Forget Godzilla, Disease-Carrying Ratzillas Are a Much More Real Threat

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As though they weren’t bad enough at their normal size, we now have rats that are bigger than cats. Oh, the horror! Several ‘ratzilla’ stories have been in the news recently, featuring shockingly massive rats. I wouldn’t blame you for wondering if these pictures are Photoshopped, but they’re not – the supersize rats look like they’ve been loading up on steroids or something. These ‘pumped’ rats have infested several countries around the world and are quickly becoming a huge menace to humans.

A series of ratzilla-sightings have been reported across the UK, the largest one being 2 ft. long. It was lurking about in the loft of a home, terrifying the residents with loud scratching sounds. “This was followed by the really loud sound of wood being chewed,” said homeowner Grace Walters. “Pest control put a camera in the attic to see what was going on – and sure enough the rat was there, hiding in a corner. They had to cut a hole in the ceiling to reach it and when they grabbed it, none of us could believe it was the size of a cat.”

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Meet Penelope Popcorn, the Most Fashionable Pig on the Internet

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You’d expect any pig named ‘Penelope Popcorn’ to be adorable. And this one-year-old from California does not disappoint. The stylish swine has become an internet sensation after her owner posted photographs of her posing in a range of interesting outfits. Penelope is very popular online, especially on Instagram, where she has over 40,000 followers.

“She has been dressed up and had her nails painted since she was a baby, so she doesn’t mind wearing outfits and posing for pictures,” said the owner. “She is very patient.” Penelope lives with a mother and her two kids and has truly become one of the ladies. The purebred Juliana pig apparently enjoys playing dress-up. She’s also potty trained and can perform a variety of tricks.

In the photographs, Penelope is often seen dressed in a range of swanky headgear shaped like flowers, bows, butterflies, angel wings, and even party hats. One of her most adorable pictures shows her dressed like a little pink bunny – I can see why people are going crazy over this stuff. There’s another one where she’s dressed like a bumblebee. She can be seen sporting sweatshirts too, but the animal disguises are the most popular.

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Share a Coffee with Snakes and Scorpions at Vietnam’s Popular Pet Cafe

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If you love dogs, cats and cute, cuddly bunnies, then Vietnam’s Pet Café is certainly not the place for you. It exists to serve a totally different kind of animal lover. Located in the capital city of Hanoi, the café has an awesome collection of snakes, rats, lizards, tarantulas and even a few hedgehogs, stored in glass cages of various sizes. As you sit at your table and share a coffee with a friend, you can gaze upon these slow-moving reptiles in replicas of their natural habitats. And if you’re feeling a little brave, you could even ask to touch or play with them.

28-year-old Nguyen Minh Nghia, the owner of Pet Café, has a degree in mining and geology, but is now a stockbroker. He has been obsessed with animals since childhood, and that’s what prompted him to start the café. “I loved animals since I was a little boy. I began raising reptiles 5 years ago, when a friend asked me to feed his salamanders as he was too preoccupied with his own business,” Nguyen said.

He fell in love with the creatures and ended up traveling to Thailand, Singapore, Australia and China, amassing a huge collection of snakes, salamanders and other reptiles that are now his best friends. “These pets are easy to feed, but for beginners, it is not a walk in the park,” he said. “You have to read a lot of materials to learn how to raise reptiles. I’ve chosen reptiles that are suited for the environment and climate in Vietnam. To keep them alive here, I’ve got to study a lot about their living environment. My café is always dark because many reptiles do not like the light.”

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Cat Working as Train Station Master Is Japan’s Cutest Tourist Attraction

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Tama the cat has been a part of the Japanese workforce for the past seven years. She works as a station master at Kishi station, a remote railway stop in Kinokawa City, Wakayama, Western Japan. Of course, ‘works’ isn’t exactly the right word for what she does there. Her job mostly involves sitting around, posing for pictures and looking rather stern (which reminds me of my ex-boss, actually). But Tama has been rewarded handsomely for her efforts – she has a large window office, a hat with a gold lining, a badge, and her annual compensation is one years’ worth of cat food.

Station Master Tama is special because she attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year. Her presence at Kishi station has helped revitalize tourism in a rural area that was struggling to stay afloat. At one point, the train line that passed through Kishi station saw a 15 percent annual decline in ridership. But when Tama stepped into the role of station master, in 2007, there was a sudden 10 percent jump in the first year.

Tourists continue to pour in from Hong Kong and Taiwan; Wakayama Electric Railway (the company that runs the line) said that at least 20,000 tourists visit the small town annually. The estimated combined revenue from the ticket sales and memorabilia like photobooks and commercial appearances has bumped up the local economy by a whopping 1.1 billion yen ($10.8 million). The company operates just the one line, with about 2.2 million passengers annually.

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Fishing with Otters in Bangladesh – A Dying Tradition

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Otter Fishing has been a long-standing tradition in Bangladesh. For centuries, fishermen have been using trained otters to lure fish into their nets – a unique technique passed on from father to son that has long died out in other parts of Asia. Bangladeshi fishermen have managed to keep it alive so far, but the future of otter fishing seems uncertain due to the dwindling  population of fish in the country’s rivers.

As a part of the tradition, fishermen lower their nets into the water close to the banks of the river. As they do this, their pet otters also dive tails up into the water with a splash. The animals do not catch the fish themselves, but chase them towards the fishing nets for the fishermen to haul in. Otter fishing is generally practiced during the night, with some fisherman throwing their nets until dawn trying to catch enough fish to support their families. Their hard work yields anywhere between 4 and 12 kilos of fish and shrimp every night.

A fishing family makes about $250 a month with the modest catch. “Our job depends on the otters,” said Shashudhar Biswas, a fisherman from Narail district in southern Bangladesh. “The otters manage to spot fish among the plants, then the fish swim away and we stay close with our nets. If we did it without them, we wouldn’t be able to catch as many fish,” his son Vipul added.

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Believe It or Not the Scariest Mouth in the World Belongs to a Species of Turtle

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Here’s one species of turtle you don’t want to kiss. Believe me, the Leatherback Sea Turtle might look adorable and harmless, but lurking behind its cute face is a set of killer teeth, making its mouth one of the scariest in the world.. Hundreds of these jagged stalactite-like teeth called ‘papillae’ line the turtle’s mouth and esophagus, all the way down to the gut. You just have to see it to believe it.

The Leatherback is the third largest living reptile in the world, and also the largest turtle. It’s actually a pretty docile creature, with a diet mainly consisting of jellyfish. In fact, the only reason it gets so huge is because it eats an astonishingly large number of the slow-moving jellies. Sometimes, the leatherback can consume about 73 percent of its own body weight in a single day, which is about 16,000 calories and three to seven times more than it needs to survive. Talk about binge eating!

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New Zealand Campaign Offers Students Free Beer for Dead Rats

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Gareth Morgan, a philanthropist from Wellington, New Zealand, has come up with a unique initiative to get rid of the city’s rats. He’s offering university students a free beer for every rat they manage to catch and kill. He’s even giving away rap traps. According to Morgan, rats are a common urban pest that are ruining the native ecology of the country. In fact, he’s so passionate about preserving New Zealand’s wildlife that he’s willing to personally sponsor all the free beers. “We’re trying to make an offer that students just can’t refuse, and we’re trying to get them to be our army,” he said.

Morgan is currently running the campaign in association with Victoria University’s Science Society. According to the Science Society president Jonathan Musther, “There are obviously people who get behind it for the drinks, but then there are a lot of ecology students who are very passionate about trapping and very passionate about New Zealand native flora and fauna.”

“The lure of freebies usually gets people along,” said one student. “But when they find out what they have to do they might be a bit deterred.”

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This Why You Should Never, Ever Try to Kiss a Snapping Turtle

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Here’s a way to save thousands on Botox treatments and still achieve a perfectly natural swollen pout – just kiss a snapping turtle! A man from China’s Fujian Province tried it recently; I don’t know what he was thinking kissing a turtle that is known to have a vicious bite that can actually break a human finger. This guy locked lips with his pet and what happened next was pretty much expected – it latched on and refused to let go.

Pictures of the not-so-sweet kiss were doing the rounds of China’s social networking website, Weibo. Apparently, the man’s friends clicked pictures and found them too hilarious not to share with the world. They even updated ‘after’ shots of the injuries – the man is seen nursing a huge lip that can put the most bizarre plastic surgeries to shame. Ouch, that must have hurt real bad!

According to news reports, the ‘Alligator snapping turtle’ was a pet about to be released. It was not native to China, hence damaging to its ecosystem. These exotic pets require expert handling, which is obviously not this man’s forte. Just before letting the turtle go, he decided on the impromptu peck. As you can see, it wasn’t the brightest idea. I just think he’s incredibly lucky that the amphibian did not decide to keep a piece of his lip as a parting souvenir!

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Siberia’s Real-Life Swan Lake Teeming with Life in the Dead of Winter

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Svetloe Lake, located near Urozhainoe village in Siberia, is better known to locals as the Swan Lake. Come February, the lake is usually teeming with activity – beautiful swans arrive in hundreds and make this place their winter home, which is surprising because swans generally prefer to fly further south where the climate isn’t so harsh.

What makes Svetloe Lake so special that swans willingly flock at it in the dead of winter? Well, for starters, it is fed by many warm springs so the temperature of the water is always above zero – even when the surrounding air drops to minus 40C. The lake’s waters are warm in comparison, at 5C to 6C, making it the perfect hang-out place for the beautiful birds. The swans began to appear at the lake way back in 1967. Only about 15 birds would make an appearance then, but the numbers have steadily increased to over 350 today and still continue to rise.

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The Town That Hanged an Elephant – The Chilling Story of Murderous Mary

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It’s hard to tell if the photograph is fake or real. Either way, the story of Mary – the only elephant in the world to have been hanged – will send chills down your spine. Cruelty towards animals is by no means rare, but stories like these seriously leave you wondering if there is any hope for us humans.

Mary’s fate was sealed on a cold afternoon in February 1916 when Charlie Spark’s traveling circus arrived in the small town of Kingsport, Tennessee. She was the star of the circus – she could pick out 25 tunes on musical horns using her trunk. She was also the champion pitcher of the circus’ baseball team. As a promotional activity, the circus conducted a parade along the main street that day. Mary, or ‘Murderous Mary’ as she would later be known, was ridden by 38-year-old Walter Eldridge.

Eldridge happened to be a drifter – he had only joined the circus the day before and had no experience of handling elephants. But that was no concern; he would do fine as long as he could wield the ‘elephant stick’ – a long rod with a sharp spear at the end. The elephant stick is a notorious instrument that evokes extreme fear out of tortured creatures. To make an elephant perform tricks, it first has to be broken down into subservience. And that’s where the stick comes in handy. Trainers repeatedly poke the giant creatures until they bleed profusely. Ultimately they will do anything the trainer asks, in order to avoid the stick.

Mary was obviously trained with the stick too. She would do as Eldridge ordered as long as he held it – or so he thought. Unfortunately, on that fateful afternoon, Mary happened to be suffering from a painfully abscessed tooth. She stopped during the parade to chew on a piece of watermelon rind and Eldridge jabbed her to keep moving, catching her on the exact spot of the infection.

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Tiny Terror – Arizona Town Terrorized by Packs of Stray Chihuahuas

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I always thought Chihuahuas were pretty harmless, but apparently they can be quite vicious in large numbers. The residents of Maryvale, a small town in Arizona, can certainly vouch for the fact. The town is filled with stray pooches that are terrorizing children and defecating all over the place.

Local animal control officials say they’re finding it quite difficult to control the Chihuahua population. They’ve received over 6,000 calls from frustrated residents – three times higher than any other town in the state. According to Melissa Gable from Maricopa County Animal Control (MCAC), these dogs aren’t spayed or neutered so they’re always looking out for a mate and having babies. This makes the problem worse.

“There’s a lot of dogs in the street,” said Stephanie Guzman, a resident. “People will start going crazy because they bark all night.”

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Evidence Suggests World’s Largest Solar Farm Burns Birds That Fly over It

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Environmentalists might swear by solar energy, but it turns out that the alternative source has its pitfalls too. Ivanpah, a giant solar farm in California’s Mohave Desert, is actually producing such high levels of heat that birds flying over it are burning to death.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System that opened last Thursday is a joint effort by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy. It can produce electricity that is sufficient to power 140,000 homes. The project is supposed to be the beginning for the United States’ emerging solar industry. It uses a technology that is different and more expensive to build than a similar-sized conventional solar power plant.

The Ivanpah site is located 45 miles southwest of Las Vegas, with virtually unbroken sunshine for most part of the year. It is also close to transmission lines that carry power to consumers. The project makes use of technology called solar-thermal – more than 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors (each roughly the size of a garage door) reflect sunlight to boilers on top of 450-foot towers. The sun’s power heats the water in the boilers’ tubes and the steam drives turbines to create electricity.

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Cat Breeders Discover New Breed of Felines That Look Like Werewolves

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Tennessee-based breeders have created a new breed of cat with a touch of the supernatural. The ‘Lykoi’ has the looks of a werewolf, but apparently behaves more like a dog. Due to a genetic mutation in a domestic shorthair cat, the Lykoi has no hair around its eyes, nose, ears and muzzle, giving it a werewolfish appearance.

The name ‘Lykoi’ loosely translates as ‘wolf cat’ in Greek. It has patchy hair on the rest of its body and a ‘hound dog personality’. According to the official website for the breed, “They like to hunt around the house for whatever they can find. They show caution to strangers but warm up quickly and become very friendly.”

“There was no human intervention to create the cat,” said breeder Johnny Gobble. “The gene is a natural mutation that appeared in the domestic cat population. We are simply using the genetics of natural processes.”

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Guy Gives His Dog Away after She Chews on His $130,000 Sports Car

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This has got to be the saddest picture of a dog I’ve ever seen. It broke my heart to see Luce, a Border collie spaniel, literally in tears. Her owner gave her away after she chewed through the fiberglass wheel arch of his US $130,000 sports car last Wednesday.

42-year-old builder Royston Grimstead, from Chedzoy, Somerset, said he was devastated when he came home to find his dog had chewed through the fiberglass wheel arch of his beloved Aston Martin. The total damage was worth about $5,000.

Grimstead, a divorcee, said he was already considering re-homing Luce because she did not get along with his other dog, a 10-year-old border collie called Jess. “She must have overheard me talking about re-homing her because she’s normally friendly and never really chewed on anything before,” he said.

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A Fascinating Story of Exploding Toads and Clever Crows

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In April 2005, a small pond in Hamburg, Germany became the center of a great mystery, rather repulsive in nature. A documentary film made on the phenomenon reported:

“About 1,000 dead toads were discovered lying around the edges. Their bodies appeared to have exploded. Eye-witnesses said they swelled up to about three-and-a-half times their normal size and then simply burst. And they burst with such an explosive force that their entrails were blown over several square meters.”

For several weeks, the common European toads in question received international attention. Scientists were totally baffled, unable to provide an explanation for the unnatural deaths. Health officials panicked – they suspected a virus spread by South American race horses from a nearby track. The tabloid press had a field day with the story, labelling the area ‘The Pond of Death’. Things got worse when the epidemic spread across the border to a nearby Danish lake.

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