TIME animals

This Drone Is Surprisingly Good at Herding Sheep

You're fired, Babe

Get ready to cash in your 401ks, sheepdogs, because you can retire now.

An ingenious Irish farmer has discovered the sheepdog of the future, and it doesn’t require kibble, a warm bed or even a pat on the head for a job well done. That’s because the sheepdog of the future isn’t a dog at all— it’s a drone.

In this video, filmed by Paul Brennan in Carlow, Ireland, the aptly named Shep the Drone flies above a flock of sheep, filming as it herds them from one field to another. It’s unclear why the drone is so good at the job (sheep pliancy induced by terror, perhaps?) but it is incredibly effective at moving the flock across fields with no training, breeding or Milk Bones required.

TIME public health

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria From Texan Cattle Yards Are Now Airborne, Study Finds

A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas

Researchers say the bacteria are capable of "traveling for long distances"

A new study says the DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in American cattle yards has become airborne, creating a new pathway by which such bacteria can potentially spread to humans and hinder treatment of life-threatening infections.

Researchers gathered airborne particulate matter (PM) from around 10 commercial cattle yards within a 200 mile radius of Lubbock, Texas over a period of six-months. They found the air downwind of the yards contained antibiotics, bacteria and a “significantly greater” number of microbial communities containing antibiotic-resistant genes. That’s according to the study to be published in next month’s issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

“To our knowledge, this study is among the first to detect and quantify antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes…associated with airborne PM emitted from beef cattle feed yards,” said the authors, who are researchers in environmental toxicology at Texas Tech University and at a testing lab in Lubbock.

Co-author Phil Smith told the Texas Tribune that the bacteria could be active for a long time and “could be traveling for long distances.”

His colleague, molecular biologist Greg Mayer, told the paper that some of the study’s findings “made me not want to breathe.”

Because antibodies are poorly absorbed by cows they are released into the environment through excretion. Once in the environment, bacteria will undergo natural selection and genes that have acquired natural immunities will survive.

The genes that have gone airborne are contained in dried fecal matter that has become dust and gets picked up by winds as they whip through the stockyards.

The Texas Tribune reported that representatives from the Texas cattle industry (estimated to control around 14 million beef cows) criticized the study, saying it portrayed the airborne bacteria as overly hazardous to human health.

But the mass of PM2.5 particles (the kind that can be inhaled into lungs) released into the atmosphere is eye opening, with the study estimating the total amount released by cattle yards in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas exceeds 46,000 lbs.(21,000 kg) per day.

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial DNA is already known to be transferable to humans if ingested via water or meat.


TIME animals

Young Male Monkeys Prefer Spending Time With Daddy, Study Says

A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Tuesday, July 29, 2008.
Brennan Linsley—AP A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, on July 29, 2008

Turns out quality father-son time is not just a human phenomenon

Male rhesus macaque monkeys prefer the company of their fathers, according to a new study, marking one of the first times gender partiality has been exhibited in primates before they leave the colony.

Rhesus macaques are generally found in Asia, but by studying a colony on the small Puerto Rican island of Cayo Santiago the team was able to identify individual moneys and document socialization patterns, according to the BBC, citing a report in the American Journal of Primatology.

Researchers discovered that infants and juveniles spent more time with their mothers, but as they developed into adulthood the role of the father (and his relatives) becomes increasingly important.

Scientists think this is because male monkeys eventually leave the colony, so young adults spend more time with their fathers to help them prepare for the challenges of a nomadic lifestyle.

While gender preference had been observed in primates before, the new study shows that parental bias begins before the males go off on their own — a departure from the previous idea that favoritism is the result of females forming strong bonds with their relatives by remaining in the group when the males leave.

[BBC]

TIME animals

Kitty Litter to Blame for $240 Million Radioactive Leak

cat
Getty Images

It's a meow-ltdown!

Last February, a radiation accident occurred at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. A drum containing radioisotopes like plutonium was improperly packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe and ruptured, causing a leak.

The incident exposed 22 workers to radiation levels “not expected to threaten their health,” according to the contractor that operates the plant. In September, Energy Department officials estimated the cost of the initial recovery of the dump at $240,000,000 and said it might be two or more years before it’s fully operational again.

Investigators have now found the cause of the entire issue: The barrel was packaged with “chemically incompatible” contents – in particular, a brand of cat litter (used to absorb liquids) that caused a chemical reaction and created gases that resulted in the canister’s lid becoming dislodged.

A team of federal inspectors released a report last year that identified chronic lapses in safety procedures at Los Alamos, saying “waste processing and safety-related control procedures should have prevented the addition of these potentially incompatible materials,” which again, we’d like to stress, means cat litter.

The scariest thing about this story is that they never told us what the right brand of kitty litter to use for radioactive waste packaging.

How will we know?

This story originally appeared in People.com

TIME animals

Iris the Chimpanzee Finds Love at Florida Sanctuary

Iris, who did not have any chimp friends at a Georgia zoo, meets her new pal Abdul at the Florida sanctuary she now calls home.
Save the Chimps/NBC Iris, who did not have any chimp friends at a Georgia zoo, meets her new pal Abdul at the Florida sanctuary she now calls home.

"She kissed him and he groomed her"

At the lush Florida sanctuary that she now calls home, Iris is known as “a chimp’s chimp” who has little enthusiasm for human caretakers but a lot of interest in one particular male primate.

“We introduced her to a male chimpanzee, 40 years old, and they immediately fell in love,” said Jen Feuerstein, sanctuary director at Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce.

“She kissed him and he groomed her.”

The organization took in Iris three weeks ago after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals negotiated to have her transferred from a zoo in Georgia where they allege she was kept…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News.

TIME animals

See Elephants Stop Truck From Overturning After It Gets Stuck in Mud

The elephants were on their way to a circus in Texas

Police found two elephants trying to keep the 18-wheeler transporting them from overturning during its journey from New Orleans to the Dallas area Tuesday morning.

The truck, carrying three elephants from a Florida circus, got stuck in mud on Interstate 49 near the Powhatan exit in Natchitoches Parish, La., at about 7 a.m., according to a statement from the Natcitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office. A “local wrecker service” was called in to extract the truck.

The elephants were en route to a circus in Frisco, Texas.

Natcitoches Parish Sheriff's Office
Natcitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office
Natcitoches Parish Sheriff's Office
Natcitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office

(h/t ABC News)

TIME animals

Former SeaWorld Orca Trainer Speaks Out Against Parks’ Practices

An Orca killer whale performs during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego on March 19, 2014.
Mike Blake—Reuters An Orca killer whale performs during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego on March 19, 2014.

"Captivity is always captivity, no matter how gentle the jailer"

For years, animal activists have attacked SeaWorld for keeping orca whales in captivity, and now one of the park’s most talented trainers is joining the fight.

John Hargrove performed with and trained killer whales for 14 years, mostly at SeaWorld, until he could no longer handle the conditions of the job. In a radio interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, Hargrove explains how he grew to love all the animals he worked with and couldn’t stand seeing the irreversible harm captivity caused them.

“As I became higher-ranked, I saw the devastating effects of captivity on these whales and it just really became a moral and ethical issue,” Hargrove told Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies about working at SeaWorld.

“When you first start to see it, you first try to say, ‘Okay, well, I love these animals; I’m going to take care of them.’ … You think, ‘I can change things.’ And then all these things, of course, never improve and then you start … seeing mothers separated from their calves; you start seeing trainers being killed, and then they blame [the trainers] for their own deaths.”

Hargrove plans to reveal the sad realities of a captive whale’s life and how this unnatural situation can put trainers in harm’s way in his new book Beneath the Surface.

In the tell-all, Hargrove says that being stuck in captivity can cause orcas to become understandably aggressive, which can lead to injuries and even death for the animals and the trainers who work with them. Hargrove explains it was SeaWorld’s lack of support and ignorance of the inherent dangers of his job that caused him to leave and urge others to stay away from the park.

“SeaWorld refuses to change its business model,” Hargrove told WKMG. “They want to say, ‘No, no, these animals are healthy and they’re thriving.’ I can personally tell you from being there for 14 years, they are not healthy and they are not thriving.”

Beneath the Surface includes Hargrove’s firsthand accounts of being injured on the job, watching calves be separated from their mothers, and seeing the stressors SeaWorld’s whales have to endure.

This is not the first time Hargrove has spoken out against his former employer. He was one of seven trainers who appeared in the documentary Blackfish about trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death and SeaWorld’s allegedly inhumane practices. The trainer says he plans to continue sharing these experiences until SeaWorld acknowledges its wrongdoing and makes changes.

“I finally came to the realization that if I had to live their lives, it would be hell,” Hargrove writes in his book. “Captivity is always captivity, no matter how gentle the jailer.”

In response to Hargrove’s book, SeaWorld has released a statement claiming the former trainer is spreading incorrect information:

“Despite the false claims from John Hargrove and other extreme animal rights activists like PETA, we provide the highest standards of care as noted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and are highly regulated by the federal government. Anyone doing their research will find that not only does the book contain statements that are either purposefully misleading or demonstratively false, much of the content is contrary to Hargrove’s own previous statements.”

SeaWorld has also launched a new ad campaign to shoot down the negative claims made in Blackfish and by animal activist groups. The spots feature the parks’ medical professionals defending the care and protection SeaWorld’s animals receive.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME animals

This Guy Caught a Fish That Had Already Been Caught by a Saltwater Crocodile

A saltwater crocodile is seen chomping on a fish attached to Ben Stack's line in Cape York, Australia.
Ben Stack A saltwater crocodile is seen chomping on a fish attached to Ben Stack's line in Cape York, Australia.

"Fright kicked in, I released the leader and flew backwards into the boat”

Getting a fishing lure stuck on a log can be frustrating, but it is nothing compared to what happened to Australian fisherman Ben Stack, who during a “few seconds that felt like a lifetime,” found himself “staring eye-to-eye with a solid saltwater crocodile.”

The Queensland native thought the Blue Threadfin he had nabbed off the Cape York Peninsula had “run under a log.” After reeling in the fish, though, he leaned over the boat and suddenly realized this “log” was in fact a crocodile.

“We were face-to-face and no more than 20 inches apart. Fright kicked in, I released the leader and flew backwards into the boat,” he said in a first-person narrative posted Tuesday on Facebook.

Incredibly, he had the presence of mind to snap some very impressive pictures.

A Threadline fish is seen attached to 's line in Cape York Pennisula, Queensland, Australia
Ben StackA Threadlfin fish is seen attached to Ben Stack’s line in Cape York Pennisula, Queensland, Australia

Stack told TIME that the event, which happened “a little while ago now,” hasn’t stopped him from fishing.

“I continue to fish. Things like this do happen in croc waters and I am simply spreading the awareness to be croc savvy,” he said.

And the fish? The crocodile won that battle.

“I wasn’t disappointed to lose the fish but I don’t like the idea of that croc knowing he can come to a boat for a free meal.”

 

TIME animals

See a Cat on a Leash Riding on a Car’s Hood in Ohio

A cat is seen secured on the hood of a vehicle with a leash.
NBC News A cat is seen secured on the hood of a vehicle with a leash.

The police are searching for a driver who was spotted with cat tied to the hood of the vehicle

A photo of a feline perched on the hood of a moving SUV has gone viral, sending Ohio police in search of the catmobile’s driver.

While one witness managed to snap a few pictures of the astonishing spectacle Sunday in the city of New Philadelphia, Police Chief Michael Goodwin said no one actually jotted down the car’s license plate. The cat was apparently secured on the hood of the four-door Buick SUV with a leash.

“It’s a very bizarre case—unclear if it would violate any animal cruelty laws,” Goodwin told NBC affiliate WKYC. “It’s the public safety (that’s)…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Archaeology

Scientists Discover Salamanders the Size of Cars

An artist's rendition of a previously unknown species of crocodile-like "super salamander" that roamed the Earth more than 200 million years ago. Image, made available by the University of Edinburgh on Tuesday March 24, 2015.
Marc Boulay–Cossima Productions/University of Edinburgh/AP An artist's rendition of a previously unknown species of crocodile-like "super salamander" that roamed the Earth more than 200 million years ago. Image, made available by the University of Edinburgh on Tuesday March 24, 2015.

The creature lived some 220 million years ago

Scientists have discovered the bones of ancient salamanders that they say would have been the size of cars.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh excavated the bones in southern Portugal, where they have already found remains from at least 10 individual bodies, the BBC reports. Though related to the modern salamander, the animal would have behaved more like a crocodile or alligator when it likely feasted on early dinosaurs and mammals some 220 million years ago.

Scientists continue to dig up the flat-headed, toothy amphibians and expect to uncover hundreds more bodies on the site.

[BBC]

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