List of Closures and Evacuations | Real-Time Updates OAK PARK, Calif. (CBSLA) — The devastating Woolsey Fire continues to spread across the Southland, causing the evacuation of over 75,000 homes already in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. CBS 2’s Tom Wait witnessed the fire’s destructive power firsthand while reporting from Oak Park. (CBS2) In the video…
Dozens of wildfires ravaging forests in Appalachia are prompting mass evacuations — including an entire town in western North Carolina, a state official said. The Party Rock Fire, which has consumed about 2,000 acres, was headed toward Lake Lure, a community of about 1,200 people, beside a lake by the same name in Chimney Rock…
Drone footage gives a bird’s eye view of the massive sinkhole in Harbor, Oregon.
HARBOR, Ore. (AP/WATE) – Transportation officials say a massive sinkhole has opened near a highway along the coast of southern Oregon.
Kyle Rice, posted a YouTube video of drone footage of the massive sinkhole from a bird’s eye view. Oregon. The Oregon Department of Transportation says the sinkhole off Highway 101 has been plaguing the Curry County town of Harbor since heavy rains last month.
A contractor was working on it Thursday when the erosion started to accelerate on a nearby road. Officials say the sinkhole didn’t swallow any vehicles, and there were no injuries. Signs have been placed along the highway directing traffic to a detour. ODOT spokesman Jared Castle says drivers can expect delays of five to 10 minutes.
The agency plans to get bids from contractors so repairs can start quickly, but repairs could be upwards of $4 million according to ODOT. Castle says ODOT wants the road partially opened within a week, but the entire repair could take eight weeks.
|Africa promises one of the best safari experiences in the world, enabling you to see the five big wild animal groups: the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the rhino and the buffalo. Capturing a good photo of these beautiful animals is not always easy, and very often, it comes down to being at the right place at the right time. But, the pictures below are pretty incredible. So, get ready to enjoy some animal watching with this great photo series!|
|Male lion ignoring a group of Thomson’s Gazelles.
It happened Tuesday night on Tamarack Lake at the Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area.
The Atacama Desert in Chile, known as the driest place on Earth, is awash with color after a year’s worth of extreme rainfall.
In an average year, this desert is a very dry place. Arica, Chile, in the northern Atacama holds the world record for the longest dry streak, having gone 173 months without a drop of rain in the early 20th century. In another Atacama neighbor to the south of Arica, the average annual rainfall in the city of Antofagasta is just 0.07 inches.
But strong El Niño years can be a rainy boom for the region, located just to the east of the warmest ocean water on the globe. In March, heavy thunderstorms brought 0.96 inches of rain in one day to parts of the Atacama Desert. This doesn’t seem like that much, but it was a huge rainfall event for the desert — over 14 years of rain in one day. The torrent caused the typically dry Copiapo River to swell far beyond its banks. Flooding killed at least nine people that day.
As El Niño strengthens, so does the rainfall increases across South America. As areas of low pressure swing east into the Andes Mountains, the usually warm waters off the coast provide more than enough water vapor to fuel extreme rainfall events.
The malva (or mallow) flowers on the floor of the Atacama desert bloom every five to seven years, usually coinciding with El Nino. But they have been taking advantage of this year’s particularly rainy conditions, leading to the “most spectacular blossoming of the past 18 years.”
Interestingly, Death Valley has also been overflowing this month. The official weather station at Death Valley National Park recorded 0.55 inches of rain on Oct. 5. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s a bucket-load for the world’s hottest location — enough to tie the wettest 24-hour period on record in the month of October.
“A series of unusual storms in October caused large amounts of damage throughout Death Valley National Park,” park officials wrote on Facebook. “Flash floods destroyed significant portions of multiple roads and heavily damaged several historic structures at Scotty’s Castle and deposited debris in Devils Hole.”
The Death Valley National Historic Association has set up a fund to help restore some of these damaged historic locations.
via: The Washington Post.
Source: The ‘driest place on Earth’ is covered in pink flowers after rain
Antarctica is currently gaining more ice than it’s losing, according to a recent study by NASA.
“We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica,” said lead researcher Jay Zwally from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center “Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica—there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.”
But if Antarctica is not losing land ice overall, then where is this sea-level rise coming from? Researchers aren’t sure, suggesting there is another contribution to sea level rises that has yet to be accounted for.
The findings show just how difficult it is to measure changes in Antarctica. Researchers analyzed variations in the surface height of the Antarctic ice sheet using radar instruments on two European Space Agency satellites from 1992 to 2001, and by laser sensors on a NASA satellite from 2003 to 2008. While other scientists had also observed gains in elevations in East Antarctica, they had wrongly attributed it to recent snowfall. Researchers used meteorological data dating back to 1979 to show the ice cores in the area had in fact been thickening.
Antarctica may not be contributing to sea level rises, but researchers caution against celebrating as the current trend could reverse within a few decades. Courtesy of: Quartz. http://qz.com/538902
TOKYO (AP) — Lawmakers in the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau passed a law Thursday to make almost all its coastal waters a marine sanctuary in the latest move to expand ocean protections.
A news release said Palau’s president plans to sign the legislation next week. Friday is a national holiday in Palau.
The Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act designates 80 percent of the nation’s maritime territory as a fully protected marine reserve in which no extractive activities, such as fishing or mining, can take place.
At 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), or slightly larger than the U.S. state of California, the sanctuary will be the sixth-largest fully protected marine area in the world.
The measure also seeks to prevent illegal fishing by tightening rules for vessels passing through Palau’s waters.
About 20 percent of Palau’s waters will be reserved as a domestic fishing zone for local fishermen and small-scale commercial fisheries with limited exports. There will be a five-year transition as the number of commercial licenses issued to foreign commercial fishing vessels will be reduced and phased out.
President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. described the measure as essential.
“We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations,” he said in a statement.
The country created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, but until recently had only one patrol boat to help protect its great hammerheads, leopard sharks and more than 130 other species of shark and rays from extinction.
Earlier this year, the government set fire to several vessels caught fishing illegally to underscore its commitment to protecting its seas.
Palau, about 600 miles (970 kilometers) miles east of the Philippines, is one of the world’s smallest countries, its 20,000 people scattered across a tropical archipelago of 250 islands that is a biodiversity hotspot.
The Pew Charitable Trusts provided technical support for establishing the shark sanctuary and the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.
New commitments made this year would protect more than 2.5 million square kilometers of the world’s ocean territory.
Britain plans to establish the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve in the South Pacific. On Sept. 28, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced plans for a fully protected ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) northeast of his country’s North Island.
Earlier this month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet promised to support efforts by the indigenous Rapa Nui community of Easter Island to create a fully protected marine park. Pic courtesy of: memenews.me.
Article courtesy of: AP
Related: Observer: Goals of High Achievers
Happy International Sloth Day!!!! A wonderful day to celebrate my favorite animal!!!! So proud of all the hard work Becky Naomi Cliffe @ Sloth Sanctuary, Costa Rica has done to research how to reintroduce orphaned, hand raised sloths.
See More: http://beckycliffe.com/sloth-science-2015/
Related: My battle with Leishmaniasis: a flesh-eating parasite By: Becky Radcliffe
In my second year at the University of Manchester I studied parasitology, and the terrifying images of dramatic lesions and extreme elephantiasis are burnt vividly into my memory. Of course, I never considered that one day I would become one of those horror stories. In July I was diagnosed with a tropical flesh-eating parasite called Leishmaniasis, and for the past 10 weeks I have been battling to regain my health. We never fully appreciate how lucky we are to be healthy, and unfortunately I learnt this lesson the hard way.
What is Leishmaniasis?
Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania. There are actually 21 different species of leishmania, and they are found throughout Asia, Africa, South/Central America and Southern Europe. The parasite can be found in many different mammals, but the only way for it to be transmitted to a human is through the bite of an infected sandfly. When an infected sandfly bites a human, the parasite is transmitted into the body and replicates within the human macrophage cells. I was diagnosed with a type of infection called cutaneous leishmaniasis, which basically means that the disease appears as a lesion on the skin at the site of the original sandfly bite. This wound then continues to grow, and can spread to other areas of the body. Often, it will infect the mucosal lining of the mouth, nose and ears causing serious disfigurement. In minor cases, the infection heals itself within a year, however in most cases (including mine) treatment is needed.
Leishmaniasis and sloths
Unfortunately, sloths are often thought of as being dirty, lazy animals that transmit diseases and parasites. One of the many diseases that people blame sloths for is leishmaniasis. Many local people are terrified of sloths for this reason, and sadly they pass this fear down through generations. I have lost count of the number of people that have asked me if a sloth can give them leishmaniasis. The simple answer is no. This misconception stems from a few scientific studies that have found sloths to test positive for the leishmania parasite. They are, in scientific terms, a ‘reservoir’ for leishmania, but so are many mammals – including dogs! There is no way a sloth can transmit leishmaniasis to a human – this only happens through the bite of an infected sandfly. It is just one of the many negative myths that the sloths are burdened with!
I remember the sandfly that bit me. I was walking my new puppy on the beach at dusk and was annoyed by the itchy bump that later appeared on my arm. I forgot about it and only really noticed something unusual when the bite was still there two weeks later. Nobody seemed particularly concerned by the little scab on my arm, and I probably left it far longer than I should before seeking a diagnosis. We watched the little hole in my arm slowly grow for 4 weeks before deciding to have it tested. Within 24 hours, the doctor had called and told me that I had tested positive for leishmaniasis and should begin treatment immediately. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
As it turned out, there are no nice treatment options. The Costa Rican method involves up to 60 injections of glucantime – a toxic chemical that kills the parasite but also comes with a high risk of liver and heart damage. That didn’t sound like much fun, so I decided to seek treatment in the UK since I had been due to return during August anyway. When I finally arrived at my doctors office and presented him with a flesh-eating parasite, he looked at me like I had two heads. I was advised to go to the emergency room at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to find more specialised help. I don’t think that many people turn up at the hospital claiming to have leishmaniasis, since doctors of all shapes and sizes turned up to see the girl with the flesh-eating parasite. It’s safe to say that many people looked at me like I had two heads that day.
I was finally introduced to the wonderful Dr Tim O’Dempsey. He took a biopsy of my arm (much to my horror) and told me the bad news: the UK treatment options aren’t much better than the toxic Costa Rican injections. Furthermore, I had to wait 5 days for the biopsy results before I could do anything at all – we had to just sit and watch the hole continue to grow in my arm. It was an overwhelmingly creepy feeling knowing that something was munching through the flesh on my arm and I couldn’t do anything to stop it! Depending on the species of leishmania I was infected with, I now had two treatment choices:
1) I could be admitted to hospital for three weeks of intravenous medication (chemotherapy), which basically involves the same toxic chemicals as the Costa Rican injections (think heart problems and liver failure). Famously, TV presenter Ben Fogle endured this treatment after contracting leishmaniasis in Peru, and he ended up bed-bound with pneumonia – no thank you!
2) OR I could trial a new oral medication from Germany called Miltefosine. This horrifically expensive drug comes with a bunch of awful side effects, including sickness so severe that many people simply can not finish the treatment. This option wasn’t guaranteed to work either, and had never before been used to treat leishmaniasis from Costa Rica. Furthermore, this medication is only effective against one subspecies of the parasite – the most dangerous subspecies.
As it turned out, fate made the decision for me. I was diagnosed as having the dangerous subspecies (one that is prone to infecting the mouth and nose causing disfigurement) and so I was prescribed 4 weeks worth of Miltefosine pills. I began treatment immediately and initially, things looked promising. The hole in my arm stopped growing, and the pills weren’t making me too nauseous. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise it at the time but this medication takes a huge toll on the immune system. My arm was healing but I was becoming weaker every day. Within three weeks, strange painless lumps had started to appear all over my arm and my lymph nodes were inflamed. By this point I had returned to Costa Rica and was looking forward to getting back to normal – but normal was a long way off.
The lumps grew, and one in particular became very sore. It turns out that these were abscesses growing under my skin as a result of a staphylococcus infection. Within a few days I was feverish, my heart rate was up and my blood pressure dropped – all very bad signs of a systemic infection. I was rushed to a local doctor who prescribed antibiotic injections and bed rest. The rest was a roller-coaster. The injections (that were unfortunately in my bum cheek) left me with a second infection, which quickly developed into a large abscess leaving me unable to walk or sit down. I was forced to waddle everywhere. After one of the most uncomfortable weeks of my life, the doctor surgically drained 10 ml of pus from the abscess, and prescribed stronger antibiotics. I then developed further infections in my eye and mouth, all requiring treatment. And then to top everything off, a final infection in my left arm that also had to be surgically drained and my arm stitched up.
So today I am writing this, finally feeling like my roller-coaster ride is coming to an end. The leishmaniasis on my arm is healing, and the infections are finally going away. I still have stitches in my left arm and I have a few days of antibiotics left – but I have gone almost a week now without any new symptoms developing, and I am finally beginning to regain my energy (and most importantly, I don’t need to waddle anymore)! It has been a horrific journey, but I will never again be taking my good health for granted.
Now, I am finally ready to put my snake boots on and get back out in the jungle! It’s been a while since I have been able to follow up on the Sloth Backpack Project, so it’s time for me to get productive. http://www.slothsanctuary.com/blog/
More Information: World Health Organization Disease Management info: Lleishmaniasis
This poor fox cub was almost strangled in a football net. He struggled a lot and ended up with the net tightly wrapped all around his body. All of this could have been avoided by, simply, rolling up the net or putting it away.
Thanks to the gentleman who spotted him so quickly, the cub was safely freed and released.
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Related: The Pope Visits Cuba via Time.com
Cooler and wetter weather in the Northwest will be good news for those fighting several wildfires in the region.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed Thursday a record $243 million was spent last week combatting wildfires raging around the country.
The U.S. Forest Service has been forced to borrow funds from forest restoration work, normally used to reduce the risk of wildfires, as it has already spent all the money allotted by Congress for its 12-month budget. Vilsack noted this has happened the past six of 10 years.
Much to his chagrin, Vilsack said the agency will likely be forced to borrow more funds and continue to expect spending $200 million a week battling the blazes.
Firefighters have been making more gains on two massive wildfires burning in north-central Washington.
As of late Thursday night, the Okanogan Complex was 60 percent contained but has grown to nearly 150,000 acres. Last week, it became the largest wildfire in state history.
Officials are managing the complex of fires as one fire, including the Chelan Complex. That particular fire was 70 percent contained and had burned more than 93,000 acres as of Thursday night.
Nearly 2,000 firefighters are working on the two big fire complexes that have burned more than 140 residences. Many other residents are still under evacuation notices.
Fire officials say they are both building lines around the fires and mopping up inside their borders.
Wildfires have taken their toll on the Western landscape this year. They’ve reduced entire neighborhoods to ash, forced thousands to evacuate and required a nonstop battle from countless firefighters, some who have come from other countries to help.
And there’s no indication that fire season is letting up at all.
More than 8.2 million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s well above the 10-year average of about 5.57 million acres through Sept. 2. As the Washington Post notes, that’s larger than the total area of Maryland.
There has also been a human toll during this fire season. Five firefighters have been killed in the line of duty this year, according to Wildfire Today. A year ago, there were 10 wildfire-related firefighter deaths, NIFC reported.
There are currently dozens of large wildfires burning across the West; here’s an update on a few of them.
A massive Butte fire burned more than 50,000 acres across the counties of Amador and Calaveras near Sacramento.
The blaze has already destroyed 6 structures and was only 10% contained as of September 11. Evacuations were ordered for both counties and over 1,500 fire personnel were dispatched to fight the growing fire.
Officials reported that the steep topography in the area mixed with harsh weather conditions is making the fire grow at an unprecedented rate.
Firefighters battling a destructive wildfire near John Day are allowing people who have been evacuated for weeks to return to their homes.
The last evacuation alerts were lifted Wednesday, but residents in several neighborhoods were told to be ready to leave on short notice.
The fire has destroyed 43 homes and burned more than 165 square miles. It is 52 percent contained.
Crews focused Wednesday on containing spot fires that broke out beyond the containment lines during a period of hotter temperatures and lower humidity Tuesday. They were hopeful that cooler, more humid conditions Wednesday would allow firefighters to control the flames and strengthen their containment lines.
Fire crews are aggressively working to prevent flames from expanding on a 3-week-old blaze in west-central Idaho that has already burned 143 square miles of dry timber.
More than 900 firefighters are battling the fire, but it was only 30 percent contained. It’s burning in terrain surrounded by large amounts of unburned fuel.
Crews focused their efforts Wednesday on protecting structures along the Salmon River corridor, and rafters were still being stopped and evacuated before entering the fire perimeter.
In northern Idaho, flames crept overnight as close as a mile and a half to the historic Fenn Ranger Station, causing mandatory evacuations.
Idaho currently has 17 large fires, the most in the nation, the National Interagency Fire Center says.
A firefighter working to battle a wildfire north of Helena has been hospitalized after an ATV crash.
The Helena Independent Record reports that the injured man was adjusting hoses in steep terrain Wednesday at the time of the accident. A nearby firefighter/EMT helped with emergency care before the man was taken to a medical facility in Helena.
A Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokeswoman declined to comment on how the accident occurred. Officials have not released the injured man’s name.
VERLOT, Wash. (AP) — Ice caves popular with hikers northeast of Seattle partially collapsed, killing one person and leaving at least four other injured, officials said.
Monday’s collapse came after authorities warned that the caves were especially dangerous because of warming temperatures.
The person who died remained buried under the debris at the Big Four Ice Caves east of Verlot, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said late Monday night. The recovery effort was suspended at nightfall.
All victims were believed accounted for, Ireton said.
Three of the injured, including a 25-year-old man in critical condition, were airlifted to a Seattle trauma center. They included a seriously injured 35-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman in satisfactory condition, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. Their injuries included cuts and leg and pelvis fractures.
A fourth person, a juvenile girl with minor injuries, was sent to an Everett, Washington, hospital, Ireton said. Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett also expected a second patient, spokeswoman Diane Torrance said late Monday night.
The ice caves have been closed until further notice.
The first call to emergency services came in about 5:38 p.m. Monday and the collapse probably happened about 45 minutes earlier, Ireton said. There was no cell phone service at the remote cave site.
The U.S. Forest Service warned hikers in May that the ice caves were in their “most dangerous state” due to unseasonably warm weather. The caves about 70 miles northeast of Seattle are a popular hiking destination. Temperatures in the area Monday reportedly were in the 80s.
Multiple warning signs have been put up in the past year to indicate the danger, Tracy O’Toole, a spokeswoman for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, told the Daily Herald of Everett.
On Sunday, a hiker filmed a section of the caves tumbling down. Several tourists were inside a cave during that collapse, but there were no reported injuries.
The caves are formed by avalanches that cascade down from nearby Big Four Mountain during winter and spring. Most years, one or more caves form as the ice melts.
In July 2010, an 11-year-old girl was killed near the caves by a bouncing chunk of ice. She never even went inside the caves.
Chloe Jakubowski, 18, told The Seattle Times that she and three friends drove about 15 miles to a pay phone to alert emergency crews to the injuries.
“Everybody there, we grabbed everybody out and helped as best we could,” she said.
Jakubowski told The Times she and a handful of others were in the cave when she heard a loud crack, then ice and debris cascaded down. She said she covered her head with her arms and crouched behind a giant rock of ice.
When she stood up, a woman next to her lay unconscious. Others nearby had cuts and broken bones.
“It was extremely gruesome, honestly,” said Jakubowski, who suffered scratches and other minor injuries. She said she saw the warning signs outside but went in anyway, adding she didn’t see anything that seemed to point toward a collapse, and others already were in the cave.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted on June 29, 2015 by Bob Berwyn: Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing…
Staff Report: FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats.To learn more, researchers with the Scripps Marine Bioacoustics Lab and Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab set out specialized recording devices on the seafloor, tracking whale vocalizations from 2006-2012.The findings were described in the journal Endangered Species Research. The study was supported by the Office of Naval Research, and provides the first detailed view into the spatial use of Southern California waters by blue and fin whales, the two largest cetacean species in the world. Both are classified as endangered species.
Scripps marine acoustician Ana Širović found that blue whale calls were more commonly detected at coastal sites and near the northern Channel Islands, while fin whale calls were detected further off shore, in central and southern areas.
“I think it’s an interesting difference in trends because both of the species were subject to whaling earlier in the twentieth century, and now they’re clearly responding differently,” said Širović.
The acoustic data and overall trends outlined in this study are consistent with visual observations from another Scripps-led study. Širović said the parallel findings between the two studies as evidence that passive acoustics can be used as a powerful tool to monitor population trends for these large marine mammals.
“I think it’s very exciting that we see the same trends in the visual and acoustic data, because it indicates the possibility of using acoustics to monitor long-term trends and changes,” she said, adding that the new study suggests there is a resident fin whale population in the area.
The seasonal recordings of blue whale calls reinforces what’s already known about their migration from the waters off the coast of Mexico and Costa Rica, arriving in Southern California in late spring to forage through the fall.
The leave in early winter, but researchers aren’t certain where they go next. Although researchers have studied blue and fin whales for years, Širović said both species are particularly mysterious, and scientists still don’t know some basic information about them, such as their mating system or breeding grounds.
The Southern California Bight is a highly productive ecological territory for many marine animals due to strong upwelling of cold water, but researchers have not found any evidence that blue or fin whales are breeding there.
The productivity of the coastal region also makes it a hotbed for human activity, with large cities onshore and ships, commercial fishing vessels, and other human impacts ever-present in the water. Since fin whales generally live further offshore, Širović posits that they might have a slight advantage over blue whales, which tend to inhabit areas where there is more ship traffic–increasing their chances for ship strikes.
“It seems that for fin whales, things are probably improving,” she said Širović.
“For blue whales, it’s a little bit harder to tell. There is a question right now as to whether their population has grown to its maximum capacity, because there are many lines of evidence showing that their population is not growing currently,” she said. “So the question remains, is it because that’s just what their population size can be maximally, or are there factors that are keeping them from growing further?”
Širović hopes that future studies can help identify why there is this difference in population trends of blue and fin whales. Now that she and her colleagues have taken a first look at the broad trends of the two species, they want to dig deeper and look into environmental drivers and other factors and features that may be causing some of the spatial distribution patterns and long-term changes of the whales.
Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing
FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.
The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.
Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats.
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How Can I Tell If An Animal Sanctuary Is Genuine, Or If They Are Taking Advantage Of Animals?!
There a many people across the world that put the safety and care of endangered animals above themselves. A great animal sanctuary’s first concern is always to the animal, making sure they are happy, healthy, and that they feel safe. The animals there are abused, abandoned, or simply displaced by circumstance. These animals are released into the wild when possible, but a great many don’t have that option. A good sanctuary will bring you to the brink of tears with their dedication and success. However, not every “sanctuary” is what it advertises. Some are glorified breeding houses that exploit the animals and don’t take their health into consideration. It’s tough to tell them apart, but it’s important that you go through a rigorous vetting before contributing or taking part in any sanctuary.
When I was 16 I found out about an exotic sanctuary near me in Wisconsin. It took in abused and abandoned big cats, as well as a few bears, horses, foxes, and various farm animals. Each animal came from a horrific environment. One Sumatran tiger, a breed quickly becoming extinct, had been defanged and declawed by the circus he lived in. Tiger teeth are actually part of the jawbone, meaning his jaw couldn’t close correctly, and he couldn’t eat anything but boneless meat. One of the Jaguars (who lived below the room I stayed in) had been beaten numerous times with a metal pipe by her drug dealer owner, causing brain lesions, and a massive mistrust for males. Far too many of the animals came from other “sanctuaries” that were shut down for animal abuse, as well as some that escaped euthanasia at zoos for being “too old.” Every animal had a similar story, but almost every one turned into a happy, friendly, and affectionate animal. They had large indoor and outdoor enclosures, fresh meat every day, and at no point where they exploited or used as an attraction. A great sanctuary will have happy, playful animals because they provide a safe environment for the animals.
There are a number of red flags to look for that can easily identify those animal farms that you should stay far away from. Of course, these are not the only signs to look for. If you feel uncomfortable with the sanctuary, walk the other way.
where did all these animals come from?
Sanctuary animals can be broken into two categories, rescue animals and commercial animals. Seems obvious right? It’s sadly more complex than that.
Rescue animals are going to come from circuses, zoos, those saved from hunters or disease, or private homes. None of them are capable of surviving in the wild, so they need a home to live out the rest of their days. Each animal will have a story, most likely not a good one. Pay attention to why the animal is there, and you’ll get a quick understanding of what the sanctuary is trying to accomplish.
“Commercial” is a broad term, but in essence it’s the best one. These animals are captured specifically for housing in the facility, or they are bred in captivity for the purpose of selling or displaying. Some hide behind the veil of “protecting the species,” but animals born in captivity can’t be released into the wild, so they are simply an attraction, which is exactly what real sanctuaries are trying to protect their wards from.
“come on in and play!”
Are the animals available for photo ops with you? Can you ride around on them? This is a huge distinction, and an immediate way to know if you should run the other way. Being able to SEE the animals is great. Most sanctuaries give tours (the one I worked with limited tours to 5 people maximum), but they are small, and keep the psychological needs of the animals in mind. No animals wants to be smothered by people. Most come from backgrounds that bred mistrust of people, and even a “gentle” animal can turn deadly when scared. There should always be a significant barrier between the animals and the guests, and the animals should always have somewhere they can go to be alone if they become stressed. If you can pay for a photo with them, or you can interact directly with the animal right away, then the facility is certainly not a sanctuary.
Training should never be tolerated.
Rescue animals often come from abusive situations. Circuses and private owners often use cruel and violent training methods, leading to long-term physical and psychological harm, often times to the point the animal can never recover. When an animal is rescued, it should have a safe home. It isn’t there to do tricks or to be a showpiece. There is no need to train them! Yet, many commercial facilities have trainers on staff in order to keep their photo op animals in line. Things like bull hooks, electric fences or prods, and chains are all signs of an abusive facility. At no point should the animal be chained or tied up. All of these actions lead to abuse, and are the antithesis of what a sanctuary is trying to accomplish.
Everyone needs to play
Pay attention to how the animals are housed. No sanctuary will have the endless space that the animals would have in the wild, they should have ample space to run and play. They should have toys, enclosures to sleep and hide, and a way to separate them from the enclosure when it’s time to clean. At no time should an animal be tied up, and their enclosure should be on grass or natural ground, not cement! If the animal can only pace and turn around, then their welfare is being ignored, brazenly so. Imagine what you would need to be happy in that situation, and if you don’t see it, then you know the “sanctuary” is a sham.
Home sweet home?
We can’t read an animals mind, but there are a number of behaviors that are obvious signs of distress in the animals. Zoochosis is the unnatural behavior animals exhibit in captivity, and a common occurrence in the commercial shelter community. Acts like pacing constantly back and forth is the most noticeable sign. Their posture tends to be hunched and more predatory when pacing, showing how anxious and bored they really are. Other signs are sitting and rocking, self-mutilation, and chewing or licking the bars of their cage constantly. Each of these is a sure sign the animals is in a terrible situation.
Kevin Richardson is a South African animal behaviorist who has worked extensively with native animals of Africa. He has been accepted into several clans of spotted hyenas and prides of lions.
Lions are some of the most dangerous animals know to man. BUT there is one man who is part of their pride. Kevin Richardson,an outdoorsman who lives just 30 miles north of Johannesburg,has an amazing ability to communicate with some of Africas most feared predators. His conversation area is home to lions,hyenas,cheetahs,leopards and panthers. He is able to live with them,sleep curled up with them,swim with lionesses,caress cubs and tussle with males. This exciting and touching series will take viewers on a journey to the stunning African wilderness,giving them an exclusive insight into the life of the real Lion Whisperer.
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