The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'animals'
The true story of an orangutan named Ken Allen:
Ken Allen was born in captivity at the San Diego Zoo in 1971. During the 1980s, Ken Allen gained worldwide attention for a series of three escapes from his enclosure, which had been thought to be escape-proof. During his escapes, first on June 13, 1985, again on July 29, 1985, and on August 13, 1985, Ken Allen would peacefully stroll around the zoo looking at other animals, and never acted violently or aggressively towards zoo patrons or other animals. Zookeepers were initially stymied over how Ken Allen had managed to escape. They began surveillance of his enclosure to try to catch him in the act, only to find that Ken Allen seemed to be aware that he was being watched for that very purpose. This forced zookeepers to go "undercover", posing as tourists to learn Ken Allen's escape route, but Ken Allen wasn't fooled.I imagine, seen from Ken Allen's point of view, his predicament would be not too far from Patrick McGoohan's Number 6 in The Prisoner: kept captive in an ostensibly pleasant though distinctly unreal and unfree environment, by powerful, omniscient captors whose intentions are unknown, and gradually finding holes in their panopticon, patiently piecing together a plan and then making a bid to escape, before being confronted with the absurdity of his situation and the power of his captors.
Want to use a Steadicam on your next film but can't afford a real one? Try using a live chicken instead.
Dublin railway staff used CCTV footage and Twitter to locate the owners of a cat that had wandered onto a suburban train and disembarked in the city centre. The cat, who is named Lilou and commenced her journey at Malahide station (in the suburbs of Dublin) was issued with an electronic smart card to use should she wish to make any future journeys.
Lilou is by no means the first non-human public transport user on record, or even the first feline one.
The head of an animal shelter in the US has stepped down after it emerged that a shelter employee took home a rescued pet pig named Fluffy, which he then proceeded to slaughter and eat.
A Russian ecologist has found that the fierce pressure of living in a hostile urban environment is causing Moscow's stray dogs to evolve increased intelligence, including abilities to negotiate the city's subway system:
Poyarkov has studied the dogs, which number about 35,000, for the last 30 years. Over that time, he observed the stray dog population lose the spotted coats, wagging tails, and friendliness that separate dogs from wolves, while at the same time evolving social structures and behaviors optimized to four ecological niches occupied by what Poyarkov calls guard dogs, scavengers, wild dogs, and beggars.
But beggar dogs have evolved the most specialized behavior. Relying on scraps of food from commuters, the beggar dogs can not only recognize which humans are most likely to give them something to eat, but have evolved to ride the subway. Using scents, and the ability to recognize the train conductor's names for different stops, they incorporate many stations into their territories.
Additionally, Poyarkov says the pack structure of the beggars reflects a reliance on brain over brawn for survival. In the beggar packs, the smartest dog, not the most physically dominant, occupies the alpha male position.I wonder whether similar evolutions of animal intelligence, driven by the conditions of living in cities, have occurred in other cities; there have been anecdotal reports of pigeons deliberately catching the Tube in London, with speculation that they commute in to the tourist-rich city to feed before returning to the suburbs. (As such, one could probably refer to them as passenger pigeons.) Not to mention two instances of cats deliberately catching buses (both in England).
And now, for light relief, here's a cow with its head stuck in a washing machine:
(via Boing Boing Gadgets)
Blog of the day: Suicide Food ("animals that want to be eaten") looks at the profusion of anthropomorphic animal mascots used to advertised food made from such animals, gleefully rejoicing in the eating of such food, and rating each one on how disturbing or perverse it is when you actually think about it:
It's not what it seems. The chicken, while being strangled harshly enough to pop out feathers, isn't pleading for help. That is not the international "I'm choking!" gesture. No. It's a wave. The chicken is waving to us. And with his left wing, he is welcoming us to the ranch. ("Ta-daaa!") Whether this is perverted or pathological, it's unwholesome. This playful pair, interrupted during a murder-suicide pact--or, is it merely prelude to the most revolting sex ever?--doesn't even have the decency to be embarrassed. The pig's ten gallon hat is pulled down tight enough to shut out the world, and the bug-eyed chicken just wants to get on with it and get it on.
The Wagon Wheel gives us a new twist on a standard theme. Pinky (as the website identifies him) is not simply preparing to dive onto the grill. No, he has contrived to be sent from present-day Stilwell, Kansas, back in time to the Papal Inquisition, there to subject himself to horrors unending and the torments of the soul. Thus, the act we see the pig performing in a state of near-ecstasy. "The Devil's Bicycle," as it is known in the alternate universe under discussion, involves the penitent pedaling a burning wagon wheel, all the while dodging the Holy Spit.Update: Just after I posted about it, Suicide Food outdid itself with this beauty:
One could write an essay on the cultural differences between France and America based on this entry and the others on this site.
(via Boing Boing)
Nazi raccoons rampage through Germany, making a nuisance of themselves.
Meanwhile, the Glorious People's Democracy of North Korea's new weapon against famine is giant German rabbits; an "East German pensioner" (not sure whether that's a geographical or political designation) who breeds them has offered them to the Stalinist state at a special reduced price.
(via Boing Boing)
An economist at Yale is experimenting with training monkeys to use currency, with some success:
The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle -- ''kind of like Chinese money,'' he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day. Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for, say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.
Then Chen introduced price shocks and wealth shocks. If, for instance, the price of Jell-O fell (two cubes instead of one per token), would the capuchin buy more Jell-O and fewer grapes? The capuchins responded rationally to tests like this -- that is, they responded the way most readers of The Times would respond. In economist-speak, the capuchins adhered to the rules of utility maximization and price theory: when the price of something falls, people tend to buy more of it.The experiments have not only shown that monkeys grasp the idea of money and basic economic principles (whilst succumbing to the same probabilistic fallacies people do), but have also demonstrated the emergence of behaviours including stealing and prostitution, entirely unprompted:
During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)
A new advertising agency in the Netherlands has started offering advertising on zoo animals and hookers' thighs. The agency instoresnow.nl also offers advertising iin religious establishments and huge floating billboards off popular beaches. Unfortunately for those willing to buy, the agency doesn't actually exist, but is merely a satirical project by a design student, Raoul Balai:
"I was getting sick and tired of advertising everywhere," Balai told reporters. "But I don't want to preach, and I thought satire would work better."
Prospective customers phoning his fake agency are kept on hold and bombarded with sales pitches until they give up.Not all are amused, though; an Amsterdam zoo has threatened Balai with a defamation suit after Balai's site showed fish at the zoo inscribed with the brand name of a frozen fish company.
As an uncommonly severe cold snap hits Russia, zookeepers are giving their animals vodka and other alcoholic beverages to help them endure the cold:
In the ancient town of Yaroslavl, 100 miles north of Moscow, a travelling circus said it had been forced to start giving its trio of Indian elephants vodka mixed with water in buckets as the mercury dipped.
In Lipetsk, where meteorologists recorded temperatures of minus 32C, the zoo's contingent of macaques was being fortified with cheap French table wine three times a day and in other zoos camels, wild boars and reindeer were being given regular shots of vodka to stave off the chill.
On the internet, you can buy anything: even dangerous and/or endangered animals, no questions asked:
Gorillas are among the most highly-endangered species on the planet and all commercial trade in them is prohibited under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are potentially lethal and need expert care and treatment, yet IFAW found a British-based website selling a seven-year-old gorilla in January this year "due to relocation of its owner."
Other, American-based websites sell monkeys along with "cute" accessories such as nappies, feeding bottles, clothes and toys, adding to the impression that these are a slightly more lively version of a doll. Traders in live primates call themselves "Monkey Moms" and the animals "monkids".
Threatened by poaching and loss of habitat, there are only about 5,000 tigers living in the wild; but thanks to the thriving trade in exotic pets, some 10,000 tigers live in captivity in the US. One US website advertised two-week old male and female tiger cubs for just $1,500 each.
Factoid of the day:
Many have conjectured that the word "Duck" is the funniest word in the English language. This was popularized by the Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup, considered by some to be the funniest movie ever made. This might have more to do with the actual animal than the English word for it, as in 2002, after conducting a scientific cross-cultural joke experiment known as LaughLab, psychologist Richard Wiseman concluded that ducks are funny in all the studied countries: "If you're going to tell a joke involving an animal, make it a duck."
- Wikipedia: "inherently funny word"
Ugly Zoo: a collection of about 100 Photoshopped hybrids of animals (and the occasional human), from real-life gryphons and dog-faced birds to the sorts of "cat girls" very few furries would imagine themselves as. (via wtf_inc on LJ)
Apparently killing zoo animals isn't just an Adelaide thing; some nutter has been poisoning zoo animals in Sao Paolo, Brazil:
Victims over the past week include monkeys, golden-headed lion tamarinds and more than 30 porcupines. Three chimpanzees, an orang-utan, three tapirs, four camels, an elephant and a bison died during the previous month.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a long and detailed blog entry about the bizarre and disturbing world of animal hoarders (you know, the unhinged, reclusive types who pack dozens of cats or dogs into their tiny apartments until the neighbours complain about the smell of the filth and rotting carcasses and have them institutionalised). (via bOING bOING)