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San Diego Zoo’s Great Apes Receive First Experimental Covid-19 Vaccine for Animals

ChimpSmithsonian reports that five bonobos and four orangutans were treated with a synthetic form of the virus.

Elizabeth Gamillo reports that the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has vaccinated several apes with an experimental Covid-19 vaccine intended for pets, making the animals the first non-human primates to be vaccinated, reports Rachael Rettner for Live Science.

The vaccine, developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis, was provided to the San Diego Zoo after they requested help in vaccinating other apes when several gorillas tested positive for Covid-19 in January, reports James Gorman for the New York Times. The gorillas were the first known great apes in the world to test positive for coronavirus.

At San Diego zoo facilities, there are 14 gorillas, eight bonobos, and four orangutans living indoors, which leaves them more prone to the spread of Covid-19 infection, reports National Geographic. To help prevent disease spread among the apes, veterinarians with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance selected five bonobos and four orangutans to receive the experimental vaccine, reports Stella Chan and Scottie Andrew for CNN. The selected apes were deemed the most at risk. One of the vaccinated orangutans was Karen, an ape that first made headlines in 1994 for being the first orangutan to have open-heart surgery, the New York Times reports.

Zoetis's vaccine works similarly to the Novavax vaccine for humans by giving recipients of the vaccine a synthetic form of the Covid-19's spike protein that will prime and alert immune systems to fight infection, reports Live Science. To confirm if the vaccine was effective, blood will be drawn from the apes to look for the presence of antibodies. By February, the apes had received two doses of the vaccine, and no adverse reactions occurred within the apes, reports National Geographic. The gorillas previously infected with coronavirus will eventually receive the vaccine but are not a priority because they have since recovered, reports the New York Times.


Himalayan Songbirds Adapted to the Cold with Thicker Down Jackets

Crimson sunbirdThe old adage “free as a bird” doesn’t quite apply in the world’s tallest mountain ranges. Instead, songbird species are confined to specific elevations, where they have evolved to fit that particular climate.

The crimson sunbird, for instance, lives from the foot of the Himalayas up to about 1,600 feet. The green-tailed sunbird, its evolutionary cousin, lives between about 5,000 feet to 10,000 feet of elevation, while another close relative, the fire-tailed sunbird, rules the roost from about 11,000 feet to 13,000 feet.

Scientists who study birds are still unraveling the factors that keep each bird in its elevational niche. Research published this week in the journal Ecography adds a new piece to the puzzle: the higher a songbird species lives in the Himalayas—and the colder temperatures it faces, because of the altitude—the thicker its downy feather layer. The finding could help researchers predict how songbirds will adapt to a changing climate.

Insulation is pretty important,” says vertebrate zoologist Sahas Barve, a Peter Buck fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the first author on the new study. Temperatures in the Himalayas regularly drop below freezing at night. Birds, however, need to keep their bodies at about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. “The straight-line distance between the outside air and the bird's heart is less than an inch. So, it has to maintain that temperature difference across that little barrier,” says Barve.

Feathers provide key insulation. To investigate the ways that feathers evolved to keep birds warm, Barve measured the downy feathers of more than 200 species of Himalayan songbird specimens held in the museum’s vast collections, where rows and rows of file-like cabinets hold taxidermied examples of the world’s avian species.

“Irrespective of body size, birds that live at the bottom of the mountain have less downy feathers than birds that live at the top of the mountain,” says Barve.

Birds are warm-blooded, like humans, so they use a familiar strategy to heat themselves up when the temperature falls—shivering. But at an elevation of 12,000 feet, nighttime temperatures can drop to between 0- and 20-degrees Fahrenheit. Birds in the Himalayas have to shiver so much to stay warm that they can lose a fifth of their body weight in one night. Birds sometimes starve to death because they burn so many calories simply because they are shivering.

As climate change continues to alter weather patterns, extreme cold events could occur more often and last longer each time. That could put a lot of stress on mountain-dwelling bird populations. “To fully understand how birds will deal with changing temperatures, we need to understand this basic, fundamental concept of how birds use their feathers to stay warm,” says Barve.

Barve analyzed 1,715 specimens from the museum’s collections representing 249 Himalayan songbird species. The species were gathered from a 1,000-mile span of the Himalayas, and at elevations from 246 feet to 16,150 feet. The species were as small as the black-face warbler, which weighs just a fraction of an ounce, to the half-pound blue whistling thrush. The oldest specimen included in the study was a blue rock thrush collected in 1876.

Read the full article here.

 


Fostering Stray Cats Gave Me Purpose

From the New York Times - an excerpt  on the movement to rescue feral cats. Inspiring!

Cat family portrait‘I Literally Had No One.’ Then the Foster Kittens Arrived.

Last summer, Jali Henry was feeling lonely and depressed after many of her friends moved out of the city because of the pandemic. “I literally had no one,” she said. “I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’” Then she began noticing street cats in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she lives: first, a group of four that lived behind a school; then, a cat on her block, obviously sick and infested with fleas. Ms. Henry, 28, who had started volunteering with the rescue group Puppy Kitty NYC, corralled the cat and took it to the vet. “I kind of chased her around the neighborhood, it was really crazy,” she said. “Random people stopped to help me.”

 

Longtime animal-rescue volunteers in the city suspect there are more stray and feral cats on the streets these days, but there are also, it turns out, more New Yorkers like Ms. Henry, who want to rescue and foster them. “On one hand, we have a group of people who are subject to financial and housing insecurity, which makes them more likely to have to part ways with their pet in a very tragic way, which leads to more cats on the street,” said Will Zweigart, the founder of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Flatbush Cats. “An entirely different group is experiencing this pandemic with more free time. They’ve finished their Netflix queue, they’re aching for a sense of purpose.”

Betty Arce, a retired Education Department administrator who has been rescuing cats for eight years in the Bronx, said that she had never seen as many cats on the streets before, especially friendly cats and, starting last spring, kittens. “We suspect there is an increase, we just don’t know by how much,” said Kathleen O’Malley, who leads the Bideawee Feral Cat Initiative, which focuses on spaying and neutering community cats.

Neighborhood Cats, a group based in Manhattan, said its number of online donations doubled last April and May, and continue to come in at much higher rates than before the pandemic. Bryan Kortis, the national programs director, said he had also noticed an increase in the number of New Yorkers seeking training on how to help community cats. “They’re home more; they’re more aware of what’s going on in the backyard,” he said.

That’s what happened to Carmen Castillo-Barrett, a science teacher who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Last June, she and her husband realized that three newborn kittens were living in their backyard. After she had the kittens and their mother fixed, Ms. Castillo-Barrett, 42, went through what she called an “interesting summer socializing feral cats.” She would sit beside the kittens as they ate, hissing at her, she said, until eventually they would let her touch them with just one finger. It provided a welcome distraction. “It was like a big experiment,” she said. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, “it’s possible this could have happened and we wouldn’t have noticed.”

 

Cat volunteers still face major challenges. There is no city or state funding for organizations that trap, neuter and return cats to the streets. That method, which Bideawee practices, is endorsed by the A.S.P.C.A. and the Humane Society. The Audubon Society and other bird and wildlife advocacy organizations, however, oppose the practice because they consider outdoor cats a predatory threat to songbirds. And getting appointments for free or low-cost spaying and neutering, which has always been difficult, is even more so now.

Still, the rising interest in helping street cats during the pandemic offers a glimmer of hope for people like Mr. Zweigart, who, when not rescuing cats, researches the future of work as a brand strategist. “I’m very optimistic that past 2021 we’re only going to see a higher interest in fostering as people have higher flexibility and only spend more time at home,” he said.

Hayong Lau, 28, who lost her job at a cocktail bar last spring, began fostering kittens, even bottle-feeding a newborn every two hours at one point. “Fostering feels like we have something to control, and it just felt good to do something good,” she said. Ms. Henry, who also plans to continue fostering, has started documenting her experiences on Instagram, in the hopes of getting her charges adopted. “I want to eventually take in smaller kittens and expand my expertise,” she said.

 


Save Joe the Pigeon

From OXY news - Joe will reunite the nations. Not that Joe. Joe the pigeon, discovered the day after Christmas in a suburban Melbourne backyard, looking exhausted and weak, and wearing a tag that appeared to be from Alabama. The bird now faces “humane destruction” to guard the country against alien avian ailments. Australians and Americans alike have campaigned to save the bird, named Joe after the U.S. president-elect. It's emerged in the last hour or so that Alabama racing pigeon authorities are saying the tag is fake, and the pigeon deserves a reprieve, but it's unclear if the disavowal is more about the name than the bird.

Sources: News.com.au, Reuters Joe the pigeon

UPDATE: JOE THE PIGEON HAS RECEIVED A REPRIEVE


Dog Sleeping Patterns and Behaviors

According to Casper Mattress Company, dogs have distinct sleeping patterns and behaviors. Maybe a Dog Bed can make the difference?

Here is how they list out:

Dog-sleeping-patterns

  • Dreaming: Yes, dogs can dream too! While it’s difficult to uncover exactly what dogs dream about, we know the brain processes their events of the day during sleep. So we can assume they’re dreaming of what happened during the day — like a walk around the block or chasing a squirrel.
  • Twitching: Just like humans, dogs may twitch in their sleep while they are dreaming or moving between sleep stages. This is a completely normal part of the sleep cycle.
  • Barking or squeaking: If your dog barks (or squeaks) during sleep, don’t panic. This is completely normal and may indicate that they’re reacting to something that’s happening in their dream.
  • Running: You may notice this when your dog is sleeping on their side and their paws start to move in unison. This is typically in response to a dream your dog may be having.
  • Snoring: Some dogs snore just as much as humans, however not every dog will snore. Snoring is most common in dogs with breathing issues and short noses — such as pugs, bulldogs, and boxers.
  • Circling and digging: Sometimes dogs will circle or dig before lying down to sleep. According to Peter Laskay, this behavior comes from the dog’s ancestors — wolves. Peter says that wolves did this to get “rid of excess leaves, earth, and snow by digging to make their sleep area more comfortable.”

If you notice your dog exhibiting any of the above sleep patterns, there is no need to worry! Every dog’s sleeping habits will be different and are perfectly normal.


Important Information About Deadly Pet Food Recall

Pet food recalled after at least 28 dogs die, 8 sickened: FDA

MEREDITH DELISO
·2 min read
 
From Yahoo News -----

Several pet food products have been recalled after 28 dogs died, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday.

Three brands of Sportmix products for dogs and cats made by Midwestern Pet Foods may contain potentially fatal levels of the toxin aflatoxin, according to the FDA.

The FDA said it is aware of at least 28 deaths and eight illnesses in dogs that ate the recalled pet food.

PHOTO: A dog with a food bowl in an undated stock photo. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A dog with a food bowl in an undated stock photo. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)

The Missouri Department of Agriculture tested multiple samples of the food and found "very high levels" of aflatoxin, which is produced by a mold that can grow on corn and other grains used in pet food, the FDA said.

Midwestern Pet Foods has committed to recalling nine lots of Sportmix products, the FDA said. The FDA and Missouri Department of Agriculture are working to determine if any others need to be recalled.

The lot code, which begins with the letters "Exp," is located on the back of the bag.

As of Dec. 30, the recalled products are:

Sportmix Energy Plus

50 lb. bag:

Exp 03/02/22/05/L2

Exp 03/02/22/05/L3

Exp 03/03/22/05/L2

44 lb. bag:

Exp 03/02/22/05/L3

Sportmix Premium High Energy

50 lb. bag:

Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

44 lb. bag:

Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

Sportmix Original Cat

31 lb. bag:

Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

15 lb. bag:

Exp 03/03/22/05/L2

Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

The products were distributed to online retailers and stores nationwide, the FDA said.

Pet owners who have the recalled products should contact the company for further instructions or throw the products out in a way that children, pets and wildlife cannot access them.

Signs of aflatoxin poisoning include sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice and diarrhea. There is no evidence that pet owners who handle the products are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning, the FDA said.

If your pet has symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Pet food recalled after at least 28 dogs die, 8 sickened: FDA originally appeared on abcnews.go.com


Robot Wolves Keep Bears Out of Japanese Town

Robot wolfWell, this is a fine howl do you do. After an uptick in bear sightings in the area this year and two fatal attacks in October — possibly because deforestation is leading bears in search of food into contact with humans — the small Japanese city of Takikawa bought two large wolf robots to scare off predators. Living wolves have been extinct in Japan for at least 100 years. When the four-foot wolf’s motion sensor is tripped, it howls as its eyes glow red and head swivels. Bear sightings have ceased since the installation.   

Sources: Smithsonian, NYT