The Shark Whisperer – Young Conservationist Dances with Great White Sharks

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Most people wouldn’t dream of going anywhere near a Great White Shark, and yet shark conservationist Ocean Ramsey has no problem swimming with the deadly predators and even hitching a ride with them, in her efforts to prove they’re not the monsters films like Jaws made them out to be.

27-year-old Ocean Ramsey got the nickname “shark whisperer” after photos and video of her petting 17-foot sharks went viral. The world is just discovering this brave young girl and her honorable cause, but Ocean has been traveling the globe swimming with many species of sharks to convince people they are not just mindless killing machines, for years. So far, she has come face to face with 32 species of sharks, including some of the most dangerous like Great Whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks. “I feel so fortunate that some of the greatest moments of my life have been diving with Great White sharks,” the blonde beauty said. ”It’s sad to think that the human race could be responsible for the extinction of such vital and beautiful animals.” She hopes her incredible experiences will grab the attention of the public and raise awareness to the plight of these fascinating creatures. A new study revealed that around 100 million sharks are killed every year, a rate 30 to 60 percent than sustainable. It’s estimated only a few thousands of Great White Sharks are left in the world’s oceans.

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Bizarre Dog-Spinning Ritual Believed to Ward off Rabies

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When we were kids, we played this game where we would twist a pencil innumerable times into a loop of thread and then let it go, watching with fascination as it spun around at top speed. It was a fun game, but I never imagined that somewhere in the world, the same thing was being done to living creatures.

Brodilovo is a small, remote village in the South-Eastern part of Bulgaria. Here, villagers are so afraid of rabies that they have a centuries-old tradition to ward off the disease. The bizarre ritual involves the spinning of dogs, just like the pencil game, on a rope, hanging over a small stream. It is practiced once a year and is believed to help keep rabies at bay. The process that the dog is put through is quite enough to give animal rights activists nightmares. Dogs are twisted in a rope that is stretched out tautly over, and are then let go. The dogs spin out of control and then tumble into the water below. Since they reach very high speeds, they are often unable to swim when they hit the water. A net is held at the bottom for the animal to fall into, and then helped out of the water.

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The Incredible Story of Tippi Degre, a Real Life Mowgli

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Mowgli has always been one of the most-loved characters from children’s literature. I loved the Jungle Book cartoon movie when I was a kid and I must say it is a favorite even today. So when I heard about this real-life Mowgli character, I was fascinated.

Folklore and fairy-tales always mention that wild animals do not hurt the young ones of any species. But that theory hasn’t exactly been tested out in the real world, and there have been cases where babies were reportedly killed by man-eating lions or tigers. But that’s what makes Tippi Degre’s story that more special. Now 23 years old, Tippi is the only child of French wildlife photographer parents, Alain Degre and Sylvie Robert. Her parents’profession and their work in Africa made the young girl’s childhood unique, giving her the opportunity to interact with wild animals in incredible ways. She was named after actress Tippi Hedren, who is said to have kept fully-grown lions as pets in her home, and little Tippi was no different from her namesake, demonstrating early on the ability to form unusual bonds with the creatures of the wild.

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Insect Body Snatchers – How the Jewel Wasp Turns Cockroaches into Zombies

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If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I don’t need to tell you what the Imperius curse is. For the rest of you, it’s a spel used to control people’s minds. Now, if you thought something like this was possible only in J.K. Rowling’s world, well here’s some news for you. Nature’s obviously one step ahead. The Jewel Wasp or ‘Emerald Cockroach Wasp’ is actually able to control the mind of its prey, the cockroach, by injecting venom directly into its brain.

The secret to the Jewel Wasp’s ‘captivating’ abilities lies in a neurotransmitter called octopamine in the cockroach’s brain that contols its movements. The wasp’s venom blocks the octopamine, literally converting the cockroach into a zombie. This ‘zombie’ cockroach is completely unable to fight back as it is pulled by the wasp into its underground lair. If you’re wondering why the wasp would go through all this trouble to just eat a cockroach, here’s the really weird part – the cockroach is meant to unwillingly play the part of surrogate mother. The wasp lays an egg into the cockroach’s abdomen, and the larva later hatches and eats the live cockroach from inside out. It takes 3 or 4 days for the larva to hatch, after which it slowly feeds on the roach’s internal organs, keeping it alive the whole time. This process takes about 7-8 days, during which the meat needs to be fresh for the larva. And because a dead cockroach rots within a day, the wasp prefers the ‘stun’ method. Once the roach is eaten up completely and it dies, the larva forms a cocoon inside it. A fully-grown wasp emerges from the cockroach carcass a month later.

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Portland Dog Kissing Contest Will Leave a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

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They say a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s but is that any reason to actually kiss your canine, even if it’s on Valentine’s Day? The answer is “YES”, at least according to participants at a dog kissing contest in Portland, Maine.

The 9th Annual Valentine’s Day Dog Kissing Contest took place yesterday, at the Planet Dog Company Store in Portland, and yes, there was a lot of face licking going on. The rules of the adorable/disgusting competition are pretty simple. Owners let their canine pets lick their faces – yes, that includes their lips – and the longest cross-species kiss is declared the winner. The big prize for first place? A $75 gift certificate to the Planet Dog store. So it’s safe to say people who enter the dog kissing contest don’t do it for the money, considering everyone actually has to pay a $5 entrance fee. It’s probably just a great opportunity to show off their dog’s affection or maybe it’s to be part of a charity event (all the proceeds go to the Planet Dog Foundation). If you’re easily grossed out about mouth-to-snout smooching, I recommend you don’t watch the video at the bottom.

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Japanese Restaurant Employs Masked Monkey Waiters

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Are you running a restaurant and can’t afford to hire waiters? Well, you could take a cue from this Japanese restaurant that hired monkeys for the job. And in an attempt to make them look more human, they even strapped masks on their faces. Not that they really fooled anybody.

The restaurant in question is Kayabuki, in the Miyukihoncho part of Utsunomiya, North of Tokyo. The place is a traditional ‘sake house’, which makes its choice of staff even stranger – a couple of monkeys named Yat-chan and Fuku-chan working as waiters (or waitresses, we’re not sure). 16-year-old Yat-chan is the older of the two, but he moves quickly between tables as he takes the customers’ drink orders. Fuku-chan gives diners a hot towel and helps them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.  Believe it or not, the pair is actually certified by local authorities to work at the restaurant. The customers like them as well, so they get tipped with soya beans. One customer, Takayoshi Soeno said, “The monkeys are actually better waiters than some really bad human ones.”

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Chinese Grandma Spends All Her Life Savings Taking Care of Stray Dogs and Cats

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Grandma Bai, a 64-year-old animal lover from Chongqing, China, has spent the last 15 years taking care of stray dogs and cats, and has exhausted all her life savings in the process.

American humorists Josh Billings once said “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself”, and we’ve featured a few heartbreaking stories that prove this to be right. Remember Capitan, the German Shepherd who refused to leave his owner’s grave six years after he died, or Ciccio, the faithful dog who attends the daily Mass at the church where his master used to go? I’ve written a lot of impressive stories about dogs’ loyalty and love even beyond the grave, so it’s always nice to see some humans showing them some kindness in return. Case in point, Grandma Bai, a native of Leshan, China, who has spent all her savings and the last 15 years of her life taking care of over 100 stray dogs and 30 cats. Her love for these abandoned creatures and the sacrifices she has had to make have melted the hearts of millions, since the story broke out in China.

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Living with Wolves – The Amazing Story of Werner Freund

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79-year-old Werner Freund has a unique gift. The ex-paratrooper and now wolf-researcher from Germany can get along with wolves so well, it’s almost like he’s a member of their pack. In fact, it’s been 40 long years since he started living among wolves and rearing them from pups at his ‘Wolfspark’ sanctuary , located in Merzig,  in the German province of Saarland. The close relationship between Werner and his wolves is quite obvious from pictures of him leaning back on his haunches and howling, and of the wild beasts eating meat straight from his mouth.

Wolves are generally a feared species; come into close quarters and your chances of making it out alive are quite slim. But things are different in the case of Werner. It’s like they’ve accepted him as one of their own. When Werner is around, his wolves are actually playful, docile and submissive towards him. Perhaps it’s because he’s successfully asserted his dominance as the alpha male in the pack. The park is inhabited by wolves from six different packs around the world, including Siberian, Arctic, Canadian, European and Mongolian ones. They were mostly acquired as cubs from animal parks or zoos and hand-reared by Werner.

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Chinese Boy Has Been Living and Sleeping with a Python for 13 Years

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A family from Dongguan, China, has recently made headlines after it became known that their 13-year-old son’s best friend is a 15-foot Burmese python. The predator even looks after the boy when his parents are away.

Most grownups would turn away and run for their lives at the sight of a 220lb python, but 13-year-old Azhe Liu can’t get enough of his slithering friend. Ever since he was just a few months old, the two have been sharing the same bed, and today they are simply inseparable. Six years before Azhe was born, his father, Chen Liu, found a snake egg, brought it home and hatched it out. When the boy came, the python already weighed 20 kilograms, but having a snake around the house didn’t seem to bother the family. ”I’d always thought them the most beautiful creatures and I was interested to see what would happen when my son came along,” Chen says. ”After a while we were certain the snake wouldn’t hurt him and we began to leave them together alone. They really are inseparable.” Azhe and his Burmese python started sharing the same bed, and when he was just 9 months old, he was left alone with it, as the parents left to work. They would play and cuddle all day long, and during the hot summer months, the snake’s cold body acted as a natural air-conditioner.

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Dog Attends Daily Mass at Church Where Dead Owner Used to Go

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Ciccio, a 12-year-old German shepherd, whose owner passed away two months ago, visits the church she used to frequent and where her funeral was celebrated, patiently waiting for her to return.

The people attending the church of Santa Maria Assunta in San Donaci, Italy have received a lesson in love and loyalty from a dog that for the past two months has been coming in for the daily mass, hoping his beloved owner would return. Local Maria Margherita Lochi, 57, had adopted Ciccio years ago, after she found him abandoned in the fields near her home. She was an animal lover who had taken in several stray cats and dogs, but her connection with Ciccio was special. Apparently he felt the same way, as even though Maria died two months ago, the dog keeps coming back to the place he last saw her. She would walk with him to the church, for the daily Mass, and the priest would allow him to wait patiently at her feet. He was even there with Maria’s loved ones at her funeral. But Ciccio seems to have a tough time letting go, and he comes back into the church each day, as soon as he hears the bells calling in the faithful for the Holy Mass. He just sits by the side of the altar, quietly, hoping Maria will come back…

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Milagros Caninos – A Haven for Mexico’s Disabled and Tortured Dogs

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Milagros Caninos, or Miracle Dogs, is a very special canine shelter in Mexico City. For years it has been a true paradise for dogs suffering from terminal illnesses, are blind, paralyzed or have been tortured and abandoned on the streets of Mexico’s capital.

Patricia Ruiz, the founder of Milagros Caninos lost her pet dachshund, Clavo (Spanish for “Nail”) in 2004. She knew the meaning of his life – to love her and her family, to play with her children, to bring joy to their lives – but she couldn’t understand the meaning of his death. Like she would have done for any lost member of the family, Patricia posted a eulogy in the newspaper as a symbol of the love and respect she had for Clavo. After that, she started getting all these emails from like-minded people, who shared her pain at the loss of their four-legged companions, and that motivated her to become involved in rescuing animals. She first rescued one dog, then another, and so on, to the point where she needed a place to keep them all. Her eyes and ears were always focused on pain, so she ended up with a number of animals suffering from severe illnesses like cancer, were paralyzed, or had been tortured or drugged by humans who didn’t share her compassion. So she founded Milagros Caninos, a haven for dogs in extreme situations, in need of special care and attention. That’s when she understood the meaning of Clavo’s passing…

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Overtoun Bridge – Scotland’s Mysterious Canine Suicide Spot

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There are some things in this world that are simply beyond explanation. Like the fact that in the past 50 years, about 50 dogs have jumped to their deaths from the exact same spot on the 100-year-old Overtoun Bridge in Milton, near Dumbarton, Scotland. In 2005, five dogs had jumped in a span of just 6 months. The canine suicide spot is located between the last two parapets on the right-hand side of the bridge, which is where all the dogs took the fatal leap. And to add to the strangeness, almost all the incidents have taken place on clear, sunny days, the dogs always being long-nosed breeds – collies, retrievers and labs.

The situation, according to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is a ‘heartbreaking mystery’. “There are lots of owners whose dogs have died and who are trying to find out why they jumped,” the Society says. One of the victims on the bridge was collie dog Ben, who leaped to his death in 1995 while taking a walk with his owner Donna Cooper, her husband, and her son, Callum. Without any warning, Ben just leapt over the parapet and landed on the rocks below after a 50ft fall. Suffering a broken paw, back and jaw, the vet decided that it wasn’t worth putting him through the pain. “Callum still asks about Ben. He was very upset by the dog’s death and wants to know if his leg has been fixed in heaven,” said Cooper, a year after Ben’s death. The case of golden retriever Hendrix was pretty much similar, although she got very lucky. Kenneth Meikle, her owner, said, “I was out walking with my partner and children when suddenly the dog just jumped. My daughter screamed, and I ran down the bank to where the dog lay and carried her up to safety. Next day, thank goodness, she was fine. We were lucky because she landed on a moss bed which broke her fall.”

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Going Out with a Bang – Firework Funerals for Pets

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Scattering a loved one’s ashes in water is apparently a thing of the past. At least, as far as pets in Sydney are concerned. Ashes to Ashes, a service run by trained circus performer and pyrotechnician Craig Hull, allows people to part with their pet’s ashes with a bang – sending them up in the air as fireworks, descending onto the waters of Sydney Harbor as their final resting place.

Hull first came up with the idea for Ashes to Ashes when his two beloved dogs died three years ago – Zeus, a German shepherd-akita cross and Gyprock, a white lab-cattle dog cross. They left a big hole in the performer’s life that he felt could be filled only with a big gesture of love. Having already scattered the ashes of a dear friend during an aerial routine at the opening ceremony of one of the Olympics (he won’t say which one), he wanted to give his dogs something even more spectacular. “I thought I’ll get a job as a pyrotechnician and I’ll send them up in fireworks. So I did,” says Hull. The event finally occurred on Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display in 2010. Hull says that he had a “vision of color and light” as his dogs’ ashes were fired into the skies that night, as opposed to the “sad memory of scattering them into the water.” “To be able to scatter someone’s ashes like that, scatter them over a huge area in the air was incredible. To be able to look up to the heavens when you send your loved ones off is a pretty amazing feeling. And I thought this is so amazing, other people should be able to experience this as well,” says Hull.

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Horses Inside Out – Horse Anatomy Painted on Live Horses

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English champion rider Gillian Higgins has devised a novel way to teach horse anatomy to veterinary students, riders and caretakers – she takes up to four hours to paint the animal’s skeletal and muscular systems on live horses, using water-based hypoallergenic paints.

Horse anatomy is pretty tricky, considering students have to understand how the 205 bones and 700 muscles in its body make this beautiful animal work like a well-oiled machine. But instead of boring them with sketches and complicated diagrams, Gillian Higgins uses her artistic skills to paint the anatomical systems on actual horses. “Painting the skeleton and musculature on the side of the horse really helps to bring the subject to life, she told the Daily Mail. “You can discover how to get the best out of your horse by seeing exactly what happens as it moves.” The English horse-ring champion and sports remedial therapist got the idea for “Horses Inside Out” back in 2006 after completing a degree in equine business management. She understood why many riders and trainers were struggling to learn all those bones and muscles with incredibly long names, and started thinking about a way to better make them understand how the horse works.

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Broken-Hearted Dog Stands Guard over Dead Mate’s Body for over a Week

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Even in the animal kingdom, the loss of a loved-one isn’t easy, and this grieving dog, on the outskirts of Filippovka, a village in Russia’s Perm region, is proof of that.

His mate had been by a car while trying to cross the road, over seven days ago, but he’s still standing guard over her body, hoping she will wake up. Eye-witnesses say the dog dragged his mate from the road right after she was hit and hasn’t left her side since. He kept trying to move her with his paws and keep her warm with his own body, and the story of his loyalty spread among the locals in just a few days. Children and even adults who passed by and heard his heartbreaking whines and howls, and saw him standing guard over her body often broke into tears. ”It’s very sad. He won’t let anyone near her and he keeps trying to warm her up with his own body”, a local said.

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