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Posts tagged ‘Animal Kingdom’

Thousands in Madrid demand end to bullfighting in Spain

May 13, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Thousands of animal rights activists protested Saturday in Madrid to demand an end to Spain’s long tradition of bullfighting. The march went through the Spanish capital’s city center, with several groups united under one clear-cut message: “Bullfighting is violence and you can stop it.”

Animal rights activists say the gory fights are among the planet’s most blatant forms of animal cruelty, with bulls lanced and finally stabbed through the heart. Matadors are praised for killing with a single stab, though some don’t succeed in finishing off the animal with repeated thrusts.

The march, scheduled during the famed San Isidro weeklong fair featuring numerous bullfights in Madrid’s famous Las Ventas bullring, is part of a growing divide between those who see bullfighting as a blatant form of animal cruelty and others who defend it as part of Spain’s traditional culture.

Protesters also demanded a change in legislation under which animal cruelty would be subject to Spain’s criminal code. Spokeswoman Laura Gonzalo called for an immediate halt to all bullfights. “It’s time for all of society to unite and say ‘enough,'” she said, while questioning the motive behind recent governmental tax cuts to bullfighting events.

Spain’s deep tradition of bullfights was named part of the country’s cultural heritage in a law passed in 2013. Madrid’s leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena hasn’t banned bullfighting events, but she has eliminated annual subsidies for their promotion.

Wolves return to Denmark for first time in 200 years

Stockholm (AFP)

May 4, 2017

At least five wolves, including one female, have returned to Denmark for the first time in two centuries, a zoologist who has obtained DNA evidence said on Thursday.

The predators came from Germany to settle in western Denmark’s agricultural region, the least densely populated in the Scandinavian country.

Peter Sunde, scientist at the University of Aarhus, told AFP the wolves must have walked more than 500 kilometers (310 miles).

“We think these are young wolves rejected by their families who are looking for new hunting grounds,” the researcher added.

Scientists have established a genetic profile from the faeces of five wolves — four males and one female — but there could be more.

Sunde said researchers had suspected since 2012 that wolves had entered Denmark. “Now we have evidence (including) that there’s one female,” signalling the possibility of giving birth this spring, he said.

Proof was also established through the wolves’ fingerprints and video surveillance showed their location, which scientists refuse to reveal out of fear that it will attract hunters.

“We’re following that. The wolf is an animal we’re not allowed to hunt so we must protect it,” Henrik Hagen Olesen, spokesman at the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, told AFP.

Exterminated by hunters, wolves had been completely extinct in Denmark since the beginning of the nineteenth century.

In other Nordic countries with a higher wolf population, culling the species, protected by the Bern Convention, is under a fierce debate between inhabitants, farmers, hunters, the government, the European Union and wildlife activists.

Source: Terra Daily.

Link: http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Wolves_return_to_Denmark_for_first_time_in_200_years_999.html.

Swedish cows in a great moooo-d as summer pastures open

April 29, 2017

DROTTNINGHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Despite a cold wind and chilling temperatures, spring has come to Sweden. At least, spring for the milk cows. In an annual event that warms hearts across the country, “koslapp” (KOOH-slep) — the cow release — has become a popular family outing for urban residents. That’s when the farmers of Sweden free their cows from the barns and stables where they have spent the long, dark, cold winter.

Dozens of dairy cows were frolicking and jumping Saturday on the outskirts of Stockholm, the capital. “I live in the city and it’s really nice to come out to the countryside,” said 37-year-old Linda Lundberg from Stockholm who attended the event with her friends. “It’s fun to celebrate spring together with the cows.”

In recent years, milk farms across Sweden have seen a growing number of people attending what used to be simply a big day for Sweden’s agricultural community. Last year, alone, dairy cooperative Arla Foods saw around 165,000 people flock to their farms across the Scandinavian country to watch the cows, frisky with excitement, race out into the sun and the lush summer pastures.

“We make a lot of people happy, both families and children,” explained Elin Rydstrom, 37, who has spent the past week preparing to welcome about 1,000 people at her small organic farm in Drottningholm. She’s noticed a real shift in people’s attitude toward farmers.

“When I was little, people would tease me at school and say ‘You smell like cows,'” she recalled. Now her children’s classmates come to the farm “and everyone thinks it’s really nice.” Media-savvy farmers are now turning to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to change the perception of their profession and to encourage people to reflect on where their food comes from.

“Snapchat allows me to bring the farm to the city,” explained 28-year-old dairy farmer Anna Pettersson. She posts farm-life photos on social media and answers questions from users, including about animal welfare, food production and the length of her working hours.

Pettersson told The Associated Press that she hoped social media will encourage people to better understand what they consume and the need to pay for quality produce. A mere 30 minutes after their release, the cows were settling into their new environment while groups of people elsewhere on the farm were searching for the best picnic spot.

“It’s something special to have a farm and to be able to do this,” Rydstrom said. “To show the importance of quality food and being out in nature.”

Scientists say ‘alien’ fungus threatens European salamanders

April 19, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Europe’s salamanders could be decimated by a flesh-eating alien species that has already wreaked havoc in some parts of the continent, scientists said in a study published Wednesday. Researchers who examined the impact of the alien invader — a fungus native to Asia — on fire salamanders in Belgium and the Netherlands found it to be lethal to the amphibians and almost impossible to eradicate.

The study published in the journal Nature Research provides a drastic warning to North America, where the fungus hasn’t yet taken hold. “Prevention of introduction is the most important control measure available against the disease,” said study co-author An Martel, a veterinarian at the University of Ghent, Belgium, who specializes in wildlife diseases.

The B. salamandrivorans fungus, which likely was imported to Europe by the pet trade — causes skin ulcers, effectively eating the salamander’s skin and making it susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.

Martel and her colleagues began studying the effect of the fungus in early 2014, four years after it was first recorded in Europe. Within six months, the population of fire salamanders at the site in Robertville, Belgium, had shrunk to a tenth of its original size. Two years later less than one percent of the distinctive yellow-and-black patterned amphibians had survived, according to the study.

Sexually mature salamanders appeared to be particularly prone to becoming infected with the fungus due to their contact with other individuals, preventing them from producing new generations. Furthermore, researchers found the fungus was able to form spores with thick walls that allowed it to survive for longer and spread further, including on the feet of water birds.

Other amphibian species, including newts and toads, were also susceptible, either making them carriers of the fungus or ill themselves. Finally, infected animals failed to develop an immune response that might allow some of the salamander population to survive and ultimately prevail against its new foe, which has already been detected in 12 populations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Conservationists in the United States are already monitoring wetlands for signs of the fungus .

“For highly susceptible species like fire salamanders, there are no available mitigation measures,” Martel told The Associated Press. “Classical measures to control animal diseases such as vaccination and repopulation will not be successful since there is no immunity buildup in these species and eradication of the fungus from the ecosystem is unlikely.”

In a separate comment published by Nature, Matthew C. Fisher, an expert in fungal epidemiology at Imperial College London who wasn’t involved in the study, backed the researchers’ suggestion that the only way to save Europe’s salamanders may be to keep a healthy population in captivity — at least until a cure is found.

“It is currently unclear how (the fungus) can be combated in the wild beyond establishing ‘amphibian arks’ to safeguard susceptible species as the infection marches relentlessly onwards,” said Fisher.

Slobbery kisses: Romania hosts show for 1,600 exotic pets

March 20, 2017

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A tabby feline with big furry claws, bald cats with shell-like ears and skinny tails, and slobbery wrinkled pugs were the stars as Bucharest hosted a show featuring over 1,600 exotic pets.

The pet show in the Romanian capital kicked off with a free dog handling session for some of the 1,500 dogs. Owners proudly paraded their pets at the March 10-12 event or entered them into beauty contests.

Rare breeds of dogs, cats and exotic animals are status symbols in Romania — but there was plenty of affection too, as owners cuddled or performed with their dogs. The array of pets included coiffed canines and bright-eyed cats. Exotic bald cats with webbed paws vied for attention with dogs like pugs or basset hounds.

One boy visiting the show got into a cage to hug a dozing cognac-colored dog about the same size as him. Dogs took part from Romania, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.

Three pugs with tightly coiled tails stood on their hind legs seeking their owner’s attention. Two basset hounds had silver scarves wrapped around their necks. Lali the greyhound trotted along the red carpet with an alert expression, watching its owner toss a tennis ball in her hand.

Spanish ritual of horses and fire survives time and critics

January 17, 2017

SAN BARTOLOME DE PINARES, Spain (AP) — Once every winter, thick smoke begins to swallow up the houses in this village in the barren lands of Avila, northwest of Madrid. It means the town’s bonfire festival honoring St. Anthony the Abbot has begun.

The music of a small bagpipe and a drum drift through the gloom. Then comes the clack of hooves on the cobblestone street. Suddenly, the flames roar up and horses and riders emerge to begin leaping through the flames.

St. Anthony the Abbot is the patron saint of domestic animals, and some townspeople say the celebration dates back five centuries to when the plague was fought with Roman Catholic rituals that used the smoke for purification.

San Bartolome de Pinares has kept its “luminarias” festival alive with religious intensity and unswerving pride, fending off criticism from animal rights groups. When agriculture was far more important, mules and donkeys also were led past the bonfires in a purifying ritual. Now, horses are the only animals used.

In recent years, tourists, journalists and photography aficionados have put attention on the ritual, which has come under attack from animal rights groups. “There is no logic in forcing these animals into a stressful situation against their own nature,” said Juan Ignacio Codina, one of the most vocal critics of the “luminarias” festival. “In the midst of the 21st century, this is something from a bygone era. There is no superstition or belief that should justify an act of such cruelty.”

Codina’s group, Observatory of Justice and Animal Defense, contends the “luminarias” break regional and national laws of animal protection and public entertainment shows and it filed a complaint with the regional government in 2013.

The government of Castille and Leon, the region where San Bortolome sits, replied that veterinarians sent by authorities couldn’t find any injuries on the horses from the bonfires. “Not one burn, not even one harmed horse,” said the mayor, Maria Jesus Martin, who insists that no horse is forced to jump over the frames.

“It makes me angry to hear the insults without those speaking knowing anything at all about the tradition,” she said. “They call us stubborn, hicks. They have even openly called on social media to throw me, the mayor, into the bonfire.”

Still, some in the village of 600 people think it would be better to return to a more moderate version of the festival. They say branches of pine and shrub for the bonfires used to arrive in small quantities on the backs of donkeys, but now the fuel is hauled in by trucks and the bonfires are much bigger and the smoke thicker.

Some people also would like to see a halt to the controversial jumping of the bonfires, since the original tradition only envisioned purifying the animals by walking them around — and not over — the flames.

Surgeons remove 915 coins swallowed by Thai sea turtle

March 07, 2017

BANGKOK (AP) — Tossing coins in a fountain for luck is a popular superstition, but a similar belief brought misery to a sea turtle in Thailand from whom doctors have removed 915 coins. Veterinarians in Bangkok operated Monday on the 25-year-old female green sea turtle nicknamed “Bank,” whose indigestible diet was a result of many tourists seeking good fortune tossing coins into her pool over many years in the eastern town of Sri Racha.

Many Thais believe that throwing coins on turtles will bring longevity. Typically, a green sea turtle has a lifespan of around 80 years, said Roongroje Thanawongnuwech, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty. It is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The loose change eventually formed a heavy ball in her stomach weighing 5 kilograms (11 pounds). The weight cracked the turtle’s ventral shell, causing a life-threatening infection. Five surgeons from Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty patiently removed the coins over four hours while “Bank” was under general anesthesia. The stash was too big to take out through the 10-cm (4-inch) incision they had made, so it had to be removed a few coins at a time. Many of them had corroded or partially dissolved.

“The result is satisfactory. Now it’s up to Bank how much she can recover,” said Pasakorn Briksawan, one of the surgical team. While recovering in Chulalongkorn University’s animal hospital, the turtle will be on a liquid diet for the next two weeks.

Bank was brought in to veterinarians by the navy, which found her ailing in her seaside hometown. It was only after a detailed 3D scan that veterinarians pinpointed the weighty and unexpected problem. As well as the coins they also found 2 fish hooks, which were also removed today.

The surgery team leader said Monday that when she discovered the cause of the turtle’s agony she was furious. “I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle,” said Nantarika Chansue, head of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary medical aquatic animal research center.

Thai media began publicizing the turtle’s tale last month after she was found, and in response, some 15,000 baht ($428) in donations was raised from the public to pay for her surgery.

Associated Press writer Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok contributed to this story.

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