Butterflies moving into Scotland

For the first time since 1884, the rare white-letter hairstreak butterfly has been spotted in Scotland. It is the 34th known species of butterfly to live and breed in the chilly country.

The hairstreak has had a bad decade, with a 72% decline in numbers over that period. So to see it spreading or moving is a positive sign; hopefully it will find habitats conducive to breeding in its new area. It requires elm trees to survive, of which there are plenty in Scotland.

Over a quarter of the 59 species of butterfly in the British Isles are moving north, a migration largely attributed to climate change and the warming of the northern regions.


Orphaned hedgehogs saved by cat

A zoo in Vladivostok, Russia, recently took in eight orphaned baby hedgehogs after their mother was killed in a lawn-mowing accident.

The hoglets refused milk from syringes, saucers, and bottles for two days, worrying their keepers.

However a cat, Muska, had milk to spare, and was able to suckle the hoglets for over a week until they were able to eat on their own.

The image here is taken from the Instagram feed of the zoo.

Tasmanian tiger tooth tells tales

IMG: Capricon Caves, via abc.net.au

The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was a carniverous mammal endemic to Australia and New Guinea.

The animal was thought to have become extinct or near-extinct on the Australian mainland around 2,000 years ago, and the last surviving member of the species died in captivity in Tasmania in the 1930s.

The recent discovery of a fossilised thylacine tooth in a cave in central Queensland appears, though, to indicate that the animal may have lived on the mainland for longer than previously thought. The tooth has yet to be formally dated, but palaeontologist Rachelle Lawrence is excited by the find.

Up to the present day, thylacine sightings are still reported by members of the public, but these isolated incidents have never been verified. The animal is still believed extinct.

Approaching strange dogs: how, when, and if you should

3c551b47ff9f26bb097626053890f4a7--cute-dog-quotes-puppy-memesWe’ve all been there. You’re out and about, and there’s a super cute doggo, and you just want to go right up to it and give it pats and say “Who’s a good boy, then?”

As tempting as it is, this isn’t always the safest idea, for you or for the dog. Here are a few tips on safety with dogs who don’t know you!

If the dog is alone, without an owner, do not approach the dog. No matter how cute it is, you have no way of knowing how it might react to a stranger. Some dogs have experienced traumas and abuse, some have aggressive tendencies, some are simply wary of unknown humans. If it looks like it might be a stray, let your local council or animal shelter know about it, and follow their advice. You could also post on a local Facebook group or similar letting people know where you saw it, in case the poor thing is lost and somebody is looking for it.

If the dog is with its owner, always ask permission before trying to touch it – especially if you’ve got children with you! If the owner says no, it’s important to respect that; the owner knows the dog better than you do, and knows how it is likely to respond. But if you get lucky and they say yes, you should still take some precautions:

  • Don’t look the dog in the eye, as this can be interpreted as a threat or challenge.
  • Some dogs find hats and sunglasses unsettling, so removing them if possible will help the dog feel more comfortable with you.
  • Try not to be afraid, as dogs will sense your fear and can become agitated by it. Calmness and quiet will go a long way to establishing trust.
  • Squat or crouch beside it, not in front of it or looming over it, and hold out your hand towards it with a loosely closed fist. This is a non-threatening and non-aggressive signal for the dog, and if it does happen to nip at you, it is easier for you to withdraw your hand quickly without losing a finger!
  • Let the dog come to you if it wants to, let it sniff your hand and figure you out. If the dog seems reluctant, don’t pressure it, never try to chase or force an unwilling dog to be touched.
  • When you and the dog are comfortable with each other, pat it gently on the shoulder, neck, or chest, not on top of its head.
  • If you need to step back from the dog for any reason, rise slowly and turn your back on it without making eye contact to avoid appearing confrontational.

If you’re out and about with your own dog, please don’t presume that other dogs – or other people – will react favourably to it. Your dog might be super friendly and get on well with others, but the same might not be true of other animals or humans. It is also important to keep your dog on a leash in areas where that is signposted as the rule, for its own safety and that of other users of public areas. Keep an eye on the length of your leash, and ensure it is appropriate for your location; a shorter leash is better for crowded areas.

Service dog in training
img: http://www.servicedogcertifications.org

If the dog is a working dog of any sort, such as a seeing eye dog or anxiety dog, do not make any attempt to touch it or talk to it. That dog is doing a job and its owner relies on it not being distracted. These dogs are usually easily identifiable by their harness or vest, as well as by their behaviour and that of their owner. If you’re in any doubt as to whether it is a service dog or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and leave it alone.

I know this article seems like a big list of “No!”, but these tips are for your safety and that of other members of the public and their pets. The aim here isn’t to be a killjoy, but to avoid potentially dangerous situations. It is especially important to teach these pet safety tips to children so that they can become comfortable around strange animals and avoid injury and stress for both themselves and the dog.

Hopefully this information will enable you to enjoy interactions with your local neighbourhood doggos on a safe and respectful basis. Now go and have a great walk, and put these into action!

Saving rhinos with IVF

By Lengai101 - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10826693
By Lengai101 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10826693

The northern white rhino is one of the most critically endangered species in the world, with only three surviving individuals. These three, one male and two females, are protected by armed guards at all times at their home in Kenya. They have been kept safe successfully, but have failed to breed and are now too old to do so.

Now zoologists have collected nine eggs from the females and sent them to Italy in the hopes that stem cell technology can be utilised to create an embryo which will be carried by a surrogate of another rhino species. If successful, the rhino IVF babies will be a world first.

However the procedure has met with some controversy, with many saying that the money might be better spent protecting other existing rhino species. Critics also worry that success in this endeavour might cause a reduction in conservation efforts, due to the knowledge that one can always fall back on science to revive a lost species.

But success with rebuilding the related southern white rhino populations over the past 100 years, from a population of 100 to over 20,000 thriving today, gives hope that the northern rhino can be similarly managed, once we establish some breeding pairs to kick-start the old-fashioned process.



Stray sheep finds comfort in statue

IMG: Rob Bushnell, via abc.net.au
IMG: Rob Bushnell, via abc.net.au

At Katanning saleyards in Western Australia, a lost merino sheep has taken a liking to a newly-erected statue.

The sheep has been hanging around the ram statue for over a week now, and is becoming quite familiar to the locals.

It is as yet unknown where the stray came from or who he belongs to.

More from the ABC.

Ravens once again show their intellience

We’ve known that ravens are brainy birds for quite some time, showing the ability to learn, use tools, and plan for the future. Their family, the corvids, includes jays which have also been known to think ahead by stashing food away for future use.

Their family, the corvids, includes jays which have also been known to think ahead by stashing food away for future use.

However a recent experiment with ravens in Sweden has taken the ravens’ reputation to a whole new level. One of the ravens involved not only learned what the researchers wanted it to, but also devised its own method and began teaching other ravens. The smart bird had to be removed from the study!

More details here!

The dangers of exotic ants

Most people probably know that imported birds and mammals are often illegal, require licences, and can wreak havoc in the wrong ecosystem.

By Stephen Ausmus - http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/dec04/k11622-1.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10112924
Fire ants are also a damaging exotic species in Australia. By Stephen Ausmus – http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/dec04/k11622-1.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10112924

But did you know that the dangers extend to insects?

Last month a huge stash of exotic ants was seized from a home in Canberra, Australia, after being listed for sale on the Gumtree website. Eight species were seized, including multiple breeding colonies. One species was the Tetraponera rufonigra, known to cause anaphylaxis. The species is the leading cause of anaphylaxis in Thailand.

In large numbers, which these queens and colonies are capable of building up to quickly, exotic ants can be extremely harmful in the wild. They are often aggressive, they damage crops, and compete with local species for space and resources.

By Shivsharan Trasi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58262587The Tetraponera rufonigra is native to Asia and Africa, and hunt other small insects for their prey. Australia, with its rich insect life, is a veritable feast for them, should they get loose. The species generally live in holes in trees, which they excavate for themselves, thus also damaging Australian native plant species.

The Canberra property has been treated to remove any ants which may have escaped their enclosures, so hopefully in this case the risk is minimal.

Wild boars enjoy the beach in France

Over the last couple of days, several news articles have cropped up about wild boars, “rampaging” and “dangerous”, appearing on beaches in the French Riviera and bothering bathers and tourists.

However, I can see no reports of injuries or even the slightest scary encounter, and all photographs in these articles are in fact photos of a well-known and friendly wild pig from this article almost a year ago.

Wild pigs on the beach
IMG: https://www.thelocal.fr/20160913/in-pics-wild-boar-and-her-piglets-charm-locals-at-french-beach

The piece from The Local in September last year describes a mother pig and her piglets as “charming”, and a “mascot of the beach”. People are reported as feeding the pigs, and having generally positive experiences.

It seems the recent reports are somewhat overblown, however it is important to remember that no matter how friendly a wild animal appears, it is still capable of being angered at mistreatment, and caution is always recommended.


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