already in his 70s—but in tuatara years, he was still in his prime.
Tuataras, a lizard-like reptile belonging to an ancient lineage that has changed little since the time of the dinosaurs, are known for their longevity. They don’t reach sexual maturity until age 20 and many have been known to live past 100.
Henry’s fortunes reversed in 2002, when at the age of 105, he underwent an operation to remove his inconvenient (and cancerous) tumor. Since then, his human caretakers say he has regained a vigor that belies his age. Whereas before the operation, Henry was often kept in solitary confinement due to his foul temper, now he is kept in the company of three female tauturas. Even so, museum keepers were surprised when Henry recently became a father at the age of 111, after a romantic romp with an 80-year-old female named Mildred.
If you went to Cheers to pour a few back with Norm and Cliff, could you get a plate of fish and chips? Probably not, if Ted Danson had anything to say about it.
One of the ways that Danson has been keeping busy, now that “Cheers” and “Becker” are long since canceled, is by heading up Oceana, the ocean conservation organization he started two decades ago. Danson is hopping mad that a rare species of shark called the spiny dogfish has been hunted to the brink of extinction, and he faults, for one, the British love affair with fish and chips.
Last week we covered the paper released by the Japanese Whale Research Program (JARPA) showing that minke whales in the Antarctic were getting thinner, and we also covered their research methods—taking measurements from more than 4,500 slaughtered whales. This week National Geographic has an update, interviewing two American researchers who say that killing the whales wasn’t necessary for the research.
Scott Baker, from Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, said researchers could have made the same finding by genetic testing, biopsy—removing a small piece of tissue for sampling—or simply through photographic evidence. And Stanford University’s Stephen Palumbi disagreed with the Japanese scientists over the importance of the finding, saying that whales getting a little skinnier might not matter that much, and the study’s findings weren’t statistically significant enough to be useful.
Ten-foot-long reptiles in Indonesia have the taste for human flesh, and it’s the fault of…the Nature Conservancy?
That’s what some of the locals are saying. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Komodo dragon killed a young boy last year near the dragons’ main home, Komodo National Park, and since then dragon attacks on people have become much more frequent. And one reason the Komodos have started feeding on the locals, they say, is that they have stopped feeding the Komodos.
It’s nice when police catch intercept ivory smugglers trying to import their product into another country. But often their efforts don’t get authorities any closer to stopping hunters from killing elephants in the first place.
Thanks to a new approach crafted by Samuel Wasser at the University of Washington, however, the smugglers’ ivory may tell police all they need to know. Wasser and his team have begun analyzing DNA samples from seized ivory and connecting those samples to elephant populations in the wild. After collecting tissue samples from across the African continent, he figured out that ivory seized in Singapore in 2002 had come from the savannas of Zambia in Southern Africa. In another example, a load of ivory found in Hong Kong in 2006 originated in the West African forests near Gabon.
Perhaps Lonesome George should now be called Curious George.
The giant Galapagos tortoise earned his moniker by keeping to himself for most of his 36 years of captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Now, all of the sudden, George appears to have broken out of his solitude and mated with one of the two females at the station that come from a similar species of Galapagos tortoise.
We now have an answer to the question nobody was asking: Which would win in a fight—a leopard or a crocodile?
The leopard came out on top, as you can see in the gripping images here. An American photographer was trying to capture hippos at a watering hole in South Africa when this battle began right in front of him.