Tigers Minks Moths Chickens And Golden Retrievers

Hurst: Hey Carol!  How are you liking these colder days we’ve had recently?

Carol: Aw, that’s mean.  You know I’m a wimp about cold weather.  In fact, this next story really put a chill in my heart thinking about people who might leave their pets out in the cold.  But under a new law in Pennsylvania, individuals who leave a pet leashed and alone outside for longer than 30 minutes in temps greater than 90 degrees or less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit could face up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines.

Hurst: That’s good to hear!  We’ve got some cold days ahead still.  Speaking of pooch news, the Washington Post did a story on a very cool longitudinal study of golden retrievers who will ultimately help us understand why dogs get cancer.  It’s being hailed as the first and largest lifetime study of pets.

Carol:  Huh! That’s awesome!  I think. Many pet owners worry about one day hearing that diagnosis and all of the hard treatment decisions that come after that. How does the study work?

Hurst: Well, since it is longitudinal, the researchers are logging medical and lifestyle data on over 3,000 golden retrievers – keeping track of what they eat, where they sleep, their favorite toys, and a whole host of facts about the general environment in which they live.  The hope is that over the lifetime of the dogs, we’ll be able to see patterns in the risk factors that may contribute to cancer.  It could lead to some possible insights about human health as well, since our pets are often in the same environment that we are.

Carol: Wow, that’s an innovative and compassionate study that seems like it will yield some really valuable insights.  Just curious – why goldens?

Hurst: They are slightly more at risk for cancer than other breeds, they are very popular pets, and because of their goofy, friendly demeanor, they tend to be right alongside their humans most of the time, making it easier to collect data points and perhaps draw inferences about environmental conditions.

Carol: They are a little goofy, aren’t they?  What a great study to know about! What’s next on the news menu?  

Hurst: Nice segue.  Did you hear the rumors about a meat tax? This could have far-reaching repercussions for the meat industry, the environment, and of course animals.

Carol: I did hear about that, it was less of a rumor, more of a warning. The Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return issued a warning that they foresee a meat tax in the future. This tax would compensate for “the true cost of livestock epidemics like avian flu and human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance”, according to Jeremy Coller, the founder of FAIRR.

Hurst: Not only is industrial farming known for its unethical treatment of animals, but farmed meat is a huge contributor to climate change. Chicken is said to be the most efficient of farmed meats, however even this contributes to climate change forty times more per calorie than soy.

Carol: There are just soy many reasons to stop eating meat!

Hurst: Indeed. I read an interesting article this week about how light pollution is affecting pollinating insects like moths. At night, they are drawn towards artificial light and away from flowers. This is a growing issue because artificial nighttime lighting has increased over 70 percent throughout Europe and North America.

Carol: Is it really such a problem that moths are flying towards street lights at night?

Hurst: Absolutely! Ecologists recently did a study that found plants that grow near streetlights experience less nighttime pollination, which results in less fruit. This is not only harmful to crops and food production, but also the reproduction of many plant species. While there are more daytime pollinators than nighttime pollinators, some studies show that nighttime pollinators are more efficient. It is estimated that a third of all cash crops rely on animal-mediated pollination, so these moths flying into street lights can actually have far reaching consequences!

Carol: A happy piece of news I wanted to share is about Michael Kors pledging to go fur free in 2018!  He’ll feature his fur-free fashions in February.  

Hurst: Oh that’s really good to hear and kudos on the alliteration. Kors is joining the ranks of Gucci, Calvin Klein, Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Steve Madden, Olsenhaus, and Kenneth Cole.

Carol: What blew me away about this article is learning that “Nearly 70 percent of major designers included fur in their Autumn/Winter 2017 collections” according to the Fur Information Council of America.  I’ve never understood the attraction to fur, so that statistic is hard for me to get my head around.  Another staggering statistic about fur is that while an estimated 8 million animals are trapped each year in the U.S., the number of animals that are farmed for fur is likely four times that, and around 30 million of mink alone.  England, Scotland, and Wales have all outlawed fur farming but it is still legal in the U.S.  

Hurst: Yeah, but just for the record I do consider you a fashion icon, even without fur.

Carol: Thanks for that. By the way, you know how I love a good acronym, right?  Well, the Wildlife Institute of India has come up with M-STrIPES which stands for Monitoring System for Tiger-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status; it’s a new app for their tiger counting program!

Hurst:  Who doesn’t love a good acronym?  So, why do they want to count tigers?

Carol: Well, wouldn’t you want to know how many tigers are lurking about?

Hurst:  Fair point.  

Carol:  The app has been tested and refined for five years in two regions of India and it’s now ready to go nationwide.  It can record information about carnivore’s whereabouts, the presence of its prey, information on its habitat and human impact to that habitat, and help detect signs of poaching.  The fact that an app can be used really speeds up the process and improves the accuracy overall.  

Hurst: Tigers are really impressive creatures.  Did you know that tigers are the largest member of the cat family?  Or that Bengal Tigers live in India, are the most common tiger and number about half of all wild tigers. That sounds as if there are a lot of them, but Bengal Tigers are actually very endangered.

Carol: I did not know all that! Something else that is impressive is that you’ve gotten me to be more active on Instagram.  I’ve had an account for a while, but just haven’t really done anything with it.  But now that Creature Feature is on Instagram, I’ll be posting all the time.

Hurst: You’re not fooling anyone; no doubt I’ll be doing most of the posting.

Carol: Ok, well in any case, I’ll make sure I update my MySpace page.  See you next week!


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