• 17 Jul 2015 12:26 PM | Anonymous

    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A rat called Pit scampers between two handlers, running up and down the length of a measuring tape they hold between them. Suddenly he stops, stands on his hind legs and sniffs the air. Something is nearby. Finally he puts his paws to the ground and scratches the hot, Cambodian earth. He has just marked the presence of TNT.

    Pit arrived in Cambodia in April. He is one of 15 African giant pouched rats who have been trained to detect landmines by Belgian non-profit organization APOPO at its Tanzania headquarters. This is the first time so-called “Hero Rats” have been deployed abroad.

    “We believe the rats will increase the efficiency of our operations,” says Heng Rattana, director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC). “We are currently verifying the quality of their work.”

    Pit nibbles the reward: a banana. A handler runs her fingers along the measuring tape and notes the location of the TNT trace. If this were real life, a human deminer would return later and remove the mine.

    Pit gets extra marks for avoiding dummy scents. “We plant oil filters, tuna cans and coffee grains in the ground — all kinds of things to confuse the rat,” explains Hulsok Heng, supervisor of the Hero Rat program in Cambodia.

    Cambodia remains riddled with landmines after decades of war. There are an estimated 4 million to 6 million landmines and unexploded ordnance littering fields, forests and riverbeds. Explosive remnants have killed or injured over 64,000 people — the “vast majority” civilians, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. And, with over 25,000 amputees, Cambodia has the highest ratio of landmine amputees per capita in the world.

    Serey Pov, a fruit seller in Phnom Penh, has a prosthetic leg after she stepped in a landmine in 1993. She was lucky it was just the lower half of her leg that was destroyed. Now, from the way she moves around her stall stacked with pink dragon fruit, hairy rambutans and mangoes, you wouldn’t know.

    Today, fewer people are experiencing the searing pain of amputation and the struggle of learning to walk again. In the last 20 years, CMAC has cleared 2.6 million landmines and unexploded ordnance, according to Rattana. Casualty rates have fallen from 3,047 in 1996 to 134 in 2013 — a record low. “We have received consistent support from the international community,” he says.

    The rats will be a welcome addition to CMAC’s operations. While metal detectors beep for every coin, can and piece of foil in the ground, rats only locate TNT; so when they signal by scratching the ground, there is usually a landmine beneath. And they're speedy, too. One rat can search 200 square meters in 20 minutes while a deminer with a metal detector can take 1-4 days to search the same area, according to James Pursey, APOPO’s communications manager.

    Compared to sniffer dogs, they're easy to transport, their diet of fruit and grains is cheap, and they're willing to work with different handlers. “If a dog handler gets sick it would take one or two months to acquaint the animal with a new handler,” says Heng. “But the rats can transfer handlers easily.”

    While cheaper than advanced scanning systems it still costs over $6,500 to fully train one rat, according to the APOPO website. It’s important they are husbanded well so they live out their 8-year lifespans.

    Bred as-needed in APOPO’s breeding program in Tanzania, the rats begin training when they are 5 or 6 weeks old using a process called operant conditioning — being rewarded with favorite treats, like bananas and peanuts, when they successfully locate a target smell. As well as TNT, the rats have also been trained to identify tuberculosis in human sputum samples.

    Pit was chosen for the demonstration at CMAC’s Siem Reap headquarters because he's a hard worker. According to Heng and his team, all the rats have different personalities. Some are industrious while some prefer to relax. Others have a prodigious sense of smell while others need more training.

    Despite initial positive results (Hero Rats have cleared over 18 million square meters of contaminated land in six countries, according to APOPO) others in the demining community have yet to be convinced. “Right now, we would not change to the rats,” says William Morse from the Landmine Relief Fund. “To take everyone and retrain them would be too costly and time-consuming.” For Morse, the big question is, if the rats are so effective, why aren’t millions of them being used around the world?

    It’s because of funding, says Pursey. And the considerable bureaucracy that has to be traversed when sending rats abroad.

    Critics of Pit and his cohorts are hard to find. “The rats have shown that they can contribute to the surveying and clearance of landmines,” said Chris Loughan, director of Policy & Evaluation at Mine Action Group. “I would consider them part of our asset list.”

    Pit’s cage is in a cool room at CMAC. The training over, he scurries into a large clay pot and rearranges the straw inside. He’s nocturnal so he immediately curls up and closes his eyes. “I was amazed when I learned that rats could sniff landmines,” said Sean Enah, a rat handler who has over 20 years of experience clearing Cambodia’s minefields. “It’s good news for Cambodia and the people who live near minefields.”

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  • 17 Jul 2015 12:24 PM | Anonymous

    If you do not find many exotic or different varieties of animals at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) here, that’s because the zoo authorities are finding it difficult to transport the mammals by air from different parts of the country.

    To find a solution to this problem, zoo authorities across India are jointly preparing a draft, requesting the Central government to provide an aircraft for transport of animals.

    Many animal exchange programmes have failed because of transport problems. For example, the BBP wanted to bring giraffes and zebras from the Mysuru zoo and send lions to a zoo in Rajasthan. But none of this could be done because transporting animals by road is not a good idea. There has been a delay in the arrival of Spectacled Langurs and Himalayan Black Bears from the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary, Agartala, and Double Humped Camels from Ladakh for the same reason.

    Since India doesn’t have aircraft large enough to house the animals, the mammals have to be transported by road. This takes at least 15 days, and sometimes a month, said Range Gowda, the BBP’s Executive Director.

    According to him, transporting birds by road is easy, but not animals. “Even if we want to pay the airlines, the requests are denied. There is no exclusive aircraft in India to transport animals. Transporting them by road is very challenging. Animals have to endure bad roads, dust, people, changing weathers in every zone and stress,” Gowda explained to Deccan Herald. “That’s why their survival rate is low. In the past, animals have either died or fallen sick en route or died after reaching the destination. Transporting animals by road is expensive too. It costs around Rs 9-10 lakh.”

    The BBP had made a list of animals it wanted to exchange. “We have many lions, tigers and elephants which we are willing to exchange for other exotic and rare animals. But other zoos are not coming forward because of transport problems. That’s why we are unable to show a varieties of animals,” Gowda added.

  • 17 Jul 2015 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    The European Commission (EC) has defended itself against accusations that it has been turning a ‘blind eye’ to bad animal transport standards in member states. 

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  • 17 Jul 2015 12:16 PM | Anonymous

    Cliff Bollmann is one of the world's leading airport architects. He designed the spiffy JetBlue terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport and worked on others in San Francisco, Boston and Chennai, India. He knows exactly how far bathrooms can be situated from gates so passengers don't miss the last call for their flight.

    But this international-airport expert is bit befuddled by the plumbing involved in his current assignment: designing a terminal at JFK called the Ark, dedicated to serving pets, livestock and zoo animals. For Mr. Bollmann, the question is: How to handle all the bull poop?

    In addition to giving temporary shelter to furry and feathered friends in transit, the Ark is designed to house dozens of horses, as well as up to 180 head of cattle that are capable of producing 5,000 pounds of poop every day.

    Failure to efficiently dispose of this formidable load could lend an unacceptable stink to a project ­designed to attract the sort of high-end clients who transport their Pomeranian pooch or Persian ­pussycat to far-flung locales. So Mr. Bollmann and his colleagues at architecture firm Gensler have come up with an ingenious plan: Angle the cattle-pen floor just enough so that manure slides away into a receptacle below. They call it the "poo chute."

    "Way too much thought has gone into this," said Mr. Bollmann with a sigh. "There have been a lot of five-hour meetings."

    Getting details like the poo chute right is vital for Mr. Bollmann and the private developers who are investing $48 million to build the Ark, which began construction in May and is set to open next year. The stakes are also high for JFK, New York's global gateway, whose primary facility for handling animals dates back to the Eisenhower administration.

    The Ark will replace a facility called the VetPort, a 10,000-square-foot kennel that has been around since the 1950s. A 2013 report by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey described management at the VetPort as "poor" and said the facility "suffered from a location that insulated it from the traveling public for whom a large portion of its revenue … was targeted."

    The VetPort is located at Cargo Building 189, while the Ark will be constructed at Cargo Building 78.

    The VetPort looks even worse compared with luxurious animal accommodations near other transit hubs. Less than 10 minutes from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, for example, is the Amstel Horsehotel. Equine guests there can take a shower and munch on hay in a serene setting before trotting onto a plane.

    Another problem for animals entering the country via JFK: Many must be trucked two hours north, to a federal quarantine facility in Newburgh. The Ark would provide its own federally supervised quarantine, sparing the animals and their owners the time and expense of a second trip. "It's definitely going to make for safer, more efficient handling," said Bill Nichols, president of the Alex Nichols Agency, a Long Island-based horse-transport firm.

    'A new paradigm'

    The Ark is the brainchild of developers John Cuticelli and Aaron Perl of Racebrook Capital, who specialize in reviving distressed hotels and condos. The pair saw serious profit potential in the opportunity to replace VetPort. By transforming an abandoned 178,000-square-foot cargo terminal in the recesses of JFK into a top-notch animal shelter and quarantine, they plan to make money by charging owners just as a hotel would.

    And a hotel is what Mr. Bollmann and his team of six architects and six engineers are in many ways building, paying meticulous attention to the guests' varying needs. In some ways, animals will be better treated than many human passengers at JFK.

    The horse area will resemble a barn, with more than 70 stalls, soft floors that don't irritate hooves and a walking track. Penguins need cold quarters, and perhaps some privacy, because Mr. Bollmann has learned "they need to mate all the time."

    Canine guests, meanwhile, will reside at a 20,000-square-foot "resort" called Paradise 4 Paws that will feature bone-shaped splashing pools, massage therapy and spa services like "pawdicures with colored nail pawlish," said Paradise 4 Paws' "chief barketing officer," Johanna Newcomb. Felines will have the Cat Adventure Jungle to stretch their legs on custom-made climbing trees with a view of the aquarium.

    How much will such pampering cost? Entry-level accommodation for dogs costs $50 per night at other resorts run by Paradise 4 Paws, for instance. The Port Authority antici­pates collecting about $5 million in annual rent over the 27-year lease.

    Such numbers don't seem outsized when considering that animal travel is a fast-growing business in a city where residents spend ever-­higher sums on their pets. (The amount New Yorkers shelled out annually on pets rose by 25% during the 10 years ended in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to $2.7 billion.)

    Shipments of horses, parakeets, goldfish and other creatures through the area have risen by 28% during the past three years, to 2,801 in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (A single shipment can contain many animals.) The Port Authority expects about 70,000 ­animals to pass through the Ark annually. Nationwide, more than 2 million pets and other animals are transported by air every year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    Private operators run horse-­quarantine centers near airports in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Juan, but the Ark represents, in Mr. Cuticelli's words, a "new paradigm" for animal transport because it aims to accommodate everything from ­antelopes to zebras. "If you move ­animals or animals move you, the Ark at JFK will handle it," Mr. Perl explained.

    'Crazy money'

    Cliff Bollman designed the Ark knowing that owners would want a luxury stay for their beloved pets.

    David Lang hasn't handled any antelopes or zebras, but he has moved most everything else as founder of Pet Chauffeur, a ­Brooklyn-based firm that transports animals to places near and far. In mid-June, a Scarsdale family moving to Colorado had to leave their turtle behind, so Mr. Lang sheltered the pet overnight and put it on a plane to Denver the next day so it could rejoin its owners. He charged a $550 fee, plus $150 for the flight.

    "I feel the Ark is validation of what I've been doing for a long time," Mr. Lang said. "You hear stories about the crazy money that rich people spend on their pets, and I can only tell you they're mostly true."

    High-level service like that has enabled Mr. Lang, 46, to build a company that generates about $1 million a year in revenue. He estimated that preparing animals for flights accounts for 20% of his business. He said he'd like to expand that business simply because the dollars involved are much bigger than what can be had from animal ground transportation.

    For example, it might cost $1,000 to book a dog on a flight to London, but on top of that it costs about $200 for a crate and $600 for vet visits and certifications. Add in airport fees and driver commissions, and the tab can easily rise to $2,500, Mr. Lang said. Shipping experts say it costs up to $10,000 to send a horse overseas.

    "I think the animal terminal will be a big success because there's definitely a market for this sort of place in New York," Mr. Lang said.

    To entice jet-setters who might otherwise fly their pets out of Teterboro in private planes, the Ark plans to offer pet accommodations that most owners would find plenty comfortable. For instance, the facility will offer a "top-dog suite" that figures to cost at least $100 a night. That's five times more than the VetPort charges, according to the U.S. State Department. But the suite includes a human-size bed for the dog, a flat-screen TV, a webcam and a bedside photo frame available for a family portrait "to make your pet feel even more at home."

    "It will be a place for people who love their pets like they love their kids," pledged Mr. Bollmann. "Maybe more."

    Full Story here:

  • 10 Jul 2015 12:11 PM | Anonymous

    Prague, Czech Republic - Four mares of the Przewalski horse from the Prague zoo left for Mongolia, which is the country of the horse's origin, aboard a transport plane this morning as part of the project Return of Wild Horses.

    Within the project in which the Czech army participates, 15 Przewalski horses have been transported to Mongolia since 2011.

    The transport of the horses from the zoo to the airport was affected by strong heat that hit the Czech Republic this weekend.

    Prague zoo director Miroslav Bobek said the heat complicated the transport but the horses could not be moved during the night because this would affect their biorhythm.

    Another problem is a recent torrential rain that flooded some parts of the semidesert in western Mongolia, to which the mares would be transported after their landing in Bulgan, Mongolia, Bobek said.

    He said 14 of the 15 horses transported from Prague to Mongolia have survived and they have given birth to eight foals so far. The horses are living in the Gobi B national park.

    The Prague zoo is one of the main organisers of the transfers of the Przewalski horse, the last of which was shot dead in the wild 40 years ago, back to its original homeland.

    The transfers from Western Europe started in the 1990s and over a hundred horses have returned to Mongolia since.

    At present, about 1900 Przewalski horses live all over the world, including some 300 in two national parks in Mongolia.

    The Prague zoo started breeding the Przewalski horse in 1932. It has kept the international pedigree book of this species since 1959. 

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  • 10 Jul 2015 12:08 PM | Anonymous

    It was pitch black at 1am when Claudia Blackley and Jarrod Male got the call out.

    They jumped in the ambulance and travelled the 45 minutes from Canberra to Yass to assess the sick patient, who was having trouble breathing due to a large lump that had formed on her throat.

    Unlike any other ambulance, this one took the patient straight to the Animal Emergency Hospital in Fyshwick.

    The patient was a dog, and much to the relief of the owner, the beloved pet was released from the veterinary clinic alive and well a week later.

    The Pet Ambulance, run by vet nurses Ms Blackley and Mr Male, began eight years ago in the capital. The service was purely to transport pets from vet clinics across Canberra to the Animal Emergency Hospital for overnight attention.

    Now, the offering has expanded. The recent addition of a real former ambulance has had tongues wagging across town.

    "It's an ex-human ambulance which was appropriate for our need," Mr Male said.

    "The way the vehicle is set up with the oxygen delivery equipment and the storage is really good. Because it's a big vehicle it allows us to do multiple transports so we can have a couple of quite large cages in it."

    Ms Blackley said she wanted the service to be utilised better, and the addition of the ambulance helped to draw attention to what they had on offer.

    "It's for anyone from the elderly who can't necessarily get their pet to the vet, or they don't drive anymore, to families who have to get the kids off to school, or other things to organise," Ms Blackley said.

    "Or if something happens in the middle of the night, if a dog gets in a fight or isn't breathing, we can take it to the emergency centre," she said.

    Mr Male said the intensive care transport could be of enormous help when a pet is in need.

    "The dog we picked up in Yass was intubated, we had to hook it up via an oxygen tank and although it was breathing by itself the tube couldn't be removed because the dog's airway was restricted. We had to keep it anaesthetised the whole trip," he said.

    While not everyone could afford the service, Mr Male said he had been lobbying pet insurance companies to include the pet ambulance as part of their policies, however as yet he had had no luck.

    "Hopefully it will change," Mr Male said.

    "We'd love to be able to treat every animal, but we're not a publicly funded unit."

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  • 10 Jul 2015 12:05 PM | Anonymous

    The non-profit Car Care Council suggests the following tips for drivers planning a road trip with the family pet so that all passengers can remain comfortable in the close quarters of a vehicle interior.

    "Before you and your pet hit the road, make sure your vehicle is both pet ready and road ready," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Take steps to keep your pet safe and conduct a pre-trip vehicle inspection, so you can have an enjoyable, low-stress trip with your pet in tow."

    According to the Humane Society, keep your pets in the backseat. The safest way for a dog to travel in the car is in a crate that has been anchored to the vehicle using a seatbelt or other secure means. Cats should remain in carriers. Never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck and make plenty of rest stop breaks.

    Be sure to check your vehicle's air conditioning (A/C) system before embarking on summer road trips. Driving with your windows closed and the A/C on will keep all passengers comfortable and protect your pet from sticking its head out the window. Do not leave pets unattended in the car, even with the windows slightly open, as inside temperatures soar and will endanger your pet.

    Cleaning your vehicle's interior will make for more comfortable travel with your pet. Heavy duty floor liners, water proof car seat covers and water repellent fabric or leather solutions will help protect your vehicle from pet hair, odors and other messes. Keep a kit in the trunk for on-the-spot cleanups, containing such items as upholstery or leather cleaner, glass cleaner, paper towels or rags and lint rollers. Place dryer sheets under the seats to help keep your car smelling fresh.

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  • 10 Jul 2015 12:02 PM | Anonymous

    Owning a primate as a pet would be a federal crime if the Captive Primate Safety Act is passed. Proposed late last month and co-sponsored by Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, the measure amends existing legislation to include the sort of animal that mauled Stamford’s Charla Nash in 2009.

    Nash spoke in favor of the bill last year, giving Congress a detailed account of her injuries.

    “I’m here today to make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else. In 2009, I was attacked and mauled by my boss’s chimp, Travis. He ripped off my face, hands and doctors were able to salvage my thumb and sew it on sideways, Nash said last year.

    Connecticut is one of about 25 states with restrictions on so-called exotic animals like chimpanzees and other primates, but as Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, wrote in a press release when the bill was initially proposed in 2013, the animals are often purchased legally and transported over state lines.

    The current bill, H.R.2920, would add primates to the list of exotic animals prohibited from transport over state lines under the Lacey Act of 1981.

    “Allowing primates to be held as pets for individuals can result in nothing but tragedy,” Blumenauer said in 2013. “Time and again we have seen that it is dangerous and unhealthy for both humans and captive primates and is cruel to the animals.”

    Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who sponsored the legislation this year and co-sponsored it back in 2013, said then that more than 270 people, among them 86 children, had been injured by captive primates since 1990.

    Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said then that, “Private citizens are ill-equipped to properly care for these complex and intelligent animals, and law enforcement agencies expend countless hours and resources responding to the escapes, attacks, and neglect cases that inevitably arise when primates are kept in private hands.”

    Nash attempted to sue Connecticut in 2014 on the grounds that state officials knew the chimp was dangerous and residing illegally in the state. That lawsuit was blocked by the state legislature.

    Full Story here:

  • 10 Jul 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Australian researchers are hoping a new study will cast fresh light on horse transport practices and transport-related illnesses.

    Australian horse owners and organisations are invited to complete an online 15-minute survey if they have transported horses within the past two years.

    Barbara Padalino, a fully qualified equine veterinarian who is a PhD student at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, said the aim of the research was to get insights into how people managed and prepared their horses for transportation, the act of transporting horses, and how they managed the animals afterwards.

    “If any diseases or injuries have occurred to your horses related to a transport event in the last two years, we are interested in documenting and investigating the underlying potential reasons behind these events,” she said.

    “The aim of this study is to gather data to identify transportation risk factors, and therefore potentially make horse transportation safer and less stressful.”

    However, to achieve this the researchers needed the “real world” input of horse owners.

    The research team was targeting people involved in the management, care and transport of horses, either professionals or amateurs.

    They intend, among other things, to explore the relationship between transport practices and the occurrence of any transport-related illness.

    “By filling in this survey, horse owners will be making a valuable contribution to improving horse health and welfare,” Padalino said.

    The results will be used as part of a PhD thesis.

    Those interested in the results can leave an email address. They will ultimately be invited to a presentation and discussion of the results, or, alternatively, receive an email detailing the major findings.

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  • 10 Jul 2015 11:55 AM | Anonymous

    Ready or not, summer is here. For many American families, this means it is time to pack up the car and make the long drive to your favorite vacation spot. The process of transportation can be difficult for everyone involved, and the same is also true for cattle as they make their way to the feedlot.

    Imagine how feeder cattle must feel with the tremendous stress placed on them during the transition from the ranch to the feedlot. During a period of two to three days, calves are often weaned, sold at auction, trucked as far as 3,000 miles and placed in a completely different environment with different food, water and social structure. This can cause stress to the animal and take money out of your pocket.

    Many major feedlot management problems such as the occurrence of disease, death loss, and poor performance of calves are associated with the shipping event. According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, shipping fever costs the United States cattle industry $624 million annually.

    An animal under shipping stress will exhibit symptoms such as:

    1.     A lack of appetite
    2.     Very loose manure or a very dry small volume of manure
    3.     Drooping cold ears
    4.     “Gaunt” look or no fill
    5.     General lethargy and head down
    6.     Shivering during cold weather
    7.     Mucous hanging from the nose
    8.     Coughing
    9.     Excess mud/manure on hair
    10.     Blood in manure
    11.     Kicking at the belly (hardware or calculi)

    Not every animal shipped will demonstrate signs of shipping stress immediately after a move. Generally, larger animals have less tension. For example, a 250-pound calf would make a trip easier than a 185-pound calf and a 550-pound easier than a 450-pound animal. Weather can also play a part in causing strain. Cattle can become more susceptible to stress during very cold weather and wet weather, when cattle can slip on wet surfaces and during extreme heat.

    For this reason, producers need to ensure their cattle get off to the right start once they arrive at the feedlot. Unhealthy or stressed cattle that arrive at the feedlot can be more vulnerable to respiratory and enteric disease, especially if their previous home had a poor nutritional program. Feedlot owners will often see a lag in performance for the first 30 days and a spike in death loss and overall morbidity.

    In addition to vaccination programs, biosecurity measures, early detection of sickness and treatment of disease, a key element of overall health for receiving cattle is promoting proper gut health through nutrition. Gut health management is essential for building a foundation for performance and profitability in beef production. As animals transition to the feedyard, healthy cattle will eat and produce more efficiently, ensuring they are performing at their maximum potential. The Alltech Gut Health Management program focuses on supporting animal performance by promoting rumen efficiency, building natural defenses and maximizing growth.

    While many feedlot deaths are unexplainable, cattle producers can use good nutrition and management to help combat these sudden deaths. No matter what management technique or nutritional application an operation finds successful, transportation and the proper receiving of cattle are vital to overall profitability. So this summer as you pack up to drive on vacation, remember the stress of travel can have big ramifications on your trip as well as the profitability of your operation.

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