Saturday, April 21, 2012

One gutsy guard dog! Canines chase starving polar bear away from Siberian weather station

When you live at one of the most isolated corners of the planet, a dog really is man's best friend.

And when a hungry polar bear lumbered ashore to forage for food among the rubbish bins at a weather station, the dogs of Bely Island off the tip of the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia risked their lives to prove their worth.

Without fear of their giant adversary, who could have killed them with a single swipe if it wanted to, they charged forward to protect the few human inhabitants of the remote spot from the powerful beast. First one, then two, and finally a third dog joined the fray, barking and growling at the polar bear.

Although the polar bear did not exactly beat a hasty retreat, it came no further inland after encountering the hostile 'welcoming' committee and shuffled off elsewhere.

The weather station at Bely Island has been there since 1934. The four workers at the station send weather information to Moscow every three hours and polar bears are fairly frequent visitors.

The man who took these remarkable photographs, Sergey Anisimov, 50, was invited to the weather station by the Government of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, whose officials were travelling there to examine a newly built trading station for deer-breeders.

On the island is a memorial stone there dedicated to soldiers and sailors killed during World War Two. There is a Northern Sea Route close to the island and during the war bodies of sailors from sunken ships would wash up on the shore and then be buried inland.

Several Russian Orthodox Priests had also travelled to the island to consecrate the memorial stone. Mr Anisimov said: 'We flew to the station by helicopter. And we noticed a bear when we flew closer to the station.

'The bear was digging into boxes of old things, probably rubbish, looking for some food. When we got out of the helicopter we noticed that the bear came closer until it was only about thirty metres from us.

'The dogs tried to protect us and we fired a signal pistol to try and scare it away. Eventually it gave up its advance and just lay down. There were also weather station workers near us and ready with the guns to scare the bear away.

'When we flew away the bear was still there and was watching us with sad eyes.' Bely Island is a relatively large island in the Kara Sea off the tip of the Yamal Peninsula, Siberia, Russia.

It covers an area of 1,810 square kilometres. It is covered tundra but some dwarf shrubs also grow on the island. It is separated from the mainland by the Malygina Strait, an eight to ten kilometre wide sound which is frozen most of the year.

The island belongs to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug which is the northern part of the Tyumen Oblast administrative division of Russia.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tortoise won't come out of his shell to play with lions

When an unfortunate tortoise wandered into a pride of lions there appeared to be only one possible outcome.

So the tortoise did what all tortoises do in such sticky situations…it went into its shell and awaited the inevitable.

But luckily the young lioness cubs were clearly puzzled by the strange shelled creature in their midst and didn’t know what to do next.

Trying to work out if it was a snack or an unusual toy, they licked it, pawed it, squashed it and attempted to eat it.

Nothing seemed to work and every time that hard shell got in the way.

And so having famously outwitted the speedy hare, the tortoise proved too smart for the king of the beasts.

Eventually the female lion cubs got bored of their plaything and moved on in search of a tastier meal.

Tourist Mike Cullis, 62, who took the amazing pictures, said the tortoise appeared to suffer no serious injury and survived its ordeal.

Mr Cullis, a former operations manager in the oil and gas industry from Tenby, Dyfed, snapped the scene whilst on safari in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya last week.

He said: 'They seemed to get bored with it after an hour or so and once the lions had gone I think the tortoise just wandered off. I should think it had a bit of a headache though.

'I am convinced they were playing with it like a toy. Let's face it, a tortoise is not much of a meal for a lion. They have much bigger meals than a tortoise would provide.

'The young female lions were about 18 months old and very playful. At one point as a lion played with it, another one came over and put its paw on the tortoise as if to say: "Let me have a go."

'One of the very experienced guides who was with us said they had only ever seen lions playing with a tortoise like this once before. It was a rare sight and I felt very privileged to witness it.

'I don't actually think the lions would have been capable of carving the tortoise open because they have very thick shells and are incredibly well designed for defence.' 

It was identified as a leopard tortoise - the fourth largest species of tortoise in the world. Adults typically reach 18 in in size and weigh 40lbs.

They defend themselves from predators by retracting their feet and head into their shell. This often results in a hissing sound, probably due to the squeezing of air from the lungs as the limbs and head are retracted.

They can move relatively fast and stay underwater for 10 minutes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wildlife photographer captured amazingly intimate portraits of pride of lions

Taking pictures of big cats is always a tricky business, but if you want really intimate shots you have to get as close to them as you dare without becoming their dinner.

That's how wildlife photographer Chris Weston snapped these amazing shots of a pride of lions while documenting big game in Zimbabwe.

He used a remote camera fixed to a tree so he could capture them in off-guard moments and even put one inside a dead carcass and propped it up as though it were alive so he could see the moment the animals attacked.

The 44-year-old from Weymouth spent six weeks gaining the lions' trust, but insisted he was 'never really' in any danger.

He added: 'There is always an element of that when working with animals, especially wild ones, but it's key to be able to read their body language and the way they communicate with you.'
Chris, who has travelled all over the world to film large mammals, wanted to capture the personality of an animal in the same way a portrait artist would with a human subject.

'Lenses change the perspective of the way we see things,' he said. 'What I like to do is show it as we see it and the standard lens is 50mm which means you have to get relatively close.
'The idea is to give the viewer an idea of the personality of that individual animal.

'In much the same way as you would take a person's portrait, you can't be standing half a mile away with a long lens. You have to get close and establish some kind of relationship.'

Chris spends a long time building a relationship with his subjects and has returned to shoot this pride in the Ngamo Game Reserve on several occasions over the past five years.

'Lions are generally wary of humans but people would be surprised at how non-aggressive they are,' he said.

'What's surprising is that when you spend a lot of time with the lions you begin to get a sense of their individual characteristics.

'It's very much like making friends with an animal - and you can only do that when you are relatively close to them.'

After coming up with the idea to put the camera in the tree it took Chris about three days to get the picture he wanted.

Chris also took to the water to document the lions swimming. He said: 'Most cats don't like water so seeing them swimming was very interesting.'

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Woman spends £15,000 a year raising her six bulldogs like children

A dog-loving woman has revealed she spends £15,000-per-year raising her six British bulldogs like children - with their own wardrobes, organic diets and beauty regimes.  

Karen Chamberlain, 49, and partner Peter Dowling, 48, have christened their six bulldogs 'fur kids' and feed them only organic food with daily vitamin supplements.

The dog-mad pair dress their bulldogs, who each have their own wardrobes, in skirts, hats, tiaras and angel wings, and take them out for walks on matching pink leads.

Lady Lola, eight, Princess Tia, six, Baby Gracie, three, and one-year-old pups Angel Star, Scarlet Sky and Lil Belle also use special canine shampoo and beauty products daily.

The pack cost Karen and Peter over £1,225 a month, which equates to a staggering £14,700 a year.

But Karen, the dogs' full-time carer, insists treating the pack like children is 'normal' despite revealing plans to move to a bigger house to cope with more puppies.

She said: 'It's like having six teenage girls really. They can get a bit hyper but if any of them misbehave they get put in the sin bin.

'I've bought them all special beds, but they still insist on coming and sitting on the sofa with us. I had to buy a new sofa this week so we can all fit on.

'Bathtime is mental in this house. I aim for two in the bath at one time. They have doggie shampoo and then a blow dry.

'They eat raw organic foods and instead of doggie treats which have lots of rubbish in them they get dried apricots which they love.

'You are what you eat. If you have children you make sure they eat healthy foods and look after them so it is the same with my dogs.

'Every spare penny goes on the dogs. They are my fur kids. This is our family and normal life for us.' 

Karen and painter and decorator Peter, from Kennington, Kent, got their first bulldog in 2000 and their pack has increased ever since.

They care for their bulldogs like children and give them unusual treats such as organic biscuits, fresh honey and goats milk, and parsley to cure bad breath.

Karen gives the dogs salmon oil or omega oil every day, multi-vitamins every three days and cod liver oil every week to keep their coats shiny.

The bulldogs' eyes, ears and noses are washed with fragrance-free wipes every morning and they are given a bath with puppy shampoo weekly before being taken to the groomer every month.  

The dogs also have their own bedroom, which is filled with tailor-made outfits and accessories sourced from special designer canine shops and baby stores.

The British bulldogs all have their own leather beds with Egyptian cotton quilts and receive individually wrapped birthday presents and Christmas stockings of over £100 a year.

The couple spend £200 a month on organic meat and fresh organic vegetables to make the dogs' food as well as £200 on vitamins and supplements.

They shell out £100 a month on grooming products, £75 on clothes and tiaras and £200 on dog insurance.

The remaining money, totalling £1,225 a month, is spent on toys, blankets, treats, baby wipes, dog sitters and expensive vet bills and insurance.

Karen shows her pack at Crufts dog show every year and they have featured in calendars and on cards dressed up in their special outfits.

She added: 'I had two bulldogs, but when I met Pete we kept egging each other on and got more and more.

'It is so hard to give away puppies after we have bred them.

'We do dress our bulldogs up and have fun with them, but they are fit, healthy and happy dogs and I make sure they stay that way.

'Unregistered puppy breeders give this breed of dog a bad name. It makes me cry when I see all the ill and deformed dogs they are trying to sell.' 

Peter added: 'They've got a lovely temperament but they're a bit like a bulldog in a china shop. They will have everything over.

'Hopefully we're going to breed some more but we need to get a bigger place.' 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dozen sad puppies found in recycling bin after cruel owner 'throws them out like rubbish

A dozen innocent puppies were 'thrown out like the rubbish' by a cruel owner who piled them into a recycling bin and left them to die. 

The five-week-old Staffordshire Bull Terriers were dumped on the roadside just outside the Welsh city of Swansea and left out overnight just like any other waste.

These puppies spent the night in the plastic crate usually reserved for glass, paper and plastic, but luckily they were too weak to climb out and wander into the traffic.

The next morning they were found by passers-by and then taken to an animal rescue centre just half-a-mile away.

Animal shelter manager Laura Simpson said: 'They were in a bad way after being packed into the bin like sardines.

'It is staggering that someone could just put them out like the rubbish.

'We have treated them with emergency fluids and antibiotics - all 12 have bounced back.'

Vets had their work cut out - tending the 12 Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross pups one-by one.
They had been ill-treated from birth, were badly dehydrated and in need of some tender loving care.

Police are investigating the doggy discovery on the roadside at Penllergaer, near Swansea.
But staff at the Llys Nini Animal Rescue centre in the city say all 12 will survive - and they will be free to good homes once their strength has built up.

Animal welfare workers fear more pets will be dumped as the economic squeeze means people can no longer afford to feed them.

But Laura said: 'If the owners were struggling, they should have brought them to us, not abandoned them.' 

The pups - who have not been named yet - will be put up for adoption in three weeks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

the moment a humpback whale 'thanks' rescuers who saved it from dying tangled in fishing nets

A humpback whale which was freed from almost certain death by three men off the coast of California repaid the favour to its rescuers with a breathtaking display of breaches and dives. 

The amazing hour-long performance was caught on camera moments after the creature was cut free from fishing nets.

When the boat came across the whale it was trapped with its tail and flippers hopelessly entangled in the nets.

The whale watchers first thought the humpback was already dead as it was floating on top of the water. 

But then it let out a loud breath through its blow hole.

Michael Fishbach decided the best thing to do was to get into the water and snorkel alongside the stricken whale.

He said: 'As I swam alongside the animal our eyes met.

'There were no words we could share but I wanted to let the whale know that we were there to help.

'It took some effort to stay focused given the great emotion of the moment.
'The sight of this large and beautiful creature trapped and so close to death was almost overwhelming.

'I must admit I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was frightened and fatigued but could still kill me with one panicked movement.'

He said the whale's tail was so entangled that it was weighed down by about 15ft.
Michael got back on the boat and tried to cut the net off the whale with a small knife.

The trio managed to free one of the fins but the whale sensed freedom and swam away, pulling the boat with it.

But eventually it surfaced again and more net was cut away.
After about an hour of working the whale was totally free.

They pulled the remaining fish net onto the boat and watched the whale give a dramatic show of freedom.

For the next hour they watched the whale breach around 40 times and then dive down waving its tail above the water. 

Michael said: 'We all believed it was a least a show of pure joy, if not thanks.
'We were all proud and thrilled that we saved this fantastic young life.

'It was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget.'
On the video a small girl can be heard saying: 'I know what she is doing. She is showing us that she is free.

Her mother replies to her: 'I think she is showing us a thank you dance.'

Michael spends two months every winter photographing whales in the Sea of Cortez.

He is the co-founder of the Great Whale Conservancy (GWC) Blue Whale Protection Program, set up to protect whales along the California coast from ship-strike caused injuries and death.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Heron fishes from a 'rock' which suddenly comes alive

This heron was in for a shock when the 'rock' it was perched on to fish from turned out to be a hippo.

The bird realised something strange was going on in Kruger National Park, South Africa, after the spot it had landed on suddenly began to move.

However, undeterred from its task, the clever heron continued to use the unsuspecting mammal as the perfect hunting platform.

During the remarkable 10-minute encounter the heron desperately tried to keep balance as the hippo repeatedly came up for air.

Finally, it managed to spot a frog in the water, which it skilfully picked up in its beak before flying off with its catch.

At first, British photographer Andrew Forsyth thought the heron was sitting on top of a small mud island.

It was only when the huge creature emerged from the water that he realised it was a hippo wallowing in a mud bath.

The 42-year-old from Brighton, East Sussex, said: 'The scene was already quite special because there was an orange haze caused by bush fires that raged in the distance as the sun went down.

'I spotted the heron on what I thought was a small mud island and watched it as it looked for fish for several minutes.

'Suddenly the "island" rose up out of the water, two nostrils appeared and took a big breath then went under again.

'I watched it for several minutes, again with the heron looking out for fish passing by, the hippo rising and falling occasionally as he breathed.

'The hippo didn't seem to mind the presence of the passenger - I do wonder if it felt like a good back scratch for him.'

Mr Forsyth continued: 'The hippo rose and sank a few times more and the heron stayed put stubbornly refusing to be offloaded, despite a few balancing problems which were corrected by opening his wings.

'At last the hippo had enough and rose high out of the water, turned and walked towards a shallow section of the lake, the heron appearing to surf on his back as he went.

'As he sank down below the water again he obviously disturbed a frog, the heron seized his chance to grab a quick meal and flew off with the prize.

'The fact that such a large animal is also likely to disturb fish and amphibians hiding in the bed of the lake is probably a bonus for him, one that paid off here.'

The photographer added: 'I've made several trips to Kruger and not seen behaviour like this before or since, so I feel privileged to have seen this interaction between a hunter and another animal that inadvertently helps him catch his prey.'


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