Play with Cuddly Cats All Day in Hawaii

If you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole of the Internet for pet lovers — pun intended — you would know that designations as dog persons or cat persons are usual. Or even seemingly necessary. Dog person versus cat person debates even brew up sometimes, but all in good fun. For me, though, there’s no battle between species. And I hope you agree, dogs working at museums and cats surprising old ladies are equally adorbs.

I was just at the rabbit hole cooing endlessly at cute pictures — a rabbit hole which needs more bunny people, to be honest, because they’re also super cute — when I came upon this piece of exciting news for cat people and pet-neutral people like me. You can now spend your Hawaiian vacation on something other than getting a tan and sipping pina coladas. Why not hang out with the island’s lovable felines?

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary, only a “tail’s wag” from the Lanai Airport, hosts nearly 600 former street cats on a gorgeous property that attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year. The open-air space — where the cats can run, play, nap and generally do whatever they like all day — is a feline paradise.

Visitors may come to the sanctuary from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday. And the best part? Admission is free! The place, however, accepts donations to be used for maintaining paradise and helping the kitties do the activities they like.

The other best part? If spending the day with cuddly cats isn’t enough, you may choose to adopt one. Many of the felines are adult, and all of them are up for adoption through the sanctuary. But those who won’t be adopted may live their whole lives at the place.

The organization started as a project to sterilize Lanai’s street cats to control overpopulation. In 2009, the group moved the cats to its current site and established itself as a nonprofit.

If work is taking over your year, however, and you need to put off your vacay for a while, you may opt to visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary’s website in the meantime. Though I hope it inspires you to plan ahead for when you can finally slip away into holiday mode. After all, what other vacation could beat hugging cuddly cats while sipping pina coladas and getting a tan on a gorgeous island?

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Caribou Herds Rebuilt by Maternity Programs

This is no truth bomb: more and more species are becoming endangered or approaching the brink of extinction. However, there is some good news: more and more global efforts are also being executed to address the problem. In 2017, British Columbia banned recreational bear hunting. This 2018, China is funding a national park to serve as a sanctuary for giant pandas.

And some efforts are already paying off this year. With the special help of a maternity program at Smithsonian Zoo, baby Mokey — the first western lowland gorilla there in 9 years — was born to loving mom Calaya. In the same light, caribou herds are now being helped by the Revelstoke Caribou Maternal Penning Project.

About half [of the calves] are killed and eaten by wolves . . . said Scott McNay, a wildlife biologist. For the past four years, McNay has worked with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, which are taking radical action to reverse the decline of the caribou by protecting cows and calves in “maternity pens” until the newborns are ready to survive life in the wild.

That bears and wolves feed on caribou is a natural phenomenon, but the proportion has been unhealthy for the past decade. Industrial development in the area has also worsened the situation. In addition to a ban on the hunting of caribou herds that have been imposed decades ago by the elders of the First Nations, wolf population control and habitat restoration are now being done simultaneously.

During the first four years of the pilot maternity project, 47 pregnant caribou from the North Columbia herd have been taken into the penning program and assisted in a nine-hectare enclosure. A few weeks ago, another 20 were sequestered. And the results look hopeful.

To date, 36 calves have released to the wild and they have about double the normal survival rate, which has stabilized the herd.

Funded by a variety of government agencies and other organizations, the maternity program wants to commit to protecting and releasing 20 cows and calves every year, in order to successfully restore the caribou herds.

Looking at these probable results, it seems that after all, every species including humankind is just trying to survive, with each other’s help in life.

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Satellites Capture Massive Penguin Colony

Penguins are adorable, and that isn’t ever up for debate. Even political bodies such as the Chilean government would agree. Ultimately, they did snub a billion-dollar mining project to save the flightless birds. However, populations are on the rocky side — or so we thought. Cruising over the Antarctic Peninsula, NASA satellites captured a 1.5 million fleet of penguins.

“The sheer size of what we were looking at took our breath away,” [said] co-author Heather Lynch, Ph.D… “We thought, ‘Wow! If what we’re seeing is true, these are going to be some of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world, and it’s going to be well worth our while sending in an expedition to count them properly.”

Drones captured roughly 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, which isn’t even the most NASA has ever tallied. It’s only the third or fourth. In the last 60 years, sea ice levels and concentrations caused population drops. Apparently, the feisty fledglings are adapting.

“The size of these colonies makes them regionally important and makes the case for expanding the proposed Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area to include the Danger Islands,” [said] co-author Michael Polito, Ph.D.

What’s that I hear? A lot of happy feet stomping on cool ice up in Antarctica!

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London Introduces Safe Hedgehog Highways

For urban communities, the relationship between humans and animals has been, for the most part, give and take. Where turkeys (or rather, their droppings) contribute to bio-fuel, concerned citizens have set up bee farms in vacant lots. Now seeing a rise in hedgehog road deaths in London, engineer Michel Birkenwald is creating special highways for the critters.

“It’s implying that hedgehogs are basically moving into our towns and cities,” [Emily] Wilson [of Hedgehog Streets] says. “They’re quite sturdy, and able to live alongside us quite well, as long as we make space for them and link green spaces together.”

Birkenwald and his animal-loving posse drill wall holes for free, allowing the prickly pedestrians to make safe crossing. Over the years, the real-life Sonic population has dwindled by 50% due to unwelcoming agricultural procedures. As compost-dwellers, “cleaner” farms don’t bode well for the spiky natives. Despite his life-saving deeds, Birkenwald is as humble as anyone.

“I am just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals,” he says.

We’ll do anything for the cute and powerless.

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Detroit Natives Turning Empty Lots Into Bee Farms

After a months-long bout of trending, #SaveTheBees is finally making an impact on beekeeping communities. Where locals have banded together to repair equipment, governments have banned harmful pesticides. Building even greater hype for the movement, Detroit natives are transforming vacant lots into bee habitats.

“I thought that it would be new and different in the city of Detroit,” [beekeeper Timothy Paule] said. “We want to educate people about bees and spread the knowledge of medicinal properties of honey, and to preserve the bee population, all while removing blight.”

Paule, along with partner Nicole Lindsey run Detroit Hives, dedicated to honeybee preservation. The pair have purchased their first lot for $340 and neighbors are all for it.

“This is important because we’re changing the city, we’re cleaning out the blight in Detroit turning into beautiful bee farms with gardens,” Lindsey [said]. “We’re also helping save the lives of the bees… educating the community on the difference between honey bees and wasps and how important honeybees are to our lives.”

Remember, kids — honey bees are friends. Protect their hives and forget stinging!

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Georgia Businesses To Save Gopher Tortoises

The year is 2018 and urban jungles are taking over natural landscapes. As slabs of concrete take over grassy, scenic footpaths, a select few are taking action against mining and oil exploration. While some species are recovering all on their own, others are in need of a little backup. One such creature is the gopher tortoise, working hand-in-hand with Georgia businesses in the hopes of making an epic comeback.

Georgia businesses… [are] working with wildlife agencies, private foundations, environmental groups – and even the Department of Defense – on a project to save the gopher tortoise. They hope to protect enough animals that federal regulation won’t be necessary.

Among the tortoise freedom fighters is electrical company Georgia Power, whose plants house a number of burrowing critters. The group remains sensitive to gopher tortoise habitats during construction season, keeping power lines at bay. The group is also raising money to fund reforestation efforts.

“I actually am very optimistic that they are a species you can recover,” [said research scientist Tracey Tuberville]. “Everybody has the same goal. Even if it’s just to make sure they’re not listed, in the end that means effective conservation for tortoises.”

The gopher tortoise may be slow — but quick enough to show Georgia giants they mean business.

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Antarctica To Build Giant Wildlife Protection Reserve

Across the globe, busts against wildlife smugglers have been more copious than nature can handle. Though species such as the crest-tailed mulgara have made epic and unexpected comebacks, it isn’t the case for most. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Greenpeace is shutting down climate change and poaching with a wildlife reserve in Antarctica.

Will McCallum, of Greenpeace’s new Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “The next few years are absolutely essential for the future of our oceans and we are in desperate need for governments to come together and do what is best for these amazing ecosystems.”

As city dwellers, we often remain oblivious to the consequences of melting ice caps and hits to the food chain. Nonetheless, there is much value in keeping our polar wonderland’s seals, penguins, and whales afloat.

“This will bring huge benefits in protecting this amazing ecosystem, in preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the ocean and in the wider fight against climate change.”

The reserve will cover 1.8m square kilometers of the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula. Not only will the eventual rise in fish populations excite seafood lovers — the world may not go down sinking after all.

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Montreal Lifts Breed-Specific Ban For New Bylaw

Both California and Vancouver’s efforts to promote the adoption of rescue animals is shaking up the pet community. Latest to catch on to the trend — or rather, undo an error — is Montreal. The breed-conscious city lifted a ban on pit bulls for a revised bylaw.

“The pit bull-style dog will no longer be considered a dangerous breed in Montreal,” [Coun. Craig] Sauve said. “We’ll have a global approach that includes all dogs and I believe it’s the right approach for Montreal.”

The city will also be slashing the need for special permits and mandatory muzzling. To better understand specific breeds, Montreal is consulting behavioral experts. A hand-in-hand decision with Quebec, Montreal is taking a more global approach to animal safety.

“What we want is to make sure Montrealers are safe (and) we want to prevent dog bites,” she said.

Perhaps our world isn’t so “dog-eat-dog” after all.

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China Calls For Near-Complete Ban On Ivory Sales

Following India’s campaign against the use of wild animals in circus shows, China has caved to international pressures. In a giant leap forward, the mass ivory consumer is finally placing a near-total ban on the material. Things will definitely be looking up for 30,000 African elephants slaughtered by poachers each year.

China and the U.S. both agreed to “near-complete” ivory bans, which prohibit the buying and selling of all but a limited number of antiques and a few other items.

Ivory is in demand for intricate carvings, trinkets, chopsticks, and other items.

With no proven clinical use, ivory used as medication is purely based on superstition. Despite previous international bans, China has consistently managed to quietly condone black market trade — until now.

“The Chinese government’s ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture,” said Gao Yufang, a Ph.D. student in conservation biology.

With no means to curve laws, China is finally bound to the positively inescapable ban. There is no guarantee to a drop in poaching, but when society gets it, it seems everything falls naturally into place.

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Last Known Nepalese Performing Bears Are Rescued

From banning their inclusion in recreational hunting and circus shows, bears are off to a great start in the new year. While those in the wild are frolicking in undisturbed freedom, those kept illegally are still waiting for rescue. For two of Nepal’s last known dancing bears, the delay has come to an end with the help of the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal.

“We know that Rangila and Sridevi were suffering in captivity since they [were] poached from the wild and their muzzles were pierced with hot iron rods,” [said] Neil D’Cruze of World Animal Protection.

Despite the 1973 ban, bear dancing has permeated throughout Nepal. Many handlers turned to violent training methods, even removing the bears’ teeth. While rescue doesn’t liberate an animal from psychological trauma, extensive rehabilitation usually gets the job done.

“They will need long-term, specialized care, but many bears rescued from bear dancing and baiting have been able to live out the rest of their lives peacefully in sanctuaries,” [D’Cruze] said.

Both middle-aged, it’s about time Rangila and Sridevi received a hard-earned break!

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