ANCHORAGE - Scientists believe they may have found a way to determine the life span of the Arctic's largest inhabitant, the bowhead whale. Biologists are putting the final touches on a study that shows bowheads may live more than 150 years. That could make them the world's longest-living mammal - longer even than elephants, which live to be 60 years old. Until early this decade, data suggested the 75-ton whales lived well into their 60s. But Native hunters began finding stone harpoon tips - a kind last used in the 1880s - embedded in the blubber of the bowheads they landed. After a half-dozen were found, scientists realized they had to do further research.
BEIJING (AP). One of China's oldest pandas in captivity has died, succumbing to respiratory failure at 31, the state-run Xinhua News Agency says. Zhuzhu died June 8 at the zoo in Guiyang, capital of southwest Guizhouprovince, Xinhua said. Doctors from the Guiyang Medical College tried emergency measures to save the panda's life, Xinhua said. The country's oldest panda, Dudu, is 36 and kept in the zoo in the central industrial city of Wuhan. On average, pandas live only to 16 in the wild, and to 20 to 25 in captivity. The giant panda is highly endangered in China. Only about 1, 000 are believed to remain in the wild.
BULEA BOWS OUT
CHICAGO - The John G. Shedd Aquarium's only male Pacific white-sided dolphin has died after battling a chronic respiratory illness for several years. Bulea was one of the original four white-sided dolphins captured in 1988 for the Shedd's Oceanarium exhibit, a four-story display of marine mammals and birds. Jeffrey Boehm, the Oceanarium's chief veterinarian, said he believes Bulea had pneumonia: "Respiratory problems are not uncommon in marine mammals, something often found in beached whales and dolphins in the wild." Animal-rights activists believe captivity aggravates such health problems."Animals are evolved in the wild to deal with their illnesses," said Naomi Rose, a Humane Society marine mammal scientists "If they die in captivity, the veterinary care they received wasn't very valuable." Bulea is the third dolphin to die at the aquarium. He was about 13 years old and had sired the only dolphin born at the oceanarium which was stillborn in 1995. St Louis Post-Dispatch
For Troy dairy farmer David Demmitt, the first sign of trouble came as a shock -literally. Demmitt's 14-year-old son complained of electrical jolts when he was helping milk the family's 100 cows. The animals soon displayed signs of stress as well. "The cows were kicking a lot and carrying on. They wouldn't stand still, " Demmitt recalled. He eventually diagnosed the problem as stray voltage--a phenomenon in which electricity escapes power lines, travels through the ground and delivers a shock. Now, Demmitt is suing Dayton Power and Light, saying the utility company was slow to fix a problem with its lines. Demmitt says stray voltage caused him to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in milk production over two years.
DP&L counters that Demmitt's tests to detect the voltage were flawed, and that his farm actually thrived during the time of dispute. An arbitrator ruled in the company's favour earlier this year but Demmitt recently asked the Miami County Court of Common Appeals to vacate the decision, which he says was marred by irregularities. Stray voltage is the result of electricity escaping a poorly grounded wire and travelling through the earth. It is attracted to a metal surface, which zaps any animal or person who happens to touch it. The affliction is of particular concern to dairy farmers. Cows are more sensitive to electric currents than other animals and there’s plenty of conductive metal in the typical milking stall. Cows don’t take shocks well. They can grow stressed and reluctant to enter a barn. Demmitt said his cows frequently kicked off their mechanical milkers. Since they didn't release all of their milk, their udders became infected, he said. But one of the complexities of stray voltage cases is that other factors cause similar symptoms. The cows' diet, disease, and even the weather can affect the animals' health, and therefore the amount of milk they produce.
In Demmitt's case, an expert traced stray voltage to nearby DP&L lines in 1994, though company workers had concluded earlier that the problem - if it existed at all - originated at the farm. The utility later agreed to install a device to block the current and the trouble ceased. Dayton [OH] Daily News on 4 July 1998
GOING FOR GOLD
JEZERO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP). Every Bosnian child knows the story of a poor woman who caught a golden fish, released it and in return gained wealth and happiness. It's a Balkan fairy tale — but it turned into reality for one poor family. "What happened here is beyond good luck, it really is a fable, '' said Admir Malkoc, reflecting on how his fleeing relatives freed two goldfish and were repaid hundredfold. The 150 Muslim families in Jezero, a north-western village surrounding a lake, lived a quiet life before the Bosnian war — except for holidays, when the men returned from jobs in western Europe loaded with presents. In 1990, Smajo Malkoc came back from Austria with an unusual gift for his teenage sons, Dzevad and Catib: an aquarium with two goldfish. Two years passed, and war arrived. As Bosnian Serb forces advanced on Jezero, the women and children fled and the men tried to resist. Malkoc was killed. When his wife, Fehima, sneaked back into the destroyed village to bury her husband and take what remained of their belongings, she spotted the fish in the aquarium.
She let them out into the nearby lake. "This way they might be more fortunate than us," she recalls thinking. Fast forward to 1995. Ms. Malkoc returned with her sons to Jezero to find ruins, nothing left from the idyllic past except memories. Eyes misting over, she turned toward the lake and glimpsed something strange. She came closer — and caught her breath. "The whole lake was shining from the myriad golden fish in it, '' she said. "I had to think of my husband, it was something he left me that I never hoped for." During the years of killing all around the lake, life underwater had flourished. After their return, Ms. Malkoc and her sons started feeding the fish and then selling them. Now, homes, bars and coffee shops in the region are replete with aquariums containing fish from Jezero — some pure gold, others with black and white spots like the original pair Malkoc brought. The two boys are grown and Ms. Malkoc is the proud grandmother of a 10-month-old daughter. The Malkoc house, rebuilt from ruins, is one of the biggest in the village. Two new cars are parked in front, and the family says it has enough money not to worry about the future. "It was a special kind of gift from our father, '' Dzevad Malkoc said. Even in winter, when the ice is thick enough to skate on the lake, the fish survive, although "earlier it was impossible to keep them even in a home aquarium without a heater," Malkoc said. Some grow as big as 4. 5 pounds and some have two tails — more proof for the villagers of something magical. Other residents are welcome to catch and sell the fish. But most defer to the Malkocs. "They threw the fish into the lake," said a villager who identified himself only by his last name, Veladzic. "It's their miracle." Electronic Telegraph Friday 9 January 1998 Issue 959 THE BROAD BLACK BRIMMER
LONDON, May 18 (Reuters) - Irish Republican Army guerrillas kidnapped Derby winner Shergar and killed the champion racehorse within days when it became uncontrollable, a former IRA gunman said on Tuesday. "Things started to go wrong almost immediately, " said Sean O'Callaghan, a convicted murderer who turned police informer against the IRA. The most emphatic winner of Britain's biggest flat race, the Derby, in 1981, Shergar was stolen from the Aga Khan's Irish stud in February 1983. The kidnapping was one of the great mysteries of the 1980s, with constant reports of sightings. Insurers refused to pay out without proof of the horse’s death.
In an autobiography published this week, O'Callaghan said the IRA, fighting to oust Britain from Northern Ireland, had hired a man who "once worked White horse’s" to handle Shergar after the kidnapping. "But working with horses is one thing: dealing with a thoroughbred stallion which can be a difficult, highly-strung creature at the best of times is anotherthing, " O'Callaghan said. "The horse threw himself into a frenzy in the horse box, damaging a leg and proving impossible for the team to control, " he said. "He was killed within days even though the IRA kept up the pretence that he was alive and demanded a five million pound ($8. 1 million) ransom for his safe return, " O'Callaghan said in "The Informer. " After the 1981 Derby Shergar won the Irish Derby, ridden by Lester Piggott, followed by the King George VI and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot. When he retired in September 1981 Shergar had won six races and collected 436,000 pounds in prize money.
O'Callaghan, whose memoirs are serialised in the Daily Telegraph, said the kidnap plot was hatched in prison by a former bookmaker's clerk and republican veteran assigned to raise money for IRA weapon purchases. Shergar was stolen at night from stables at Ballymany along with his groom, who was held at gunpoint in the horse box before being released outside a Chinese restaurant 20 miles (32 km) away. Negotiations with the kidnappers continued for four days and a polaroid photograph was provided showing Shergar with a carrot and an up-to-date copy of the Irish Times. But then the kidnappers fell silent. O'Callaghan said the scheme had been doomed from the start. "On being informed that Shergar had been kidnapped, the Aga Khan immediately said he would not pay one penny for his safe return.
In February, Cambridge (England) University researcher Fiona Hunter, who studied penguins' mating habits for five years, reported that some females apparently allow male strangers to mate with them in exchange for a few nest-building stones, thus providing what Hunter believes is the first observed animal prostitution. According to Dr. Hunter, all activity was done behind the back of the female's regular mate, and in a few instances, after the sex act, johns gave the females additional stones as sort of a tip.
RICHARD'S COMMENT: But you don't see 'em at King's Cross...