Rare China tiger seen in the wild

A South China tiger cub

South China tigers have been bred in captivity

A rare South China tiger has been seen in the wild for the first time in decades, according to reports from China’s official Xinhua news agency. The sighting, which came after a farmer handed in some pictures, surprised researchers who feared the tiger was extinct.

Experts have now confirmed that the photographs do show a young, wild South China tiger.

The tiger is critically endangered and was last sighted in the wild in 1964.

The farmer, who took the pictures at the beginning of this month, lives in Shaanxi province.

Experts have said that no more than 20 to 30 of the tigers were believed to remain in the wild, but none have been spotted in decades, with many fearing that a small number of captive-born tigers were all that remained.

‘Pests’

The population of the South China tiger, the smallest tiger subspecies, was believed to number 4,000 in the early 1950s.

But numbers were greatly reduced after China’s Communist leader Mao Zedong labelled the elusive felines “pests” and ordered an extermination campaign.

The animal has also fallen victim to the decimation of China’s natural environment and the elimination of its natural prey.

The South China Tiger is one of six remaining tiger subspecies.

Three other tiger subspecies, the Bali, Java, and Caspian tigers, have all become extinct since the 1940s, according to tiger experts.

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October 14, 2007 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Wild Parrots in the Snow!


On Sunday night, New York City had its first snowfall of the winter season, so naturally I ventured forth to see if I could obtain some images of wild parrots in the snow. I had reasonable luck, as these photos attest.

Enjoy this strange urban marvel: bright green and grey parrots, in the middle of New York City, frolicking in the December snow! Who needs to go to Bermuda or Cancun when there is such exotic wildlife right here?

(click on any image to see an enlargement)


Jump for joy! There’s a scattering of Petco gourmet-style Finch Seed on the ground, which is especially welcome today, because the wild parrots’ usual foraging ground is under an impenetrable coat of snow.


Mourning doves and sparrows are often found in the company of New York’s wild parrots. Some people unfortunately think that the quaker parakeets harass other birds, but I’ve never seen it happen. The quakers seem to get along with every bird in New York, except for crows, falcons, and hawks, which they do not like at all.


The quaker parakeets and mourning doves are enjoying this seed, but aren’t dependent on it. The quakers do very well eating acorns, which are often found around the base of trees, where the snow doesn’t build up heavily.

Quaker parakeets in the snow
On a later, sunnier day in December. the quakers are found frolicking in the snow.

Monk parakeets in the snow
Even though their foraging field is covered by the white stuff, these birds aren’t going hungry today, however. See those tiny sprigs of grass sticking up through the snow? They’re delicious and nutritious!

I will be going out to see these remarkable wild parrots on each weekend through the winter and will share any good pix I take with you all. There’s something really amazing about seeing these birds — so far from home and without any written instructions — making a go of it in New York.

Some might call the quaker parakeets’ remarkable success story in our hemisphere as an example of a highly evolved, highly adaptive creature created by the Darwinian lathe of natural selection. Others will surely view them as an example of really intelligent “Intelligent Design.”

Either way, they’re tough, vociferous little characters who have, in my view, earned the honorific title, “American Parrot.”

October 8, 2007 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

Clever crows are caught on camera

Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News


New Caledonian crow (Jolyon Troscianko)

Cameras were attached to the crows’ tail feathers

Miniature cameras have given scientists a rare glimpse into how New Caledonian crows behave in the wild.

The birds are renowned for their sophisticated tool-using ability, but until now, observing them in their natural habitat has proven difficult.

But specially designed “crow-cams” fitted to the birds’ tails have shed light on the creatures, recording some tool-use never seen before.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) are found on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia.

They can use their bills to whittle twigs and leaves into bug-grabbing implements; some believe their tool-use is so advanced that it rivals that of some primates.

Why not just stick a camera to a crow, hitch a ride with it, and get a crow’s eye view of what is going on?

Christian Rutz

But while these clever crows have been extensively studied in captivity, looking at their natural behaviour in the wild is tricky.

Christian Rutz, lead author of the paper from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, UK, said: “These birds are notoriously difficult to study in the wild.

“They are very sensitive to human disturbance and the terrain in New Caledonia is very mountainous and forested, so it is difficult to follow the birds.”

So the team came up with another approach.

“Why not just stick a camera to a crow, hitch a ride with it, and get a crow’s-eye view of what is going on?” Dr Rutz said.

New tools

Recent advances in mobile phone technology enabled the researchers to construct a camera that was small enough to attach to a crow’s tail without impairing its movements.

They attached the 14g (0.5oz) units – which also contained a radio tag to transmit location coordinates – to the tail feathers of 18 New Caledonian crows.

Video camera (L. Bluff)

The video camera weighs only 14g

The footage, broadcasted to the researchers’ custom-built receivers, provided the team with a unique insight into the crows’ behaviour – including some that had never been seen before.

Dr Rutz told the BBC News website: “Before, we thought the crows targeted their tool use at fallen dead trees where they probe for grubs; but now we have observed them using tools on the ground – and that has never been seen before.

“We also filmed them doing this using a new type of tool, which was very surprising. We found them using grass stems – and that is interesting because these stems have very different physical properties from the sticks and leaves that we knew they use.

“They are using the grass stems on the forest floor, probing the leaf litter, possibly fishing for ants.”

Big juicy grubs

The team is using its video footage to investigate why New Caledonian crows might have evolved their tool-using abilities. This species of crow is the only non-primate animal known to create and use new tools.

Dr Rutz said: “What were the ecological circumstances on this one particular island in the South Pacific that could have fostered the evolution of this behaviour?”

This technology could really change the way we study wild birds

Christian Rutz

One idea, he said, was that the behaviour may have evolved in response to food shortages.

“When we compared situations when the crows did and didn’t use tools, we found two pieces of supporting evidence for this,” Dr Rutz said.

“Firstly, the prey encounter rate was surprisingly small: for one hour of ground foraging a crow would only pick up eight tiny morsels of food – a blackbird in a garden would be taking up that many items a minute. That shows maybe foraging without tools is indeed challenging in this habitat.

“Secondly, when you compare the size of the food items they get with and without tools – when they don’t use tools, the food items are very, very small indeed compared with the food items they extract with the tools. This again suggests maybe they need to use tools to gain access to this rich hidden food resource.”

The team says its video tracking technique could be used to study other wild birds that are shy or live in inaccessible habitats.

Dr Rutz added: “This technology could really change the way we study wild birds.”

October 4, 2007 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

The Perfect Pooch for You

The Perfect Pooch for You

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Sept. 26, 2007 — It may have been shocking to some when New York billionaire Leona Helmsley recently left a fortune to her Maltese dog, but the act is less surprising in light of new findings about the importance of the human/dog bond.

Relationships between people and their pets can be so strong, in fact, that in some cases they work better than partnerships between two people.

The new study — one of the first to apply methods used to analyze human relationships to human/dog pairs — also reveals clues as to what makes the best pooch-to-person match.

One surprising find is that a dog’s personality helps shape the relationship more than the person’s does.

Lead author Lisa Cavanaugh explained to Discovery News that “unlike human relationships, the partner’s personality — in our case the canine personality — contributes measurably to relationship satisfaction” while the person’s character seems to take a backseat.

Cavanaugh, a researcher at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and her colleagues recruited dog owners from northeastern, southeastern and western parts of the United States to complete detailed questionnaires about themselves, their dogs, and their relationships with their dogs. The researchers then contacted recommended friends of participants to obtain their assessments.

The findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Business Research.

Two dog qualities usually predicted a successful match.

“A canine’s openness to new experience and agreeableness are the strongest predictors of relationship satisfaction,” explained Cavanaugh, who was surprised by that finding, since other studies suggest openness has little effect on satisfaction in close relationships.

She and her team suspect that “dogs’ generally trusting, non-judgmental, empathetic and curious nature enables them to blend into their owners’ family and home, and bring comfort and enjoyment into their lives.”

Another, somewhat surprising, find is that while people tend to dislike neuroticism in other people, they frequently like that quality in their dogs.

For example, co-author Hillary Leanord related a story about a prominent woman who recently dined with a U.S. senator. She brought along her dog, whom others commented was “crazy and somewhat anti-social.” The woman proudly called her dog “a true New Englander” who was not “insincerely nice” like someone from other parts of the country.

“In this case, the human owner seems to use the dog’s neuroticism to justify her own feelings and behavior,” Cavanaugh said. “Perhaps accepting and even celebrating the dog’s neuroticism is a way of accepting and celebrating herself.”

The researchers also noted that while human relationships often falter over time, thereby contributing less to a person’s overall well-being, human/dog bonds frequently strengthen over time.

Morris Holbrook, a professor of marketing at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, told Discovery News that the new research “is a very nice piece of work.”

“We ordinarily don’t think of personality assessments being applied in this manner,” he said.

Both Cavanaugh and Holbrook even suggest that some people might be more satisfied with their dog friendships than with their human ones.

“Dogs provide unconditional love,” explained Holbrook. “You could be the worst scoundrel in the world and everyone else may hate you, but a loyal dog will always love you.”

September 27, 2007 at 12:35 am 1 comment

Dogs sniff out puppy in bin bag

 

Brandy

Brandy’s leg was slightly injured from being tied up

A puppy is recovering after being found tied up in a bin bag under some bushes. The tan and white cross-breed was found by a member of the public walking their dogs in Branston Water Park, Lichfield Road, Burton, Staffordshire.

The pets began sniffing in some bushes and it was only when their owner investigated that the 12-14 week old puppy, now called Brandy, was found.

His back and front legs were tied together but RSPCA staff has described him as a “little fighter”.

Brandy was taken to a vets and is now in the care of the RSPCA at Burton Animal Centre.

‘Strong character’

He appeared to have a deformed leg but after resting he has totally recovered, the RSPCA said. Yvonne Asker, from the centre said: “Thank goodness that the dogs sniffed out Brandy when they did.

“He has such a strong character, he is not shy, nor is he underweight and I believe all these factors helped save him.

“He really is a little fighter. I believe a weaker dog, such as the runt of a litter, would not have survived.” The RSPCA is appealing for information about the incident.

August 17, 2007 at 6:49 pm Leave a comment

Two nosed hound

Double-nosed dog not to be sniffed at

Xingu the double-nosed Andean Tiger Hound

Xingu is said to be intelligent and fond of salty biscuits


Explorer’s tale

Explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell has had close encounters with vampire bats and angry bees, but his latest brush has been with a rather odd dog. He spotted a rare breed of Double-Nosed Andean tiger hound, which has two noses, on a recent trip to Bolivia.The chairman of the Scientific Exploration Society said the dog, named Xingu, was “not terribly handsome”. He said: “This breed could be used for sniffing out mines or narcotics because they have an enhanced sense of smell.”

Colonel Blashford-Snell first encountered a Double-Nosed Andean tiger hound called Bella in 2005 when he was carrying out reconnaissance for this year’s expedition in the area near Ojaki. He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “While we were there, sitting by the fire one night, I saw an extraordinary-looking dog that appeared to have two noses.

“I was sober at the time, and then I remembered the story that the legendary explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett came back with in 1913 of seeing such strange dogs in the Amazon jungle.  “Nobody believed him, they laughed him out of court.”

He’s very intelligent and with a wonderful sense of smell, as you might think

John Blashford-Snel

The dog seen two years ago was Bella, and on a second trip to the area, which began in May and has just ended, the explorer discovered her son Xingu in the village of Ojaki. He had just produced a litter of puppies with a bitch that had a single nose. Two of their offspring had double noses, and two had the normal quantity, but the double-nosed pups died after three days. A veterinary expert with the group examined Xingu to see if he had a cleft palate, but this was not the case.

“There is a chance that these dogs came from a breed with double noses that’s known in Spain as Pachon Navarro, which were hunting dogs at the time of the Conquistadors,” said Colonel Blashford-Snell.

“I think it’s highly likely some of these were taken to South America and they continued to breed. They’re good hunting dogs.”

Bella the double-nosed Andean Tiger Hound

Bella is Xingu’s mother and was spotted on an expedition in 200

He added that Xingu was “quite an aggressive little chap” who stood about 16 inches in height and loved salt biscuits but “wasn’t a terribly handsome dog”. Xingu’s best friend is apparently a wild pig called Gregory, and the two animals “rule the roost” in their village. Other dogs snarl at Xingu, because they can sense he’s different. He’s the smallest dog there but he sees the other dogs off,” Colonel Blashford-Snell said.

“He’s very intelligent and with a wonderful sense of smell, as you might think.

“The Bolivian Army came and took DNA samples because they’re interested in the breed. He’s not the only dog like this, there are others in the area.”

The Scientific Exploration Society was in Bolivia to investigate a shallow crater about five miles in width.

According to Colonel Blashford-Snell, he has now found evidence that this was caused by a giant meteorite, which struck the Bolivian Amazon Basin up to 30,000 years ago.

He says he has found evidence of human habitation within 50 miles of the blast zone, and believes these people were wiped out as a result of the meteor’s impact.

The explorers also carried with them a church organ from Dorset as a gift to local Bolivians in order to secure their help with finding the meteorite.

August 17, 2007 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

Zoos are evil bastards

August 9, 2007 at 12:48 am Leave a comment

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