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Happy the hippo leaving DC for Milwaukee – sandy beach and females

This undated photo provided Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. shows Happy the hippo. The National Zoo’s solitary male Nile hippopotamus is heading to the Milwaukee County Zoo, where his new home will include a pool, a sandy beach and two potential girlfriends, Puddles and Patty. (AP Photo/National Zoo, Mehgan Murphy)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Happy the hippo could soon be a lot happier.

The National Zoo’s solitary male Nile hippopotamus is heading to the Milwaukee County Zoo, where his new home will include a pool, a sandy beach and two potential girlfriends, Puddles and Patty.

Zoo officials say they’re sad to see Happy go, but that Milwaukee will offer him a great life.

Happy is 28 and weighs about 5,500 pounds. He has to leave the National Zoo because his home is being eliminated for the expansion of the zoo’s elephant exhibit.

The Milwaukee zoo, meanwhile, is beginning a roughly $10 million expansion of its hippopotamus exhibit, part of which will allow visitors to watch hippos swimming underwater.

Happy is expected to move to Milwaukee this summer.

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Source: The Washington Post

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May 1, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Success Stories, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elephant Orphanage

(CBS)  This story originally aired on April 9, 2006.
at-elephant-reserve
Bob Simon pays a visit to a very special orphanage in Africa. It’s not for kids, but for baby elephants whose mothers were killed by poachers.  Video:Share/Embed

Stories about an orphanage are bound to yank at your heartstrings. The one 60 Minutes is going to tell you about is no exception — even though many alumni of the orphanage have gone on to lead full and happy lives. 

All these orphans are from East Africa. They were all abandoned when they were very young, less than two years old — and they’re all elephants. As correspondent Bob Simon reports, this orphanage is in Kenya, near Nairobi. It has been around almost 30 years. It’s a large place. It would have to be.


It has just about everything you would want in an orphanage: dormitories — each orphan has a private room. There is a communal bath, a playground, and a dining area. There are as many as 14 orphans here at any one time and they stay a number of years before going back to the bush. The regimen at the orphanage is anything but Dickensian. Unlike Oliver Twist, when one of these orphans asks for more, that’s what he gets. More.

 

The principal, headmistress, head nurse and CEO of the orphanage is Dame Daphne Sheldrick. She founded the place and has been working with elephants for 50 years.

What is the most extraordinary thing she has learned about elephants? 

“Their tremendous capacity for caring is I think perhaps the most amazing thing about them,” says Dame Daphne. “Even at a very, very young age. Their sort of forgiveness, unselfishness — they have all the best attributes of us humans and not very many of the bad.”

Just about the best people you’ve ever met are the gentle men who work here. 

They are called keepers, and they have extraordinary jobs. There is one keeper per elephant; he spends 24 hours a day with his charge, seven days a week. A keeper feeds his elephant every three hours, day and night, just like mom would. 

He keeps his elephant warm, not like mom would, but with a blanket. When it’s sleep time, the keeper beds down right next to his elephant. If he leaves, if ever so briefly, the baby wakes up and broadcasts his displeasure. The keepers are rotated now and then so that no elephant gets too terribly attached to any one of them.

At dawn, the elephants are taken from their dorms out to the bush. They hang out for a while and even play some games — soccer is a favorite. The elephants decide when it’s halftime by trotting off the field for a break.

The days are pretty much the same here. But on Fridays, the orphanage becomes a spa, when the keepers give the elephants a coconut oil massage. 

“We can’t do exactly what the mother can do, but we do something close to that,” explains Edwin Lusichi, the head of the keepers.

Meeting an elephant for the first time requires a proper introduction, as Simon learned when he visited the orphanage. There is a protocol to meeting an elephant. He will offer up his trunk, and he expects you to blow in it. That way, he will remember your scent forever. You will never be strangers again. 

The orphanage gets distress calls from all over Kenya — and from all over East Africa — that a baby elephant is on his own, often because his mother has been killed by a poacher. It is then a matter of great urgency: An orphaned elephant can only survive a few days without his mother. 

The baby elephant is loaded onto a plane and flown back to Daphne Sheldrick’s orphanage outside Nairobi, where he’ll stay until he’s strong enough to go back into the bush. 

Dame Daphne, who was just named a dame by Queen Elizabeth II, has been running the orphanage for almost 30 years. She was born and raised in Kenya and married David Sheldrick, Africa’s leading crusader against poaching.

When he died in 1977, she founded the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Back then, there were about 100,000 elephants in Kenya. Now there are about a quarter as many — largely due to poachers. Then, as now, the ivory from their tusks is a very valuable commodity. From the beginning, Daphne saw her mission as saving as many elephants as possible.

“It’s really lovely to see them now and then to think back how they were when they came in. It makes it all so worthwhile,” says Daphne.

But her mission hasn’t always gone smoothly. Twelve years ago, she was badly injured by a wild elephant and couldn’t walk for 15 months.

Asked if during those 15 months she ever thought that maybe she should do something else, Dame Daphne says, “Oh, no. I mean, I still had all the elephants. Never occurred to me at all. You know, you can’t just walk away from it.”

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April 30, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Stop Animal Cruelty, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

25% of Wild Mammal Species Are Imperiled

      

BARCELONA, Oct. 6 — At least a quarter of the world’s wild mammal species are at risk of extinction, according to a comprehensive global survey released here Monday.

The new assessment — which took 1,700 experts in 130 countries five years to complete — paints “a bleak picture,” leaders of the project wrote in a paper being published in the journal Science. The overview, made public at the quadrennial World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), covers all 5,487 wild species identified since 1500. It is the most thorough tally of land and marine mammals since 1996.

“Mammals are definitely declining, and the driving factors are habitat destruction and over-harvesting,” said Jan Schipper, the paper’s lead writer and the IUCN’s global mammals assessment coordinator. The researchers concluded that 25 percent of the mammal species for which they had sufficient data are threatened with extinction, but Schipper added that the figure could be as high as 36 percent because information on some species is so scarce.

Land and marine mammals face different threats, the scientists said, and large mammals are more vulnerable than small ones. For land species, habitat loss and hunting represent the greatest danger, while marine mammals are more threatened by unintentional killing by pollution, ship strikes and being caught in fishing nets.

While large species such as primates (including the Sumatran orangutan and red colobus monkeys in Africa) and ungulates (hoofed animals such as Africa’s Dama gazelle and the Malaysian tapir) may seem more physically imposing, the researchers wrote that these animals are more imperiled than smaller creatures such as rodents and bats because they “tend to have lower population densities, slower life histories, and larger home ranges, and are more likely to be hunted.”

Primates face some of the most intense pressures: According to the survey, 79 percent of primates in South and Southeast Asia are facing extinction.

Conservation International President Russell A. Mittermeier, one of the paper’s writers and a primate specialist, said animals in the region are being hit with “a triple whammy.”

“It’s not that surprising, given the high population pressures, the level of habitat destruction, and the fairly extreme hunting of primates for food and medicinal purposes,” he said in an interview. He added that some areas in Vietnam and Cambodia are facing “an empty forest syndrome,” as even once-populous species such as the crab-eating macaque, or temple monkey, are “actually getting vacuumed out of some areas where it was common.

In some cases, the scientists have a precise sense of how imperiled a species has become: There are 19 Hainan gibbons left in the wild on the island off China’s southeast coast, Mittermeier said, which actually counts as progress because there used to be just a dozen.

With others, including the beaked whale and the jaguar, researchers have a much vaguer idea of their numbers despite technological advances — such as satellite and radio tagging, camera tracking and satellite-based GPS (global positioning system) mapping. The authors of the assessment wrote that most land mammals occupy “areas smaller than the United Kingdom,” while “the range of most marine mammals is smaller than one-fifth of the Indian Ocean.”

The report on mammals came on the same day that the IUCN updated its “Red List” — a separate periodic survey of nearly 45,000 species of plants and animals — and concluded that 32 percent are threatened with extinction. Its scientists added 20 of the world’s 161 species of grouper to the list of those at risk of extinction, along with several tarantula species.

Jonathan Baillie, who directs conservation programs at the Zoological Society of London, said: “It’s a continual decline in all cases.”

Not all of the news was grim yesterday: IUCN officials said that the La Palma giant lizard, believed to be extinct for 500 years, was rediscovered last year in the Canary Islands and is now considered critically endangered.

The writers of the mammals assessment said the observed declines are not inevitable. “At least 5 percent of currently threatened species have stable or increasing populations,” they wrote, “which indicates that they are recovering from past threats.”

Said Mittermeier: “It comes down to protecting habitats effectively, through protected areas, and preventing hunting and other forms of exploitation.” As one example of how conservation can be effective, he noted that in areas where scientific researchers work, animals stand a much better chance of surviving. “Where you have a research presence, it’s as good or better than a guard force,” he said.

Schipper offered the model of the U.S. effort to bring back the black-footed ferret, which was essentially extinct on the North American prairie as of 1996. “Now it’s endangered, which, in this case, is a huge improvement,” he said. “When governments and scientists commit resources to a project, many species can be recovered.”

Monday’s reports come as researchers have been documenting effects of human-generated greenhouse gases. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found that ocean acidification spurred by carbon emissions will cause sound to travel farther underwater, because increasingly acidic seawater absorbs less low- and mid-frequency sound.

By 2050, the researchers predicted, sounds could travel as much as 70 percent farther in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and other areas, which may improve marine mammals’ ability to communicate but also increase background noise, which could prove disorienting.

“We understand the chemistry of the ocean is changing. The biological implications of that we really don’t know,” said ocean chemist Keith Hester, the lead writer. “The magnitude to which sound absorption will change, based mainly on human contribution, is really astounding.”

By Juliet Elperin, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A13

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October 9, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments