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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Absolutely Stunning: Siberian Tiger

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The St Valentine's Day porker: Piglet born with heart-shaped spots

A cute little piglet born with heart-shaped markings on his side is the centre of attention as lovers gear up for Valentine's Day this week.

The 10-day-old Gloucester Old Spot piglet christened Valentine - what else? - is one of a litter of seven born at Byford's Farm in Taynton, near Newent, Glos.

Farmer Eric Freeman, 75 - a founding member of the Gloucester Old Spot Pig Breeders' Club - said Valentine's mother Mandi Lou has already got used to her piglet stealing the show.

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Valentines piglet

Heartwarming: The piglet was born with heart-shaped markings on his back - just in time for Valentine's Day

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"Some sows get really annoyed and squeal but Old Spots are known for being quiet," he said.

"Mandi Lou was very good and didn't mind Valentine having her picture taken.

"I've bred thousands of Old Spot piglets over the years but this is the first ever to have such a clear heart-shaped mark.

"It couldn't be more appropriate with Valentine's Day just around the corner."

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Natasha Gough poses with the unusual piglet today at Byford's Farm

Mr Freeman has been breeding Old Spots at his farm for 25 years and said the breed has come back from near-extinction in the past few years.

"I think there are probably around 400 members of the breeders' club and they have spread far and wide," he said.

"There has been a lot of interest because they are a fatty breed and it's a different taste to the normal type of pig - it's much more succulent."

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Duck!

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100 Year-old Tortoise acts as Mom to Baby Hippo








A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa , officials said The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about 300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean, then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on December 26, before wildlife rangers rescued him.

It is incredible. A-less-than-a-year-old hippo has adopted a male tortoise, about a century old, and the tortoise seems to be very happy with being a 'mother'," ecologist Paula Kahumbu, who is in charge of Lafarge Park , told AFP.

After it was swept away and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately , it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat and sleep together," the ecologist added. "The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it followed its mother. somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother," Kahumbu added.

The hippo is a young baby, he was left at a very tender age and by nature, hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years," he explained.

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Mmmm....Brains [Pic]


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The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You

By Alex Levinton

If animals could talk, they would spend most of their time calling us dicks and telling us to get off their land. The traits we think of as "cute" are often simply tricks animals have developed to get tourists to throw them food.

Here are six animals that you'll probably want to steer clear of, no matter how adorable they look on that wall calendars.


How cute!
To give you an idea of how cute hippos are, we'd like you to have a look at this:

Now have a look at this:

Hippos are practically the very definition of Disney-cute. What sort of person could look at this big ol' rascal, playing away in her favorite swimming hole, and not think of stuffing her in a tutu and making her dance to classical music?

For chrissake look at them. There is no way you could look at a big, fat, happy, squishy, huggable hippo and not think, "If she could talk like a human, she would sound just like Jada Pinkett Smith and be oh so sassy." You would totally name her Sassybaskets and she would be your tutu-wearing, ballet-dancing, strut-walking pal for life. Just you and Sassybaskets against the world! Look out, New York, here comes Sassybaskets!

OH SHIT! RUN!
It turns out in the real world, hippos fucking kill people.

There's this word, "territorial," that nature takes pretty seriously. When it's applied to a two-ton animal with teeth the size of bowling pins, that is one hell of a word. The sort of word you either pay very close attention to, or ignore and end up with a complimentary "Killed to death by a fucking hippo" tombstone. That sort of thing is really embarrassing for the family, you know?

The next time you settle in for a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, take a moment to to reflect on the small fact that hippopotamuses kill more humans per year than any other animal in the entire continent of Africa. Only elephants are consistently larger than hippos, and only the Warner Brothers' Tasmanian Devil is more consistently aggressive.

Perhaps you've seen this pic:

That is not in fact a man and a hippo doing a live reenactment of a cartoon they saw. That's an experienced park ranger, who narrowly avoided getting killed by a hippo by sprinting over a hundred yards.

The late Steve Irwin, a man who used to tackle 12-foot crocodiles for fun and wave angry snakes filled with kill-you-before-your-next-heartbeat poison at a camera, considered a five-minute sequence where his camera team had to cross a river filled with hippos to be the single most dangerous moment ever filmed on his show.

The man who toyed with crocodiles, was scared shitless of hippos.

Duck-Billed Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

How cute!
God, we don't even know where to begin.

This is an animal so deliriously ridiculous, biologists refused to believe it could possibly be anything but an elaborate hoax when it was first discovered. To put this in perspective, these exact same biologists believed that rotting meat spontaneously generated maggots and saw nothing wrong with pouring liquid heroin down babies' throats. Platypi are that ridiculous.

But seriously, look at it. It's got a thick, furry body with a flat, beaver-like tail and otter-like feet and we're cool with that because he's so damn fuzzy. Then there's the matter of the big, leathery duck bill and it's suddenly more than a little weird, because that's ... that's not really supposed to happen to mammals.

And then there's the further matter of the very high degree of electroreceptivity in that there bill--it helps the platypus find food buried in the silt. Kinda like a hammerhead shark's head, only instead of being terrifying-looking eye protrusions with an awesome name, it's a goofy-looking duck bill. On a mammal. And OK so that's ... pretty weird, but so what? Their babies are called puggles for fuck's sake! Puggles!

Also they lay eggs for some reason.

OH SHIT! RUN!
And, they are poisonous.

Wait, what?

Male platypi have a pair of spurs on their hind legs that they use for defense and dominance duels. They deliver a brutal dose of venom that will put a human being into the emergency room and leave him writhing in muscle-impaired agony for months.

The platypus is mother nature's way of saying, "I made this thing out of spare parts I found on the workshop floor, and it can still fucking cripple you."

Dingo (Canis lupus dingo)

How cute!
Look at the pretty little puppy! Who's a pretty little puppy?

Oh yes you are! Yes you are! Whoosagoodboyyy? Whooooooosagoodbooooooyyyyy?

Look at him. Look at that fur, those eyes, that playful grin. If that dingo was behind a clear plastic wall at a pet shop, we would take him home in a heartbeat. We'd name him Bandit and put a red bandanna around his neck and we'd take him out to the lake in a pickup truck and he'd hang his head out the window as we drove, howling along to the radio.

If we died, he'd lie down on our graves and just howl away. For the rest of his life. Because he'd miss us so fucking much.

Bandit would be the best goddamned dog there ever was.

And if he ever got rabies, we'd be the ones to put him down.

It just wouldn't be right any other way.

OH SHIT! RUN!
STOP. We can practically feel you trying to reach out a hand to give the Dingo a scratch behind the ear so he knows what a good boy he's being but seriously and for fuck's sake STOP.

That adorable little guy with the silly name and the gleam in his eye is, in fact, absolutely nothing like your blessed yellow Labrador-mix that was the only friendly face you saw all day in your childhood.

No. That is a wild, as in untamed, as in feral, meaning thoroughly and completely--this is important--a dangerous and unpredictable animal.

Wild dogs--also called fucking wolves--are inquisitive, intelligent predators that travel in packs. Which means there are several of them and they all think "fair fight" means "we outnumber the hell out of you". Do a Google search on "Dingo," and look over all of those pages. Notice a theme? Every single one of them manages to repeat the exact same sentiment ad nauseum:

Do not attempt to pet the dingos. Do not attempt to play with the dingos. Do not throw squeaky toys to the fucking dingos or attempt to sneak scraps of food to the fucking dingos from the dinner table. If a fucking dingo follows you home, you should not keep it. DO NOT LET A DINGO PLAY WITH YOUR INFANT.

It took 7,000 years of breeding and training to make your pet dog. This is not your pet dog. This is a fucking dingo.

Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

How cute!
These guys are practically people. No, fuck that, they're practically better than people. Chimps have done everything from fly jet planes to sleep in the same bed as a former President of the United States. If you put a chimp in front of a camera with an action star, you have no choice but to prepare for a wild, wacky romp that will tug your heartstrings and tickle your funny bone until you vomit your entire digestive system in pure laugh-a-minute glee. And then, at the end, we all learn a valuable lesson: usually that Burt Reynolds can be consistently outwitted by lesser primates.

It's that grin. That huge, toothy grin they flash for the cameras, it makes them look like devilish little scamps, like they have some great and hilarious secret they cannot wait to share. And then they put their arms around the action star and snuggle in and everybody goes awwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Then they pucker their lips and make fart noises and everybody just laughs until they die.

OH SHIT! RUN!
That is not a grin. What that is, see, is a mouthful of very large teeth being bared. Right at you.

The chimp is attempting to inform you that you are invading his space. If you do not understand this, the chimp would be happy to further elaborate. With that mouthful of very fucking large teeth. While smashing his very long and extremely strong arms about your head and shoulders, grabbing your hair and slamming your head into things. All the while shrieking a vicious symphony of noise that is calling all his buddies over to beat you until you cannot grow anymore. Following which, they will pelt you with feces.

It's sort of like a fraternity initiation, only they don't give a shit if you survive. For instance, look how the adorable monkey treats his "friend" the zoologist, who's been coming to his island and feeding him bananas for years.

If that clip reminds you less of Ross's adorable pet monkey on Friends and more of Stephen Seagal "taking out the trash," that's because you watched it. Now imagine what that monkey would do to your goofy, non-banana bringing ass if you tried to make him wear a funny hat and a necktie.

Oh, here's something to make that mental image even worse: On four recorded occasions in the last 50 years, chimpanzees have abducted, killed and eaten human babies. That's human with an H, as in Homo Sapiens, as in a human baby getting wrenched out of its mother's arms, dragged off into the forest and devoured by a chimp. We are not making this up.

Will you stop fucking dressing them in cowboy outfits now? Please?

Swan (Anatidae Cygnus, dozens of subspecies)

How cute!
Such poise. Such grace. The way they glide effortlessly across the water. That unmistakable curve to their necks that forms a perfect heart when they nuzzle with their mate, who they will stay with for the rest of their lives.

Glorious.

This is the bird our mothers promised us we would grow up to be after yet another day of getting beat up for being so goddamned ugly. We're adults now (and still fuck-ugly) and the swan's beauty has endured, only growing stronger as we grow older. In another 40 years, there we'll be, on a bench in a park with a bag of breadcrumbs in our hands, just watching the swans drift by, reminding us that in the end, everything turned out OK.

OH SHIT! RUN!
Getting chased through a park by a furious bird that will not stop trying to rip your skin off your bones is only funny until it happens to you.

Yes, swans are aggressive as hell. According to this video, the only defense against swan attack is to actually grab the bird by the neck and heave it as far as you can while onlookers applaud.

Just like that one girl in history class that you thought was the single most beautiful woman you'd ever seen in your life who you mooned over for months and left little notes for, it turns out swans are now and have always been vicious, mean little motherfuckers who will not hesitate to snap your fingers off one by one for daring to pollute its presence. And then going off to laugh with all their friends about what a huge loser you are.

In Ireland, it is not uncommon for university rowing teams to cancel practice because there is a swan in the river. Rowing teams tend to be composed of men who are built like very large trees. Trees that bench-press Volvos. These men are terrified of swans, probably due to a grizzled old rowing coach, always looking on from the shore, a bill-shaped scar where his left eye used to be.

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

How cute!
No way. No fucking way. What the hell are dolphins doing here?

This cannot be right. These guys save humans. Every other year or so, some diver or something gets lost out at sea, these guys bring them home. For fuck's sake, in November of 2004, a bunch of these guys banded together and saved three lifeguards from a great white shark off the coast of New Zealand.

They're fucking dolphins.

They can talk. They shoot high-pitched chirps and squeaks back and forth, slap their tails in the surf and jump around to let each other know what kind of day they're having. This is the only animal in the world that Americans feel proud of not eating. This is fucking Flipper here, every third girl you met in college had at least one tattooed somewhere on her body.

No animal in the world is more closely linked to DayGlo rainbows.

OH SHIT! RUN!
It turns out they're sex-crazed thrill-killers. How's that for a plot twist?

For the last 17 years or so, marine biologists have begun paying a great deal of attention to dead baby dolphins and porpoises of all ages washing up ashore, and we quote, 'mangled in unexpected ways.'

The discovery that Bottlenose Dolphins were occasionally viciously reconfiguring their own children wasn't really all that much of a big deal. Humans are the only species on the planet that actually gives even a tiny shit about infanticide. It was what the dolphins were doing to the porpoises that entered the domain of the 'seriously fucked-up'.

Thirteen-foot male Bottlenose Dolphins were hunting down porpoises, beating to death and then playing with their corpses, all for no readily apparent reason. At the time of this writing, the majority opinion of the marine science community was that this breathtakingly savage interspecies homicide is for--and this is Science, here--shits 'n' giggles.

Reports of ludicrously sexually aggressive dolphins attempting to rape human women abound from all over the globe. And in 1994, a male Bottlenose off the coast of San Paolo, Brazil, that was noted to be fond of female human swimmers attacked a pair of human males that the dolphin apparently considered to be competition ... and killed one of them.

Sure, some accounts say the man was drunk, and was actively trying to shove a stick into the dolphin's blowhole at the time. And several locals had apparently first tried to drag it out of the water so they could take a picture with it, maybe first dressing it up with a top hat and monocle.

And here, of course, we have arrived at our lesson: when dealing with animals, you need to forget everything you learned from cartoons. The results can be deadly otherwise.

You may remember Alex as the guy who scared your pants off last month when he told you about The 5 Most Horrifying Bugs in the World. Also, be sure to check out the 35 best images from our Photoshop contest that shows you what would happen If Banner Ads Were Forced To Be Truthful....

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Secret sex life of wombats


A complicated dance, a bite on the rump and ferocious backward kicks are all part of the wombat's lovemaking repertoire, a new study has revealed.

Until recently, there were no recorded observations of mating between wombats.

But the director of Nocturnal Wildlife Research Ltd, biologist Clive Marks, found wombats were more likely than the average Aussie male to emulate moves from the Kama Sutra.

Mr Marks, whose findings are to be published this week in Nature Australia magazine, says the first successful captive breeding of wombats was recorded in Hannover, Germany, in 1982.

"With absolute precision, details of the wombat's sex life were recorded and, surprisingly, it seemed anything but modest," he says.

"It appeared to be a physically demanding process, complete with chasing, biting, grunting and loads of heavy breathing."

Then in 1990, Mr Marks filmed the first common wombat courtship and mating in captivity in Australia, at Tonimbuk Farm in south-eastern Victoria.

"The female, after a prolonged period of copulation in the same position, broke away and began to trot in a pattern of circles and figures of eight.

"The male chased her, following closely behind, and then bit her on the rump," he says.

"She immediately stopped just long enough to permit him to roll her on her side and begin copulating again.

"If the male was slow to mount, she would kick back aggressively and not let him roll her on her side again until she had run round in more circles and figures of eight. This happened seven times."

Space seems to be the key. Mr Marks says without the "hard to get" figure eight dance, the female will not allow the male to mount.

But zoo keepers are catching on. Mr Marks says biologist Catriona MacCallum at the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo has had spectacular wombat breeding success.

"Joining and modifying the pen systems to permit a chase, she not only found that wombat breeding was possible in captivity, but she found herself with the first recorded case of wombat twins."

Mr Marks says he hopes his study will solve the sloth-like image problem of the common wombat, making the furry marsupials "the symbol of Australian male sexual virility".

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10 of the Strangest Animal Stories of 2008 (So Far!)

Why is it that strange animal stories always seem to hit at once like a pack of rabid buffalo? It has only been a month and there are already a number of incredibly bizarre animal-related news stories to kick of 2008. It’s like a zodiac year on steroids.

A swarm of 150,000,000 crabs invades an island in Northwestern Australia to mate. Each female crab lays around 100,000 eggs in the sand. They hatch at around the same time, so there might be as many as 75 trillion crabs on that island at once!

Pet Deer Runs Amok: Witnesses eating lunch Sunday at TJ’s Deli in Winston-Salem were startled when they said a woman walking a pet deer on a leash lost control of the animal, causing it to break through a window and run amok through the restaurant’s dining room.

Steaks on the Lamb: They’re searching the woods in the Cincinnati suburb of Colerain Township for an Angus steer that bolted after it was delivered to a meat-packing business this morning. Authorities say a gate on a holding pen was inadvertently left open, allowing the more than 1,000-pound animal to escape.

Man Dies in Crocodile Orgy: Amorous crocodiles are causing so much havoc to a Papua New Guinean coastal community that authorities have ordered a cull. Police on the northern PNG island of Manus asked licensed firearm holders to form a hunting party after mating crocodiles killed one man last week.

Lizard Blood Used as Cure for Aids: Desperate people living with the HIV/Aids virus in Yumbe district, northwestern Uganda, have resorted to an ominous therapy - that of injecting themselves with blood drawn from an uncommon type of lizard.

Man Shoves Hand in Shark’s Mouth: A fisherman who survived a shark attack aboard a fishing boat off Queensland said his skipper put his hand down the shark’s throat to free his mangled leg.

crooked-necked-giraffe.jpg

Is the Nevada Humane Society Being Racially Insensitive? The Nevada Humane Society is doing a promotion surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday called “Black Is Beautiful” where black dogs and cats are offered for adoption at a reduced rate.

California Mourns Death of Crooked Necked Giraffe: Gemina the “crooked-necked giraffe,” one of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s most recognizable and beloved animals, was euthanized Wednesday. “We observed a decline in her appetite over the past two weeks and she had stopped eating all together,” said Alan Varsik, the Zoo’s Director of Animal Programs and Conservation.

Ten Apartment Pets That Can Be Better Than Cats and Dogs: Generally all apartments that accept pets allow solely cats and small dogs. These animals, however generally wreak havoc on apartments. Following are animals that spend most of their time caged but may be more attractive to landlords than dogs that dig and cats that scratch. Perhaps your perfect pet is within.


India Village - Watch the best video clips here

More bizarre animal stories and the cool encyclopedia of animals

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Elusive wolves caught on camera

Remarkable new footage of Canada's Arctic wolves has been caught on camera by a BBC crew.

The team managed to film the wolves taking to the water to hunt waterfowl - behaviour that has never been seen before, according to an expert.

Arctic wolves live in the Canadian Arctic and northern parts of Greenland; observing them is a difficult task as they rarely interact with humans.

The team followed a pack on Ellesmere Island for several weeks last summer.

This glimpse into the lives of these elusive animals was filmed for the Natural World wildlife programme: White Falcon, White Wolf, which also features other animals, including gyr falcons, Arctic foxes and snowy owls, that live on the remote island.

Arctic wolves (Image: Jim McNeill)
The wolves were filmed along with other animals on the island

Wolf expert David Mech, from the US Geological Survey, said: "I'd never seen wolves try to catch waterfowl before and this was interesting to see."

Usually, he said, wolves eat large hoofed animals, although they will vary their diet as circumstances dictate.

He explained: "They take advantage of whatever food opportunities are available, and in this case, these waterfowl were available, so they took advantage of trying to get them.

"I'm interested in the challenges these animals overcome to hunt their food. I've been intrigued with how the wolf manages to solve problems in so many different ways, with so many different species."

Lucky find

Ellesmere Island sits at the northernmost tip of Canada; it is only during the brief Arctic summer that the snow thaws to reveal the true features of the rugged landscape beneath.

Here, the BBC Natural History Unit tracked down a pack of eight wolves, including a dominant male and three one-year-olds.

A wolf nicknamed Lucy (Image: Jim McNeill)
The wolves, especially one called Lucy, were bold and playful

Harry Hoskyns-Abrahall, assistant producer of White Falcon, White Wolf, said the team was lucky to come across the wolves almost as soon as they arrived on the island.

He told the BBC News website: "We went to this particular area because wolves had been spotted there a few years earlier.

"We were immediately encouraged when we found wolf tracks and marking posts on day one; and then the next day, we went out on the same route and we saw a wolf, which was absolutely unbelievable and very exciting."

By following the wolf and its tracks, the team was eventually able to track down a den.

"We were incredibly lucky," said Mr Hoskyns-Abrahall. "Once you've got the den, you have somewhere where the wolves are going to focus their behaviour."

THE ARCTIC'S WHITE WOLF
The Arctic wolf is actually a subspecies of the grey wolf
In comparison it has a shorter stature but a bulkier build
Scientific name for the Arctic wolf is Canis lupus arctos
It ranges across the Canadian Arctic and north Greenland
Packs will prey on caribou, musk oxen, hares, lemmings

The crew was able to film the animals going about their daily business.

"The most incredible part was when we saw the young wolf swim out to the middle of a lake and go after the geese, we just couldn't believe that it could seriously consider getting a goose in that way," he added.

Inquisitive nature

The team was also amazed by the wolves' boldness.

"The younger wolves in the pack would come right up to us, and they would come up to our camp and empty our rucksacks - you would wake up and find your clothing spread all over the place. They were very inquisitive," explained Mr Hoskyns-Abrahall.

Filming  Image: Jim McNeill

Arctic explorer Jim McNeill, who worked with the crew and kept a diary of his experiences for the BBC News website, was particularly taken with one young wolf who he nicknamed Lucy.

He said: "The highlight for me was one afternoon when the crew was off filming.

"Lucy came near the camp and I spent the best part of an afternoon with her in spectacular sunshine. We just shared a space - it felt extremely special."

He added: "I've been exploring this area for 25 years and to spend this time with these animals gave me another perspective on Arctic life.

Arctic wolf (Image: Jim McNeill)
Luck played a factor when tracking down the Arctic wolves

"To be part of the process of finding them and then capturing that footage was a fantastic feeling."

Fergus Beeley, producer of the programme, said making the film was something of an accomplishment.

He said: "Arctic wolves have been an aspiration [to film] of mine for about 15 years.

"I have a bit of a reputation for going for animals that are a tricky: filming the wolves posed the ultimate challenge.

"We didn't know where they would be 'denning', what their movements would be, so we had to do a lot of planning based on 'guestimates' - and luckily they worked out to be right."

White Falcon, White Wolf is on BBC Two on Friday 1 February at 2000 GMT and Sunday 3 February at 1755 GMT