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Mon, 19 Feb 2018
The World for People who Think



31 year old lover of exotic animals killed by his pet python in the UK

Dan Brandon python
Dan Brandon kept 10 snakes and 12 tarantulas in his bedroom and was said to be responsible owner

A lover of exotic animals died of asphyxia after his 2.4-metre (8ft) pet African rock python called Tiny wrapped itself around him, a coroner has ruled.

Dan Brandon was found dead by his mother, Babs, in his bedroom in Hampshire, with the python concealed close by.

Ice Cube

Animals are frozen solid as temperatures drop to -56 Celsius in Kazakhstan

Animals including this dog have been frozen solid after temperatures dropped to minus 56C in Kazakhstan

Animals including this dog have been frozen solid after temperatures dropped to minus 56C in Kazakhstan
Animals have been frozen solid after temperatures dropped to minus 56C in Kazakhstan.

Videos show both a hare and a dog frozen to death amid bitter conditions sweeping across the vast Central Asian nation.

The hare was trapped while climbing through a fence before dying in the arctic conditions and its body had to be pulled free by locals.

The dog appears to have become stuck while walking through a snow-covered field.

Comment: See also: Kazakhstan hit by Arctic chill, temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius with 3 people freezing to death


Diver attacked by shark off New Caledonia

A shark has seriously injured a diver off New Caledonia.

The attack occurred off the beach in Nouville near Noumea where the man, who is in his 40s, was on an outing with his son and nephew.

The shark bit his body and arm.

He was rushed to hospital where he was initially put in an artificial coma.

Reports said the injuries were not life-threatening.


Dead whale discovered in Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand, second for the area in 4 months

dead whale
A carcass of a large 16-metre whale has been found in the outer Marlborough Sounds.

The dead whale was found caught up in a mussel farm in Port Ligar, near d'Urville Island, but was likely dead before it got tangled.

Department of Conservation spokeswoman Trish Grant said the carcass was that of a sei whale or a Bryde's whale, but DNA tests would confirm the species.

DOC received reports of the whale carcass on Monday.

Skin samples were taken from the whale for DNA analysis to help identify its exact species, Grant said.


Chinese scientists successfully clone genetically identical primates

Cloned Monkey
© Qiang Sun and Mu-ming Poo/Chinese Academy of Sciences
Zhong Zhong, a cloned long-tailed macaque.
Chinese scientists have announced the successful creation of two cloned monkeys, representing a major advance in cloning practice and potentially opening the way for a revolution in animal-model lab research.

The monkeys, long-tailed macaques called Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, are described in the journal Cell by a team led by Qiang Sun, director of the Nonhuman Primate Research Facility at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience.

The animals were cloned using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This was the method used to create Dolly the sheep, the first successfully lab-cloned mammal, in 1996.

Since then, it has been successfully used to clone other species, including mice and cows, but primates have remained stubbornly resistant.

SCNT involves removing the nucleus from an egg cell and replacing it with another derived from differentiated body cells. The implant then determines the animal that develops. Because it is theoretically possible to implant the same genetic information infinite number of times, it is therefore possible to produce (again, theoretically) an infinite number of identical animals - providing a perfect standardised cohort for medical research.


Swedish boar found with record levels of radiation 32yrs after Chernobyl disaster

© Bernd Settnik / www.globallookpress.com
Thirty two years on from the Chernobyl disaster, the highest ever radiation level measured in wild boar meat in Sweden has been recorded - a whopping 25 times greater than the safe limit for meat consumption.

The radioactive animal, shot in Tierp Uppsala County on the eastern coast of Sweden, was found to have a radiation level of 39,706 becquerel per kilo by the Radiation Safety Authority. The safe limit set by the Swedish Food Agency for meat consumption is 1,500 becquerel per kilo.

"It is the highest value we have measured since we invited hunters to send us samples," Paul Andersson at the Radiation Safety Authority told Jaktjournalen.

Arrow Down

Plague of rats: Parisian rubbish collectors warn highly aggressive rats have invaded the banks of the Seine

Paris rat infestation
© Urs Flueeler / EyeEm
Paris dustmen sound alarm over plague of rats on banks of river Seine

Paris rubbish collectors have released a video to sound the alarm over a plague of rats that have invaded the banks of the Seine, claiming that the rodents now pose a physical threat to dustmen.

Shot last month between the tourist landmark of the Musée d'Orsay and the Pont Royal, the film shows a huge group of the large vermin desperately trying to escape from a deep plastic municipal rubbish bin.

The dustman who shot the film, known only as David, can be heard shouting: "Look in the bin, there are a million rats!"

He said colleagues were so overwhelmed, they simply shut the bin and "crushed" all the rats in their garbage truck.

The "horror" scene was, according to the municipal collector, far from a one-off.

"For the past year, we've seen a proliferation of rats in all the arrondissements on the banks of the Seine," the dustman told Le Parisien, the French capital's daily newspaper. He said the situation was no longer tenable "both for Parisians and tourists who come to visit the most beautiful city in the world".


Smart critters - Crows make hooked tools

New Caledonian crow
© James St Clair
A New Caledonian crow with a freshly fashioned hook.
The manufacture and use of tools has long been touted as a line of demarcation between humans and non-human animals: our technological prowess is what makes us human, it was thought. But research over the last few decades has blurred that line, as tool manufacture and use, and even the use of tools to make other tools (known as meta-tool use), has been reported in an increasing number of species.

Meta-tool use has been seen in numerous primate species, but among nature's most prolific tool-makers and users are the corvids: members of the Corvidae family, such as ravens, magpies and, importantly, crows. Crows in Japan and California, for example, have been observed to use cars lined up at traffic lights to crack open difficult nuts.

In 1996 Gavin Hunt at the University of Auckland reported in Nature the remarkable discovery that New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) manufactured and used tools while trying to catch prey. The tools had features previously seen only in early human cultures after the Lower Palaeolithic period, which ended 200,000 years ago. They were remarkably standardised, came in distinct types with distinct shapes, and, importantly, used hooks.


Deer are dying from mysterious chronic wasting disease sparking concerns the infection could spread to humans

chronic wasting disease deer, deer zombie virus
Deer across North America are dying from a mysterious disease that gradually destroys the animals' nervous systems.

And scientists are concerned that the infection could make its way to humans.

Chronic wasting disease - or "zombie deer disease" - was first observed in 1967 in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has since infected wild herds in 24 states and Canada, as well as in South Korea and Norway, NPR reported.

"CWD passes from animal to animal through prions, misfolded proteins that cause other proteins to misfold around them," NPR reported. "Different prion diseases tend to only harm certain species, but can evolve to overcome those limitations."

Snowflake Cold

At least 12 snowy owls from the Arctic found dead in Kansas, likely starved to death

This snowy owl was photographed while alive
© Bob Gress
This snowy owl was photographed while alive but was later found dead at Lake Cheney. The birds normally inhabit the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia but have been pushed south this winter.
A snowy owl was found dead recently at Cheney Lake Reservoir.

It most likely starved to death.

It is among nearly a dozen snowy owls found dead this winter by wildlife officials, and there may be more.

More than five dozen of the majestic white owls have shown up in Kansas this winter, pushed far from their usual habitat of the Arctic.

"Several of us, based on information, believe three-fourths of the owls seen in Kansas will not survive," said Chuck Otte, secretary of the Kansas Ornithological Society. "That's not uncommon. These are first-year birds hatched this year. In the wild, 80 percent of birds do not survive the first 12 months. People get upset about this but it's a rough world out there."