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Animals

Fisherman Hero Helps a Much Larger New Friend

Leslie Tander

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While not the largest kind of whale in the world, humpback whales are huge and weigh several tons. Most people would love to watch them from afar to see them breaching the water, but actually getting close to them would be terrifying. 

Humpback whales were hunted almost to the point of extinction in the past, which caused rules to be put into place so they wouldn’t be killed deliberately anymore. Unfortunately, they still suffer at the hands of humans because they mistakenly eat plastic, collide with boats, or become entangled with fishing gear meant for other marine life.

Caught In a Buoy

Sam Synstelien and Nicholas Taron witnessed a humpback whale off the coast of California when they were out working. Commercial eel fishermen, they had never gotten that close to a whale before, but they knew they had to help.

The poor whale was clearly tangled in the rope and buoy and had no way to free itself. This problem was caused by humans and humans were there to be able to help.

Jumping Into the Ocean

They could easily see that the whale was having trouble, and that it was swimming in such a way that it was clearly trapped to something at the bottom. They called for help, but learned that no one offical would be able to come soon.

Sam and Nicholas decided to handle the problem as a team. Only one of them would be needed to cut the whale free, while one would stay on the boat for visual support and to help the other if needed. Sam jumped in, but his friend Nicholas watched and cheered him on the whole time. 

Caught On Cell Phone

When you watch the video captured by Nicholas, you can hear how excited he is. He calls out to his friend to “Cut it now!” and screams “Yeeaah!” when the line is finally cut.

Sam looks as though he is jumping without fear, but he is probably powered more by adrenaline. He gets the job done quickly, jumping directly onto the distressed whale’s back and working fast to locate and cut the line.

Experts Say “Don’t Try This Yourself”

According to experts, this was not the way the situation should have been handled. They believe that the whales are fine where they are for up to weeks, because they can still move and breathe and get food. Waiting for the Coast Guard, they say, was the real appropriate action here.

Even trained experts who understand the risks and are ready can get killed in such an operation, especially with such a large animal. Injuries could happen by accident, and the people who got hurt trying to help would not have assistance if they were hurt. They also pointed out that there is no way to know for sure that there wasn’t anything else tangled on the whale.

It Doesn’t Feel Wrong

Whatever the experts say, it doesn’t seem wrong to help an animal clearly in distress. As adult fisherman, Sam and Nicholas understood the risks and cared more about the comfort of their fellow creature than trying to do the safest thing. They called for help and when help wasn’t available, they stepped up and helped themselves.

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Animals

Four White Lions Charm Zoo Staff & Earn Their Freedom

Mackenzie Freeman

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White lions are exceedingly rare, with their numbers estimated to be no greater than 300 worldwide- if you don’t count the 80’s, hair-metal band of the same name. The white mane and body hair are caused by a mutation that happens once only over several thousand lion births.

So, when these four white lion cubs were taken into care in 2017, zoo staff and visitors were charmed by their tendency to want to cuddle each other and to stay close inside the basket they were given to sleep in.

It was decided that the lions would be given special care since their bright white fur is considered to be a major handicap in the wild. The lions had not been involved in an accident or injured- so there was no reason to keep them caged up longer than necessary. They were allowed to grow up within a limited controlled habitat but were slowly introduced to the wild and allowed to have their freedom.

The worry was that the bright white fur would make hunting abnormally difficult for the cubs, making survival in the wild unlikely. But the lions were healthy enough that it was decided they deserved a chance to live on their own.

Up until the day of their final release, the adorable white lion cubs charmed visitors and zoo staff alike. They remained very close and friendly with each other throughout their stay at the zoo. Even as adolescents, the white lions slept in close proximity and would cuddle and clean each other regularly.

After having grown to a sufficient size, over a period of seven months, the lions were slowly given the chance to move out into the African wildlands where they eventually made their homes. They seemed to know that they were not as well camouflaged as normal lions, and made more effort to hide from their prey before striking from hidden locations. The animal carers took this as a positive sign and eventually allowed the four white lions to venture out on their own with radio tags in their ears allowing wildlife professionals to track their progress and monitor their location.

The lions are three years old today. They have been closely monitored via radio-tracking and their behavior and their progress have been deemed normal and healthy. They have not strayed from their optimal environment, and have not threatened any human habitations.

The lead researcher in the project to follow the animals said, “The white lion cubs have shown a level of awareness of their strange coloration that we did not expect. They did not behave like properly camouflaged lions. They behaved as if they understood that they would be spotted by their prey immediately if the engaged in a chase over a long distance. Instead, they survive as ambush predators, something we see more of in crocodiles. But these four cats have managed to make it work for them too.”

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Animals

Care to Play With the Lion?

Mackenzie Freeman

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Everyone needs exercise to be healthy, even animals. If you’re a pet owner then you are probably aware of your pet’s need to be taken for walks, be played with, and to get to stretch his or her legs once in a while. Well, it’s no different for large wild animals like lions. In fact, the team of animal carers at San Diego Zoo needed to figure out a clever way to get their lion, named Mazinger, into more physical activity.

Mazinger had been rescued some months prior to the video from would-be poachers who had injured Mazinger’s front left leg. After healing up over a few weeks, Mazinger started feeling like his old self again, and the enclosure he was kept in didn’t have the space or the activity he needed to be satisfied.

The animal carers started by discussing ways to help the lion to get some activity in while he was kept in the relatively small enclosure which is only about 40 by 50 square feet in size- big enough for a smaller animal- but not for the king of the jungle. So zoo staff started with a system of ropes that they would pull through the enclosure with a piece of meat or something that would catch the lion’s attention. Then they would try to pull the rope through to give Mazinger the feeling of having chased something.

Of course, the fun was short-lived as even rehabilitating full-grown lions are quite strong. Mazinger would seize the rope, and that would be the end of the game. The animal carers knew that he would need to be given more of a challenge.

Lion exhibit staff, Brian Carr said, “We had to keep him in that enclosure until a larger and more suitable one could be made ready. But that was weeks out still. So we needed to help Mazinger to feel more like himself in the shorter term. In the end, we found a simple solution.”

The solution they found was to secure a large piece of meat to a strong length of rope and to feed that into a small opening in the strong iron fence. The end would be flicked out with a stick from above to give it some range and to catch Mazinger’s attention. Before long, several of the exhibit staff were engaged in a hilarious game of tug of war with a fully grown African lion. They did this every day for about a week before they decided they could invite members of the public to play tug of war with Mazinger.

The event was short-lived, but it was a great success. Dozens of people came each day just to play tug of war with the lion. It did seem to boost Mazinger’s spirits to have a little competition.

Sometime later, he was moved to the larger exhibit, where he has been seen “tugging” things like tree branches. The staff at the new exhibit still occasionally manage to get Mazinger into a friendly game.

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Animals

A Dog Named Dear, or Deer, oh dear!

Mackenzie Freeman

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Usually I change names for privacy when telling a story, but in this case, a fine gentleman named John Slater from Wiltshire has asked we use his real name. A lovely man indeed, John has overcome the hardship of losing his wife, as a 63 year old widower he wishes only to make the world a better place for all of us who are inspired by his courage. That courage started when John was a young child, but has presented and defined itself from the time John found an injured deer as the result of a traffic accident.

The Bonds That Tie

John Slater was driving around doing ordinary things like ordinary people do when he found himself to be in an unordinary situation. A tiny deer, still a baby with her spots, had been hit by a car, insert sad face here… But the deer was okay, a bit hurt, perhaps crying a little bit as she remained strong and noble in a manner only deer are able to present, so so John Slater took her home with him and nursed her back to health. John fed her cereal soaked in milk, she particularly liked granola and oatmeal. She also likes fruits, and John saw quite quickly how fond she is of strawberries. Because deer are unable to tell you their real name in English or any other human language, John Slater decided to call her Strawberry, a name she enjoys and likes to be called by.

As a side note, “Deer” in French is “biche” or “cerf” depending on whether or not the deer has antlers. In Spanish, “ciervo o cierva” depending on whether the deer is a boy or girl. In Latin, Strawberry would be called Pulchra Classic, the Beautiful Strawberry.

Odd Pets and Friendships

In the meantime, as we discuss linguistics and admire the friendship Strawberry and John Slater developed together, they became friends such as people have with their loyal dog companions. Deer aren’t usually domesticated or domesticable, but this was an exception to the rule, for she wants nothing more than to be with her best friend, mentor, and student, a man named John Slater. Strawberry can’t bark like a dog does, but she can whistle when she thinks your attention is needed. Strawberry doesn’t have to whistle often, she has a best friend, John Slater, who cares for her needs as she cares for his on a daily basis.

Developing a Relationship of Trust and Kindness

Strawberry and John Slater aren’t just a pet and her owner, they are best friends. It might be a bit unusual for a deer to become such great friends with a human, but there are other available friends for those of us who haven’t met a deer before. Dogs, cats, fish, or even plants and trees can be wonderful pets, friends for life, and best friends forever! If you have room to provide for their needs, horses, cows, goats, chickens, or pigs might be great pets. Set up a birdfeeder and you’ll have friends who check in daily, even though they prefer to watch you watch them than to provide comfort hugs.

The bottom line and take-away summary here is, be kind to animals. They rely on us people persons to assure their well-being. Animals along all walks of life will return your kindness and generosity with devoted loyalty and love.

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