Sharks Bears Leopards Rats Sea-monsters Reefs and Marketing Power Foods

Carol: Hurst, I’m going to open this week with a pretty silly news story.

Hurst: Sounds like it is right up our alley.

Carol: You know how the heat this summer has been pretty un-BEAR-able, right?  Well, animals really BEAR the brunt of the heat as well. Especially mammals, with all that fur, it’s not like they can just strip off their fur and walk around BARE naked.

Hurst: Ok, let’s get this over with…

Carol: A bear in Los Angeles County decide to take a swim in a residential pool to cool off.  You can see a photo of the bear here, complete with a red tag in his ear which means that he has been found in a residential area before.

Hurst: I’d say this edition of Creature Feature is going swimmingly so far.

Carol: Now, don’t be catty. This next story is about the D.C. Cat Count.  It is a project that combines camera trapping, household surveys, shelter statistics, and feral cat colony inventories to get a better understanding on the number of cats within Washington, DC and how different cat population segments interact.The project concludes in summer of 2019 at which time the coordinators hope to have helped facilitate discussion across several parties who may disagree on the topic of outdoor cat policy.  They are already working on tools and protocols that can be used by animal welfare or government organizations to facilitate data-driven cat population management. The ultimate aim is to positively impact cat population management efforts, help discussions about cat policy to be more productive, and facilitate benefits to both cat populations and wildlife.

Hurst: I’ll have to try counting cats next time I can’t sleep.  Switching locations from urban DC to deep waters in Mexico, I’m happy to report that sharks in Revillagigedo National Park, North America’s largest marine protected area, are getting a little more elbow room and can sleep a little better at night.

Carol: Sleep better at night? Like with memory foam mattresses?

Hurst: Close. They can sleep better knowing that they are now protected by the Mexican navy in a new much larger protected area. It should be noted that the government designated these new policies due to intensive research from dedicated scientists that tagged and tracked the sharks and convinced the government that extra protections were warranted. Afterall, sharks play such an important role in so many marine ecosystems.

Carol: What a perfect story to acknowledge Shark Appreciation Day that occurred last week! Next, I wanted to discuss an advocacy topic that has always interested me. The story comes from Faunalytics.  They report on whether people’s pro-animal attitudes correlate with animal-friendly behavior.

Hurst: Well, don’t keep me in suspense.

Carol: The answer is maybe. Think about a message that might be used to persuade someone to adopt an animal-friendly behavior, for example, donating $10 to a local shelter, buying cruelty-free makeup, or taking a pledge against elephant riding. Citing a theoretical model from social psychology, the author explains that whether the message “converts” a person to an animal-friendly behavior depends upon internal factors, such as the message’s personal relevance, or their motivation, or their sense that their action would make a difference.  But it also depends on external factors, such as whether they have time to think deeply about the topic, which is in turn affected by the amount of distractions in that person’s life.

Hurst: This reminds me of a Q&A session I read from The Good Food Institute about effective ways of marketing plant-based food.  Their Senior Marketing Manager Caroline Bushnell offered some tips including some we’ve covered here in CFN.  For example, using the term “plant-based” instead of “vegan” is really a more effective way to go. She also noted that most of the growth in plant-based foods is not coming from vegan consumers but from people who want to eat healthier.  This could be up to 54% of U.S. consumers who are trying to substitute more plant-based foods for their current, problematic animal-based diet.

Carol: Interesting!  Onto the Maine story–

Hurst: Wait we have a main story this week? Did we discuss this?

Carol: No Hurst, Maine story…like the state. The carcass of a strange “sea monster” washed up on shore there this week and left tbeach-goers feeling puzzled.

Hurst: Finally, I can leave Creature Feature to pursue my dream of sea monster hunting.

Carol: Well not really; it turned out it was the carcass of a basking shark. It was just so heavily mutilated by being chomped on by other sharks that it left the media guessing to what it could be.

Hurst: Oh. Moving on. A saddening new report says that there are only 84 Amur leopards left in the wild. This new number was decided by combining data from Chinese and Russian scientists. The remaining populations live along the southernmost border of Primorskii Province in Russia and Jilin Province of China. This number was hard to reach due to the fact that the cats move freely across the border, potentially throwing off estimates on both sides. The only good news here is that 84 leopards is higher than the previous estimate of 35-50 leopards.

Carol: That’s still a really small number…I found this last story to be particularly interesting. It really shows how all of nature is connected. A new study out of Lancaster University illustrates the effect that invasive rat populations have on coral reef health. Rats feed on many things, including bird eggs and chicks, and have now invaded many delicate ecosystems, damaging seabird populations. Seabirds play a vital role in coral reef health by feeding in far-away areas of the ocean that are teeming with life, coming back to their island, and depositing nutrients into the soil by pooping. These nutrients, like nitrogen, eventually make their way into the sea, nourishing the macro-algae, sponges, fish, and other reef life. Therefore, when there are more rats, there are less seabird eggs, and less nutrients for coral.

Hurst: Somehow we always come back to poop. Well, I guess we’ve saved the biggest news for last….

Carol: You must mean National Vegan Cheesecake Day coming up on July 30?

Hurst: Ew, no.

Carol: International Mutt Day on July 31?

Hurst: No, I’m talking about the new format of Creature Feature News.

Carol: Oh right! As much as I will miss our clever banter, I think the new streamlined format will be an quicker read for our followers.

Hurst: And it will give me more time to study during my last semester at school.

Carol: Yeah right. I’m sure that’s exactly how you will use your surplus time.

Hurst: I hope our readers tune in and weigh in what they think of the new format.  I’ll see you next week, Carol. Hope you have a Happy Mosquito Day tomorrow!

Carol: Happy Mosquito Day, Hurst!

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