Muslim databases and ‘rabid dogs’: Trump, Carson and GOP in explosion of rhetoric over Syrians

Trump suggests tracking all Muslims in the US, while Carsons comments mark further low point after House vote singles out people fleeing Middle East conflict

The race for the Republican nomination for the White House took a new turn in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks on Thursday as the front-runner, Donald Trump, called for a database to track Muslims living in the United States, while his closest rival, Ben Carson, suggested refugees of the Syrian conflict should be screened as they might be rabid dogs.

As the rhetoric exploded, the House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority to stiffen requirements to vet Syrian refugees seeking to enter the United States, and CNN, the cable news network, suspended a reporter for two weeks for reporting the news on Twitter with the comment: Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish.

Elise Labott (@eliselabottcnn) November 19, 2015

House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish @CNNPolitics

A week after attackers linked with the Islamic State group killed 132 people in Paris, the simmering political debate in the United States rose to a boil, with Trump, Carson, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and others floating new proposals they said would protect the United States from such an event.

Earlier in the week Cruz and Bush proposed a religious test for refugees from Syria only about 2,200 of whom have entered the United States in the last four years after extensive security vetting saying that Christian applicants should be prioritized.

By Thursday a religious test for refugees had become a religious test for all Americans for one Republican candidate, with Trump telling reporters he would absolutely implement a database of American Muslims and unspecified other measures.

I would certainly implement that. Absolutely, Trump told NBC between town hall appearances in Iowa. There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases, he added. We should have a lot of systems. And today you can do it.

Asked whether there would be a sign-up at mosques, Trump said: Different places. You sign them up at different places. Its all about management.

Asked how the practice of registering Muslims would be different from registering Jews in Nazi Germany, Trump said: You tell me.

Earlier he told Yahoo: Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy.

Asked whether this might mean registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion, the candidate would not rule it out.

Were going to have to look at a lot of things very closely, Trump said. Were going to have to look at the mosques. Were going to have to look very, very carefully.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum was moved to join the debate on Thursday with an extraordinary statement.

The US governors who are rejecting refugees

Acutely aware of the consequences to Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum looks with concern upon the current refugee crisis, the statement began. While recognizing that security concerns must be fully addressed, we should not turn our backs on the thousands of legitimate refugees.

A spokesperson for the museum said the statement was not released based on any one statement from a presidential candidate or on the House vote.

We have been evaluating the situation over the past days and weeks, said museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger in an email to the Guardian. The statement was not timed with a specific announcement. It was released when we evaluated the situation and felt that we needed to contribute to the conversations.

On Thursday, Carson, who has opposed all new entries for Syrian refugees, sought to explain his position at a campaign stop in Alabama with an analogy about rabid dogs.

If theres a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, youre probably not going to assume something good about that dog, Carson said. And youre probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesnt mean that you hate all dogs. The retired neurosurgeon later insisted that his statement only referred to terrorists.

The clamor stateside followed sharp criticism of the Republican position on Tuesday from Barack Obama, speaking in the Philippines where he was attending a regional summit.

We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic, Obama said. We dont make good decisions if its based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.

Barack Obama criticises Republicans over Syrian refugees

The House vote was widely seen as a symbolic acknowledgment of national angst in the wake of the latest brazen terror attack on a world capital.

Democrat Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who opposed the House bill, told reporters: People are scared it has nothing to do with party affiliation, but people in this country right now are frightened over what they see as a flawed immigration system.

He said any politician who disregarded the legitimate and very real fear thats out there, were going to get slapped around. However he insisted the bill was simply designed to make people feel better about a vetting process that was already very rigorous and would never become law.

Cleaver echoed the thoughts of Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Tennessee senator told reporters that he thought the administration was undermining its own attempts to convince the American public that Syrian refugees should continue to be admitted.

Someone needs to explain clearly to American people the processes that we go through before we admit refugees, Corker said. To browbeat someone because they are concerned about their kids is not a productive process.

Additional reporting by Alan Yuhas in New York


Eleven lions die at Ugandan national park in suspected poisoning

Authorities suspect poisoning caused deaths at popular tourist destination

Eleven lions, including eight lion cubs, have been found dead in Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda after possibly being poisoned, a conservation official said on Thursday. The three lionesses and eight cubs were found dead near Hamukungu fishing village in the popular tourist destination.

An investigation has been opened, but we suspect poisoning, said Bashir Hangi, a communications officer with the Uganda wildlife authority. It is still only a suspicion. We will try to establish the real cause of death.

Lions have been killed in a number of poisoning incidents in Uganda. In May 2010, five were killed in the park in another possible poisoning case. Between May 2006 and July 2007, 15 lions died in the area in attacks blamed on landless herdsmen defending their cattle.

The parks grasslands are home to more than 600 species of bird and about 100 types of mammal including buffalo, waterbuck, leopards, hyena and elephants.


The truth about cats and Trump’s dogs: civil discourse needed

Digested week: When Trump called Omarosa Manigault Newman a dog on Twitter, some still managed to be shocked


The question of how to cover the revelations of Omarosa Manigault Newman, a woman who sorely tests the principle of my enemys enemy is my friend, twisted US journalists into caveat-issuing pretzels this week. She is an unreliable witness with a huge axe to grind; she is, as those who watched her on The Apprentice may recall, highly vindictive. She was also prepared to tolerate Donald Trumps sexism and racism as long as he was paying her salary.

And yet. Watching her this week, it has been hard not to be impressed at some level. Those Trump has savaged have spoken of the sheer terror of being attacked from the worlds most powerful office. The vast majority of them Megyn Kelly, Mika Brzezinski, Khizr Khan didnt go looking for a fight, at least not one that went beyond the boundaries of ordinary political discourse.

Thus, there is something breathtaking about her sheer cheek, not only for bringing the fight but pursuing it to a second and third round. Her actions may be rooted in psychopathic self-interest, but still, you have to hand it to the woman secretly recording John Kelly (and, as it turned out later, Lara Trump), then throwing the recordings in the presidents face, takes much greater nerve than, say, Michael Wolffs humid lurking. It also demonstrates precisely why Manigault Newman should never have been in the Situation Room. The line she pushed in her book, Trumps use of the n-word which if true comes as no surprise; the man could goose-step down Pennsylvania Avenue at this stage and it wouldnt unnerve his base was in some ways the weakest. The real story is the sheer lunacy of a president who would hire someone like her.


Still, when Trump fought back, calling Manigault Newman a dog on Twitter, some still managed to be shocked, possibly because unlike other women he has called dogs, he once professed to be fond of her, and because it reads as a racial slur.

In one of those out-of-body experiences that suggest this administration hasnt been entirely normalised, Sarah Sanders clarified from the briefing room that when the president used dog to describe his ex-staffer, this has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with the president calling out someones lack of integrity the fact is the presidents an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it.

In this, at least, Sanders may for once have been speaking the truth. When Gail Collins, the New York Times columnist, poked fun at Trumps wealth (she called him a thousandaire) he sent her a note observing she was a dog and a liar with a face like a pig. He called Kristen Stewart a dog when offering commentary on her relationship with Robert Pattinson (she cheated on him like a dog), and of Arianna Huffington he once said: She is a dog who wrongfully comments on me. He has also called men dogs, among them Mitt Romney (choked like a dog) and NBCs Chuck Todd (fired like a dog). That insults can mean different things depending on to whom they are said bitch falls differently when it is directed at a gay man than at a woman is one of the few subtleties one imagines Trump understands well.


A new subcategory of degree course has sprung up across US universities, in what the Wall Street Journal summarised mid-week as civil discourse the art of talking to people with different political opinions, without either demonising them or taking mortal offence. Courses named argument and inquiry and studies into polarisation are proliferating, not just as an effort to address Trump, but also to heal divisions and bridge ideological divides. The paper quoted a 2017 Knight Foundation survey, which found 61% of students said their place of learning clamped down on what might be regarded as offensive speech, up from 54% the previous year. The new courses also seek to coach students in when to engage and when to walk away from opinions they find offensive. Theres no course in existence that gives counsel on what to do when theres a buffoon at the top.


Celebrations of Madonnas 60th were a shaft of joy in the weeks news. Madge has more than a whiff of Vivienne Westwood about her these days, and her raging against ageism is a reminder of why we loved her in the first place. It was also a reminder of what we talk about when we talk about Madonna. Like most people who have been famous for so long, Madonna is, I often find myself saying, more than likely completely insane. This might very well be true but thats not the point. The point is its an assessment one never makes about Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart.


You can call a woman a dog from the White House, but in the world of childrens publishing, the words one uses to describe women are subject to severe review. I sat down with my daughters to read a new edition of Cinderella this week to find that the ugly sisters have become the bossy sisters because, of course, it is wrong to equate beauty with moral virtue. Sadly, the production team hadnt received the memo that Sheryl Sandberg (among others) has launched a war against the word bossy for discouraging female leadership. Im not sure where that leaves us. I suppose Horrible Sisters might work, but then again, given the entire point of Cinderella is to get married to a prince and settle down for a life of indolent castle-dwelling, the whole female respect thing is a bit like deckchairs on the Titanic.

Digested week, digested

The enemy of my enemy is still probably a weasel


Mozambique: 6,000 animals to rewild park is part-funded by trophy hunting

Donation of animals by Zimbabwe wildlife conservancy to rewild war-torn park could not have happened without big-spending hunters

Call it Noahs Ark on lorries. Dozens of trucks rolled over the Zimbabwe savanna carrying elephants, giraffe, African buffalo, zebras, and numerous other large iconic mammals. Driving more than 600km of dusty roadway, the trucks will deliver their wild loads to a new home: Zinave national park in Mozambique. The animals are a donation from Mozambiques Sango Wildlife Conservancy a gift that the owner, Wilfried Pabst, says would not be possible without funds from controversial trophy hunting.

In remote places and countries with a weak tourism industry and a high unemployment rate, it is very difficult or almost impossible to run a conservancy like Sango without income from sustainable utilisation, Pabst said.

Sustainable utilisation means the use of wildlife for hunting or trophy hunting. Pabst, who purchased Sango in 1993 and opened its doors 10 years later, says that trophy hunting provides approximately 60% of the revenue required to keep Sango running every year. Another 30% comes out of the German businessmans own pockets.

While Sango does welcome non-hunting tourists, Pabst says it is not possible to attract enough in this remote area to equal the revenue made by trophy hunters willing to travel to pay tens of thousands of dollars to shoot iconic megafauna, includingNile crocodiles, elephants and lions.

Sango to Zinave

Over the next six years, Pabst will donate 6,000 large mammals from Sango to Zinave as part of the Peace Park Foundations programme to rewild a vast tract of land in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier conservation area (TFCA).

Mozambiques 15-year-long civil war left its once world-renowned parks almost empty of any animal large enough to shoot and eat, but numerous efforts today are working to bring back animals to Mozambique, often transporting them from either neighboring South Africa or Zimbabwe.

But, Masha Kalinina, a trade policy specialist with the Humane Society International, said the plan to transport thousands of animals across Zimbabwe to Mozambique was misguided and potentially deadly for individual animals. Indeed, such transports are not without risk: an elephant died last year en route to Zinave from South Africa.

Mozambique continues to have one of the highest rates of poaching in southern Africa, she said. Mozambique lost nearly half of its elephants to poachers in five years.

Now both South Africa and Zimbabwe are transporting their own animals to this park just so that they may die at the hands of either trophy hunters or poachers. Is that what we are calling conservation? Kalinina asked.

Giraffe at Sango. Photograph: Eric De Witt/Sango Wildlife Conservancy

Still, there is little chance of rewilding Zinave without bringing animals overland. A similar transportation project was done for Mozambiques Gorongosa national park though nowhere near this scale and it succeeded in bringing new species that had been lost during the war. While poaching is particularly high in parts of Mozambique, it is also a pressing concern in Zimbabwe and most other countries few African mammals live beyond the cloud of the global poaching crisis.

Pabst say he is not making any revenue from the donation of 6,000 mammals but views it as a part of Sangos commitment to wildlife conservation in Africa. The funding for transporting the animals, which includes a small army of veterinarians, rangers, ecologist, truck drivers and helicopter pilots, is coming from the Peace Park Foundation.

Sango is at the center of Zimbabwes Sav Valley conservancy, in remote eastern Zimbabwe. A few decades ago, Sav Valley nearly the size of Cornwall was overrun by cattle. Now, it is bustling with herds of iconic African species, including 160 rhinos that require constant guarding against poachers.

Pabsts Sango covers about 17% of Sav Valley and is run under whats known as a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements (BIPPA), which allows Pabst to manage the conservancy privately via permission from the Zimbabwe government, including setting quotas for trophy hunters.

Kalinina contends that Sav Valley Conservancy is nothing more than a profit-driven wildlife ranch stocked with wild animals. She says they are not doing this for conservation but to sell animals to globetrotting trophy hunters.

Blood sport or conservation?

Trophy hunting has been controversial for decades, but the issue took on a new global awareness last year after the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe went viral. Despite the fact that around 600 lions are killed yearly in Africa by trophy hunters, something about this particular story and this lion captured the publics attention.

Kalinina said despite the attempt by hunting groups to greenwash it, trophy hunting is unethical, cruel, a threat to non-consumptive tourism like wildlife watching, offers no long-term conservation benefits, and provides minimal economic and employment value.

For his part, Pabst insists that Sango couldnt survive without trophy hunting. He said if trophy hunting were suddenly outlawed in Zimbabwe as some organisations may wish his operation would run out of money within months and most of the 200,000 animals will be poached probably within one year.

While trophy hunters, by definition, shoot to bring a trophy home, the meat of the animal killed is often eaten as well. In Africa, the meat is usually shared with local communities. Although there are some animals you typically dont eat: lions, leopards and rhino. Elephants are only eaten in some places.

The only two large animals that are not hunted in Sango are African wild dogs and rhinos, because these endangered species are protected in the country.

We exclude additional species from hunting as the situation dictates, Pabst added.

Sango keeps a close track of its animals. Depending on the species, Sango allows hunting of approximately between 0.2-1% of an animals total population annually.

Sustainable [hunting] means that the off take will neither hinder the growth, nor allow any given species to fall below ecologically sustainable numbers, Pabst explained. This is a highly complex issue and very difficult to understand for a non-conservationist operating in Africa.

In total, Pabst says around 200 animals are hunted in Sango annually or one 10th of 1% of the parks estimated 200,000 mammals.

These regulations and their strict control at Sango is the key factor of successful management through sustainable use which now [allows] us to donate 6,000 of our animals to Zinave, he said.

The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), a global not-for-profit organisation that advocates for conservation and hunting, says that hunting tourism is an important tool to combat one of the biggest threats to African wildlife: poaching.

Zebras at Sango. Photograph: Sango Wildlife Conservancy

They argue that so long as local communities benefit in some way from hunting funds through jobs, payouts, or developing projects they are far less likely to poach wildlife such as elephants and lions that they view as dangerous or destructive to their livelihood.

What would these local people [have] turned to in absence of alternative employment? Poaching! a spokesperson for CIC wrote in an email. As strange as it sounds, yes, the hunting of a few individual animals leads to the conservation of the species, killing of an animal saves the species.

Pabst say Sango is living proof that trophy hunting can support broad conservation goals.

But Kalinina contends that trophy hunters only support conservation to buy themselves public acceptance.

One wonders, take away the thrill of the kill … would trophy hunters still invest in protecting our planets last remaining wildlife?

Conflicting evidence

Hunting proponents, however, contend that its animal rights activists who dont realise their actions are actually hurting conservation not helping it.

Kenyas wildlife areas have decreased by almost 80% since the 1977 hunting ban was imposed, while at the same time being home to some 200 NGOs trying unsuccessfully to repair the damage done, Probst said.

Hunting advocates commonly point to Kenya as an example of what happens when hunting is banned: they say habitat shrinks, populations decline, animals vanish because the economic incentive for local communities and the government to keep alive evaporates eco-tourism just doesnt pay enough to keep animals alive and secure habitat, according to them.

The reality, though, is complicated.

A black rhinoceros with young one, shortly before sunset, at Sweetwaters in Kenya. The countrys wildlife population has plummeted over the last four decades, but so have many nations in Africa. Photograph: Angelika/Getty Images

Kenya is hardly the only African nation to see a catastrophic decline in wildlife: a grim study in 2010 found that Africas big mammals had declined on average by 59% over the last 40 years and this was inside protected areas.

The reasons were complex according to scientists: habitat loss due to expanding agriculture and poaching for bushmeat or to feed the illegal wildlife trade, but underlying all of this: explosive human population growth.

Kenya, like most African countries, has seen human population rise at a shocking rate in the past 40 years. In 1977, Kenya had 14.5 million people; today it has more than 48 million people. This trend is similar across Sub-Saharan Africa, whose population has basically tripled since 1977, hitting a billion people in 2015. This rise in human populations has placed crushing pressure on the continents wildlife.

Parks in southern Africa fared best in 2010 study, but the researchers noted that this region also had lower population densities and spent more money on its parks than its neighbours. The worst hit areas were West and Central African countries a staggering 85% decline in wildlife including a number of nations which allow trophy hunting.

So, while hunting policy undoubtedly plays a role in animal populations, whether for the positive or negative its likely a more minor one than either critics or advocates claim.

Like so many things: the devil is in the details. Hunting proponents argue that trophy hunting is essential to conservation efforts but this argument only holds water if money actually makes its way to local communities or helps secure and manage habitat. Levies on trophy hunting may be important revenue for governments, but will only aid species if that money is then funneled back into conservation efforts and protected area management something that is difficult to measure in many countries given high levels of corruption and other pressing priorities.

A US congressional report by democrats on the committee on natural resources concluded, unsurprisingly, that trophy hunting is managed well in some areas and poorly in others.

In many cases, the laws, institutions, and capacity necessary to make trophy hunting benefit conservation are lacking, the report continues.

A 2009 report by the IUCN an organisation that supports trophy hunting found similar mixed results. Though its take away message was more damning: hunting does not … play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance. The report criticised the sector for supporting few jobs, bringing little money to locals, and benefiting a few at the expense of the many.

Still, one country that seems to have found a positive way to link conservation with trophy hunting is Namibia. Here, local communities have been given local control over communal land giving them an economic incentive to manage animal populations both for tourism and trophy hunting. Money goes directly to the local families who live with the animals. Now, Namibia is one of the few places in Africa where animal populations are on the rise.

Both sides of the argument like to claim they have science and facts on their side, but things are never so simple.

Research on the subject tends to assert that trophy hunting might support conservation but the key here is might. It depends on how well the programme is run and who is really benefiting. Scientists are concerned not only by some programmes that allow too many animals to be killed, but also the evolutionary consequences of trophy hunters often targeting the biggest and most impressive animals.

At the same time, many of the worlds major conservation groups including WWF, the Nature Conservancy, and the IUCN continue to support trophy hunting, in part because they view the hunting community as a key ally in advancing conservation.

As the debate simmers, one country to keep an eye on is Botswana. Botswana announced a ban on hunting in 2014, but it has come with costs. The plan included no exemption for Botswanas indigenous populations, such as the San People, that have depended on game meat for millennia. Many have been arrested and beaten simply for hunting on their ancestral land (the government has announced it is rethinking this policy). Some villages have reportedly seen job declines due to lost revenue in trophy hunting. At the same time, Botswana maintains some of the strongest populations of African wildlife on the continent and is hugely popular with tourists.

Kalinina pointed to Great Plain Conservation, an initiative run by National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, as an example of how to move beyond trophy hunting. Great Plains often purchases private hunting concessions to turn them into luxury photo-only tourism areas. Renowned lion experts, the Jouberts have long been critical of trophy hunting.

While killing one lion may generate $15,000-$30,000, the value of that animal to photographic tourism may be as much as $2m during the lions lifetime, said Kalinina.

But you first have to get tourists and for Pabst, thats a problem in remote, lesser visited Zimbabwe.


Peoples views of animals are undergoing a transformation. As a society, we are finally recognising that the worlds non-human species are not the automatons that Rene Descartes insisted they were a view that tainted animal science for centuries. Instead, we now know that other animals experience complex emotions, experience suffering and many show surprising levels of intelligence (the number of animals known to use tools rises every year).

In this debate, animal rights groups have moral outrage and increasingly, it seems, the public on their side. There havent been a lot of polls taken on the issue of trophy hunting, but a poll in 2015 found that 84% of Albertans and 91% of British Canadians, including those living in rural areas, opposed trophy hunting. Try to think of another issue in which 80-90% of people polled would agree?

Another poll found that 62% of Americans believe big-game sport hunting should be outlawed, including 32% of American hunters.

It may be that both trophy hunters and animal rights activists have something in common, though. Conservation is an important, but largely secondary, concern to both.

Workers prepare animal skins in front of animal trophys at the taxidermy studio in Pretoria. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Many animal rights activists see establishing the rights of animals as the ultimate goal. If conservation suffers from doing this (due to a plunge in funding), it may be a risk that many activists see as worth taking.

On the other hand, many trophy hunters view the experience of the hunt as paramount. If the hunt promotes conservation all the better, but it may not be the primary goal when looking at an outfitter or pulling the trigger.

Still, if the goal really is conservation, it comes down to money. If animal rights groups want to eliminate trophy hunting in Africa without potentially undercutting some vital conservation efforts they have to find alternative revenue streams that can make up for the gap, especially in places like remote Zimbabwe.

On the other hand, if trophy hunters want to keep shooting they need to convince the world their hobby isnt a self-indulgent blood sport. They need to make sure hunting concessions are actually benefiting local people and the long-term survival of local species. They need to prove they are conservation-focused by demanding much better from the industry.

Conservation is a great challenge that can only be achieved if we perceive Africa differently, Pabst said.

Indeed, Africa is the only continent that didnt see a widespread extinction of its megafauna in the last 10,000 years as such it is a time capsule of a truly lost world, a place of giants. But its vanishing. Throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa, habitat loss represents one, if not, the biggest threats to species. But here is Zinave national park: a habitat the size of Rhode Island thats just waiting for animals to return.

Kenyan wildlife rangers stand near the carcass of an elephant, in Tsavo East, Kenya. Poaching is one of the biggest threats to animals worldwide. Photograph: Khalil Senosi/AP

And over the next eight weeks, Pabst in one of the biggest overland transports of African animals yet will be sending 900 impalas, 300 wildebeests, 200 zebras, African buffalo, and eland antelopes, 100 giraffes, and 50 kudus. Even 50 African elephants will be making their way to Zinave. If all goes according to plan: Zinave will be wild and full again.

And such stories just prove: nothing in conservation is black and white. Well, except the zebras.


Snake on a plane: reptile panics passengers on Mexico City flight

Plane gets priority landing after large serpent appears on ceiling of the cabin before dropping to the floor

Passengers on a commercial flight in Mexico were given a start when a serpent appeared in the cabin in a scene straight out of the Hollywood thriller Snakes on a Plane.

The green reptile emerged suddenly on an Aeromexico flight from Torreon in the countrys north to Mexico City on Sunday, slithering out from behind an overhead luggage compartment.

Mobile phone video shot by passenger Indalecio Medina showed it wriggling briefly as if trapped before partially dropping down into the cabin.

I was reading a magazine and the passenger next to me saw it and, Oh my word! Medina said on Monday. He estimated it was more than 3ft (about 1m) in length.

Passengers hastily unbuckled themselves to get clear of the snake before it dropped to the floor, where people trapped it between rows 5 and 6 with blankets provided by a flight attendant, Medina said.

It was a frightening situation … but people remained calm because it didnt get out of that space and nobody became hysterical, Medina said. Some people got up to see what kind of reptile it was, but nobody got carried away.

After the pilot radioed ahead, the plane was given priority landing in Mexico City and touched down 10 minutes later. Passengers exited out the rear, and animal control workers came on board to take the stowaway into custody.

Aeromexico said in a statement that it was investigating how the snake got into the cabin and would take measures to keep such an incident from happening again.

Snakes on a Plane was a 2006 action movie that was about exactly what the title suggests. It is treasured by fans for its campy premise and star Samuel L Jacksons profanity-laced declaration of war on the CGI-generated serpents.


National emergency? Belgians respond to terror raids with cats

An official request for citizens to avoid tweeting anything that could inform terrorists what is going on resulted in a national outbreak of pet pics

When, on Sunday evening, Belgian police asked citizens not to tweet about the armed operations that were being carried out around the country, anyone could have been excused for reacting with fear.

Brussels in lockdown for a third day

Belgian forces searching for suspects in the aftermath of the Paris attacks told citizens to stay indoors and not go near their windows for safety reasons.

They also appealed for social media silence about any police action users might witness presumably to keep the suspects in the dark.

A tense time, no doubt. But Belgium reacted how else? with cats.

Instead of speculation about the sort of threat police might be reacting to, many people used the #BrusselsLockdown hashtag to post pictures of their pets.

Seimen Burum (@SeimenBurum) November 22, 2015

Don’t share info on situation #BrusselsLockdown that may help suspects. Confuse them with #cat pics @lopcute

Lore De Witte (@loredewitte) November 22, 2015

“I got this” #BrusselsLockdown

Delphine Jory (@Ladyblogue) November 22, 2015

#BrusselsLockdown en live.

anna-rose phipps (@lopcute) November 22, 2015

#BrusselsLockdown CodeNameSpinner

Amit Bhat (@amitbhatr) November 22, 2015

Don’t worry super cat is here #BrusselsLockdown

TineEeckhout (@TineEeckhout) November 22, 2015

May the force be with us. #BrusselsLockdown

JaneAustenMaMaschio (@ExTimUpperClass) November 22, 2015

#relax, Mes amis #BrusselsLockdown

melissa jacobs (@deathrep) November 22, 2015

#BrusselsLockdown You ROCK Belgian people! Showing the world how to deal with terrorism! Love from #NativeAmerica !

And after the all-clear was announced by officials with the news of arrests there was a sigh of relief and a message of gratitude.

CrisisCenter Belgium (@CrisiscenterBE) November 22, 2015

Thanks to the media and citizens for their silence online as asked during the juridicial intervention tonight #BrusselsLockdown

Belgian police later thanked the cats for their help.

Police Fdrale (@PolFed_presse) November 23, 2015

Pour les chats qui nous ont aid hier soir… Servez-vous! #BrusselsLockdown


‘Catastrophe’ as France’s bird population collapses due to pesticides

Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, because insects they feed on have disappeared

Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said.

Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France.

The situation is catastrophic, said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at Frances National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies.

Our countryside is in the process of becoming a veritable desert, he said in a communique released by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which also contributed to the findings.

The common white throat, the ortolan bunting, the Eurasian skylark and other once-ubiquitous species have all fallen off by at least a third, according a detailed, annual census initiated at the start of the century.

A migratory song bird, the meadow pipit, has declined by nearly 70%.

The museum described the pace and extent of the wipe-out as a level approaching an ecological catastrophe.

The primary culprit, researchers speculate, is the intensive use of pesticides on vast tracts of monoculture crops, especially wheat and corn.

The problem is not that birds are being poisoned, but that the insects on which they depend for food have disappeared.

There are hardly any insects left, thats the number one problem, said Vincent Bretagnolle, a CNRS ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize.

Recent research, he noted, has uncovered similar trends across Europe, estimating that flying insects have declined by 80%, and bird populations has dropped by more than 400m in 30 years.

Despite a government plan to cut pesticide use in half by 2020, sales in France have climbed steadily, reaching more than 75,000 tonnes of active ingredient in 2014, according to European Union figures.

What is really alarming, is that all the birds in an agricultural setting are declining at the same speed, even generalist birds, which also thrive in other settings such as wooded areas, said Bretagnolle.

That shows that the overall quality of the agricultural eco-system is deteriorating.

Figures from the national survey which relies on a network of hundreds of volunteer ornithologists indicate the die-off gathered pace in 2016 and 2017.

Drivers of the drop in bird populations extend beyond the depletion of their main food source, the scientists said.

Shrinking woodlands, the absence of the once common practice of letting fields lie fallow and especially rapidly expanding expanses of mono-crops have each played a role.

If the situation is not yet irreversible, all the actors in the agriculture sector must work together to change their practices, Fontaine said.


‘Bank’ the turtle dies after swallowing 900 coins thrown into her pond

Sea turtle that lived in public pond in Thailand dies of blood poisoning despite surgery to remove 5kg of loose change from her stomach

A sea turtle nicknamed Bank has died of complications following surgery to remove nearly 1,000 coins she swallowed during captivity, vets in Thailand have said.

The cause of death was blood poisoning from the loose change, doctors at the veterinary faculty at Bangkoks Chulalongkorn University confirmed.

She at least had the chance to swim freely and eat happily before she passed, said Dr Nantarika Chansue, who removed 5kg (11lbs) of coins from the turtles stomach in a lengthy operation on 6 March.

At 10.10am she went with peace, Chansue, the vet in charge of Chulalongkorn hospitals aquatic research centre, told reporters, adding: She is my friend, teacher and patient.

Thai media began publicising the turtles tale last month and members of the public donated about 15,000 baht (350) towards her surgery.

An officer shows the coins the turtle ate over many years. Some had corroded or partially dissolved. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Five surgeons from Chulalongkorn Universitys veterinary faculty removed the coins over four hours while the turtle was anaesthetised. The mass of coins was too big to take out through a 10cm incision, so they had to be removed a few coins at a time. Many of them had corroded or partially dissolved.

Chansue said when she discovered the cause of the turtles agony she was furious. I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle, the vet said at the time.

At first Bank appeared to be recovering well after the operation, but a checkup on Saturday revealed problems with its intestines. Doctors performed a second operation but Bank never woke up and died on Tuesday morning.

Bank lived for two decades in a public pond in Chonburi province, about 110 miles (175km) south-east of Bangkok. The turtle swallowed 915 coins that tourists threw into the pond. Eventually, the money formed a mass that cracked Banks shell.

Vets hope that media coverage of the stricken creature will make people think twice about throwing coins into ponds where animals live.


Indian child star of new movie Lion ‘denied US visa to attend premiere’

Eight-year-old Sunny Pawar plays a key role in film but has reportedly not been given a visa to attend Los Angeles and New York screenings of the movie

The eight-year-old Indian star of a film starring Nicole Kidman has reportedly been denied a US visa he needed to attend its New York premiere.

The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the film, says Sunny Pawar was due to fly with his father to Los Angeles and New York for screenings of the film Lion, which also stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara.

Sunny plays Saroo Brierley, a young Indian boy who becomes lost on the streets of Kolkata and ends up in an orphanage before being adopted by an Australian couple. 25 years later, the adult Saroo now played by Dev Patel uses Google Earth to find the family from which he was separated.

The Weinstein Company is attempting to obtain a last-minute visa for Sunny and his father, but fear that it may have been denied due to immigration concerns. We are doing everything we can to fight this, Weinstein Company president David Glasser said.

We believe it must be the effect of immigration paranoia. He, of course, poses absolutely no threat to anyone. We want him to be a part of the celebration of this film and his performance. We fully intend to go through the proper resources and appeal with the state department for assistance.

It was not immediately clear when Sunnys visa had been applied for. He did not attend the films screening at the Toronto film festival.

The US consulate in Mumbai has been contacted for comment.

Lion is released in the US on 25 November, Australia on 19 January and the UK on 20 January.


Lenin the cat lover: rare photos of Soviet leader go on show in Oxford

Exhibition coinciding with centenary of October revolution includes image of revolutionary in wig and makeup, and stroking a cat

Rare and largely unseen images of Lenin from a vast British archive which for nearly a century has been promoting cultural relations between the UK and Russia are to go on display in Oxford.

The photographs include Lenin in disguise, almost unrecognisable in makeup, wig and clean shaven, and show a less well-known side to the ruthless revolutionary leader: Lenin the cat lover.

The photographs are all drawn from the archives of the British Society for Cooperation in Russian and Soviet Studies (SCRSS), which was set up in 1924 to foster good artistic and scientific links, in a exhibition timed to coincide with the centenary of the revolution that brought Lenin to power.

Its main early supporters were from the Bloomsbury set people such as John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster and George Bernard Shaw.

The Soviet Union may have gone but the society, based in Brixton, south London, continues today. Russia and the Soviet Union continue to fascinate people, said Ralph Gibson, honorary secretary of the SCRSS. Every aspect of its history, culture and language has been a key part of the 20th century.

Most of the photographs are being shown publicly for the first time and while some images will be familiar to experts, for the vast majority of people they will be something new, they wont have seen them in an exhibition context, Gibson said.

There are many striking images, including the photograph of Lenin without his familiar bald head and manicured goatee, produced for his fake ID card when he needed to flee Petrograd in 1917 and cross the border to Finland.

An ID card issued in the name of KP Ivanov, used by Lenin while in hiding in 1917. Photograph: SCRSS/TopFoto

A photograph taken by Lenins sister Maria in 1922 shows him stroking a cat at his residence in the village of Gorki, near Moscow.

The exhibition at the North Wall arts centre in Oxford marks the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution and aims to explore the lives of ordinary people in the years after the uprising.

They range from Georgian mothers being taught to write for the first time, to a photograph of smiling babies in tin saltwater baths at Nursery No 5 of the 8th Tobacco factory in Moscow a reflection of the revolutionary zeal to properly look after and educate Russian children.

Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution is at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, from 8 to 18 November 2017.


Zoo Tinder how technology is helping animals hook up

The Zoological Information Management System takes the guesswork out of animal attraction and helps promote genetic variety

Name: Zoological Information Management System.

Age: Eight.

Appearance: Zoo Tinder.

Let me guess. Its an app that matches couples who want to dry-hump next to the giraffe cage. If only. In actual fact, the Zoological Information Management System Zims for short is a piece of software designed to help horny animals hook up with each other.

This sounds a bit dodgy. I promise it isnt. Got an elephant with an itch it cant scratch? Check out Zims and it will find you the right elephant to give it the trunky rumpy-pumpy it has been looking for.

Yeah, this isnt helping. Oh, fine then, its adatabase of 10m animals from 22,000 different species that was created in order to promote genetic variety, with a view to improving the adaptive ability of a species.

Pardon? Incest is bad and this stops it.

Wow, none of this is sexy at all. Sorry, but it is important from a zoological perspective. Having a unified database of all captive animals containing their age, pedigree, medical records and diet should help to ensure the survival of all manner of species.

This sounds like that Channel 4 show Married at First Sight. Thats a very good analogy.

Doesnt almost every match on Married at First Sight end in acrimonious failure? Yes, but thats only because humans are stupid and picky. Zims, on the other hand, is already bearing fruit. It matched two Sumatran tigers in 2012 one from Canada and one from Australia who have since had two cubs in London zoo.

It almost sounds romantic when you put it like that. Yep. Two beasts, rutting for procreation while a busload of horrified children look on. Its basically a Mills & Boon novel.

Hang on, why London? Thats just how zoos work. They dont own the animals. If another zoo needs them, their current zoo has to give them up.

A date, a holiday and some nooky. Its practically Take Me Out. Hardly. Were talkingabout a system that allows aprocessionof unthinking creatures to get shipped around the world in order to gurn anddrool and hump at the behest of an unseenauthority figure and … oh, I get yourpoint. Yes,youre spot on.

Do say: Darling, my animal heart will for ever be intertwined with yours in the stars above.

Dont say: So, lets bonk in a cage for increased genetic diversity.


Bird flu hits French foie gras industry at busiest time of year

Thousands of birds slaughtered and export ban extended as France is put on high alert following outbreak in south-west

French foie gras producers have been forced to slaughter thousands of birds being prepared for the lucrative Christmas market to prevent the spread of a virulent strain of bird flu.

The agriculture ministry raised the risk level of the virus spreading from moderate to high on Tuesday across the country, at a crucial time for the industry.

The increased alert came after an outbreak of a particularly severe form of bird flu, the H5N8 virus, was reported at a duck farm in the south-west of the country, prompting fears it could spread throughout the region.

This virus has never been detected in humans, unlike other strains, but millions of farm birds were slaughtered in Asia in 2014 before it arrived in Europe.

French officials and farmers insist the virus poses no danger to humans and the birds remain fit for consumption.

The latest outbreaks come as French foie gras producers approach the busiest time of year ; foie gras, made from the engorged livers of force-fed ducks and geese, is a traditional staple of le reveillon, the Christmas Eve meal, and accounts for about one-third of annual sales.

While considered a delicacy in France, the process of pumping grain directly into each birds stomach via a metal tube pushed down the throat, forcing the liver to bloat, is considered cruel by animal campaigners.

In 2015, an outbreak of bird flu that hit producers in the same region led to a drop of 25% in production and losses of an estimated 500m (422m) for the industry.

French producers had hoped to recover their bird-flu free status on 3 December, but the new outbreak means the country will not be cleared for at least 90 days. While most French-produced foie gras is consumed in France, the resurgence of the virus means it cannot be exported outside the European Union. In 2015 France exported almost 5,000 tonnes out of 19,200 tonnes produced to Japan.

Marie-Pierre P, from the foie gras producers group Cifog, warned prices could be 10% higher this Christmas.

The new, more aggressive H5N8 avian flu virus was first detected at the end of November in northern France. It is thought to have been spread from neighbouring European countries by wild ducks.

So far, about 7,000 contaminated ducks are reported to have been killed and another 4,500 have died suddenly from the virus in the Tarn. Thousands more have been killed or died in neighbouring areas and farms have been quarantined.

In January the French government announced 130m extra subsidies for foie gras producers.


Police in Germany rescue man being chased by baby squirrel

Officers in Karlsruhe arrive to find man unable to shake off tiny rodent

German police have rescued a man after he called for help saying a baby squirrel would not leave him alone.

Emergency services received a call on Thursday from the man, who claimed he was being chased down the street by the tiny animal.

Police in Karlsruhe said the unnamed man called them in desperation after he was unable to shake off the small rodent.

Officers sent a patrol car out to investigate and arrived to find the chase still in full flow. But the drama ended suddenly when the squirrel, apparently exhausted by its exertions, lay down abruptly and fell asleep.

Officers took pity on the animal, which had probably become separated from its mother. Police said it likely targeted the man because it was in search of a new home.

It often happens that squirrels which have lost their mothers look for a replacement and then focus their efforts on one person, said Christina Krenz, a police spokeswoman.

She said the animals could be very persistent, not just running behind someone, but entirely fixated on them. It can be pretty scary. The man didnt know what to do and so he called the police. He was certainly feeling a bit threatened.

But police on the scene appeared more amused than alarmed.

A squirrel will be our new mascot, it will be christened Karl-Friedrich, said the police write-up. The squirrel has fallen asleep in fright.

Krenz said: It was just a bit of fun. The officers thought up a name that would suit the baby squirrel.

Officers took the sleeping Karl-Friedrich into police custody, and then to an animal rescue centre, where it was said to be doing well.

Krenz said the rescue centre was looking after two other abandoned baby squirrels brought in on the same day for similar reasons, though theirs was the only case in which police have had to intervene.


Pets, debts and e-cigarettes: how millennials spend their pay cheques

Life is far from hedonistic for most as tight budgets collapse with one cough of a car engine and dreams of property are weighed against the price of a takeout

The millennial lifestyle cord-cutting, wasteful, feckless and more concerned with ordering an Uber than the death of the auto industry has been the subject of much criticism.

While there is no question that millennial habits are reshaping the global economy, it is also shaping them: finding a job after college is not guaranteed and many struggle to repay student loans.

We wanted to get a closer look at the lifestyles of millennials around North America and find out if they are really as financially flippant as they have been made out. Are they concerned about saving or buying a house? Or would they rather just order Seamless and binge on Netflix? Here, six people from around the US and Canada tell us how they make ends meet.

Nectar Odabashian, 23, $35,000

  • Receptionist at Fage Yogurt, Gloversville, New York

Nectar, Rob and their cat, pictured in the apartment they share in Gloversville, New York. Photograph: Yuliya Peshkova for the Guardian

How Nectar spends her money

Nectar moved to Gloversville, New York, with her boyfriend, Rob, after graduating from Rutgers University in 2014. The couple, originally from New Jersey, chose the upstate mountain city because rent was cheap and they wanted to save money to travel.

People thought I was weird, she says.

Living away from the city allows Nectar to save, which is a priority for her and Rob. The couple live together and pool their money to cover expenses. Rob, 27, works nights at a convenience store and makes about $800 per month. They share a 1997 Subaru Outback that Nectar says has seen better days.

Living upstate makes her an anomaly among her friends as most of them moved to Jersey City or other urban areas after college. They live a very nightlife-y lifestyle, having huge blowouts on the weekends, going to shows all the time.

Nectar describes herself as a nervous shopper and constantly questions how each purchase she makes will affect her budget.

Recently, we were at Walmart and we had some extra money, and we needed a humidifier for our apartment because the air is so dry, she says. So Rob said: Why dont we spend $25 on a humidifier? And I was like: Do we really need it? I try to be as methodical as possible.

The couple stretch their income as far as possible. This means packing lunches for work, staying in instead of going out, and sticking to a budget. Extra money goes towards beer for the weekends and stuff for Nectars cats. Our spare room is the cats room, she says. She also spends about $50 a month on e-juice for her vape. She started smoking in 2009 and quit in 2014.

The big reason we moved up to the mountains was to be able to save up for things, Nectar says. We want to travel and buy property and get a tiny home and be able to live off the land. Were so young, we sort of have the whole future ahead of us, and were open to what we want to do at this point.

Christine Odunlami, 24, $0

  • Unemployed, Toronto, Canada

Christine Odunlami has a takeout sushi dinner at her home in Toronto, Canada. Photograph: Jennifer Roberts for the Guardian

How Christine spends her money

Christine is living off her savings account and credit card, having lost her job as an intern for a marketing company in December.

Im not really satisfied and its because I dont have a job, she says. I hate being in debt, I hate owing money. Once Im working permanently, I will be better.

Being unemployed, Christine says it is challenging to live off her meagre savings. Before she lost her job, she was making between $400 and $600 a month and now has access to a line of credit, which is seeing her through until she finds a new job. She is living with her sister as she looks for a job in the US. Her parents cover her rent.

Its hard because if my parents didnt pay my rent, I would be homeless, she says.

Each day, Christine sets a budget for between $30 and $40 to spend on food, coffee and entertainment. A self-described foodie, she says she loves splurging on takeouts.

I have no inhibition when it comes to food, she says. I will spend as much as I possibly can to have good food.

For other items, Christine says she relies on a rewards debit card that gives her free movie tickets and discounts at stores, and coupons to help offset the cost of everything she buys. Since tracking her spending, she noticed unexpected costs, such as toiletries and hair appointments.

Being black, its hard to find hairdressers that are cheap, she says. I go to one lady a couple of towns over who charges $50 for a wash and a trim.

Originally from Maryland, Christine attended the University of Toronto. She says living in Canada has opened her eyes to subsidized healthcare. She does not have to spend money on healthcare but does have to pay $240 a month for anti-inflammatory steroids to stave off a hormone allergy.

I guess the great thing in Canada is there is universal healthcare, so I dont have to pay for the doctor, but the medication is expensive.

Brian Staub, 28, $30,000

  • Sheet metal worker at Rays Metal Works, Jacksonville, Florida

Brian Staub lives with his wife, who waits tables, and his four-year-old daughter in Jacksonville, Florida. Photograph: Rick Wilson for the Guardian

How Brian spends his money?

As the father to a four-year-old girl, Brian spends $520 of his monthly paycheck on daycare. Its a struggle, he says.

After that, he and his wife, Stephanie, are not left with much. We have to get groceries and stuff like that, too, and gas to get us through the week, Brian says. We pay the daycare, we pay the groceries for the week and hopefully we can cover one of our bills.

Sometimes, they do not have the extra money. In those moments, Brian and his wife, who waits tables for about four to six hours a week, look for extra shifts. Stephanie brings in about $500 to $600 every two weeks.

Its always kind of a gamble. We roll the dice and pay the bill that makes sense at the time, he says. Its always kind of shooting from the hip, as they say, as far as which bill we pay first.

Brian is the only one of his friends (all a bunch of heathens) who has a child, making his lifestyle a little different.

My spending habits are definitely on the middle-aged side, he says. Last year, he had to spend about $3,000 for repairs on his truck and says he wishes he could buy a new one. Once he has paid off Stephanies jeep he hopes to buy a new truck for himself.

I dont even want the vehicle, but Jacksonville is not a city that affords public transportation, he says.

At the moment he is not concerned about having enough money, but having extra money. He was in the army, posted in Germany, when he got married, and spent most of his savings on bringing his wife to the US in 2011.

Ive had to work some pretty crappy jobs since 2011 before she could get her green card, he says.

Every six months, Brian, who is originally from Pittsburgh, receives a raise at work, which helps him pay down debts and stay on track to pay bills.

I have no savings right now, and when I do have something it goes toward paying something I already needed to pay off, he says. But where we stand right now, we have everything we need.

Natalia Martinez, 29, $130,000

  • General manager, Cambridge Innovation Center, Miami, Florida

Natalia Martinez has found a balance between responsibility and fun, and saves about $1,000 per month. Photograph: Mary Beth Koeth for the Guardian

How Natalia spends her money

For years, Natalia fluctuated in terms of how she spent her money. Some years she focused on saving and paying down her student loans from attending Harvard and Columbia, while in other years she was less thrifty.

Its taken most of my 20s to come to a more balanced approach, she says. Finding it has come in ebbs and flows.

Having found the balance between responsibility (such as saving enough to be able to buy property) and having fun, Natalia is comfortable in her spending. Extra income goes towards what she calls experiential expenses such as travel and attending operas, concerts and plays. She also belongs to a couple of members clubs that require annual fees.

Natalia moved to Miami last year to run the expansion of the Cambridge Innovation Center, a high-profile startup-focused organisation that started out in the Boston area.

I end up having a lot of work meetings around things that entail food, so eating out doesnt generally come out of my budget, she says.

Compared with her friends, Natalia says she has been a bit more experimental in the way she lives and spends money. Born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Mexico, Natalia travels more frequently than most people she knows. She has moved cities often, having lived in Boston, New York and Miami.

Natalia saves approximately $1,000 per month and says she would like to have the flexibility to buy an apartment one day, though she is not looking at the moment.

I have some friends who were very responsible and conservative, and they are at this point doing things like buying property and doing these things that we perceive as very settled, she says. I am definitely not in a position to do that.

Aaron Tipping, 23, $33,000

  • Teacher, Micro, North Carolina

Middle school teacher Aaron Tipping and his new puppy, Luna. Photograph: Lissa Gotwals for the Guardian

How Aaron spends his money

Since graduating from Pennsylvanias Edinboro University in 2015 and starting to repay his student loans, Aaron has developed a conservative attitude towards how he spends money.

Im at this point where I have a good job as a teacher, but when I started paying my loans recently, I realised I needed to be a bit better with my money, he says.

For Aaron, spending comes down to groceries, gas and the occasional coffee after work. Recent splurges include dinners out with his girlfriend, Lacey, and a dog they adopted. Aaron and Lacey live in an apartment in Micro, North Carolina, about half an hour out of Raleigh, and the couple often go to the city on weekends to go to restaurants and bars.

When I think about my spending when I was in school, I see how much of a difference there is, he says.

For now, he is pretty satisfied with his spending, although he would like to spend more on things he wants. Im building up savings, pay my bills, pay my rent, he says.

In college, Aaron used Amazon Prime to shop, something he still does, although on a smaller scale since he has to put more towards student loan repayments.

I get into this thing where Ill get on Amazon and theyll list what you can look at, he says. And Im like: Ooh, two-day shipping! I should just get that. Ill get books and movies digitally. Then Ill regret it.

Aaron worries about how to allocate his money, especially recently, having moved away from his home town in Pennsylvania. I tend to stress and think of the worst-case scenario like with the car or my job, he says. I tend to worry about it a lot more now.

He worries in particular about his car, and wishes he could afford a new one. If something were to happen to it, he is concerned he would not be able to afford the repair. It would be nice to not panic every time the engine makes a sound, he says.

However, Aaron knows he is not alone. He says many of his friends, especially those who just graduated from college, go through the same thing.

Its very common, especially with people around our age, he says. Its weird because Im teaching at this school and there are teachers who have been there for 15 years with kids and mortgages on their houses, and I cant even imagine how that is.

Zack Desmond, 25, $38,000

  • Programme director, Brave Heart Volunteers, Sitka, Alaska

Zack Desmond. Photograph: Tim C Shobe for the Guardian

How Zack spends his money

Sitka, with a population of about 8,000, affords Zack a slightly different lifestyle to millennials who move to cities for work. He does not have internet, Netflix, a car or a long train commute.

A lot of people who live here are aiming to live pretty simply, he says.

What he saves on city living goes towards his passion for travel. Last year, Zack, who is from Seattle and graduated from Boston College, went to New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Boston and Florida. This year, he plans to save money for plane tickets, as he has a few weddings to attend this summer.

I know I need to get across the country at least twice this summer, he says. My friends arent mostly from Alaska. So if we want to go home and visit people, you gotta get on a plane. Most people do it once a year, sometimes more. Its just valuable to get off this island, especially in the winter.

Alaska is known for its dark, cold winters. Apart from air fares, Zack spends money on the gym and other physical activities to keep in good spirits.

I just feel like if I didnt have somewhere to be then I wouldnt go outside, he says. He does yoga and is part of an aerial silk dance troupe. It keeps me strong, and gets me moving, which is great.

A huge chunk of Zacks money goes toward student loans. Despite being in debt, he recently gave money to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaign $11 a month for six months.

Zack, who admires the Vermont senator for only taking money from humans, says he gave more than he can afford, adding: I never thought I would, but there was an exception in this case.

For this project, each subject was asked to track his or her expenses and share them with the Guardian.


Cat calendar featuring Russian orthodox priests goes viral

Bearded clerics make rare foray into pop culture to pose with their pets for a glossy 2016 calendar

A calendar featuring Russian Orthodox priests posing at home with their feline pets has gone viral in Russia.

Priest + Cat is published by an association of Christian artists, who commissioned a photographer to capture 12 smiling clerics in traditional robes.

Aimed at promoting modern Orthodox culture, the calendar starts with archpriest Oleg Batov and his cat Apelsin. Mr February archpriest Pyotr Dynnikov, who also runs an animal shelter is photographed with his two pets Angola and Vasik.

An Orthodox priest poses with his cat for glossy calendar. Photograph: Anna Galperina/AFP/Getty Images

While the latest issue of the famous Pirelli Calendar might have signalled a cultural shift by foregoing its usual provocative nudes, the makers of Priest + Cat hope to challenge the idea that traditional Orthodox calendars must depict saints and icons.

The projects coordinator, Xenia Loutchenko of Pravmir religious news website, said Priest + Cat should be considered as the Russian Orthodox answer to the annual Italian Calendario Romano, featuring handsome Catholic priests, and the I gatti di Roma calendar, featuring Romes city cats.

Loutchenko says the casting process for the calendar was spontaneous: It was whoever had a cat and was ready to pose for a photo, she said.

She said the calendar is not officially supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, and was inspired by a photography book about the everyday lives of Russian clergy.

I dont see a big sin here, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said of the calendar. Priests have cats, cats have priests, sometimes cats even live in a church. I wouldnt put such a calendar up on my wall though.

The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. Photograph: Anna Galperina/AFP/Getty Images


While the reaction to the calendar was mostly positive, some Russian internet users said they thought project was kitsch.

I got some comments from those who are far from the church, [who said] Nothing can help these priests, their image cant be improved even with cats! Loutchenko told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Users commenting on the religious website Pravmir, where Loutchenko works, also had varying reactions to the project.

One anonymous user wrote: The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. The priests are not pop stars to be depicted on a calendar. Neither are they close relatives. It is possible that someone orders a calendar featuring their relatives. But this one is a strange enterprise.

User Elena Gatchinskaya countered the criticism. Whats the issue here? This is a normal calendar for an upcoming year. The priests will remind you of Christ, and the cats are anti-stress. And they will also remind you of Christ.

The Priest + Cat calendar had an initial print run of 1,000 copies but now looks set to print more as demand surges.

A version of this article first appeared on Global Voices


Brazilian jaguar’s killing prompts calls for curbs on use of wild animals

Animal welfare groups condemn use of jungle cat like a trophy on display after jaguar was shot having escaped after an Olympic torch ceremony

Animal welfare groups in Brazil have called for restrictions on the showcasing of once-wild animals following the lethal shooting of a jaguar that escaped its handlers after an Olympic torch ceremony in the Brazilian Amazon.

The 17-year-old female which had been given the name Juma was killed at a zoo in Manaus attached to a military training centre where the Olympic event took place.

The jungle cat which is on the list of near-threatened species was supposed to have been tranquillised, but freed itself from its shackles and approached a soldier who killed it with a single shot.

The military which operates the zoo where Juma was kept said the killing was necessary to protect the team that was trying to recapture her.


Star of anti-dolphin killing film The Cove held by Japanese immigration

Ric OBarry seen in documentary about slaughter in a Japanese village says government is waging a war on dolphins

The star of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the killing of dolphins in a village in Japan, has been detained by immigration authorities at Tokyos Narita international airport.

Ric OBarry an American known for training the dolphins used in the TV series Flipper said immigration officials told him he could not enter Japan on a tourist visa because he was not a tourist, according to his lawyer, Takashi Takano.

Takano said officials accused OBarry of having close ties with the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which OBarry denies. Immigration officials said it was their policy not to comment on individual cases.

Takano said he was appealing against the detention, and that the Japanese government would decide on whether to allow OBarry into the country or deport him. It was not clear when a decision would be made.

The Cove, which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary, shows the slaughter of dolphins herded into a cove in the fishing village of Taiji and bludgeoned to death.

The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins, OBarry said in a statement sent to the Associated Press through his son, Lincoln OBarry.

Officials in Taiji, a small fishing village in central Japan, and fishermen have defended the hunt as a tradition, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different to eating beef or chicken.

Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat. Many say they are horrified by the dolphin killing and there is a campaign against the Taiji hunt. Animal welfare activists say the hunt is driven mostly by the lucrative sale of dolphins to aquariums, with the income from the sale of meat simply an added extra.

OBarry has been stopped and questioned by Japanese immigration before. He has also been taken into custody by local police on the suspicion of not having proper travel documents before being released. But this is the first time he has been detained in this way. He has the support of high-profile celebrities, including Sting, the US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and the former Guns N Roses drummer, Matt Sorum.


Chloe the missing cat reunited with owner after six years

Tabby and white cat went missing in 2010 after jumping from a pet carrier when Rebecca Lee took her to a vet in Caerphilly

A missing cat has finally returned home six years after it vanished.

Chloe, a tabby and white cat, went missing in 2010 after she jumped from a pet carrier when her owner Rebecca Lee was taking her to the vet in Caerphilly, south Wales.

After living as a stray and being cared for by an elderly woman just over a mile away from her owners home, Chloe was eventually handed into Cats Protections adoption centre in Bridgend, where a routine scan of her microchip meant she could finally be reunited with her owner.

Lee, who thought Chloe had died in a road accident, said she was overjoyed to be able to have her back.

It was a real shock, but lovely news to hear that Chloe had been found and was alive and well after so many years, she said.

Chloe had jumped from the pet carrier in the car park and we never saw her again.

I put up posters and placed adverts and shortly after got a call to say a cat matching her description had been found dead by the roadside.

I was devastated but came to terms with her death. Unbeknown to me at the time, it seems she had wandered as a stray before eventually finding an elderly lady who had taken her in.

Molly Hughes, the deputy manager at the Bridgend adoption centre, said Chloe had been brought in by the family of the elderly woman, who had become too frail to care for her.

We scanned Chloe, which is routine for all cats coming into our care, and our receptionist noticed she was registered to a different owner and address, she said.

We managed to get hold of Rebecca, Chloes original owner, who was shocked to hear from us that Chloe was in our care.

Chloe was nervous with us but she was very happy to see Rebecca and started rolling over and purring when she saw her.

Its great to have been able to reunite Chloe with her family, and it was touching to see them together.

Chloes story goes to show why microchipping is so important and how effective it is. However, just as important as having your cat microchipped is keeping the details up to date.

We often have microchipped cats come into our care and are sadly unable to reunite them with their owners because the contact details on the database are incorrect.


Tucker the gassy sea turtle treated for the bends so he can dive

Rescued olive ridley sea turtle is too buoyant to be able to dive for food but experts hope to change that with decompression treatment

Vets have put a rescued sea turtle into ahyperbaric chamber, usually used to treat human divers suffering the bends, in a bid to remove gas bubbles in its body that stop it diving.

Experts from Seattle will test the buoyancy of Tucker the 20-year-old endangered olive ridley sea turtle on Friday in the hope that they can one day release him back into the ocean.

The 32kg animal was found in December clinging to life along the coast of Oregon, far from his species usual warm-water habitat off southern California and Mexico, said Seattle Aquarium officials.

He has recovered from pneumonia and other complications from hypothermia but still has a buoyancy issue caused by internal gas bubbles in his body that prevent the reptile from diving or remaining underwater.

Its almost like the turtle is wearing a life preserver, Seattle Aquarium spokesman Tim Kuniholm said on Thursday.

Aquarium vets brought Tucker to Virginia Mason hospital on Monday for a session in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber there, making him the first non-human patient to visit the pressurised facility and the first sea turtle in the US to undergo such a treatment for buoyancy problems.

Tucker will undergo testing on Friday to determine if further sessions in the chamber are needed, Kuniholm said.

Kuniholm said Tucker must be able to regulate his buoyancy in order to survive in the wild, where he needs to dive for food and avoid predators as well as hazards such as boats.

He could remain in human care, but thats not our goal, he added.

The hyperbaric treatment involves the turtle breathing 100% oxygen for more than two hours, hospital officials said. Tucker was sedated and observed closely while hooked up to a heart monitor and breathing tube.

James Holm, the medical director at the center for hyperbaric medicine, said:We have treated many scuba divers over the years for a gas bubble disease known as decompression sickness, which is also called the bends. This is the first time we have been asked to assist in the care of a sea turtle, which are excellent divers themselves.


Don’t call it a wholphin: first sighting of rare whale-dolphin hybrid

Scientists have identified a creature that they believe to be a hybrid of a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin

Scientists are touting the first sighting of a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin in the ocean off Hawaii. But dont call it a wholphin, they say.

The melon-headed whale is one of the various species thats called a whale but is technically a dolphin.

Calling it something like a wholphin doesnt make any sense, said one of the studys authors, Robin Baird, a Hawaii research biologist with Washington state-based Cascadia Research Collective. I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is.

In a study published last week, scientists say the animal spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017 appears to be the first record of a hybrid involving either species. Its also only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family.

The label wholphin has stuck for a hybrid born in 1985 at Hawaiis Sea Life Park of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin. The hybrid named Kekaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics. News of the hybrid spotted in the wild during navy-funded research to study the effects of sonar, proves the genetic diversity of the ocean, said Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski. To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an amazing thing to know.

While some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, in order for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation, Baird said.

That isnt the case, although there are examples where hybridisation has resulted in a new species, he said. Theres no evidence to suggest its leading toward anything like species formation.

The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others. Hybrids generally occur when there is a decline in the population in one of the parental species, so scientists will be looking out for such a decline.

A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be is a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up traveling with rough-toothed dolphins.
Scientists do not know how old it is, but believe it is close to adult age.


Obama runs wild with Bear Grylls to promote action on climate change

US president treks across a glacier and eats a bloody salmon discarded by a bear on British adventurers reality TV show

He declined to drink urine but Barack Obama did make tea from glacier water and munch on a bloody salmon previously chewed by a bear in his wilderness bromance with Bear Grylls.

The US president trekked through a remote part of Alaska to promote action on climate change and show a more human side in a special episode of the British adventurers reality show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls.

The hour-long programme, which aired on NBC on Thursday, showed the duo bonding as they hiked on Exit glacier in the Kenai mountains, bantering over fatherhood and the environment as well as flatulence and bellybutton fluff.

Im skinny but tougher than I look, said Obama, after the former soldier complimented his physical fitness. It was a moment to make Sarah Palin howl.

The president drank tea made from catkins and melting glacier water and munched on a ravaged salmon, which Grylls said had been discarded by a bear and still bore bear breath.

Barack Obama discusses climate change in first video on Facebook

Grylls has persuaded previous celebrity guests to drink their own urine but the commander in chief demurred. I suppose, in extremis, its something that I would do if the alternative was death, he said. Its not something Id make a habit of. And I probably wouldnt do it just for a TV show.

It was the White Houses idea to pair the professorial president with a rugged survivalist as part of a strategy of unorthodox methods and stunts to project his agenda.

It was an Obama seldom seen on television: loose, personal, stripped of pomp, just a guy out hiking with another guy.

Of course, it was also an illusion. According to Grylls dozens of staff, secret service agents and a food taster hovered just off-screen, along with snipers in the hills and a military helicopter overhead.

Perhaps to offset any comparisons with Russian President Vladimir Putins swaggering wilderness photo-ops, Obama made several references to the invisible chaperones, including when he fumbled using a borrowed smartphone to take a selfie with Grylls.

Im in whats called the bubble and secret service makes sure that Im always out of danger, which I very much appreciate but it can be a little confining, he said, addressing the camera directly. So to be with Bear in the woods: it doesnt get any better than that.

Both men cited the retreating glacier as evidence of the urgency in addressing climate change. Ive two daughters, and I dont want grandkids too soon, but eventually I hope to have some, said Obama. And I want to make sure that this is there for them, not just us.

He said action on climate change was vital to his presidency. I think it will have a more significant impact on the lives of future generations as just about anything. And were still a long way from getting it right but its something that, working together, I think we can make a difference on.

The show aired at a delicate time for the president, who is riding high on the climate deal agreed in Paris last week but defensive over Republican claims that he is weak on Islamist terrorism. On Friday he is due to visit the relatives of victims of this months San Bernardino massacre.

Obama played the straight man, noting Gryllss reputation for extreme cuisine. Bears a mediocre cook, but the fact that we ate something recognisable was encouraging. Now, the fact that he told me this was a leftover fish from a bear, I dont know if that was necessary. He could have just left that out.

The Briton commended the president on nimbly starting a fire, obviating need to use bellybutton fluff as kindling. He also recommended the catkins tea as a remedy for flatulence. Its not a problem I have but maybe you do, Obama replied.

When Grylls warned that bears were especially dangerous when you surprised them fornicating, Obama joked that the same could be said for humans.

Clearly smitten, Grylls, an evangelical Christian, ended their outing with a riverside prayer calling on God to bless the presidents work. They hugged and went their separate ways.

He said it was one of the best days of his presidency, Grylls told reporters earlier this week, according to Reuters. There were times along the route I had to pinch myself and think, actually, this is the president of America.


US police shoot and kill 6ft boa constrictor that crushed puppy to death

Snake humanely killed after it escaped from tank and wrapped itself round eight-month-old puppy in Amherst, Massachusetts

Police in Massachusetts say they shot and killed a pet boa constrictor after it fatally crushed a puppy.

Amherst animal welfare officer Carol Hepburn says a pet sitter called police at about 4.30pm on Wednesday to report that the snake, which she estimates was at least 6ft long, had escaped from its tank and wrapped it itself around the eight-month-old puppy.

Police tried unsuccessfully to pull the snake off the dog, and Hepburn says the dog was dead by the time she arrived. The pet sitter contacted the animals owner, who was overseas, and got permission for police to humanely kill the snake.

Hepburn dragged it from the house first.

It is not illegal to own boa constrictors in Massachusetts and no charges are expected.


Suspected rhino poachers eaten by lions at South African reserve

Remains of two or three people found near pride with an axe commonly used to remove horn

At least two rhino poachers were eaten by lions on a South African game farm, according to the reserves owner.

A ranger taking guests on a safari drive at the Sibuya game reserve in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday afternoon discovered human remains near a pride of lions.

We suspect two were killed, possibly three, Sibuyas owner, Nick Fox, said.

An axe and three pairs of shoes and gloves were found later when police and an anti-poaching unit arrived. The lions had been heard making a commotion in the early hours of Monday.

We thought they must have been rhino poachers but the axe confirmed it, Fox said. They use the rifle to shoot the animal and the axe to remove the horn.

South Africa is home to more than 80% of the worlds rhinos, whose population has been depleted by poaching for buyers in Vietnam and China, where rhino horn is coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine.

More than 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa last year.


Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.


Seven right whales found dead in ‘devastating’ blow to endangered animal

Carcasses found off Canada in recent weeks in what may be biggest single die-off of one of worlds most endangered whale species, expert says

Seven North Atlantic right whales have been found floating lifelessly in the Gulf of St Lawrence, off Canada, in recent weeks, in what is being described as a catastrophic blow to one of the worlds most endangered whales.

The first whale carcass was reported in early June. Within a month, another six reports came in, leaving marine biologists in the region reeling.

Its devastating, said Tonya Wimmer of the Marine Animal Response Society, a charitable organisation dedicated to marine mammal conservation in the region. This is, I think, the largest die-off theyve ever had for this particularly species, at once.

The global population of North Atlantic right whales which live along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the US and can reach up to 16 metres in length is thought to be around 525, meaning that more than 1% of the population has died in the past month. So it is catastrophic in terms of potential impact to this population.

This is, I think, the largest die-off theyve ever had for this particularly species, at once, says an expert. Photograph: Marine Animal Response Society

At least two of the whales were female, with one of them known to be entering its reproductive years. Youre talking anywhere from five to 10 babies in their lifetime. And now they wont happen. Its heartbreaking, said Wimmer.

With no obvious causes for the deaths, a team including federal scientists, pathologists and veterinarians have been racing against time to figure out what is happening. Last week they carried out necropsies on three of the whales, hoping to find clues before the carcasses decompose.

While their findings are still preliminary, they found signs of severe blunt trauma and bruising on two of the whales, suggesting collision with a vessel, while the third had been tangled in fishing gear for weeks.

The findings still dont explain why the deaths have seemingly occurred within such a short time frame, said Wimmer, though regardless, there are some aspects of the last stages of their life that were impacted by human activities in that area. As scientists move into the laboratory to carry out further analyses, some have speculated that the deaths may have been caused by toxic algae or something the whales ate.

A team including federal scientists, pathologists and veterinarians have been racing against time to figure out the cause of the deaths. Photograph: Marine Animal Response Society

The North Atlantic right whale has struggled since being nearly hunted to extinction by whalers in the late 18th century. In recent years, researchers have noticed the whales moving into the Gulf of St Lawrence in large numbers, leading to increased interactions with humans.

Earlier this week, reports came in of a right whale in the area that was tangled in fishing gear. Some six hours after it was first spotted, scientists were able to cut the whale free of a fishing line in its mouth.

The entanglement, along with the unprecedented number of deaths, may suggest that fishing gear needs to be set out differently or that vessels need to start moving more slowly through the region, said Wimmer. Right now theres still a lot of questions, she added. Theres probably more questions than there are answers.


Hundreds of flying foxes die in searing Australian heat

More than 400 animals have died in one colony alone as temperatures soar above 47C, causing exhaustion and dehydration

A colony of flying foxes has been nearly wiped out by extreme heat in Campbelltown in south-west Sydney, according to environmentalists.

The Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown campaign posted a series of images to Facebook showing the corpses of the animals lying in the ground, apparently after they had died from dehydration in the soaring temperatures. The group say more than 400 of the animals were lost, many of them juveniles.

A mound of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown, Australia. Photograph: Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

Volunteers have been working to save the animals, rehydrating them and taking them to places where they can be kept cool. Temperatures in Sydney reached a 80-year record high of 47.3C on Sunday.

Cate Ryan, one of the first volunteers on the scene, told media it was unbelievable. I saw a lot of dead bats on the ground and others were close to the ground and dying. I have never seen anything like it before.


Green-haired turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list

With its punky green mohican the striking Mary river turtle joins a new ZSL list of the worlds most vulnerable reptiles

It sports a green mohican, fleshy finger-like growths under its chin and can breathe through its genitals.

The Mary river turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered.

The 40cm long turtle, which is only found on the Mary river in Queensland, features in a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Despite the turtles punk appearance derived from vertical strands of algae that also grow on its body its docile nature made it historically popular as a pet.

Gill-like organs within its cloaca an orifice used by reptiles for excretion and mating enable it to stay underwater for up to three days, but it was unable to hide from the pet collectors who raided its nests during the 1960s and 1970s.

The turtle is placed at 30th on ZSLs Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) list for reptiles. First established in 2007, Edge lists have previously been published for amphibians, birds, corals and mammals, helping guide conservation priorities for 100 most at-risk species. Each species is given a score which combines extinction risk with its evolutionary isolation or uniqueness, with the latest list supported by a study in the journal Plos One.

Top of the list is the Madagascar big-headed turtle, which has an Edge score higher than that of any other amphibian, bird or mammal, and is still taken for food and global trade.

Other unusual and endangered species include the Round Island keel-scaled boa from Mauritius, a snake which is the only terrestrial vertebrate known to have a hinged upper jaw; the minute leaf chameleon from Madagascar which is the size of a human thumbnail; and the gharial, a slender-snouted fish-eating freshwater crocodile. Less than 235 gharial survive in the rivers of northern India and Nepal.

The Mary Rriver turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered.

Rikki Gumbs, co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, said: Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals. However, the Edge reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are.

He added: Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. Many Edge reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages, whose branches of the tree of life stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth.


Chechens tell of prison beatings and electric shocks in anti-gay purge: They called us animals

Up to several hundred gay men are feared to have been rounded up and some killed in ultra-conservative Russian republic

At least once a day, Adams captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.

As they tortured him, the men shouted verbal abuse at him for being gay, and demanded to know the names of other gay men he knew in Chechnya. Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves, he said, speaking about the ordeal he underwent just a month ago with some difficulty.

Adams testimony, as well as that of another gay Chechen man with whom the Guardian spoke, backs up reports that a shocking anti-gay campaign is under way in the Russian republic of Chechnya, involving over a hundred and possibly several hundred men. Some are believed to have been killed.

Adam was held in an informal detention facility with more than a dozen other gay men, who were all subjected to torture on a daily basis. A similar mop-up campaign by governmental security forces took place in towns across the republic.

Igor Kochetkov, a gay rights activist from St Petersburg, has helped organise an emergency contact centre which gay people in Chechnya can reach out to securely to get help with evacuation. He said dozens of people had got in touch to ask for help. Many are in hiding from both their families and the authorities.

We are talking about the mass persecution of gay people, with hundreds of people kidnapped by authorities, Kochetkov told the Guardian. This is unprecedented not only in Russia but in recent world history. There is little doubt that we are dealing with crimes against humanity.

Under the Moscow-backed local leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has been rebuilt after two brutal separatist conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kadyrov pledges allegiance to Vladimir Putin and a love for Russia, and in return the Kremlin turns a blind eye to human rights abuses. Critics say Kadyrovs notorious battalions have long operated outside the law.

Putin and Kadyrov at a meeting outside Moscow in 2007. Photograph: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images

Journalists at the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which first reported the story, say they have incontrovertible evidence that at least three gay men have been killed since the operation started, and believe the full death toll could be much higher. Chechen society is extremely conservative and homophobic, and there are fears that some gay men may have been killed by their families after being outed by authorities.

I dont know what has happened to the others. Its too dangerous to contact people, because everyones phones are monitored, said Adam.

Due to the extreme sensitivity of the subject and the danger of reprisals both against the men themselves and against their families, the names in this article have been changed, and identifying details have been excised. Both men with whom the Guardian spoke are now outside Chechnya but asked that their current location not be revealed.

For Adam, it all started with a phone call from a gay friend.

He called me, and in a very calm and normal voice suggested meeting. Ive known him for a long time, so I didnt suspect a thing, said Adam. But when he arrived at the arranged meeting place, he realised it was a set up. There were six people waiting for him, some of them in uniform, and they shouted that they knew he was gay.

At first, Adam denied it, but when it became clear the men had read messages he had sent to others, he admitted he was indeed gay. He was put in the back of a van and taken to the detention facility, where the men were locked in a room and slept on concrete floors. They woke us up at 5am and let us sleep at 1am. Different people would come in and take turns to beat us. Sometimes they brought in other prisoners, who were told we were gay and were also ordered to beat us.

Detainees held in multiple locations have reported similar stories of beatings and electric-shock treatment.

The captors seized mobile phones from the prisoners, scrolling through their contacts and demanding to know which men among them were also gay. They called us animals, non-humans, said we were going to die there, Adam said. After more than 10 days, some of the men were released to their families.

They said: Your son is a faggot. Do what you need to with him, he recalled. Adam still denied his sexuality to his family, but his father refused to speak with him, and threatened violence. One night shortly after, he collected a few belongings and left his home without saying a word to anyone, aiming to get as far away from Chechnya as possible. He has never lived outside Chechnya and is intimidated about starting life again from scratch. He is no longer in contact with family members.

Alvi Karimov, spokesman for Kadyrov, has denounced the reports of anti-gay operations in Chechnya as absolute lies and disinformation, insisting that there are no gay people in Chechnya to round up. You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic, he told Interfax news agency.

He added: If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldnt need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.

Putins spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information about the allegations and advised those with complaints to contact authorities: an unlikely recourse given the authorities themselves are implicated.

In Chechnyas ultra-traditional society, based on strong codes of family and clan allegiance as well as Islamic faith, having a gay relative is seen as a stain on the entire extended family. Brothers and sisters of a known gay man would find it hard to get married as the family would be seen as tainted.

Many gay Chechens are married, and lead double lives or suppress their feelings, so as not to cause grief to their families. The men with whom the Guardian spoke said they had never told a single family member or non-gay friend about their sexuality. Meetings and even conversations with other gay men were carried out using extreme conspiratorial methods.

These people have lived in a completely closed society and have spent their whole lives exercising absolute discretion, said Kochetkov. Many of them are physically unable even to say the word gay.

For years, Chechen authorities have blackmailed the republics tiny, beleaguered gay community. Akhmed, whom the Guardian met in a different location to Adam, always knew he was gay, but forced himself to bury the feelings until a few years ago. His first date with a man ended in disaster, when the other man informed on him to the police.

It turned out that Akhmeds date had himself been previously caught, and was working to identify and out other gay men in return for the police not telling his family. The police now demanded money from Akhmed, or threatened to post compromising material about him online. Many gay men were blackmailed in this way over a period of several years, but the events of recent months have taken the persecution to a whole new level.

Akhmed was outside Chechnya when he was called by family members. They passed the phone to police, who had shown up at his family home. The police told him they would hold one of his family members hostage until he returned.

Another relative spoke to him on the phone and rained insults on him. The police had told his family he was gay, and the relative ordered him to return immediately. I have not the slightest doubt that my own relatives planned to kill me, he said. It was an invitation to an execution.

Akhmed promised he would return the next day, but after mulling his options, turned his phone off and fled to Moscow. Later, he managed to escape from Russia and is now seeking asylum in a European country. At the time, he thought he had been singled out and cursed his bad luck, but he now realises this was the first wave of anti-gay round-ups and he was lucky not to have been at home.

He does not expect to ever visit Chechnya again, and has not spoken to his family since, as he has been told by an acquaintance that authorities are monitoring the familys communications in case their son gets in touch.

Imagine knowing that youve ruined not only your own life but the life of your entire family, said Akhmed. Ive always just wanted to make my mother happy and proud. I was ready to marry. I would have taken all these problems with me to the grave. I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares that I would be sitting here in front of a journalist and saying: Im a Chechen and Im gay.

Human rights activists are attempting to get dozens of gay Chechens out of Russia, as they believe the men are not safe from potential reprisals from Chechen authorities or their own relatives even in Moscow or other Russian cities. However, European embassies will only grant asylum if a person has already arrived in the country, and will not give any kind of visa to those planning to seek asylum on arrival. The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, wrote on Twitter on Thursday that the situation in Chechnya was outrageous. However, the Foreign Office referred a question about whether Britain would agree to give refuge to any of the men on the run to the Home Office.

Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson)

Outrageous #Chechnya govt supports rather than stops ill-treatment of #LGBT people. Completely agree w/ @JoyceAnelay

April 13, 2017

Akhmed has personally heard other stories of torture and seen photographs of torture-inflicted wounds sent by other gay Chechen men who managed to escape, but the fate of the majority of men is simply unknown, due to the extreme code of silence, and the shame of the families. In most cases, he has no idea if people are in hiding, still being held captive, or dead.

Nobody knows how many people have been killed, said Akhmed. Its just impossible to contact most people or to find anything out. But I would be amazed if it was only three.


British couple celebrate after birth of first cloned puppy of its kind

West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000

A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.

In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.

Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.

The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.

The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.

Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.


Dylan, who died in June this year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.

After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.

Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.

The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.

I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.

Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.

Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.

David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.

There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.

Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.

The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.

Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.

Key dates in the cloning of Dylan

11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.

30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.

1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.

2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.

4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.

5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.

6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.

7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.

10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.

11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.

21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.

23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.

24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.

26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.

29 December: Second puppy due.


‘Not ashamed’: dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove

Members of the tiny Japanese community, which was vilified in the 2009 documentary, speak to the Guardian about fishing and their unique way of life

Taiji is still in darkness when a dozen men gather at the quayside and warm themselves over a brazier. While the rest of the town sleeps, they sip from cans of hot coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk in hushed tones.

As soon as the sun edges above the peninsula, they take to their boats, steering out to sea in formation in search of their prey: the dolphin.

It has been eight years since the Oscar-winning film The Cove propelled this community in an isolated corner of Japans Pacific coast to the centre of a bitter debate over the pursuit of dolphins for human consumption and entertainment.

The films graphic footage of dolphins being slaughtered with knives, turning the surrounding sea a crimson red, shocked audiences around the world.

Unaccustomed to international attention and wrong-footed by their social media-savvy opponents, the towns 3,200 residents simply went to ground. Requests for interviews with town officials went unanswered; the fishermen took a vow of silence.

But after years of keeping their counsel, Taijis fishermen have finally spoken out, agreeing to talk to the Guardian about their work, their whaling heritage, and their determination to continue hunting dolphins.

Weve mostly stayed silent since The Cove, and thats why our point of view was never put across in the media, says Yoshifumi Kai, a senior official with Taijis fisheries cooperative.

Taijis dolphin hunters head out to sea Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

Kai attributes that reticence down to what he claims are attempts by activists from Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups to manufacture confrontations, which they film and post online, and challenges claims that the practice of slaughtering dolphins beneath tarpaulin sheets is proof that he and his fellow fishermen have something to hide.

Activists say we are concealing something because we know that what we are doing is immoral, but thats nonsense, he says. You never see cattle or other animals being slaughtered in public. Its not something you do out in the open.

The earliest recorded coastal whale hunts in Taiji can be traced back to the early 1600s. Scrolls on display in the towns whale museum depict dozens of boats decorated with symbols taken from Buddhism and Japans indigenous religion, Shinto, in pursuit of a whale big enough to sustain the entire community for months.

Foreign activists ask us why we kill these cute animals, but we see them as a vital source of food, even now, says Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen. When I was a boy, a third of the town would turn out to greet a whale being brought back to shore, because they were desperate to eat its meat. We are grateful to the whales we want Westerners to understand that.

Taiji Japan map

By killing dolphins and other small whales, fishermen are continuing a tradition that enabled their ancestors to survive before the days of mass transport and the availability of other sources of nutrition, adds Sangen.

We couldnt grow rice or vegetables here, and we had no natural water supply. We needed to kill whales to eat, and hundreds of people died doing so. This was a very difficult place to survive, and we will always be grateful to our ancestors for their sacrifice. Its because of them that we are all here today.

For Sangen, everything in Taiji from services for elderly residents to education and tourist infrastructure depends on the income it makes from the sale of dolphins to zoos and aquariums. Several times during the interview he refers to kujira no megumi literally, the blessing of the whale. Whaling enables this town to function, he says.

Using remote-controlled helicopters and hidden underwater cameras, The Cove provided graphic footage of Taijis infamous drive hunts, whose critics include the former US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

Typically, fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles against their boats to confuse their hypersensitive sonar, before herding them into a narrow inlet. There, they are either slaughtered for their meat or selected and sold for large sums to aquariums and marine parks.

While dolphin meat for human consumption generates only modest profits, Taijis fishermen can reportedly sell a live specimen to brokers for about 8,000 US dollars. A fully trained dolphin can then fetch more than 40,000 US dollars if sold overseas, and about half that in Japan.

Minke whale sashimi served at a restaurant in Taiji Photograph: Justin McCurry

The 20 or so Taiji fishermen who take to the sea between September and April to hunt bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales and other small cetaceans have been emboldened by the release of Okujirasama (A Whale of a Tale) a documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Megumi Sasaki that counters what she describes as The Coves one-sided treatment of a complex issue.

While making her film, Sasaki concluded that the debate over Taiji is an irreconcilable clash of cultures between the global, and Western-led, animal rights movement and local traditions steeped in religion and ancestor worship.

Whaling is the glue that holds this town together

If dolphins are so important to the local community, then why kill them thats what many Westerners cant understand, Sasaki says. But we think of animals as a resource, not that they are special creatures that can do things humans cant do. Its a totally different way of thinking. Whaling is the glue that holds this town together its inseparable from local identity and pride.

Kai dismisses claims that that he and other fishermen employ a singularly cruel method to kill the dolphins. The way we work has changed with the times, he says. In response to criticism, fishermen now dispatch the animals by inserting a knife into their neck, severing their brain stem a method he claims is the most humane possible, but which some experts have said does not result in a painless or immediate death.

On a recent morning, the seafront in Taiji is free from confrontation, although activists have tweeted their regular early-morning photos of the banger boats heading out to sea.

The fishermen appear to have reached an uneasy truce with overseas campaigners, first from Sea Shepherd, and now from the Dolphin Project, a group formed by the dolphin trainer-turned activist Ric OBarry.

Warning signs near the cove in Taiji. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

But there is still little interaction between the two sides. They dont want to listen, only to provoke us, Mitsunori Kobata, president of Taijis dolphin-hunting association, says over a dinner of minke whale sashimi and steamed rice flavoured with thin strips of whale blubber.

Theyre here to do whatever they can to obstruct our business, so we dont see any point in engaging with them. Theyre never going to change their minds, whatever we say.

Pointing to slices of sauted meat, from the belly of a short-finned pilot whale, that he has brought from home, Kobata adds: In the days when there was no refrigeration, people preserved meat like this in salt. Of course, there are lots of other sources of protein around these days, but people of my generation and older still have the right to eat whale if we want to.

Both men hope Sasakis documentary will restore some equilibrium to a debate that has cast a shadow over Taiji for almost a decade.

They point out that they kill just under 2,000 small cetaceans a year, a tenth of Japans annual quota, adding that none of the species is endangered or covered by the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling.

Were not ashamed of hunting dolphins and would never consider stopping, Kai says. Its the most important part of our local tradition.

Just look around you if we didnt make a living from the sea, there would be nothing left. People keep telling us to stop whaling and find another way of earning a living. But what on earth would we do instead?


Japan kills more than 300 whales in annual Antarctic hunt

Whaling fleet returns to port after slaughtering hundreds of minke whales, in defiance of moratorium on hunting and global criticism

A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals, as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.

The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived on Friday morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the countrys Fisheries Agency said.

More than 200 people, including crew members and their families, gathered in the rain for a 30-minute ceremony in front of the Nisshin Maru, the fleets main ship, according to an official of the Shimonoseki city government.

In a press release, the agency described the mission as research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea.

But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.

Anticipating the fleets return, animal protection charity Humane Society International called for an end to Japanese whaling. Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed, said Kitty Block, the groups executive vice-president.

It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.

Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.

Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.

Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for scientific research and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

But it also makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served in school lunches.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-second world war years, when the country was desperately poor. But consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades, with significant proportions of the population saying they never or rarely eat whale meat.

In response to the ICJ ruling, Japans 2014-15 mission carried out only non-lethal research such as taking skin samples and doing headcounts.

Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd. A fisheries agency official said that the whalers this time faced no obstructive behaviour threatening safety of the fleet and crew members by the group.

He attributed that partially to Japan dispatching patrol ships to protect the fleet.


Lions next in line of fire as US rolls back curbs on African hunting trophies

The Trump administrations lifting of restrictions on importing elephant body parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia is not the last gift to hunting interests

Hunting interests have scored a major victory with the Trump administrations decision to allow Americans to bring home body parts of elephants shot for sport in Africa. Another totemic species now looks set to follow suit lions.

As the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was announcing it was lifting a ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, it also quietly published new guidelines that showed lions shot in the two African countries will also be eligible to adorn American homes.

This all suggests that rather than being the protectors of wildlife, the federal government is now a promoter of trophy hunting, said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

They are rolling out the red carpet to the next Walter Palmer, and that same sort of situation will happen all over again, Pacelle added, referencing the Minnesota dentist who sparked an international furore after he shot and killed Cecil, a famous black-maned lion that was lured from a protected reserve in Zimbabwe.

In 2014, American hunters were barred from bringing home parts of elephants shot in Zimbabwe because of concerns over the conservation of the animals in the country. Last year, the FWS, under the Obama administration, also listed the lion as a threatened species and placed tighter restrictions on bringing back heads, paws and other body parts.

The Trump administration has begun to peel away this legacy in unusual fashion by announcing the lifting to the elephant ban at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum, a pro-hunting event held in Tanzania, rather than on its website or in the federal register.


The event is co-hosted by Safari Club International, an Arizona-based group that lobbies against hunting restrictions and auctions off trips to members to head to Africa to hunt the big five lions, rhinos, elephants, Cape buffalo and leopards. SCI joined with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to legally challenge the ban on elephant trophies.

Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRAs Institute for Legislative Action, said the Trump administration had backed sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting through its decision. Conservation groups fear the administration is now held in the sway of SCI and the NRA to the detriment of species such as lions and elephants both of which have suffered sharp declines in recent years.

This is political fealty to the NRA and SCI, said Pacelle. Here we are telling black Africans they cant kill elephants for tusks but its OK for rich white people to show up and shoot them. Its the height of hypocrisy.

Pacelle said it was a farce that Zimbabwe was now considered a responsible steward for elephants in the midst of an apparent coup by the military against Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old president who celebrated a birthday in 2015 by feasting upon a baby elephant.

Zimbabwes elephant population has dropped in recent years with a spate of poaching, including cyanide poisonings, killing thousands of the animals. However, the FWS said the lifting of the trophy import ban was rooted in science and that the situation has changed and improved since 2014.

The agency said Zimbabwe had a new management plan that includes a hunting quota of 500 elephants, with money from wealthy western hunters distributed to rural communities.

There has been a fierce battle between some conservationists and hunting groups over whether funds from shooting trips actually improve the fortunes of endangered species or local communities, but it is clear that the trajectory of almost all megafauna in Africa is one of rapid decline.

A family group of elephants in Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. All African megafauna are facing rapid decline. Photograph: Alamy

The pro-hunting outlook of the Trump administration has a champion in Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior. Zinke, whose agency also oversees the FWS, has pushed for greater hunting access to public land, reversed a ban on lead ammunition that is linked to the poisonings of bald eagles and is attempting to open a vast wildlife refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.

This agenda dovetails with Republicans in Congress who have taken aim at endangered species protections, putting forward bills that would allow the trapping of wolves in the US and remove non-native species such as lions and elephants from protected status.

The presidents sons are also both keen hunters, with pictures emerging in 2012 of Eric and Donald Trump Jr with a dead elephant, buffalo and other animals while on safari. Donald Jr posed holding a severed elephants tail while the two brothers beamed at the camera while clutching a dead leopard.

Donald Trump Jr, the presidents eldest son, has said he is known as the Fifth Avenue redneck by friends due to his love of hunting and estimates he has killed 15 or 16 species in Africa.

Last year, Donald Jr said the FWS should be encouraging American hunters legally and ethically hunting abroad, not hindering them.

We have to make sure were heard, he said. Lately, weve been a forgotten group. I want to change that now and forever.

And we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that any kind of Trump presidency is going to be the best since Theodore Roosevelt for outdoorsmen, for hunters, for our public lands, and for this country as it relates to anything in the great outdoors.


Italian avalanche: hope for survivors after three puppies found alive in rubble

Discovery of sheepdog pups raises hopes that some of the 22 people still missing after five days could be found alive

Rescuers have recovered three puppies from under the rubble of an Italian mountain hotel that was hit by an avalanche five days ago, raising fresh hopes that some of the 22 people still missing could be found alive.

Firefighter Fabio Jerman said the discovery of the three shaggy white Abruzzo sheepdog pups meant there were still air pockets in the collapsed building an important sign of life, which gives us hope, he said.

But as light began to fade, the body of a woman was recovered from the rubble, bringing the number of the dead to seven.

A new route is being dug into the rubble in a last-ditch effort to find more survivors, as questions mount as to whether the disaster could have been avoided.

Its a race against time, we know we need to go fast, but its not an easy working environment, said Luca Cari, a fire service spokesman, as teams worked to reach the centre of the hotel where they believe the missing could be.

An email sent by the hotel to local authorities pleading for help hours before Wednesdays avalanche has been widely shared online. Although it did not mention fears of an avalanche, it described the panic of guests trapped by snow as earthquakes shook the region.

Firefighters hold three puppies that were found alive in the rubble of the avalanche-hit hotel. Photograph: AP

Seven people are known to have died when the avalanche hit the four-star Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola on Wednesday.

Nine people pulled out alive on Friday described being trapped in tiny spaces, eating dirty snow in the pitch black to survive.

Burrowing through narrow holes in the snow and rubble, rescue workers have been painstakingly searching each room of the lodge.

The puppies a day before an avalanche buried the Rigopiano hotel. Photograph: AP

Late on Sunday rescuers began attempting to access the wreckage from another angle a riskier enterprise that could trigger snowfalls but would get them more quickly to new search zones.

With shovels, drills and their bare hands, they were also working to recover the body of the sixth known victim.

Though the avalanche risk was lowered from four to three on a five-point scale, a special radar was installed on the slopes to warn rescue teams of any fresh slides, as snow and rain continued to fall on the area.

Investigators in the nearby city of Pescara have stepped up an investigation into the disaster, which could lead to manslaughter charges if prosecutors find the hotel should not have been built in that area or should have been evacuated.

The hotel opened in 1972 and was transformed 10 years ago into a four-star venue with a heated external swimming pool and sauna.

An investigation into the number of building permits awarded in the Gran Sasso national park was dropped in November.


Canadian smuggler had 51 turtles in his pants when he tried to cross border

Kai Xu pleads guilty after being caught with turtles taped around his legs as part of alleged efforts to sneak more than 1,600 of them out of the US

A Canadian college student caught at a border checkpoint with 51 live turtles in his pants has pleaded guilty to six smuggling charges in the US.

Kai Xu, 27, of Windsor, Ontario, admitted to smuggling or trying to smuggle more than 1,600 turtles of different species out of the United States from April 2014 until his arrest in September 2014. Each of the six counts carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In August 2014 Xu crossed the US-Canada border into Detroit and was watched by US agents as he picked up a package at a parcel center, then appeared to transfer items before heading back to the border, according to a criminal complaint.

When he passed back through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Xu was stopped by Canadian Border Services, which found and seized 41 live turtles taped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs, the district court in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was told.

The day of his arrest Xu packed more than 1,000 turtles into suitcases that he sent with a runner he had hired to fly them to Shanghai from Detroit, prosecutors said.

US District Judge John Corbett OMeara scheduled sentencing for next April in Ann Arbor. Xu has been held in federal custody since his arrest.


Professional distance runner outpaces two bears while training in Maine woods

Moninda Marube ran into two bears just after passing a vacant house near Auburn Lake on his morning run a house that would ultimately save his life

A professional runner from Kenya says he had to outrun two charging bears while training in the woods of Maine.

Moninda Marube went for a run early Wednesday on a nature trail near his home in Auburn. The Lewiston Sun Journal reported he ran into two black bears just after passing a vacant house near Auburn Lake.

Moninda Marube recounts his brush with two black bears.

I had to think very fast, Marube, who has lived in the United States since 2010, told the newspaper. In my head, I know I cant swim. I fear swimming. I fear water.

Marube says he froze and engaged in a stare-down with the bears. He says he thought his only option was to run away. I knew I could not climb up a tree because bears can climb a tree, he said. The only solution I had at that time was to be able to run.

He says he ran back toward the vacant house and got inside its screened porch with the bears about 10 yards behind him, screaming as he went. He says the bears just looked at him through the screening and then wandered off. Its not the house that helped me, he said. Its God.

Marube, a student at the University of Maine at Farmington who finished third in the 2012 Maine Marathon and won the 2013 half-marathon, said hed once encountered a leopard perched in a tree while alone in Africa. I dont fear lions, he said. But a bear is scary.

He said he learned an important lesson from his close encounter with Maines wildlife: Just make peace with people. You never know when your day comes.


Killing dogs for meat ruled illegal by South Korean court

Landmark decision against dog farm could pave way for eating of canines to be outlawed

A South Korean court has ruled the killing of dogs for meat is illegal, in a landmark decision that animal rights activists have said could pave the way to outlawing the eating of canines.

The meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine, with about 1 million dogs believed to be eaten annually, but consumption has declined and the practice is now something of a taboo among younger generations amid increased pressure from activists.

A ruling from the city court in Bucheon on Thursday, in a case brought by the animal rights group Care against a dog farm operator, said meat consumption was not a legal reason to kill dogs.

The group accused the man, who was convicted and fined 3m won (2,050), of killing animals without proper reasons and violating building and hygiene regulations.

It is very significant in that it is the first court decision that killing dogs for dog meat is illegal itself, said Kim Kyung-eun, a lawyer for Care.

The precedent paved the way for outlawing dog meat consumption entirely, she added.

Dog meat consumption is a grey area in South Korean law. Despite no specific ban, authorities have invoked hygiene regulations or animal protection laws that ban cruel slaughter methods to crack down on dog farms and restaurants ahead of international events such as the Pyeongchang Olympics.

A lawmaker from the ruling Democratic party introduced a bill in parliament this week that would effectively ban killing dogs for meat. There are about 17,000 dog farms in South Korea, and operators have called for the government to bring in laws explicitly to legalise dog meat consumption and license dog slaughter houses.

A survey last year found that 70% of South Koreans do not eat dog meat, but only about 40% believe the practice should be banned.

Care said it would track down dog farms and slaughter houses across the country with a view to filing similar complaints against them to judicial authorities. The dog meat industry will take greater heat because of the court ruling, said its leader, Park So-youn.


Mumbai beach goes from dump to turtle hatchery in two years

Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings spotted after cleanup of Versova beach by Afroz Shah and volunteers

Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades on a Mumbai beach that was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.

At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach in the past week, protected from wild dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who slept overnight in the sand to watch over them.

Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the worlds largest beach cleanup project over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline.

The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.

Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings in a container as they are helped by wildlife conservationists to reach the Arabian Sea on Versova beach in Mumbai. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The moment we got that news I knew something big was going to happen, he told the Guardian. Last Thursday, some of his volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nests.

He called the forest department and then went down to the beach with about 25 others, guarding the area while the tiny creatures hobbled across the sand, making sure not one hatchling suffered a death, he said.

The Olive Ridley species, thought to be named for the olive-green hue of its upper shell, is the smallest and most abundant sea turtle in the ocean, but is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mothers of the species lay eggs in an enormous mass-nesting process known as arribada. Last month on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously at the Rushikulya rookery.

Though they nest elsewhere in Mumbai, none had been sighted on Versova beach in decades, due to the acute pollution problem there, Shah said. I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean.

Sumedha Korgaonkar, who is completing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles with the Wildlife Institute of India, said it was possible small numbers of the turtles had been nesting on the beach in past years. We cant say for sure since regular patrolling for turtles nests is not done in Mumbai, she said.

Clean-up at Versova beach. Photograph: Shashi S Kashyap/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles. Many beaches which are major nesting sites are cleaned prior and during the nesting season by villagers, which increases the chances of getting nests [there].

For more than two years, Shah has been leading volunteers in manually picking up rubbish from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste practices to villagers and people living in slums along the coastline and the creeks leading into it.

About 55,000 people live along the beach and the waterways that feed it in the crowded megacity. Shah said he taught them by example, offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish himself before he ever sought their help.

For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined, he said. Then two men approached me and said, very politely, Please sir, can we wear your gloves? Both of them just came and joined me. Thats when I knew it was going to be a success.

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He said the team had cleaned 13m kg of debris from the beach in the past two years and are still going, though their campaign was briefly abandoned in November because of administrative lethargy and harassment of volunteers.

India has some of the most polluted waterways and beaches in the world due to rapid, unplanned urbanisation, overpopulation and neglectful attitudes, including to public littering.

There has been a loss of a sense of belonging, Shah said. You can have laws, policies, regulations in place, but if the community doesnt have a sense of belonging, you can see what happens.

This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the worlds most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at


Sergei Skripal’s cat and guinea pigs die after police seal house

Two guinea pigs found dead at Salisbury home of ex-spy while a cat needed to be put down

Two guinea pigs belonging to Sergei Skripal died and his cat was put down after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the government has revealed.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the dead guinea pigs and a distressed cat were discovered when a vet was able to enter Skripals home, which had been sealed off during the police investigation. Defra said it believed the guinea pigs had died of thirst.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in hospital more than a month after the attack on 4 March. In its latest update, NHS England said the former Russian spys condition was critical but stable.

On Thursday, Yulia Skripal released a statement through the Metropolitan police in which said she was getting stronger by the day.

A war of words has continued between Britain and Russia over claims that the Kremlin was responsible for the attack using the nerve agent novichok.

Play Video

Russia tells Britain ‘you’ll be sorry’ at UN meeting – video

On Thursday, in heated exchanges at the UN security council, Russias UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, dismissing the allegation that Russia was behind the poisoning as absurd, questioned what had happened to Sergei Skripals two cats and two guinea pigs.

What happened to these animals? Why doesnt anyone mention them? Their condition is also an important piece of evidence, he said.

The highest concentration of novichok was found on the front door of Skripals home.

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, had also raised the fate of the pets. Where are the animals? What state are they in? she asked on Wednesday.

Why has the British side not mentioned this fact? We are talking about living organisms, and if toxic agents were used then living organisms must have suffered.

After Defra, released a statement about the deaths of the animals, Zakharova continued to suggest that an alleged cover-up by the British authorities also extended to Skripals pets. Is that normal practice? she asked in a Facebook post, claiming the guinea pigs and cat could have been important evidence in this poisoning case. She also remarked that Porton Down, the government research facility nearby, had experimented on guinea pigs over the years. The more we know, the worse the picture looks, she wrote.

The Russian embassy in London also released a statement on Friday, claiming: This is however the sort of answer that brings about still more questions.

Claiming that it is said unofficially that the cats were incinerated at Porton Down, it demanded to know if the animals had been tested for toxic substances and added that it believed there was a second cat that was unaccounted for.

The whereabouts of the second one are still unknown, the statement said. The Embassy continues to request answers to these questions, however inconvenient they may seem. And we demand full cooperation.

The Sun reported that Skripals black cat, Nash Van Drake, was put down after being tested at Porton Down, where he was found to be severely malnourished.

A Defra spokeswoman said a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the cat to alleviate its suffering, and that it was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare.

She did not mention the second cat referred to by Nebenzia.


New Zealand bird of the year: playful alpine parrot kea soars to victory

The worlds only mountain parrot whose cheeky antics divide Kiwis, beats kerer and kkp to coveted crown

The kea, the worlds only alpine parrot, has been crowned New Zealand bird of the year, with thousands more votes cast for the species than there are surviving individuals.

New Zealands annual bird of the year competition hit new heights this year with more than 50,000 votes cast from around the country and the world. The competition is in its 13th year, and pits the countrys rare and endangered birds against one another. No bird has won twice.

The kea a highly intelligent and inquisitive olive green mountain parrot that lives only in the Southern Alps received 7,311 votes, streets ahead of the native wood pigeon, the kerer, which came second with 4,572 votes, followed by the kkp with 2,554 votes.

Forest & Bird (@Forest_and_Bird)

Laura Young takes a call from Donald Trump* congratulating her on kea’s win. He passes on warm regards to the birds of NZ. #BirdOfTheYear

October 23, 2017

There are 168 bird species in New Zealand and about a third are threatened with extinction, with dozens more on the endangered list. Some species have dwindled to a few hundred individuals tucked away in isolated pockets of the country.

Play Video

Kea voted bird of the year in New Zealand video

Kea are found only in the mountains of the South Island in a vast habitat of some 3.5m hectares. They once numbered in the hundreds of thousands but are now classified as nationally endangered with between 3,000 and 7,000 birds remaining.

One of the most intelligent bird species in the world, kea are renowned for their playfulness and novelty-seeking nature, which conservationist David Attenborough discovered when filming them for a BBC documentary, titled The Smartest Parrot, on the west coast of the South Island.

Clip from the BBCs The Smartest Parrot.

Tamsin Orr-Walker, the co-founder of the Kea Conservation Trust, said it was fabulous the kea had finally won and in many ways it was more representative of New Zealanders than the official national bird, the reclusive kiwi.

A lot of people are saying the kea should be our national bird because they so much epitomise what it is to be a New Zealander: adventurous and up for a challenge and maybe a bit misunderstood, she said.

I think New Zealanders are starting to realise how special kea are; they are interactive birds and seek out humans which is very unusual. The fact they are declining from our mountains is alarming.

Recent studies from the Kea Conservation Trust have found two-thirds of kea chicks never reach fledgling stage, as their nests are ground-dwelling and they are eaten by stoats, rats and possums (which the NZ government has pledged to exterminate by 2050).

Orr-Walker said the threat to kea was three-pronged: from introduced species, lead poisoning from old-fashioned alpine dwellings such as huts and shearing sheds, and from their interactions with humans, which include being hit by cars or fed inappropriate food.

Lead poisoning was particularly difficult to tackle, Orr-Walker said, as there were thousands of old buildings dotted around remote parts the South Island that could poison inquisitive kea. The effects of lead poisoning on the birds were disastrous, including brain damage and death.

An estimated 150,000 kea were killed from the 1860s onwards due to a government bounty introduced after conflict with sheep farmers.

The department of conservation and the Kea Conservation Trust continue to record intentional kea deaths each year (either shot, bludgeoned or poisoned by humans) though such incidents are thought to be under-reported.

Education efforts have gone a long way towards New Zealanders learning to love and respect the kea, but if the kea cause financial loss or begin to hit peoples bottom line, that is when we are still hearing stories of kea being killed, said Josh Kemp, a kea expert at New Zealands department of conservation.

Despite their protected status, keas have divided Kiwis between those who enjoy the cheeky parrots animated nature and those who curse its destructive habits such as damaging cars, tents and buildings in alpine environments, attacking stock and habitually stealing food.


Snake on a plane: reptile panics passengers on Mexico City flight

Plane gets priority landing after large serpent appears on ceiling of the cabin before dropping to the floor

Passengers on a commercial flight in Mexico were given a start when a serpent appeared in the cabin in a scene straight out of the Hollywood thriller Snakes on a Plane.

The green reptile emerged suddenly on an Aeromexico flight from Torreon in the countrys north to Mexico City on Sunday, slithering out from behind an overhead luggage compartment.

Mobile phone video shot by passenger Indalecio Medina showed it wriggling briefly as if trapped before partially dropping down into the cabin.

I was reading a magazine and the passenger next to me saw it and, Oh my word! Medina said on Monday. He estimated it was more than 3ft (about 1m) in length.

Passengers hastily unbuckled themselves to get clear of the snake before it dropped to the floor, where people trapped it between rows 5 and 6 with blankets provided by a flight attendant, Medina said.

It was a frightening situation … but people remained calm because it didnt get out of that space and nobody became hysterical, Medina said. Some people got up to see what kind of reptile it was, but nobody got carried away.

After the pilot radioed ahead, the plane was given priority landing in Mexico City and touched down 10 minutes later. Passengers exited out the rear, and animal control workers came on board to take the stowaway into custody.

Aeromexico said in a statement that it was investigating how the snake got into the cabin and would take measures to keep such an incident from happening again.

Snakes on a Plane was a 2006 action movie that was about exactly what the title suggests. It is treasured by fans for its campy premise and star Samuel L Jacksons profanity-laced declaration of war on the CGI-generated serpents.


Mosul zoo’s last survivors, Simba the lion and Lula the bear, flown to safety

The animals were found covered in dirt and excrement and abandoned in their cages in February

Simba the lion and Lula the bear, the last two residents of Mosul zoo, have been flown out of Iraq to receive emergency care from an animal welfare group.

A group of veterinarians from the Four Paws International charity took the animals out of war-battered Mosul and after many administrative delays finally managed to fly them to Jordan from the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil.

Were in the plane with the animals, were leaving now, said Amir Khalil, a 52-year-old Egyptian-Austrian vet who headed the Four Paws mission.

The doctor found the pair covered in dirt and excrement in February, abandoned in their cages at the privately owned zoo in the eastern half of Mosul.

Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake the city, Iraqs second largest, from the Islamic State group in October and spent weeks battling the jihadists street by street before eventually retaking the east bank in January.

When Four Paws reached the zoo, nobody had entered the cages in weeks and no other animals apart from the female bear and the male lion had survived.

When Khalil and his team came back to the region in late March, they had one goal which was to remove the animals temporarily from Iraq so they could receive proper veterinary care.

Im a vet I have to look after these animals, said Khalil, a kind of roving war zone veterinarian.

They are refugees. Its our duty to take them to a sanctuary.

It was supposed to be a formality, but it took Khalil and his team two weeks to finally squeeze the right paperwork out of the administrative confusion that prevails in post-jihadist Mosul.

In late March, Khalil had put the two beasts to sleep, taken them out of their filthy cages on stretchers and loaded them aboard a truck using a crane, hoping to be on an aircraft in a matter of hours.

The thud of artillery fire across the river was a reminder than while eastern Mosul had been fully reconquered by the federal forces, the area was still a war zone.

As the animal welfare team cautiously extracted the animals from the abandoned zoo, Ahmed Manhel looked on.

I wouldnt mind receiving some care myself, the 18-year-old had said, leaning on two wooden crutches.

He lost his right leg in an explosion in November.

I need to leave this place, I need a prosthetic leg, the young Iraqi said, moments before the truck carrying the animals departed for Arbil.

The truck was stopped at a checkpoint, however, and a second evacuation attempt the following day also failed.

The two animals remained on a dusty roadside for nine days before the necessary permits were secured.

The lion developed a respiratory problem as a result of the delay.

This has probably been our most complicated mission, said Yavor Gechev, from the Four Paws group which has done similar work in the Gaza Strip, in Egypt during the Arab Spring and in Libya.

Before the plane finally took off, doctor Khalil was relieved.

This is the beginning of a new life for the animals, he said. From now on, they wont have to be part of this war.


Feline sad: cat who was ‘mayor’ of Alaskan town for 20 years dies

Stubbs, who liked to drink water and catnip from a margarita glass, was elected mayor of Talkeetna in 1998

Stubbs, the honorary feline mayor of the Alaska town of Talkeetna, has died at the age of 20.

The animals owners announced the cats death late on Saturday in a statement.

Stubbs lived for 20 years and 3 months, the family wrote.

He was a trooper until the very last day of his life; meowing at us throughout the day to pet him or to come sit on the bed with him and let him snuggle and purr for hours in our lap .

According to Stubbs family, Mayor Stubbs, as the cat was most commonly known, went to bed Thursday and died overnight, KTVA-TV reports.

Talkeetna, a town with a population of about 900, elected the yellow cat mayor in a write-in campaign in 1998. Stubbs, who liked to drink water and catnip from a margarita glass, quickly became a tourist attraction.

There is no human mayor in the town.

Stubbs had survived an attack by a dog in 2013 and a false report of his death last year. But by late 2016, he was largely staying at home instead of being out and about at local Nagleys General Store.

Although Stubbs is gone, one of his owners kittens might be ready to take up his mayoral mantle.

Amazingly, Denali has the exact personality as Stubbs, the family wrote of the kitten.

He loves the attention, hes like a little puppy when hes around people. We couldnt have asked for a better understudy than Denali he really has followed in Stubbs pawprints in just about everything.


Pet dogs are the new must-have accessory at the smarter office

Companies are using animal magnetism to reduce stress in the workplace and hang on to staff

After a half-hour walk to work each morning, Joy likes to grab a drink and head to her desk where she promptly curls up underneath it and has a nap.

Joy is an eight-month-old golden retriever and she goes to the office with her owner, Carol DuPuis. These days, especially at tech companies, youre as likely to find a dog in the office as you are a pot plant or watercooler. For startups particularly, allowing dogs is an easy, cheap way of attracting and retaining millennials, on top of the free snacks, pinball machines and gym membership.

The Google code of conduct states affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in reception desks are stocked with biscuits, some water fountains are set at dog height, and theres an off-leash park also open to the public where staff can exercise their pets.

DuPuis is a partnerships manager at ReachNow, a US car-sharing app. My favourite part about bringing Joy into the office is the joy she brings to my colleagues pun intended. Its tough not to love the puppy energy, it just feels so nice, she said. Joy spends part of her day sleeping, but she also joins DuPuis for meetings and likes to sniff around for bits of peanut butter pretzel that have fallen on the floor.

Gemma Huckle, head of content and culture at London brands agency Rooster Punk, knows all about the pleasure dogs can bring. Her French bulldog, Amelie, has changed the mood in the office since her arrival two years ago.

Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazons headquarters in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Huckle said: Shes made it feel like a home from home: the atmosphere is warmer and more sociable. If someones feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed out, they usually come and see the dog. Just five minutes pampering or playing with her seems to perk everyone up. Having the dog is also great for our physical health, as it gives everyone an excuse to get out of the office and get some air.

Amelie was crowned StartPup 2016 after Rooster Punk shot a video of her in the office and entered her in the worlds first competition to find the best dog belonging to a startup. Huckle recommends having dogs at work. It helps staff bond and I think it reinforces positive work behaviours people seem to be more friendly and approachable.

Around 8% of US and UK employers allow dogs at work. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88% think pets at work improve morale and 86% say they reduce stress.

Laura Wolf, global content manager at digital creative agency Possible, based in Seattle, said her chihuahua-dachshund mix, Boomer, is a real morale booster. She also helps break the ice with new colleagues. You get to know people through your dog, people stop to cuddle her. Shell sit on my lap during meetings; sleep next to my desk while Im working; visit colleagues she knows wholl give her a treat.

Being able to take dogs to work was a major perk, Wolf said. Younger people are getting married way later and choosing to have a pet instead of a child early on. Doggy daycare is expensive and its great to have that flexibility of being able to take your dog around with you.

Its beneficial to the company as well. The likelihood of people having to leave to get home to their dog or come in late because theyre walking their dog is much less.

Companies have rules to ensure workplaces are safe, especially for staff or clients with allergies. At Possible, for example, dogs must be vaccinated, they cant be aggressive or run around off-leash, and they are asked not to return if they foul the office more than three times.

Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk.

In the UK, dogs have long been going into offices in the pet sector, such as Pets at Home, Mars Petcare and the charity Blue Cross, and they are becoming welcome at other types of businesses too, for example model agency Next Management and online retailer Firebox.

In the US firms such as Ben & Jerrys and Build-a-Bear Workshop allow dogs, and the idea is spreading to the public sector. The department of the interior is to trial take-your-dog-to-work days, the first federal government office to do so. Dogs are also becoming more common in places such as dental surgeries, boutiques and hair salons.

Dentist Cameron Garrett and his wife Debra, a hygienist, take their elderly rescue dog, Karma, to their practice in Corte Madera, California. Debra said: Some of our patients are dental-phobic and say that having Karma on their lap makes all the difference and many more just like dogs.

Karma keeps me calm too and makes my day feel that much nicer. Im dental-phobic myself. I needed a filling recently and bought Karma with me and it does help. I know from both sides of the chair.


The blue dogs of Mumbai: industrial waste blamed for colourful canines

The group of strangely coloured canines was first spotted on 11 August prompting locals to complain to the local pollution control board

Authorities in Mumbai have shut down a manufacturing company after it was accused of dumping untreated industrial waste and dyes into a local river that resulted in 11 dogs turning blue.

The group of strangely coloured canines was first spotted on 11 August, according to the Hindustan Times, prompting locals to complain to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board about dyes being dumped in the Kasadi river, where the animals often swim.

Footage shows the animals roaming the streets with bright blue fur.

It was shocking to see how the dogs white fur had turned completely blue, said Arati Chauhan, head of the Navi Mumbai Animal Protection Cell, told the Times. We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.

Chauhan had posted images of the blue dogs on the groups Facebook page, saying the pollutants from Taloja Industrial area not only ruining the water bodies affecting humans there but also affecting animals, birds, reptiles.

The board investigated, shutting down the company on Wednesday after confirming that canines were turning blue due to air and water pollution linked to the plant.

An animal welfare agency managed to capture one of the dogs and wash some of the blue dye off. The group concluded that animal seemed unharmed in all other ways.

The Kasadi River flows through an area with hundreds of factories.

According to data obtained by NGO Watchdog Foundation through right to information, there are 977 chemical, pharmaceutical, engineering and food processing factories in the Taloja industrial area, located outside Mumbai.


‘I feel free like a bird’: Saudi women celebrate as driving ban lifted

Celebrations in major cities as clock passes midnight in carefully stage-managed event

Police officers gave them flowers, fathers gave their blessing and locals marked the moment with humour as Saudi women took to the streets in their cars after the ban on driving was lifted.

As the clock ticked past midnight on Saturday, a group of women who had been granted licences started their engines, some with fathers or brothers alongside, and others in new cars bought for the occasion. Several women shouted with delight. Others cried, and many more took videos of their first forays at the wheel.

The celebratory mood was mostly confined to pockets of Riyadh and Saudi Arabias second city, Jeddah, where the few women who have so far been granted licences were being feted as celebrities. Among them was Fadya Basma, a driver for a ride-sharing company, who is one of the first in Saudi Arabia to legally shepherd men around. Its a wonderful day, she said. And it will change things. Saudi will never be the same again.

Samar Almogren, a talkshow host and writer, said: I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden. I feel free like a bird.

A Saudi woman behind the wheel. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Saudi luminaries were quick to herald the moment. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the kingdoms wealthiest men, posted a video at 12.01am local time (10.01pm BST) of himself with his daughter Rim at the wheel. Mummy is not driving a buggy, but a real car, he said. Saudi Arabia has finally entered the 21st century.

Slogans and messages of support were shared on social media. Today, you take on the streets, tomorrow, Mars, said one. This day will be marked in history, said another. Drive we are with you.

Aware of the potential for the lifting of the ban to shift views about the rigidly conservative state, much of the lead-up has been heavily stage-managed, with lucrative consultancies offered to craft a message of a grateful people offering thanks to Saudi Arabias crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Aseel al-Hamad, a Saudi racing driver, has never driven on a track inb her home country, despite being a board member of the countrys motoring foundation. Her debut at the French Grand Prix, where she drove a Formula One car in a parade lap, was promoted by a public relations company, which released a statement in her name.

Ive always loved car toys, it said. I had the privilege of driving race cars all over the world, but today will be the first in my beloved country. Its a very special moment.

Photographs of police officers handing out flowers to female drivers were also carefully choreographed, but across the country, finding a woman behind the wheel during daylight hours was a difficult task. So far, the number of licences handed out has not been publicised. In Jeddah, about 30 women can legally drive. Many thousands more have applied.

Nevertheless, support for the move and a belief that the small advance guard of drivers would soon lead to an influx appeared to be widespread and spontaneous. Ahd Niazy, a writer, said: This means the world to me, and to the country. This generation changes things.

Women with international driving licences are thought to be given priority in being approved to drive, along with those deemed not to be involved in activism or seen as unlikely to pose a political risk.

Nour, 24, speaking from a coffee shop in Jeddahs corniche, said: All I want to do is take to the roads. As soon as I can, I will. This is a great achievement for all women and it is definitely the key to bigger changes.

Saudi drivers from ride-sharing companies such as Uber seemed to be less convinced. I dont support women driving because I believe they are not the best drivers, said one. Asked whether his three sisters would soon follow their compatriots lead, he said: Im not going to allow them and they did not even ask. They have a driver who can take care of everything.

Any resistance to the move in Saudi Arabias deeply conservative society is difficult to gauge. A crackdown on dissent over recent months has left many reluctant to express opinions, especially if they are at odds with official views. Fatima, speaking at a mall in Jeddah, said: This is not the time to be defying anyone. What I think is not important.

State media was effusively supportive, with government-run titles lauding newfound independence and potential household savings delivered by reducing a demand for foreign drivers.

Al-Mowaten, a news website, said: Women being allowed to drive is a necessity more than a luxury. Women will rely on themselves when facing emergencies and difficult circumstances in which they will need to drive and act quickly, especially if a husband or other family member is suddenly stricken with an illness.


Sunny Pawar in Lion: He was just a normal boy; now a Hollywood star lives in our area

The eight-year-old actor received a heros welcome as he returned home to a slum from the Oscars. His family are dealing with the fame from his role in Lion

Its 11am and the Pawar family are dressed to impress. The women have put on sparkling saris and the men are in clean, ironed shirts. The man of the moment, eight-year-old Sunny, the child star of the Oscar-nominated film Lion, is inside the house, getting his face aggressively powdered by an aunt, while an uncle sprays him with perfume and adjusts his oversized jacket. Ive come at a bad time, clearly, but the family are polite enough to invite me to stay as they prepare for a photo op with a local politician.

The domestic chaos is a stark contrast to the glitzy, star-studded life Sunny has led for the past three months while touring America to promote the film. Sunny plays a young Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his biological mother aged five before being adopted by Australian parents. The film, based on Brierleys autobiography, A Long Way Home, has received international acclaim, including six Academy Award nominations and two Bafta wins.

Sitting outside his family home in the Kunchi Kurve Nagar slum near Mumbais airport, Sunny recalls being whisked around the world with an international film crew. It was like a dream, he says. Neither he nor his father had left India. First Kolkata, then Indore, then Australia and then America for three months.

The whirlwind journey ended last week after the Oscars, where a beaming Sunny was lifted into the air by the host Jimmy Kimmel, as The Lion Kings title track played in the background. Some have criticised Kimmel for using Sunny as a prop in a racist joke, but Sunny doesnt see it that way. It was fun. I loved it, he says.

Sunny and his father returned to India on a flight that landed at 2am on Wednesday. A swarm of local news crews and journalists greeted them at the airport along with a mob of relatives. He has brought a good name to our whole family, says Raviraj, a distant relative who was there. We all went and nobody knew where the arrival gate was, so all of us were squashed in that airport lift, going up and down until we found him.

They beat drums, they set off fireworks, says Dilip, Sunnys father. They brought flowers and covered him with garlands. The reporters crowded around him, Sunny look here, Sunny do this. They even came back to our house with us, and they stayed until 4am. They wouldnt leave until Sunnys grandfather shouted at them for harassing the kid, he says.

In Mumbai, home to the worlds most prolific film industry, making it into the movies is the epitome of success. Thousands of people travel to the city from small towns and villages around the country every day, hoping to be cast in a Bollywood blockbuster. But with a tightly knit, powerful film fraternity that rarely embraces outsiders, successes like Sunnys are few and precious. He was selected from over 2,000 children, says Dilip. They came to his school to do auditions, and the director says he was a natural in front of the camera.

Sunnys family are from humble origins. His father used to sweep streets, but was fired for having too many days off to take Sunny to auditions. For the past two years, he has been Sunnys business manager, touring the world and helping him practise lines on set. I never, ever thought Id reach this point in my life, says Dilip. My first son, and he has made me so proud.

The film has turned Sunny into a local hero. Posters slapped on the slums walls read: Congratulations Sunny on your achievement. Outside the house, the family have set up a stage, carpeted in red and covered in confetti left over from a welcome home ceremony. There is a floor-to-ceiling photo montage of Sunny meeting American celebrities, as well as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Children from the slum who wander past after school point excitedly at the pictures, whispering, Thats Sunny meeting the Rock, referring to the WWE wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne Johnson. All of them claim theyve watched Sunnys film, though its easy to call their bluff as none of them recognises Dev Patel, the films lead actor, who also starred in Slumdog Millionaire. He must be some singer or something, says one child. No, hes Sunnys acting coach, says another.

He was just a normal little boy, says Vasu, Sunnys mother. Now everybody says, Oh, a Hollywood star lives in our neighbourhood. Overnight, Ive become the mother of a movie star. She admits she hasnt seen the film yet. I was waiting for Sunny and his dad to come home so we could watch it together, as a family. But Im so proud.

Sunny was only five when he started auditioning for the role of Saroo. Between travelling to locations for shoots, he attends the government-run Air India Modern school where, he says, he gets none of the benefits of being a movie star. None of the kids treat me differently. Its exactly the same as before. They havent even seen the film, he says.

The role has given Sunny new ambitions. I want to work in Hollywood, Bollywood, everything, he says. Ive learned so much, like the sign language of the director for example. When he signals, I know I have to be sad, he says. Its hard work. You have to follow all their instructions and you have to try to show real emotion, from the heart.

Nobody ever taught him to act. He learned it on his own by watching TV, says Dilip. He loves watching Rajinikanth, he says, referring to a south Indian actor whose film release dates have been declared holidays by companies in an effort to avoid hundreds of staff requests for leave.

I like his action scenes, says Sunny, jumping in. I hope I can work in an action movie like that one day.

Though Dilip and Sunnys tour of America coincided with Donald Trumps arrival in the White House, they remained oblivious to rising anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping the country. We got there when Obama was still president so we didnt have any visa troubles like I know others have, Dilip says, in reference to Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian film-maker who could not travel to America to receive his Oscar because of Trumps travel ban. We did not feel for a second like foreigners there. The people there have done so much for us, says Dilip. When you go to work, they give you so much respect and love. The whole public is appreciating Sunny, they made him a suit to wear, they took him to the Oscars. They treated us like we were members of their family, really. There was no question about race or religion.

Despite their new fame, the family still live in their same small house. I ask naively to see Sunnys bedroom. Dilip laughs. This is chawl, madam. There are no bedrooms here, he says, referring to labourers accommodation. He shows me a brightly coloured room with peeling paint and bare walls, except a Ganesh-themed calendar. Here we roll out mattresses and sleep.

Outside, in a metal cupboard, the family keep their valuables. Perfumes and jewellery are pulled out, tested and replaced, as they rush to get ready to visit the local politician who has asked to meet Kunchi Kurve Nagars new star. I ask how many people live under the same roof. Its our whole extended family, Dilip says. Ive never counted but it must be more than 50 of us.

Sunnys family were initially reluctant to let him work in the film. One of Sunnys aunts had cancer, she was very sick. At that time, we were trying to sort out all his passport, visas, so he could travel. Then she died, and in our tradition, you have to spend a month in mourning. So we were going to pull out of the whole thing, Dilip recalls. I had told the producers no, we cant come. But then the family really supported us. They said, no you have to go, its such a big opportunity for Sunny. And he really wanted to do it. So we went.

Two taxis pull up outside the house and the family pile in. The politician is waiting, one relative says, hinting that our interview has concluded. I ask Dilip what he plans for Sunnys future, and whether he will go back to work. Lets see, he says. For now, all our days are filled with doing interviews and meet-and-greets. Sunny will go back to school, he will take his exams. But maybe he will get more film work. Who knows? We havent planned anything.


Dog gone: United Airlines mistakenly flies family German shepherd to Japan

German shepherd, 10, was meant to fly from Oregon to Kansas City and airline is investigating after family were instead handed a great Dane

United Airlines is investigating after mistakenly flying a Kansas familys dog to Japan.

KCTV reports that Kara Swindle and her two children flew from Oregon to Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday on a United flight.

They went to a cargo facility to pick up 10-year-old Irgo, a German shepherd, but were instead given a great Dane.

Swindle, of Wichita, Kansas, learned Irgo had been put on a flight to Japan, where the great Dane was supposed to go.

Airline officials in Japan put Irgo on a flight back to Kansas City.

It was not clear when the dog would arrive.

The news of Irgos unplanned odyssey comes as United admits another dog died after a flight attendant forced it to travel in an overhead bin on a Houston-to-New York flight.

On United Flight 1284 on Monday, a woman who was flying with children and a small dog was pressured by a flight attendant to put her dog in overhead storage during the three-and-a-half-hour flight.

According to fellow passenger Maggie Gremminger, the woman wanted to keep the dog, which was in a small carrying bag, under her seat, but the flight attendant insisted that she put the animal overhead.

At the end of the flight, the woman found her dog, deceased. She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of surrounding passengers were utterly stunned, Gremminger wrote in a series of tweets alongside a picture of the woman and her children.

United called the incident a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.

This is not the first time United has come under scrutiny for its treatment of animals. Last year, the carrier was sued by the owners of a giant rabbit that died on one of its flights.

Some 24 pets died while flying with US carriers last year, 18 of them with United, according to the Department of Transportation.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report


‘Bank’ the turtle dies after swallowing 900 coins thrown into her pond

Sea turtle that lived in public pond in Thailand dies of blood poisoning despite surgery to remove 5kg of loose change from her stomach

A sea turtle nicknamed Bank has died of complications following surgery to remove nearly 1,000 coins she swallowed during captivity, vets in Thailand have said.

The cause of death was blood poisoning from the loose change, doctors at the veterinary faculty at Bangkoks Chulalongkorn University confirmed.

She at least had the chance to swim freely and eat happily before she passed, said Dr Nantarika Chansue, who removed 5kg (11lbs) of coins from the turtles stomach in a lengthy operation on 6 March.

At 10.10am she went with peace, Chansue, the vet in charge of Chulalongkorn hospitals aquatic research centre, told reporters, adding: She is my friend, teacher and patient.

Thai media began publicising the turtles tale last month and members of the public donated about 15,000 baht (350) towards her surgery.

An officer shows the coins the turtle ate over many years. Some had corroded or partially dissolved. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Five surgeons from Chulalongkorn Universitys veterinary faculty removed the coins over four hours while the turtle was anaesthetised. The mass of coins was too big to take out through a 10cm incision, so they had to be removed a few coins at a time. Many of them had corroded or partially dissolved.

Chansue said when she discovered the cause of the turtles agony she was furious. I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle, the vet said at the time.

At first Bank appeared to be recovering well after the operation, but a checkup on Saturday revealed problems with its intestines. Doctors performed a second operation but Bank never woke up and died on Tuesday morning.

Bank lived for two decades in a public pond in Chonburi province, about 110 miles (175km) south-east of Bangkok. The turtle swallowed 915 coins that tourists threw into the pond. Eventually, the money formed a mass that cracked Banks shell.

Vets hope that media coverage of the stricken creature will make people think twice about throwing coins into ponds where animals live.