Sloths Raccoons Snakes Bats Fish Horses and Animal Research

Carol: Hi Hurst! And belated Happy Father’s Day to all the animal dads out there!

Hurst: Wait, do you mean dads who are animals and who have offspring or human dads who have furry, feathery, or finny children?

Carol: Exactly!

Hurst: That’s kind of what I expected.  I’ll start things off. There is a new movie coming out that I think you and some of our readers will want to see…It is called Eating Animals and it takes a look at alternatives to industrial agriculture, including pasture raised animals and plant-based foods.

Carol: Oh, is this the one involving Natalie Portman?  Yes, I’ve heard about it! Movies like this, Food Inc., King Korn, and the like are really important in informing people in an easier to digest medium.  Well, speaking of informing people, the results of the Faunalytics 2018 Animal Tracker are out!!

Hurst: Based on your excitement, I’m sure I should probably know what that is…

Carol: Everyone should! Faunalytics is an awesome organization whose sole purpose is to gather and disseminate research data on animals and animal advocacy. It blends two things I believe are critical. Anyway, they started a research effort in 2008 called the Animal Tracker and issue it every year – some questions are consistent from year to year and some vary.  The new results are in and they are dripping out results each week in their blog. This week they focused on a question related to public opinion about various social causes or political movements.  Of the eight causes listed, the two that were felt strongly about were animal protection (68%) and workers’ rights (69%). Interestingly this question has been asked three other times in the history of the Tracker and the response percentage was roughly the same each time.

Hust: That’s great – I hope many of those folks are also converting their attitude into some type of action.  Carol, I’m afraid I have some sad news regarding one of your favs, bats…a press release put out this week by the The Center for Biological Diversity announced that the White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease affecting bats, is spreading into the western part of the U.S.  It is a disease named for the white fuzz it causes on bats’ noses and wings and strikes bats during hibernation, when their immune systems are shut down. Tragically, since 2006, millions of bats have died and some populations have plunged to below 99% of the pre-fungus population. It has reached 32 states and is putting some bats into threat of extinction.

Carol:  That’s terrible.  Even if people don’t have compassion for bats, they should about all the pest control they do which helps farmers a great deal!

Hurst: So true. I hope local and federal governments, NGOs, and scientists can work to find a solution for this pronto.

Carol: Turning from the skies to the seas, you know already how we are overfishing the oceans?  Well, it turns out, according to a new study published in Science Advances, that a lot of the fishing done in international waters would be unprofitable without billions of dollars in subsidies from governments.  There is a lot of criticism about this large-scale type of fishing, and the “Big Fishing” industry in general but this adds a new layer of yuck to think that many governments are paying to help what’s been proven to be ecologically destructive.  In fact, Pew Charitable Trusts estimates by not disrupting these ecosystems, the economic value of carbon storage alone in these waters is estimated at $74 billion to $220 billion a year, which outweighs the catches of high-seas fishing.

Hurst: That sounds like a very interesting study.  Here is another one – five new types of snakes have been identified in Ecuador and they all eat snails…and only snails…

Carol: I think you are making that up.

Hurst: It’s true! The snakes’ jawline is such that it has to slurp the snail out of its shell. It joins 70 other types of snakes that eat snails. However, these snakes are in danger of running out of natural habitat. In western Ecuador, only two percent (two percent!) of the original vegetation remains. The rest has been cleared for human development, cattle grazing, and logging.

Carol:  Ugh. People. Speaking of animals and human activity, a new study shows that animals, mammals specifically, that live near humans are spending less time out and about in the day and more time being active at night.

Hurst: I’m a mammal! Is that why my sleep schedule is so backwards?

Carol: Not quite. Scientists say this will have varying effects on different mammal species all across the globe. It may not hinder their ability to find food, however it may change what they consider food. Coyotes in California have been eating less diurnal species like birds and squirrels, and more nocturnal ones like rabbits, rats, and mice.

Hurst: That is interesting. That will be a tricky problem to solve, but investing in protected areas away from human activity couldn’t hurt. Not only are humans invading animals spaces, but recently some animals have been invading human spaces like the raccoon that climbed to the top of a 25 story building in St Paul, Minnesota. The ascension took about 20 hours in total and in that time it gained a social media following with the hashtag #MPRRaccoon. Once it reached the top of the building it was captured with a humane trap and released back into the wild.

Carol: What a big city adventure for a little racoon from the country! Cities are not always particularly animal-friendly places, especially for horses. Which it is why it is such good news to hear that Montreal has banned horse-drawn carriage rides. These horses are often required to work nine or more hours each day, seven days a week. And their work is dangerous, exposed to extreme temperatures, hard walking surfaces, and vehicle collisions. Montreal joins other major cities that have banned horse-drawn carriage rides like Paris, Beijing, Toronto, and London.

Hurst: I’m always happy to hear about new legislation that gives animals the rights that they deserve. This next piece of happy animal news is about what could be the cutest burglary ever. A sloth in Manuel Antonio, Puerto Rico evaded security and managed to make it into a cafe in search of a late night snack. And although the sloth was unsuccessful in stealing any food, it certainly stole my heart.

Carol: Here at Creature Feature we talk a lot about how humans are disrupting ecosystems and converting land for their own use. However, I just read an exciting new interview that details the benefits of what is called rewilding. This is the process of stopping human activity, usually farming and raising livestock, on an area of land and allowing it to revert back to its wild state.

Hurst: That sounds great, but it will be a pretty hard sell to convince people that we should turn farmland into a forest.

Carol: I understand the skepticism, but rewilding has plenty of benefits like flood reduction, soil restoration, carbon storage, and sanctuary for endangered species. In this interview with Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell, they explain how once they let their 3,500 acre property revert back to its natural state, they saw populations of critically endangered nightingales appear where they had not been before. Once you let nature take back over, it will not only take care of itself, it will flourish.

Hurst: Sounds like a pretty wild process.

Carol: Not your best pun, but it’s fine. Well it is time to sign off for the week, but I can’t say goodbye without mentioning that World Giraffe Day is this week, June 21st.

Hurst:  What did the judge in a giraffe neck ware contest say?  It’s a tie! See you next week!

 

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