Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Xi Lan Takes on the Great Outdoors

Spring is here, and rumor has it Xi Lan has sprung. Monday morning,
March 30, Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda cub rolled into his greatest adventure yet – tackling
the great outdoors.

The Zoo’s Animal Management Team decided last week
that the precocious cub, 7 months old today, was developmentally ready to
explore his outdoor habitat under the experienced eye of his mother Lun Lun.

The early morning scene recalled a similar event in spring 2007, when Xi Lan’s
older sister, the world-famous Mei Lan, toddled tentatively outside for the first
time. Giant panda fans are officially forewarned: Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s
firstborn, now 2, was dainty compared with her baby brother, in whose eyes even
the most mundane of items merit curiosity and investigation.

Xi Lan, Lun Lun, Mei Lan and papa bear Yang Yang can be seen daily at
Zoo Atlanta’s Arthur M. Blank Giant Panda Conservation Center. Live
streaming video is also available on PandaCam, Monday through Friday from
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. New images, videos and cub updates are posted regularly
on zooatlanta.org.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Cave Activity Discouraged to Help Protect Bats from Deadly White-nose Syndrome

White-nose syndrome, a wildlife crisis of unprecedented proportions, has killed hundreds of thousands of bats from Vermont to West Virginia and continues unchecked. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking those who use caves where bats hibernate – called hibernacula – to take extra precautions and to curtail activities to help prevent the spread of WNS.

There is no known human health risk associated with white-nose syndrome in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat-to-bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to believe that something else is moving WNS.

“We suspect that white-nose syndrome may be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying WNS from cave to cave where bats hibernate,” said Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Service’s cave advisory asks that cavers curtail all caving activity in WNS-affected states and adjoining states to protect bats from the spread of WNS. The advisory also asks that cavers beyond WNS-affected states and adjacent states use clothing and gear that has never been in affected and adjacent states. And finally, cavers everywhere should avoid caves and mines during the bat hibernation period (winter) to avoid disturbing bats.

In addition, federal and state scientists will evaluate all scientific activities in hibernacula for their potential to spread WNS, weighing potential benefits of the research against the risk to bats.

“We are working closely with state natural resource agencies, the caving community, conservation organizations and other federal agencies on this issue,” Moriarty said. “We understand that following these recommendations will inconvenience recreational cavers, but we believe this is the most responsible course of action as we face this unknown threat to bats, which play an important role in our world.”

As a result of this advisory and ongoing research activities, refuge managers at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Complex near Decatur, Alabama, have closed four caves – Fern Cave, Sauta Cave, Cave Springs Cave, and Key Cave – located within this Comlex to public access. Access to Fern and Sauta Caves are normally managed through permits. Key and Cave Springs Caves are already closed.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dive in for a Day of Sea-Themed Activities Celebrating the New IMAX® Adventure, Under the Sea.

It will be Oceans of Fun for All Ages!

Splash into summer and help Fernbank Museum celebrate its newest IMAX® film, Under the Sea. Join Fernbank Museum for an Under the Sea Family Fun Day on Saturday April 4, 2009 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and learn all about sea creatures many people may never see anywhere else.

The Under the Sea Family Fun Day will offer:

Free Souvenir Photos
10 a.m. to noon
Take home your very own free souvenir photo courtesy of our friends at Specialty Imaging International.

Weekend Wonders Ocean Craft
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Create your own coral reef using paper, paint and sponges.

Feelin’ Fishy Temporary Tattoos
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Flaunt your fins with free temporary fish tattoos. (Don’t worry they’re washable!)

Habitat Toss Game
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Surf or turf? Test your habitat skills in this playful game.

Fish Prints
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Create your own fish print to take home using Gyotaku—the Japanese art of fish printing.

Ocean Mural Coloring Station
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Watch an ocean oasis come to life in a coloring craft perfect for little hands.

Shell Search Scavenger Hunt
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Go fishing for answers to shell-related questions and enter to win an Under the Sea Prize Pack.

Georgia Aquarium
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Meet our friends and a special surprise guest from the world’s largest aquarium.

Under the Sea IMAX® Film
11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., Fernbank’s IMAX® Theatre
Explore some of the ocean’s most exotic and isolated undersea locations and experience face-to-face encounters with the mysterious and unusual creatures found under the sea.

Under the Sea Family Fun Day activities are included with Value Pass tickets at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Value Pass tickets, which include Museum and IMAX admission, are $23 for adults, $21 for students and seniors, $19 for children ages 3-12, $8 for members, and free for children 2 and younger.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History is located at 767 Clifton Road NE in Atlanta. Tickets are available at fernbankmuseum.org or by calling 404.929.6400.
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Atlanta History Center's Sheep to Shawl Offers Fun for All Ages

Springtime has arrived at the Atlanta History Center! Activities are heating up all over the thirty-three acre campus as the gardens and trails come alive with the full bloom of the season.

As the weather continues to heat up, the sheep at the History Center’s 1860s Tullie Smith Farm become eager to shed their woolly winter coats. These furry coats served them well during the chilling winter months, but have now grown too warm for comfort. It is time for their annual celebratory shearing.

Discover “shear fun” at the Atlanta History Center on Saturday, April 11, 2009 from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm during Sheep to Shawl. Visitors of all ages enjoy a day full of exploration as they take a journey back in time to experience antebellum homesteading at the farm and learn the traditional practices for shearing sheep’s wool.

The journey from Sheep to Shawl begins with sheep shearing demonstrations at 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm. Children delight in the receipt of a handful of wool for keepsake before traveling on to other entertaining hands-on activities and demonstrations as the wool is washed, sorted, carded, spun, dyed, and woven into a beautiful shawl.

Sheep to Shawl offerings also include guided tours of the Tullie Smith Farm house. Explore the farm and experience the customary lifestyle and activities of a nineteenth-century Georgia farm. Interact with costumed living history interpreters as they present authentic demonstrations of wool cleaning and carding, wool dying, weaving, spinning, woodworking, blacksmithing, basket weaving, candle dipping, and open-hearth cooking.

Take in the sounds of old-time fiddle and banjo music provided by the Georgia Potlickers while you tour the farm. Listen to Southern folktales spun for the young and old at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm while traditional games including graces, hoops, and egg races are sure to keep the little ones busy. And, don’t forget to make a special visit to the barnyard to meet, Belle, our newest addition to the Gulf Coast sheep family.

Four years ago, the Atlanta History Center’s Tullie Smith Farm became home to three adult Gulf Coast sheep; two ewes (Poppy and Peaches), and one ram (Napoleon). Gulf Coast sheep are one of the oldest types of sheep in the United States and have existed for several centuries. They were brought to the United States by the Spanish, who began to settle Florida in the 1500s. Later importations of other breeds of sheep mixed with the original population, all evolving under the strong natural selection of the native range conditions of Florida and the other Gulf Coast states. Today a small remnant of this sheep population survives. Gulf Coast breed is today on the critical list, according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. There are fewer than 200 annual

registrations of Gulf Coasts in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000. The Atlanta History Center is helping to bring the breed back. Gulf Coast sheep are characterized by their refined bone structure a non-wooly face, small body, clean legs and their underlines and are white to dark brown in color. This breed was a favorite of Southern farmers because they have a natural resistance to internal parasites and are adapted to the hot and humid conditions of the Southeast.

After a visit to the farm, guests also enjoy excursions to the tranquil Quarry Garden to discover beautiful spring blooms. Guided garden tours are offered at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Inside the museum, delve into one or several of the Atlanta History Center’s signature exhibitions. And, in the Garden Overlook at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, take in the distinctive sounds of the dulcimer as played in traditional music style by In Town Down Home and Sweet and Lows.

Sheep to Shawl is sponsored by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners under the guidance of the Fulton County Arts Council and supported by the Poppy Garden Club.

This special program is included with the price of general Atlanta History Center admission. For more information, please call 404.814.4000 or visit www.AtlantaHistoryCenter.com/S2S. Girl Scouts can purchase a special Sheep to Shawl patch for participating in the day’s activities. A special group rate for Girl Scouts is available; call 404.814.4062.
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Update on the I-85 Palmetto Ramp Dogs

History: Since at least December 2008 3 dogs had been living on Interstate 85 at the Palmetto exit, exit 56. No one seemed to be able to actually find them. Once sighting them, they would be gone before we could stop. Someone from another rescue group dropped off 2 large bags of food in February between the grassy wooded area that divides the south on-ramp and the interstate itself. This is where she had last seen them, and when last seen one was extremely thin.

Once I heard about the situation I went out on a daily basis walking and looking for any signs of them. Finally, the first of March we spotted all 3 dogs laying in the sun on that same area. We were able to get two of the dogs, one a male Bluetick Coonhound mix and the other a female Pointer/Lab mix we think. When the male saw me you could tell he wanted to come but he was unsure, until I knelt down and talked to him and then he came to me and wanted to go right to the truck as if saying "Please, get me out of here!" The female was not so sure, but she wanted to be with him so she stayed close but would not come. It took some time, we got him back out of the truck and just sat there for a couple hours until we got her to come closer to him and then we lured her in to eat cheesecake with him and I was able to toss a looped rope over her head and pull her in. She was very thin with all rib, spine and hip bones exposed. The other dog which appears to be an Austrailian Shepherd took off like a bullet half way down the grass bank. She only stopped for a moment to look back but she turned and ran across the on ramp and into the woods.

The Bluetick mix and the Pointer-Lab mix they are doing well. All in all they are in good health with the exception of the male having an injured leg which is healing and the female being way too thin. They have tested negative for heart worms and parasites and have now had all their shots. The female is quite attached to the male. There is no telling how long they have actually been on their own or whether they have always been together or just met up along the way but she loves him. The vet believes he is approximately 2-3 yrs.

I am trying to find out if anyone has actually lost them, they are well behaved and seem to love truck rides. They seem to also be house-broken not having one accident yet. They are good natured happy dogs that also love children. They can dig under a fence but they do not appear to be jumpers and only seem to dig to get from one yard space closer to the house to be with me :) They are not trying to actually dig out of the yard. Not sure how they are with cats but they like the water.

With the good graces of both Guthrie Construction and Ken Kunkle, MCI Grading Superintendent, we were able to save two of these dogs. We are being allowed to continue tracking the last dog on the land where they are doing much work in hopes of saving the Aussie as well. If owners are not found, these dogs will need homes soon. Interested people can email gaheartland@live.com .

D. Ginn
Georgia Heartland Humane Society

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Most Important Jurassic Discovery Ever Made in the Arctic!

/PRNewswire/ -- On the remote archipelago of Svalbard, just 800 miles from the North Pole, a team of paleontologists has made a remarkable discovery. Led by Jorn Hurum from the University of Oslo Natural History Museum they have unearthed the fossilized remains of a huge sea creature from the distant past - which they believe is the most important Jurassic discovery ever made in the Arctic. PREDATOR X is the story of this major Arctic discovery of an entirely new species, 150 million years old. It is a new species of pliosaur, a massive and powerful marine predator estimated to be at least 50 feet long... weighing 45 tons - six times the weight of a Tyrannosaurus Rex - and with powerful jaws that killed with an amazing 33,000-pound bite - four times as powerful as a T Rex.

The two-hour special PREDATOR X premieres on HISTORY(TM) on Sunday, March 29 at 8pm ET/PT.

PREDATOR X follows Jorn Hurum and his team of paleontologists every step of the way, from field work through cutting edge research of this amazing dinosaur-age reptile - one of the most incredible Jurassic ocean discoveries in modern history.

Hurum and team member Patrick Druckenmiller, an Alaskan paleontologist and extreme adventurer, must excavate the find from the ice, transport it back to the lab and bring it back to life using advanced scientific techniques. They travel the globe breaking new ground to scientifically understand and recreate Predator X. Their results are astounding and only now can they fully understand the beast they unearthed. Analysis usually reserved for precision engineering of modern machines, reveals the secrets of Predator X. Their quest takes them from wind tunnels to CT scanners to bio-mechanic and robotic laboratories. In analyzing its body, delving into its brain and witnessing its hunting strategy, the team conclude that they have found a perfectly designed killing machine - the most terrifying beast to patrol the planet's oceans.

As a child, Dr. Hurum had visited the Oslo Natural History Museum, well known for its treasure trove of fossils, and gazed in awe at the fossilized flipper of a prehistoric sea predator. A quarter of a century later, Dr. Hurum was in Svalbard, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, leading a team of paleontologists committed to finding what they all believed was there. Because of its extreme polar conditions, few paleontologists have ever explored Svalbard's fertile fossil hunting ground; and Dr. Hurum's group along with Dr. Druckenmiller are the first to document this diverse assembly of marine reptiles.

With modern forensic technology, Dr. Hurum and team work to unlock the secrets of the monster. CGI will help bring Predator X to life, in an environment like the one all those years ago. Its anatomy, physiology and hunting technique all point to it being the ultimate predator - the ferocious pliosaur they are calling Predator X. Pliosaurs were a short-necked form of plesiosaur, a group of extinct reptiles that inhabited the world's oceans in the age of dinosaurs. The team is able to determine that their find, Predator X, is indeed a new species based on its incredible size and bone morphology - specifically: the flipper bones, the breast plate, and the neck vertebrae.

Predator X is produced for History(TM) by Atlantic Productions. Executive Producer for Atlantic Productions is Anthony Geffen. Executive Producer for History is Dirk Hoogstra.

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Have a Heart for These Homeless Beauties

Recently, the Georgia Heartland Humane Society got wind of a few dogs were living on Interstate 85 at the Palmetto Exit 56. A group had been trying to track them since late December or early January with no success. Because of the loving and caring commitment Georgia Heartland has for animals, they could not stand to know there were dogs out there starving and scared. So they joined the daily hunt for the dogs.

Finally, a volunteer spotted them laying...resting on the grass wooded area between the on ramp and the interstate, and was able to get one, a Pointer. Hours later, the trust was won with a possible Yellow Lab mix which allowed the volunteer getting close enough to nab her. While unable to rescue the Aussie , the search is still ongoing. She was too scared and ran, but her tracks have been located up to the construction site at Exit 56. Management at the site are willing to let GHHS set up traps and access the area to try to rescue her. These dogs are receiving medical attention. If you know these dogs, please contact the Georgia Heartland Humane Society. If you have a heart for the homeless pets, please consider donating for their care.

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Mark of Spring: Hummers Returning to Georgia

If you haven’t already done so, hang up your feeders! Ruby-throated hummingbirds and other avian migrants are returning to Georgia from wintering grounds far to the south. Ruby-throated “hummers” may travel more than 1,200 miles from Central America to Georgia.

One showed up last week at the Forsyth office of the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section. “They’re just arriving,” said Jim Ozier, a nongame program manager. “The first ones started showing up in middle Georgia about 10 days ago.”

Following the grueling migration, this diminutive bird must seek out about half its weight in food every day. Typical body weight of a ruby-throated hummingbird is 3 to 3.4 grams. To maintain their high metabolism, hummingbirds feed frequently on high-energy food sources such as rich but easily digested nectar and the tree sap that collects in yellow-bellied sapsucker foraging holes. Hummingbirds also need protein. They obtain it by eating tiny spiders and small, soft-bodied insects found on flowers or in sapsucker holes in trees.

Hummingbird enthusiasts can provide food for these travel-weary visitors by planting coral honeysuckle, columbine, bee balm and other flowering plants. Native plants are recommended because they need minimal care and are compatible with local ecosystems.

The Nongame Conservation Section is offering free packets of native wildflower seeds mixed to attract nectar-feeders. The packets were purchased through a grant from The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, the friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section.

Hummingbird feeders also provide an important food source. Refill feeders every few days with a mix of one part sugar to four parts water. For best results, bring the water to a boil before adding the sugar and then continue to boil three to four minutes. Allow the mixture to cool before filling the feeder. Refrigerate unused portions.

Periodically clean feeders, making sure that all molds and bacteria are removed. But do not use harsh cleaning agents. Feeders can be easily cleaned in dishwasher or with mild soap and warm water.

Using feeders and planting nectar-producing flowers is the best recipe for attracting hummingbirds. For plantings, incorporate flowers that bloom from early spring through fall. Flower gardens will also attract a variety of other enjoyable nectar-feeders, such as butterflies.

Occasionally, “lost” migrant hummingbirds of several species not considered native to the region are seen at feeders during the winter, so many enthusiasts leave their feeders up throughout the year. To report unusual hummingbirds, please contact the Nongame Conservation Section at (478) 994-1438. Information sheets on Georgia’s hummingbirds are available at www.georgiawildlife.com (click “Conservation,” then “Georgia Animals & Plants”).

To receive a seeds packet, send a first-class, self-addressed, stamped envelope (No. 10 letter-sized) to: Nectar-feeder Native Wildflower Seed Packet, DNR/WRD Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, Ga. 31029. One packet per customer, please.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Catnip Compounds Curb Asian Lady Beetles

Multicolored Asian lady beetles are appreciated by farmers and home gardeners alike--until the pest-eating insects decide to spend the winter indoors. The beetle, Harmonia axyridis, becomes a nuisance insect upon entering homes to escape the cold, sometimes in huge numbers. When threatened, it releases a yellow liquid that, while nontoxic, smells foul and produces stains.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have sought to develop beetle-friendly methods of keeping the helpful predators outside where they belong. Most recently, ARS entomologist Eric Riddick and colleagues in Stoneville, Miss., in collaboration with ARS natural product chemist Kamal Chauhan at Beltsville, Md., tested compounds in catnip oil that naturally repel the beetles, causing them to fly off, stop crawling, move back or turn away.

In studies at the ARS Biological Control of Pests Research Unit in Stoneville, 95 percent of adult male and female lady beetles altered their course upon encountering filter paper impregnated with the highest of three doses of the catnip compound nepetalactone. The researchers chose nepetalactone because it had previously been shown to repel some species of cockroaches, flies, termites and mosquitoes.

They also tested nootkatone (a grapefruit extract), iridomyrmecin (another catnip oil compound), and other plant-based repellents, but none performed as well as nepetalactone. Turning away--more so than the three other avoidance behaviors--characterized the beetles' response to the compound, report Riddick and colleagues in a recent issue of the Bulletin of Insectology (http://www.bulletinofinsectology.org/pdfarticles/vol61-2008-081-090riddick.pdf).

Ultimately, such observations could lead to a "push-pull strategy," combining repellents that deter lady beetles from entering a home's cracks and crevices with traps that lure the predators to an attractant for collection and release elsewhere. According to Riddick, the push-pull strategy offers a friendlier alternative to insecticide spraying and preserves the insects' usefulness as efficient predators of aphids, scale and other soft-bodied arthropods that damage plants.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By Jan Suszkiw

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Seasonal Trout Streams Open March 28

Recent rain and snow storms have improved stream flows in north Georgia just in time for pre-season trout stocking. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to stock more than one million trout in Georgia streams, rivers and small lakes by the end of the year. Many streams will be stocked by the end of the month and in time for opening day for seasonal trout stream fishing – Sat., Mar. 28.

“Our goal is to replenish all of our stocked streams before the end of the month,” says Perry Thompson, trout stocking coordinator for the Wildlife Resources Division. “Since stream flows are up, we’ll have an opportunity to spread our fish out well. Flow can drop quickly though, and we’ll manage accordingly.”

A high percentage of available trout will be stocked by July 4 to avoid keeping too many catchable-size (nine-inch trout) in the hatcheries during the hottest time of the year.

Anglers anxious to fish the seasonal trout streams can do so beginning Sat., Mar. 28. Some popular seasonal streams include Cooper Creek in Union County, Wildcat Creek in Rabun County, Dicks Creek in Lumpkin County and Johns Creek in Floyd County.

“Those looking to cast a line before opening day should visit one of the state’s many year-round trout streams,” says Thompson.

In north Georgia, Rock Creek in Fannin County, the Tallulah River in Rabun County or Holly Creek in Murray County are recommended, while the Chattahoochee River at Buford Dam Park and Jones Bridge are excellent nearby destinations for metro Atlanta anglers.

“These sites are well-stocked and provide great angling experiences for someone new to the sport,” explains Thompson.

For those seeking additional county-specific trout fishing information, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com where current Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations, a complete list of stocked streams, a Northeast Georgia fishing guide, and the award-winning Trout Streams of Georgia map are available. Printed copies of the regulations and trout stream map are available at all Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Management offices and at all official fishing license dealers.

Anglers must possess both a current Georgia fishing license and a trout license to fish in designated trout waters and to fish for or possess trout. Licenses can be purchased online and at various local sporting good dealers. The daily limit is eight trout on general regulation trout waters. Anglers are reminded to respect private property rights along streams flowing through private lands and to obtain permission before fishing on private property.

For more trout fishing information, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com or call 770-535-5498.

Take Me Fishing! ™ According to a recent national survey, 87 percent of Americans believe fishing and boating have a positive effect on family relationships. So, turn your quality fishing time into quality family time and create a fun, meaningful family tradition.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Zoo Atlanta's Pandacam Set to Continue

Giant panda fans, stay tuned, because PandaCam is back! Thanks to a generous gift from EarthCam, fans all over the world can continue to enjoy watching Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas
Lun Lun (mom), Yang Yang (dad), Mei Lan (sister) and cub Xi Lan on PandaCam.

“We are excited about this great sponsorship from EarthCam and are happy we can continue to offer this feature to our devoted panda audience,” said Marcus E. Margerum, Vice President of Marketing & Sales, Zoo Atlanta.

PandaCam has been a feature on Zoo Atlanta’s website for over a decade and has consistently been one of the site’s top three most visited web pages. The giant panda exhibit is equipped with a $250,000 audiovisual system and a dozen controllable cameras. EarthCam’s international server hosting will allow Zoo Atlanta to continue to send live feeds to the world Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

EarthCam.com is the leading network of live webcams and offers the most comprehensive search engine of webcams from around the world, with more than 200,000 unique visitors daily. EarthCam.com is also the world's favorite webcam network and is recognized as an international authority in the network camera industry. “We look forward to EarthCam technology playing the lead role in webcasting Zoo Atlanta’s PandaCam to its many fans online. PandaCam is an outstanding opportunity to continue to educate and enlighten audiences through
live webcam experiences,” said Brian Cury, CEO and Founder of EarthCam.

EarthCam is not the only sponsor of Zoo Atlanta’s PandaCam project; a generous gift from Mara Strock of Burke, Va., has taken care of the local server costs to operate PandaCam. “I love giant pandas and missed seeing Xi Lan and family on PandaCam. I am just happy my gift could help bring PandaCam back for everyone,” said Strock.

Zoo Atlanta’s PandaCam will launch live on Friday, March 20, 2009, so stay tuned to see what’s happening with giant pandas Lun Lun (mom), Yang Yang (dad), Mei Lan (sister) and cub Xi Lan.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Animal Families With The Most Diversity Also Have Widest Range Of Size

Somewhere out there in the ocean, SpongeBob SquarePants has a teeny-tiny cousin and a humongous uncle.

That's just what one would expect from a new analysis of body sizes across all orders of animal life that was conducted by researchers at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), in Durham, N.C. and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Researchers Craig McClain and Alison Boyer created a giant database on body sizes across all orders of animal life and found that phyla -- families of animals grouped together by a similar body plan -- with the greatest diversity of species were also those with the largest range of body sizes.

The sponges, Poriferans, were found to have some of the greatest diversity of both body size and species, ranging from microscopic to the size of an automobile. Molluscs (snails, squid, clams, chitons), and Arthropods (crabs, insects, lobsters, copepods) also showed great diversity. So did our family, the Chordates, which ranges from a half-inch fish in the swamps of Borneo to the truly leviathan 100-ton Blue Whale, with all the fishes, birds and mammals in between.

On the one hand, it may seem obvious that diversity in size and diversity in species go together, acknowledges marine biologist McClain, assistant director of science at NESCent. But it also says something a little more subtle about how new species arise and adapt to all the available niches in the environment.

“This really comes down to understanding the diversity of life on Earth,” McClain said.

The group's findings appear online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The research was conducted in part at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. NESCent is a National Science Foundation collaboration of Duke, UNC and N.C. State that is housed in buildings Duke leases.

The Blue Whale, incidentally, is the largest animal ever, but the Chordate group doesn't boast the smallest. That distinction belongs to animals with names like mud dragons, brush heads, jaw worms, stomach hair worms and water bears that are so small they live between individual grains of sediment in the ocean. But this smallest group's range doesn't reach up to the largest body size.

This is a pattern that repeated itself several times in the data, McClain said. There are apparently physical limits to the range of sizes that can work for some body plans. In worms, for example, it is impossible to slither along if the girth and weight become too large. (The largest worm, Riftia pachyptila, from deep-sea vents, doesn't move.)

Within the range of sizes that works for a given body plan, evolution creates new species and new sizes, McClain said. What this sweeping analysis hasn't solved is the riddle about how different body sizes emerge. One theory says that body sizes arise through random natural variation. A second says that size diversity is driven by the availability of unused niches in the environment.

The finding also points to areas where more species might be waiting to be discovered. For example, the little-studied priapulid worms (aka “penis worms”) have only 16 species on the books, but with a very large range in size. McClain's guess is that there may be more undiscovered species within that range of sizes. “There are groups that definitely don't have a lot of people studying them,” he said.

Knowing something about a body plan's size constraints also might allow for a ballpark estimate of its number of species, McClain said.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

University of West Georgia Offers Helping Hand

CampusCATS is making it safe for cats, kittens and people on the University of West Georgia campus. A relatively new nonprofit and all-volunteer organization, the group is dedicated to the management of homeless cats residing on the UWG campus.

Working in the Risk Management/Environmental Health and Safety sector of the university, Ineke Abunawass is on a mission to make it less risky for cats, kittens and the people that share the campus with them.

She, along with Tara Pearson at Institutional Research and Planning, and Dr. Elaine MacKinnon, professor of history, saw a need to curtail the feline population in a humane way and helped start CampusCATS in the fall of 2007.

Truly a team effort, associate Professor of Art Deborah Santini and graduate student Maresia Pauly created a logo to help define and refine CampusCAT’s identity.

Over the winter holidays Abunawass helped commandeer a mass trapping of the cats who call the UWG campus home.

“We generally find kittens that are young enough to easily integrate into a family home,” Abunawass said. “We also find cats that are happy to remain outdoors and, as expert rodent hunters, could be a welcome addition to any barn.”

The late fall and winter months are an ideal time for the trapping because the time frame is between kitten seasons where mother cats will not be nursing. A strong effort to neuter will also reduce the population spike during the spring and summer months.

All cats are spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies and distemper. There is also no adoption fee, although donations are accepted.

CampusCATS has developed into an efficient and effective cat control on the university grounds. The group joined forces with the Carroll County Humane Society, which brought CampusCATS under the organizational umbrella. One of the benefits this connection provides is the ability to capitalize on an already established 501(c)3 program and allow donations to CampusCATS to be tax deductable.

The biggest challenge for the organizers is fundraising and recruiting volunteers. This spring, CampusCATS will need volunteers to help with the kitten population. The community can help through donations of cat food, time and/or money. For more information, call 678-839-5546.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

World's Largest Aquarium Gets Greener with New Geico Geckos

Georgia Aquarium Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Opening of New Live Gecko Exhibit

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) today welcomed the traveling GEICO Gecko exhibit to the world’s largest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium.

“Our Gecko may be small, but he sends a very big message: wildlife conservation is important to GEICO,” said GEICO President, Chairman and CEO Tony Nicely. “We’re proud to share this cause with AZA and proud of the work our spokesgecko.”

The traveling GEICO Gecko exhibit is at Georgia Aquarium from March 17 through May 31 and features giant day geckos. Day geckos are a unique group of lizards native to Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands. The GEICO Gecko costume character will appear at the Aquarium on select weekends. For more information about day geckos, visit www.tinyurl.com/geckosatGeorgiaAquarium.

“We’re excited to host the geckos at our Aquarium,” said Anthony Godfrey, President of the Georgia Aquarium. “Not only is the GEICO Gecko exhibit a great way to view these interesting animals up close, it provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the important role the Aquarium plays in conservation.”

AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy added, “Aquariums are essential to education and conservation. We’re proud to partner with GEICO and the Georgia Aquarium to spread the conservation message.”

The Georgia Aquarium is open Sunday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $26 for adults, $19.50 for children 3 – 12 and free for children under 2.

The three-year partnership between GEICO and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) will take the traveling GEICO Gecko exhibit to AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums across the United States. At each stop, GEICO will make a contribution to wildlife conservation. The GEICO Gecko is already using his star power on behalf of zoos and aquariums, making television and radio appearances to highlight his wild cousins.

About GEICO
GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) is the third-largest private passenger auto insurer in the United States based on the latest 12 months written premium. It provides auto insurance coverage for nearly 8.5 million policyholders and insures more than 14.4 million vehicles. In addition to auto insurance, GEICO offers customers insurance products for their motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV's), boats, homes, apartments and mobile homes. Commercial auto insurance and personal umbrella protection and life insurance are also available. As a member of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies, GEICO is rated A++ for financial stability by A.M. Best Company and ranks at the top of several national customer satisfaction surveys. For more information, go to http://www.geico.com.

About Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world’s largest with more than eight million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. The Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.

About AZA
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, please visit www.aza.org.

The GEICO Gecko exhibit was created by Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, an AZA-accredited zoo specializing in reptiles and amphibians. Visit www.reptiland.com for more information.
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NOAA Proposes Rule Prohibiting Spearfishing Gear in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off Coast of Georgia

Public meeting March 19, 6-8:00 p.m., Wetlands Center, Richmond Hill, GA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is proposing a rule to prohibit all spearfishing gear in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA is soliciting public comment until May 4, 2009. A public meeting will be held on March 19, to receive comments on the proposed rule and the draft environmental assessment that accompanies the proposed rule. The meeting will be held at the John W. Stevens Wetlands Education Center, J.F. Gregory Park, Richmond Hill, Georgia, from 6-8:00 p.m.

Comments may also be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov
(search for docket # NOAA–NOS–2009–0002), or by mail to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, 10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411, Attn: Dr. George Sedberry, Superintendent.

For copies of the proposed rule, draft environmental assessment and the Federal Register notice, go to http://graysreef.noaa.gov, or contact Resource Protection Coordinator Becky Shortland (912-598-2381; becky.shortland@noaa.gov).

Spearfishing is often used to selectively target larger fish, and can significantly reduce abundance and alter the relative size structure of target species toward smaller fish. The proposed prohibition would provide protection to the fishes and natural live-bottom community for which the sanctuary was designated. The proposal also would facilitate enforcement of an existing prohibition against the use of powerheads within the sanctuary.

Designated in 1981, the sanctuary is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 23 square miles. The Gray’s Reef sanctuary consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to ten feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live bottom and ledge habitat support an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community. Loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species,
also use Gray’s Reef year-round for foraging and resting, and highly endangered Northern right whales are occasionally seen in the sanctuary.

The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, which manages the Gray’s Reef sanctuary, seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Woof-A-Palooza at Little Mulberry Park March 28

Calling all dogs! Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation is proud to bring Woof-A-Palooza to Little Mulberry Park in Auburn on Saturday, March 28, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. With demonstrators, vendors, contests, face painting, dog games, and the famous “pooch parade”, Woof-A-Palooza is sure to have some tails wagging.

Atlanta Dog Agility is providing entertainment and guidance with their intricate obstacle course for dogs, showing the fundamentals of their training and obedience to multiple dogs. In addition, Frisbee demonstrations will be provided by K-9 Einstein.

The pooch parade is a 1-mile walk around the lake at Little Mulberry Park. Feel free to dress your pet up in your favorite costume. Following the parade, there will be demonstrations, contests and dog games! Throughout the morning, patrons can sign up their dogs for several contests such as “Loudest Bark, “Pet/Owner Look Alike”, and “Longest Tongue”. Prizes will be awarded to the winners of each contest.

Sponsors and demonstrators include Publix, Gwinnett Humane Society, CitruSolution, Delia’s Doghouse, Apalachee River Animal Hospital, Cindy’s K-9 and many others!

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bark Busters Offers “Dogs and Poisons Safety Tips” for National Animal Poison Prevention Week

Put safety first by knowing what poisons lurk in your home and yard

In honor of National Animal Poison Prevention Week March 16, Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company, wants to help dog owners take special precautions to protect their canine companions from surprisingly common toxins. Not only is it important to take preventative measures with toxic materials found both inside and outside the home, but it is also vital to be able to recognize the signs indicating a dog has ingested something poisonous and know what actions to take.

“Since dogs, especially young dogs, are naturally curious creatures, it is important that we know and remain vigilant about potential poisons that our snooping pooches may find and ingest,” said Liam Crowe, CEO and master dog behavioral therapist of Bark Busters USA. “Just because something is safe for people to ingest, doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe for our canine companions to also eat. By following these tips, you can take the steps to protect your dog from these dangers.”

Dogs and Poisons Safety Tips:

Toxic foods include chocolate, avocado, onions and garlic, raisins and grapes, alcoholic drinks, caffeinated beverages, macadamia nuts, and chewing gum with xylitol.

Many plants (even dead or dried) are toxic to pets. In some cases, only certain parts of the plant are dangerous (leaves, fruit, seeds). Be aware of the toxic plants that grow in your home and surroundings (both cultivated and wild), and keep your pets away from them or remove them entirely.

Other toxins found outside include mushrooms and garden mulch.

Keep your pets off lawns or gardens that have been treated with fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides. If your dog has come in contact with treated lawns or has walked on snow or ice treated with ice-melt, wipe his feet clean as soon as you get home to avoid the possibility of him licking his paws and ingesting the poison. Store all chemicals in cabinets and other places your pet can’t reach.

Real danger to pets continues from antifreeze/coolant, even though animal-friendly products are now available (usually made with propylene glycol, not ethylene glycol). Always wipe up antifreeze leaks or spills of any size. Attracted to the sweet taste, pets can die from kidney failure if they ingest even a small amount of this very toxic material.

Store poisonous baits to rid your home of pests (rodents, snails, insects, etc.) in places that your pooch cannot access. Like antifreeze, some baits smell sweet but are very toxic to pets, causing severe internal bleeding.

Other household items poisonous to pets include household cleaners (the fumes can be noxious) and heavy metals such as lead, found in paint chips and linoleum.

Consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any vitamin, herbal supplement or medication made for humans. Even small doses of medications of any kind—whether for humans or pets—can be lethal to pets. Keep all medicines well out of your dog’s reach.

Symptoms of poisoning (toxicity) in your pet can include:

Vomiting/upset stomach
Labored OR shallow breathing
Drooling
Increased OR decreased heart rate
Fever
Hyperactivity OR sluggishness/lethargy
Increased thirst OR lack of thirst or hunger
Dilated pupils
Stumbling or staggering
Seizures or tremors
Loss of consciousness

If you think your dog has ingested a dangerous substance, contact your veterinarian or local animal hospital immediately. If you are advised to bring the dog into the clinic, be sure to take along the packaging of the item or a sample of the plant you think your dog may have eaten. This will help the veterinarian to know how best to treat your pet.

Also consult with your veterinarian for a detailed list of all potentially poisonous items and substances found around your home.
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Where's Waddle?

Keeping up with the adventures of Charleston's newest penguin

Checking out historic downtown Charleston, walking the Ravenel Bridge, or picking up fish at Earthfare. Sounds like every day activities for Charleston residents and the same goes for the city's newest addition, Waddle. Waddle, the lead penguin of the South Carolina Aquarium's Penguin Planet exhibit has been busy exploring Charleston since his arrival from San Diego in late February. Where is Waddle now?

Quite the computer-savvy penguin, Waddle has posted photos of his adventures on his website, WheresWaddle.com. He is even soliciting suggestions from the community on where he should head next. Keep up with Waddle online at WheresWaddle.com, suggest his next adventure, become friends with him on facebook or follow him on twitter. Join in penguin mania by placing a WheresWaddle.com car decal your car! (Available at upcoming South Carolina Aquarium events).

Opening Saturday, March 21, 2009, Penguin Planet will feature a Magellanic penguin habitat and 550 square feet of gallery space. Located on the Aquarium's first floor, guests will have the opportunity to see these aquatic flightless birds firsthand through the exhibit's 10 foot wide window allowing for underwater viewing. Included in general admission, Penguin Planet will delight and educate visitors through its awe-inspiring Magellanic penguins, children's interactive learning games, educational exhibits on climate change effects in South Carolina and of course - daily programs starring the penguins!

Penguin Planet grand opening festivities include special member only previews and a grand opening celebration on Saturday, March 21, 2009. The experience will be a temporary exhibit, visiting through March 2010. Only at the Aquarium for one year, you will not want to miss Penguin Planet!

An accredited institution by the Association of Zoo's and Aquarium's (AZA), the South Carolina Aquarium's Penguin Planet exhibit has approval from the AZA Penguin Taxon advisory group. AZA is the leading accrediting organization for zoos and aquariums and accredits only those institutions that have achieved meticulous standards for animal health, education, wildlife conservation and science. With approximately 2,400 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture, only 10% of the institutions are accredited.
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First Gorilla Born at Zoo Atlanta Turns 20 on March 15

Birthday activities on Sunday, March 15

Guests are invited to join festivities honoring Zoo Atlanta’s firstborn gentle giant on Sunday, March 15 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in The Ford African Rain Forest. Kekla and fellow bachelors Charlie and Stadi will open birthday packages at 1 p.m. in Gorilla Habitat One. Shortly thereafter, visitors are invited to join a special “Gorilla Safari” series of keeper talks.

Well-wishers are also encouraged to bring old or unused cell phones for recycling on the day of the event; the individual bringing the most phones will win an exclusive gorilla experience. Proceeds from Zoo Atlanta’s cell phone recycling program benefit The Dian Fossey Gorilla
Fund International, the Zoo’s partner in gorilla conservation in Africa.

Birthday activities are weather-permitting; guests are encouraged to check their Zoo maps on the day of the event for details or changes. Kekla’s 20th birthday celebration is free for Zoo Members and children under 3; free with general admission.

The famously dire Ides of March might have proved fatefully unfortunate for Julius Caesar, but such was decidedly not the case for an up-and-coming wildlife organization determined to
prove to the world that it had been reborn. On March 15, 1989, Paki, a female western lowland gorilla, gave birth to a son. He was called Kekla – the name means “dawn” – and he was the first of his species born at Zoo Atlanta.

Now a handsome silverback weighing around 350 pounds, the Zoo’s breakthrough baby lives in a bachelor habitat with half-brothers Stadi, 17, and Charlie, 12. Described as a calm, collected, laid-back fellow, Kekla doesn’t realize he’s almost 20, nor is he aware of the significance of his birthday. In 1989, Zoo Atlanta was four years into its greatest period of renewal and reversal – an era illuminated by the opening of The Ford African Rain Forest in 1988. The landmark debut of that series of habitats, made famous by the iconic Willie B.’s first foray outside since his infancy, showcased naturalistic, expansive new homes, not just for the beloved Willie, but also for a group of new gorillas from Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

Kekla’s parents, Ozzie and Paki, were two such pioneers, and his birth was a celebratory occasion. Since that day, 16 other western lowland gorillas have been born at Zoo Atlanta, 14 of whom still call the organization home. Ranging in age from Kekla down to Willie B.’s 2-year-old grandson, Gunther, these individuals flourish in five distinct social groups. Also since that day, Zoo Atlanta, now home to the nation’s second-largest collection of gorillas and the country’s largest collection of orangutans, has become a nationally-renowned powerhouse for the care and study of great apes. To date, Zoo Atlanta staff is responsible for more than 45 percent of the world’s publications on captive gorilla behavior. Kekla’s father, Ozzie, who turns 48 this year, is the zoological community’s second-oldest living male gorilla.

His mother, Paki, passed away in October 2004.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Okefenokee Swamp is Beautiful Anytime of the Year

AAG Note: The Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia is a beautiful place to visit anytime of the year. The wildlife is abundant and encounters with alligators are normal. During our staff visits to the swamp over the years, we have always seen alligators up close and have sometimes wondered how many limbs would be left on our bodies. The park rangers are excellent in watching the alligators and know them well. Thus, we have always returned with our fingers and toes intact.

One of our staff reports walking within a few feet of one old gator boy who was intent on watching some small children at play. While the gator was watching the children, the ranger was intent on watching the gator. When the gator got too close to the children, the ranger worked to move the gator and children further apart. No harm done to either of the parties.

We also have spent many hours in canoes on the swamp and have found that time to be relaxing, yet exhilirating as we watched nature at its best. Of course, there was the time that a snake fell into the canoe with us. The friend in front of the canoe screamed loudly. The scream scared everyone, although it is not clear who was more scared- the snake or the friend.

Thus, the Okefenokee Swamp is awarded the highly coveted "Fayette Front Page Day Tripper Award."

The Calm of the Swamp in Georgia

The alligator crouched on a bank in the Okefenokee Swamp and leered its tight-toothed grin — a sphinx daring travelers to pass.

My canoe measured 17 feet, and this refugee from the Jurassic Age looked about half that size. Even so, it seemed that a flick of its thick tail.....http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/travel/escapes/13okie.html?scp=2&sq=georgia&st=nyt

Published: March 13, 2009
New York Times

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wild Birds Unlimited Cooperates in Voluntary Recall of Two Bird Seed Blends

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Burkmann Feeds, a southern regional supplier of bird food for Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU), has issued a voluntary recall on WBU Wildlife Blend because Salmonella was detected in one 20 pound bag. As a result, Burkmann Feeds is recalling all WBU Wildlife Blend. As a precaution, Burkmann Feeds is also recalling WBU Woodpecker Blend because it may have shared common ingredients with WBU Wildlife Blend. Wild Birds Unlimited franchise stores are cooperating with these recalls, removing these products immediately and notifying their customers.

Of the more than 275 Wild Birds Unlimited locations across North America, these recalls about 65 stores in the southern United States.

All other Wild Birds Unlimited bird food products manufactured by Burkmann Feeds that were tested by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were found to be free of Salmonella and safe for use.

Initial tests have established no correlation between any bird deaths and the recalled food; a different strain of Salmonella was found in deceased birds in North Carolina than what was detected in the recalled food.

Customers who purchased WBU Wildlife Blend or WBU Woodpecker Blend are advised to contact their local Wild Birds Unlimited to determine if their product was manufactured by Burkmann Feeds and is part of this recall. Store contact information is available at www.wbu.com. Recalled products should be discarded. Consumers are also advised to avoid touching unsealed product and to wash their hands thoroughly after touching any unsealed product. A full replacement, credit or refund for these recalled Burkmann Feeds products will be made available at the store of purchase.

“Wild Birds Unlimited is committed to keeping everyone safe and informed about issues that may affect the hobby of bird feeding,” said Jim Carpenter, founder and president of Wild Birds Unlimited. “People’s safety and the health of wildlife are our primary concern.”

Since the peanut crisis began last year, Wild Birds Unlimited has been and will continue working with all of its bird food vendors to insure they are purchasing and manufacturing their products from safe and reliable sources.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No More Easter Bunnies Please!

/24-7/ -- Many people give adorable baby bunnies as pets at Easter. In a few weeks the babies grow up, the children lose interest and the rabbits are evicted to fend for themselves or end up in shelters. Thousands of rabbits are waiting in shelters for loving homes. Some of these rabbits have become Super Bunnies and their entertaining show can be found at www.clickerbunny.com and on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE9OXATfF0o). This Easter, give a plush or chocolate bunny as a gift and then visit local shelters as a family to find the perfect bunny for a pet.

Rabbits can make wonderful pets. They are smart and entertaining, each with its own distinct personality. Many baby bunnies are purchased on impulse at Easter without consideration for the long term commitment and care required. Rabbits can live up to 12 years, must be fed and housed properly and require attention, training and vet care just like a cat or dog. The adorable baby bunny grows to an adult in a few weeks and many are neglected, abandoned or surrendered to shelters. Once a family has decided that they want a rabbit for a pet, the best place to look is the local animal shelter or rabbit rescue organization.

Rabbits can be trained to come when called, go into a carrier, use a litter box and other useful and entertaining behaviors. Canadian authors and animal trainers, Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin wrote the book, "Getting Started: Clicking with Your Rabbit" published by Karen Pryor Clickertraining. This is the first ever book on the subject of clicker training rabbits. "We have been getting a terrific response to the bunny book," said Joan Orr. "Many people did not know that rabbits can be trained and can learn as well as dogs can". "Clicking with Your Rabbit is an eye-opening adventure into the minds of rabbits!", said pet journalist Janice Biniok. "I'm for anything that helps us enjoy our pets more, encourages us to build stronger human-animal relationships, or deepens our understanding and appreciation of our fuzzy companions, and this book does it all." The www.clickerbunny.com website provides information, resources and videos for those interested in clicker training their rabbit, ferret or other small pet.

In order to promote adoption of shelter rabbits and to showcase the talents of clicker training rabbits, Andrea Bratt-Frick of BUNS (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter) in Santa Barbara California (www.bunssb.com) has created the entertaining Super Bunnies video which can be viewed on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE9OXATfF0o). More amazing bunny tricks can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgDHWLyztCI&feature=channel. The House Rabbit Society is promoting the purchase of chocolate rather than live bunnies for Easter through the "Make Mine Chocolate" campaign (www.makeminechocolate.org).

Give a chocolate or plush bunny for Easter and then do some research into the care and raising of rabbits and visit your local shelter as a family to pick out the perfect bunny pet.

For information about clicker rabbit training and to see videos of trained rabbits visit www.clickerbunny.com.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Animal Planet Announces Search for 2009 Hero of the Year

/PRNewswire/ -- Animal Planet is once again launching its annual search for HERO OF THE YEAR, a competition now in its fourth year. In partnership with the makers of Fresh Step(R) Litter, HERO OF THE YEAR is a nationwide search and celebration of animal advocates who demonstrate extraordinary effort, talent and spirit in support of animals in their community.

Beginning March 9, 2009, the general public is encouraged to nominate candidates for HERO OF THE YEAR using the Animal Planet website (www.AnimalPlanet.com). To nominate a hero, viewers must submit an essay (250-word maximum) that describes the cause that their nominee supports, the activities and actions that demonstrate the nominee's commitment, the impact of the nominee's actions, and how the nominee has inspired others to get involved. By nominating a friend or family member for HERO OF THE YEAR, the nominator is automatically entered to win a $50 PetSmart(R) gift card, one of which will be given out daily during the nomination window. Official rules, FAQ and entry forms are located online.

The nomination process ends on June 28, 2009, at which point a panel of judges will select ten finalists for HERO OF THE YEAR. The general public will then be able to choose their favorite finalist during People's Choice voting, which will be available on AnimalPlanet.com from September 14 to September 27, 2009 and ultimately decide the winner.

The winner of HERO OF THE YEAR will be recognized on-air and will receive a trip for two to a destination that supports their animal welfare passion. Additionally, Animal Planet will donate $10,000 to the recipient's favorite animal-related charity.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Zoo Atlanta Works on Global Amphibian Issue

Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Herpetology, Joseph R. Mendelson III, Ph.D, joined scientists
from around the world at San Diego Zoo’s reptile house recently to create a
comprehensive manual for how to control combating diseases in amphibians (amphibians
consist of frogs, salamanders and the little known caecilians).

The amphibian populations have steadily been declining dramatically because of chytrid,
an amphibian fungal disease that infects the skin of amphibians; a vital organ through
which many drink and breathe. It was discovered a decade ago; dozens of frog species
have already vanished because of it. In environments where it thrives, the fungus can kill
80 percent of the native amphibians within months. Currently, it is unstoppable and
untreatable in the wild, even in ‘protected’ areas. “Chytrid fungus is doing things that
diseases don’t normally do; namely, it’s driving species directly to extinction. That doesn’t
happen in a normal, healthy world,” said Joseph Mendelson.

The San Diego Zoo and Zoo Atlanta invited amphibian specialists from the United States,
Australia, and the United Kingdom, to work toward a consensus on the best practices to
prevent and control amphibian diseases. The Institute of Museum and Library Services,
the largest governmental cultural agency in the United States, provided the funds for the
three-day workshop. “We hope the work we do with our colleagues will allow us to
understand this disease and help save the amphibian species in the wild,” said Dennis
Kelly, President and CEO, Zoo Atlanta.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Animal Planet Follows the Wildlife of America's Most Extraordinary Wilderness in Breathtaking New Documentary YELLOWSTONE: BATTLE FOR LIFE

/PRNewswire/ -- Yellowstone National Park is a place of changing, but never-ending, beauty. From the delicate flowers that bloom in spring to the saturated colors of autumn and even to the barren sublimity of winter, its picturesque landscape has made it a world icon. Ironically, one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world has one of the harshest environments, making life a constant struggle for the wildlife that roam its mountains, grasslands, rivers and valleys. Over 640,000 years ago, a massive supervolcano, which lies just beneath the surface of Yellowstone, was the source of a cataclysmic eruption, covering half the U.S. in debris and ash. The lasting effect of that volcanic blast is the extreme and unpredictable weather that plagues Yellowstone to this day. Yet, despite its brutality, the park is home to countless wildlife, including such symbols of the American west as the grey wolf, buffalo, elk, and grizzly bear.

Premiering Sunday, March 22, at 8 PM (ET/PT), Animal Planet's new documentary YELLOWSTONE: BATTLE FOR LIFE captures the essence of this bitter and mercurial environment as it follows the animals that struggle for life in the midst of this treasured wilderness. Filmed over the course of a year, the documentary explores how, by virtue of pure instinct, the creatures of Yellowstone find food, protect their young, reproduce and survive the severe winters and everyday struggles of our most famous national park. Both a documentary and a work of art, YELLOWSTONE tells the story of these hardy animals and simultaneously illustrates the beauty of this American landscape in amazing HD.

"YELLOWSTONE exemplifies Animal Planet's unfaltering dedication to truly beautiful natural history television," says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. "This gorgeous special celebrates life and survival as it pays homage to an iconic American landscape."

Buried between the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park is an American gem. However, what makes Yellowstone so unique is also what makes it so dangerous; the park is the biggest geothermal area on Earth with forces of unimaginable power controlling its future from just below its surface. The effect of Yellowstone's last volcanic blast is a crater so big that it controls the weather of the park even today, acting as a giant funnel as it brings cold air and precipitation into the park's valleys. Due to the crater's presence, Yellowstone's temperatures can vary from 99 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to -66 degrees in the winter with a range of 10 to 80 inches of precipitation every year.

Throughout YELLOWSTONE: BATTLE FOR LIFE viewers will find a new appreciation for the animals that struggle to survive this extreme weather. Cameras follow a plethora of creatures, both on land and underwater, as their lives are constantly imperiled by the very land they inhabit; a land that could unleash destruction at any moment.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gas Chamber Legislation Bill in Georgia

AAG Note: This story was recently covered by the Georgia Front Page on February 15, 2009. Within that article are the Georgia counties and cities who still use the gas chamber for euthanizing animals.

This plea was sent to the Fayette Front Page by the Georgia Heartland Humane Society.

This concerns banning the use of the remaining gas chambers in Georgia animal shelters as a method of euthanizing animals. The more humane method is lethal injection. This is an issue that you can have a direct hand in changing. You can help put an end to this inhumane, cruel treatment of the least fortunate animals. PLEASE read the message and instructions below then make those calls and send those emails. We only have until Monday! Thank you so much.

PLEASE CROSS POST TO PUSH "GRACE'S BILL" THROUGH!

We now have a bill in the House (HB 606) and the same bill in the Senate (SB 232). Two opportunities is better than one!

We have only until next Thursday the 12th for either bill to make its way "out of committee" and through a vote of the full House (or Senate). In other words, the bill (on either side) has to make it to the other side on or before the "crossover" date, which is the 12th. For example, if HB 606 doesn't make it out of the Agriculture Committee, it's dead. If it makes it out of the Ag Committee but doesn't pass a vote of the full House, it's dead. Same scenario on the other side, in the Senate.

The bill has to make through one side (before crossover date), then the other, then the Governor's approval to become a law.

A hearing of the Livestock, Poultry and Aquaculture Subcommittee (subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs) is set for HB 606 Monday 8:00 a.m. in room 403 of the Capitol.!

The Chairman of that subcommittee is Ellis Black.

We've been informed by lobbyists and legislative aides that phone calls are the most effective method of communicating your support of a bill to a legislator. So please help us start a campaign of phone calls to the offices of members of both Agriculture Committees (House and Senate).

Here's the link to the General Assembly with all legislators' contact information, bios, etc.:

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/

Here's the link to the House Committee on Agriculture:

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/Committees/agriculture/agIndex.htm

Here's the link to the Senate Committee on Agriculture:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/senate/agriculture.php


Please call these individuals to express your support of HB 606 [leave messages with their assistants or interns]:

Subcommittee Chair, Ellis Black: (404) 656-0287

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/bios/blackEllis/blackEllis.htm

Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Tom McCall: (404) 656-5115

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/bios/mccallTom/mccallTom.htm

Vice Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Terry England: (404) 656-0183

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/bios/englandTerry/englandTerry.htm

Secretary, House Committee on Agriculture, Dr. Gene Maddox DVM (supports gassing!!): (404) 656-0152

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/bios/maddoxGene/maddoxGene.htm

Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, John Bulloch: (404) 656-0040

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/senate/bullochbio.php

Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Ralph Hudgens: (404) 656-4700

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/senate/hudgensbio.php

Secretary, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Lee Hawkins: (404) 656-6578

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/senate/hawkinsbio.php

If you prefer to email any or all of these folks, please do so. It's your choice. Their email addresses are on these hyperlinks.

What you can do also, in regards to the Senate bill, which is newer than the House bill, is thank Senator Steve Henson (D-Dekalb County) for his sponsorship of the bill [stevehenson@mindspring.com] and ask your own Senator to co-sponsor the bill.

Please take into consideration that the time and resources of the handful (10) of individuals (myself included) who are "heading" this campaign for the passage of this legislation are limited, as are your own. If you have ideas of how to further the campaign... if you want to draft and cross post something else... if you want to contact the media.... PLEASE DO! There is no proprietary interest in this campaign. It belongs to every resident of the State of Georgia. If you want to see this bill passed, then you do whatever you are able and willing to do to ensure its passage. There are no rules. You don't need anyone's consent. Each and every one of us is a free-thinking, tax-paying registered voter. You don't need anyone's permission or instructions on how to contact our State elected officials to express your opinions and make your requests. Just go for it! There's no time to waste.

Thank you for your active participation in this important and historic campaign for the welfare of Georgia's homeless pets.

Chamblee Abernethy in Dekalb County (678) 640-1177

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flint EMC, DNR Put up Nest Boxes to Ease Kestrel Housing Crunch

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Flint Energies are helping ease a middle Georgia housing shortage for southeastern American kestrels, a small falcon listed as rare in the state.

Flint Energies, an electric cooperative serving 17 central Georgia counties, put up 10 power poles and wildlife biologists recently added kestrel nest boxes on each at Fall Line Sandhills Natural Area and a nearby state-owned tract, both in Taylor County. The lack of nest sites is a limiting factor for this species, said Nathan Klaus, a senior wildlife biologist with the DNR Wildlife Resources Division.

“I believe next week if you come out here there’ll be (a kestrel) sitting on top of each pole,” Klaus said with a grin after Flint Energies’ 1st class lineman Craig Montgomery and Chad Albritton attached the first box last week.

Klaus has good reason for the optimism. Nest boxes added earlier in the project started by Jonathan Stober, a wildlife biologist with Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway, have boosted kestrel numbers at Fall Line Sandhills from six nesting pairs a few years ago to more than 20. On a recent sunny day, a few of the colorful raptors perched alone on power lines high above the older boxes, apparently staking out claims.

Kelly Trapnell, a public relations specialist with Flint Energies, said the not-for-profit company is “proud to be a small part of this project to boost the kestrel population in our service area.”

“It will be exciting to watch with the rest of the community as the kestrel population grows along our rights of way and safely in nesting boxes on our poles in Taylor County," she said.

Assessing populations of southeastern American kestrels is one of the high priorities in the Georgia Wildlife Action Plan, the strategy that guides Wildlife Resources and DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity. The partnership with Flint Energies is aimed at restoring the Taylor County kestrels, one of three small populations in Georgia.

The southeastern American kestrel probably was once widely distributed throughout Georgia’s Coastal Plain, roosting and nesting in hollow trees and abandoned red-cockaded woodpecker cavities, and preying on lizards, mice, large insects and occasionally small birds. But as the state’s native open habitat types were lost to agriculture, intensive silviculture, development and a lack of fire, kestrels and other grassland birds disappeared from most of their former ranges.

Power-line rights of way provide suitable kestrel habitat, as does ongoing thinning and burning to restore the landscape at Fall Line Sandhills near Butler. Klaus and Stober attribute the missing ingredient – cavities for nesting – to fewer older snags and hollow trees, and the lack of cavities created by red-cockaded woodpeckers, a federally endangered species no longer found in the area.

In late spring, Klaus, Stober and volunteers will check the boxes and band chicks as part of monitoring local kestrel trends.

Partners in the project include Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center and The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, which provided a grant to build the boxes.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Will Tiger Cubs be Zoo Atlanta Next Big Birth?

Just nine months after welcoming the arrival of three African lion cubs – the first of their kind born at 800 Cherokee Avenue in more than 10 years – Zoo Atlanta is hopeful that another popular feline species may soon end a second decade-long wait. Chelsea, a 5-year-old female
Sumatran tiger, may be expecting cubs.

While the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams have not yet been able to confirm a pregnancy, staff is hopeful that Chelsea, who arrived at the Zoo in 2006, could be on her way to first-time motherhood. The tigress was seen breeding with her mate, 8-year-old Kavi for the first time in early January (tiger gestation is around 103 days, with litter sizes ranging from one to five cubs).

The birth of Sumatran tiger cubs would be a triumph for a vanishing species. The most endangered of the world’s remaining tigers, Sumatrans are believed to number fewer than 400 in the wild. Poaching, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation caused by deforestation are the primary threats to the charismatic cats, which are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

As is the case with their wild counterparts, Chelsea and Kavi interact only at specific times. The species is solitary, with males and females associating briefly during short breeding intervals. The Zoo’s pair met in 2007, but Chelsea did not demonstrate any signs of receptivity to Kavi until January 2009.

Zoo Atlanta is home to two other Sumatran tigers, Jalal, 15, and Sekayu. At 21, Sekayu is the nation’s oldest living Sumatran tiger. The last tiger cub born at the Zoo was their offspring, Bahagia, a female born in November 2000.

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Now is the Time for Pine Beetle Action

Local forest landowners are being urged to take advantage of available assistance that helps combat the destructive southern pine beetle. The Georgia Forestry Commission is offering a number of solutions to battle the pest, which has caused more than $250 million in Georgia timber losses since 1972.

“Forest landowners should contact us now to arrange for any of several services that can improve the health of their stands and increase their value,” said James Johnson, Forest Health Coordinator for the GFC. “For the seventh consecutive year we are offering a cost-share program that provides significant assistance for prevention and relief from southern pine beetle attacks.” April 15 is the deadline by which land owners must sign up for the Southern Pine Beetle Cost-Share Program, according to Johnson.

The program helps fund practices that support forest health, including non-commercial thinning
(reducing the number of stems per acre to an optimum level), pine release treatments (removing unwanted hardwoods from the stand and lowering the number of stems per acre), prescribed burning, southern pine beetle infestation treatments, and replanting stands harvested due to southern pine beetle attacks. These healthy forestry practices are also known to increase wildlife benefits for many species, including deer, turkey, and quail.

For more information, contact your local GFC office or visit GaTrees.org/ForestManagement/spb.cfm.

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