Don’t worry, this is for science.
It’s not easy being a parent. There are the constant feedings, the sleepless nights—and of course, the time-consuming task of shimmying into that unwieldy animal suit.
When the offspring of endangered species are orphaned or abandoned, scientists and vets fill the pawprints of the missing parents. But animals raised by humans can develop all sorts of issues; they’re not prepared to fend for themselves in the wild, they don’t play well with others, and they have an unhealthy interest in humans, cozying up to hikers and hunters.
• If you thought things were bad on Wall Street, zoo animals laid off at the Bronx Zoo may have it much worse.
• A family looking for relaxation at a Florida beach found adventure instead, when they discovered a one-eyed, three-legged alligator. (It was captured and returned safely to the wild.)
• The Telegraph reports that scientists have found, literally, a smiley-faced spider from Hawaii.
• Not so smiley, however, are horse fans around the world, after a group of 21 polo horses died from a supplement prepared at a Florida pharmacy with the wrong proportion of ingredients.
• Non-animal-related: but if you happen to find yourself at the top of Mount Everest, you may soon get decent cell reception.
Even porcupines are visiting the unemployment office these days. After New York governor David Paterson proposed taking away all funding to the state’s zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums for the 2010 fiscal year, the Wildlife Conservation Society decided to post a viral video, hoping to create enough opposition to the suggested budget cut.
In it, a porcupine called Wednesday is fired from the Bronx Zoo and goes on a job hunt. At first, he appears to be pretty employable. But Wednesday lacks computer skills — he never learned to use power point in his time at the zoo. So when he’s not looking for a job, he’s making ends meet by standing in front of the zoo entrance and holding a “please help” sign.The gesture is cute, but seems to be putting an overly-kind spin on the truth: If the budget cuts are made, zoos must cut back on the variety of animals. What will they do with the animals they have to “cut”?
Got OCD? It may surprise you to know that three percent of all Americans do! Normally, when people display compulsive behaviors such as excessively washing their hands, psychiatrists give them a simple questionnaire to screen for OCD. But for the first time, researchers at Tel Aviv University have connected animal behavior to OCD in humans, after observing animals at the zoo.
It turns out that OCD patients respond the best to behavioral treatment when researchers videotape them behaving compulsively. But before this new program for humans was created, the researchers had to first watch animals at the zoo.
The researchers observed OCD in bears, gazelles, rats, and other animals, both in the wild and in captivity. In the wild, animals appeared to have automated routines. But when the researchers watched animals in the zoo, they noticed the animals had rituals of repetitious movements such as pacing back and forth. By looking for common (compulsive) behavior in different animals, the researchers were able to identify which repetitious behaviors were healthy, and which were not. As such, when psychiatrists apply the videotaping to humans, they can use the animal database to classify human OCD behaviors.
You know those nice guys who just can’t seem to find a special someone? Meet Polo, a 36-year-old male who’s been unattached for the past eight years, ever since his mate died in 2000. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he now lives in southern India—in a zoo. Polo is the only gorilla left in all of India. (Although in Spain, he’d practically be considered human, for legal purposes.)
Zookeepers say Polo is healthy, friendly, and bilingual (he understands both English and the local Kannada language), but extremely lonely. “The few joys he enjoys are bathing and searching for food that his keeper hides in blocks of ice or in bamboo to keep him energized,” says Vijay Ranjan Singh, the director of the zoo. Polo is a western lowland gorilla, an endangered species found in central Africa. In the wild, a handsome silverback like Polo would be leading a troop of up to 30 gorillas, most of them female.
1. Every year during the summer and fall, ocean currents move penguins from southern Argentina to the beaches of Brazil. But this summer, almost four hundred penguins were swept away and ended up stranded hundreds of miles from their normal feeding home. The lost penguins were picked up and flown 1,500 miles on a C-130 Hercules military plane to the southern beaches and, upon landing, flopped into the sea. But the penguins didn’t get a free ride; Scientists tagged their flippers so they could track their future migration patterns. Hopefully they stick to the Mapquest route a little better next year.
2. Hundreds of adorable pandas (which may or may not be an evolutionary mistake) needed help after the Chinese Earthquake in May of 2008. The earthquake hit in a terrible spot, just 20 miles from the famous Wolong Giant Panda Reserve holding 86 pandas (all safe now). Some of the 1,200 pandas living in the wild, however, are still missing. The State Forest Administration sent in shipments of bamboo to help the reserve pandas survive.
3. Bermuda petrels were thought to be extinct for centuries. But in the 1950s, 18 nesting pairs were found. When a hurricane in 2003 destroyed the birds’ habitat, scientists moved the birds to higher ground at Nonsuch Island. (Despite the name, it does exist, we swear.) By removing the nestlings to artificial burrows on the new island, the scientists were able to build a new colony. There are now 85 pairs happily nesting there.