Hop to it! New craze takes seed as pictures show country's first ever rabbit jumping competition

Well trained: Vivien Jamieson jumping with her orange Netherland Dwarf on the UK's first Rabbit jumping competition course

Hilarious show jumping pictures with a twist show how rabbits are being trained to run the gauntlet - leaping high obstacles in a new British craze.

Rabbit Jumping UK is the country's only rabbit jumping club and began when retired office worker Maureen Hoyle visited a fellow breeder in Sweden and got inspired.

The unusual sport is popular there and in other parts of Scandinavia.

Rabbit fan Maureen took the idea back home and appealed to others to join a new club.

The rabbits are trained by owners at home who use treats to encourage the animals to make a leap of faith over barriers.

On Saturday members met at the Yorkshire Event Centre in Harrogate, North Yorks.

They treated visitors attending the Bradford Excel Small Animals Show to two competitions and rabbit jumping displays.

Home-bred: Rebecca Brewster (24) jumping with her English rabbit on the competition yesterday

Tricky: The participants had to jump across six hurdles to get through the race

'The rabbits love it,' said Maureen, from Huddersfield, West Yorks.

'The rabbits are very agile and a lot of people are surprised by what they can do.

'The rabbits have to clear the jump without touching it.

'In more serious competitions the obstacle has a delicately balanced weight at the top which will fall if the rabbit makes contact.

Whoops... This mini Lop, Blackie, finds that the obstacle isn't as easy as it looks
'That will add a penalty to the rabbit's total time.'

Nine competing rabbits wearing harnesses were guided by their owners on a lead through a course of six jumps.

The world's champion bunnies can clear heights of up to three feet.

source: dailymail

The tell tail clue to a happy dog... they wag it to the left

By Jonathan Petre

Welcome sign: A wag to the left is friendlier than one to the right

Everyone knows that if a dog's ears are up and its tail is wagging vigorously, it is definitely pleased to see you.

Now, scientists using a robot have found that the way dogs use their tails is more subtle than we thought and that dogs that wag them to the left may be more friendly.

The animal psychologists discovered that when real dogs approached a life-sized black Labrador with a mechanical tail, they were less wary of it when it was wagging its tail on the left side of its body.

When the robot's tale wagged to the right side, far fewer dogs approached it in a confident manner.

In the experiments, the researchers used a model with black synthetic fur covering a wire-framed body.

A small motor allowed the tail to be manipulated by a hand-held remote control.

More than 500 dogs were filmed as they approached the model in a public park.

In the study, published in the journal Laterality, the researchers looked in particular at whether the dogs were hesitant or not as they walked up to the model, as stopping or pausing can be a sign of lack of confidence, doubt or fear. In the first batch of the experiments, 56 per cent of the animals approached the model without hesitation when the tail was wagged to the left, but only 21 per cent had such a direct approach when it went to the right.

When the researchers excluded incidents where owners were present and may have influenced the behaviour of their pets, the results were similar: 41 per cent of the dogs approached continuously when the tail was wagging to the left, while only 28 per cent did so when it was on the right.

The researchers, from the University of Victoria in Canada, said they did not know whether the dogs' behaviour was the result of experience or an inherited predisposition.

But they warned that the results suggested that the controversial practice of tail docking in some breeds could disrupt communication between animals.

Animal psychologist Roger Mugford said it added to growing evidence that dogs were even more sophisticated communicators than animals more closely related to man such as monkeys.

He said: 'It is ground-breaking stuff. We know that dogs, in a sense, have language, but it is more complicated because it is not just them wagging their tails, but also giving out chemical displays.'

Surrey-based Dr Mugford said the research reinforced earlier studies suggesting that dogs, like humans, had a left-side bias.

He explained: 'If you are going to present a signal to a dog, it is sensible to put it on your left-hand side because that is where dogs, unusually among other species of animals, tend to look.

'It is another example of the similarity between dogs and humans. They are a lot more human than we give them credit for

source: dailymail

They famously mate for life, but as one flighty pair find new lovers... the truth about the sex lives of swans

By Colin Tudge

The swan split suggests the idea of the birds mating for life may not be true

There has been a divorce. So what? About a third of all British marriages end in divorce. Nothing unusual there, surely?

Yes - but this break-up has nothing to do with fickle humanity. It involves two swans, and everyone knows that swans mate for life.

It's in many a folk tale and is confirmed by professional scientists. If one swan dies, its partner may mourn or at least remain celibate for several seasons - a big slice from the life of a bird that can expect to live in the wild for only 15 years or so. But now a pair has broken up.

The swans are Bewick's - just a bit smaller than the familiar mute swans, and with a black-and-yellow beak.

Unlike mutes, Bewick's migrate thousands of miles from Britain each April to feed and breed in Scandinavia and Arctic Russia, returning only in October to wile away the time and recuperate in our somewhat milder winter.

They tend to return to the same spot each year and about 300 of the 8,000 that come to Britain home in on the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire.

The romantic tale of swans swimming off into the distance together for life could be a myth

All the Bewick's there are known individually. So the staff watch mated pairs normally fly out together and return together. But this year a male called Sarindi and a female named Saruni broke the rules. Sarindi returned from his Arctic summer with a new mate.

The Slimbridge scientists feared the worst, because members of this monogamous species don't usually take a new partner unless they are widowed.

But a little while later, Saruni turned up as large as life - and she, too, had a new partner. It appeared to be only the second recorded divorce among Slimbridge's Bewick's in 40 years.

It all seems very sad - and disappointing - for swans are nature's paragons, chivalric through and through: brave and powerful, faithful and beautiful. Although Shelley wrote rhapsodically to the skylark, 'Bird though never wert!', he could have written just as aptly of the swan.

How could such glorious creatures have come into being? Surely they must be the work of a divine creator, a supreme artist. Charles Darwin, of course, told us that every living creature is shaped by natural selection, subject only to the laws of physics, and honed above all for survival.

Yet swans seem to defy the laws of physics. How could such an enormous creature - they are among the heaviest of flying birds - just sit on the surface and sail like a galleon? Why that splendid, curved neck, like the prow of a Viking warship?
Why do they glow so white - so visible? Why not disguise themselves like female mallards, so they can hide among the reeds?

Ah, but natural selection seems to answer these questions, too. Birds evolved first and foremost to fly and have gone to enormous lengths to reduce body weight. Even those that have long since given up flight, like emus and penguins, clearly evolved from flying ancestors.

Inside their bodies, and extending far into their bones, are spaces for air. Their feathers hold air, too, which helps to keep them warm. So swans float so high and mightily for the same reason as the bathtime plastic duck: their bodies are full of air.

They have long necks because of the way they feed.

Swans are closely related to geese and ducks, and all of them live all over the world, or almost so; and anywhere you go you may find all three carving out the waterside habitats between them.

Many geese, like the Canada goose and bean goose, nibble the grass, sometimes far from water. So, too, do widgeons - and so, sometimes, may swans. Others, like the shoveller duck, feed from the surface, sweeping the surface with their broad beaks.

Some, like the mallard, 'dabble', reaching down from the surface for whatever they can find. Yet more, like the pochard, dive to the bottom to feed on shoots and roots.

The swans which 'divorced' were Bewick swans, which have distinctive black and yellow beaks

Swans reach down to feed on water weeds like dabbling ducks - but they can reach much further. They can do much of what the pochard does, without the trouble of diving.

Natural selection can even explain their faithfulness. It's their survival strategy - and one which is almost unique in the bird kingdom.

Since life in the wild is always precarious, many smaller birds are widowed routinely. They find it doesn't pay to put too much store by any one spouse if that spouse could be dead the next day.

That's why we find that huge numbers of birds - from mallards to many a songbird - will mate with any other bird they can find.

Often, too, female birds - aware that their nest could be attacked at any moment - lay an egg or two in a neighbour's nest just in case.

Cliff swallows, which live in the U.S., may seem monogamous at first sight: certainly they nest in pairs, sharing parental duties between them. But a DNA study found that nearly 40 per cent of all the nestlings were the fruits of what scientists dourly call 'extra-pair copulations'

Yet by songbird standards, that's modest. Australia's superb fairy-wrens are as sweet on the surface as their name suggests.

But in one study, 98 per cent of their nests contained at least one chick that had not been sired by the female's regular mate; and 75 per cent of all the young had been fathered by some other fellow far from the scene.

The fact is that, for creatures for whom life is always on the edge, it pays to spread the genes. And it's good for any one male - or any one female - to have eggs in several nests because that heightens the chance of a chick's survival.

But for swans, unfaithfulness just wouldn't pay. Swans are highly territorial - they know what stretch of the river is theirs, and so does everybody else.

The pairs gang up on intruders - and together they get better at it year by year.

Demonstrably, pairs that have been together for several years raise more young than pairs that are newly formed. So while natural selection encourages cliff swallows and fairy-wrens to put themselves about, it says to swans: 'Stick together!'

But then why do some divorce? The answer is that in any given season, a pair may fail to produce any eggs. And if this happens too often, then they simply decide to give it a try somewhere else.

This, probably, is why the Slimbridge pair broke up. In nature, there seems little room for romance - natural selection rules.

Yet as Darwin admitted, life isn't just about survival. It is also about raising families, and that requires co-operation and selflessness.

To raise a family, first find a mate - which means animals and birds must be attractive, and not just physically, although outward signs certainly help.

That's why Darwin coined the expression 'beauty for beauty's sake' - which is what we witness in swans.

They are shaped as they are because this suits their way of life. But they are as visually stunning as they are because this is how other swans prefer them to be.

We, mere onlookers, can just give thanks that there is such beauty to admire.

• Colin Tudge's book, The Secret Life Of Birds, is published by Penguin Books at £9.99.

source: dailymail

Revealed: The emu and ostrich can't fly because their ancestors became fat and lazy when the dinosaurs died

Flightless: An abundance of food and a lack of predators following the extinction of dinosaurs saw some birds, including emus, fatten up and stop bothering to fly

Birds like the emu and ostrich gave up on flight because they became fat and lazy when the dinosaurs died, according to new research.

An abundance of food and a lack of predators following the extinction of dinosaurs saw a number of birds fatten up and simply stop bothering to take to the air.

Many scientists had believed that the ancestors of modern flightless birds - such as emus and ostriches - were also flightless.

But a new study suggests they could fly and gradually stopped making the effort.

The research was carried out by scientists from the Australian National University who studied the genetics of the now-extinct giant moa birds of New Zealand.

To their surprise, the researchers found that rather than having a flightless predecessor, their closest relatives are the small flying tinamous of South America.

The study, led by Dr Matthew Phillips, suggests ancestors of the African ostrich, Australian emu, South American rheas and New Zealand moa became flightless around 65million years ago. This coincides with the extinction of dinosaurs

Dr Phillips' study, at the ANU's Research School of Biology, included DNA sequencing of 22 bird species including flightless and flighted birds.

He said: 'Many of the world's largest flightless birds - known as ratites - were thought to have shared a common flightless ancestor.

'We followed up on recent uncertainty surrounding this assumption.

'Our study suggests the flighted ancestors of various ratites appear to have been ground-feeding birds that ran well.

'So the extinction of the dinosaurs in all likelihood lifted pressures from predators which had previously meant they were destined to be smaller and could fly.

'In the absence of predators and with abundant food resources on the ground, there is a tendency for birds to evolve larger size and become flightless. We see this a lot on islands - dodos for example.

'Larger, ground-feeding birds can be more efficient at turning food into growth and reproduction, but size increase makes flight less efficient.'

The finding of independent origins of flightlessness also solves a mystery of how these flightless birds dispersed across the world over marine barriers - their ancestors flew.

The research is published in this month's issue of the journal Systematic Biology.

Hello little antelope, would you like to play with us?

No claws for alarm: Astonishingly, these cheetahs, whose instinct is to hunt for food, decide to play with this baby impala

Hello little antelope, would you like to play with us?

Coming from three deadly cheetahs, it's the kind of invitation that's best refused - but amazingly, this impala escaped unscathed from its encounter.

Luckily for the youngster, it seems these three male cheetahs simply weren't hungry

That's because unlike other big cats, the cheetah hunts in the daytime, either in the early morning or late afternoon. The bursts of speed needed to catch their prey tire them out - meaning they need to rest after a kill.

And that seems to be the secret to the antelope's survival, as it's likely it fell into the cheetahs' clutches when they were already full - and tired out - from an earlier hunt.

Photographer Michel Denis-Huot, who captured these amazing pictures on safari in Kenya's Masai Mara in October last year, said he was astounded by what he saw.

'These three brothers have been living together since they left their mother at about 18 months old,' he said. 'On the morning we saw them, they seemed not to be hungry, walking quickly but stopping sometimes to play together.

Sticking your neck out: Oblivious to the danger, the impala appears to return the affection to the cheetahs

New found friends: The new-found friends part with a farewell lick

'At one point, they met a group of impala who ran away. But one youngster was not quick enough and the brothers caught it easily.'

These extraordinary scenes followed, as the cheetahs played with the young impala the way a domestic cat might play with a ball of string.

Sprint finish: Impala is off the menu as the youngster makes its exit

'They knocked it down, but then they lost interest,' said Michel. 'For more than 15 minutes, they remained with the young antelope without doing anything other than licking it or putting their paws on the impala's head.'

Even more extraordinarily, this story has a happy ending - after one tense moment when it looked as though one cheetah would bite the impala on the neck, the youngster ran away.

Let's hope it didn't tell all its friends how nice those big, scarylooking cheetahs really are when you get to know them.

source: dailymail

Lonely hoots club: Pet owl's nightly mating calls enrage the neighbours

By Daily Mail Reporter

Twoo noisy: Twixx flapping around in his cage at Hedge End, Hampshire. His night calls have attracted the attention of a wild female

Twixx the tawny owl is looking for a mate and doesn't care who knows it.

He's been calling out for female company from his cage at the bottom of the garden every night for some considerable time now.

The pet owl's efforts have been rewarded by the attentions of a wild female - but they've also attracted the wrath of his owner's neighbours.

She has been warned that Twixx must pipe down - or be moved to another home where his hooting won't keep everyone awake.

But finding somewhere for him to go will not be easy - Twixx, at 12 years old, is rather old for an owl - and owner Wendy Whitfield fears she may have to put him down.

The 61-year-old bird lover, who has owned owls for 20 years, is furious with the council's ruling on Twixx - saying she has never had any problems before. She said: 'Twixx calls to see if there are any other owls in the area and there is one female who talks to him quite a bit.

'She sits in a tree near to Twixx's cage and he does appear to let out a mating call, which she responds to. Unfortunately, he can never be let out because he wouldn't know how to survive in the wild.

Owner Wendy Whitfield has been warned that Twixx must pipe down - or be moved to another home where his hooting won't keep everyone awake

'If we can't have him rehomed we either have him put down or go to court and take our chances with a fine. That wouldn't solve the problem anyway, so I'd still be forced to get rid of him.

'He's so old that that he's not any use to anyone really.'

Twixx lives in a cage at the bottom of Mrs Whitfield's garden in Hedge End, Hampshire, which backs on to a block of flats.

Some flat residents complained to Eastleigh Borough Council - which has ordered Mrs Whitfield to remove Twixx or face a £5,000 fine.

The council said: 'We have a statutory obligation to investigate all noise complaints.'

source: dailymail

Open wide... Orion, the hippo born on a Colombian drug lord's ranch, has a visit from the dentist

Hold still please: Orion's teeth are carefully inspected at the Santa Fe zoo in Colombia

A hippopotamus's mouth can measure up to 4ft wide, their teeth can grow up to 3 ft long, and they eat up to 150lb of food each day.

So visits from the dentist are key - as Orion the hippo knows all too well.

Orion - who was born in the Hacienda Napoles ranch which belonged to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar - now lives at the Santa Fe zoo in Medellin where he was visited by a dentist.

Big mouth: Orion has to lift one back foot to balance himself as he spreads his 4ft jaws

The dentist gingerly puts his arm in between the hippo's dangerous set of canines. Orion was born on the Napoles ranch which belonged to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (right)

Orion's curved lower canine teeth, like elephants' tusks, are made of of ivory.

But it is his molars which are most important. Hippopotamuses are herbivores which grind up vegetation with the flat molars. When a hippo's molars have worn down too much for them to eat, they die.

Escobar ran his drug empire from the eight-square-mile ranch in the South American country where Orion was born. At one point he supplied 80 per cent of the world's cocaine.

Despite his brutal reputation the drug baron spent much of his fortune converting his home into his very own fantasy land.

It was littered with giant concrete dinosaurs, a bullfighting ring, luxury cars, and a plane he used to smuggle drugs to the U.S.

It also featured a zoo featuring giraffes, elephants, kangaroos and - of course - hippos, including Orion's mother.

Escobar's interest in wild animals led to the biggest hippo population outside of Africa near his estate. He was cornered by Colombian police on December 2 in 1993 and gunned down.

Now, Hacienda Napoles has been turned into a theme park.

For just £5 tourists can tour the place in the jungle where Orion - now more occupied with the mundane matters of dentistry - was born.

Legacy: A hippo still at Hacienda Napoles accepts a treat from a visitor to the park. Escobar's interest in wild animals has led to the biggest hippo population outside of Africa near his estate

Hippopotamuses are herbivores which grind up vegetation with the flat molars. When a hippo's molars have worn down too much for them to eat, they die

Zoo worker Jorge Aguirre jumps a fence during the dental procedure

source: dailymail

The incredible journey: How Baltic the mongrel drifted 20 miles out to sea on river ice and survived

By Matthew Taylor

Trapped at sea: Baltic perched on an ice flow after drifting for four days before being rescued

A dog was rescued from an iceberg floating 18 miles from land in the Baltic Sea.

Sailors plucked the animal to safety after it got trapped on ice on Poland's Vistula river and drifted for more than 70 miles.

Rescuer Adam Buczynski said: 'He didn't even squeal. There was just fear in his big eyes.'

It’s thought Baltic’s problems began when he got trapped on ice on the Vistula River near Torun on Friday.

A day later he was spotted in Grudziadz, 40 miles upstream, where fireman tried to reach the German shepherd-type mongrel.

But thick ice made it too risky to launch a rescue craft despite Baltic floating just a few yards from the river bank.

Another bid to save the stranded mutt was made at Kwidzyn, 22 miles further on towards Poland’s coast.

After sightings dried up it was assumed the dog had perished.

But incredibly Baltic had travelled a further 50 miles to the river mouth before heading out to the ocean where finally his luck turned when scientists on a research boat spotted something odd moving amid the broken ice.

Natalia Drgas, of the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management, said: 'One of the sailors thought they had seen another seal but then he noticed it had legs, ears and a tail.'

However the men onboard the Baltica soon found saving the stranded dog was by no means plain sailing.

On dry land: The mongrel may now be adopted as the ship's mascot by the crew who rescued him

First they tried to catch the dog in a net on a pole but when that failed they had to drop a pontoon with crewmen.

Seaman Adam Buczynski said: 'We tried to sail as close as possible but as we approached the boat pushed the ice and the dog was sliding off.

'The dog didn’t even yelp but you could see the fear in his eyes.'

With darkness falling and time running out Baltic was finally hauled on board in sub zero temperatures late on Monday.

Captain Jan Jachim said if his ship had passed that way a few moments later the dog would never have been spotted amid the gloom.

He said: 'We were just at the right place at the right time.'

And he added that few boats chart those waters at that time of year.

'Baltic was drifting with the current further and further out to the open sea. He would have gone further if we hadn’t seen him.'

But Captain Jachim may not have seen the last of the Baltic, the salty seadog. If no-one claims him, the lucky hound will be adopted as the ship's mascot.

source: dailymail

Amazing pictures capture moment a puffin was mugged by a greedy gull

Stand and deliver: the puffin gets a nasty shock when a black headed gull swoops in

These amazing images capture the moment a puffin was the victim of a mid-air mugging by a greedy gull.

The puffin got a nasty shock when it the raider swooped in to snatch a haul of sand eels from its beak.

The smaller seabird, which would have had to work hard for its beakful of fish, was taken totally by surprise during the airborne smash-and-grab.

No chance: the smaller bird has to give up its hard-won catch

Unable to fight off the larger bird, the shocked puffin simply plopped to the ground as the black headed gull made off with most of its catch.

Award-winning amateur photographer Lee Davis managed to capture the aerial ambush as he was taking pictures of puffins on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland cost.

The large-billed seabirds, which grow to around a foot tall, nest on the islands and feed on a variety of small fish.

They are famed for their ability to grab and hold a number of fish in their beak at once - a practice which made this one a target.

Mr Davis, 26, said he was just about to leave the island when he spotted the puffin fly round the headland, presumably taking its catch back to a hungry brood of chicks.

The gentle seabirds can catch and hold several fish at the same time

He said: 'I saw the puffin about 6ft off the ground, began to track it and as it got closer I spotted it had a beak full of sand eels.

'Just as the puffin flew close enough for me to get a shot I saw the gull swoop in from above and go straight for the eels.

'The gull managed to snatch a load from the puffin's beak and the poor puffin dropped straight to the floor.

'The gull must have been pretty pleased and flew off with a mouth full of eels and the puffin with only a few left.'

Mr Davis, a mortgage advisor from Leeds, added: 'Puffins leave the nest for a couple of hours at a time so that could have been the result of a fairly long fishing trip.

'Black headed gulls on the Farnes sometimes mob puffins in the hope they might drop a few sand eels to be left alone, but it was very unusual this one actually made impact.

'I was pretty shocked but even more surprised when I looked at the back of my camera and saw I had managed to get such a good shot.'

Atlantic puffins nest in burrows on the Farne Islands, under boulders or in rocky crevices. There are thought to be up to 50,000 pairs at any one time, making the islands a draw for naturalists.

Black-headed gull tend to grow to around 1ft 6ins tall, with a wingspan of up to 3ft 6ins.

source: dailymail

Cat and dog meat could soon be off the menu in China as first animal abuse law edges closer

Dogs look out of their cages from a truck on a motorway on the outskirts of China's capital Beijing

Dog and cat meat could soon be banned from restaurants in China, ending thousands of years of tradition, following protests from animal rights campaigners.

The Chinese government is now on the verge of introducing its first law against animal abuse and permanently removing both animals from the menu.

The first draft of the law, aiming to protect animals from being hurt and killed in a cruel manner, will be raised for legislation in April.

In particular, the draft suggests people caught eating dog or cat meat be jailed for up to 15 days and fined 5,000 yuan (£450), while businesses would be fined between 100,000 to 500,000 yuan (£9,000 to £45,000).

Pet lovers' associations have sprung up in Chinese cities over recent years, with one liberation group last year ramming a truck full of caged cats to rescue them from being shipped to southern restaurants.

While many Chinese enjoy rich dog meat, especially during cold winters, some object to the practice in some regions of beating dogs to death to release the blood into the meat.

The China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import and Export Corporation backed the initiative, which it believes will improve overseas perceptions of Chinese exports.

Others insisted a ban on dog and cat meat was unrealistic.

'Banning such custom by law is inappropriate and unable to work,' said Xu Huiqiang, chief of wild animal protection in Jiangsu province, where a dog meat recipe has been listed as a piece of cultural heritage.

An official of Leping, a city that has a traditional catering industry based on dog meat, said that the local economy and people's lives would be terribly hurt by such a law.

'Cooking them alive must be punished but which meat to eat should be people's own choice,' said a commentary on Xinhua Daily in Nanjing. 'Some people in China still can't afford meat. We should not blindly copy Western values.'

But one online protester named 'Yuxiang999' posted on Xinhuanet.com: 'Eating cats and dogs is a shameless barbarian thing. Anyone with humanity would not kill these loyal friends of ours.'

source: dailymail

Blind dog saved from drowning in icy sea... after builder gives it the kiss of life

Hero: Builder Matt Darlington hugs Tosca, the dog he saved with a kiss of life

A blind dog that had stopped breathing for ten minutes after plunging into the icy sea was saved - after a burly builder gave him the kiss of life.

Tosca, who is almost entirely blind with cataracts, toppled 20 feet into the water when he strayed over a wall near Plymouth, Devon.
His owner Sylvia Paskins watched in horror as her beloved 13-year-old pet sank beneath the waves.

But passer-by Matt Darlington jumped into the freezing sea fully clothed and swam to Tosca's rescue.

The elderly dog was lifeless when he was pulled from the water - but the 37-year-old builder spent ten minutes performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until Tosca spluttered back to life.

Ms Paskins, 59, from St Budeaux, Plymouth, said: 'I saw his head go under and he was just gone. It was horrible.

'I shouted to some blokes who were sat outside having a cup of tea and straight away they were trying to row out to him.

'The next thing I knew one of the blokes ran around and jumped in. He swam out to him then slung him into the boat.

'When they got back he wasn't breathing at all. He was dead. He was totally still, like a little rag doll.

'One bloke kept rubbing his lungs and trying to get him to breathe, then another one opened his mouth and blew some air into him.

'It was like a miracle. All of a sudden we could hear him gurgling and then he just started to breathe again. They were absolute heroes.

'The bloke who gave him mouth to mouth was absolutely brilliant. If it wasn't for him Tosca would never have survived, he's just so lucky.'

Ruff seas: Sylvia Paskins and her beloved pooch Tosca, who was brought back to life when a builder gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation

Mr Darlington said modestly: 'I'm just glad the dog is okay. It was very cold but when he disappeared I didn't think about it, I just dived in.

'When we got back I held him upside down first to get the water out of his lungs, then started giving him the kiss of life.

'It must have been ten minutes before he started breathing again. I was just afraid he was going to come round and bite me on the nose.'

source: dailymail

Real-life Bambi on ice: Father and son rescue two deer trapped on a frozen lake

On thin ice: The two curious deer wander on to the frozen in Southern Norway

In a scene straight from the film Bambi, these flailing deer had to be saved after wandering on to a frozen lake.

Two men came to the animals’ rescue on the frozen 160-metre deep lake in southern Norway.

Ivar Skregelid and his son Eivind braved the ice to edge their way across Sirdal Lake.

Slippery: One deer falls over on the ice - making it easy prey for predators

Rescue mission: Ivar Skregelid and his son Eivind brave the ice to save the deer

They were carrying rope in case they needed to make an emergency rescue if the ice cracked and they also had a rifle.

Ivar said: ‘Deer sometimes do stray onto the ice not realising it is actually a lake. It is a challenge to save them before a predator such as a fox comes along.

‘We brought the rifle in case either of the animals had been wounded and had to be put out of its misery.

Saved: The two men - one equipped with a rifle in case of emergencies - grab one of the deer

Challenge: The men drag the deer to safety, off the frozen 160-metre deep Sirdal Lake

‘Fortunately, there was no need to use the rifle this time. Apart from a small wound to one of the deer, they were unharmed.

The deer clearly did not share the same friendship as Bambi and Thumper the rabbit in the Disney film, however.

‘When we bought them to the shore, they went their separate ways into the countryside,’ Ivar said.

Ivar is a hydrologist at the nearby Sira-Kvina hydropower station, where his son also works

How it looked in Disney's classic cartoon when Bambi and Thumper took to the ice

source: dailymail

Rare sighting of humpback whale breaching in Irish sea caught on camera

Spectacular: The giant humpback whale is seen breaching off the coast of Hook Head, County Wexford

Remarkable footage of one of the world's largest creatures in a dramatic acrobatic display has been captured in Irish waters.

The magnificent giant humpback whale soars almost effortlessly out of the sea, three miles off Hook Head, County Wexford.

Captured on camera, the spectacular ‘breaching’ provided some of the most dramatic wildlife footage ever shot around the Irish coast.

Rare sighting: The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group chartered a boat after reports of whales in the area

Padraig Whooley, of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, chartered a boat after reports of large numbers of whales in the area since New Year.

‘One of the largest creatures on the planet “exploding” out of the water is truly one of the most remarkable sights in the animal kingdom,’ he said.

‘None of the researchers had previously witnessed it in Irish waters.’

Humpbacks, which were once hunted to near-extinction, are now found in every ocean and can grow to about 15 metres and weigh up to 40 tonnes.

Remarkable: The humpback - one of the largest creatures on the planet - 'explodes' out of the water

Effortless: The ‘breaching’ provided some of the most dramatic wildlife footage ever shot around the Irish coast

Scientists are not sure if breaching serves some purpose, such as cleaning pests from the whale's skin or whether whales simply do it for fun.

Wildlife filmmaker Ross Bartley was on board to capture the 45-minute spectacle in high definition.

The footage will be screened in the upcoming Wild Journeys series on RTE which tells the story of humpback whale migration between Ireland and the Cape Verdes islands

source: dailymail

Escape from the jaws of death: How a young wildebeest learned that timing really IS everything

This doesn't look good: A giant crocodile rears up out of the water to attack the young wildebeest

Looking quite literally into the jaws of death, the future appeared bleak for this juvenile wildebeest.

As it crossed a crocodile-infested river with dozens of others in search of food it was picked off by one huge predator.

With its huge jaws wide open the large crocodile jumped out of the water to attack its hapless prey.

But timing is everything - and luckily for the young wildebeest, the reptile miscalculated its jump by a fraction of a second.

Run for it: Astonishingly, the crocodile's leap appears to be a fraction too late

Fingers crossed: It looks as though the wildebeest has made it - with just inches to spare

Instead of lunch, it ended up with just a mouthful of water as it slid off the back of the hooved creature.

The wildebeest survived the scrape and managed to wade across to the other side of the Mara River in Kenya.

The stunning sequence of pictures was taken by British holidaymaker Austin Thomas.

The 43-year-old was on a week-long break to Africa when he caught the natural encounter during an afternoon sat on the river bank with his camera.

The amateur photographer said: 'I was watching this large group of zebras and wildebeest that had gathered on one side of the river for some time.

No time to celebrate: The wildebeest has escaped the jaws of death - but with the river still full of crocodiles, stopping is a bad idea

Trouble: Undeterred, a flotilla of the fearsome predators moves into position

'It was obvious they wanted to cross but were biding their time. There were hundreds of them and about six or seven crocodiles in the river. Then as soon as one went they all went.

'After 30 seconds or so my attention was drawn to this young wildebeest that was at the back of the group and had become slightly separated.

'Then this crocodile came into view and I just kept my finger on the shutter after that.

'The crocodile came out of the water with its jaws wide open and it looked for all the world the wildebeest was heading straight into its mouth.

'But the wildebeest was going a bit faster that it appeared and the crocodile missed.
'It was all over in two seconds and the wildebeest got across safely.

'I wasn't quite sure what I had captured until I looked at the pictures afterwards.
'I was obviously very pleased with them and it made the wait and the trip worthwhile.'

Mr Thomas is a director of an electronics business and lives with his wife Amanda and children Charlie, 16, and Annabel, 12, in Rainford, near Liverpool.

source: dailymail

Now that's a slam trunk! Meet Toktak, the elephant who plays basketball

Score: Toktak the elephant effortlessly reaches for the hoop with his trunk

For many basketball players, achieving a slam dunk involves a mighty leap but this giant of the court has no such trouble.

Elephant Toktak, nine, only has to reach out her trunk to slam the ball through the net with ease.

Toktak and six-year-old Malie have been trained everyday by their keepers on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand.

Toktak 'dribbles' the ball

As the keeper signals, the giant creature shoots the ball at the basketball hoop.

"It is unbelievable. I had never seen an elephant playing basketball," said an enthralled visitor.

Organisers at the Island Safari centre, which cares for the animals, say the huge beasts have to undergo rigorous training to learn the basics of the popular game.

"It takes two to three months of intensive training to teach them basics, but fortunately their standards are improving with each passing day," said organiser Ning.

We are the champions: Toktak strikes a victory pose

Toktak the elephant performs his slam 'trunk'

Training starts by teaching elephants the basics in ball control before they move on to hold it in their trunk and throw it at the target.

During the next step, they are taught to stand on their hind legs and walk with the ball.

The last step they master is the shooting of ball at the hoop.

source: dailymail

Move over Bambi... at barely ten inches tall this HAS to be the cutest baby around

So small: This Kirk's dik-dik antelope is being hard-reared by staff at Chester Zoo after being abandoned

She was abandoned by her mother during the cold snap but she has since won the hearts of everyone who has met her.

This tiny antelope, who is barely ten inches tall, is being bottle fed milk five times a day and will
be given a helping hand until she is old enough to tuck into a diet of buds, shoots and fruits herself.

Experts at Chester Zoo believe the icy weather may have put a chill on her mother's maternal instincts, leaving the keepers to step in.

The baby antelope is a Kirk's dik-dik, the first of her kind to be born in the zoo.

Senior keeper Helen Massey has been playing mother to the new arrival.

"Kirk's dik-dik is one of the smaller of the antelope species but what they lack in stature, they make up for in appeal," she said.

"Our addition is growing stronger by the day and we hope she will be holding her own in the next few weeks."

Mind the mouse: Chester Zoo's Tim Rowlands at the computer with his tiny companion looking on

Feeding time: Zoo keeper Tim's hands dwarf his tiny charge as he gives her milk
Native to Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia, the dik-dik gets its name from the noise it makes when running for cover. They can live for up to 10 years.

The female's parents came from Colchester and Hanover zoos

photo: dailymail