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Posted by Andrew Bleiman

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As thousands of viewers watched via live webcam on August 10, Izala the Southern White Rhinoceros gave birth to a healthy female calf at Burgers’ Zoo.

Zoo staff members were anxious about the birth because Izala’s first calf was stillborn in January 2016. It is not uncommon for a White Rhino’s first pregnancy to be unsuccessful. Fortunately, this calf appears healthy and strong, and she was walking and nursing within just hours of birth.

The lively calf, named Wiesje, runs and plays in her large exhibit, with Izala usually trotting close behind.

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LI9A9453Photo Credit: Burgers' Zoo

 

Seven Rhinos have been born at Burgers’ Zoo in the past 17 years, and around 12 are born each year in European zoos. Last year, 22 Rhino births occurred in European zoos, due in part to increased cooperation among zoos. This cooperation resulted in more Rhinos being transferred among zoos into more favorable breeding situations.

While other Rhino species live mostly solitary lives, White Rhinos live in small social groups which typically include adult females and their young.  Males’ territories overlap those of females. Researchers have learned that the hormonal cycles of lower-ranking females in these groups are suppressed, resulting in only higher-ranking females being bred.

In zoos, this research has a practical application: moving a young female to a new environment increase the odds that her hormonal cycle will be restored, which improves the odds that she will breed. Thus Izala, who lived at the Kolmarden Zoo with her mother, was brought to Burgers’ Zoo so she could successfully breed and rear her own baby.

Southern White Rhinos are the largest of all five Rhino species, and are also the most numerous in the wild, with about 20,000 individuals found mainly in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. 

Southern White Rhinos are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threat remains poaching for the illegal Rhino horn trade. As prices for Rhino horn increase, hunting increases as well. Rhino horn, which is used for ornamental purposes and in Traditional Asian Medicine, is made of solid keratin, the same material in human fingernails.  It has no proven medical benefits, yet has driven some Rhino species to the brink of extinction: only about 60 Javan Rhinos and 200 Sumatran Rhinos remain in Asia.

See more photos of Wiesje and Izala below.

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Meet Nala the Serval Kitten

Aug. 19th, 2017 05:23 am
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Posted by Andrew Bleiman

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On July 1, Colchester Zoo welcomed a baby Serval named Nala. The kitten currently lives behind the scenes, where she is under the expert care of zoo keepers.

Like most kittens, Nala is playful, as you can see in the video below. During play, she exhibits the amazing skill that Servals are known for: leaping into the air to pounce on top of their prey.

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IMG_9662Photo Credit: Colchester Zoo

Servals live in much of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Weighing 20-40 pounds as adults, these medium-sized Cats have the longest legs relative to body size of any feline. Their super-sized ears help them locate prey. Because Servals favor habitats with tall brush, long legs give them an advantage when tracking small mammals, birds, frogs, and reptiles through the grass. Once prey is within reach, Servals can leap more than six feet upward and ten feet forward to forcefully pounce on prey with their forepaws. A quick bite to the prey animal’s head or neck delivers the fatal blow.

Much of Africa’s Serval population lives on protected land and hunting of Servals is prohibited in many, but not all, countries. Though Servals are currently listed as a Species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, continued degradation of habitats, especially wetlands and grasslands, could pose a threat in the future.

See more photos of Nala below.

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Posted by Chris Eastland

1_Naima Hani Kalila 2

For the first time in Dallas Zoo’s 129-year history, they are proud to announce the birth of two extremely rare Somali Wild Ass foals. Born ten days apart, the little girls and their moms are doing great and have been bonding beautifully behind-the-scenes.

The first foal, named Kalila (“dearly loved” in Arabic), was born on July 9 to 13-year-old mom Liberty. This is dad, Abai, and Liberty’s third foal together; the pair previously welcomed two offspring at their former home, the St. Louis Zoo.

The second foal, named Naima (“calm” in Arabic), was born July 19 to the same dad, Abai, and first-time mom, five-year-old Hani. Just like her older half-sister, little Naima was standing, walking and nursing within minutes after birth.

“This is a big moment for our hoof stock team. Somali Wild Asses are critically endangered, with less than 600 left in the wild,” mammal curator John Fried said. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”

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4_IMG_9502Photo Credits: Dallas Zoo

The Somali Wild Ass (Equus africanus somaliensis) is a subspecies of the African Wild Ass. Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea), there are many reasons the Somali Wild Asses’ numbers have dropped drastically in the wild. Locals hunt this species for food and traditional medicine. Some believe their fat treats tuberculosis. Somali Wild Asses also directly compete with livestock for limited land and water sources. Additionally, wild assess are crossbreeding with domestic asses, hurting the genetics of this species.

With unique zebra-striped legs, a soft gray upper body, a white belly, and a spikey black-and-gray mane, Somali Wild Asses are the smallest of the wild equids (horses, asses, and zebras). Standing about four feet at the shoulder and weighing roughly 600 pounds, these animals also have the smallest hooves of any equid, which help them navigate rocky slopes.

The Dallas Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Somali Wild Ass Species Survival Plan (SSP) to increase their numbers in human care and keep the North American gene pool genetically sound. In 2005, father Abai arrived from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to bring a new bloodline to the U.S. Since then, he’s sired multiple foals.

“These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoof stock barn,” mammal supervisor Christine Rickel said. “Although they were born 10 days apart, they look vastly different. We joke that Liberty has super milk because Kalila’s already a big girl. She was born weighing 65 pounds – 14 pounds heavier than Naima.”

Liberty, Hani and their foals were introduced to each other last week behind-the-scenes, but the protective mothers are hesitant to allow the little ones to play together, who just want to run in circles to their hearts’ content.

The babies will soon venture into the arid habitat off the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail exhibit. And, in time, they’ll meet the Gemsbok, Addax and Ostriches, with whom they’ll eventually share the habitat.

The foals are not on exhibit just yet. Check with Dallas Zoo’s social media for more updates: www.dallaszoo.com

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LBCF, No. 147: ‘The Holy Hand’

Aug. 18th, 2017 05:26 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

“If any of it was true, all of it was true” seems to be simply another version of the fundamentalist insistence that if any of it is not true, then none of it is true. This is the house-of-cards implication fundies draw from their notion of biblical “inerrancy” which, again, has very little to do with the supposed inerrancy of what the Bible actually says and everything to do with their own alleged inerrancy as its interpreters.
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Escape From Enlightenment by Tessa Rose

Marley is coming of age in a post apocalyptic, radically feminist society. Women have wrested all power and authority from men, who are kept in prison camps so they will never again wage wars and abuse women. Babies are incubated in artificial wombs and engineered to be attracted to their own sex. The process, however, doesn’t always work.
Marley worries about feeling no attraction to other girls until she meets Maddy. But she needs to win Maddy away from the odd values of a barely tolerated subculture. And Maddy would be horrified to know that Marley views illicit online pictures of boys.

The author explains the flip, and the queer content: "The main protagonist is a hetero girl who finds herself in a similar situation to gay teens today … actually a worse situation, because the boys she wants are nowhere to be found in cities populated by lesbians and older eunuchs. The story has subplots about gay teen boys, too."

This novel was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and author-published. Add your review of "Escape from Enlightenment" in comments!
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Train by Danny M. Cohen

Marko screwed up. But he's good at swallowing his fear.
By now, the 17-year-old 'Gypsy' should be far from Nazi Germany. By now, he should be with Alex. That's how they planned it. But while Marko has managed to escape the Gestapo, Alex has been arrested in the final round-ups of Berlin's Jews. Even worse, Marko’s little cousin Kizzy is missing. And Marko knows he’s to blame.
Yet the tides of war are turning. With hundreds of Christian women gathered in the streets to protest the round-ups, the Nazis have suspended the trains to the camps. But for how long? Marko must act now. Against time, and with British warplanes bombing Berlin, Marko hatches a dangerous plan to rescue Alex and find Kizzy.
There are three people who can help: Marko’s sister with her connections to the Resistance, Alex’s Catholic stepsister, and a mysterious Nazi girl with a deadly secret.
But will Marko own up to how Kizzy disappeared? And then there’s the truth about Alex — they just wouldn’t understand.

In 2017 this title was selected as the inaugural text of the Museum Teacher Fellows national book club of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Add your review of the author-published (in conjunction with the UnSilence Project) "Train" in comments!
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August 18th, 2017next

August 18th, 2017: This week I have been at a delightful cottage and it has been delightful! I recommend: delightful cottages. Thank you for your time and attention.

– Ryan

Left Behind and Trumpism

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:48 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

The Left Behind series sold more than 65 million copies. I can't offer a precise Venn diagram comparing those 65 million readers with the just-under 63 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump, but I would imagine the overlap in the middle would be pretty big. Their appeal is the same, and so is the audience.

Zoo Hatches First Horned Puffin Chick

Aug. 17th, 2017 05:16 pm
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Posted by Andrew Bleiman

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A tiny Horned Puffin is doing well at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The chick hatched in July at the Rocky Shores habitat for sea birds.

This is the first Horned Puffin ever hatched at the zoo, which has been home to four adult members of this species since October 2014.

The chick will be visible, periodically. However, zoo guests are likely to only catch glimpses of its tiny beak as it ventures to the front of its nesting area.

“The chick’s parents take turns feeding it, and visitors can see them going to and fro with food, or watching over the nest box,” said staff biologist, Cindy Roberts.

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4_Puffin 4Photo Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (1-4) / Ingrid Barrentine (5-7)

Earlier this year, zookeepers took the initiative to build nest boxes for the Horned Puffins. They consulted with experts at the Alaska Sea Life Center to build boxes for the mating pair.

Zookeepers at Point Defiance Zoo give daily feeding presentations and talk to visitors about Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins and Common Murres.

“Staff won’t know whether the chick is male or female, until it’s old enough for staff to collect a small blood sample from which gender and general health status can be determined,” Roberts continued.

A “well-chick-check-up” from a zoo veterinarian recently found the baby Puffin to be in good health.

The Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) is an auk, similar in appearance to the Atlantic Puffin. It is a seabird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, and it nests in colonies, often with other auks.

They are found on the coasts of Japan, Russia, British Columbia and Alaska. They spend winters in the ocean, as far south as the Washington coast.

Like all sea birds, Horned Puffins face a number of threats in the wild, including predators, oil spills, plastic pollution, over fishing and entanglement in fishing nets.

The incubation period for a Horned Puffin is about 40 days. After hatching, the chick spends 40 more days in the burrow until it fledges and has gained the necessary strength and feathers to go out on its own.

At its current stage, the zoo’s new puffin chick looks like a black-and-gray ball of fluff with a dark gray beak. However, as it grows, it will take on the full black-and-white body of a Horned Puffin, and its beak will turn a distinctive yellowish-orange with a red tip.

Adult Horned Puffins also have bright orange feet and legs. During breeding season, they have characteristic “cheeks” with a “horn” above the eyes.

In addition to its Horned Puffin colony, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has a complement of 21 Tufted Puffins and seven Common Murres living in the Rocky Shores sea bird habitat.

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Posted by Andrew Bleiman

1_Mark Bushell with a Desertas wolf spiderling  (1)

One of the rarest spiders on earth has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens in a world first.

Over 1,000 tiny Desertas Wolf Spiderlings have hatched in the Zoo’s Bug World. So valuable are the babies, some have even been hand-reared by dedicated keepers from tiny eggs.

The hatchings are a huge boost for the species, which is only found in one valley on one of the Desertas Islands, near Madeira, Portugal. There is thought to be a single population of just 4,000 adult spiders left in the wild – an alarmingly small number for an entire invertebrate species.

It is hoped that some of the spiderlings can be returned to their native island in the future to boost dwindling numbers in the wild.

2_An adult female Desertas wolf spider with young on her backPhoto Credits: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Desertas Wolf Spiders (Hogna ingens) are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species but are not protected by any specific legislation.

The baby spiders are just 4mm in diameter but grow to be huge, impressive-looking black and white adults up to 12cm in size with a body size of 4cm. They are under threat from habitat loss, due to invasive grass binding the soil where they burrow and blocking their natural shelters.

Bristol Zoo has joined forces with Instituto das Florestas e Conservação de Natureza (IFCN) and the IUCN to develop a conservation strategy to protect the species in an effort to prevent it becoming extinct.

As part of the vital conservation effort, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates, Mark Bushell, travelled to Desertas Grande last year with Zoo vet Richard Saunders and collected 25 Desertas Wolf Spiders to be brought back to the Zoo to breed as a ‘safety net’ population.

The effort has been a great success, as Mark explains: “Because this was the first time this species had ever been taken into captivity to breed, it was a steep learning curve. After some of the female spiders were mated, it was an anxious wait to see if they would produce egg sacs. We were thrilled when they did, and to see the tiny spiderlings emerge was fantastic – a real career highlight.”

Such was the keepers’ dedication, that when one of the female’s egg sac broke, eggs were carefully transferred into a miniature incubator for rearing. Once the eggs hatched, they were put into separate containers with sterilized soil, kept in quarantine and individually fed with fruit flies.

Bristol Zoo now plans to send hundreds of the tiny spiderlings to other Zoos in the UK and Europe to set up further breeding groups as part of a collaborative conservation programme for the species.

Mark added: “Establishing the world’s first captive breeding programme for this species is a fantastic step towards protecting it for the future. It is a beautiful and impressive creature, but its natural habitat is being altered by invasive plants. There are simply not enough rocky and sandy areas of habitat left for the spiders to burrow and hide in. The result is a deadly game of musical chairs, whereby the spiders are competing for fewer and fewer burrows.”

Mark added: “In addition to the loss of habitat, one single catastrophic event could wipe out the species entirely. Now we have successfully created a ‘safety net’ population here at Bristol Zoo to help safeguard this impressive creature for the future.”

In future it is also hoped that Bristol Zoo’s team of horticulture experts can visit Desertas Grande to work with park rangers to control the invasive grass, which is destroying the spiders’ habitats and help restore the original landscape.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public, not only to fund its important work in the zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

For more information about visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens, visit their website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk .

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Without Chance by Christopher Bailey
Ryan had lost everything. His mother recently died of cancer, and his father had completely shut down after her death. His father even dragged him away from the city he'd grown up in, forcing him to leave all of his friends to move to a tiny, backwater town called Turnbridge, hundreds of miles from anything remotely interesting. Even the school's social scene seemed to revolve around activities and sermons at the local church.

Then he met Chance. Chance was quiet and friendly, and was an extreme social outcast due to his sexual orientation. He was also obsessed with an unsolved murder that had taken place two years previously. Everyone was convinced it was a suicide. Everyone except Chance, who believed the victim had been targeted due to his homosexuality.

Ryan didn't believe him until the accidents started, all seeming to focus around Chance. With the local culture so hostile toward the gay population, there were too many suspects and not nearly enough time as they tried to stop a killer who hunted in the name of God.

Add your review of "Without Chance" in comments!
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August 16th, 2017next

August 16th, 2017: I have deployed EACH of these successfully! Nothing can ever go wrong with these phrases; it is a science fact.

– Ryan

October 2016

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