Girl, 5, severely injured after being mauled by American bulldog

By Daily Mail Reporter

American bulldog: The breed of dog involved in yesterday's attack of a five-year-old girl. While American bulldogs are not banned, it is the second attack involving the breed in a month

A five-year-old girl suffered severe facial injuries when she was attacked by an American bulldog, police said today.

The girl's stepfather grappled with the animal, a family pet, to force it to release her but received injuries to his arm in the process.

The girl and man were taken to hospital by ambulance following the attack at an address in Hanemill Court, Northampton, around 7pm yesterday.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire Police, who were called to the scene, said: 'Their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening at this time.

'Police contained the dog at the scene and it will be humanely destroyed later today.'

The attack comes after 18-month-old Zumer Ahmed was mauled to death in Crawley, West Sussex, last month by a family pet also believed to be an American bulldog.

The breed is not banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act, police have said.

Duty Inspector Carl Sturman confirmed: 'At 7.13pm on Sunday, police were called to a report of a dog attack at an address in Hanemill Court. The family pet, a large American bulldog, had attacked a five-year-old girl.'

source: dailymail

An Asian Lion plays with a football painted with a St George's cross

Lucifer, a male Asiatic lion, holds a football painted in the England coloursin his mouth at London's Zoo in Regents Park London, Thursday, May, 27, 2010. The zoo gave the media a opportunity to film the lions playing with a ball filled with meat and painted in the colours of England, who are due to compete in the the World Cup in South Africa.

An Asian Lion plays with a football painted with a St George's cross, during a photocall at ZSL London Zoo, in central London on May 27, 2010. The England footballs, which are filled with meat treats, are aimed at stimulating thier natural curiosity, form part of the re-developed 'Big Cat' enclosure at the zoo, and were thought up by the keepers as a way of supporting the England football team during the World Cup.

source : daylife

I'll teach you to steal my nuts: The moment squirrel went into battle with pigeon over food

By Daily Mail Reporter

Ruffled feathers: The grey squirrel angrily faces the pigeon with his claws out before launching his attack

It was not quite the Rumble in the Jungle.

More the Brawl on the Lawn. But this feisty squirrel put up a fight Muhammed Ali would have been proud of when a pigeon tried to steal his nuts.

Rearing up on his hind legs, he lashed out with both front paws at his startled opponent, who promptly flew off, feathers ruffled.

Having proved himself a member of the Tough-ty club, the grey squirrel then carried on chomping away on the spoils of his victory.

The fight was captured by photographer Simon Dack in his garden in Brighton.

Impressed by the rodent’s boxing display, he has nicknamed him Squirrel Putemupkins.

He said: ‘Perhaps he’s the boisterous big brother of Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin.’

Claw wars: The squirrel leaps forward and lashes out against his feathered foe in Brighton

Grey squirrels were imported to Britain in the 1870s to adorn gardens.

Within decades they had invaded much of England.

Greys are larger and more aggressive than Britain’s native reds, which they have largely driven out.

Greys also have a bad reputation for stealing food from bird tables, so perhaps the hapless pigeon was trying to get his own back.

source :dailymail

Table for 12, please... Tiny bird feeds her 11 chicks on branch of tree

By Daily Mail Reporter

Hungry: The family of long-tailed tits wait patiently for their next meal at the Fairburn Ings, West Yorkshire

Eleven hungry beaks to feed . . . no wonder their poor mother looks a little ruffled.

But these newborn long-tailed tits, lined up on a branch and clamouring for a snack, are among the lucky ones.

They have a nice home in an RSPB nature reserve at Fairburn Ings, West Yorkshire, where they won't be allowed to starve.

Other long-tailed tits have not been so lucky. The tiny birds have suffered in the long, harsh winter and numbers are down a quarter on last year.

They have dropped out of the top ten most common species in the charity's Big Garden Birdwatch.

An RSPB spokesman said: 'Long-tailed tits, like other small-bodied birds, are particularly susceptible to cold, having to eat almost continuously to stay alive.'

Mating season is still on, and as the birds can have up to 12 young at once, gardeners have been urged to help them cope by leaving seeds and peanuts in feeders and bird tables.

source :dailymail

Yah-bah-dah-bah-doooo! Bear called 'Yogi' comes back to earth with a bump after getting stuck up a tree

By David Gardner

Up a tree: An emergency worker eyes up the bear in its perch high up in a suburban tree

A bear came back to earth with a bump after it got stuck up a pine tree while foraging for food.

Police used a tranquiliser gun to stun the two-year-old California black bear, which tumbled more than 15ft into the front garden of a house outside Los Angeles.

But the fall was softened by a tarpaulin that caught the bewildered 100lb cub - nicknamed 'Yogi' by onlookers - and it was bundled back into the wild before the effects of the knockout drug wore off.

The three-hour drama began in Porter Ranch, California, when Barabara Erickson, 71, spotted muddy paws on her patio carpet before seeing a bear staring at her from the pine tree outside her front window.

Within minutes, there were about 40 firefighters, police and animal control experts gathered in the garden trying to work out how to bring down the clearly distressed animal.

'I told the first guy, "Don’t you dare kill him",' said Mrs Erickson.

'Everyone's in the bear's corner. It’s sad to think what's going through the animal's mind right now. It’s become a circus animal,' said neighbour Mark Shapiro, 63.

The bear falls out of the trees after it was shot with a tranquiliser dart and suffered no injuries

After eventually coming up with a plan to fire a tranquiliser dart, two officers from the Fish and Game Department stood by with shotguns in case the bear tried to bolt and a half-dozen firemen held a big yellow tarp directly under the tree.

Although black bears are not normally dangerous to humans, the watching crowd was warned to move back.

After being hit by the dart, the startled bear scampered a few feet higher.

Ten minutes later, the groggy creature finally slipped from his perch and fell, limbs splayed, to a soft landing below.

LA city firefighters and animal control officers carry the sleeping animal off in a hammock

The sedated bear, his urban adventure over, was returned to a more natural habitat in the surrounding mountains and released about 30 minutes later on Wednesday lunchtime.

The black bear population has grown from 10,000 to 38,000 over the last twenty years and they are increasingly drifting into built-up areas looking for food and water.

Three weeks ago, a 200lb black bear was tranquilised and lowered with a harness after it got caught up a tree in another neighbourhood north of Los Angeles.

The bear's mini adventure carried on in the back of a van. He was transported back to the mountains west of LA, where he was released

source: dailymail

Swooping in at 150mph, this golden eagle really knows the meaning of fast food

By Daily Mail Reporter

Dinner time: A golden eagle, its eyes fixed fixed on its intended victim below, swoops in for the kill at high speed

If you were unfortunate enough to be considered prey by a golden eagle, this is probably the last thing you would ever see.

Its eyes intense and focussed, it's massive wings folded back for maximum velocity, and its powerful talons spread in anticipation, the bird's dive for dinner is one of nature's most fearsome predatory displays.

The golden eagle - or aquila chrysaetos, to give it its fancy name - drops from the sky at the speed of a small airplane to snatch its unsuspecting prey from the ground.

King of birds: These stunning wildlife shots were taken in the eagle's natural habitat in the canyons of Spain

Known as the 'king of the birds', golden eagles are at the very top of their particular food chain - the perfect hunters who very rarely find themselves being hunted.

Normally dark brown in colour, with a lighter golden-brown plumage on their heads and necks, the birds boast an impressive average wingspan of over more than seven feet.

They use this to hover high in the sky, riding the thermals, until their extra keen eyesight catches a glimpse of prey on the ground - namely rabbits, marmots, and ground squirrels.

Total concentration: From hundreds of feet off the ground, and at up to 150mph, there is little room for error

Arrow shape: the eagle tucks itself in and uses subtle movements of its wings and tail to vary its descent

Then the massive wings pull in to form an aerodynamic arrow as the birds literally fall on their meal.

Using subtle wing movements to direct their silent descent, the birds can reach speeds of up to 150mph before ploughing into their often oblivious victims.

These incredible wildlife shots were taken in the Canyon del Ebro y Rudron, Castilla y Leon, Spain

Hunting ground: The canyon created by the Ebro River in Castilla y Leon Spain, where the pictures were taken

source: dailymail

1st Happy Birthday, Panda cub - Lin Ping

News Center Chiang Mai - Chiang Mai Zoo commemorated big birthday panda cub, Lin Ping, age of first year fans flock appreciate congestion. While a great little panda development continued. China preparing for negotiations is extended to two more years in Thailand.

Panda cub, Ling Ping, is now weighing 36 kg with a height of about 135 cm while the newborn panda weighs only 257 grams at only the overall strength completely good health. From experiments such as bamboo shoot eating solid food and various fruits. Along with milk consumption. While skills in climbing improved significantly.


Warm on Mum's Happy Feet! The fluffy penguin chicks who know how to stay cosy

By Mail Foreign Service

I've found my cosy spot! A newborn penguin chick gets snuggled in on top of its mother's feet in the Antarctic

Snuggled safely on its mother's feet, a newborn penguin chick peers out at the camera.

A photographer braved sub-zero temperatures to capture these tender moments between adult penguins and their young.

Linda Drake travelled onboard an icebreaker ship to get to Snow Hill Island, which lies off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Sorry, Mom! The pair look at each other solemnly after the chick appears to take a nip at its mother's feet

There she found the colony of Emperor penguins caring for their offspring and protecting them from the bitterly cold conditions.

The birds allow their newborn chicks to perch on their feet and nuzzle under their bodies to shelter while the other parent forages for food.

Ms Drake, 40, said: 'I only had three hours with the penguins that trip but it was still the most fantastic thing I have ever experienced.

'Seeing the bond between the parents and the young penguins was really special.
'"The chicks were being kept warm in the brood pouch and on top of the feet of the parent. They looked so cute.'

Everyone find a travel buddy: Another adult penguin leads a group of slightly older chicks through the snow

Family affair: The Emperor penguins take it in turns to look after their brood

After the female penguin lays a single egg, she transfers it to the male to incubate while she heads out to sea to feed.

The male spends the winter incubating the egg in his brood pouch, balancing it on the tops of his feet for 64 consecutive days until hatching.

The young chick is then brooded in the 'guard phase', spending time balanced on its parent's feet and sheltered in the brood pouch.

The female penguin returns at any time from hatching to ten days afterwards and the parents then take it in turns to look after the chick and forage for food.

Ms Drake, from California, United States, added: 'I make trips to the Antarctic and the Arctic every year.

'I have endured temperatures of 60 below zero, had frostbite on my nose and cheeks and even lost a few milimetres off the tip of the finger I use on my camera button.'

source :dailymail

Meerkat misery: Thanks to that TV ad, they're now a must-have pet... but behind the cute image lies shocking cruelty

By Laura Powell

Cute factor: Meerkats are selling at pet shops up and down the country for as much as £1,500 each

Right at the back of the pet shop, between the cages of mice, sacks of puppy feed and swarms of goldfish at £2.50 a pop, a little animal no more than eight inches tall is running up and down a poky mesh cage.

Simples, a one-year-old meerkat, is on sale for £900, making him quite a money-spinner for the store. Despite his high value, however, he looks anything but happy.

His cage at Planet Pets in Radcliffe, north Manchester, is just 5ft by 2ft ('not good enough,' according to the RSPCA) and he is kept in it alone, despite the fact that wild meerkats live in groups of ten to 30.

TV star: Meerkat 'Aleksandr Orlov' in the adverts for price comparison site

The animals are also hardwired to spend their days digging tunnels, but Simples has only a shallow layer of wood chips to play with.

And he's far from the only meerkat living in these kind of conditions, because they are big business - selling at pet shops up and down the country for as much as £1,500 each.

The animals, which are native to Botswana, were originally bought from zoos by experienced breeders, but they are now in such high demand that amateurs are cashing in on the trend.

Why are they so popular? The clue is in Simples' name - it's the catchphrase of 'Aleksandr Orlov', the meerkat star of adverts for price comparison site

This oddly compelling creation - a smoking, jacket-wearing puppet with a Russian accent - has more than 720,000 friends on Facebook and the advert has been watched more than 400,000 times on Youtube.

Some of these fans have decided to take their enthusiasm for Aleksandr Orlov to the next level by buying a meerkat - even though the RSPCA says the creatures are wholly unsuited to being kept as domestic pets.

Caged in: Meerkats become distressed if deprived of company

The majority are prised from their litter-mates and parents and kept on their own, which can cause huge psychological trauma.

That ranges 'from self-harm to hair-pulling, pacing up and down and, in severe cases, chewing off their own paws,' says the RSPCA's scientific officer Ros Clubb.

Then there are the injuries that 'tame' hand-reared meerkats can inflict on their owners.

They have centimetre-long canine teeth, which feel 'like someone sticking a penknife into you - very painful,' according to meerkat expert Professor Tim Cluttonbrock, of the University of Cambridge, who has fallen foul of the creatures' gnashers.

Worse still, if you let them run loose indoors 'your carpets will be ripped up, any wires chewed through and if the meerkat hasn't electrocuted itsel f , it' l l certainly have ransacked the house,' says Craig Redmond of the Captive Animals' Protection Society.

Unfortunately, none of this is stopping some pet shops and breeders from selling the animals - and neither is the law.

If the meerkat trend continues, says Craig Redmond, then many owners will tire of the animals long before the end of their ten to 12-year lifespan.

Huge numbers will be released into the wild (where 'they do not stand a chance') or will be put down.

But buyers are often told none of this by sellers keen to make a lucrative sale. even Planet Pets' manager Gareth admits the £900 price tag is steep - that's why the animals are sold individually.

Isn't keeping a meerkat on its own a bit cruel, I ask? 'No, it's not cruel to keep them on their own at all,' he says. 'You can stroke it and have it on your lap and everything.'

Another pet shop owner I speak to doesn't have any in stock but 'can get his hands on them' for me at around £800 each.

Meerkat trend: The animals were originally bought from zoos by experienced breeders, but they are now in such high demand that amateurs are cashing in

Adam, of The Ark in Carlisle, even goes as far as telling me: 'They're much more interesting if you've just got the one.'

He doesn't mention that isolating meerkats in captivity can cause them serious psychological damage.

'Meerkats are highly sociable animals, they need to be kept in groups and are probably rather unhappy alone,' says Professor Cluttonbrock.

Last year, the Captive Animals' Protection Society secretly monitored meerkat sales during a six-month study. It found that the majority are sold individually and buyers are given insufficient advice and help.

'If the meerkat is kept in a tiny cage in the shop, the buyer thinks that's how it can live all its life.

'They don't realise meerkats spend most of their days burrowing and digging and need fresh air, company and space,' says Redmond. even the most conscientious seller I spoke to, New World exotics of Beeston, Nottingham, (they ask would-be owners to fill out an application form and question buyers to find out if they're suitable) said: 'You can keep them indoors but they have to have free rein.'

But Redmond argues: 'It is outrageous to give a meerkat a free run inside, especially if you are out of the house. The damage they can cause is catastrophic as they're natural diggers.'

None of that is mentioned by breeder Andy from Wigan, who is advertising three male pups on for £600 a piece.

Posing as a potential buyer, I tell him I work all day and wonder if that might cause a problem.

He answers: 'It could be.' But he quickly adds: 'The way around it is to give it a cuddly toy or something with your scent on it and it'll cuddle up to "you".

'They're similar to a cat really. They're happy to live in the house and are quite inquisitive . . . I take mine for a walk on a lead and they're local celebrities.'

Astonishingly, he even tells me I needn't necessarily feed my meerkat chicks, mealworms and insects (their usual diet).

'Their diet is . . . well, they can eat anything,' he says. 'Dog food, cat food, live worms, locusts, sausages, anything.'

Such sales spiel anger s Redmond, who says: 'The people who are in it for the money are often ignorant of everything: the right way to keep them and their dietary needs. I can't remember a single pet shop telling me meerkats need fruit in their diet.

'Keeping a meerkat in captivity is never going to be good enough. There's never a way of keeping them that's as good and natural as when they're in the wild'.

The problem is that there is no law against keeping meerkats. Owners do have a 'duty of care' to their pets and have to meet their ' behavioural and social needs' - or face prosecution under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.

But such rules are hard to enforce. You don't need a licence to keep or breed them, so the number of meerkats being kept as pets is impossible to estimate.

The majority are sold by unlicensed breeders, although exotic pet shops often act as middle men and offer to 'track one down' for you.

When I spoke to Danny at Manchester Pets and Aquatics he told me they had none in stock but said he could order one for a 'good price'.

The only shop I contacted that would only sell them in pairs ('because they can't be left on their own') was New World exotics in Beeston.

But even that wasn't good enough for Craig Redmond who said: ' They' re hardwired physically to live in colonies of ten, 12, even 30 - so living in pairs just isn't big enough.'

He adds: 'It's hard to be surprised by the numbers being sold. I visited one breeder in Leeds, a decent-looking couple in their forties living in a detached new-build on a nice estate.

'Right there in the hallway, they had five meerkat babies locked up in a small parrot cage, separated from their adults and the female adult was already pregnant again.

'She and the male were so wild, they were shut up in a tiled conservatory with nowhere to dig and absolutely no way of going outside.

'Can you imagine caging them up like that? You have to ask yourself why would you be so cruel as to try to tame something that is innately hardwired to be wild?'

One need look no further than lonely little Simples, scrabbling vainly at the floor of his cage, to agree.

source :dailymail

Now that's what you call a cat fight! Tiger brothers try to show each other who's boss

By Mail Foreign Service

Take that: A Siberian tiger makes the most of it when his brother turns his back, leading to a spectacular 20-minute water fight at the Nikolaev Zoo in the Ukraine

It was a real splash of the titans when this spectacular display of tiger play-fighting was caught on camera.

After one 28-and-a-half-stone Siberian tiger launched himself at his brother, the pair became locked in a wild water fight.

They rolled and tumbled - until a roar of disapproval from their watching mother led them to down paws.

All teeth and claws: After the element of surprise has been lost, the equally matched cats settle into a war of attrition - spraying water everywhere and slowly angering their watching mother

Despite their sharp teeth and claws, neither was injured in this boisterous battle.

The scene at the Nikolaev Zoo in Ukraine was captured in these stunning pictures by 23-year-old visitor Andry Kal’mus.

‘You could feel the power of the contest between them,’ he said. ‘It lasted for 20 minutes as they tried to beat each other.’

Wet and wild: The amazing pictures of the tiger play fight were taken by zoo visitor Andriy Kal'mus. The resulting images are certainly better than your average holiday snaps

Stand-off: After around 20 minutes of continuous fighting, the two brothers realise that they are just going to have to agree to disagree - that and the fact that their mother was literally roaring at them to stop

source :dailymail

This mallard's well 'ard: Daisy the duck lays her eggs in city centre pub's window box for FIFTH year running

By Daily Mail Reporter

Daisy the Duck has returned to The City Arms pub in Cardiff to lay her eggs for the fifth year running in a window box. Pub staff give her water in plastic containers, left, and feed her bread

A duck has become a real regular in her local pub by laying her eggs in its window box for the fifth year in a row.

'Daisy' has returned again to the busy City Arms in Cardiff to nest in her favourite spot above the pub's entrance, where she closely guards her precious eggs.

Her cherished home is right in the shadow of the Millennium Stadium and surrounded by late-night drinkers and sports fans.

But tough-beaked Daisy and her eggs are protected and cared for by the pub staff and regulars.

Landlord Martyn Mears said: 'This is the fifth year running Daisy has come back to us. Maybe she's heard about the beer.'

Daisy's spot at the City Arms in Cardiff where she nests in a window box, circled, above the pub's entrance

Mr Mears, 59, said: 'Once the eggs hatch I take all the little ducklings down to the park and put them in the river.

'I walk nice and slowly and Daisy follows me all the way!
'She lives just above the door and doesn't seem to mind the noise, every day I give her water and feed her bread.

'All of the regulars love her, especially the little old ladies, they're always asking after Daisy.'

source: dailymail

Meet Amazing Grace, the cat that had a nail driven through its head - and survived

By Daily Mail Reporter

Ouch!: An X-ray shows how the nail was driven deep into Amazing Grace's head

This little cat had a miracle escape after a thug drove a nail into her head.

The moggy - dubbed Amazing Grace - was found in Sioux City, Iowa, with the nail buried in its skull.

The cat was amazingly walking around in good condition when it was found, before a surgeon could pull out the three-inch nail.

"I've never seen anything like this. And to still have the cat be alive, It's just amazing," said Cindy Rarrat of Animal Control.

Now: Amazing Grace has recovered from her ordeal

source: dailymail

Up close and personal: Divers give shoal of giant 16ft manta rays their own hydro massage

By Mail Foreign Service

Graceful: A diver swims towards the camera in the shadow of a giant 16ft Manta ray

Swimming in the shadow of a 16ft wide manta ray this diver appears to be a little too close to comfort.

Three times the size of a human being, the enormous creature looks like something you might want to avoid bumping into in the middle of the ocean.

But despite its monstrous appearance, this ray is a gentle giant and happily let a group of divers swim alongside it.

Instead of swimming away from the divers the sociable animal, who was part of a group of eight rays, appeared more than happy to play with its new found friends.

Diver and professional photographer Franco Banfi took these incredible pictures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Socorro and San Benedicto Islands.

The 50-year-old, from Cadro in Switzerland, said the creatures were particularly fascinated with the diver's air tanks and would hover above them to 'catch' the bubbles.

He said: 'These are wild animals and you're never guaranteed to find them when you dive.

'We know that they are sometimes shy when divers are underwater - particularly when we're dressed with the normal equipment which lets out a lot of bubbles and noise.
'But here the mantas seem to look for the divers.

'It was an incredibly emotional moment because it wasn't just swimming - these mantas stayed with the divers.

'They were totally free and they could have swum away but they chose to stay.'

New friends: The rays, which are usually shy around humans, stayed with the group of divers for several minutes apparently fascinated by the air bubbles from their scuba equipment

Plain sailing: These pictures were taken off a group of eight manta rays off the coast of the Socorro and San Benedicto islands

The manta, also called the Mantra birostris, is the largest of the ray species and is mainly found in tropical waters.

They have been known to grow up to an incredible 25ft across and weigh up to 2.5 tons.

Manta rays glide through the water and can reach speeds of up to seven miles per hour.

Mr Banfi said: 'They stopped two or three metres above the divers' heads and delighted in feeling the touch of the bubbles from the air tanks on their bellies.

'It was a thrill for them when the bubbles burst against them - it was like a delightful hydro massage.

'This wasn't the first time I've seen this species of manta but it was absolutely the first time I experienced this extremely unusual interaction.'

Gentle giant: The massive creatures have been known to grow up to 25ft across and swim at speeds up to 7mph

source :dailymail

Mystery of the constantly-draining jacuzzi solved as elephant is caught on camera DRINKING it

By Mail Foreign Service

I'm sorry, did you want some? Troublesome the elephant is caught on camera sneaking a drink from a jacuzzi at a South African resort

For weeks, the mystery of the leaking jacuzzi has baffled workers at the Etali Safari Lodge in South Africa.

But the answer has been found - and her name is Troublesome.

A guest staying at the lodge snapped this picture of a thirsty female elephant gulping down mouthfuls of jacuzzi water.

The elephant - nicknamed 'Troublesome' - is well known to rangers at the reserve for her inquisitive nature.

But no-one realised she was behind the 'leak' at the jacuzzi outside one of the £400-a-night lodges.

Susan Potgieter, owner of Etali Safari Lodge, said elephants could drink more than 200 litres of water a day so drinking a whole jacuzzi was no problem.

She said: 'When I first saw the photograph of her drinking I couldn't believe it. And then it dawned on me of course an elephant was drinking it.

'It was something of a relief because we had been trying to work out why the pool had been draining so quickly for weeks but couldn't find a leak anywhere.

Another view of the Etali Safari Lodge, where Troublesome is well known to rangers for her inquisitive nature

'When it was empty in the morning we first called a plumber, but they could not work out why it was draining either.

'Troublesome was caught in the act by a guest at the lodge who just came outside to have some tea on the decking.

'They were quite surprised to see an elephant taking a drink of her own too, and quickly grabbed a camera.

'We've seen this elephant a lot before and by the lodge, the rangers call her 'Troublesome' not because she causes trouble but because she comes so close to their vehicles.'

Ms Potgieter said Troublesome probably preferred the water of the jacuzzi because it was clean.

She said: 'Now that we know what was going on we have tried to provide her an alternative source of water. But sometimes it's hard to get an elephant to change her ways.

'She is a very welcome visitor for us and our guests, except it's probably best to check if she is around before taking a dip in the jacuzzi.'

source: dailymail

Bat plague: The mystery disease that threatens to wipe species out and why we depend on their survival

In Peril: U.S. Townsend's Big-Eared Bat are succumbing to a mystery disease

They may not be cute or cuddly and they suffer from a decidedly bad Press, but we will certainly miss them if they go.

Bats are the hidden guardians of Britain's ecosystems and scientists fear they might be in peril.

Our landscapes, crops, biodiversity and even potential for medical research into human diseases could be changed for ever.

A mystery disease is sweeping across North America, starving bats to death and leaving behind mass graves of thin, putrefied and fungus-ridden bodies.

The mysterious killer has been dubbed White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in America, where it was first discovered in a cave in New York State four years ago.

It attacks its victims during their winter hibernation and leaves them with a powdery white fungus on their noses, muzzles and wings.

It is believed that the fungus is an irritant, waking up the bats repeatedly and causing them to exhaust the body-fat reserves needed to get them through hibernation.

Once WNS hits a cave, its entire bat population - sometimes tens of thousands of bats - can die.

In Britain, our most common bat, the pipistrelle, can live in colonies of up to 1,000 but in North America and, occasionally, continental Europe, tens of thousands of bats can live in one 'hibernaculum'.

The biggest known bat colony houses 24million bats in Bracken Cave, Texas.

About one million bats have died since the North American epidemic started. Reports of the fungus (Geomyces destructans), thought to be cause of the disease, have surfaced in a handful of bats across Europe, although none has died. Bats with white fungal growth on their noses have also been reported in Britain, although so far none has tested positive for Geomyces.

Professor Paul Racey at the University of Exeter, who is an adviser to the UK's Bat Conservation Trust says: 'Although Geomyces destructans has been found in Europe, at this point we don't have mass mortality.

'We just have the fungus and we hope it stays that way.'

However, he and other bat experts fear the situation in America could be replicated in Europe - and yet the issue has had nowhere near the amount of coverage devoted to the 'colony collapse disorder' that has been killing off bees. Unfortunately for bats, we just don't like them.

Despite the fact that they are vilified in the vampire tales of yore, and blamed as carriers of deadly diseases such as rabies and Ebola, we need bats for lots of reasons.

First, with 18 species in this country, bats are a part of the fabric of our natural heritage.

winging it: The Pipistrelle bat, more common in Britain, could also killed by the plague if it crosses the Atlantic

There are also serious practical and economic implications. 'Colonies of bats eat an enormous number of insects each night,' says Prof Racey. 'A bat can feed on ten insects a minute. If it feeds for maybe three hours a night, clock that up over a summer, you start getting into tons.'

Because some of those insects are crop pests, bats save farmers a fortune on pesticides. In America, experts estimate that pests uneaten by WNS-affected bats cost farmers billions of dollars each year. And, of course, the less pesticide farmers use, the healthier the environment.

And there are knock-on effects associated with bat deaths.

Dr Emma Teeling, a bat expert at University College Dublin, says: 'Ecosystems all depend on the interactions of all the creatures in them.

Remove one - and you don't know the consequences.' For example, with bats removed from the equation, we could suddenly see droves of midges. It's possible that populations of less desirable bugs could out-compete the 'good guys' - the insects that help us by pollinating crops.

Bats may even be keeping nasty disease-carrying bugs from gaining a foothold in Britain. Bats eat a midge called Culicoides, which carries bluetongue, a devastating livestock disease that is moving northwards in Europe as a result of climate change.

The extreme nature of bats also makes them valuable in helping to understand human health. With a life-span of up to 30 years, they live disproportionately long lives compared with other mammals. A mouse for example, lives for about a year.

Studying bat metabolism could help us understand human metabolic disorders, says Dr Teeling. Likewise, comparing bat genes to human genes could give us clues to blindness and deafness.

Outside Europe, bats are important pollinators of night-blooming flowers, and as seed dispersers. They pollinate the agave cactus from which tequila is made, and fruits such as bananas, mangoes and guavas depend on them.

And bats have been real survivors, constituting an astonishing 20 per cent of all living mammal species today. Even their reputation as the bad guys of gothic horror are unjustified. Of the 1,100 or so bat species, only three feed on blood.

Experts don't yet know if British bats face the carnage suffered by their American cousins, but they are concerned - enough to start raising awareness in Europe and lobbying governments to take the threat of WNS seriously.

'The search continues for Geomyces in Europe. The number of dots on the map are increasing,' says Prof Racey. 'European scientists have been collecting and testing samples for the WNS fungus from bats across Europe since last spring. Five countries have tested positive: France, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.'

Though scientists still can't say that the fungus is the definitive cause of WNS, it is looking increasingly likely.

But why is it not yet killing European bats? One theory is that our bats are immune to WNS, perhaps having had it long ago. It could have been transported to America from Europe, possibly via a tourist or caver, and since the bats there hadn't encountered it before, they were especially vulnerable.

Another theory is that the fungus may have mutated slightly in North America, turning it into a killer. This is what happens with human diseases such as flu - a small genetic change can make something mild turn virulent. If this is the case, then our bats may be in real trouble.

Sixty experts from 30 European countries, along with a handful of American scientists, have laid out a battle plan for Europe. The group will submit its plan to a leading ecology and conservation journal within the next few weeks. Governments are to be asked to raise awareness of WNS, particularly among cavers and tourist-cave operators.

In America, government-owned caves are being closed in an attempt to curb the spread of WNS, and privately owned caves have been encouraged to shut. Prof Racey hopes that in Europe, cave owners will ask visitors if they have recently visited caves in North America and, if the answer is yes, prevent entry.

Meanwhile, the killer is still rampaging across America. Last week it had spread from its epicentre in New England to 13 states and it has also recently entered Canada.
Peter Youngbaer, the liaison on WNS for America's caving organisation, the National Speleological Society, says: 'Our major worry is that there is no apparent progress on any solution.'

Scientists are working hard to find the disease's weak spots, but WNS remains elusive. The genome of the suspect American fungus is currently being sequenced at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is hoped that this will provide a blueprint to compare to the genome of the European strain, and help work out why the American version appears so deadly.

The hunt for a cure is also on. American researchers are currently testing fungicides - including one similar to that used to treat athlete's foot - on the WNS fungus and bats.

Europe can't afford to be complacent. Bats have emerged from hibernation now, but they could be vulnerable to WNS as they enter hibernation again later this year.
Dr Teeling warns: 'We have another winter coming up. We can't just sit here and wait.'

source: dailymail

I think we're going to need a bigger nest, dear: Canada geese left in charge of 40 goslings

By David Derbyshire

A pair of Canada geese take their very large brood for a swim along the River Thames at Caversham in Reading, Berkshire

If you think looking after two or three children is stressful enough, spare a thought for this over-worked parent.

The Canada goose has been left in charge of 40 goslings on the Thames in Reading, with only one helper to lend a wing.

Although so-called geese 'creches' - where the offspring of different parents get mixed up - are fairly common, experts say this is one of the largest and most understaffed they have seen.

Grahame Madge of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: 'Canada geese are well known for forming creches.

'You tend to get them in areas where you have quite a large number of nesting geese in a small area.

'The broods get mixed up and you get a few adults looking after a large number of goslings.'

Canada geese were introduced here in the 17th century.

Like swans, they are monogamous and will only seek out a new mate if their partner dies.

source: dailymail

£100m building project halted after GOOSE lays eggs on site... so builders give nest its own security guard

By Daily Mail Reporter

A goose has laid three eggs right in the middle of a building site, bringing work to a halt. The bird has been given her own bodyguard to protect her and her brood

Work on a £100million building development ground to a halt yesterday - because of a goose.

The bird has laid three eggs right in the middle of the building site and has been given her own bodyguard to protect her and her brood

Security guard Jake Fielding has been assigned to give the Canada Goose 24-hour protection and takes his duties extremely seriously.

The development that is being delayed because of the goose is known as the Cube - which was meant to be the finishing touch to an exclusive area of Birmingham.

It will contain a boutique hotel and residential apartments and is the final phase of luxury development The Mailbox, in an affluent area of the city.

Work on the Cube, which will be overlooking a canal, was expected to finish soon - but the arrival of the goose has delayed the whole operation.

Contractors Fitzgerald have been forced to hold off on any work on the pavements, where the goose has got settled.

A spokesman from Fitzgerald admitted that the goose was a source of both amusement and annoyance.

He said: 'The goose has been her for about three weeks now, and she's settling in quite nicely, which is unfortunate for us.

'But Jake Fielding, who is guarding the bird is doing a great job of keeping her safe and hopefully we won't be waiting too long for the eggs to hatch.

The development that is being delayed is known as the Cube - which was meant to be the finishing touch to an exclusive area of Birmingham

'We try to be very environmentally friendly, and don't want to do anything to disturb the bird.

'The goose has meant we have had to put off finishing the pavements around the bird and its eggs for three weeks.

'We have been able to work on other parts of the site in the meantime so we are not losing money but it is a pain that it has delayed the project.

'It is frustrating that we're being held up but I'm sure work will be able to continue as usual once the eggs have hatched.

'It wouldn't be a good idea to move her before her goslings have hatched.'

Cllr Mike Whitby said of the Cube back in 2006 before the goose incident that it would break all the boundaries of what has been achieved in Birmingham so far.

He said: 'Our city is a city of the future and as a futuristic building with phenomenal foresight in style and design, it is indicative of our plans in how we see Birmingham developing.

'The Mailbox has already raised the bar in the quality and calibre of our architecture and the retail offerings, worldwide brand names and stylish restaurants have given Birmingham a contemporary profile rivalling the capitals of Europe.

'The Cube will help to elevate us onto a global stage.'

source: dailymail