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lastr
09-09-2004, 06:57 AM
Starting a new thread to showcase some animal stories from the news that highlight our relationship with them. The story will be linked and quoted (some online newspapers go into archive after a day or two).

Carol

lastr
09-09-2004, 07:01 AM
Chronicle Journal (http://www.chroniclejournal.com/story.shtml?id=23508)

More therapy dog teams needed to brighten others' days

By Stephanie MacLellan - The Chronicle-Journal

September 08, 2004

For many residents at Pioneer Ridge Home for the Aged, Simon is like a shaggy, black ray of sunshine.

The 130-pound Newfoundland dog and his owner, Mary Clare Courtland, visit the home every week as part of the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program.

“People really respond so well to dogs,” Courtland said. “It’s so satisfying for the (dog and handler) teams.”

The therapy dog program has been active in Thunder Bay since 2001, following a long absence from the community. Courtland, the program’s co-ordinator, said there are 10 dogs in the program, with breeds ranging from Newfoundlands to a dachshund.

The dogs make regular visits to seniors and people in hospitals, Alzheimer centres and palliative care units to spread cheer.

Rita Ewing, a resident at Thunder Bay’s Jasper Place seniors’ residence, said she looks forward to Simon’s visits.

“I love dogs, but he’s such a good dog,” she said. “He’s such a beautiful dog. I just love him.”

Ewing used to own dogs before her husband, who lives in Pioneer Ridge, had a stroke and she lost most of her vision to macular degeneration. She said she enjoys visits from Simon because it’s almost like having her own dog again.

Courtland said reactions like Ewing’s are common, and they can be even more dramatic with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sometimes it’s almost like miracles happen, when a person responds to a dog when they haven’t been communicating with human beings for a while,” she said. “Sometimes when people retreat into their self, when they see a dog, it evokes a different reaction.”

St. John Ambulance is looking for more therapy dog teams to join the program. Courtland said a dog will be a good candidate if it’s friendly, outgoing and well-behaved.

Interested volunteers must attend a one-hour seminar, then take a test with the dog to assess how well it would cope in a hospital or seniors’ home setting.

The next seminars will be held Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. and Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. Tests will be held Sept. 25. For more information, call St. John Ambulance volunteer co-ordinator Pam Fortune at 345-1712.

lastr
09-10-2004, 07:12 AM
UK News (http://www.ukpets.co.uk/ukp/index.php?rtn=temp4_230_96_210_at_2338&sf=103044468&section=Home&sub=News&rws=&method=fetch&item=786) is amazed at this one:

First Cool-For-Cats Cafe To Open
An experimental cafe opens in New York this week, catering exclusively to cat owners - and their cats. In an unconventional marketing drive to launch its first wet cat food, the Meow Mix (dry cat food) company will operate the feline cafe, on Fifth Avenue in Manhatten, for a week long trial from tomorrow.

The project is said to be costing the company about $200,000 (£109,000). Based on how it fares, Richard Thompson, CEO Meow Mix, has suggested that the company may reopen it again at another site in New York, or possibly create a mobile cafe which would tour the country.

The menu for cats will be restricted to Meow Mix in its various flavours. Dubiously, the menu for humans is expected to reflect the Meow Mix range.

As an unusual promotion, this launch is part of a growing trend in experimental marketing, designed to capture the attention of the media and public imagination. Richard Thompson is no stranger to the genre. Previously his company sponsored a television show called Meow TV.

Invitations have been sent out to celebrities to attend the launch of the new cafe. Non-celebs are invited to find out more from the company's website www.meowmix.com (http://www.meowmix.com), though it might be worth waiting for the reviews before booking a flight.

Writing Again
09-10-2004, 12:15 PM
Every animal should have the right to defend itself.

Here is one puppy who did. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5950304/?GT1=5100)

lastr
09-11-2004, 08:15 AM
Thank you for this one, it was good - I am glad to see the puppy getting the upper hand for a change and that they are going to prosecute the man.

lastr
09-11-2004, 08:30 AM
Red Bellied Parrot and jigsaw (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art23431.asp) Neat article about the parrot and an online jigsaw puzzle of one.

awatkins
09-11-2004, 10:45 AM
Fun puzzle of an African grey! Thanks for the link, Carol. :)

lastr
09-13-2004, 08:27 AM
Moose and Horse Bond (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-08-30-moose-cow_x.htm)
Horse, moose become friends in Vermont
GROTON, Vt. (AP) — A yearling female moose and a 20-year-old horse have become pals at a farm just outside Groton village. The two docile animals have apparently bonded, much to the delight of scads of tourists who come by to observe or yell, clap, honk horns and sing.
Such activity has prompted the landowners where the animals now romp to post their pasture against trespassers.

The family agreed to the Caledonian-Record speak about the wild moose and their domestic horse on the condition that their name or exact property location not be specified.

For weeks, a young moose was seen wandering around the Groton village area and on July 12 ended up in a field adjacent to Route 302 outside the village. The moose enjoyed the pleasure of having the clear-running Wells River at her back and plenty to eat from nearby hayfields, especially at the farm location that would serve as her new summer home.

And in a hayfield close to that farm, a horse was paddocked. The two animals came together and before long, the moose was following the horse back to the farm yards and barn. They romped together, trotted together and could be seen peering out the barn window or standing side-by-side at the fence just outside the farm's kitchen door.

After more than seven weeks, the two female animals are still attracted to each other. They are both brown, the moose taller and longer. The horse is the leader and the moose follows wherever they go. The moose is about a year old, according to neighbors who have spoken with a Vermont game biologist. The farm children named her "Mary."

Mary the Moose and Little Bit, a Welch Cob, enjoy the coolness of the interior in a huge barn located on the property and frequently walk the pasture together, much to the delight of passing motorists. The host family is very careful not to feed Mary, requiring her to live off the land instead of their handouts.

A moose coming in from the wild to visit with a farm animal reminded the host family and visitors of the classic events of Jessica the Hereford cow and a huge male moose dubbed Bullwinkle, who in October 1986 entertained thousands of visitors at the Larry Carrara farm in Shrewsbury for 76 days.

lastr
09-13-2004, 08:34 AM
http://www.gazettetimes.com/content/articles/2004/09/12/sports/venture/vent1.jpg

Gazette Times (http://www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2004/09/12/sports/venture/vent1.txt)

Where the bison roam
Round-up necessary to keep animals healthy and in check

Sue Hansen
Venture Contributor

The cloud of brown dust billows up at the top of the hill, then quickly descends the fenced-in slope.

Silent at first, the sound of bovine hooves pounding solid ground soon fills the air as well, along with the excited whoops of riders on horseback. It's a scene straight from the Wild West, with emphasis on "wild."

For the animals being herded down the hillside by horses aren't cattle, but bison. And the riders aren't cowboys, but U. S. Fish and Wildlife employees, with local ranchers and college students volunteering to help out at the annual round-up held at the National Bison Range in Montana.

It's a round-up that corrals every bison to check the health of the herd and cull their numbers to meet the carrying capacity of this federal refuge.

Opened for public viewing, the Bison Round-up takes place every October on the refuge at the corral complex featuring cutting and sales pens, tally shack and electronic scales, squeeze and loading chutes. Constructed in 1993, it sports steel I-beams, 10-foot-tall highway guardrails and catwalks where spectators can look down on the action-packed process of humans handling brawny beasts.

"This is real refuge work that people get to see," said Pat Jamieson, outdoor recreation planner for the National Bison Range.

The round-up begins behind the scenes when around 500 bison are first gathered from across the 18,799-acre refuge and put in pens beyond the corrals. Then, volunteers arrive to man various crews in and around the complex, ready to face the untamed calves, cows and bulls coming through.

It starts with four or five horse riders slowly heading up the hill, spreading out to position themselves for cutting out a group from the herd. It takes precision and patience to prevent a bison stampede. As one rider takes the left flank to separate some of the animals, the other riders move in alongside the selected group to keep them together along the fence line.

"When we start closing in on the bison, they move back and forth, and we have to really watch what they're doing," said Rachel Sykes, who has ridden among the bison for seven years. "They're faster and more agile than cattle, with bigger attitudes. Especially the bulls."

Maneuvering their galloping mounts parallel to the bison's humped shoulders n too far forward and bison will veer behind the riders, too far back and bison will cut in front of the horses n it's a well-rehearsed race of captor and captive. Once confined in the "round corral" where they're counted, it's a symphony of ear-splitting sounds. Massive bodies banging against metal bars. Angry snorts of adult bison and bawling calves. Hand-held cans clanging along a catwalk to keep animals moving toward certain enclosures.

After each bison is weighed, volunteer vets and refuge staff scramble at the "squeeze chutes." As the bison struggles to escape the clamped cage, blood and hair samples are collected from its tail for DNA and genetic information along with testing for tuberculosis and brucellosis on adult animals chosen to be culled from the refuge herd. Depending on the number of calves born each spring, between 80 and 120, a similar number of adults are removed from the refuge.

"Since the bison share this range with antelope, elk, deer and bighorn sheep, we like to keep the bison population around 380," Jamieson said. "This keeps the refuge's grasslands healthy as well."

Some surplus bison, mostly young males picked at random, are donated to other public herds and the Inter-Tribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) for release on tribal lands.

"The reason this refuge was established in the first place in 1908 was to help re-populate the bison into other areas," Jamieson said.

Still other adults of mixed ages and gender are sold to the public, via sealed bids, to be put into private herds or used for food.

As for calves, they remain at home on the range. Each calf is branded with the last digit of the current year to help determine age. (The lifespan of a refuge bison is between 15 and 20 years.) A microchip is also implanted with a hypodermic needle into the cartilage behind one ear. This gives an individual calf its own identity number for ongoing research at the refuge.

One study being conducted at the National Bison Range is determining what a bison would eat in case a vaccine is developed for brucellosis, a disease transmitted from cattle. Though this disease is non-existent in the refuge herd, biologists are testing bait samples to see which ones tempt a bison's taste buds.

"The research bison like a mixture with vanilla flavor and we're testing it on the refuge's free-roaming bison to see if they choose to eat it, too," Jamieson said.

Bison genetics are also a big concern among all animals in public herds. At the start of the 20th century, when the few remaining wild bison (less than 100) were finally placed under federal protection, bison blood couldn't be tested for cattle genes. Since the bison at the refuge first came from private ranch herds 100 years ago, any bison with positive results for cattle genetics have been removed from the refuge, keeping bloodlines pure.

So those rounded up at the National Bison Range are true remnants that once roamed freely across fenceless prairies. Though restricted today, the round-up offers the chance to see the same wild traits that made the bison America's symbol of strength. At day's end, as the dust settles around the corrals, those bison remaining are released back onto refuge land, still rulers of their national range.

lastr
09-14-2004, 08:56 AM
Giant Snake Crawls Up Dryer Vent, Eats Entire Family*

Written by susan allen-rosario

"Looks like they were swallowed whole, tennis shoes and all".

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - An entire family has apparently gone missing, seemingly swallowed up by a giant African Congo snake that somehow entered their home by way of a dryer vent. Neighbors called police after the family failed to take in their newspaper for over a week.

"We are not sure exactly what happened or how many of them the snake ate. But it looks like they were swallowed whole, tennis shoes and all. We're going to take the snake back to the station and squeeze it to see just how many people pop out", police said. "The snake was easy to catch because it was so full of bodies that it could hardly move. It seemed to be a little sick to its stomach, when we put it into the truck. But after it belched a few times, it looked much better. The snake probably belongs to some neighborhood nut-job who thought "what a nice pet". Nice pets don't normally eat the neighbors".

Dr. Neman Nsimba, veterinarian and expert in exotic African wildlife, was consulted regarding the snake’s origin. "This snake is from central Africa. These migratory snakes travel in packs and have been known to eat entire villages. It's illegal to own one in the United States. So how this one got here is a mystery to me", Dr. Nsimba explained.

Police have warned relatives of the missing family to expect the worst. "Unless the family went on vacation without telling anyone and the snake simply swallowed the living room sofa, we are pretty sure our initial theory is the correct one".

Relatives say the family is not prone to impromptu vacations. "They usually brag for six months before they go anywhere. This is not like them at all".

Neighbors think that the family cat may also be missing. "We know when he is around, because he wears a large bell on his collar. We haven't heard it in a while". Officers recalled, "When we moved the snake, we heard a tingling sound that could have very well been a bell. But we won't know for sure until we are done

The Spoof (http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s2i5835)

* The story as represented above is written as a satire or parody. It is fictitious.


www.thespoof.com/about/index.cfm (http://www.thespoof.com/about/index.cfm)

awatkins
09-14-2004, 10:49 AM
:ack

:rofl

Writing Again
09-15-2004, 04:29 AM
Actually had me wondering until I hit These migratory snakes travel in packs

Now that would be interesing.

ChunkyC
09-15-2004, 05:10 AM
:rofl :ha

ChunkyC
09-15-2004, 05:18 AM
Here's one -- it's a quicktime video, you may have to click play to get it to start. Volume is a bit loud.

House Hippo (http://www.cca-canada.com/video/hippo.mov)

lastr
09-15-2004, 10:42 AM
That is wonderful! Thank you CC. :jump

lastr
09-15-2004, 10:44 AM
http://www.ashburtonguardian.co.nz/images/uploaded/bill.jpg

It’s bad enough being the black sheep of the family, but to come out looking more like a calf is just plain bad luck.
Bill, an Ashburton-born lamb, could be easily mistaken for a friesian calf thanks to his unusual collection of black markings.
He even has a wavy coat more like that of a calf than a woolly lamb. He plays all day with his fellow lambs on a Seafield Road property oblivious to his distinctive black and white coat and the stares of passers-by.

Humans may mistake him at first glance for a little calf, but the cows on the Dormers’ lifestyle block are not so easily fooled and take no notice of Bill.

Alannah and Talor Dormer, who feed Bill each day, said they thought one of his parents could have been a Chatham Island sheep.

Other than that the family is completely mystified as to why the lamb is patterned with such cow-like markings.

“We don’t know why Bill looks like this,” said their mother Linda.

It is not the only funny things to occur on the Dormers’ lifestyle block this year. Their hens are also producing green eggs.

Ashburton Guardian New Zealand (http://www.ashburtonguardian.co.nz/index.asp?articleid=3573)

lastr
09-16-2004, 09:22 AM
Lost Cranes (http://www.freep.com/news/mich/cranes24e_20040824.htm)

Three wandering whooping cranes finally found their way home to a Wisconsin nature refuge after a two-month tour of Michigan, but five other directionally challenged birds have stayed in the state this summer.


Another crane that flew to Michigan fell victim to the laws of nature -- attacked and killed by another animal, probably a coyote.


"It's tough to lose one, but the other animal was just doing what it's meant to do -- and that's survive," said Heather Ray, administrative director for Operation Migration, a nonprofit company that is working to increase the number of the endangered species in the United States.


Hatched in incubators, raised by humans wearing crane costumes and taught their migration route by following ultralights, these birds are among the progeny of a four-year effort to establish a whooping crane population east of the Mississippi River.


A combination of bad weather and human interference caused a number of the latest batch of cranes to stray off course when they migrated from the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Their intended destination was the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.


Eight cranes ended up in Michigan in two groups. Three of the birds started making their way back to Wisconsin around the southern end of Lake Michigan -- the birds don't fly over large bodies of water because they can't see land. They landed at the Necedah refuge July 28.


But five cranes made their home in a wetlands in Newaygo County north of Grand Rapids. Sometime between July 23 and 27, one of the birds was killed. The remaining cranes have since moved to a wetlands in Gladwin County, west of Midland.


Another whooping crane, a female who has been missing since the flock left Florida in April, turned up in Michigan on July 30 and has been living a solitary life in Kalamazoo County.


"This is a 2-year-old bird who summered in Minnesota last summer," Ray said. "We think she just likes to travel. It's normal for unattached females to wander a little bit."


Their exact locations are kept secret to protect the cranes. The species was within 15 birds of extinction in the 1940s.There now are 433 whooping cranes in the United States and Canada. Even though the other four cranes are moving east, Ray said she is confident they'll find they're way home to Florida and end up in Wisconsin next summer.


The birds will begin their migration to Florida when the first major cold front moves through the state, said Ray. Their flight to the wildlife refuge about 60 miles north of Tampa could take as few as six days.


"We don't know when that will be for sure," Ray said. "The weather has been so weird this summer."


Another batch of 16 chicks was taken to Necedah earlier this summer to learn how to forage and fly south for the winter. They will begin their ultralight-guided flight to Florida in early October.

ChunkyC
09-16-2004, 10:44 PM
directionally challenged
Many women would claim their husbands suffer from this. :grin

lastr
09-17-2004, 09:13 AM
Many women would claim their husbands suffer from this. :rofl

lastr
09-17-2004, 09:17 AM
Llama on the lam

By TIM MOWRY, Staff Writer

There's a llama loose on the Chena Dome Trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area east of Fairbanks and nobody knows where it came from or what will become of it.
Hikers George Carroll and Lisa Dick encountered the llama on the trail Monday, about two miles from the trailhead at 49.1 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road.

A family of hikers coming down the trail warned Carroll and Dick that there was a llama ahead so they weren't as shocked as they might have been, he said.

"It was standing in the middle of the trail with no bridle or anything," said Carroll. "We tried to herd it back down the trail but it took off into the woods and came back out on the trail ahead of us.

"We weren't going to catch it," he said. "It was really skittish."

He described the animal as "a big, white llama."

When he got home, Carroll called both the Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Control Shelter and the Alaska State Troopers. Neither agency immediately responded to the report.

Troopers notified the Alaska Department of Fish and Game but Fairbanks area biologist Don Young said the state doesn't deal with llamas because they are considered a domesticated animal, no matter how skittish they are.

On Wednesday, acting manager April Barnes at Animal Control had heard only second-hand reports of the llama and hadn't talked to anyone who had actually seen it.

"I haven't received a complaint call regarding it," she said.

Not that Barnes is eager to dispatch animal control officers on a wild llama chase. It would take at least two of the borough's three animal control officers to catch the animal and even then there is no guarantee they could corral it.

"That's a lot of man time to dedicate somebody to drive 50 miles and hike a couple miles in on a trail to look for an animal they might not even see," she said. "If it's pretty wild it's going to be a big challenge."

Just how the llama ended up on the 28-mile Chena Dome Trail is a mystery, but it was first reported Sunday when a woman posted a "lost llama" sign at Valley Center Store at 23.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road after seeing the animal on the trail, said Becky Alexander at the store.

The ad said there was a "big, white, fluffy" llama on the Chena Dome Trail that needed to be rescued and provided the location of where it had been seen.

"We've had three people since then come in and tell us the llama is still there," said Alexander.

Whether the llama was abandoned or ran away is unclear. People often use llamas as pack animals but Alaska State Parks officials had not received any reports of a lost llama on the Chena Dome Trail, according to northern region parks superintendent Anna Plager, who learned of the llama on Wednesday when notified by the News-Miner.

"That is too weird," said Plager.

At this point, nobody knows what will become of the llama. Barnes was still checking into the situation on Wednesday and wasn't sure what Animal Control would do.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://www.news-miner.com/Stories/0,1413,113~7244~2390104,00.html)

lastr
09-18-2004, 10:08 AM
http://www.iol.co.za/data/picdb/0/1/newspic4146b087c6409

South African Independant News (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=143&art_id=vn20040914093103812C527517)

San Juan Y Martinez, Cuba - Rancher Raul Hernandez's cows look just like any other breed - only they are no larger than big dogs. They're a perfect source of milk for Cuban families, he says.

Standing 58cm to 71cm tall, the mini-cows can be kept in a small area and they feed on simple grasses and weeds, Hernandez says.

"They are patio cows, easy to work," the 74-year-old says, smiling under the broad hat he wears to keep off the tropical sun.

"They give up less meat, but they can deliver four or five litres of top quality milk to a family," he says.

After retiring from a state ranch where he worked for more than 30 years, Hernandez decided he wanted to keep working to remain busy and useful.

He acquired the Santa Isabel Farm in the tobacco-growing region of western Pinar del Rio province, about 200 kilometres west of Havana.

Amid the rolling hills surrounded by towering palm trees, Hernandez worked with local agriculture labourers to plant food crops. Then he decided to try breeding miniature cows.

Hernandez started out with a tiny bull, which neighbours had ridiculed because of its small size, and began breeding it with the littlest cows he could find. Five years and several generations later, he had a herd of cows that reach no higher than his waist.

He says his success has ranchers throughout the area pursuing breeding experiments of their own to come up with their own tiny cows. And Hernandez is training local teenagers to help care for the little animals.

"Now the neighbours are excited by the idea," he says. - Sapa-AP

awatkins
09-19-2004, 05:04 AM
"Patio cows."

Now, that's just cute. :lol

lastr
09-20-2004, 07:48 AM
http://www.pctonline.com/features/images/roachrobot.jpg

A Cockroach Inspired Robot (http://www.pctonline.com/news/news.asp?ID=2960)
CLEVELAND — While cockroaches are public enemy No.1 for many pest management professionals, this pest has proven to be an ideal model for cutting-edge research being performed at leading universities.

Cockroaches are an integral part of the research performed at the Biologically Inspired Robotics Lab at Case Western Reserve University (CASE) under the direction of Dr. Roger Quinn and in collaboration with Dr. Roy Ritzmann. This lab uses data from biological organisms such as the deathhead cockroach (Blaberus discoidalis) and crickets, to create robots that can flexibly traverse irregular terrain.

VIDEO (http://www.pctonline.com/files/video/robotmovie.avi)
CASE robotic researcher Dan Kingsley explains why cockroaches make such outstanding robotic models. “A cockroach uses its legs for different purposes — the front legs are dexterous like our arms and are used for sensing, reaching, climbing and turning and the rear legs are used for propulsion,” he says. “We wanted to model a robot after something robust and agile. Insects are remarkable creatures.”

CASE robotic researchers’ most recent creation is Robot V (Ajax), a robot based on the deathhead cockroach, which has six legs, two small front legs, two larger middle legs, and two large, powerful back legs. It also has the cockroach's shoulder motion, and artificial muscles that work using compressed air. Unlike cockroaches, which have 42 joints, Robot V has only 24 joints chosen based on studies in Ritzmann’s lab that indicate these are the most important for locomotion.

Robotic cockroaches also serve as models for understanding the mechanics of biological systems. For example, biologists in Ritzmann’s lab wanted to find out if and how cockroaches used a joint between their trochanter and femur segments. Modeling indicated that this joint could be used for climbing and subsequent high speed video analysis showed that this is the case. A 25:1 mechanical model of a cockroach front leg was constructed that included all of its joints and segments. This model has been used to understand and explain how the cockroach front leg functions.

Funding for this project comes from a variety of sources, notably Ohio Aerospace Institute, NASA and the United States Air Force and Navy. Kingsley says the ultimate goal of CASE’s research is to develop robots that can be used to explore rough terrains like planets, and also to create robots that can be used for purposes such as search and rescue and mine disposal

lastr
09-21-2004, 08:03 AM
The Facts (http://thefacts.com/story.lasso?ewcd=ade7c6a6e07c5620)

Planes douse fire ants

By Michael Wright
The Facts

Published September 1, 2004

DANBURY — Brutally efficient, merciless and rugged, fire ants have marched through the South wreaking havoc not seen since General Sherman, another redhead associated with fire, burned a path to the sea in the Civil War.

They established a beachhead in Mobile, Ala., in the 1930s, transported from South America on ships, and by the 1950s the first of their now ubiquitous mounds were spotted in Houston.

Now researchers are hoping these efficient invaders, who have marched over water and land, will prove vulnerable to air attack.

Wayne Thompson, Brazoria County’s agricultural extension agent, is using crop dusters to spread bait on pastures in Brazoria County.

Paul Nester with the state extension agency’s Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project said aerial spraying should be effective for large tracts of land, though they won’t use it in neighborhoods.

“Maybe in some of those areas that have five- to 10-acre ranchettes,” Nester said. “We will use ground equipment in urban areas.”

Thompson was encouraged by Tuesday’s test in planes from Garrett’s Flying Service to make sure the finely ground bait will come out and is evenly distributed, about a pound-and-a-half an acre.

The next step is to spray four fields, three in Brazoria County and one in Needville, and see if they get a reduction. If that works, then pasture owners may contract with flying services to get their fields sprayed.

The extension agency is concerned with more than the painful bites these tiny terrors deliver.

“This spring was very wet so the mounds became very tall,” Thompson said.

That presents a problem for farm equipment, which has to wait for the mounds to be knocked down or risk damage in going over them.

Worker ants will carry baits back to the mound to feed other ants. Those ants secrete food for the queen, so if a feeder ant passes the bait to the queen, the mound can be destroyed.

It sounds simple, but fire ants are a hardy breed. Getting them to take the bait requires finesse.

“They’re connoisseurs,” Thompson said. “They’re not going to go after nasty bait.”

The bait is good for about 48 hours, after which it begins to decompose.

Complicating matters further, one mound might have several queens, all of whom can reproduce at a rapid pace.

To top it off, fire ants are mobile. Anyone who’s been out in a Brazoria County flood has seen giant balls of the insects floating downstream.

The extension agency recommends a coordinated effort in neighborhoods because mounds often will move to the nearest untreated area.

lastr
09-22-2004, 09:19 AM
The Australian (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10661167%255E30417,00.html)

THE locals first noticed the platypuses, four plump resident pairs frolicking in a 200m stretch. Then came the reeds and, later, a channel carving a new course through the broad, dry bed.

They were only small steps, but in the rebirth of the once mighty Snowy River they were groundbreaking.

Over the past two years, signs of life have returned to the waterway that has lain mostly dormant since its headwaters were steered westward in 1952 to irrigate the nation's bread basket.

Already it is a recovery story that seems to have defied the meagre contributions made so far -- a doubling of flows from 2 per cent to a mere 4 per cent of original volumes.

More water will be reintroduced next June and a total of 21 per cent in seven years will follow.

"Look there along the ledge at the thick reed growth," said Jo Garland, a local of the tiny town of Dalgety, about 20km downstream from the Jindabyne Dam. "The flow level has changed and the edge of the river is getting bedded down. Slowly but surely it's building back up."

Ms Garland has been campaigning for the river's future for the past two years, since Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and his NSW counterpart Bob Carr turned on a new tap for the Snowy in April 2002 with a release of water at a weir on the Mowambah River.

Brian Henderson and his wife Anne moved into the lower stretch of the Mowambah around the same time. They say the quality and quantity of water running past their property has sharply improved.

"The number one thing is we are noticing more platypus," Mr Henderson said. "The river itself has definitely cleared up. The bottom of the river, which used to be dirty, is going back more to granite and stones.

"We have also noticed more fish over the past summer period in the 20-30cm range."

Among all the river's stakeholders, there is no dispute that the 21 per cent target will be reached. But where the water will come from is undecided.

The Snowy Hydro scheme, which is responsible for ensuring the environmental flows, two months ago started a $69 million overhaul of the Jindabyne Dam to build two large slits into the dam wall, which will release targeted flows. Before that happens, the Mowambah Weir will once again be redirected to Lake Jindabyne, starving the Snowy of water that comes straight from the alps.

It is a move that locals are resisting.

"The water coming down the Snowy now is alive and has all the macro-invertebrates needed to reinvigorate the river," Jo Garland said.

lastr
09-24-2004, 07:29 AM
http://www.sacbee.com/ips_rich_content/407-0923shark.jpg

MONTEREY - The star attraction here is an anonymous single white female with a storied past. (http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/10842251p-11760090c.html)People line up to gawk. They skip classes and cut out of work early. They stand shoulder to shoulder and talk about this one-of-a-kind phenomenon and how history suggests her days may be numbered.

They note her beauty, the impressive lines of a body built for speed and power and perfected over centuries.

When she passes by with that certain air of insouciance, the flashbulbs light up. She doesn't blink or flinch.


And never does she give the impression she wants to bite anybody's head off.
This is the great white hope of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a young white shark swimming behind glass 13 inches thick for all the world to see. For a $19.95 adult admission, it's the closest thing most people will ever come to a real-life "Jaws" experience.

No white shark - or great white shark as it is popularly known - has ever fed in captivity or survived longer than 16 days, which explains why people have been rushing for a glimpse.

As that milestone approaches here, the shark's caretakers are excited and nervous, watching her around the clock and celebrating every time she chomps down on a salmon filet dangled in front of her from a rope on a stick.

This shark is seemingly all things to all people. A scientific opportunity. A box office sensation. A media darling. To some in the animal rights community, she's yet another exploited animal trapped in a cage.

The issue spans the spectrum of animal ethics. Knowing that such sharks haven't survived captivity, is it fair to keep this one until it thrives or succumbs? Do many more sharks benefit if this one can help experts solve some of the scientific mysteries?

When is the experiment a success or failure? When it outgrows the aquarium? Devours all of its playmates? When it is found floating upside down in the tank?

Michael Murray, the aquarium's veterinarian, says the facility has a plan to return the shark to the wild at the slightest suggestion the experiment is not working. The shark could begin hitting the aquarium's walls. She could stop eating. Her color, her posture and the pace of her beating tail could change.

During a visit Tuesday - Day 8 on the shark watch - all signs were pointing to success.

Aquarium employees are chipping in to watch the creature, signing up for three-hour stints to observe her round the clock.

"It's nerve-racking. It's needing to be ready for whatever happens," said Randall Kochevar, the aquarium's science communications manager.

He noted the aquarium's gill shark once got too large for the exhibit. It was returned to the ocean off Humboldt County and apparently thrived for a few years before it was caught - and killed - by commercial fishermen.

The white shark nearly met the same fate. She was trapped in a halibut fishing net off the coast of Huntington Beach on Aug. 20 and kept in a 4 million-gallon ocean pen until transported to Monterey. The aquarium had put the word out that it was interested in acquiring one of the white sharks that often are caught accidentally in gill nets.

News of her first feeding had shark advocates and experts buzzing throughout the country. There is no other white shark currently in captivity.

"I commend Monterey for their efforts," said Bert Vescolani, a senior official at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. "They have an amazing history of exceptional animal care ... I'm a firm believer that people connect to live animals in ways you can't replicate on videotape or computer. In a zoological setting, you have the opportunity to see these animals up close for the first time."

John McCosker, former director of San Francisco's Steinhart Aquarium, presided over a failed white shark effort in 1980. The aquarium released its white shark after it had trouble navigating the tank and it seemed clear it would not survive after four days in captivity.

"I have thought long and hard about this. My view has always been that if we can't keep animals alive and well they shouldn't be kept at all," he said. "On behalf of sharks, there should be no mysteries or no mythologies. The more we know, the safer we will be and the safer they will be."

But Lisa Wathne, a captive animal specialist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was appalled to learn of the exhibit. The only solution, she says, is to release the shark.

"Here you have an animal who has experienced its natural home. To then be plopped into basically a bathtub has to be incredibly difficult and stressful," Wathne said. "They are deprived of everything that is natural to them. ... There is ample evidence that captivity does not help preserve species. The best example of that is elephants."

Wathne says the aquarium's major motivation is not animal welfare but money.

"When you go to places like this, you are supporting animal abuse," she said. "The best thing to do is stay away."

But people are flocking to the exhibit, crowding the darkened viewing area at "The Outer Bay" tank for a glimpse of the shark as it swims in a tank with other fish, from barracuda to tuna. A typical weekend this time of year draws about 5,000 visitors per day. With the white shark on the premises, attendance is up to 8,000 or more.

Despite the fanfare, aquarium officials have been careful not to give the white shark a name. They want visitors to see her not as a pet or novelty but as the wild creature she is. They also want to play a role in reducing fear or hatred of sharks and thereby attract advocates to saving them from slaughter in the wild.

Yet, the aquarium is not above hyping its prized possession - or making money from shark hysteria in general. The woman on the loudspeaker at "The Outer Bay" refers to the animal as the great white shark, even though experts like to call it by its commonly accepted name, the white shark.

At the gift shop, visitors can buy everything from books and videos on sharks and shark attacks to T-shirts and stuffed animals and shark key chains.

"Man, they got all this 'great white' stuff," said Rachel Wall, eyeing the display table.

"Didn't take them long," replied her friend, Danica Ludwig.

But the two 19-year-old students at California State University, Monterey Bay, are not entirely above the fray themselves.

"We ditched class to see the shark," said Wall. "Everybody is saying they don't last more than 16 days in captivity."

"I thought it was cute," added Ludwig, "though it was smaller than I thought it would be."

The young shark, barely 4 feet long, can't keep pace with her growing reputation. At maturity, white sharks can be more than 20 feet long and weigh more than three tons.

As of Friday, crowds were still large and officials said it was too soon to panic when the shark turned down the salmon fillet dangling in front of her.

lastr
09-25-2004, 08:29 AM
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1305688,00.html)

The sport of pigeon-racing, played by the honest British working man and the Royal family, has finally had to take measures against cheating.

Over a century of trusting fanciers - as enthusiasts are known - to play fair has ended with the despatch of 60 dope-testing kits to the country's main clubs.

Race organisers are now collecting droppings from the first three birds to make it home, along with a random selection from the rest of the field. The move has been made by the Royal Pigeon Racing Association after pressure from members who suspect rivals of using drugs.

"We've perhaps been slow to catch on," said Cameron Stansfield, the editor of the RPRA's magazine British Homing World. "I think there's been a feeling of 'we're British and we couldn't possibly cheat'."

Suspicion about anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs has also been driven by the lavish prizes available. Fanciers now travel from Britain to lucrative events such as the Million Dollar Pigeon Race in South Africa, or the nearby SkyComrades event which saw 892 birds compete for hundreds of thousands of pounds along a 400-mile course north of Cape Town.

Britain's pigeon droppings are also going to South Africa, after a long search failed to find a testing laboratory here with rates the sport could afford.
------------
Now that could be an interesting job - picking up pigeon poop for pill popping tests.

lastr
09-28-2004, 09:21 AM
AN armadillo (http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,10849299%255E1702,00.html) kitted out with a toy pistol holster, cowboy hat and sheriff's badge has been detained by Customs officials enroute from Texas to Adelaide.

The stuffed animal, which was mounted on its hind legs on a timber board, was detected while Customs officers screened international cargo in Sydney recently.

It is illegal to import armadillos without a permit.

The creature, which was being imported as a gift, was bound for an Adelaide address and Customs has issued a warning to the addressee.

Customs said the importation breached wildlife protection laws.

"Armadillos are a protected species listed under the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and Australia supports that convention," Customs regional director for South Australia Victoria Lynch said.

CITES protects more than 30,000 species of animals and plants worldwide.

Commercial importations can attract fines of up to $110,000 and prison sentences of up to five years.

The import and export of wildlife in Australia is regulated under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

lastr
10-06-2004, 06:39 AM
Tuesday, October 5, 2004
After tree infestation, bark beetle (http://www.kesq.com/global/story.asp?s=2390109&ClientType=Printable) numbers appears to drop

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - Biologists predict that the infestation of bark beetles that destroyed tens of millions of pine trees across Southern California might be nearing an end.

UC Riverside entomologist Timothy Paine says the number of trees that have been kiled over the last year has been declining, which suggests the beetle population is also declining.

And Paine says if it's a wet winter, "odds are good the beetle population will stay down."

Drought and infestations of bark beetles have killed millions of trees in the forests of San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, posing a major threat in a dangerous fire season. The tinder-dry conditions helped fuel last October's wildfires that burned more than 750-thousand acres in Southern California.

------------
Interesting connection between drought, beetles, and fires.

lastr
10-07-2004, 11:00 AM
Ig Nobel Prize awarded for fish fart research (http://www.fishupdate.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/2035/Ig_Nobel_Prize_awarded_for_fish_fart_research.html )

Ig Nobel Prize awarded for fish flatulence research

Published: 01 October, 2004


Flatulence may be a social faux pas for us, but for some fish it appears to be of great social value. Herring seem to fart to communicate with their neighbours at night – a discovery which scooped researchers Dr Bob Batty (Scottish Association for Marine Science), Dr Ben Wilson (University of British Columbia) and Professor Larry Dill (Simon Fraser University) an Ig Nobel award in Biology.

The prizes, which are an antidote to next week’s more serious Nobels, reward research that makes people laugh, then think (www.improbable.com). They are announced this evening at Harvard University, Massachusetts in front of a 1200 strong audience. Bob Batty and Larry Dill are attending the ceremony to pick up their prize.

The British/Canadian team became interested in fish farts when they noticed captive herring releasing gas bubbles from their rears at night. Using infrared lighting with video cameras and underwater microphones, they monitored the herring behaviour round the clock. “We heard these rasping noises, which sound like high pitched raspberries, only ever at night, whenever we saw tiny gas bubbles coming from the herrings’ bottoms”, reminisces Bob Batty.

The fish, which gulp air from the surface and store it in their swim bladder, can release it through a duct to their anus. Although it was already known that herring could release large clouds of bubbles to confuse predators, releasing small bubbles intermittently when not under threat had not been seen or heard before.

“We also noticed that individual fish release more bubbles the more fish are in the tank with them. In other words it seems that herring like to fart in company” says lead author Ben Wilson.

The noises are only heard at night and may act as a source of communication within the shoal. Batty speculates that fish at the front of a shoal fart to direct other shoal members in a particular direction, keeping the school together at night. During the day these fish use visual information, such as the pattern of light reflected off specialised mirror-like scales, to communicate.

*www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish European Fish Trader, Fishing Monthly, Fish Farming Today, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Fishermens’ Federation Diary, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.

lastr
10-07-2004, 07:45 PM
http://www.dogshome.org/images/medium_Red_Escapes_1.jpg

They Did - (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20041004/od_afp/britain_animals_dogs_041004161702)

LONDON (AFP) - Staff at Battersea Dogs Home were baffled after an apparent troublemaker released dozens of animals night after night, allowing them to raid the kitchen and cause chaos.

Little did they realise it was an inside job.

It was only after video surveillance footage was studied that the culprit was revealed to be Red, a lurcher who had been brought to the London refuge as an emaciated stray several months earlier.


Red had somehow learned to undo the bolt on his kennel, before then freeing a group of chosen companions for a raid on the kitchen, staff at the home said Monday.


The mystery break-outs had happened about a dozen times, Becky Blackmore told GMTV.


"They had lots of food, lots of fun and games, and caused loads of mess. We weren't too sure what was going on," she said Monday.


"There are lots of stories about Battersea being haunted so we wanted to make sure that there was an explanation for what was going on and we managed to catch the culprit."


She added: "It is amazing really because lurchers aren't particularly renowned for their intelligence. It is amazing that he has worked out how to get out of his own kennel but then also that he goes and lets all his friends out."


Red -- whose hungry life as a stray is believed to lie behind his obsession with food -- has now had his kennel made more secure.

Battersea's story and video of Red here (http://www.dogshome.org/images/medium_Red_Escapes_1.jpg)

ChunkyC
10-08-2004, 05:16 AM
:rofl Go, Red, go!

lastr
10-10-2004, 08:33 PM
'Frog's glue' could mend knees (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3726796.stm)

Knee joints can be replaced
A sticky substance from the skin of frogs could be used to repair human knee joints, scientists believe.
Australian researchers have already repaired torn cartilage on the knees of 10 sheep with this natural glue, which frogs use to trap insects.

They told New Scientist how it was far stronger than medical adhesives in current use.

The University of Adelaide team, with colleagues in Melbourne, is attempting to make its own version.

Sticky substance

The glue is secreted by two species of burrowing Australian frogs of the Notaden genus that live one metre underground.

These frogs only surface during torrential rain.

At these times they are vulnerable to attack from insects.

To protect themselves they secrete a glue that gums up the jaws of the biting insects and traps them to their skin, which they later eat.

We assumed the substance would be toxic, but when we found it wasn't, it made sense to explore it as a medical adhesive

Environmental biologist Mike Tyler

Environmental biologist Mike Tyler and his team tested the glue.

"We assumed the substance would be toxic, but when we found it wasn't, it made sense to explore it as a medical adhesive."

They found it hardened within seconds and stuck well, even in moist environments.

When set, it was flexible and had a porous structure that should make it permeable to gas and nutrients, which would encourage healing.

Knee repair

Mr Tyler teamed up with orthopaedic surgeon George Murrell of the University of New South Wales to test the glue in sheep with torn knee cartilage.

This cartilage, also found in human joints, acts as a shock absorber.

Knee cartilage can be damaged during sports and can be difficult to repair surgically.

Current synthetic adhesives are strong but they are somewhat toxic and form rigid, non-porous films that can hinder wound healing.

Biological glues tend to be too weak to fix parts of the body that have to withstand strong forces and wear and tear.

However, the frog glue held the damaged cartilage together well in the sheep.

A spokesman from Arthritis Care said: "This is a fascinating and encouraging development which would appear to be worthy of taking further.

"Many people with arthritis would also prefer the idea of natural substances being used in the scaffolding of a joint.

"However, only when such interventions reach the stage of being trialled among significant numbers of people will we really know whether the idea is as problem-free as it sounds."

Working with colleagues at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Melbourne, the scientists have characterised a key component of the glue and are now developing a genetically engineered version of this protein.

The findings were presented at a combined biological societies meeting, ComBio 2004, in Perth.

------------------
I like the frog's version of fishing for flies - *grin*

lastr
10-12-2004, 08:29 AM
Albatross Woes (http://starbulletin.com/2004/10/11/news/story7.html)

Organizations seek protection of albatross

Two environmental groups are asking that a seabird that nests almost exclusively in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands be placed on the endangered species list.

The groups filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service saying the listing is necessary to prevent extinction of the black-footed albatross.

The recent reopening of the Hawaii-based longline fishery for swordfish will likely result in the drowning of several thousand black-footed albatross each year, according to the petition by Center of Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Listing the bird as endangered "will protect the species far better than relying on the good will of the fishing industry," said Paul Achitoff, attorney for the law firm Earthjustice, which is representing the two groups.

"Unfortunately, we have seen too little good will and too many dead albatross," he said.

The albatross population was decimated in the early 20th century by hunters who shot the birds for their plumage.

The most serious current threat occurs when the birds become entangled and drown when they go after the baited hooks set by the industrial longline fishing industry to catch swordfish and tuna.

Scientists estimate that only about 60,000 nesting pairs survive today, and that unless actions are taken to reduce the current level of human-caused mortality, the species will likely go extinct in the coming decades, the environmental groups said.

As many as 14,000 black-footed albatross are estimated killed by longline fishing each year, according to a statement from the environmental groups.

The albatross, which also has a small nesting population in Japan, has a wingspan extending over six feet, and spend much of its time scooping fish eggs, squid and fish from the ocean surface. The birds also forage along the eastern coast of the United States.

lastr
10-15-2004, 07:09 AM
http://www.hindu.com/lf/2004/09/16/images/2004091611150201.jpg

Nothing ominous about the barn owl (http://www.hindu.com/lf/2004/09/16/stories/2004091611150200.htm)

THEY ARE feared and venerated, despised and admired, associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth and death.

They are barn owls.

On seeing a barn owl in their premises yesterday, employees of a private company in Royapuram got panicky. They called an animal welfare organisation to take the bird away. But the organisation asked them to release it. "Three more flew in, fluttered around and escaped," a worker said.

Ornithologists and bird researchers say that there is no need to get alarmed on seeing an owl in a house or office premises. They are human-friendly and have an important and useful function to perform — controlling the rodent population. Through this act, use of hazardous pesticides can be avoided, they point out.

Researchers say that the home range of an adult barn owl is 1,700 acres (2.7 square miles). They are not territorial and their home ranges overlap. They travel nearly two miles from their daytime roost site to hunt in roadside ditches, grassy fields, meadows and swampy areas.

Owls' hunting time starts just after sunset with the second hunting period about two hours before sunrise. When there are young ones to feed, hunting is constant, all night, bird-experts say.

Another observation by the researchers shows that on an average an adult owl will consume four to six rodents per night. While feeding the young ones, adults reduce their intake, which comes down to three. Due to this practice the adults lose a lot of weight.

Unlike other birds, the owls are not migratory ones. They wander away from their natal area in random directions in search of feed. Owls very rarely hunt during the day.

Vijay Cavale, a bird-watcher and nature photographer, observes that almost all barn owls that he has seen are from the urban habitats. Barn owls thrive in and around human settlements in villages, towns and cities. They are mostly resident in the same area all their lives. They are known to use many human structures like barns, church towers and ledges of tall buildings as their daytime roost. Worldwide, 30 subspecies have been described.

They are nocturnal hunters and feed mainly on small mammals like mice, rats, voles and shrews. A fairly common species all over India, the barn owls have adapted well to our cities.

"I would strongly urge that they be left alone even if found inside a house. They cause no harm to humans and of the 1200 species of birds found in India only a few have adjusted well to environments dominated by humans while several have perished for ever," he opines and warns: "Remember, we almost lost the sparrows too."


By P. Oppili

lastr
10-18-2004, 07:21 AM
Australian Dolphin Deaths Probe (http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,11078960%255E3462,00.html)

State dolphin tragedy may be 'tip of iceberg'
By MICHELLE PAINE
15oct04
DEAD dolphins and seals are regularly thrown away during fishing operations, says a former Tasmanian fisheries inspector.

The death of 14 dolphins in a trawler's net off Flinders Island on Sunday was the tip of the iceberg, said Robert McIntyre, of St Helens. His comments backed those from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, which said trawlers killed 300,000 whales and dolphins a year. The Australian Environment Department is holding an inquiry into the deaths. Seafish, the company that owns the vessel involved in Sunday's tragedy, said it hoped to modify its seal-excluder device to protect dolphins from further tragedy. Mr McIntyre said in his experience fishing boats did not report kills unless there was an observer on board. "It was common practice to throw away the dolphins and seals and all the other bycatch species," he said. "The Tasmanian Government has tried to discourage trawling because it's terribly, terribly unselective. "Dolphins are trapped and drown. If you saw what was thrown overboard dead, it could feed thousands of people." Seafish, based at Triabunna, said its only vessel had a special seal excluder -- with an escape hatch -- developed in part by director Gerry Green. Mr Geen said it was extremely rare for mammals to be caught. "We never would have imagined we'd catch a dolphin and I've haven't heard of trawlers in Australia catching dolphins," he said. "Obviously the device didn't keep out the dolphins and we'll be looking at how we can stop this happening again." The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said fishery management needed greater transparency. "Mid-water trawling is acknowledged as a major threat to marine mammals. Data is notoriously deficient and the Australian fishery is no exception," said WDCS spokeswoman Michelle Grady. She said dolphins suffered broken teeth, beaks, jaws and torn fins in their attempt to break free before drowning. "To be credible, statements that drowning is extremely rare must be backed by up adequate independent observer coverage," she said. Ms Grady said only one boat every six weeks was monitored. But Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute director Colin Buxton pointed out Seafish was contributing its resources to a sustainability project on redbait spawning. "We're not aware of dolphins being caught. We and this company are collaborating on sustainability," Professor Buxton said.

lastr
10-18-2004, 07:27 AM
http://www.themercury.news.com.au/images/att.gif

tjosban
10-21-2004, 07:40 AM
Amphibian Decline (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6249901/)

I think we have a serious problem on our hands before we even realize it.

lastr
11-02-2004, 08:07 AM
http://66.132.136.245/images/feature_camel1_192004.jpg

Qatar to use robots in camel races but denies abusing child jockeys (http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/todaysfeatures/2004/October/todaysfeatures_October39.xml&section=todaysfeatures)
(AFP)

19 October 2004



DOHA - Qatar is set to substitute robots for jockeys in camel races, a favorite sport in the oil-rich Gulf region, which has faced widespread criticism over the use of child, jockeys from the Indian subcontinent.


But the sport’s supreme in Doha insists Qatar never abused child camel jockeys in the first place and that the plan to use ”robot-jockeys” within the coming year was not in response to protests by human rights groups.

“We have successfully completed three phases in the production of the robot,” the president of the organizing committee of camel races in this Gulf state told AFP.

Trying to bring order to the national sport

“We are awaiting a visit by the engineers handling the project to start the fourth, and probably last, phase,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Faisal al-Thani.

He said the robot was being developed by a Swiss company but would not disclose further details, citing the terms of the contract with the unnamed firm. The robots are expected to be ready in 2005.

Sheikh Hamad announced last March that robot-jockeys had been used in a camel race for the first time and the practice would be repeated.

Gulf Arab monarchies are trying to bring order to the national sport in the face of protests over the trafficking of young children from the subcontinent as jockeys.

The US State Department and human rights groups have raised the alarm over the exploitation of children by traffickers who pay impoverished parents a paltry sum or simply resort to kidnapping their victims.

The children, mostly from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Pakistan, are then smuggled into the oil-rich Gulf States.

Employers to keep them light and maximize their racing potential often starve them. Mounting camels three times their height, the children -- some as young as six -- face the risk of being thrown off or trampled.

Officials in Qatar’s organizing committee of camel races have been proudly circulating sketches of the robots, which suggest the final product will be a much more advanced version of the one used on a trial basis earlier this year.

Qatar to ban jockeys under 18

One of the sketches shows a human-shaped robot in the saddle, while another features a remote control device to command the ’jockey’ to make hand movements to direct the camel.

According to Sheikh Hamad, the Swiss company was paid around 1.37 million dollars to produce the robots, which will cost just under 5,500 dollars apiece.

“The committee will buy 100 robots and rent them out at prices subsidized by the government,” he said.

But Sheikh Hamad refused claims that Qatar had abused or trafficked child jockeys.

“Our leadership seeks to make Qatar a state of law which upholds human rights, and we will never allow ourselves to act in a way that runs counter to this,” he said.

Defying critics to produce evidence of rights abuses, Sheikh Hamad said there were no Asian jockeys in the gas-rich Gulf state.

“All are Sudanese, who entered the country legally” accompanied by their parents or other legal guardians, he maintained.

There are some 100 youths aged nine to over 20 who are either professional camel jockeys or undergoing training in Qatar. Only jockeys aged 14 or more are allowed to take part in races.

An official said last month that Qatar was drafting a bill that would ban hiring people under 18 as jockeys for camel races. The legislation should be ready next April.

Camel owner Saqr al-Marrikhi told AFP he was prepared to “appear before any (tribunal) in the world and own up to my responsibility if it is proven that we exploit children” in any way.

“I’m a father. Would I allow anyone to exploit my son?” said Mohammad Saad, a Sudanese national accompanying his 12-year-old son to a school for child jockeys.

Qatar’s main camel race carries a prize of more than 190,000 dollars, 10 percent of which goes to the parent or guardian of the jockey, who also gets a monthly salary of up to 400 dollars.

camelraces.com (http://camelraces.com)