Firefighters Rescue Bears In Captivity At Restaurant

While Hollywood VIP Leonardo DiCaprio is looking out for lions, Armenian firefighters have other plans. After years of playing cat-and-mouse, the International Animal Rescue freed two captive bears used for entertainment at a Yerevan restaurant.

“Now the plight of these poor bears has come to light, I know IAR won’t turn its back on them. After years of misery and neglect, an end to the suffering can’t come soon enough.” [said patron Neil Morrissey.]

Bear buddies Dasha and Misha now reside in a mountain sanctuary (hopefully miles from their captors). According to the IAR, there are still some 80 captive and abused bears unaccounted for.

“Some have been living for years in small, barren cages, surviving only on scraps and filthy, stagnant water. Many bang their heads to relieve the boredom. It is ­heartbreaking. We are determined to bring it to an end.” [said IAR chief Alan Knight.]

While The Jungle Book may have us thinking bears are as friendly as the affectionate Baloo, they aren’t. Entertaining or not, these fascinating beasts belong only to one place — the wild.

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Fashion Giant Gucci Imposing Fur Ban On All Products

“Trashion”, or trash fashion, is taking over as one of the biggest trends of the year. It isn’t only unique — it’s inspiring many to build sustainable closets. Taking the lead from smaller brands, fashion giants are beginning to shrink their carbon footprints. Italian fashion house Gucci promises to go fur-free by 2018.

[Marco] Bizzarri said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals.”

The ban will eliminate the use of mink, coyote, raccoon, fox, and rabbit fur. The brand’s remaining fur items will be auctioned off. Proceeds will be donated to animal rights groups.

Gucci will become part of the Fur Free Alliance – an international group of organizations which campaigns on animal welfare and promotes alternatives to fur in the fashion industry.

Imaginably, leaders of the global fur trade are appalled by the decision, claiming that “fur is the most natural fashion item.” Unfortunately for them, Gucci is realizing that being sustainable is a tad more vogue.

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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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The U.K. Ban on Ivory Sales And Exports

Time and again, elephants have proven that they are worth more than just their tusks. Back in August, they rescued hundreds of tourists from a flood in Nepal. And while some, like war veteran Col. Faye Cuevas, are doing their best to protect them, it seems the efforts are not enough. Last year, the U.K. has taken a favorable — albeit small — step towards banning almost all sales and exports of ivory products.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a consultation to end the trade in ivory of all ages — previous attempts at a ban would have excluded antique ivory produced before 1947.

The government says there will be some exemptions, for musical instruments and items of cultural importance.

A lack of clear restrictions is corroborating the fears of environmentalist groups, who are unsatisfied by the ban. They argue that the UK still leads in exporting legal pre-1947 ivory antiques even in the past few years, and though the transactions are technically not punishable by law, the high amount of sales stimulates demand and encourages poaching in Africa.

Nonetheless, pressures from conservationists and Prince William himself — a long-time campaigner against the trade — are pushing the government to impose a total ban. If I were being encouraged by English royalty to head towards a certain direction, I’d probably start walking.

At a wildlife conference in Vietnam, [Prince William] said: “Ivory is not something to be desired and when removed from an elephant it is not beautiful.

“So, the question is: why are we still trading it? We need governments to send a clear signal that trading in ivory is abhorrent.”

Well said, Prince William. I toot my horn (or tusk?) in your favor. While waiting for further updates this 2018 from the government of the UK, perhaps we could share a toast to the greatness of elephants.

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Deaf Pit Bull Is Washington’s Newest K-9 Unit

There isn’t a lot that dogs can’t do, besides — of course — talk (although we wish they could). They’re keeping greenhouses safe and even proving to paraplegics that anything is possible. But unwanted pit bull Ghost is turning even more tables, becoming Washington’s first deaf K-9 officer.

“Barb found Ghost to be a very stable dog,” [said Jeremy] Barclay [of Washington State Dept. of Corrections]… “He was very focused and determined to locate his ball when thrown or hidden. This makes for a more trainable dog for drug contraband detection. His high energy was also key.”

The adorable pup was found as a stray, jumping from Swamp Haven Rescue to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society. Ghost now bunks in with handler Joe Henderson, keeping bad guys at bay in the morning.

“I think it’s wonderful that he has his forever home while benefiting the public safety of our citizenry,” said Barclay.

Ghost is definitely the good boy America needed.

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India Bans Use Of Wild Animals In Circus Shows

When Indian locals set their minds to something, chances are, they will pull through. To demonstrate the importance of lush forestry (and push boundaries), 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees in 12 hours. When the government refused to act, 700 Kuttemperoor villagers restored a beloved river in only 70 days. To top off the year, the country is now putting an end to circus acts that feature wild animals.

India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change… has canceled the recognition of all circuses which were found guilty of torturing wild animals including elephants by locking them in cramped cages and thrashing and intimidating them to perform tricks that are unnatural to their inherent characteristics.

In 1998, India banned the exhibition of wild animals in performances, save for elephants. Simply put, bears and tigers “had it worse” compared to the gentle giants. Furthermore, the industry argued a complete loss of animal entertainment would put livelihoods at risk. Activists, along with Nikunj Sharma of PETA, think the excuse is pitiful.

“Livelihood can never be a justification for cruelty on any living being. More and more people today know that circus means cruelty to animals and want no part in it.”

Let’s stick to juggling and acrobatics, shall we?

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South Korea President Saves Rescue Dog

A few months ago, Canada became the first country to ban the sale of puppy mill animals in pet stores. This saw a rise in the adoption of shelter pets, including Tory the rescue dog. He now belongs to the South Korea president and is the nation’s new “First Dog.”

The president says the adoption shows “that both humans and animals should be free from prejudice and discrimination,”

Animal rights formed part of President Moon’s election campaign, where he pledged to build more playgrounds for pets and feeding facilities for stray cats.

President Moon Jae-in actively combats biases against black dogs in particular. Despite being rescued two years prior, Tory struggled to find a home for this very reason. However, Tory’s arrival was definitely well-received.

The minority Justice Party presented President Moon with a luxury dog bed, pointing out that the gift doesn’t count under anti-corruption laws as it was for the dog rather than the president himself.

Animal rights groups in South Korea continue to resist the dog meat trade. Lucky for Tory, he’s off the menu.

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Cattle Farmer Saves Cows From Slaughterhouse

I have met quite a number of vegetarian chefs who serve meat on a regular basis. In fact, it isn’t really uncommon. U.K. native Jay Wilde is also vegetarian. The difference is, he owns a cattle farm. After sending his cows to the slaughterhouse for 6 years, he recently decided he could no longer do so. Instead, he sent his remaining 59 to an animal sanctuary.

“I began to see that cows recognize each other, and they’ve got very good memories. They experience a range of emotions – they can be sad, happy, bored or excited. They do also have facial expressions. You can tell what a cow is thinking by looking at them. I’ve even seen cows cry.”

Giving up his cattle meant Wilde would also have to say goodbye to a potential £40,000 paycheck for his herd. However, Wilde seems to be at peace with his decision, knowing his beloved “pets” are now with Hillside Animal Sanctuary.

“I know farmers are supposed to have a very matter-of-fact attitude about their animals and think they’re only here as a crop but, when you know them, you do realize that they do have individual personalities. They’re alive, not in a human way, but they do have their own experience of the world and it must be terrifying to be sent for slaughter. It just didn’t feel a good thing to do.”

Wilde is now a vegetable farmer who works alongside 11 free-roaming cows. He plans to open up a vegan restaurant accompanied by a teaching kitchen and accommodation.

Looks like I’m getting on a flight to England!

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