Lions Lemurs Badgers Koalas and of course Dogs

Carol: Hi Hurst!  I bet you’ve noticed it’s pretty hot out there!

Hurst: Yeah, even up in the mountains where I am, it’s been a warmer summer than usual.

Carol: Well, that means people need to take extra care to make sure their companion animals stay cool. This is something that shouldn’t be shrugged off – it’s great to see news outlets reminding people again and again that animals can die of heatstroke.  We need to remember that animals don’t cool off the same way we do, and sometimes it takes much longer for them.  Here are a few tips:

  • Never leave an animal in a vehicle.  It may only take a couple minutes for the temperature to rise high enough to be fatal.
  • Try to walk a dog early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler.
  • Take a route where paws can get a break from hot pavement. Walking on dirt or vegetation is not only easier on their joints, it will be much cooler on their pads. Remember that black pavement is hotter than lighter colors, which still get very warm.
  • Exercise can increase the risk of heatstroke so keep sessions shorter than usual.
  • Animals with thinner white fur, as well as exposed spots, such as ears and noses, are vulnerable to sunburn.  Animals can also get skin cancer as a result of sun damage. Put some human or animal sunscreen on them.
  • If your dog likes water, perhaps invest in a baby pool for her to sit in after a walk. Or rub him down with a cool wet washcloth, or wrap her in a cool wet towel when they might need a little cool down.

Hurst: Those are all good tips. Maybe our readers will have others to share!
Carol: My dogs like to eat ice cubes, but I may try to make them some of these super easy frozen treat recipes I found. Most of them have only three ingredients.

Hurst: Sounds easy. Speaking of dogs, I have another story similar to last week’s piece about how they communicate with humans.

Carol: Personally, I don’t believe there is such a thing as too many stories about dogs.

Hurst: Researchers have identified nineteen specific “referential gestures” that canines use to essentially tell their humans what they want.  And before you ask, a referential gesture is a motion by the dog that brings a human’s attention to an object or activity.

Carol: Nineteen is a lot!  What were your favorite examples?

Hurst: Well, they are kind of long to describe but some of these will sound familiar to the dog people out there: Plunge head first underneath an object or human, Hold one paw in mid-air while in a sitting position, Move entire or part of body underneath a human’s appendage, and Jump up and down off the ground, usually while staying in one location.  And it won’t be a surprise to any dog owner to know that most of these signals came down to communicating a few basic things – play with me, give me food/treats, let me outside, and rub me.  And another thing that is cool about this study is that referential gestures have typically been studied with non-human primates, so this is broadening previous research to a different species.

Carol: Yep, I think I’m familiar with all of those referential gestures. And I feel smarter now just knowing that phrase. Speaking of dogs, I read a story about how dogs are becoming more of a part of current day culture in Rwanda.  During that terrible period of genocide in the mid-90s, dogs were used to attack the Tutsi and drive them out of hiding. Additionally, dogs are also associated with unpredictable stray dogs or aggressive security dogs. But now because of an emerging middle class, influence from Westerners, and new social media platforms, the acceptability and reputation of dogs is improving.

Hurst: Very interesting.  The next story is also from the continent of Africa.  I wanted to introduce it by asking if you believe in karma.

Carol: Ah, I think I know which story you mean…

Hurst: It’s been all over the news this week.  A group of men that we are pretty sure were intending to poach rhinos in Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa were killed by lions. The men had a lot of gear with them that indicated they intended to camp out in the bush for many days, and they had a high-powered rifle, a silencer, an ax ,and a wire cutter, which are tools used when killing rhinos and cutting off their horns.

Carol: I don’t have anything nice to say about this situation, so I think it is best to say nothing at all.  Better yet, I’ll change the subject to more upbeat news. A state in India, Uttarakhand, accorded to all animals the status of “legal person or entity.”  This new regulation is meant to protect wildlife, pets, and farm animals. The Telegraph article did not mention animal testing but I’m assuming that’s also off-limits since the judge noted that the entire animal kingdom, including aquatic animals and birds were accorded the same rights as humans.

Hurst: Is this the first place anywhere to do such a thing?  

Carol: I wondered the same thing.  I’ve searched for this online, and put out some feelers, and when I find out something conclusive, I’ll let you know.  I wanted to mention that the court also declared all residents of Uttarakhand to be considered the guardians of animals, rendering them responsible to protect their welfare!  In India, there are two types of legal persons — sentient human beings and “juristic persons.” The latter are human beings or a group of human, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other legal entity recognized by law as having rights.  In Uttarakhand, animals now fall into this latter category, along with minors, companies, trusts, or people with diminished mental capacities.

Hurst: That’s not the only news in animal rights legislation, this week Canada’s Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act has passed the senate. The act would outlaw the use of animals for testing of cosmetic products, a practice that is responsible for the deaths of more than 400,000 animals annually. It goes in front of the House of Commons in September, and if it is passed through it will be law. The same act is being considered by the state of California.

Carol: California is the fifth largest economy in the world, that would really make a statement. And hopefully set a precedent for the other states.

Hurst: And now I have not one, but two lemur stories for you. The first is about a fascinating study in which it was discovered that the decline in lemurs could actually cause a decline in trees in Madagascar.

Carol: I thought it was the other way around? Isn’t deforestation the main cause of the decline in lemurs?

Hurst: Unfortunately, both are true. The study found that lemurs eat and later disperse the seeds of many tree species through defecation. An analysis of one tree species in particular showed that seeds that were eaten by lemurs were 300% more likely to sprout and survive. So as lemur populations are decimated, the forests shrink and become less biodiverse, and as forests shrink so do lemurs. Its an unfortunate cycle.

Carol: But the inverse is also true. If save lemurs we can help save the forests and vice versa.

Hurst: That’s a good way to see it. Moving on, our next lemur story is brought to us by our local Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina. Scientists there have found that lemurs have  a nose for weakness, meaning that they can actually smell when another lemur is weakened due to physical injury. These animals mark their territory and assert their dominance by rubbing the scent glands from their genitals on trees in their area. These pungent scents are made up of 200 to 300 different chemicals that inform other lemurs who they are and if they are ready to mate.

Carol: I’m so glad humans don’t do that. Sounds messy.

Hurst: Lemurs often physically fight with each other in attempts to climb up their social hierarchy. When a lemur is injured, the smells is less potent by around 10%. Human noses can’t pick this up but lemurs in this study picked up on this and asserted their dominance over the injured lemur by putting extra secretion over the lesser scent. Lemurs smell weakness and jump on the opportunity.

Carol: Well that just goes to show even the most adorable animals still exhibit aggressive behavior. Okay I hope you will lemur alone with the all the lemur stories because I have an article to share about an antelope and a very brave honey badger.

Hurst: Sounds like a promising children’s book.

Carol: Not quite. A photographer in Etosha National Park in South Africa captured an unlikely fight between a South African onyx, a kind of antelope, and a fearless honey badger. The honey badger started the fight with the animal ten times its size and refused to give up even though the onyx used its horns to throw the badger approximately seventeen feet into the air multiple times. The honey badger didn’t win this round, but you have to admire its gusto.

Hurst: It could still be a children’s book. I’m not quite sure what the moral would be, maybe reckless persistence? I don’t know, it’s still a rough draft.

Carol: Keep working on it. As I’m sure you know global warming isn’t a thing of the future but something that is already changing the environment. As the Earth gets warmer, the season in which ships can pass through previously ice-blocked passages gets longer.

Hurst: Climate change is definitely bad, but that doesn’t sound that bad? Now more ships can go through at least…?

Carol: Right, but now that there is more traffic in these previously frozen areas, animals are more at risk to the dangers boats bring like noise disruptions and animal-ship collisions. A recent study determined that narwhals, walruses, and bowhead whales are the most at risk in this now extending trade season.

Hurst: Well then that just sounds like another reason to invest in more animal friendly boats, because it is thought that summer arctic ice may fully disappear by 2040.

Carol: Did you hear that they finished fully mapping the koala genome this week?

Hurst: I did hear that, and its koala-ty news.This new genetic information could help us understand how koalas eat toxic eucalyptus leaves, how their babies are born without immune systems, or even lead to a vaccine for chlamydia (which many koalas have).

Carol: Well to close us out I just want to remind you that July 12th is Cow Appreciation Day.

Hurst: Thank you for the reminder. Do you think the banks will close? It’s an important holiday.

Carol: It most certainly is. See you next week!

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