Lethal Alkaline Lake in Africa Turns Animals into Stone Statues

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When photographer Nick Brandt first visited Lake Natron, in Northern Tanzania, he was shocked by the macabre animal statues he saw aligned across its shoreline. He later found out something even more shocking – those were real animals calcified by the lake’s alkaline water.

Natron, which gives the lake its name, is a naturally occurring compound found in volcanic ash. It’s the same mineral the Egyptians used to preserve their mummies. The lake’s alkalinity is similar to that of ammonia, with a pH between 9 and 10.5, and the temperature of the water can reach 60 °C. No animal can withstand this caustic environment and venturing into the acidic environment is usually fatal. As soon as birds and bats plunge into the waters of lake Natron, the minerals start turning their flesh into stone and preserving them exactly as they were in their final moments. Flamingos sometime use the predator-free salt islands that sometimes form on the lake for nesting, but it’s a risky gamble, as the photos below clearly show. Only invertebrates, a few algae invertebrates and some fish that live near the edges of the lake can survive this environment.

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Chinese Zoo Visitors Play Tug of War with Tigers Using Live Chickens

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Who would win in a fight between a man and a tiger? What about a man, a tiger and a chicken? The elusive question has now been answered thanks to some curious visitors of the Changsha Ecological Zoo who played tug of war with caged tigers using live chickens.

According to the zoo staff, when lying around with nothing to do and having food served to them, zoo animals often become lazy, overweight and even lose interest in any kind of physical or intellectual stimulation. They came up with a very interesting but controversial way of keeping the animals in shape through tug of war games. The game is as simple as it gets: the visitors pull at one end of a rope and at the other, the tiger bites and pulls at a hessian bag with a live chicken inside. The chicken is an added bonus meant to engage the tiger’s interest and keep him on his toes. Apart from training the animals, the game was designed as a mean of entertainment for the upcoming National Day Holiday. For 45 yuan ($7), anyone can play and it seems there are many courageous folks willing to measure their strength against the powerful beasts. So far, the tigers are in the lead, winning most of the tug of war games, with one 4 year old Siberian tiger demonstrating his muscle superiority by tackling 7 men at the same time.

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Feline Fashion Calendar Features Stylish Cats Wearing Runway-Ready Designer Clothes

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Do you wish that your cat was just as fashionable as you? Now you can both wear couture designs courtesy of United Bamboo’s kitty clothing line. United Bamboo, a well-known fashion brand has been making calendars for three years now featuring cats dressed up in miniature versions of their most valued designs.

Wearing exact copies of runway clothing, the felines featured in the first issue belonged to friends and family. But soon the brand felt the need to start an Instagram campaign in order to find the most fashion forward cat lovers whose companions not only looked stylish in designer clothes but also looked good on camera. A number of kitties have been selected so far but the competition is tough and not all of them are going to make it in the 2014 issue. Some cats are already popular models such as Jasper, a part Maine coon, part domestic longhair cat who wears a red duffle parka on top of a striped shirt and is featured on the first month of the calendar. Another favorite, Huxtable, a hairless gentle-tomcat who loves “to hang out on people’s shoulders and will walk on a leash!” is wearing a simple yet stylish blouse and a black wool jumper. There is also sociaholic Prince Snowflake dressed in the brand’s colored binding coat, and toothpaste-phobic Gertrude wearing a sparkly dress. All the stars of the calendar are photographed by cat enthusiast Noah Sheldon, while the calendar itself is designed by Studio Lin.

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Nothing to See Here, Just a Hamster Steering a 15-Tonne Truck on a Narrow Quarry Road

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To prove how easy it is to drive their new trucks, Swedish automaker Volvo transformed the steering wheel of one of their big rigs into a hamster wheel and let a tiny rodent steer the vehicle up a narrow quarry road.

Volvo’s new Dynamic Steering uses an electric motor to replace the driver’s muscle power, making even large trucks like the Volvo FMX a breeze to steer. Turning the wheel becomes an effortless affair, and in their latest advert, the automaker proved even a tiny hamster can do it. The now viral clip was shot on a steep and narrow quarry road at Los Tres Cunados, in north-west Spain, and shows Charlie the hamster steering a truck while guided by a precision driver holding a carrot. After training Charlie for weeks, the team placed the pint-sized rodent inside a hamster wheel installed on the steering wheel and let him take the truck all the way up the perilous road. Sitting in the driver’s seat was stunt driver Seon Rogers, who handled the pedals and guided Charlie in the right direction by baiting him with a fresh carrot. There were a few tense moments, like when the truck hit a big rock boulder sending it crashing down into the water below, but in the end Charlie managed to steer the large vehicle across the finish line.

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Brazilian Man to Marry Pet Goat in Devil’s Curch

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Aparecido Castaldo, a retired stone cutter from Jundiai, Brazil has decided to marry his beloved Carmella, a goat. Because no Christian minister would agree to perform the marriage ceremony, the two will be wed by a known satanic leader, in the Church of the Devil.

People have married their pets in the past, although in most cases the marriage ceremony was just a symbolic one performed by family or friends. However, 74-year old Aparecido Castaldo, a widower and father-of-seven, apparently wanted to be united with his goat Carmela in a church, by an evangelical minister. Unfortunately, none of the churches he contacted with his unusual request wanted to perform the ceremony, so Aparecido eventually contacted Toninho do Diabo (Tom the Devil), an old friend who just happens to be one of the most famous satanists in Brazil. The wedding is scheduled to take place at midnight, on October 13, at the Devil’s Church, in Sao Paolo. ”Only our church accepted this love between man and animal because we have no prejudice,” Toninho said.

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Alligator Snapper Turtle Goes through 10 Cigarettes a Day

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According to Chinese media reports, in a village on the outskirts of Changchun lives a nicotine-addicted alligator snapper turtle who smokes around 10 cigarettes a day. The turtle’s keeper says that whenever it feels the need for a smoke, the reptile becomes agitated and starts to hiss.

So how does a turtle become addicted to cigarettes? A local chef, surnamed Tang, who is helping his boss take care of it, says it all started about two months ago when he noticed the pet had lost interest in its daily fish diet. After inspecting the reptile, he noticed there was a sharp chicken bone lodged in its soft belly, but when he tried to pull it out, it snapped at his hand from the pain, nearly biting off his fingers. Tang realized the only way he could take out the bone was to distract the turtle, so he took the lit cigarette that was resting in his mouth and gave it to the pet to bite on. Its jaws snapped on the filter and didn’t let go for hours. His idea proved effective, as he managed to remove the sharp chicken bone, but little did the cook know it would lead to an even bigger problem.

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Dog Lover Will Live in Animal Shelter for 35 Days to Highlight the Plight of Abandoned Pets

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Sean Le Vegan, a dog lover from Manchester, England, will spend over a month in an animal shelter enclosure  to raise awareness about the plight of stray dogs and encourage people to adopt rather than buy canine pets.

Sean, a 35-year-old web-designer and volunteer at the Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Home, believes spending 35 days and nights in a cage is a good way to attract attention to the hideous plight of homeless dogs. It’s also a great way to raise some much-needed funds for the dog shelter, as he plans to broadcast his challenge on the internet with webcams and charge £5 ($7.50) per subscription. People will be able to watch a human living a dog’s life and Le Vagan plans to offer them a realistic experience. 35 days is the average stay for a dog at the Manchester-based animal shelter. Just like the canines brought here, Sean won’t eat anything for the first four days and will have to make do with just water and a blanket. After that he will be feasting on vegetarian dog food throughout the whole event. He will only be allowed one hour of freedom per day, to use the toilet and freshen up. To make his experience even more authentic, he even had a chip implanted in his shoulder which  is hooked up to the dog-care database.

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Houtong Cat Village – How a Few Purring Felines Saved a Dying Community

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This is the story of how a few dozen cats managed to save an entire community just by purring and looking pretty. Houtong was just another dilapidated mining town in the mountains of eastern New Taipei City, but everything changed when the felines came and livened up the place.

Houtong used to be one of Taiwan’s most important coal extraction sites, up until the 1970s. Then, oil and electricity took the place of coal, and the town suffered a steady decline. At one point it was reduced to a train stop along the Yilan line, one that most travelers ignored, and that forced many of its younger residents search for better opportunities elsewhere. The population of this defunct mining town dwindled from around six thousand inhabitants to a couple  of hundred, who struggled to survive. But their fortunes changed in 2008, when a cat lover who goes by the name “Palin88” organized a series of cat photography events in the mountain town. He and his friends posted the photos online, and got an overwhelming response from fellow feline enthusiasts. As they shared the photos on forums and social media sites, Houtong welcomed more and more tourists eager to photograph the cats themselves, or simply watch them roaming through the town. Nowadays, Houtong is known as the Cat Village, or Taiwan’s Cat Mecca.

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Spanish Town Mails Dog Poo Back to Their Owners

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Sick of having to clean up after irresponsible dog owners, authorities in Brunete, a small town 20 miles west of Madrid, came up with an ingenious way to keep the streets clean. They started sending the dog poo back to their owners in boxes marked “Lost Property”.

The council of Brunete had not approved a budget for the original street cleaning campaign, but advertising agency McCann was willing to do all the work for free. During the course of a week, more than a dozen volunteers patrolled the streets keeping an eye out for owners who didn’t clean up after their pets. As soon as they spotted an offender, they approached them and sparked up a conversation about their dog, trying to find out its name and breed. ”With the name of the dog and the breed it was possible to identify the owner from the registered pet database held in the town hall,” a spokesman of the town council explained. As soon as the owner left, the volunteers picked up the poo and packaged them in cardboard boxes branded with the town hall insignia and marked as “Lost Property”. The smelly packages were then delivered by courier to the pet owners homes, along with a fine warning.

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Fluffy Cows – Models of the Bovine World

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Have you ever seen a cow that you simply couldn’t help want to cuddle? I hadn’t, until I saw these photos of extremely fluffy show calves that look like they’re modelling for some kind of bovine fashion magazine.

I first spotted these real-life plush cows on Reddit a few days ago, and I simply fell in love with them. Not in a deranged way, but I just found them irresistible and wished I had one of my own so I could sink my face in its fluffiness. Okay, enough about my weird self. These cows don’t belong to any particular breed. They are show calves, a cross between two different high-quality breeds, bred for bovine show-business. That means that apart from their genetic characteristics, owners go out of their way to make sure the cows look their best. Special feeding, basic manners training and grooming are all part of the show calf world, and believe me when I tell you a lot of effort goes into styling cattle. Just think of them as girls, but with their very own conditioners, hair sprays and lotions. Show calf trimming is also considered an art form among cattle enthusiasts, as it gives the animals that Photoshop-like boxy shape. But as you can see in the photos below, the results are nothing short of spectacular.

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Battle of the Queens – Switzerland’s Ultimate Cow Fighting Championship

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Every year, the peaceful Swiss village of Aproz becomes a battleground for Herens cows, a breed of cattle known for its genetic predisposition for combativeness. During the Battle of the Queens (Combats de Reines) the animals get a chance to fight each other for supremacy.

Before you pick up the phone to call your favorite animal rights association, you should know the Battle of the Queens is nothing like the bloody bull fights organized in Spain. Here, farmers take great care of their prized “queens”, making sure they don’t suffer any serious injuries. Plus, there really isn’t much fighting going on, either. The territorial cows mostly lock horns and push each other with their foreheads, until one of them turns around and walks away, accepting defeat. Some of the fighters have lost horns or gained battle scars in the event, but no serious injuries were recorded in recent events. Herens cows, named after Val d’Herens in Valais, have an aggressive instinct that makes them fight among themselves for leadership of the herd. These so-called queens then take part in regional and national rounds of traditional Swiss cow-fighting, with participation in the final Battle of the Queens as their ultimate goal. The event draws in hundreds of cattle farmers from across Switzerland, eager to test their champions in horned combat, as well as a crowd of spectators. Those who can’t attend, watch the fighting on television or listen to it on Rhone FM, a radio station in Valais with a weekly cow fight program.

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Wolf-Dog Appears to Be Sobbing at Grave of Owner’s Grandmother

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A heartbreaking video that recently went viral on YouTube shows a heartbroken wolf-dog laying over the gravestone of his owner’s grandmother,shaking and making what appear to be sobbing noises.

Over the years I’ve posted some truly heartbreaking stories about dogs displaying their feelings over the loss of their masters, pets waiting by their owner’s graves for years, or visiting familiar places and awaiting their return, but I had yet to see an animal actually crying over their deceased human companions…Until today. In a short clip posted on YouTube by user Sarahvarley13, Wiley, a wolf-dog from Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC), in Ventura County, California, appears to be sobbing over the loss of his owner’s grandmother. He is shown laying on her gravestone shaking and making heartbreaking noises that a lot of people believe express his pain over the terrible loss. The video has sparked a debate between YouTube users who believe Wiley is sobbing over his friend Gladys, and those who are convinced dogs cannot cry and that the wolf-dog is actually suffering from allergies or breathing problems.

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Frog Whisperer Helps Keep Hawaii’s Coqui Population Under Control

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The tiny coqui frog may seem harmless, but as night falls over the islands of Hawaii, thousands of these coin-sized critters start terrorizing the local population with their unrelenting mating calls that can reach up to 90 decibels. Luckily, frog whisperer Keevin Meenami speaks their language and can draw the females out when they become to much to bear.

“ko-KEE-ko-KEE-ko-KEE” – that’s the sound that has disrupted countless hours of sleep and scared away both potential home buyers and tourists from several parts of the Hawaiian archipelago, including the Big Island. Originally from Puerto Rico, the tiny coqui frogs have been arriving to Hawaii as cargo-ship stowaways ever since the late 1980s. With no natural predators to trouble them, they have been multiplying rapidly, eluding eradication crews by camouflaging themselves with a brown or yellow coloring that blends into Hawaiian vegetation.  In 2004, authorities declared war on the coqui and came up with several plans to wipe them out them from the Big island, which had become their headquarters of sorts, and from where they constantly escaped to neighboring islands. They tried just about everything, but in 2010 they announced nothing could be done to get rid of or even contain the coqui population. These days county, state and private groups are doing everything in their power to prevent the invasive frogs from taking over Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island. Every time there’s a report of coqui chirping anywhere on the island, intervention teams are deployed to localize and neutralize the threat. Most times the frogs are whacked on the spot, but one man has come up with a non-violent way of dealing with the frogs – he just talks to them.

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Thai Family Uses Crocodiles as Watchdogs to Fend Off Burglars

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Who needs watchdogs and alarm systems when you have two full grown crocodiles protecting your house? Awirut Nathip says no burglars have dared come anywhere near his home in the 15 years since his two crocodile pets have been keeping guard.

Burglaries are reported regularly in the city of Phitsanulok, where Awirut Nathip and his family live, but thanks to a perfect security system, they haven’t had any problems for a good fifteen years. Just like everybody else, they used to worry about their safety, until they bought their t pet crocodiles, Thong and Ngen. After that, no one dared set foot on the property uninvited. And for good reason, as Awirut’s unusual guard dogs are very aggressive, especially during the hot summer days. In order to keep them under control and make sure they don’t become frustrated by the unbearable heat, he sprays them with cold water at least 10 times a day, and even lets them cool off in his air-conditioned office from time to time. Even so, Ngen is kept in a ditch next to the house, because he is so aggressive, while Thong does his rounds in the yard. ”If we’re upstairs he’ll come and lie in front of the door. We’re not worried at all. No one would dare to get in,” Mr Nathip says.

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Private Zoo Owner Plans to Spend a Year Living with Lions

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Alexander Pylyshenko, the owner of a private zoo in the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, has announced he plans to spend a year caged with two full-grown lions, in order to raise funds for a  proper care center for big cats.

If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because this wouldn’t be Alexander Pylyshenko first such attempt. Back in 2011 he set a new Ukrainian record, after he spent 35 days caged with two lions, during which time he even helped the female deliver her cubs. From the moment he set foot into the cage, the feline lover started living as if he was a lion himself. That meant sharing the raw meat the lions were fed with and sleeping on hay beds. He even built a toilet and shower inside the enclosure so he wouldn’t be forced to leave the cage at any moment. This time however, he plans on living with male Samson and lioness Katya for a full year, so he needs to plan accordingly. Alexander, who has studied lions his whole life, decided to spend time with his two fanged pets both inside their metal cage and in his nearby country house, where he’ll be able to cook. The Ukrainian beast-master says that although his lions consume between 5 and 10 pounds of meat per day, depending on the season, Katya has developed a taste for his cooking and enjoys mushroom soup and tomatoes with mayonnaise.

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