TIME animals

Here’s an Adorable Tiny Hedgehog Having an Adorable Tiny Birthday Party

Featuring tiny cakes, tiny party hats and two tiny hamster friends

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The heroes who gave us a video of tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos are back with another gem. This one also features hamsters, but this time around, they’re guests at a birthday party being thrown for a hedgehog. This soirée has everything: tiny cakes, tiny chairs, tiny balloons, tiny polka-dotted party hats, and, of course, impossibly cute tiny animals.

If you’ve still got appetite for tiny animals eating tiny things, check out this tiny hamster eating a tiny slice of pizza.

TIME animals

Scientists: Biggest-Ever Bird Had Massive 20-Foot Wingspan

Bird
This is a reconstruction of the world's largest-ever flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi, identified by Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn. Reconstruction art is by Liz Bradford. Liz Bradford

With a wingspan of about 21 feet

Scientists have identified what they believe to be the largest bird to have ever lived.

According to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, a bird with a wingspan of about 21 feet soared through the skies some 25 million years ago. That’s double the size of a modern Royal Albatross and, according to the Associated Press, bigger than a giraffe’s head.

While the bird’s giant size led to some clumsiness on land, flight analysis estimates that the creature traveled up to 50 feet a second in the air.

“This was a pretty impressive creature,” Bruce Museum paleontologist Daniel T. Ksepka told the Wall Street Journal. “Science had made a rule about flight, and life found a way around it.”

The ancient bird’s sizable skeleton was discovered in 1983 near a Charleston, South Carolina airport.

TIME

Feds Doubt Climate Change’s Impact on Wolverines

(BILLINGS, Mont.) — A top federal wildlife official said there’s too much uncertainty about climate change to prove it threatens the snow-loving wolverine — overruling agency scientists who warned of impending habitat loss for the so-called “mountain devil.”

There’s no doubt that the high-elevation range of wolverines is getting warmer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Noreen Walsh said.

But any assumption about how that will change snowfall patterns is “speculation,” Walsh said. She told her staff to prepare to withdraw a proposal to protect the animals under the Endangered Species Act.

Walsh’s comments were contained in a May 30 memo obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Chris Tollefson confirmed that Walsh — who heads the agency’s mountain-prairie region — authored the document.

Agency Director Dan Ashe will have the final say, with a decision due Aug. 4.

The animals max out at 40 pounds and are tough enough to stand up to grizzly bears. Yet some scientists warn that they will be no match for anticipated declines in deep mountain snows, which female wolverines need to establish dens and raise their young.

Federal biologists last year proposed protections for an estimated 300 wolverines in the Lower 48 states. At that time, Walsh said “scientific evidence suggests that a warming climate will greatly reduce the wolverine’s snowpack habitat.”

In the recent memo, she expressed the opposite view: “Due to the uncertainty of climate models, I cannot accept the conclusion about wolverine habitat loss that forms the basis of our recommendation to list the species.”

Walsh, also a biologist, said she reached that conclusion after reviewing the latest science on wolverines and consulting with other agency officials.

But most of that science already was available when protections were first proposed, leading Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity to criticize the about-face. He said the likelihood of climate change harming wolverines was too great to delay action because of any lingering uncertainties.

“There is no reason to think they are going to be OK,” Greenwald said.

Fish and Wildlife Service officials say Walsh’s memo was just one step in the agency’s deliberations over wolverines.

Once found throughout the Rocky Mountains and in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, wolverines were wiped out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s due to unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns. In the decades since, they have largely recovered in the Northern Rockies but not in other parts of their historical range.

In some areas, such as central Idaho, researchers have said suitable habitat could disappear entirely.

Wolverines are found in the North Cascades in Washington and the Northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming. Individual wolverines have also moved into California and Colorado but have not established breeding populations.

Larger populations persist in Alaska and Canada.

Officials from Western states including Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho had objected to more protections and said the animal’s population has been increasing in some areas.

Two members of an independent peer review panel also raised questions about the science behind last year’s proposal. They suggested that no direct link could be made between warming temperatures and less habitat.

Panelist Audrey Magoun, a researcher based in Alaska, said shifting weather patterns that come with a warming climate could mean more snowfall, not less, in the mountains where most wolverines den.

Wolverines were twice denied protections under the Bush administration. In 2010, the Obama administration delayed action on the issue and said other imperiled animals and plants had priority over wolverines.

TIME animals

This Panda Had The Best First Birthday Party Ever

That cake looks pretty good

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This NBC News video shows the first Taiwan-born giant panda cub Yuan Zai celebrating her first birthday at the Taipei Zoo on July 6 .

ITN video reports the pink cake was made out of fruits and vegetables – bamboo, apples, carrots, and pineapples. The zoo also set up a way for her to draw lots via bamboo tubes, a tradition in which objects are placed in front of a baby, and the one he or she chooses is supposed to determine his or her calling in life. The panda picked up the “painter” card, AFP reports.

Photos from the event also show that, in a typical parent move, her mother Yuan Yuan (left) helped her eat the cake–you know, in case it became too overwhelming:

Mandy Cheng/AFP – Getty Images
TIME animals

Hot Wheels! Paraplegic Porcupine Gets Wheelchair Made from Plumbing Pipes

Too cute

A wheelchair made out of plumbing pipes is giving a paraplegic porcupine in Brazil a new chance at life.

KTVU reports via RuptlyTV that the disabled animal at a Piracicaba city zoo in Sao Paulo had been rescued from a nightclub about a month ago. It was going to be put down, but then zoo workers figured out how to make the wheelchair, which reportedly only cost $5 to put together.

Perhaps it won’t be long before some Internet user takes this footage and does a Chamillionaire remix.

TIME animals

Don’t Worry, Shark Attacks Are Still Incredibly Rare

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ... it is

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A swimmer’s run-in with a great white shark at California’s Manhattan Beach on Saturday may trigger the Jaws theme in nervous beach-goers’ heads, but there’s no need to be afraid of the water — shark attacks are still incredibly uncommon.

There have only been 12 people killed by shark attacks between the years 2001 and 2013, and as National Geographic notes in the video above, you’re much more likely to get injured by your own toilet or a room freshener.

TIME animals

U.S. Moves To Protect Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

The targeted species is typically used as an ingredient in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine

(HONOLULU) — The National Marine Fisheries Service on Thursday classified as endangered and threated four distinct populations of a shark species whose fins are favored as an ingredient in shark fin soup.

The agency said it’s listing scalloped hammerhead sharks in the eastern Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans as endangered, which means they’re at risk of becoming extinct.

The populations in the central and southwest Atlantic, and the Indo-West Pacific are being listed as threatened, which means they’re likely to face the risk of extinction in the future.

The central Pacific population, which includes scalloped hammerheads living in Hawaii waters, is considered fairly healthy and isn’t being listed.

The new classification responds to a petition filed by the environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and Friends of Animals.

“The listing of the scalloped hammerhead is an important indication that the human exploitation of marine species has taken its toll,” said Michael Harris, the director of the wildlife law program at Friends of Animals.

The classification takes effect in September. Once listed, federal agencies will have to make sure their actions don’t jeopardize the species or harm the species’ critical habitat.

Scalloped hammerheads will receive international protections the same month from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Under the new CITES designation, trade in scalloped hammerheads will be allowed only if an exporting country issues a permit after finding the sharks were legally acquired and determining that selling them won’t harm the survival of the species or its role in the ecosystem.

Carl Meyer, a shark researcher at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology, said demand for shark fins is driving overfishing of the species. The high number of fibers in scalloped hammerhead fins makes them particularly desirable for shark fin soup, he said.

Fishermen are catching juveniles as well as adults.

“Of course, if you take away all of the small ones, then you don’t get any big ones, and then your population starts to really decline dramatically,” Meyer said.

Scalloped hammerheads grow up to 10 feet long and have indentations in their flat, extended heads. They eat stingrays, squid and other sharks.

They’re the most commonly found hammerhead species in Hawaii. They give birth in calm, murky, shallow bays, including Kaneohe and Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hanalei on Kauai, and Hilo on the Big Island.

They’re better off in Hawaii than other areas in part because there’s no traditional or modern market forsharks as a commercial species in the islands, said Kim Holland, also a researcher at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology.

Studies indicate the Hawaii population stays in waters relatively close to shore, which may give them some additional protection. That’s because longline fishing fleets can accidentally catch the species, but the Hawaii-based fleet fishes further from the coast.

 

TIME animals

14 of The Most Patriotic Pets in America

Paw-sitively festive

https://twitter.com/NavyFederal/statuses/484381023594377218

https://twitter.com/RCMHealthcare/statuses/484713645239459840

https://twitter.com/Petco/statuses/483973737146884096

https://twitter.com/CaitlynFarrell1/statuses/484488851520372737

Zachary Harris, 5, of Moore, Okla., dressed as Uncle Sam, walks with his dog, Brutus, dressed as “Lady Liberty” in the Downtown Salute Parade, July 4, 2005, in Oklahoma City, as part of the parade’s Most Patriotic Dog Competition. Bill Waugh / The Oklahoman – AP
Bill waits to compete in the Mutt Strutt patriotic dog contest during an Independence Day celebration in Moscow, Idaho, on Friday, July 4, 2008. Geoff Crimmins/Moscow-Pullman Daily News – AP
Stretch, a Corgi from Odenton, Maryland, marched as part of the doggie drill team from Greenbelt dog training at Takoma Park’s 122nd Fourth of July celebration in 2011. Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post – Getty Images
A dog decked out for the annual I’On Community Independence Day Parade in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina, July 4, 2012. Richard Ellis – Getty Images
A chihuahua at the 4th of July parade in the McKinney, Texas, town square. Michael Prengler – AP
TIME animals

VIDEO: Watch a Jaguar Take Down a Crocodile

Not the food chain you might predict

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What’s that brownish lump floating on the surface of the river? A turtle? Some kind of plant matter? Oh no wait, it’s a jaguar, and it’s jumping out of the water and sneaking up behind that crocodile! OMG and clamping its mouth around the crocodile’s neck and dragging it back through the water like a proud house cat with a captured mouse.

Well, guess we know who wins this battle of the animals.

 

TIME China

African-Elephant Poaching Soars as Ivory Prices Triple in China

Officials and guests including Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing are shown seized ivory displayed in Hong Kong
Officials and guests, including Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, are shown seized ivory in Hong Kong on May 15, 2014 Reuters

Nigeria and Angola sell the greatest amount of ivory products in Africa

The price African ivory fetches in China has tripled in the past four years, causing the dissident militias and organized-crime groups that monopolize the trade to ramp up illicit poaching, according to a report released on Thursday.

Increased demand spurred by Beijing’s lax ivory laws has seen ivory prices rocket from $750 in 2010 to $2,100 in 2014, meaning the widespread slaughter of African elephants “shows little sign of abating,” according to Save the Elephants. The campaign group estimates 33,000 elephants were slaughtered annually between 2010 and 2012.

China has long had a fascination with ivory that harks back hundreds of years to traditional ivory carvings. In modern times, wealthy Chinese value ivory as a status symbol or to use as gifts to sweeten potential business deals, reports the BBC.

Conservationists say communities in Nigeria and Angola sell the greatest amount of ivory products in Africa. “Without concerted international action to reduce the demand for ivory, measures to reduce the killing of elephants for ivory will fail,” Save the Elephants founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton tells AFP.

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