Friday, January 23, 2009

Wild Mustangs (Horses) Adoption Events Event in Texas Draws Attention to Issue, Including Help from the Wife of Dallas Oil Tycoon T. Boone Pickens

Very sad that once again, the wild horses will be subject to slaughter due to this short sided policy.

As you’ll read below, even people like Madeleine Pickens, the wife of Dallas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is stepping up to help. She recently announced a plan to provide 1 million acres for a wild horse refuge. To learn more and get involved, see her website at http://madeleinepickens.com/

As stated below, “…[t]hrough the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, wild mustangs roam free on swaths of land set aside for them in 10 states.”

Sadly, and as a short sided decision, “…[g]overnment officials want to reduce the country's herd of wild mustangs from the current 33,000 to 27,000….”

From this reality alone, it is clear that many will need adoption.

Article:

Adoption events offer hope for wild mustangs, but clock is ticking

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-mustangs_23met.ART0.State.Edition1.4ed289c.html
12:00 AM CST on Friday, January 23, 2009

By LAURIE FOX / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
Laurie Fox is an Arlington-based freelance writer. E-mail her at laurie-fox@sbcglobal.net.

FORT WORTH – Smoke was more stubborn, more spooked than any of the other wild mustangs that Ken Schwab had broken.

[Click image for a larger version] ROBERT W. HART/Special Contributor
ROBERT W. HART/Special Contributor
Ken Schwab, who has been training Smoke for months, says you have to take a chance on the horses. 'They're worth it,' he said.

The spirited horse had run wild for three years before he was sent to a government overflow facility – a common fate for the tens of thousands of mustangs roaming the West. Trust in man was hard to come by.

"It's just like all of the wild mustangs out there – you have to take a chance on them and not give up," said Schwab, who finally mounted Smoke after a month of patient waiting and coaxing. "They're worth it."

Conservationists and animal rights activists agree. But the clock is ticking for mustangs as the government tries to reduce the expensive – and ecologically destructive – herds through holding facilities and possibly euthanasia.

So Schwab and Smoke will ride into the John Justin Arena at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth this weekend carrying the weight of a larger issue.

Mustang Magic highlights the power and versatility of the formerly wild mustangs. After months of working with the animals, 11 trainers will show off what they've been able to accomplish with them.

At the end of Saturday's event, the horses are offered to the public for adoption.

It is part of a broader effort to get the animals to a good home and call attention to the tens of thousands of wild mustangs that still need placement.

Through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, wild mustangs roam free on swaths of land set aside for them in 10 states.

Government officials want to reduce the country's herd of wild mustangs from the current 33,000 to 27,000 for fear that the large numbers of horses will affect the delicate ecological balance on the land they still roam.

The overflow horses are sent to longer term holding areas where they also number over 30,000. Maintaining those herds is expensive, at least $27 million per year, government officials say, and the law does allow the animals to be euthanized if it's deemed necessary.

Their plight has touched many in the horse community from trainers such as Schwab, who operates from his home near Austin, to philanthropists such as Madeleine Pickens, the wife of Dallas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.

Pickens has become a vocal advocate against cutting the overpopulated mustang herd, announcing a plan recently to provide 1 million acres for a wild horse refuge. She launched her own Web site about the issue.

Pickens said she wants to form a nonprofit organization to oversee the donated land and the horse population that resides in the overflow holding areas. She is shopping her idea around Washington, D.C.

"This is a labor of love," she said of her effort. "This is a kind, common-sense solution to what has become a difficult issue."

Another group, the Mustang Heritage Foundation, works to secure as many adoptions as possible.

The group seeks trainers to tame the animals through trade magazines and its Web site.

Public adoption events like the one coming to Fort Worth this weekend have proven successful around the country, said Patti Colbert, the executive director of the foundation northwest of Austin.

"People are really passionate about this issue," she said. "We want to show America how trainable these animals are."

Colbert called the overpopulation of mustangs "a large problem" that she said would take cooperation from everyone to solve.

She said the trainers are doing invaluable work with the animals, some of which have had little human contact.

"These horses are a white sheet of paper when you get them," she said.

Trainers say the process of teaching the horses to live among humans can be daunting.

It's also a bit heartbreaking.

The trainers' goal is to make sure the horses do well in their new homes. Even if they grow close to the animals while working with them, they must give them up.

"My job is to make sure that they better someone else's life," said trainer Lonnie Aragon of Colorado Springs. "They've already bettered mine."

Aragon learned how to work with the wild horses while he was in prison. He spent five of his 10 years while incarcerated with the mustangs.

"When I first started out with them, I figured I had nothing to lose," he said.

But he said earning an animal's trust changed him.

"You're taking a wild creature and making them your friend," Aragon said. "That did something to me inside. That transformation is so gratifying."

Aragon has trained several horses for adoption through the mustang foundation. He will ride a mustang called Chance in Fort Worth this weekend.

"They took a chance on me and I don't want to let them down," he said of the animals. "Today, I come into every situation and ask myself, 'How many steps will it take to do this right?' I don't just react anymore.

"They've changed the way I see the world."

Laurie Fox is an Arlington-based freelance writer. E-mail her at laurie-fox@sbcglobal.net.

Tool Creation and Use Not Unique to Humans: Many Non-Human Animals Also Intelligent Enough to Employ Tools to Successfully Complete Tasks

A great article that dispels the myth that tool use is unique to the human species. As you’ll read below (and see via photos), many species have used critical thinking and problem solving to create tools out of objects in their evironment in order to successfully complete tasks. Another word for this – intelligence.

Article:

Clever Critters: 8 Best Non-Human Tool Users

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/01/animaltools.html

By Brandon Keim EmailJanuary 16, 2009 | 5:45:22 PMCategories: Animals

Multitool

Tool use was once thought to distinguish humans from animal — until, that is, so many animals proved able to use them.

Granted, the fine folks at Leatherman aren't about to be undercut by cheap chimpanzee-manufactured multitools. But it's hard not to feel a species-level déjà vu when seeing a gorilla using a walking stick or capuchin monkey thoughtfully selecting an ideal nut-cracking stone.

Below is a compilation of some of the most interesting animal tool use yet observed. Much more likely remains to be found: until Jane Goodall watched chimpanzees fishing for termites with sticks, scientists had been reluctant to credit animals with such sophisticated behavior — perhaps because, as Charles Darwin noted, “Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.”

Darwin himself was quite intrigued by animal tool use, suggesting that it allowed them to overcome biological shortcomings. In On the Origin of Species, he noted that elephants snap off tree branches to swat away flies; in honor of Darwin's interest, elephants are the first on our list of animal tool use.

Elephant

Elephant canteens. Cute YouTube videos of elephant painters show their amazing dexterity, but even more impressive is this peculiar habit: after digging a water hole, elephants will strip bark from a tree, chew it into a ball, then use it to fill the hole. Once the top has been covered with sand, the elephant has an evaporation-resistant canteen.

Image: Flickr/Paul Shaffner



Mole rat masks. The naked mole rat's powerful, protruding teeth are great for burrowing — but digging with their mouths makes it easy to inhale dirt. To keep their lungs clear, the mole rats have been observed placing wood shavings behind the teeth but in front of their lips — a simple face mask. (As an aside, the naked mole rat's better-known cousin has been taught to use a raking device in captivity. A word to raking rat trainers: keep an eye on them! New York City is bad enough without tool-using rodents.)

Video: YouTube/Bh41



Egyptian vulture hammers. Some say that seagulls who crack open shellfish by dropping them onto rocks are using tools, but that's generally dismissed on a technicality: The seagulls aren't actually manipulating their environment. No such ambiguity surrounds Egyptian vultures, who use rocks to break open ostrich eggs.

Video: YouTube/Gary9209


Burrowingowl2_2

Burrowing owl bait. In order to attract its favorite beetle prey, burrowing owls collect mammal dung, then spread it around the entrance to their homes. As with many animal tool behaviors, it's not clear whether the owls are acting out an instinctive sequence of actions, or consciously deciding to collect the dung. Either way, though, those dung balls are tools.

Image: Ronald G. Wolff / Nature


Woodpecker finch, green jay and New Caledonian crow bug-fishing sticks. All these birds use twigs to forage for insects, but the New Caledonian crow is famed for its cleverness, seen here in a captive bird's fashioning of a food-fetching hook from straight wire.

Video: YouTube/Kivirtual



Chimpanzee clubs. Since Jane Goodall's pioneering observations, chimpanzees have been observed using sticks to spear bush babies, smashing nuts open with stones (which, apparently, they've done for thousands of years) and making straw toothpicks. But their most striking tool may be the club.

Video: YouTube/Everything is Pointless



Gorillawalking

Gorilla walking sticks. Any hiker knows the value of a good walking stick — and so, apparently, do gorillas. In a swampy forest clearing in the northern Congo, this gorilla used a stick to test the depth of a pool of water, and then to keep its balance as it walked across.

Image: Wildlife Conservation Society/PLoS Biology


Dolhinsponge

Dolphin fishing sponges. An extended family of Indian bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia are the first known marine mammal to use tools: sponges with which they stir ocean-bottom sand, uncovering and disorienting prey. “It’s hard to get inside their heads because their brains are constructed differently and it’s very hard to analyze their language, but they do seem very intelligent,” said Georgetown University marine biologist Janet Mann to the Times.

Let's just hope dolphins don't develop opposable thumbs.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Proggy Awards Winners: See the Awards, by Category, for the Most Innovative and Animal-Friendly Achievements, Products and Services

Again, a great slate of winners. For those looking to know where to find cruelty free products, most vegan or vegetarian, and services, see these listings.

You can view the winners by category at:

http://www.peta.org/feat/proggy/6th/?c=p6apgb08#winnerDetails

As states at the site,

“Each year, PETA's Proggy Awards recognize companies, people, and products for innovative and animal-friendly achievements. With categories ranging from entertainment to science, there's no doubt that the well-being of animals is a growing concern in almost every field. Our panel of judges has made its choices for this year's awards, and we are proud to announce the results. Please give a round of applause to the following Proggy Award winners for their initiative, creativity, passion, and desire to make a difference!”

You can view the winners by category at:

http://www.peta.org/feat/proggy/6th/?c=p6apgb08#winnerDetails

In the First Extremely Disturbing Story of 2009, Elephants will be Slaughtered in Zimbabwe to Feed Soldiers

It’s obvious the disgusting reality of this issue. To think that they actually believe that killing elephants is the solution to this issue really shows that they simply WANT to eat elephants.

To look to no other options will likely leave the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in the running for the cruelest organizations of 2009, and for the most ignorant and short sided thinking groups of 2009.

Article:

‘Elephants Slaughtered To Feed Hungry Soldiers’

http://www.thezimbabweindependent.com/local/21772-elephants-slaughtered-to-feed-hungry-soldiers.html

Thursday, 08 January 2009 20:18

IN a move likely to appal conservationists the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have reportedly struck a deal that has resulted in the authority slaughtering elephants to feed soldiers at army barracks across the country.


Sources in the army told the Zimbabwe Independent that there were acute food shortages in the barracks and the supply of elephant meat was a big relief.


Parks Authority director-general Morris Mutsambiwa yesterday said there was no such a deal with the army.
However, military sources insisted the existence of the pact and disclosed that shortages of food rations in the barracks started early last year after the Ministry of Defence exhausted its budgetary allocation due to the harsh economic environment.


Secretary for Defence Trust Maphosa last year admitted before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs that the government was fortunate that none of the soldiers had so far dared to take it to court for failing to comply with the statutes on food requirements.


“For the better part of last year army canteens have been preparing the staple sadza only and soldiers have been bringing their own relish,” one of the military sources said. “Although the state has a statutory obligation to provide soldiers stipulated amounts of kilojoules and calories per every meal, the government has taken advantage of their ignorance and docility to renege on its responsibility.”


The sources said most barracks started taking delivery of the elephant meat last week.


“People started eating the meat of elephants last week,” said a female soldier from 2 Brigade in Cranborne.


In a written response to questions from the Independent, Parks spokesperson Olivia Mufute said: “Dr Morris Mutsambiwa said there is no such agreement that exists between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe National Army.”


Army director for public relations Simon Tsatsi professed ignorance of the matter before requesting written questions.


“I am sorry I am not aware of that, please put your questions in writing and fax them to our offices,” Tsatsi said.


The government is desperate to reduce the population of elephants in the country which it claims has far exceeded the carrying capacity of its national parks.


Pressure from animal rights groups has, however, prevented it from wholesale killing of the animals while it cannot afford the other control options that include translocation to countries with smaller populations and contraception.


While control and management of the animals is giving the Zimbabwe government serious headaches, in other parts of the world they have become an endangered species which has to be protected under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.

In Tasmania, Amendments Made to the Animal Welfare Act in Regard to Rodeos Begin in 2009

Looks like Tasmania is years ahead of the world in addressing animal cruelty issues in rodeos.

The amendments made include, “a ban on the riding of sheep and livestock and the introduction of penalties of up to $5,000 for animal mistreatment…[and] having a vet surgeon on hand so they can attend to animals that are either unfit to participate in the rodeo, or if they're injured during the events that they can be attended to promptly.”

Let’s see if other countries finally get that rational changes can be made in relation to animal cruelty and the rodeo.

Article:

Animal rights activists welcome new rodeo laws

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/01/08/2461502.htm

Posted Thu Jan 8, 2009 11:09am AEDT

The RSPCA in Tasmania hopes new laws regulating rodeos will see a reduction in injuries and mistreatment of animals.

Amendments to the Animal Welfare Act relating to rodeos will come into effect for this year's season.

The changes include a ban on the riding of sheep and livestock and the introduction of penalties of up to $5,000 for animal mistreatment.

The head of the RSPCA in Tasmania, Greg Treddinnick also welcomes the new requirement for an on-site vet.

"One of the most important things is having a vet surgeon on hand so they can attend to animals that are either unfit to participate in the rodeo, or if they're injured during the events that they can be attended to promptly," he said.

Lionhead Studio’s Video Game, Fable II Earns 2008's "Most Animal-Friendly Video Game"

I don’t actually game, so I haven’t played this one. But, it seems fair to have a animal welfare-related, vegetarian-friendly game on the market.

As stated by the writing below, “….characters that maintain a vegetarian diet in Fable II are given "purity" points, which help to make the in-game avatar appear more attractive and healthy. Eating large quantities of meat has the opposite effect, and contributes to the character taking on a more demonic form.”

Article:

PETA Names Fable II 2008's 'Most Animal-Friendly Game'

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=21764

PETA Names Fable II 2008's 'Most Animal-Friendly Game' Animal rights group PETA calls Lionhead Studio’s Fable II 2008's "most animal-friendly video game", due to the rewards the game offers for maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle.

As part of the group’s annual awards -- which also include other entertainment media, personal care products, foods and clothing -– the Xbox 360 exclusive was described as a "vegetarian’s dream come true".

As the PETA website points out, characters that maintain a vegetarian diet in Fable II are given "purity" points, which help to make the in-game avatar appear more attractive and healthy. Eating large quantities of meat has the opposite effect, and contributes to the character taking on a more demonic form.

PETA describes the game as "an effective tool that teaches gamers the real-life benefits of a vegetarian diet". No mention is made of the in-game canine companion, which became a key selling point of the game in many pre-release previews.

The controversial rights group has recently taken increasing notice of the video games business, prompting Sega to pull an advert for Samba de Amigo on the Wii because it featured a trained chimpanzee. The group also launched a critical parody of Taito’s Cooking Mama, forcing North American publisher Majesco to defend the franchise.

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