Newsletter July 2018

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July 2018

The Best Workout Buddies Have Four Legs

(contributed by freelance writer Jane Wadsworth)

Did you know that the American obesity predicament isn’t just limited to humans? About a third of dogs in the USA are also overweight according to a study conducted but the Banfield Pet Hospital in Washington. While diet plays a big role in combatting obesity in both humans and animals, exercise is of vital importance to both you and your dog. Recent research conducted by Michigan State University found that dog owners, on average, partake in 30 more minutes of exercise a week than individuals who don’t own dogs. Engaging in a range of fun-filled exercises such as the following will result in both you and your dog shedding some weight while having fun and strengthening the bond between you.

Attend a Doggy Boot Camp

Many cities across the USA offer doggy boot camps that meet in parks, on beaches, and in dog runs. If you think only your chubby canine will benefit from a doggy boot camp, you are mistaken, as the dogs and their owners partake in a series of calorie burning activities and calisthenics.  These boot camps are not only good for boosting your weight loss and fitness levels, but also help you connect with like-minded dog owners which can result in a few fun-filled doggy play dates for your beloved pooch. If there aren’t any boot camps in your neighborhood, you can set up your own in your own backyard. You might even invite your dog-owning friends over to enjoy the workouts with you! After a couple of boot camp sessions, you and your dog will be slimmer, fitter and more connected than you have ever been. 

Do Some Doggy Yoga 

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Doggy yoga does in fact exist, and it can be a great benefit to both you and your dog.  When you engage in yoga, you will find yourself with an improved posture and enjoy sounder sleep while your dog will benefit from increased circulation, flexibility and spending extra time with his favorite human. A doga session often involves some massaging and acupressure and can go a long way in helping an anxious or agitated dog to relax.

Climb Some Stairs

Stair climbing is one of the most effective exercises to engage in if you and your dog need to lose weight. Best of all, it is completely free. Climbing stairs will have both you and your pup burn off a substantial amount of calories while also shaping your legs and butt. There are no real rules to stair climbing. You simply need to leash your dog and find stairs to climb. If you live in a multi-story home, you don’t even need to leave the house. Search around town for stairs (or bleachers) that will not only provide you with much-needed exercise but will afford you the countless benefits of spending time outdoors as well. 

Embarking on a weight loss journey with your dog can be extremely beneficial to both you and your dog, not only from a health perspective, but in terms of bonding as well.  Losing weight can be physically tough and emotionally testing, which is why taking the plunge with your best friend is such a good idea. You might be surprised at just how much you and your canine companion can motivate each other to give your best towards a very worthy goal.

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Three Legged Jaguar Gives Birth to Two Cubs

Tania the jaguar gave birth for the first time on June 6, 2018 when she had twins at the Ibera National Park in northern Argentina. The cubs came into the world as the first born in the park in decades, representing a ray of hope for conservationists trying to save the species from their rapidly declining population.

Tania was born and raised in a zoo, with only three legs but all the love a mother needs to care for her two cubs. She was brought to Ibera National Park to meet Chiqui, the cubs’ father, so that they could participate in the Jaguar Reintroduction Program, which was launched by Tompkins Conservation in 2011 and funded by National Geographic.

Chiqui was born in the wild but raised at a rescue center. He and Tania made a loving pair, and together, they have contributed to efforts to save their species. Jaguars are listed as “Near Threatened,” and their numbers are shrinking.

There are approximately 15,000 wild jaguars today, 200 of which live in Argentina. The goal of this project is to bring the population in Ibera National Park to at least 100. Conservationists hope that as the baby cubs grow up, they will learn how to hunt from their mother so that they can be released to live in the wild.

For the first weeks of the cubs’ life, conservationists plan to check in on the mother and her babies through remote surveillance so that they can naturally grow up together, without human interference. This will give the cubs the best chance of being able to survive and thrive after being released into the wild.

The project has been successful in the past with reintroducing species whose numbers were dwindling. Giant anteaters grew from zero to 200 with the help of conservationists. However, the anteaters are currently at risk of becoming overabundant. Conservationists hope restoring the jaguar population will help bring balance to the ecosystem by introducing a top predator. 

However, releasing captive jaguars into the wild is not an option. This would put both animals and people in danger. This is why conservationists have brought together Tania and Chiqui to give birth to cubs that can grow up learning how to survive in the wild. 

So far, the babies are suckling from their mother and appear healthy. Conservationists say Tania is doing well for an inexperienced mother. Soon, she will begin bringing them meat to eat, and months later, she will teach them to hunt on their own. If they are not able to hunt on their own at first, conservationists have built a system that can give them meat without human interaction. By 10 to 12 months old, scientists hope to move the cubs to an 80-acre pen so they can hunt on their own.

Jaguars are the largest big cats in South America. Early Mesoamerican societies once worshipped them as gods. Restoring the jaguar population would benefit the ecosystem of Argentina as well as bringing back an animal that is legendary in its power and grace. The cubs born last month will serve a vital purpose in their species’ history. 

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Koko the Gorilla, You Will Be Missed

An animal who has truly reshaped human understanding of animal intelligence, communication and emotional capacity, Koko the gorilla was a primate whose talents and legacy will live forever. Koko was arguably the most famous gorilla in the world, best known for her ability to speak sign language and communicate with humans in a much more complex way than any other animal. The beloved gorilla passed away peacefully in her sleep on June 20, 2018, at the age of 46.

The Gorilla Foundation, the organization which had Koko in their care, announced her passing later that day, commending Koko for her role as the primary ambassador for her endangered species.

The foundation stated, “Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed.”

Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo on July 4, 1941. Her full name is Hanabi-ko, which is Japanese for “Fireworks Child.” When she was only a year old, Koko began working with Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson, who taught her to speak in sign language. A few years later in 1974, Dr. Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn moved Koko to Stanford and went on to establish the Gorilla Foundation.

Koko continued to gain fame after adopting her own pet kitten. The kitten was given to her as a gift after she requested one for Christmas. She was originally given a stuffed kitten, but she made it clear that she was not satisfied with the replacement, signing “sad.”

As a result of her protest, Koko was given a real kitten for her birthday. She named the kitten herself, signing that her name would be “All Ball.” Koko cared for All Ball as if she were a baby gorilla, even trying to nurse her.

Sadly, All Ball passed away several years later. When Koko learned of All Ball’s death, she signed, “Bad, sad, bad” and “frown, cry, frown, sad.” However, she later adopted two new kittens and named them “Lipstick” and “Smoky.” Most recently, for her birthday in 2015, Koko adopted two more kittens, who she named “Miss Black” and “Miss Grey.”

Koko has had a rich and full life, and an impressive career, having been featured in multiple documentaries and appearing on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover featured a photograph Koko took of herself in the mirror. The second included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball. As a result of the article, the book “Koko’s Kitten” was published and is still used in elementary schools worldwide.

Throughout her life, Koko has made huge strides in interspecies communication by teaching us about the emotional capacity and cognitive abilities of gorillas. Her legacy will always be a landmark and will continue to shape the world both scientifically and emotionally forever.

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Wise Old...Penguin? 5 Most Intelligent Marine Animals

1.     Dolphin

You guessed it! Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, let alone in the ocean. These graceful creatures have captivated humans with their complex emotional intelligence and capacity for empathy. They have been known to help stranded people in the ocean get to shore and display signs of caring for both their own species and others. Dolphins have even been documented mourning their own dead. Finally, dolphins are quick learners, which makes them number one on our list.

2.     Octopus

A close second, the octopus is a sea creature of truly remarkable intelligence and skill. Octopuses have been known to solve complex problems and learn quickly. They can also change the color and texture of their skin, a skill which allows them to express emotions and display emotional intelligence. Some of their more human-like characteristics include the ability to stare a person in the eyes, reach a tentacle out to touch a hand, and even investigate an object handed to them. Though they don’t look like much at first glance, octopuses are incredibly complex animals.

3.     Sea Otter

Sea otters are known for their playful personalities, which makes them a popular stop at zoos and aquariums. Their playfulness is coupled with impressive intelligence, which is what makes them so entertaining. Sea otters have been observed playing basketball, stacking cups, and even going into a vending machine to snag a treat. They are silly but also strategic. Most significantly, they have been observed using rocks to open clams. The use of tools to accomplish tasks is a rare and special ability in the animal kingdom, and it reveals the problem-solving abilities that sea otters have.

4.     Orca

Orcas have many similarities to elephants, which are famous for being one of the most intelligent animals in the world. Like elephants, orcas are very social animals with high emotional intelligence. They live in close-knit communities and travel together with their families. Many orcas have their own dialects and develop communication that is specific to their own social groups.

5.     Penguin

Like many of the other animals on this list, penguins have both problem-solving skills and high emotional intelligence. Penguins have been known to be able to recognize themselves in the mirror, an indicator of self-awareness that is rare in the animal kingdom. They can be easily trained and conditioned in captivity. They are also very loyal and have been known to communicate with each other, forming intricate communities and social groups.

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