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Inspiring: Animal Wonders News Articles

Below are key excerpts of inspiring news articles on animal wonders from reliable news media sources. If any link fails to function, a paywall blocks full access, or the article is no longer available, try these digital tools.

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Penguin travels every year to visit man who rescued him
2016-03-11, CBC (Canada's public broadcasting system)
http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/dindim-o-lindo-pinguim-1.3487668

Ever since a 71-year-old Brazilian man rescued a struggling penguin, he's been receiving regular visits from his feathered friend. Joao Pereira de Souza, a retired bricklayer, lives ... just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. In 2011, he spotted a starving Magellanic penguin drenched in oil on the beach near his house. Naming the penguin Dindim, Pereira de Souza fed him every day until he was strong enough to leave, according to a video from the University of Rio de Janeiro. But the penguin refused to go. Pereira de Souza decided to row a boat out into the water and drop Dindim off to encourage him to swim home. But when he rowed back to shore, he found the penguin waiting for him. "He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared," Pereira de Souza told TV Globo, a Brazilian TV network. Magellanic penguins regularly swim thousands of kilometres a year to breeding spots on the coast of Argentina and Chile. From time to time, penguins show up in warmer Brazilian waters. Many of Pereira de Souza's friends thought that when Dindim finally left, that was it for the human-bird friendship. But a few months later, Dindim returned and found Pereira de Souza. He visits for about four months, a ritual kept for the last five years. "He arrives in June and leaves to go home in February, and every year he becomes more affectionate," Pereira de Souza told TV Globo. De Souza appears to be the only person who can get near Dindim. If others try, he pecks them or waddles away.

Note: Don't miss a video on this incredible friendship. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Hero rats sniff (and snuff) out landmines and TB
2014-09-26, CNN News
http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/26/world/africa/hero-rats-sniff-out-landmines-and-tb/

Traditionally, you wouldn't gift someone a rat. Tanzania-based NGO Apopo, however, thinks rats make excellent gifts. So much so that they've launched an adopt-a-rat program, which allows participants to sponsor the animal. Despite the creatures' reputation for thieving and spreading disease, [Apopo's founder Bart] Weetjens has proven that rats can ... save lives. Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands. They are highly trained to sniff out land mines and detect tuberculosis - two scourges that have had a tremendously negative impact across the African continent. And his rats are fast. A single rat can clear 200 square feet in an hour (done manually, the same area would take 50 hours to clear). A TB-detection rat can evaluate 50 samples in eight minutes (almost a day's work for a lab technician). In 2006, Weetjens started testing his "hero rats," as he dubs them, on the mine fields in Mozambique, a country that at that time was one of the worst affected by landmines, thanks mainly to a civil war that ended in 1992. Since then, Apopo has cleared the country of 6,693 landmines, 29,934 small arms and ammunition, and 1,087 bombs. Mozambique is on track to be free of landmines by the year's end. In 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a TB crisis in Africa. It's a problem Weetjens realized he could address with his sniffer rats. So far, they've analyzed over 260,000 samples from health clinics in Dar es Salaam. They are cheap to train, cheaper to procure, and plentiful.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


What does cancer smell like? These animals can sniff it out
2023-02-27, National Geographic
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/these-animals-detect-disea...

Next time you’re irritated that ants have gotten into your kitchen, you might take a moment to consider their extraordinary powers of perception. These tiny animals can detect markers of illness, such as cancer. In fact, ants are just one of many creatures whose senses can register signs of human disease: dogs, rats, bees, and even tiny worms can as well. The silky ant, Formica fusca, a common species found throughout Europe, can be taught to identify the scent of breast cancer in urine. Research from the University Sorbonne Paris Nord in France published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows ants can learn to distinguish between the scent of urine derived from mice carrying human breast cancer tumors from that of healthy mice. Ants and other animals pick up signs of disease by perceiving various volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These chemicals are produced in a variety of ways and can be found in exhaled breath, and in sweat, urine, and blood. Diseases can change the VOCs we emit, resulting in giving off a different odor. By placing a sugar reward near the cancer sample the ants learned to seek out that scent, a process called operant conditioning. Dogs can be trained to smell several types of cancers, including melanoma, breast and gastrointestinal cancers and some infectious diseases in humans, including malaria and Parkinson’s disease. They can also smell infectious disease in other animals, including chronic wasting disease, which affects the brains of deer and can be fatal.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Blue Planet 'shark dancer' reveals how she's able to relax the predators simply by rubbing an area around their mouths
2019-03-27, Daily Mail (One of the UK's popular newspapers)
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-6855429/Blue-Planet-star-turns-sha...

A professional diver has revealed how she uses a little known technique to placate sharks so she can remove hooks from their mouths. Italian-born Cristina Zenato, 47, who is known as 'the shark dancer' is often filmed on the ocean floor with 8ft sharks playing around her and nestling into her knees. The conservationist, who lives on Grand Bahama, has perfected the technique of relaxing the sharks, which is part of her efforts to save them by removing hooks that are caught in their fins. She induces the 'tonic' state in the shark using a little-known technique of rubbing the ampullae of Lorenzini - the name given to hundreds of jelly-filled pores around the animal's nose and mouth. A 'tonic' state is where a shark enters a natural state of paralysis, often by being turned upside down, for up to 15 minutes. The pores act as electroreceptors detecting prey moving in the electromagnetic field around the shark - but also for some reason rubbing them turns 'Jaws' into a sleeping baby. This gives Cristina the time she needs to remove the hooks. 'The first time I put a shark to sleep was my second dive with them,' Cristina [said]. 'This big female swam straight into my lap. The most amazing thing was this 8ft shark just swimming into me and resting her head on me. 'I started crying into my mask because it was so amazing, so unique.' Over the years Cristina has collected more than 200 hooks that have been caught in sharks, and has built up so much trust she's been able to put her whole arm into a shark's mouth to pull out a hook.

Note: Don’t miss this awesome 3-minute video of Cristina removing hooks from the sharks who then snuggle her. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Shelter Dogs and Prison Inmates Give Each Other a New 'Leash' on Life
2014-09-03, Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patricia-fitzgerald/who-rescued-who-shelter-...

August 9, 2014, was one of the most memorable days of my life. On that day I entered a maximum-security prison in Lancaster, Calif. to witness an extraordinary event connecting the lives of some of its inmates with a pack of rescued shelter dogs. Five lucky dogs ... were pulled from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles and entered this Level 4 prison for a chance at a better life. Earlier this year, Karma Rescue, a nonprofit that saves at-risk dogs from high-kill shelters across Southern California, partnered with the California State Prison Los Angeles County in Lancaster to create "Paws for Life," a program that matches rescued dogs with inmates who train them to boost their odds of adoption. Fourteen inmates were ... selected to train five shelter dogs who stayed at the prison this summer for a 12-week program. From the very beginning, the program struck a chord with everyone involved. Karma Rescue's founder Rande Levine wrote, "Men who had not seen an animal in decades were openly emotional at the sight of the beautiful creatures before them. Just petting our dogs brought many to happy tears. It was a day I will never, ever forget." Several times a week, professional dog trainer Mark Tipton and several dedicated Karma Rescue volunteers drove out to the prison to instruct the inmates on how to train their assigned dogs for 'Canine Good Citizen' certification, a designation that increases the chance that a dog will be successfully adopted.

Note: Don't miss the moving pictures of this inspiring program at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Dolphins Guide Scientists to Rescue Suicidal Girl
2014-05-29, National Geographic
https://web.archive.org/web/20180421002455/https://blog.nationalgeographic.or...

My research team and I were following a school of bottlenose dolphins near shore ... off Los Angeles, California. The dolphins were still feeding in circle near shore, when suddenly, one individual changed direction heading out toward deeper water. A minute later, the rest of the school turned to follow. Seeing them abruptly leave a foraging ground and change direction came as a surprise to the research team. I decided to follow them. The dolphins increased their speed. Somewhere near three miles offshore the dolphin group stopped, forming a sort of ring around a dark object in the water. “Someone’s in the water!” yelled my assistant, standing up and pointing at the seemingly lifeless body of a girl. As the boat neared, she feebly turned her head toward us, half-raising her hand as a weak sign for help. If we didn’t act immediately, the girl would die. We [pulled] the frail and hypothermic body on board. “She is cyanotic,” said one of my researchers, also a lifeguard, after a cursory examination. “She has severe hypothermia. We need to get her warm!” We managed to get some of her wet garments off and wrap her in a blanket. We took turns keeping her warm by huddling with her under the blanket. A couple of hours later, we were all waiting outside the emergency room at the Marina del Rey hospital. The ER doctor came out to talk with us. The girl, it seems, would pull through, and he thanked us for our quick action. He tells us the girl was vacationing in L.A. from Germany and, as the letter found in her plastic bag explained, she was attempting suicide. If we hadn’t found her, if the dolphins hadn’t led us offshore when they did, to that specific place, she would have died.

Note: This article has been adapted from the book Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist. For more on the amazing capacities of dolphins and other marine mammals, as well as the threats they face from human activities, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.


A Murmuration of Starlings
2011-11-03, The Atlantic
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/11/video-a-murmuration-of-...

This is your moment of zen today. Two adventurers set out in a canoe and happened upon a [flock of] starlings (collectively known as a murmuration) doing their amazing collective dance in the sky. Watch the video. Just take it in. The starlings' coordinated movements do not seem possible, but then, there they are, doing it. Scientists have been similarly fascinated by starling movement. Those synchronized dips and waves seem to hold secrets about perception and group dynamics. Last year, Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi took on the challenge of explaining the [phenomenon]. What he found ... is that the math equations that best describe starling movement are borrowed "from the literature of 'criticality,' of crystal formation and avalanches -- systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation." They call it "scale-free correlation," and it means that no matter how big the flock, "If any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others." It's a beautiful phenomenon to behold. And neither biologists nor anyone else can yet explain how starlings seem to process information and act on it so quickly. It's precisely the lack of lag between the birds' movements that make the flocks so astonishing.

Note: Don't miss the hauntingly beautiful video at the link above. For more, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.


Elephant 'self-portrait' on show
2006-07-21, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/5203120.stm

Art graduate Victoria Khunapramot, 26, has brought [remarkable] paintings from Thailand, [including] "self-portraits" by Paya, who is said to be the only elephant to have mastered his own likeness. Paya is one of six elephants whose keepers have taught them how to hold a paintbrush in their trunks. They drop the brush when they want a new colour. Mrs Khunapramot, from Newington, said: "Many people cannot believe that an elephant is capable of producing any kind of artwork, never mind a self-portrait. But they are very intelligent animals and create the entire paintings with great gusto and concentration within just five or 10 minutes - the only thing they cannot do on their own is pick up a paintbrush, so it gets handed to them. They are trained by artists who fine-tune their skills, and they paint in front of an audience in their conservation village, leaving no one in any doubt that they are authentic elephant creations." Mrs Khunapramot, who set up the Thai Fine Art company after studying the history of art in St Andrews and business management at Edinburgh's Napier University, said it took about a month to train the animals to paint.

Note: For an amazing video clip of one of these elephants at work, click here. For more on this fascinating topic, click here and here.


If we can farm metal from plants, what else can we learn from life on Earth?
2022-04-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/15/farm-metal-from-plants-...

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with researchers in northern Greece who are farming metal. They are experimenting with a trio of shrubs known to scientists as “hyperaccumulators”: plants which have evolved the capacity to thrive in naturally metal-rich soils that are toxic to most other kinds of life. They do this by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems, where it can be harvested like any other crop. As well as providing a source for rare metals – in this case nickel, although hyperaccumulators have been found for zinc, aluminium, cadmium and many other metals, including gold – these plants actively benefit the earth by remediating the soil, making it suitable for growing other crops, and by sequestering carbon in their roots. Hyperaccumulators are far from being the only non-humans that we might learn from. Physarum polycephalum, a particularly lively slime mould, can solve the “travelling salesman” problem – a test for finding the shortest route between multiple cities – faster and more efficiently than any supercomputer humans have devised. Spiders store information in their webs, using them as a kind of extended cognition: a mind outside the body entirely. A new conception of intelligence is emerging from scientific research: rather than human intelligence being unique or the peak of some graduated curve, there appear to be many different kinds of intelligence with their own strengths, competencies and suitabilities.

Note: This was written by James Bridle, an artist and technologist who was able to paralyze a self-driving car using salt and road markers. For more on his work, check out his fascinating perspective on how artificial intelligence technologies could be designed based on cooperation and relationships naturally reflected in living systems, as opposed to competition and domination.


How giant African rats are helping uncover deadly land mines in Cambodia
2019-09-10, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-giant-african-rats-are-helping-uncover-...

How giant African rats are helping uncover deadly land mines in Cambodia
September 10, 2019, PBS
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-giant-african-rats-are-helping-uncover...

From Angola to the former Yugoslavia, land mines are a lethal legacy of wars over long ago. Cambodia is among the most affected countries, with millions of buried explosives that kill and maim people each year. Now, an organization is deploying an unexpected ally to find mines: the giant pouch rat, whose sharp sense of smell can detect explosives. Mark Shukuru is head rat trainer in Cambodia for the Belgian non-profit APOPO. He is from Tanzania, where this species is also native, and he learned early that they have some of the most sensitive noses in the animal kingdom. Each comes out of a rigorous program in Tanzania that trains them to distinguish explosives from other scents. Each time they sniff out TNT buried in this test field, a trainer uses a clicker to make a distinct sound, and they get a treat. Since 2016, APOPO's hero rats have found roughly 500 anti-personnel mines and more than 350 unexploded bombs in Cambodia. They're the second animal to be deployed in mine clearance. Dogs were first. Animals can work much faster than humans, although, when the land is densely mined, metal detectors are considered more efficient. APOPO plans to bring in some 40 more rats to expand the force and replace retirees. Each animal works about eight years, and then lives out the rest of its days alongside fellow heroes, all working toward the day when they can broadcast to the world that Cambodia has destroyed the last unexploded bomb.

Note: Don't miss the cute video of these hero rats at work, available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Dolphins recorded having a conversation 'just like two people' for first time
2016-09-11, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/09/11/dolphins-recorded-having-a-conv...

Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices". Researchers have known for decades that the mammals had an advanced form of communication. But scientists have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak. Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Ukraine, recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, called Yasha and Yana, talking to each other in a pool. Each dolphin would listen to a sentence of pulses without interruption, before replying. Lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov, said: “Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people. “Each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin's spoken language. “The analysis of numerous pulses registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [sentences] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other's pulses before producing its own. “This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language. This indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins. Their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language.”

Note: Learn more about the amazing world of marine mammals.


Dogs Can Detect Malaria. How Useful Is That?
2018-11-05, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/health/dogs-malaria-mosquitos.html

Dogs have such exquisitely sensitive noses that they can detect bombs, drugs, citrus and other contraband in luggage or pockets. Is it possible that they can sniff out even malaria? And when might that be useful? A small pilot study has shown that dogs can accurately identify socks worn overnight by children infected with malaria parasites even when the children had cases so mild that they were not feverish. In itself, such canine prowess is not surprising. Since 2004, dogs have shown that they can detect bladder cancer in urine samples, lung cancer in breath samples and ovarian cancer in blood samples. Trained dogs now warn owners with diabetes when their blood sugar has dropped dangerously low and owners with epilepsy when they are on the verge of a seizure. Other dogs are being taught to detect Parkinsons disease years before symptoms appear. The new study ... does not mean that dogs will replace laboratories. But for sorting through crowds, malaria-sniffing dogs could potentially be very useful. Some countries and regions that have eliminated the disease share heavily trafficked borders with others that have not. For example, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the island of Zanzibar have no cases but get streams of visitors from Mozambique, India and mainland Tanzania. And when a region is close to eliminating malaria, dogs could sweep through villages, nosing out silent carriers people who are not ill but have parasites in their blood that mosquitoes could pass on to others.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Animal Communicators Prove its Possible to Hear an Animals Thoughts
2016-01-19, Waking Times
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2016/01/19/animal-communicators-prove-its-possible...

Animal communicators are people who can fully communicate with an animal just as they would with a normal human person. The communication is telepathic and 2-way. Animal communicators have most likely existed for a long time, probably in every single culture in the world. Anna Breytenbach is a professional animal communicator. Anna was summoned in the case of the black leopard who had been moved to a South African wild cat park. He was given the name Diabolo (similar to the Spanish word for devil) and ... snarled at anyone who went near. The owners of the park were afraid of approaching him. They summoned an animal communicator (Anna) for help. After communicating with the leopard, she learnt that one of the reasons for him being upset was that he thought something was expected of him. The other reason was that he was worried about what had happened to 2 young cubs at the last place he was being kept. When Anna relayed this to the park owner, [he] broke down and cried. He confirmed that they were indeed 2 young cubs at the previous place. He told Anna to reassure the black leopard that nothing would be expected of him here - and that the 2 young cubs were safe. This relieved the leopard to the point where he opened up and became friendly. His name was subsequently changed to something more fitting Spirit. There is no way Anna could possibly have known this information beforehand. She learnt it telepathically. She was told this by an animal!

Note: Watch videos of several animal communicators in action at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


'Psychic' parrot expected to ruffle scientific feathers
2001-02-12, USA Today
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/2001-02-12-parrot.htm

N'Kisi may look like an ordinary Congo African gray parrot, but she's the subject of a series of telepathy experiments by a former Cambridge University researcher who says the results are "astounding." "The parrot seems to be able to pick up her owner's thoughts with an amazing degree of accuracy," says Rupert Sheldrake, a former Royal Society researcher at Cambridge and author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. N'Kisi's owner, Aimee Morgana of Manhattan, ... says she first noticed N'Kisi's psychic abilities when she saw an explicit picture in the Village Voice personals. "I was thinking, 'Wow, that's a pretty naturalistic work.' " Then, she says, N'Kisi spoke from the parrot's cage across the room: "Oh, look at the pretty naked body." Sheldrake was interested. He explored N'Kisi's psychic abilities using a double-blind test. He asked Morgana to look at photographs in one room while the parrot was in a cage in another. One camera videotaped Morgana looking at photographs, another camera about 55 feet away videotaped the parrot, who made comments that seemed to correspond to many of the photos Morgana was looking at. N'Kisi made 123 comments during the test sessions, and 32 of those were "direct hits" corresponding to the images Morgana was looking at. The chances of that occurring, Sheldrake says, are less than 1 in a billion. Telepathy is made possible, he says, by the emotional bonds between people and animals. "In the case of N'Kisi, there's a very strong connection between her and Aimee."

Note: For a nine-minute video of this fascinating experiment, click here. For a sample of N'Kisi talking, click here. For a brilliant lecture by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, the above-mentioned researcher, questioning the rigid dogmas of the current scientific paradigm, click here.


Meet Jasmine, the dog who has become a surrogate mother for the 50th time
2008-12-31, Daily Mail (One of the UK's largest-circulation newspapers)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1103645/Meet-Jasmine-rescue-dog-surro...

When Jasmine the abandoned greyhound arrived at a wildlife sanctuary shivering and desperate for food, she needed all the love in the world to nurse her back to full health. Now it appears the kindness and patience shown to her has rubbed off – for the ... dog has become a surrogate mother for the 50th time. Seven-year-old Jasmine is currently caring for tiny Bramble, an 11-week-old roe deer fawn found semi-conscious in a nearby field. She cuddles up to her to keep her warm, showers her with affection and makes sure nothing is matted in her fur. She has had plenty of practice, having cared for five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and even 15 rabbits. Jasmine was brought to the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary by the police in 2003, having been found dumped in a garden shed. She was cold, filthy and malnourished. It took a few weeks for her to fully trust staff at the centre but with tender loving care she was nursed back to full fitness. Five years on, Jasmine is now the one looking after stray waifs. Geoff Grewcock, who runs the sanctuary, said: "She simply dotes on the animals as if they were her own, it's incredible to see. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings. As soon as an animal is brought in, she walks over takes a sniff or two and then licks and cuddles them. It is quite amazing."

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


'Bees are sentient': inside the stunning brains of nature’s hardest workers
2023-04-02, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/02/bees-intelligence-minds-p...

When Stephen Buchmann finds a wayward bee on a window inside his Tucson, Arizona, home, he goes to great lengths to capture and release it unharmed. This March, Buchmann released a book that unpacks just how varied and powerful a bee’s mind really is. The book, What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories and Personalities of Bees, draws from his own research and dozens of other studies to paint a remarkable picture of bee behavior and psychology. It argues that bees can demonstrate sophisticated emotions resembling optimism, frustration, playfulness and fear, traits more commonly associated with mammals. Experiments have shown bees can experience PTSD-like symptoms, recognize different human faces, process long-term memories while sleeping, and maybe even dream. Approximately one-third of the American diet, including many fruits, vegetables and nuts, relies on bees for pollination. In the past, bee research has focused on their role in crop pollination, but the work being pioneered by Buchmann and his contemporaries could force an ethical reckoning with how the animals are treated. Can large-scale agriculture and scientific research continue without causing bees to suffer, and is the dominant western culture even capable of accepting that the tiniest of creatures have feelings, too? Buchmann hopes an ethical shift will happen as details about the emotional lives of invertebrates – especially bees – are shared with the public.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Penguin Becomes ‘Guide Bird’ Companion For Zoo Pal Suffering with Cataracts: Waddle I do Without You?
2024-02-10, Good News Network
https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/penguin-becomes-guide-bird-companion-for-his-...

A penguin has become a ‘guide-bird’ for a fellow African Penguin with poor eyesight, escorting her around their enclosure to get food and build confidence. The animal helper named ‘Penguin’ has bonded with ‘Squid’ the three-year-old that suffers from cataracts, a debilitating condition that clouds the lens of the eye. Squid is often disoriented during busy feeding times and relies on Penguin’s “unwavering calmness”. Penguin has become Squid’s beacon, guiding her around the enclosure and acting as her ‘eyes’. The hand-reared birds are now inseparable—to the delight of their human keepers at Birdworld who are sharing their remarkable relationship. “The intuitive behavior observed between Penguin and Squid has revealed a remarkable level of empathy and understanding, showcasing the profound connections that can form within the animal kingdom,” said Polly Branham a spokesperson for the aviary in Surrey, England. Having been nurtured within the colony, Squid honed her skills alongside her peers—learning the essence of being a penguin—but she used to be quite anxious about approaching the fish bucket at feeding time. “The excitement of the other penguins created a more unpredictable environment, and she would shy away from this for fear of getting caught in the crossfire of beaks,” explained Branham. “That is how Penguin has been such an enormous help to her. “His stability was something she could rely on.”

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Need to track animals around the world? Tap into the 'spider-verse,' scientists say
2024-02-01, NPR
https://www.npr.org/2024/02/01/1228141523/track-animals-edna-spiderweb

The rich tapestry of life on Earth is fraying, due in large part to human-caused habitat loss and climate change. As more species disappear, researchers are racing to track this global decline in biodiversity to understand its consequences and counteract it through conservation initiatives. Those efforts rely on accurate animal monitoring, which can be difficult, time-consuming and costly. Now, in new research published in the journal iScience, researchers present evidence for a new low-cost, noninvasive tool that can be used to monitor animals: spiderwebs. They're using environmental DNA, or eDNA, which is simply different creatures' DNA just lying around in the environment. Previous work showed that webs are good sources of insect DNA, including what spiders are gorging on. But [evolutionary biologist Morton] Allentoft and [student Josh] Newton wanted to see whether the webs were also trapping DNA from vertebrate animals. So Newton ... collected spiderwebs. Back in the lab, Newton amplified the small amounts of DNA from the webs. They were filled with genetic material from animals. "It was wonderful," says Allentoft. "We could see these kangaroos [and] wallabies." There were nine other mammals, 13 species of birds, the motorbike frog and the snake-eyed skink. In other words, the technique worked. It represents a new way of tracking animal biodiversity and alerting us when we should intervene to conserve native species.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


'Genius' dogs learn new words after hearing them just four times, study finds
2021-01-26, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/01/26/genius-dogs-learn-new-words-heari...

Genius" dogs learn new words after hearing them just four times, a study has found - making them as quick as three year olds. Dogs which have a special talent for remembering verbal cues can rapidly expand their vocabulary simply by playing with their owners, according to the research. Whisky, a four-year-old female Border Collie from Norway, and Vicky Nina, a nine-year-old female Yorkshire terrier from Brazil, were able to fetch the correct toy after being exposed to the object and its name just four times, despite not receiving any formal training. Scientists say these highly intuitive dogs are therefore able to learn new words at the same speed as toddlers aged two and three. To test whether most dogs would be as successful as Whisky and Vicky Nina at learning new words, 20 others were tested in the same way - but none showed any evidence of understanding the new toy names. This confirms that only very few dogs which are especially gifted are able to learn words quickly in the absence of formal training, the scientists concluded. However, the study did reveal that Whisky and Vicky Nina's memory of the new toy names decayed over time due to them only hearing the names a few times.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


Watching Whales Watching Us
2009-07-12, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/magazine/12whales-t.html?partner=rss&emc=rs...

Scientists have now documented behaviors like tool use and cooperative hunting strategies among whales. Orcas, or killer whales, have been found to mourn their own dead. Just three years ago, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered, in the brains of a number of whale species, highly specialized neurons that are linked to, among other things, the use of language and were once thought to be the exclusive property of humans and a few other primates. Indeed, marine biologists are now revealing not only the dizzying variety of vocalizations among a number of whale species but also complex societal structures and cultures. Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us. For all of their inherent elusiveness, the gray whales of Baja baffle scientists for the opposite reason: They cant seem to get enough of us humans. The question of why present-day gray-whale mothers, some of whom still bear harpoon scars, would take to seeking us out and gently shepherding their young into our arms is a mystery that now captivates whale researchers and watchers alike. There may be something far more compelling going on in the lagoons of Baja each winter and spring. Something, lets say, along the lines of that time-worn plot conceit behind many a film, in which the peaceable greetings of alien visitors are tragically rebuffed by human fear and ignorance. Except that in this particular rendition, the aliens keep coming back, trying, perhaps, to give us another chance.

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Clever canines can understand an average of 89 words
2021-12-09, BBC News
https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/59580613

We all talk to our dogs, whether it's calling their name, playing fetch or teaching them new tricks. But do they actually understand the words we're saying? Well according to a new study, they do! The research has found that dogs can recognise an average of 89 words or phrases. The study asked 165 owners of different dog breeds to note down words that they thought their dogs responded to. The results showed the most common words the pooches understood were commands like sit, stay and wait. The research was carried out by Catherine Reeve and Sophie Jacques, from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, in Canada. During the study, dog owners were asked to say if they thought their pup responded to the words or commands they were giving. The owners then had to record if their pet got excited, looked for something, looked up or did an action in response to a command. The research found that 89 words was the average number that the dogs could understand - one clever canine is believed to have understood 215 words in total - but the worst performing pooch knew only 15. Nearly all of the dogs that took part in the study reacted to their own name and many gave a response when being praised. The researchers said: "Those of us who have owned dogs would not be surprised to see most dogs respond with an enthusiastic tail wagging or a treat-seeking response on hearing, good girl/good boy."

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Dogs Do It, Birds Do It, and Dolphins Do It, Too. Here Are 65 Animals That Laugh, According to Science
2021-05-19, Smithsonian Magazine
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/study-finds-65-animals-laugh-180977...

People seem to love nothing more than anthropomorphizing our non-human counterparts in nature. These videos might make us giggle, but what about the creatures that star in them, can they laugh? The answer, according to a new paper studying animals at play, may be yes—to the tune of some 65 species that researchers pegged as “laughing” during bouts of playful activity, reports Mindy Weisberger for Live Science. “This work lays out nicely how a phenomenon once thought to be particularly human turns out to be closely tied to behavior shared with species separated from humans by tens of millions of years,” says Greg Bryant, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and co-author of the study. Most of the 65 species identified by the study, which was published last month in the journal Bioacoustics, were mammals, such as primates, foxes, killer whales and seals, but three bird species also made the list. For animals, the researchers suggest, a laughing noise may help signal that roughhousing, or other behavior that might seem threatening, is all in good fun. “[Some actions] could be interpreted as aggression. The vocalization kind of helps to signal during that interaction that 'I'm not actually going to bite you in the neck. This is just going to be a mock bite,'” [said] Sarah Winkler ... the paper’s lead author. “It helps the interaction not escalate into real aggression.” Many of the animal laughs identified by the study sound nothing like a human chuckle. For example, Rocky Mountain elk emit a kind of squeal.

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Honeybees Trained to Sniff Out Cancer
2013-11-25, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/11/25/honeybees-trained-to-sniff-out...

Bees may soon be able to take some of the sting out of cancer by detecting it early and getting patients into treatment sooner. Honeybees are known for their exquisitely sensitive sense of smell. They don't have noses, but their feet, tongues and antennae are packed with olfactory glands. They can also be quickly trained to do their "waggle dance" when they associate a specific smell with a food source. Taking advantage of these facts, Portuguese scientist Susana Soares has invented a two-chambered glass dome that uses bees to snuff out cancer. "The glass objects have two enclosures: a smaller chamber that serves as the diagnostic space and a bigger chamber where previously trained bees are kept for the short period of time necessary for them to detect general health," Soares wrote on her website. "People exhale into the smaller chamber, and the bees rush into it if they detect on the breath the odor that they were trained to target." Soares said she could train bees in 10 minutes to identify cancer and other diseases, such as tuberculosis and diabetes in their early stages. By exposing the insects to the odor molecules produced by an illness and then feeding them sugar, they learn to associate the smell with a food reward. Soares said that her bee chamber was an inexpensive, sustainable and highly accurate diagnostic tool. And, she points out, bees, as well as wasps, are already used regularly to sniff out land mines and illegal drugs.

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Seal’s mystery ability to tolerate toxic metal could aid medical research, say scientists
2023-04-29, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/29/seals-mystery-ability-to-...

One of the world’s most isolated aquatic mammals, Arctocephalus philippii, can tolerate high levels of cadmium, as well as other metallic pollutants, without suffering ill effects. A. philippii is the second smallest species of fur seal and lives only on the Juan Fernández archipelago and one or two nearby islands in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles off the coast of Chile. By the 19th century, the species had disappeared and was believed to be extinct until, in the 1960s, a small colony was found in a cave on the island. Since then, the Juan Fernández seal, which has become a protected species, has slowly recovered and has a population of around 80,000. “We collected samples of their faeces and found they contained extremely high levels of cadmium and other elements such as mercury,” said Constanza Toro-Valdivieso of Cambridge University’s conservation research institute. “The discovery was very surprising,” she said. “Cadmium is poisonous to mammals but somehow these seals were processing it and passing it through their digestive systems and seem to be suffering little harm in the process.” High levels were found not only in its faeces but in the bones of seals that had died of natural causes. The researchers also found high levels of silicon in their bones, which may be offsetting the impact of cadmium, they suggest. “The discovery that these animals appear to tolerate high levels of cadmium in their bodies has important medical implications,” said Toro-Valdivieso. “These animals have a lot to tell us.”

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Ants can be better than pesticides for growing healthy crops, study finds
2022-08-17, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/17/ants-can-beat-pesticides-...

Ants can be more effective than pesticides at helping farmers produce food, according to new research. They are better at killing pests, reducing plant damage and increasing crop yields, according to the first systematic review of ants’ contributions to crop production. Ants are generalist predators and hunt pests that damage fruits, seeds and leaves, leading to a drop in crop yields. A greater diversity of ants generally provides more protection against a wider range of pests, the study found. The analysis looked at 17 crops, including citrus, mango, apple and soya bean in countries including the US, Australia, the UK and Brazil. “In general, with proper management, ants can be useful pest controls and increase crop yield over time. Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs,” researchers wrote in the paper published in Proceedings of Royal Society B. There are more ants than any other insect, making up half of the planet’s insect biomass. There are at least 14,000 known species of ant, with many more likely to remain unknown. Citrus growers in China have used ants in farming for centuries, and the insects have also been used to help control forest pests in Canada, cocoa pests in Ghana and crop pests in Nigeria. Dr Patrick Milligan, from the University of Nevada Pringle Lab ... said the findings were “both heartening and not at all surprising”. He added: “They offer a neat and tidy description of ant-derived benefits that are ubiquitous across ecological and agricultural systems.

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This Styrofoam-eating ‘superworm’ could help solve the garbage crisis
2022-06-17, Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/06/17/plastic-eating-superworm...

A plump larva the length of a paper clip can survive on the material that makes Styrofoam. The organism, commonly called a “superworm,” could transform the way waste managers dispose of one of the most common components in landfills, researchers said, potentially slowing a mounting garbage crisis that is exacerbating climate change. In a paper released last week in the journal of Microbial Genomics, scientists from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, showed that the larvae of a darkling beetle, called zophobas morio, can survive solely on polystyrene, commonly called Styrofoam. The findings come amid a flurry of research on ways bacteria and other organisms can consume plastic materials, like Styrofoam and drinking bottles. Now, the researchers will study the enzymes that allow the superworm to digest Styrofoam, as they look to find a way to transform the finding into a commercial product. Industrial adoption offers a tantalizing scenario for waste managers: A natural way to dispose and recycle the Styrofoam trash that accounts for as much as 30 percent of landfill space worldwide. Among plastics, Styrofoam is particularly troublesome. The material is dense and takes up a lot of space, making it expensive to store at waste management facilities, industry experts said. The cups, plates and other materials made from it are also often contaminated with food and drink, making it hard to recycle. Polystyrene fills landfills, where it can often take 500 years to break down.

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Adorable moment a beluga plays rugby with a group of South African supporters just days after their World Cup win
2019-11-07, Daily Mail (One of the UK's most popular newspapers)
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7662865/Beluga-whale-spotted-playing...

A beluga whale has been filmed passing a rugby ball back and forth with crew on a passing boat. The whale was filmed approaching the South African Gemini Craft boat in the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. A member of the boat's crew threw a rugby ball out the to the whale. The animal grabbed the ball in its mouth before swimming back to the boat. The video has been viewed more than one million times since it was uploaded to Facebook and the footage has spread like wildfire across numerous sites such as Reddit. A number of amazed people have left comments in disbelief of the beluga whale's skills. 'I can't believe what I'm seeing,' one person said. Another one commented: 'How many people can say they've played fetch with a beluga?' The Gemini Crew had earlier been sailing near the Norwegian town of Hammer fest, which recently gained media attention about a possible Russian spy whale swimming in its waters. Russia is understood to have moved a pod of beluga whales to a secret Arctic base before one of the sea creatures reportedly swam to Norway. A beluga was found wearing a harness marked 'equipment of St Petersburg' around the area in April. The sea creature, which had the harness for a camera, was hanging around the port performing tricks for locals in return for food, with many residents joking he had 'defected'. Russia has dismissed claims its 'spy whale' was caught snooping on the fishing vessels of a NATO country.

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Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language, has died
2018-06-21, CNN News
https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/21/health/koko-gorilla-death-trnd/index.html

Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language and showed the world what great apes can do, has died. She died Tuesday in her sleep at age 46. "Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy," the [The Gorilla Foundation] said. The western lowland gorilla was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971 and began to learn sign language early in life. Researchers moved her to Stanford in 1974 and established The Gorilla Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to preserve and protect gorillas. Koko and The Gorilla Foundation later moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains. She liked to read and be read to. She purred at parts of books she particularly enjoyed. She was very maternal toward kittens, and has had several throughout her lifetime. Her "tenderness" showed people how loving a gorilla can be, the foundation said. Koko made famous friends like Fred Rogers, who appeared on TV as Mr. Rogers, and Robin Williams. She used her sign language skills to communicate with them. She was said to have understood some 2,000 words of spoken English, and could usually keep up with conversations. Koko appeared in several documentaries and twice on the cover of National Geographic. The first cover featured a photo she'd taken of herself in a mirror. The foundation will continue its work on conservation and preservation of gorillas with continued projects, including a sign language application featuring Koko.

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What Humpback Whales Can Teach Us About Compassion
2017-08-18, Smithsonian.com
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-humpback-whales-teach-us-co...

[Humpbacks whales] deliberately interfere with attacking killer whales to help others in distress. They dont just defend their own babies or close relatives. They intervene on behalf of other species - a gray whale calf with its mother, a seal hauled out on an ice floe, even an ocean sunfish. Humpbacks act to improve the welfare of others; the classic definition of altruism. Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist ... describes a pivotal encounter he witnessed in Antarctica in 2009. A group of killer whales washed a Weddell seal they were attacking off an ice floe. A pair of humpbacks ... inserted themselves into the action. One of the huge humpbacks rolled over on its back and the 180-kilogram seal was swept up onto its chest between the whales massive flippers. And when the seal started slipping off, the humpback, according to Pitman, gave the seal a gentle nudge with its flipper, back to the middle of its chest. Moments later, the seal scrambled off and swam to the safety of a nearby ice floe. Pitman started asking people to send him similar accounts. Soon he was poring through observations of 115 encounters between humpbacks and killer whales, recorded over 62 years. So are humpbacks compassionate? When I pose the ... question to Pitman he [responds], When a human protects an imperiled individual of another species, we call it compassion. If a humpback whale does so, we call it instinct. But sometimes the distinction isnt all that clear.

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In a Shaken Orlando, Comfort Dogs Arrive With Unconditional Love
2016-06-16, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/17/us/in-a-shaken-orlando-comfort-dogs-arrive-...

On the Monday following the Orlando massacre, 12 golden retrievers arrived in the Florida city. They had come to offer comfort to some of the victims of the attack, the families of those killed and the emergency medical workers. The animals are part of the K-9 Comfort Dogs team, a program run by the Lutheran Church Charities. Founded in 2008, the team has comforted victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. Tim Hetzner, the president of the charity, said that the dogs in Orlando were helping to provide a feeling of safety, allowing those in distress to relax their guard and express their vulnerability during a difficult time. Weve had a lot of people here that start petting the dog, and they break out crying, he said. The dogs and their 20 handlers have visited hospitals and churches, and attended vigils and memorial services. On Wednesday, they visited some of the hospitalized victims. People couldnt get out of their bed, so we had to bring the dog up so they could pet the dog while laying down, Mr. Hetzner said. They start smiling, and in a couple cases, they started talking as much as they could. Comfort dogs ... are often employed by therapists and medical doctors to help soothe patients. Studies have shown that they can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression as well as the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. There are more than 120 dogs in the K-9 Comfort Dog unit, in 23 states. All of them have received extensive training similar to that of a service dog.

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Man Goes The Distance For Tiny Hummingbird His Dog Helped Rescue
2016-04-26, CBS (Los Angeles affiliate)
http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/04/26/man-goes-the-distance-for-tiny-humm...

A man in Whittier has gone the distance for a tiny hummingbird his once-feral dog helped rescue. As Ed Gernon explains, last year he adopted a German shepherd mix named Rex, that at the time fought other dogs and killed cats. He was dangerous, said Gernon of Rex. He was an animal that had learned to live on the streets and to survive on his own. One afternoon just a month after Rexs adoption, the dog became the rescuer, saving a very tiny and sick hummingbird. And he suddenly stopped and he would not move, he recalls. I mean its tiny and its dead as far as Im concerned. Its covered in ants. Its got no feathers. But thats not where the story ends. Hummer as she is called is now living in Gernons home a year later. But its been a long road. In fact, Gernon had to nurse Hummer back to health (quite literally). He feeds her a special formula every 15 minutes from sun up to sun down and even taught her how to fly using a hair dryer. You find yourself doing stuff you never thought in a million years you would do, he said. And even Rex is willing to share his water bowl with Hummer. It was this little creature. This fragile creature that the whole world wanted to kill and he was trying to protect her so I thought Id go the distance, said Gernon. Its been more than a year since Hummer arrived and Gernon knows eventually she will spread her wings. Its time for her to start mating and I keep leaving the doors and windows open thinking shell leave, he said. But while shes here, he says her little wings have made a big impact.

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Crocodile crazy: The man who enjoys giving his dangerous 'companion' kisses and cuddles
2009-08-17, Daily Mail (One of the UK's largest-circulation newspapers)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1206872/Crocodile-crazy-The-man-enjoy...

Known as the 'Crocodile Man', Costa Rican animal lover Chito swims, plays and even feeds Pocho the giant crocodile in what is one of the world's most unlikely friendships. 'This is a very dangerous routine but Pocho is my friend and we have a good relationship,' says 52-year-old Chito. 'He will look me in the eye and he does not attack me. It is too dangerous for anyone else to come in the water. It is only ever the two of us.' The bizarre friendship began nearly 20 years ago when Chito rescued the 980-pound crocodile after finding him close to death ... shot in the left eye by a cattle farmer after preying on a herd of cows. Chito enlisted the help of several friends to load the massive reptile into his boat. Naming him 'Pocho' (meaning strength), the fisherman says he healed the reptile with medicine, food, and, more importantly, lots of care and attention. 'When I found him in the river after he was dying so I put him in my boat and I brought him into my house,' recalls Chito. 'He was very skinny, weighing only around 150 pounds, so I gave him chicken and fish and medicine for six months to help him recover.' During the recovery process, Chito stayed by Pocho's side, even sleeping with him at night. 'I just wanted him to feel that someone loved him, that not all humans are bad,' Chito says.

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Veterans using dogs to help with PTSD
2018-05-03, The Journal-Gazette/Washington Post
http://www.journalgazette.net/features/20180503/veterans-using-dogs-to-help-w...

Every month, a new cycle of training begins with yet another class of veterans in a program run by the northern Florida K9s for Warriors. The seven-year-old nonprofit is one of dozens of private organizations that offer psychiatric service dogs to address the military's mental health crisis. The numbers are startling on veteran suicides, and this is working, said Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor who quit to become chief executive of K9s for Warriors. A recent [Purdue University] study ... used standard questionnaires to assess PTSD symptoms and other aspects of mental health among 141 K9s for Warriors applicants, half teamed with a service dog and half on a wait list. Those with dogs showed significantly lower levels of post-traumatic stress, depression and social isolation, with higher levels of psychological well-being. Dogs have provided services to humans for millennia, often as hunting and herding partners. But not until World War I were they systematically trained to assist people with disabilities, as guides for the blind. Service dogs now prompt deaf people when a doorbell rings, retrieve pills for people in wheelchairs and alert people with diabetes to blood sugar spikes. Psychiatric service dogs [blend the missions of] of task-oriented service canines and animals seen as providing emotional support. While the dogs paired with veterans with PTSD are commonly trained to wake them from nightmares ... advocates also laud their ability to soothe a panicking vet and provide companionship.

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Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals
2018-01-30, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jan/31/orcas-killer-whales-can-imita...

New research reveals that orcas are able to imitate human speech, in some cases at the first attempt, saying words such as hello, one, two and bye bye. The creatures are already known for their ability to copy the movements of other orcas, with some reports suggesting they can also mimic the sounds of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. We wanted to see how flexible a killer whale can be in copying sounds, said [study co-author] Josep Call. We thought what would be really convincing is to present them with something that is not in their repertoire and in this case hello [is] not what a killer whale would say. Only a fraction of the animal kingdom can mimic human speech, with brain pathways and vocal apparatus both thought to determine whether it is possible. That is what makes it even more impressive even though the morphology [of orcas] is so different, they can still produce a sound that comes close to what another species, in this case us, can produce, said Call. Wikie, a 14-year-old female orca ... had previously been trained to copy actions performed by another orca when given a human gesture. After first brushing up Wikies grasp of the copy command, she was ... exposed to five orca sounds she had never heard before. Finally, Wikie was exposed to a human making three of the orca sounds, as well as six human sounds. Wikie was often quickly able to copy the sounds, whether from an orca or a human, with all of the novel noises mimicked within 17 trials.

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Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law
2021-05-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/12/animals-to-be-formally-recognis...

Animals are to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law for the first time, in a victory for animal welfare campaigners, as the government set out a suite of animal welfare measures including halting most live animal exports and banning the import of hunting trophies. The reforms will be introduced through a series of bills, including an animal sentience bill, and will cover farm animals and pets in the UK, and include protections for animals abroad, through bans on ivory and shark fins, and a potential ban on foie gras. Some of the measures – including microchipping cats and stopping people keeping primates as pets – have been several years in preparation, and others – such as the restriction of live animal exports – have been the subject of decades-long campaigns. George Eustice, the environment secretary, said: “We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws. Our action plan for animal welfare will deliver on our manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animal exports for slaughter and fattening, prohibit keeping primates as pets, and bring in new laws to tackle puppy smuggling.”

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Birds can 'dance' to music, researchers say
2009-05-01, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/01/MNPU17C72F.DTL

After studying a cockatoo that grooves to the Backstreet Boys and about 1,000 YouTube videos, scientists say they've documented for the first time that some animals "dance" to a musical beat. The results support a theory for why the human brain is wired for dancing. In lab studies of two parrots and close review of the YouTube videos, scientists looked for signs that animals were actually feeling the beat of music they heard. The verdict: Some parrots did, and maybe an occasional elephant. But researchers found no evidence of that for dogs and cats, despite long exposure to people and music, nor for chimps, our closest living relatives. Why? The truly boppin' animals shared with people some ability to mimic sounds they hear, the researchers say. The brain circuitry for that ability lets people learn to talk, and evidently also to dance or tap their toes to music, suggests Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. He proposed the music connection in 2006. He also led a study of Snowball that was published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology. A separate YouTube study, also published Thursday by the journal, was led by Adena Schachner, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard University. In sum, the new research "definitely gives us a bit of insight into why and how humans became able to dance," Schachner said. A video of Snowball bobbing his head and kicking like a little Rockette to music has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube since it was posted in 2007. Snowball's movements followed the beat of his favorite Backstreet Boys song ... even when researchers sped up the tune and slowed it down.

Note: To watch videos of Snowball dancing to the Backstreet Boys and Huey Lewis, click here.


Dolphin rescues stranded whales
2008-03-12, CNN/Associated Press
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/nz.whales.ap/

A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said. The actions of the bottlenose dolphin -- named Moko by residents who said it spends much of its time swimming playfully with humans at the beach -- amazed would-be rescuers and an expert who said they were evidence of the species' friendly nature. The two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, were found stranded on Mahia Beach, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the capital of Wellington, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith. Rescuers worked for more than one hour to get the whales back into the water, only to see them strand themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea. It looked likely the whales would have to be euthanized to prevent them suffering a prolonged death, Smith said. "They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea." Along came Moko, who approached the whales and led them 200 meters (yards) along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea. "Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the whales," Juanita Symes, another rescuer, told The Associated Press. "She got them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing experience. The best day of my life." Smith speculated that Moko responded after hearing the whales' distress calls. "They had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her."

Note: To watch a video featuring Moko's rescue of the whales, click here.


Inspiration on wheels: Disabled dogs visit rehab patients
2011-09-06, MSNBC
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/44407043/ns/today-good_news/t/inspiration-wheel...

Cruising in their custom wheelchairs, Chili and Arlo are the center of attention wherever they go. But for patients at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas, these two canine caregivers are also an inspiration. Many of the patients are new to wheelchairs, Linda Marler, the programs director [said]. When they see Chili and Arlo, they say, If those dogs can do it, so can I. Chili and Arlo are the only dogs with disabilities among the 90 specially trained therapy dogs that participate in Baylors Animal Assisted Therapy program. The canine volunteers make weekly visits to lift the spirits of patients who have suffered traumatic injuries or a stroke. We use the dogs to create more of a home atmosphere and also to get a response, Marler said. Shes found that animals will often elicit a reaction when every other method has failed. For head injury patients, a dog has been the first thing they respond to when emerging from a coma, Marler said. For others, being with a dog is what motivates them to speak or throw a ball. Or use a wheelchair. Marler says some of the patients who had been reluctant to use one are willing to give it a shot after spending time with Arlo and Chili.


The Emotional Lives of Animals
2011-03-02, Yes! Magazine
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/can-animals-save-us/we-second-that-emotion

Scientific research shows that many animals are very intelligent and have sensory and motor abilities that dwarf ours. Dogs are able to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes and warn humans of impending heart attacks and strokes. Elephants, whales, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and alligators use low-frequency sounds to communicate over long distances, often miles; and bats, dolphins, whales, frogs, and various rodents use high-frequency sounds to find food, communicate with others, and navigate. Many animals also display wide-ranging emotions, including joy, happiness, empathy, compassion, grief, and even resentment and embarrassment. Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a relative or companion. Do animals marvel at their surroundings, have a sense of awe when they see a rainbow, or wonder where lightning comes from? Sometimes a chimpanzee, usually an adult male, will dance at a waterfall with total abandon. Ravens and many other animals live by social norms that favor fairness and justice. And outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a dog rescued an abandoned baby by placing him safely among her own newborn puppies. Amazingly, the dog carried the baby about 150 feet to where her puppies lay after discovering the baby covered by a rag in a field.


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