Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Georgia Aquarium Welcomes New Shark Pups

Fleshy-bearded spotted wobbegong shark pups born

The Georgia Aquarium is excited to announce the arrival of 12 new spotted wobbegong shark pups. The pups were born last week in the Ocean Voyager exhibit built by The Home Depot. Their average weight at birth was 2.6 oz (74 grams) and 8.3 in (21 cm).

Native to coastal Australia, the spotted wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus) is ovoviviparous, meaning a developing pup feeds from a yolk sac of its egg retained internally within the female and is later born fully formed. Biologists diving in the exhibit found the pups last week. The new pups are in good health and are currently in the Education Loop Aqua Lab aquaculture laboratory, where biologists can easily monitor and track their progression. The pups can be seen in person by going on any of the Behind the Scenes Tours that the Aquarium offers.

“We are proud to welcome the new shark pups to the Georgia Aquarium family.” said Mike Leven, CEO of Georgia Aquarium. “We believe that it is important for guests to see all stages of development in our animals, especially birth.”

This unusual shark is a master of camouflage with a mottled pattern on its body that makes it virtually disappear against the sand and algae-covered ocean floor. It can even change color, over several days’ time, to adjust to environmental changes. The beard of fleshy tassels further obscures the outline of the shark’s head, making it very hard to tell where the animal stops and the bottom begins.

The spotted wobbegongs are among the third species of shark pups born at the Aquarium. Previous births include zebra sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum) and bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo).
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Songs From the Sea: Deciphering Dolphin Language With Picture Words

In an important breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language, researchers in Great Britain and the United States have imaged the first high definition imprints that dolphin sounds make in water.

The key to this technique is the CymaScope, a new instrument that reveals detailed structures within sounds, allowing their architecture to be studied pictorially. Using high definition audio recordings of dolphins, the research team, headed by English acoustics engineer, John Stuart Reid, and Florida-based dolphin researcher, Jack Kassewitz, has been able to image, for the first time, the imprint that a dolphin sound makes in water. The resulting "CymaGlyphs," as they have been named, are reproducible patterns that are expected to form the basis of a lexicon of dolphin language, each pattern representing a dolphin 'picture word.'

Certain sounds made by dolphins have long been suspected to represent language but the complexity of the sounds has made their analysis difficult. Previous techniques, using the spectrograph, display cetacean (dolphins, whales and porpoises) sounds only as graphs of frequency and amplitude. The CymaScope captures actual sound vibrations imprinted in the dolphin's natural environment-water, revealing the intricate visual details of dolphin sounds for the first time.

Within the field of cetacean research, theory states that dolphins have evolved the ability to translate dimensional information from their echolocation sonic beam. The CymaScope has the ability to visualize dimensional structure within sound. CymaGlyph patterns may resemble what the creatures perceive from their own returning sound beams and from the sound beams of other dolphins.

Reid said that the technique has similarities to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. "Jean-Francois Champollion and Thomas Young used the Rosetta Stone to discover key elements of the primer that allowed the Egyptian language to be deciphered. The CymaGlyphs produced on the CymaScope can be likened to the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone. Now that dolphin chirps, click-trains and whistles can be converted into CymaGlyphs, we have an important tool for deciphering their meaning."

Kassewitz, of the Florida-based dolphin communication research project said, "There is strong evidence that dolphins are able to 'see' with sound, much like humans use ultrasound to see an unborn child in the mother's womb. The CymaScope provides our first glimpse into what the dolphins might be 'seeing' with their sounds."

The team has recognized that sound does not travel in waves, as is popularly believed, but in expanding holographic bubbles and beams. The holographic aspect stems from the physics theory that even a single molecule of air or water carries all the information that describes the qualities and intensity of a given sound. At frequencies audible to humans (20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz) the sound-bubble form dominates; above 20,000 Hertz the shape of sound becomes increasingly beam shaped, similar to a lighthouse beam in appearance.

Reid explained their novel sound imaging technique: "Whenever sound bubbles or beams interact with a membrane, the sound vibrations imprint onto its surface and form a CymaGlyph, a repeatable pattern of energy. The CymaScope employs the surface tension of water as a membrane because water reacts quickly and is able to reveal intricate architectures within the sound form. These fine details can be captured on camera."

Kassewitz has planned a series of experiments to record the sounds of dolphins targeting a range of objects. Speaking from Key Largo, Florida, he said, "Dolphins are able to emit complex sounds far above the human range of hearing. Recent advances in high frequency recording techniques have made it possible for us to capture more detail in dolphin sounds than ever before. By recording dolphins as they echolocate on various objects, and also as they communicate with other dolphins about those objects, we will build a library of dolphin sounds, verifying that the same sound is always repeated for the same object. The CymaScope will be used to image the sounds so that each CymaGlyph will represent a dolphin 'picture word'. Our ultimate aim is to speak to dolphins with a basic vocabulary of dolphin sounds and to understand their responses. This is uncharted territory but it looks very promising."

Dr. Horace Dobbs, a leading authority on dolphin-assisted therapy, has joined the team as consultant. "I have long held the belief that the dolphin brain, comparable in size with our own, has specialized in processing auditory data in much the same way that the human brain has specialized in processing visual data. Nature tends not to evolve brain mass without a need, so we must ask ourselves what dolphins do with all that brain capacity. The answer appears to lie in the development of brain systems that require huge auditory processing power. There is growing evidence that dolphins can take a sonic 'snap shot' of an object and send it to other dolphins, using sound as the transmission medium. We can therefore hypothesize that the dolphin's primary method of communication is picture based. Thus, the picture-based imaging method, employed by Reid and Kassewitz, seems entirely plausible."

The CymaGlyphs of dolphin sounds fall into three broad categories, signature whistles, chirps and click trains. There is general agreement among cetacean biologists that signature whistles represent the means by which individual dolphins identify themselves while click trains are involved in echolocation. Chirps are thought to represent components of language. Reid explained the visual form of the various dolphin sounds, "The CymaGlyphs of signature whistles comprise regular concentric bands of energy that resemble aircraft radar screens while chirps are often flower-like in structure, resembling the CymaGlyphs of human vocalizations. Click trains have the most complex structures of all, featuring a combination of tightly packed concentric bands on the periphery with unique central features."

Regarding the possibility of speaking dolphin, Kassewitz said, "I believe that people around the world would love the opportunity to speak with a dolphin. And I feel certain that dolphins would love the chance to speak with us - if for no other reason than self-preservation. During my times in the water with dolphins, there have been several occasions when they seemed to be very determined to communicate with me. We are getting closer to making that possible."

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Wanted: Young Artists for '09 YBC T-shirt Art Contest

AAG Note: Looking for a way to keep children busy now that Santa has made his big entrance this year? Spend some time together and look for birds. This contest is a great event to entertain the young and old alike. Enjoy!

Linda May admits she was “blown away” by the creativity of the artwork submitted in this year’s Youth Birding Competition T-shirt Art Contest. Now the wildlife interpretive specialist is bracing for the 2009 contest and offering these tips for budding Audubons.

“Brighter, simpler pieces of artwork will probably do better than ones that are busier or faded,” said May, who coordinates the contest. “The bird really needs to be the focus of the artwork.”

Started this year and returning for the April 25-26 statewide birding competition, the art contest is open to Georgia resident youth from pre-K through high school. A winner will be picked from each of four age categories: primary (pre-K through second grade), elementary (third-fifth grade), middle (sixth-eighth grade) and high school.

One of these category winners will be awarded the grand prize. Their artwork will be printed on the 2009 Youth Birding Competition T-shirt and they will receive a $100 gift card to Michaels. The three other winners will receive $50 Michaels gift cards for art supplies.

Participants must draw or paint their favorite Georgia bird on at least 8½- by 11-inch white paper (not larger than 11 by 17) and mail the entry in a large, envelope (flat, not folded) by March 2, 2009, to: Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, YBC Art Contest, 543 Elliott Trail, Mansfield, GA 30055. Participants should consider using bold colors in their drawings to better display the artwork on a T-shirt.

On a separate piece of paper, participants should include their name, school, age, grade level, mailing address, phone number and the species name of the bird in the artwork. Birds depicted must be native to Georgia (no exotic species accepted). Only one entry per person is allowed. Each entry must be the child’s original artwork.

Participation in the Youth Birding Competition is encouraged but not required to submit artwork for the T-shirt Art Contest. Birding competitors may pick up their submissions at the April 26 banquet at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, where select artwork will be displayed and the winners announced. The artwork of youth who do not take part in the birding competition will be returned only if they provide a large, self-addressed envelope with three first-class stamps.

Last year’s art contest drew 195 entries. Kelly Redford O’Mara, a senior at Darlington School in Rome, won the grand prize with a vivid painting of a blue-gray gnatcatcher.

The 2009 Youth Birding Competition starts at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, and ends at

5 p.m. Sunday, April 26. Groups may use as much or as little of that time to count as many birds as possible throughout Georgia. Although teams may start birding anywhere in the state, they must arrive at the “finish line” at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield by 5 p.m. Sunday. While judges examine and score the final checklists, participants will enjoy a live animal show followed by an awards banquet with amazing prizes, including new binoculars for the grand-prize winning team.

For T-shirt Art Contest details and tips, visit the Wildlife Resource Division’s Web site at (click the “Get Involved” tab and the birding competition link) or contact Linda May, (770) 784-3059 or

For more information on the Youth Birding Competition, including how to register a youth team, contact contest coordinator Tim Keyes at (478) 994-1438 or

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It’s a Small World -- Watch Out for New Diseases

(ARA) - Increasing travel -- global travel in particular -- is leading to new diseases spreading from country to country. Chronic Wasting Disease, Monkeypox, Avian Influenza -- you name it and chances are it moved quickly from one country to the next.

One of the latest diseases starting to show up in the United States is Chagas Disease, a condition that rarely causes early symptoms, but if left untreated, can cause an enlarged heart or an irregular heartbeat which can be potentially life threatening. Here is some helpful information for you, your family or your pets in the event you live in an area of the United States that is currently impacted by the disease -- or are traveling to areas of the world where it is common.

What is Chagas Disease?

“Most Americans do not have to worry about contracting Chagas Disease -- even if they are traveling to regions where it is more prevalent,” says Dr. Paul Stromberg, veterinary pathologist at Ohio State University and past president of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, a professional organization that studies emerging diseases and works to protect both human and animal health. “However, we are seeing increasing incidence in the southwest United States.”

Chagas Disease is most prevalent in areas of extreme poverty and as many as 18 million people in 18 countries throughout Central and South America may be infected. It is the third largest tropical disease burden today. Only 350,000 people in the United States are estimated to have Chagas Disease.

“The vast majority of those infected in the United States originated from countries in infected areas,” says Stromberg. “Large migrations of people and increasing contact with infected regions help to spread the disease from country to country.”

Insect transmission in the United States, according to Stromberg, is extremely rare. More often this disease has been transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Blood transfusions and organ donation can both be methods to transmit this disease.

Very common in South and Central America, this disease is most often transferred by the reduviid insect, commonly known as the “kissing bug.” Named for its propensity to bite people’s faces, the kissing bug is a nocturnal insect that lives in thatched roofs and cracked walls. Because kissing bugs come out at night, it’s important for travelers to South and Central America to use insect repellant and treated bed nets if they are not staying in well-constructed, air-conditioned hotels.

There is no vaccination to help protect against this disease, but if it is detected and treated, those suffering from it can make a full recovery. Today, blood banks regularly screen for Chagas Disease to protect the blood supply from this type of transmission.

Watch for Chagas Disease in Pets, too

Another important focus area for Chagas Disease transmission is through animals. Dogs, opossums and armadillos are all susceptible to his disease. Since 2003, Chagas has been observed in dogs in the United States. Reports have come from Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

In South America, domestic dogs are actually reservoirs of the disease. While transmission from dog to human in the United States is unlikely due to our current standard of living, global climate change and changing socioeconomic conditions could make this an important emerging disease in parts of the country.

“Veterinarians as well as pathologists in these states are keeping a keen eye on this condition in dogs,” Stromberg reports. “Chagas disease remains relatively rare in this part of the world, but it is important to continue to take the precautions you normally would to help protect your family and your pets from all possible health threats -- especially when traveling.”

For more information about Chagas Disease, go to the Centers for Disease Control Web site or visit for a quick fact sheet.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

FDA Obtains Injunction to Stop Production of Illegally Medicated Animal Feed

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that the District Court for the Western District of Missouri entered a Consent Decree on Dec. 15, 2008, prohibiting Milbank Mills, an animal feed mill in Chillicothe, Mo., from manufacturing, processing, or distributing medicated animal feed. Milbank Mills and its officers Edward P. Milbank and Darrell L. Allen, face these restrictions until they comply with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements for medicated animal feeds.

FDA has cited the defendants for numerous deviations from cGMP over the last five years. FDA inspected Milbank Mills four times during this period, and found gross deviations from cGMP that resulted in voluntary recalls of medicated animal feeds. Despite repeated warnings from FDA, the defendants have continued to manufacture medicated animal feeds in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its regulations.

Medicated animal feeds include specific types and amounts of drugs to prevent disease in food-producing animals, and failure to comply with cGMP requirements when manufacturing such feeds renders the product adulterated (or illegal). Among other cGMP violations, Milbank Mills repeatedly failed to store and handle drugs properly to maintain their effectiveness, did not maintain records of drug inventory and use, and did not adequately test its feed products to ensure that they contained the correct amounts of drugs. In addition, Milbank Mills did not accurately label its medicated feed products or provide adequate directions for their use.

Under the consent decree, failure to comply with the terms could result in civil or criminal penalties. Consumers who may have purchased adulterated feed from Milbank Mills should contact the company directly.

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Airlines Pooh Pooh Pets On Planes: Raising Fees & Banning Travel

/PRNewswire/ -- Airlines seem to be waging war on passengers who carry pets in the cabin, judging by a recent rash of fee hikes and new rules. And a recent poll reveals that 58 percent of respondents believe that pets should be allowed in the cabin, while 42 percent would ban them entirely. The founder of airfarewatchdog, George Hobica, wonders if the airlines are sending a message by raising both in-cabin and cargo fees, and in some cases by banning pet travel entirely.

Hobica notes that "an estimated 63 percent of American households own pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, and an even larger percentage fly commercially. So these higher fees and tougher rules will be a burden on pet owners who travel and wish to carry their pets in the cabin for safety and other reasons."

Airfarewatchdog points out some reasons why flying your pet may become not just more difficult, but also as expensive as flying an additional person:

-- Frontier Airlines banned pets from the cabin on June 9th this past
summer and now charges up to $400 to fly pets in the cargo hold.

-- Delta and American Airlines have recently raised their in-cabin pet
fee to $300 - up from $200 previously.

-- United has raised its in-cabin fee to an industry-leading $350, and
$500 for cargo.

-- For years, Southwest Airlines, one of the nation's largest, has banned
pets entirely except for fully trained assistance animals accompanying
a person with a disability or being delivered to one.

Quips Hobica, "At $350 a trip, we might be better off enrolling Browser, our canine mascot, in some hang gliding courses, or - if the fees keep going up - tie some helium balloons to the kennel, toss in a tracking device and hope for the best. His chances of an on-time arrival couldn't be any worse than on some airlines."

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Monday, December 22, 2008

“A Cause for Paws” Gives Students a Way to Combat Puppy Mill Cruelty

The Humane Society of the United States' youth division has launched a new project, "A Cause for Paws," to guide young people in promoting improved conditions for dogs in puppy mills and raising awareness about how to get a dog without supporting cruelty. Part of the Mission: Humane program that gets K-12 students actively involved in the work of The HSUS, "A Cause for Paws" engages youth in making a difference for dogs while they learn academic skills.

The holidays are a time when many people decide to bring a puppy home. Students working with The HSUS are hoping to raise awareness of what goes on behind the pet store window and encourage prospective new dog owners to adopt from local shelters or rescue groups instead of buying from pet stores and Internet sites that, in most cases, are supplied by puppy mills.

The HSUS raided six puppy mills in 2008, bringing rescue to more than 2,000 dogs kept in horrific conditions. Dogs living in these mass dog breeding operations receive little or no exercise or veterinary care. Life is particularly bad for the adult dogs who live their entire lives in cages, without human companionship and with little hope of ever becoming part of a family.

In the wake of recent rescues and the investigation into Petland Inc., the country's largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores that has been tied to puppy mills, young people are asking what they can do to help.

"We are hearing from more and more children across the country who love dogs and are appalled at the way dogs in puppy mills are treated," said Heidi O'Brien, director of outreach for The HSUS' youth division. "They want to know how they can help. Young people can be powerful advocates and it's our goal to guide them in turning their outrage into something positive."

"A Cause for Paws" shows young people how to make their voices heard by their legislators to establish stronger laws to protect dogs. It also directs students in spreading the word to classmates, family and friends about how to steer clear of puppy mills when they make the decision to bring a dog into their family. Activities such as letter-writing and presenting to groups aligns the project—which is offered at two levels for elementary and high school students--to state and national education standards.

High school and elementary students can access step-by-step project instructions online, download a fact sheet, and then submit their work to earn a Mission: Humane T-shirt.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Working Dog Teams Help to Make Baghdad's Streets Safer

A Multinational Division Baghdad soldier and his four-legged partner work with other military dog teams here in helping to make Baghdad's streets safer for Iraqi citizens and soldiers to live and operate.

Army Sgt. James Harrington, a military policeman and dog handler attached to the 1st Special Troops Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, along with Ryky, his canine partner, patrol the streets and communities of southern Baghdad's Rashid district to search for weapons and make soldiers a more effective force.

Harrington, assigned to the 947th Military Police Detachment, part of the 3rd Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard," stationed out of Fort Myer, Va., and his 3-year-old Belgian Malanois partner, completed more than 50 missions and uncovered more than 25 finds since arriving to Rashid in October.

Harrington said Ryky has made several significant finds since beginning her mission in Baghdad, including an AK-47 assault rifle hidden in a false ceiling and four mortar rounds that led to the discovery of a large mound of hollowed-out munitions. Ryky detects odors from many types of munitions, such as ammunition, weapons, mortar rounds, artillery rounds, homemade explosives and trigger devices with residue on them.

Harrington, a native of New Orleans, said the hollow ceiling discovery was significant because most dogs do not acknowledge the space above their own height.

"Ryky is a very friendly dog," Harrington, a former Marine Corps infantryman, said. "She is not a trained attack dog, so I allow her to be sociable with soldiers. I let others pet her, because it is a big morale booster."

Harrington met Ryky at the Specialized Service Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

"At the school, the dogs are exposed to helicopter rides, simulated gunfire and simulated mortars to see how they react," said Harrington, a 14-year military service veteran with six deployments since 1995. "The dogs must be confident around the noises; they can't just take off running."

Capable of detecting 19 separate odors on the battlefield and able to run off of a leash, the specialized service dogs have a distinct advantage, Harrington said.

"Having Sergeant Harrington and the [specialized-service] dog gives me the extra capability to unleash the dog into an open area," said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Ogle, who hails from Dayton, Ohio, and is the kennel master for the Falcon 40th Military Police Detachment from Fort Sill, Okla., attached to the 1st STB. "It is that off-leash capability that puts the handler out of danger."

Harrington said he believes the ability to multitask while operating in sector and conducting weapon searches is an important quality dog handlers should possess.

"I have to be able to watch for my security, watch for the dog's security, watch what she is searching, and finally lead the dog in the direction I want her to search in next," he explained. "I always have to be two steps ahead."

Recently, Harrington and Ryky cleared a 600-meter portion of a main thoroughfare in Baghdad for a distinguished visitor; it took them about an hour.

"It would take another dog three hours to complete that stretch of road, because they would be on a six-foot leash and the handler has to present everything to the dog," Harrington said. Usually, the team uses a leash while out in sector due to stray dogs and small confined areas, he added, but, if needed, Ryky could be up to 200 yards away and still effectively search an area.

"It takes me out of the equation in case something was to go wrong; we lose a dog, but we don't lose a handler," Harrington said.

Harrington has worked with dogs for about two years. He noted the specialized-service dog program quickly is becoming more widespread across all facets of the military. The dog graduates ready to deploy right after completing the school, he explained, while other working dogs leave their school able to detect nine odors and receive additional training by their handlers in the combat theater.

"I think Ryky and I make soldiers' jobs easier because we can search faster, the dog can smell better and she leads from the front," Harrington said.

The K-9 Team here keeps seven dogs in its kennels to support military operations in southern Baghdad.

(Author Army Sgt. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)
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Bird Lovers Can Go Nuts for Squirrels Too

(ARA) - The battle begins every time a feeder goes up; homeowner versus squirrel, and it's usually the squirrel who wins.

For many outdoor wildlife lovers it seems nearly impossible to keep these cunning rapscallions from raiding their bird feeders. They've tried the squirrel-proof feeders which the relentless squirrels manage to tackle. Placing feeders out of squirrels' reach also seems like a logical solution, but it is much easier said than done.

Although victory over the squirrels may appear impossible, there is a way to feed your beloved birds without the disturbance caused by these crafty creatures. Ever heard the phrase, “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em”? It's the perfect solution to a pesky relationship with furry backyard foes, and one that will soon have homeowners putting squirrels into the category of outdoor pets.

Squirrels are hearty eaters, so why not offer them a feast all their own? Outdoor pet food producers such as Wild Delight make mixes specially designed for squirrels (such as Wild Delight Squirrel Food) that contain corn, sunflower seed, and whole peanuts -- things that squirrels love to munch. It is typically offered in a platform feeder or fed on the ground, but however the food is put out; the trick is to keep it away from bird feeders. When squirrels are offered their own food, they are much less likely to bother with your bird feeders.

Squirrels also love corn that is still on the cob. This “ear corn” can easily be affixed to a tree to keep squirrels on tree trunks and away from bird feeders. To prevent a mess, go with a premium brand like Wild Delight Corn On The Cob that has a low moisture content to help prevent molding.

Along with offering squirrels their own dining experience, bird watchers can also fill their feeders with seeds that squirrels are indifferent toward. Nyjer is great for all types of finches, but squirrels ignore it. Fill feeders with a product such as Nyjer Seed from Wild Delight, which has been sterilized to help prevent fallen seeds from germinating into weeds. Generic brands don't usually offer this protection.

Safflower seed, which cardinals and chickadees love, is another good choice to deter squirrels. It has a bitter taste that squirrels (as well as nuisance birds like grackles and starlings) will avoid.

Suet is another option. Lovable birds such as nuthatches and woodpeckers enjoy suet very much, but squirrels typically ignore it. Brands like Wild Delight even offer different kinds of suet flavors to attract different kinds of desirable birds.

If your squirrel conflict calls for drastic measures, capsaicin, the burning chemical in hot peppers, is effective at repelling squirrels from bird food. It has the same effect on them that it does on humans -- fiery mouth, watering eyes, etc. However, birds are virtually unresponsive to it. Whereas this method of warfare on squirrels has been successful, homeowners might want to think twice before deploying this, especially if they have small children and pets who could be irritated by it. Offering squirrels their own food and place to eat in the yard is safer and more convenient (plus, you don't have to wear gloves).

By offering squirrels a place all their own in the back yard, homeowners will be able to enjoy their feathered friends at the same time as they enjoy the antics of their furry new pals. Their acrobatics, playful nature and surprising tameness will have squirrels joining wild birds as outdoor pets that homeowners love.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reward Offered In Attack on Martinez, Georgia Family’s Dogs

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward up to $2,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for viciously killing a family's yellow Labrador retriever and severely injuring their other dog, a dachshund-mix. The HSUS reward is offered in addition to a $5,000 reward offered by the Fayetteville-based Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation, raising the total reward available to $7,500.

The Case:
News reports give the following account: Bobby Jordan entered his home Dec. 3 to find his 3-year-old yellow Labrador, Tibby, lying dead with a visibly broken back. His family's other dog, a 1-year-old dachshund-mix named Daisy, was found clinging to life with multiple puncture wounds. Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe the injuries were inflicted by a person. Authorities believe someone entered the family's yard between 7 a.m. and noon on Dec. 3. The family lives on the corner of Blue Ridge Road and Halifax Drive in Martinez, Ga.

Animal Cruelty:
Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and the community in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community. The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault.

"Those who abuse animals can be dangerous to people," said Cheryl McAuliffe, The HSUS' Georgia state director. "Americans have no tolerance for violence against the creatures who share our world."

The Investigators:
The Columbia County Sheriff's Department is investigating. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 706-541-1044.

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Reward Offered In the Shooting Death of Georgia Dog

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward up to $2,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the death of Wishes, a blonde retriever/lab mix .

The Case:

Police reports give the following account: The dog was found shot at close range in Wildcat Creek subdivision in Gilmer County, Ga. on October 20, 2008. She was immediately rushed to the veterinarian at Appalachian Animal Hospital who determined she had been shot in the stomach at close range. Although she received the utmost in veterinary care, she did not survive due to the extent of her injuries.

Animal Cruelty:

Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and the community in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community. The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault.

"Those who abuse animals can be dangerous to people," said Cheryl McAuliffe, Georgia state director for The HSUS. "Americans have no tolerance for violence against the creatures who share our world."

The Investigators:

The Gilmer County Sherriff's Office is investigating. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 706-635-4625.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Giving An Adoptable Dog A Home

(NAPSI)-If you are thinking of adding a pet to your family, adopting a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization may offer a number of benefits.

For instance, these dogs often bond quickly with new owners and can have fewer needs than a young puppy. Plus, you can often find perfectly good adult pets that have matured to the point where they aren't rambunctious or demanding for activity.

Many shelter and rescue dogs are already house-trained and may only need some reminders and a few days to adjust to a new routine.

Very often, these dogs already know some basic commands taught in their first home or by shelter volunteers.

When you adopt an older dog from a shelter, the dog should be current with all shots, already "fixed" and heartworm negative at the very least. Some shelters include microchip identification with every animal.

Shelters do extensive evaluating of both their dogs and their applicants to be sure that both dog and family will be happy with each other.

If you are thinking of adopting a shelter dog, here are some tips:

• You might want to plan on making at least a couple trips to the shelter so you can observe the pets before picking one to take home.

• Look for a dog with a good temperament who is friendly and gentle around children. Watch the dog's response to signal words, such as "Easy" or "Gentle," or commands that force him to calm down, such as "Sit."

• Get a good collar and leash with identification tags and get him involved with friends' or neighbors' dogs. Socialize him with different types of people and make sure he will accept being around children.

Once you have decided on a particular dog and tested how he reacts to your family, find out why the dog is up for adoption. Ask the shelter specific questions, such as:

• Is the dog healthy now?

• Any known or suspected health problems?

• Has he been checked for worms?

• What parasite treatment/prevention program is the dog on?

• Has he been exposed to any diseases?

• Any limping or other indications of bone or joint problems?

Although shelter dogs have been under the care of a veterinarian, you'll want to make an appointment with your regular veterinarian as soon as possible after bringing your new pet home. Your veterinarian can thoroughly examine your dog for any underlying medical conditions and prescribe a parasite prevention product to keep him healthy.

To learn more, visit

If you are adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, look for one with a good temperament who is friendly and gentle around children.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Project Listens for Right Whales, in Hopes of Helping Them

Right whales are talking, but is anyone listening? Research planned off the Georgia coast this winter may help scientists determine whether whale calls can be used to protect endangered right whales.

Collisions with ships are a leading cause of North Atlantic right whale deaths. With right whale numbers estimated at only about 400, the loss of one breeding female can affect the species. For more than 20 years, the primary way of reducing ship strikes has been through aerial surveys, which are costly, dangerous and ineffective at night and in bad weather. Thanks to improvements in technology, another method is coming online – locating whales by their calls.

This method, referred to as passive acoustic detection, uses computerized buoys that listen for right whale calls and immediately report those calls to land using a cellular or satellite telephone link.

Scientists from Cornell University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recently installed the first full-scale, real-time passive acoustic detection system in Cape Cod Bay. (Check for updates on whales detected.) When a right whale vocalization is detected, certain ships entering Cape Cod Bay are notified and required to slow to 10 knots.

Passive acoustic detection has been proposed as a way to protect right whales in their calving areas along the Georgia and Florida coast. Research has shown that right whales also call in the Southeast, and related projects are in the works, building on years of study in the Northeast. But a central question remains: Do cows with calves vocalize or is it the larger numbers of non-breeding whales that are calling?

Some have speculated that cows with calves may be quieter than other whales, perhaps to avoid attracting predators. If so, passive acoustic detection techniques would be poorly suited to protecting the most valuable demographic component of the population – breeding females.

Biologists from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service hope to answer this question during the upcoming right whale calving season. They plan to attach temporary recording devices called Bioacoustic Probes or B-Probes on the backs of up to 10 right whale cows with calves.

The probe tags are about a foot long and attach to the whales’ rubbery skin with suction cups. The process sounds deceivingly simple: A whale is approached by boat. The tag is attached to the whale’s back with a handheld pole. The probe records vocalizations and ambient sound for up to 12 hours. Then it pops off and is relocated using a VHF radio receiver.

“While maneuvering the 23-foot tagging boat within 15 feet of a 50-foot-long, 50-ton swimming right whale will certainly be challenging, the biggest challenge will likely be whether or not the tags stay on for the full recording time,” said biologist Clay George, of the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division. “Right whale calves frequently roll back and forth across their mothers’ backs, which may cause the tags to detach prematurely.”

If successful, the project could help determine whether passive acoustic detection is a viable management option in the Southeast. The project will take place from January through March 2009. Scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center will analyze the acoustic data. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries Service and the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund are providing funding.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zoo Atlanta Revisions to PandaCam

Fans all over the world have enjoyed watching giant panda Lun Lun and her second-born, the newly-named Xi Lan, 24 hours a day on Zoo Atlanta’s PandaCam. Now that Xi Lan has reached his 100-day-old milestone, the Zoo has returned to its original PandaCam hours. Now through Wednesday, December 31, 2008, PandaCam will be available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Giant panda devotees are encouraged to enjoy PandaCam peeks on weekdays from 10 to 5 through the end of the year. While PandaCam has been a favorite stop on for more than a decade, Zoo Atlanta has announced that this feature will soon come to an end. Due to limited resources, PandaCam will not be available after December 31, 2008.

The giant panda presence will not vanish on, however. Beginning January 1, 2009, web guests can look forward to new and regular postings of Xi Lan’s latest photos, “best of” videos and more.

Now that Xi Lan is learning the ropes of walking, the cub will soon make his long-awaited debut into his habitat. Zoo Atlanta expects that Members and guests will be able to visit the new addition in person in January.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Southern Company and NFWF Award New Conservation Grants

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation today announced that four additional grants have been awarded to conservation and natural resource agencies through the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy partnership programs. The Power of Flight program protects birds through habitat and species restoration and environmental education. Longleaf Legacy supports restoration of longleaf pine forests, home to many endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker.

"Southern Company is proud to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the sixth consecutive year to award much needed grants to these leading organizations," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company's senior vice president for research and environmental affairs. "The awards will help further the great work being done to conserve and protect the environment and restore bird populations and habitats throughout the Southeast."

Since 2002, Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have contributed more than $7.8 million through 80 grants to the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy programs. In addition, grant recipients have contributed more than $41 million in matching funds, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $49 million since the program's inception.

"With each year that passes, our partnership with Southern Company grows stronger, the projects funded under the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy programs become more meaningful, and the impact of those projects on the ground results in greater benefits to birds and longleaf pine habitats," said Jeff Trandahl, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's executive director. "The people and natural resources of the Southeastern United States are indeed fortunate that Southern Company and their affiliated operating companies are such responsible corporate stewards of our lands and waters, and the fish and wildlife that inhabit them."

Through these two programs, more than 160,000 acres of longleaf pine and other critical habitat on public and private lands will be restored or enhanced to the benefit of bird populations across the Southeast.

Two grants were awarded under the Power of Flight program:

-- Project Orianne - to restore or improve 10,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat within the Apalachicola and Conecuh National Forests to create and enhance habitat for declining bird populations, such as red-cockaded woodpeckers and Bachmann's sparrow, and other species of concern, such as the gopher tortoise and indigo snake. This project will build on the existing infrastructure and expertise of the Forest Service by providing additional funding to implement land management practices within large tracts of contiguous forests on federal lands.

-- Quail Unlimited - to continue to address the goals of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative through improved forest land management of 1,607 acres on both public and private lands. The habitat restoration and enhancement will take place in the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests in Alabama, at J. Strom Thurmond Lake in Georgia, and on private lands in the 15-county target area of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Bobwhite Quail Initiative.

Two grants were awarded under the Longleaf Legacy program:

-- Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge - to support conservation of 870 acres of land burned during wildfires in 2007 and plant approximately 170,000 longleaf seedlings over 400 acres. This project will support the expansion of red-cockaded woodpecker clusters on the refuge and is also part of a larger multi-agency effort to establish a half-mile longleaf pine conservation and fire resilient zone around the Okefenokee and Pinhook Swamps in southeast Georgia.

-- Auburn University - to develop a geospatial mapping and decision support tool to guide on-the-ground longleaf conservation efforts across its historical range. The tool will identify where restoration and management activities should be focused to best meet objectives for ecosystem restoration; species conservation (threatened and endangered species, migratory birds); and the need to manage longleaf habitats to maintain their structure, function, and diversity. This project will expand on the tool developed by the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture through a previous grant.

Visit to view fact sheets on the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy programs or to see a complete listing of awards granted.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Steps for Second-dog Success

(ARA) - A second dog may be hard to resist for many pet parents, especially if having their first dog was a positive experience. However, many families underestimate the responsibility of caring for two dogs and the impact adding a new pet can have on a first dog.

Without proper planning and consideration, adding a second pet can result in a difficult household transition, and can lead to unforeseen conflicts between your two canine companions. Before you consider a second pet addition, take the time to ask the following questions:

* Is your dog bored? A second companion may not be the right solution as boredom in dogs is often related to lack of attention and exercise. If you don't have the time to provide adequate training and attention for your first dog, chances are you won't have the time for another.

* Has your dog been socialized with others? Consider how well your dog reacts to other dogs. If your dog shows aggression or extreme shyness in a social situation, a second dog might not be the best idea.

* Are you looking to rejuvenate your older dog? Adopting a younger dog or puppy can increase the activity levels in an older dog that is becoming more sedentary with age, as long as the older dog is not aggressive or territorial.

"When I brought home my second puppy, I was ill-prepared for the changes it would create for my older dog, who was surprisingly tentative around the new one," says Eric Kardesh, pet parent of Edy, a 2-year-old Vizla and Greenley, a 4-year-old miniature pinscher. "Looking back, I wish I would have done my research on ways to prepare Greenley, my first dog, for the new puppy to come, and socialized her around other dogs beforehand."

To make the transition of adding a second dog a positive experience, pet parents should consider the following tips to ensure a smooth homecoming for all family members.

* Research the breed you are thinking of adopting and be sure you can accommodate the size and activity level.

* Be sure your first dog has been socialized with other pets before considering another pet. If you know your current pet does not get along with other dogs, think twice about getting another, which could create an unsafe situation for everyone.

* Make sure you are adding a pet for the right reasons. Remember, adding a new pet to the one you have will double your responsibilities and costs for everything from food and toys to vet visits and grooming.

* Take into account the daily activities that take you away from home. A busy schedule will make it seem difficult to provide the adequate amount of care and attention a new puppy needs. Pet owners who have grown accustomed to an older dog with fewer demands can easily overlook the new responsibility of a puppy.

* Pheromone products that have a calming effect such as Comfort Zone with D.A.P (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) can help ease a dog's transition to a new home and help your current dog deal with the new addition to the family.

* Consider purchasing two separate crates for your dogs. These can be valuable socialization and training tools that allow your current pet and new puppy to become more familiar with one another safely, while remaining in two separate environments.

Pet parents looking for additional tips and advice can visit

Courtesy of ARA content

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't Leave Your Dog Chained Up

(NAPSI)-Chaining a dog in the backyard used to be the norm for keeping dogs but it's not anymore. People now realize that continuously chaining a dog is inhumane and dangerous. Here are some frequently asked questions about chaining and tethering dogs:

Q. Is there a problem with continuous chaining or tethering?

A. Yes, the practice is both inhumane and a threat to the safety of the dog.

Q. Why is tethering dogs inhumane?

A. Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. A dog kept chained in one spot for hours, days, months or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive.

Q. What are communities doing to correct the problem of tethering dogs?

A. More than 100 communities in more than 30 states have passed laws that regulate the practice of tethering animals. Maumelle, Ark., and Tucson, Ariz., completely prohibit the unattended tethering of dogs. Many other communities only allow tethering for limited periods of time or during certain conditions. Orange County, Fla., for example, does not allow tethering between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or during times of extreme weather.

Q. Who says tethering dogs is inhumane?

A. In addition to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and numerous animal experts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a statement against tethering: "Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane."

Help Chained Dogs

To help chained dogs, the HSUS suggests you download or request a free copy of "A Dog's Life: Chaining and Your Community," a step-by-step guide on how to pass an anti-chaining ordinance.

To learn more, visit

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Friday, December 12, 2008

States Pass Record Number of Animal Protection Laws in 2008

The year 2008 was an historic year for animals in state lawmaking. The Humane Society of the United States worked on a wide range of animal protection policy reforms, such as increasing penalties to crack down on animal fighting, making meaningful progress on combating puppy mills and prohibiting the inhumane confinement of farm animals. The nation's largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.

"We commend state lawmakers for passing this raft of legislation to protect animals from cruelty and abuse," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. "The anti-cruelty laws of a state are a reflection of our basic values and attitudes toward animals, and this record year and collection of bills represent a measurable step forward for animals all across the country." While there were many successes around the country, The Humane Society of the United States offers up its list of the 12 most significant victories of the year:

California: Proposition 2
The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, known as Prop. 2, is widely regarded as the most ambitious ballot measure for animals ever undertaken in the United States. And on Nov. 4, 63.5 percent of California voters approved this measure to halt the practice of confining veal calves, egg-laying hens and breeding pigs in crates and cages so small the animals can barely move.

Colorado: Farm Animal Welfare
The HSUS negotiated with leaders in Colorado's animal agriculture industry and key lawmakers to improve the lives of farm animals. As a result, Colorado became the first state to ban both the use of both veal crates and gestation crates through its state legislature.

Delaware: Fur Labeling
Delaware became the fourth state in the nation to require the labeling of garments containing animal fur. An investigation by The HSUS found that unlabeled jackets were falsely advertised and sold as faux fur, even though testing revealed that the garments actually contained real fur from raccoon dogs and other animals.

Georgia: Dogfighting
In the aftermath of the Michael Vick case, more than 25 states considered legislation in 2008 to crack down on animal fighting. Until this year, Georgia was ranked as having one of the worst dogfighting laws in the country. But state lawmakers worked to close gaps in the law by banning the possession of a dog with the intent to fight, and making it a crime to be a spectator at a dogfight. The HSUS now places Georgia among the states with the strongest dogfighting laws.

Idaho: Dogfighting
In February, animal advocates celebrated another victory when Idaho became the 49th state to make dogfighting a felony.

Louisiana: Puppy Mills
Puppy mills are breeding facilities that treat dogs like cash crops and typically house dogs in squalid and overcrowded conditions. One of our biggest legislative victories against this industry was in Louisiana, where the legislature passed precedent-setting legislation that placed an actual limit on the number of dogs kept by breeders, in order to prevent the operation of factory farm type breeding facilities. With this new law, breeding operations are now limited to no more than 75 adult dogs.

Massachusetts: Question 3
Last month, Massachusetts voters approved Question 3 to phase out the greyhound racing industry. At these tracks, thousands of greyhounds are forced to compete every year and endure regular confinement, kept in small cages barely large enough to stand up or turn around for 20 or more hours per day. It's expected that this sweeping victory will speed up the demise of this industry, and will also send a message to other states that dogs deserve better.

Pennsylvania: Puppy Mills
Notoriously known as the "Puppy Mill Capital of the East," the Keystone State has been tarnished with the reputation of being one of the worst puppy mill states in the nation. National television coverage highlighted the horrific conditions in the Commonwealth's puppy mills. But with efforts spearheaded by Gov. Ed Rendell, the state legislature took a strong stance against this abusive industry and passed a bill that should significantly improve the lives of thousands of dogs in Pennsylvania, and took a strong stance against this abusive industry.

Utah: Felony Cruelty
After a multi-year effort by animal protection groups, veterinarians, prosecutors and others, Utah became the 44th state with felony-level animal cruelty penalties. After hammering out a compromise bill, the legislature made the torture of a dog or cat a felony on the first offense. We look forward to working with lawmakers in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota to get felony animal cruelty laws on the books across the United States.

Virginia: Animal Fighting and Puppy Mills
We toughened the Commonwealth's previously anemic animal fighting laws, turning it into one of the nation's hardest-hitting laws against cockfighting and dogfighting. Until this year, The HSUS rated Virginia's anti-cockfighting law as the second-worst in the nation — in fact, cockfighting was legal as long as the activity involved no gambling.

An HSUS investigation in 2007 revealed that Virginia had a serious puppy mill problem, with approximately 1,000 unlicensed breeders in Virginia selling dogs commercially. Virginia lawmakers addressed this serious problem in 2008 by becoming the first state in the nation to limit the size of puppy mills by making it illegal to maintain more than 50 dogs over the age of one year in one location.

Wyoming: Dogfighting
After Idaho its new dogfighting law in February, Wyoming was the only state without felony penalties for dogfighting. But in March, lawmakers in the Equality State ushered in a new era for animal protection by making this cruel blood sport a felony nationwide.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Wishes Go Wild at Zoo Atlanta

The season’s wildest holiday wishers don’t want iPhones, don’t own a Wii, and don’t have the slightest use for the latest in cutting-edge digital must-haves. Boomer balls, puzzle feeders, ribbons, bells and mirrors are much more their thing. Where the clientele is wild, so is the wish list, and with the return of Zoo Atlanta’s annual Giving Tree program, secret Santas and animal lovers across the city have the opportunity to provide surprises for over 850 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Originally conceived as a means of allowing Zoo staff, Members and Volunteers to contribute holiday gifts for their favorite animals, Zoo Atlanta’s Giving Tree has expanded considerably in recent years. Located in the Zoo’s Administration Building, the tree is decorated to the hilt with handmade ornaments bearing images and descriptions of enrichment items for Zoo residents. Diverse in shape, size, use and cost (Giving Tree options are created to suit any personal budget, with the least expensive beginning at around $3), each wish list item has been selected with the sole intent of generating the interest, curiosity, play and enjoyment of a particular Zoo animal or species.

In the Zoo industry, the term “enrichment” refers to objects, activities or opportunities that encourage natural animal behaviors similar to those observed in the wild. Toys, puzzle feeders and novel foods, scents or sounds are all examples of items or experiences offered to spark animal interest and promote physical and emotional well-being. All of Zoo Atlanta’s animals enjoy enrichment on a daily basis through a comprehensive program managed by their animal management teams. Consistently unusual, always creative and often ingenious, these regular labors of love by the Zoo’s animal care professionals include swings made of fire hose for great apes; non-toxic paints for animal artists; and even hand-crafted faux “birds’ nests” for the World of Reptiles’ black mamba. Enrichment, in turn, enriches observers: Zoo guests enjoy unique insights into animal behavior, cognition and problem-solving.

Members of the community interested in contributing to the 2008 Giving Tree program are encouraged to visit for details and a complete wish list of items. Guests may also visit the Giving Tree in the Zoo Atlanta Administration Building to select ornaments or drop off items on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Those purchasing wish list gifts online are asked to arrange delivery directly to Zoo Atlanta at the following address: Zoo Atlanta; Attention: Jodi Carrigan/Giving Tree Program; 800 Cherokee Avenue, S.E., Atlanta GA 30315. Giving Tree donations will be accepted through December 31, 2008.

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Arts Across Georgia

Australian Company Recalls Chicken Strips After Dogs Fall Ill

By Lisa Wade McCormick

An Australia company has recalled some of its Chinese-made chicken strips because the treats may cause illnesses in small dogs. And those illnesses sound similar to the ones dogs and cats have experienced after eating Nutro food, according to a regular reader.....More

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pets for Christmas Not a Good Idea

Returning home to find a new pet sick or in need of medical care is not the Christmas memory you’ll want to carry through the years. That is one of the things Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin wants Georgians to think about before purchasing or adopting a pet for Christmas.

Here are a few points to consider from Commissioner Irvin:

• Never give an animal to anyone unless that person wants it, expects it, and is prepared to immediately care for it. People receiving the animal should bond with that animal beforehand. They should not be surprised by it or have it forced on them, even by someone with the best of intentions.

• With the bustle of holiday festivities and duties, do you have the time to effectively care and watch out for a new animal or to deal with housebreaking and litter box issues?

• Introducing a new animal into new surroundings can be stressful. A home full of holiday guests and small children, each wanting to hold and feed the animal, only makes the stress worse.

• Chocolate, grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts are dangerous to dogs. A dog can choke on a turkey or chicken bone. Will you be able to make sure it doesn’t get into any of these or that a guest won’t feed them to the dog?

• Decorations may look like playthings to a dog or cat eager to explore its new surroundings. Will you be upset if the cat climbs into the Christmas tree to hide or if the dog chews up an heirloom ornament?
• Veterinarians will be harder to reach during the holiday if there is an emergency.

• Will your children think an animal is like a toy that can be discarded when they grow tired of it?

• A pet is a long-term commitment of time and money. Do you want a companion or do you just need a gift?

“The main thing I want Georgians to remember is that decisions about getting a pet should be carefully considered. The last thing animal shelters want to see is another orphaned animal. A dog or cat is not like a sweater that you can return or stick in the back of the closet,” said Commissioner Irvin.

“The second thing is that Christmas may not be the best time to introduce a new pet into the household. If you and your children sincerely want a dog or cat as a Christmas gift, consider giving a photo or drawing of one on Christmas morning and then visit an animal shelter and adopt one in January.

“And, of course, always spay and neuter your cat or dog,” Irvin added.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zoo Atlanta's Giant Panda Cub is Named Xi Lan

After weeks of excitement, anticipation and a suspenseful month collecting ballots from over 45,000 voters around the world, Zoo Atlanta President and CEO Dennis Kelly announced that the new giant panda cub has been named Xi Lan. The winning name, which means “Atlanta’s Joy” in Chinese, was submitted by the Zoo’s Board of Directors and was one of 12 finalists
suggested by members of the Zoo family and extended family.

Joining the cub’s 100 Day Naming Celebration were Liu Dewang and He Chao of the China State Forestry Administration; Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle; Greg Pridgeon, Chief of Staff of the Office of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; Fulton County Commissioner, Lynne Riley, Xie Xhong, Secretary General, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens; and Xia Zhenglin and She Yi of the Chengdu Research Center of Giant Panda Breeding.

“Zoo Atlanta is delighted to share this historic moment with the citizens of Atlanta, the State of Georgia and our friends, partners and colleagues in the People’s Republic of China,” said Kelly. “The name Xi Lan is a proud and fitting reminder of our cub’s birthplace, but his birth also serves as a global tribute to the true power of partnerships in determining the future of giant pandas and other species around the world.”

The announcement was preceded by an authentic Chinese dragon dance – performed to bestow good luck on the new arrival and on the 100 Day proceedings – and a live rendering of the traditional Chinese song “Panda Mimi” by young members of China Children Adoption International. A throng of Zoo Members, guests and giant panda fans waited anxiously as Kelly, joined by Lieutenant Governor Cagle, Pridgeon and Chinese officials, unveiled the cub’s new name.

While “Atlanta’s Joy” clearly expresses the City of Atlanta’s and State of Georgia’s excitement and pride in Xi Lan, the cub’s birth was also an occasion of great celebration for Zoo Atlanta’s colleagues in China, where the species is considered a national treasure and a symbol of the conservation of endangered wildlife.

Shortly after the unveiling, Zoo Atlanta Board of Directors member Mark Roberts informed the crowd of another exciting surprise. When voting began on November 3, Zoo officials announced that the individual or organization responsible for submitting the winning name would win a private reception for 50 at the Zoo, accompanied by an exclusive viewing of the cub. As the organization behind submitting the name Xi Lan, the Zoo’s Board of Directors elected to donate their special prize to the children and families of China Children Adoption International.

Born on August 30, the 100-day-old cub was the only giant panda born in the U.S. in 2008, and he is one of only 31 born in the worldwide survival colony this year. He is the second offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang and the younger sibling of the world-famous Mei Lan, born September 6, 2006. Zoo Atlanta expects Xi Lan to make his official public debut in January.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Backyard Critters Appreciate the Generosity of the Season

This is the time of year when we can share our "bounty" with those around us, including the wild animals living outside our homes and in our neighborhoods, reports The Humane Society of the United States. Raccoons, squirrels, skunks and other animals in our yards are grateful recipients of any goodwill that humans are able to show them this season.

According to Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife for The HSUS, "Although wild animals are able to adapt to survive cold winter temperatures and food limitations, there are some small but very significant things that people can do to help them survive this time of year." The HSUS suggests several acts of goodwill that can give our backyard neighbors a warm boost during the holidays:

Keep bird feeders full in the winter since food availability is very limited for non-migratory birds.

Fill large pinecones with peanut butter and roll them in sunflower seeds. Attach a string to the top and hang from trees for birds.

Invest in a heated birdbath and keep it filled all winter long. Birds need the water at this time of year when most natural sources may be frozen.

Put decorative snowflakes 4" apart on any windows where birds might hit, or have hit in the past.

Put a cover over any window wells around your house to prevent animals from becoming stuck. Animals, such as skunks, who have poor climbing abilities commonly fall into window wells.
Use only environmentally friendly sidewalk salt for melting ice such as Safe Paws Ice Melter.
Regular sidewalk salts pollute the environment and can irritate cats' and dogs' paws.

Get to know your backyard wild neighbors by going on an adventure around your own yard in the snow. Try to identify different species by looking at tracks and other signs they leave behind, such as partial remains of food like cracked nuts or twigs. Buy a good wildlife tracking guide - - or give one as a gift - - to learn more and to better appreciate these animals.

The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns.

The program's book, Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife is a useful reference for individuals and communities faced with resolving encounters with wild animals who find their way into yards, gardens, houses, parks and playgrounds. On the web at

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Keep Feeders up in Winter for Visiting Hummingbirds

Keep your hummingbird feeders filled and available this winter. That’s the recommendation of Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologists, who know that some hummers spend winter in the state and benefit from the nourishment feeders offer.

Eleven hummingbird species have been recorded in Georgia. But while the only one that nests here – the ruby-throated hummingbird – migrates south and leaves the U.S. by mid-October, species from the western U.S. and Central America sometimes show up as early as August and stay until about April. These newcomers include rufous hummingbirds, which have the longest migration route of any hummer, and the calliope hummingbird, the smallest bird in the nation.

Many Georgians once took their feeders down in fall for fear the free food would keep hummingbirds from migrating. But the birds migrate in response to day length, not food supply. Keeping feeders up does not hinder migration.

Instead, some fortunate homeowners with full feeders have enjoyed playing host to rare visiting hummingbirds in winter.

“People enjoy doing it. (And) we get good information” involving the birds, said Jim Ozier, a program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.

The rufous is the most commonly seen wintering hummer in the Southeast. This species flits from breeding ranges that extend from the Pacific Northwest as far north as southern Alaska to its primary wintering grounds in south-central Mexico. However, a few rufous hummingbirds take a different path and are spotted throughout Georgia and the rest of the Southeast during winter.

The calliope hummer is another snowbird, colorful but tiny at about a 10th of an ounce. A calliope was first recorded in the Peach State during the winter of 1998-1999.

According to the Georgia Hummers Web site (, the 2007-2008 season sported another first sighting, a green-breasted mango that wintered in Dublin. This species is normally found in Central and South America. Only three have been documented in the U.S. outside of Texas. The Dublin visitor remained for several weeks, attracting birders from all over the country.

Western hummingbird species can be difficult to identify. But Georgians can contact Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section in Forsyth, (478) 994-1438, about hummer sightings. These reports document the incidence of wintering hummers and help biologists determine the birds’ habitat needs.

Georgians can help conserve hummingbirds through buying wildlife license plates featuring a ruby-throated hummer or a bald eagle. The license plate sales, in addition to donations to the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff, are vital to the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds to help conserve rare plants, natural habitats and wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped in Georgia. Details at

Georgia hummers at a glance:

· Allen’s
· Anna’s
· Black-chinned
· Broad-billed
· Broad-tailed
· Calliope
· Green-breasted mango
· Magnificent
· Ruby-throated
· Rufous
· Green violet-eared hummingbird*

*This species is listed as provisional, meaning a photograph is needed to add it to the state’s official list.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Georgia Welcomes Back State’s Marine Mammal: Right Whales

It is seen from a research vessel lookout – a solitary V-shaped “blow” and then something dark on the water’s surface. Often, the return of right whales to Georgia is as subtle as that. But this winter, thanks to a new ruling more of these imperiled whales will have a better chance at making the annual journey safely.

In October, the National Marine Fisheries Service established a rule that will implement speed restrictions for vessels 65 feet or longer. The restrictions call for a speed of no more than 10 knots during certain times of the year in areas designated as critical right whale habitat along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. The rule goes into effect Dec. 9, 2008. Shipping interests can find additional information at

Biologists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are spreading the word about the rule while also gearing up for the first few sightings of these rare aquatic giants.

It is important to note that not only commercial ships can cause mortal injuries to right whales. Recreational fishing boats and other large personal recreational boats can also have a devastating impact on the whales, which are found as close as three miles offshore depending on water depth. Although larger recreational boats are not required to adhere to the commercial speed limit, NOAA recommends they heed the rule as well.

North Atlantic right whales spend the summer in the cooler waters off New England and Canada. Each fall, a portion of the population returns to Georgia and Florida for the winter. Annual research done by the DNR Wildlife Resources Division and NOAA from December through March is helping wildlife biologists determine the status of these endangered animals.

Approximately 150 right whales were seen off the Georgia coast during the 2008 season. The total included 19 sets of mother and calf pairs, as well as juveniles and single animals. Whales are counted using aerial surveys and on-the-water monitoring.

2008 marked the first year since 2005 that no adult mortalities were reported. There were two reported cases of calf mortalities last year, both from unknown causes.

Researchers identify right whales by the unique pattern of callosities, or rough patches of skin, found on the whales’ heads and around their mouths. These patches are usually covered with whale lice, crustaceans that make the patches appear white. Photographs are used to tell which whale is being observed.

Right whales are baleen whales with a bow-shaped lower jaw and a head that is up to one-quarter of the body length. Calves weigh approximately 1 ton at birth and adults can reach 60 tons and almost 50 feet in length. They have no dorsal fin and breathe through two blowholes on the top of their heads. These blowholes create a unique V-shaped blow, which also helps researchers identify the whales from a distance.

Right whales were nearly driven to extinction by commercial whaling in the late 19th century. Commercial harvest was banned in 1935. Today the North Atlantic right whale is classified as endangered under U.S. and Georgia law. Right whales are listed as a priority species in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the blueprint for conservation in the state. Georgia adopted the right whale as its state mammal in 1985.

Although not hunted now, right whales face conservation problems including ship strikes, entanglement in commercial fishing gear and habitat destruction. Even after nearly 50 years of protected status, there are only an estimated 300 to 400 North Atlantic right whales left.


** Be wise stewards of Georgia's natural environment and enjoy the outdoors responsibly. If boating off the Georgia coast from December to April, follow the Guidelines for Navigating in Right Whale Waters, available on the DNR Coastal Resources Division’s Web page, . Report right whale sightings by calling (800) 272-8363. For more information, please visit .

** Buy a nongame wildlife license plate. The DNR Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section, which works to conserve nongame species such as right whales, receives no state appropriations. Instead, the section relies on federal grants, donations and fundraisers like license plate sales. Nongame plates featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird are available for $25 at all county tag offices, by checking the appropriate box on mail-in forms or through online renewal at

** Donate to the Nongame Conservation Section’s work through the Give Wildlife a Chance State Income Tax Checkoff. Simply fill in a dollar amount on line 26 of the long tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ).

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dogs Chase Efficiently, but Cats Skulk Counterintuitively

A Duke University study suggests that evolution can behave as differently as dogs and cats. While the dogs depend on an energy-efficient style of four-footed running over long distances to catch their prey, cats seem to have evolved a profoundly inefficient gait, tailor-made to creep up on a mouse or bird in slow motion.

"It is usually assumed that efficiency is what matters in evolution," said Daniel Schmitt, a Duke associate professor of evolutionary anthropology. "We've found that's too simple a way of looking at evolution, because there are some animals that need to operate at high energy cost and low efficiency."

Namely cats.

In a report published online Nov. 26 in the research journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), Schmitt and two former Duke co-researchers followed up on a scientific hunch by measuring and videotaping how six housecats moved along a 6 yard-long runway in pursuit of food treats or feline toys.

Long-distance chase predators like dogs can reduce their muscular work needed to move forward by as much as 70 percent by allowing their body to rise and fall and exchanging potential and kinetic energy with each step. In contrast, the maximum for cats is about 37 percent and much lower than that in a stalking posture, the report found.

"An important implication of these results is the possibility of a tradeoff between stealthy walking and economy of locomotion," the three researchers wrote in PLoS. "These data show a previously unrecognized mechanical relationship in which crouched postures are associated with changes in footfall pattern, which are in turn related to reduced mechanical energy recovery."

In other words, they found that when cats slink close to the ground they walk in a way that "the movements of their front and back ends cancel each other out," Schmitt said. While that's not good for energy efficiency "the total movement of their bodies is going to be even and they'll be flowing along," he added

"If they're creeping, they're going to put this foot down, and then that foot down and then that one in an even fashion. We think it has to do with stability and caution, Schmitt said."

Walking humans recover as much energy as dogs, said Schmitt, who studies gaits of various mammals. "Our centers of mass rise and fall when we walk. And when we do that, humans and other animals exchange potential and kinetic energy. It's an evolutionary miracle in my view.

"But cats need to creep up on their prey. Most scientists think that energetic efficiency is the currency of natural selection. Here we've shown that some animals make compromises when they have to choose between competing demands."

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation. Kristin Bishop, a former postdoctoral researcher at Duke, was the lead researcher and first author. Another author was Anita Pai, a former Duke undergraduate who is now a medical student at Vanderbilt University.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Protect Your Pet from Winter’s Woes

The Humane Society of the United States urges pet owners to take extra precautions this winter to ensure the safety of their companion animals. In many areas, winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness and can pose serious health risks to family pets.

"Animals rely solely on their human caregivers for safety and comfort — especially during the winter months," said Stephanie Shain, director of companion animal outreach for The HSUS. "Our pets are particularly vulnerable during this frigid season, and with just a few extra precautions you can help make sure that they stay safe and healthy."

Help keep your pet safe during the colder months by following these simple guidelines.

Don't leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. Dogs and cats are safer indoors, except when taken out for supervised exercise. Regardless of the season, shorthaired, very young, or old dogs and all cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet and may be harmful if ingested. Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them to remove snow packed between your pet's paws. Pet-friendly ice melts are available at many pet supply stores across the nation or online.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that can attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol, which is less toxic in small amounts than traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze.

No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet's life. A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog spends significant time outdoors, however, he/she must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

If you're feeding homeless cats, be sure to provide an insulated shelter for them. Information about building a shelter, spaying and neutering and more is available at

The best prescription for winter's woes is to keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time. Dogs and cats are social animals who crave human companionship. Your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Zoo Atlanta Prepares to Announce Giant Panda Cub's Name December 8

After more than three suspenseful weeks collecting ballots from over 22,400 excited voters, Zoo Atlanta will announce the new giant panda cub’s name on Monday, December 8, 2008, at his 100 Day Naming Celebration. Voting to name the 3-month-old bear opened on November 3 and
will close on Wednesday, December 3.

Voters flocked to to make their selections from 12 names submitted by the Zoo Atlanta family and extended family. The contenders represent Zoo staff; Zoo Members; the Zoo’s MySpace community; residents of Chengdu, China; and five local radio stations. The most dedicated of the cub’s fans also voted in person, casting their ballots at 12 polling locations outside the Zoo’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center. The individual or organization responsible for submitting the winning name will win a private reception for 50 at Zoo Atlanta and an exclusive viewing of the cub.

The cub’s name will be unveiled at approximately 11:30 a.m. on December 8 on Zoo Atlanta’s Grand Patio, and members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend. The historic event will also feature live performances by Chinese artists, refreshments and an appearance by Zhu Zhu, Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda mascot.

Born on August 30, the cub was the only giant panda to be born in the U.S. in 2008. He is the second offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang and the younger sibling of the world-famous Mei Lan, born on September 6, 2006. Zoo Atlanta expects the new addition to make his official public debut in January.

Images, video and live PandaCam peeks of the cub are currently available on

The 100 Day Naming Celebration is free for Zoo Atlanta Members and children under 3; free with general admission.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Brown Widow Spiders – Hiding in a Log Near You

Glove up before clearing brush, cleaning out the garage or pulling logs off the woodpile this winter. A brown widow spider or her more commonly known sister, the black widow, may be hiding in the shadows.

The brown widow’s camouflage – an orange hourglass on a brown body – makes her hard to see. That’s good for her but bad for the person who sticks a hand too close to her web.

The brown widow usually tries to stay away from people, said Whitney Boozer, an entomology graduate student with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“If they’re disturbed, they drop off the web, curl up in a ball or retreat,” Boozer said.

They can’t retreat when they’re pressed up against someone’s skin, though. A brown widow gets in this situation when someone wraps a hand around her while she’s holed up some place.

Gloves and long sleeves will protect you “if you’re working in areas where brown widow spiders are commonly found,” Boozer said. Outside, brown widows prefer woodpiles, tires, empty containers and eaves. Indoors, the spider prefers protected places like under furniture and in shoes.

Shake clothes and check shoes before putting them on if they are left outside or in a garage.

Bites by brown widows cause severe reactions in 5 percent of people who are bitten. The young and old are especially vulnerable. With medical intervention, bites are almost never fatal.

The only scientific data collected on deaths attributed to widow spiders was taken between 1950 and 1959. During that time, 63 people died from the spiders’ bites, said Nancy Hinkle, a CAES entomologist.

“Doubtless those numbers are much lower now that we have indoor plumbing because most widow bites occurred in privies,” she said.

According to Boozer, the brown widow’s venom is more toxic than that of her black cousin, but she injects less venom when she bites.

“In my whole life, I have known only one person bitten by a widow spider, and actually I didn’t know him, he just called my office,” Hinkle said. “On the other hand, I have personally known three people who were struck by lightning.”

She estimates that there are fewer than seven people killed each year by widow spiders. More than 1,000 people each year are struck by lightning.

“So your chance of being killed by a widow spider bite -- even without treatment -- is over 100 times less than your chance of being struck by lightning,” Hinkle said.

Despite the odds, brown widows still aren’t spiders most people want wandering around in their homes. If you do see one, don’t panic. Boozer suggests taking it outside or vacuuming it up.

“Even outside, you’re allowed to kill widow spiders,” Hinkle said, who usually cringes when the conversation turns to smashing spiders.

Crush the egg sack, too, Boozer said. A brown widow’s egg sack is sphere shaped with spindly spikes of webbing sticking up all over it.

If desperation leads to a chemical attack, it’s best to spray spiders directly, Boozer said. Spraying a home’s perimeter may prevent spiders from entering it, but it won’t kill the ones already there. Brown widow spiders avoid places that have been sprayed.

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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