One of the greater mysteries of nature
is the annual migration of Monarch butterflies from the northeast
United States and Canada to the Transvolcanic mountain range in
Michoacan, Mexico. An estimated 200-500 million Monarchs arrive in
the high elevation in late October where they winter in a
semi-hibernation state until the warm winds of March awakens them to
begin migration north, feeding on milkweed and breeding as they go.
Scientists believe no single butterfly
makes the entire two-way trip, rather it is thought three to five
generations are necessary to complete the cycle.
Scientists also do not fully understand
how or why the Monarchs make the 2,500 mile multi-generational
migration, nor do they know why the dense growth of fir trees 8,500
feet up in these particular mountains attract them.
On arrival the Monarchs settle in the
thick boughs of fir trees and cling motionless in huge numbers
unless disturbed or prompted by changes in temperature to move up or
down the mountain.
Naturalists only discovered in the
1970s that Monarchs migrated at all when they stumbled across their
remote Mexican mountain destination. Now a butterfly sanctuary has
been established near the village of Rosario for the protection and
study of the species.
In the folklore of the Aztecs, the
native people of Northern Mexico, Monarchs were thought to be the
souls, reborn, of fallen warriors wearing the orange and black colors
Like most wildlife the primary threat
to existence is loss of habitat. So too are Monarch butterflies
threatened. Illegal logging in the region has resulted since the
1970s with nearly 50-percent of their wintering grounds destroyed.
An unusually harsh winter in 2002 with
heavy rains and a killing cold caused an estimated 75-80 percent
that winters population of 200-500 million butterflies to perish.
But scientists believe the species survived that decimation and has
recovered. Numbers of migrating Monarchs in recent years have
returned to normal.
A new Saint Louis University study shows there is some truth in the old cliché that describes a dog as "man's best friend."
"Or at least a less aggravating friend," said study author William
A. Banks, M.D., professor of geriatrics in the department of internal
medicine and professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences at
Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Nursing home residents felt much less lonely after spending time
alone with a dog than they did when they visited with a dog and other
people. The research will be published in the March 2006 issue of
"It was a strange finding," said Banks, who also is a staff
physician at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis. "We had
thought that the dog acts as a social lubricant and increases the
interaction between the residents. We expected the group dog visits
were going to work better, but they didn't.
"The residents found a little quiet time with the pooch is a lot nicer than spending time with a dog and other people," he said.
Thirty-seven nursing home residents who scored high on a loneliness
scale said they wanted to receive weekly, 30-minute visits from dogs.
Half spent time alone with the dog, and the other half spent time with
one to three other nursing home residents and the dog. While both
groups felt less lonely, the group that had one-on-one quality time
with the dog experienced a much more significant decrease in loneliness
after five to six weeks of visits.
The main way pets reduce loneliness in nursing homes is simply by
being with people, not by enhancing socialization between people – for
instance, giving nursing home residents something to talk about or an
experience to share, Banks said.
"There is no need for a dog to be a social lubricant or icebreaker
in a nursing home. Residents live with each other, eat breakfast, lunch
and dinner with each other, play bingo with each other," Banks says.
"The study also found that the loneliest individuals benefited the most
from visits with dogs." Source
Discovered by wildlife rangers near certain death in the Indian Ocean off Malindi, the one year old male hippo calf named Owen was placed on 27 December 2004 in Haller Park, a wildlife sanctuary near Mombassa, Kenya.
As soon as he was placed in his enclosure, the orphaned younster immediately ran to the giant toroise named Mzee (Swahili for 'old man") also kept in that space. Mzee is estimated to be between 100 and 130 years old.
Mzee was not immediately taken with Owen, he turned and hissed forcing Owen to back away.
But Owen persisted in following the tortoise around the park and into the pool and within days the unlikely pair had forged a friendship, eating and sleeping together. Owen has even been seen to lick the tortoise, whom he regards as his new mother.
Wildlife workers speculate that Owen may have been attracted to Mzee as a parental figure because the tortoise's shape and color are similar to an adult hippopotamus.
Among the thousands of
crushing moments from last week's deadly hurricane, one image brought
the anguish home to many: a tearful little boy torn from his dog
while being shuttled to safety.
The boy was among the
thousands who ended up sheltered at the Superdome after the
But when he went to
board a bus to be evacuated to Houston, a police officer took the dog
away. The boy cried out — "Snowball! Snowball!" — then
vomited in distress.
Authorities say they
don't know where the boy or his family ended up.
witnesses called Snowball a terrier mix, while others consider the
dog a bichon frise.
If the boy and his dog
are indeed safe, they have beaten long odds.
Many of the animals —
dogs, cats, ferrets and birds — that police collected at the
Superdome were herded into a stairwell until the human evacuation was
complete. Of the 50 animals rescued from the Superdome on Sunday, not
all of them survived.
More than 600
displaced pets remain in Houston. Hundreds more fill kennels and
cages in Dallas and around the state. Shelters try to arrange foster
homes for pets, and many families have volunteered.
"We had dogs that
swam the entire time in 4 feet of water and survived," said a pet rescue worker "Even cats were in about 8 to 9 inches of water in the
upper cages and they swam and survived, too. Just like everybody
else, they're survivors."
Reuniting Snowball and
his owner will require work, patience and luck. Volunteers planned to
make visits to shelters in the Houston area looking for the dog's
owners. They were considering walking around carrying signs with
They've been scouring
shelters, posting notes on the Internet and making phone calls to
track them down. One woman set up a Web site to help people pair up
pets with their owners. Another set up a reward to encourage someone
to come forward with information on Snowball's or the boy's
to know about Snowball," said Laura Maloney, executive director
of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Barbara Kingsolver likes to tell the
story about the 16-month-old son of a nomadic Iranian couple who
wandered away from a group of youngsters being minded by a teenage
girl looking after children while their parents worked.
For three frantic days the group
searched inside the yurts in which they lived, turning over and
looking under their meager furnishing believing the child to be
nearby as he'd only just learned to walk and unlikely he could have
When the child was not found the search
extended to some caves set deep underground in connecting chambers.
The caves were known to be occupied from time-to-time by bears and,
indeed, as the searchers began their descent into the caves the odor
of bears was overpowering. Were it not for the faint cry of what they
believed was a human child the rescuers might have turn back.
The child's father crept toward the
back of the cave where, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was
able to make out the silhouette of his son
in the embrace of a very large bear.
How is it possible that a huge, hungry bear would take a pitifully
small, delicate human child to her breast rather than rip him into
she was a mammal, a mother. She was lactating, so she must have had
young of her own somewhere -- possibly killed, or dead of disease, so
that she was driven by the pure chemistry of maternity to take this
small, warm neonate to her belly and hold him there, gently.
could read this story and declare "impossible," even though
many witnesses have sworn it's true. Or you could read this story and
think of how warm lives are drawn to one another in cold places,
think of the unconquerable force of a mother's love, the fact of the
DNA code that we share in its great majority with other mammals --
you could think of all that and say, Of course the bear nursed the
baby. He was crying from hunger, she had milk. Small wonder.
hope they didn't kill the bear but instead simply reached for the
child, quietly took him up, praised Allah and this strange mother who
had worked His will, and swiftly left the cave. I've searched for
that part of the story -- whether they killed the bear. I've gone
back through news sources from river to tributary to rivulet until I
can go no further because I don't read Arabic.
is not a mistake or a hoax; this happened. The baby was found with
the bear in her den. He was alive, unscarred, and perfectly well
after three days -- and well fed, smelling of milk. The bear was
nursing the child.
Beginning mid-February and stretching to early June one of the largest raptor migrations in the world can be observed on the North Coast along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Dedicated birders typically count upwards of 60,000 hawks, eagles, falcons and vultures enroute to their Canadian breeding grounds. Species observed include Broad Wing and Red Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Osprey, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcons, Snowy Owls and others.
The year-old hippo calf christened Owen was rescued last
month, suffering from dehydration after being separated from
his herd in a river that drains into the Indian Ocean.
"When we released Owen into the enclosure, he lumbered to
the tortoise which has a dark gray color similar to grown up
hippos," Sabine Baer, rehabilitation and ecosystems manager at
the park, told Reuters.
She said the hippo's chances of survival in another herd
were very slim, predicting that a dominant male would have
However, Owen's relationship with the Aldabran tortoise
named Mzee, Swahili for old man, may end soon. The sanctuary
plans to place Owen with Cleo, a lonely female hippo.