Sunday, July 31, 2011

Southeastern Greyhound Adoption Holds Meet and Greet at Wal-Mart in Peachtree City

The second Saturday of August, 08/13/2011, Peachtree City, GA, Southeastern Greyhound Adoption (SEGA) will hold a Meet & Greet at the Peachtree City Wal-Mart, 2717 Highway 54, Peachtree City, GA 30269 from 11:00 am-1:00 pm. These monthly events are a wonderful way to meet Greyhounds up close and talk to their owners about the joys of adopting an ex-racer. Meet & Greets are hosted by SEGA volunteers who typically bring their own pets. Contrary to popular belief, Greyhounds do not need excessive amounts of exercise but, in fact, are gentle and very laid-back dogs that make excellent pets for all types of families. SEGA is an organization that places Greyhounds into homes after their racing careers have ended. The mission of SEGA is to find good permanent homes for former racing Greyhounds and to educate the public about why Greyhounds make good pets. Since its inception in 1998, SEGA has placed more than 1700 Greyhounds into loving homes. For more information see www.greyhoundadoption.org, email at info@greyhoundadoption.org or call us at 770-474-9738.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sumatran Tiger Cubs Born at Zoo Atlanta

New arrivals are the first tigers born at the Zoo in a decade

Chelsea, a 7-year-old female Sumatran tiger, gave birth to two cubs late July 5. The first offspring for Chelsea and 10-year-old male Kavi, the cubs are the first tigers born at Zoo Atlanta in more than a decade.

Chelsea’s pregnancy was confirmed via ultrasound on May 20. Thanks to groundbreaking training achievements prior to her conception, the tiger has participated voluntarily in ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy, permitting veterinarians to monitor her condition without the risk of general anesthesia.

“We’re very excited about the birth of Chelsea’s cubs, and proud of the superior animal care and training efforts that have enabled us to track the cubs’ development as her pregnancy progressed,” said Raymond King, President and CEO. “We hope that as we watch these cubs grow, we can help our guests better understand the need to protect tigers in the wild.”

Sumatran tigers are the world’s rarest tiger species, with fewer than 400 believed to remain in the wild. Poaching, habitat loss and territory fragmentation caused by deforestation are the primary threats to the critically endangered cats, which are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The last tiger cub born at Zoo Atlanta was female Bahagia, who was born in 2000 and moved to the Sacramento Zoo in 2002.

Zoo Atlanta is a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse population within North American zoos. Conservation projects supported by Zoo Atlanta include work to preserve tiger habitat located in a critical wildlife corridor in Sumatra’s Aceh Forest. Chelsea and her cubs are currently bonding in a specially prepared indoor den. Once the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams are confident that Chelsea has adjusted appropriately to her first experience with motherhood, guests will have the opportunity to observe the cubs live on camera at the Sun Bear/Tiger Terrace at Zoo Atlanta, as well as via webcam on zooatlanta.org. Webcam viewing will be available later this week through partnership with Earthcam; stay tuned for details on the cubs’ debut.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Atlanta Peregrine Nest Produces Four High-flying Falcons

Four new falcons will soon be eligible for drafting, riding the air currents that swirl around their high-rise home in downtown Atlanta.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials recently examined and banded the four young peregrine falcons in a nest outside the offices of McKenna, Long & Aldridge, 51 floors up in the SunTrust Plaza building.

Law firm chairman Jeff Haidet said the same two falcons have been nesting on the balcony for five years. The number of young this spring only increased his excitement and pride.

“This is the first year that the pair has produced four babies … and it’s always a special treat to observe their transition from hatching to flying,” Haidet said.

Two or three falcons hatched each of the previous years. Before this pair of parents, peregrines fledged foursomes outside the firm in 1999, 2000 and 2005. The 2011 nestlings will be flying within two weeks.

Peregrines are possibly the world’s fastest animal, diving at more than 200 mph to nab pigeons, ducks and other birds in mid-air. The nest at SunTrust Plaza is one of only two confirmed in Georgia. The other is in midtown Atlanta.

Jim Ozier, a program manager with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, occasionally hears reports that suggest there are other peregrine nests in metro Atlanta. He encouraged residents who see the falcons in pairs or possibly tending a nest in the spring to notify his office, (478) 994-1438 in Forsyth.

Peregrines were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species because of a successful population recovery effort, but Georgia still lists the birds as rare. Historically, the only known nest in the state was at Cloudland Canyon in the early 1940s. Peregrines were apparently absent for several years during and after the DDT era.

DNR normally offers a web camera view of the nest at McKenna, Long & Aldridge, thanks to the law firm and a grant from The Garden Club of Georgia. The equipment needs upgrading, and the hope is to re-establish the behind-the-scenes look at Georgia’s highest-flying falcons in 2012.

This year’s clutch hatched in mid-April. The nestlings leave the nest at about 5 weeks old. Life can be hard for them in metro Atlanta. Hazards vary from traffic to large windows. A peregrine hatched at the firm last year was found days later suffering from trichomoniasis, a parasitic disease of young birds. The falcon was rehabilitated by Kathryn Dudeck of the Chattahoochee Nature Center and released.

Georgians can conserve endangered and other nongame wildlife such as peregrines through buying a bald eagle or ruby-throated hummingbird license plate, or donating directly to the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Wildlife plate sales and direct contributions provide vital support for the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.

Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Georgia's Rare Species Profiled in New Online Accounts

Quick: Name the turtle found in Georgia that lures prey using part of its tongue.

Not sure?

How about the Georgia mussel that grows inch-long spines, a blue crayfish known mostly from the Chatsworth area, the shorebird that sports a long orange bill, an endangered plant beleaguered by butterflies or the minnow best identified by its lips?

Answers to these and other questions about Georgia’s rare wildlife are found in a new lineup of species profiles at www.georgiawildlife.com. The 403 updated and expanded online accounts detail the identification, habitat use, distribution, ecology and conservation of Georgia’s protected species, plus selected rare species considered at risk but not officially protected.

Brett Albanese, a project leader, said the goal is providing a reliable and current source on rare animals and plants that can used by all, from university scientists to middle school students and from biological consultants to landowners and managers. The profiles also feature information from important references such as the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia by Linda Chafin of the State Botanical Garden.

“We tried to use the best experts to author the profiles,” said Albanese, a senior aquatic zoologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.

The hope is that the accounts spur feedback that adds to the body of information about each species. Profiles list when they were written or last updated. Readers can report omissions and errors by email.

The profiles stem from the State Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy guiding the DNR and its partners in conserving Georgia’s biological diversity. Accounts cover basics such as descriptions and life history, as well as threats, management recommendations and conservation status of the species in Georgia. Photographs and some range maps are included. Guides and glossaries explain structures used in species identification and other technical terms.

Years in the making, the profiles reflect “a vision of protecting the natural environment in Georgia,” said Greg Krakow, a project leader and natural resources biologist involved in the effort since its start.

Nongame Conservation Section Assistant Chief Jon Ambrose noted that conservation of many of the species depends on voluntary efforts by private landowners. Ambrose said the accounts offer a new information tool that will hopefully lead to “more occurrences of the species and habitats in better condition because of better management.”

Oh, and about that nimble-tongued turtle, it’s the alligator snapping turtle. The other answers: Altamaha spinymussel, Conasauga blue burrower, American oystercatcher, Canby’s dropwort and fatlips minnow.

The profiles are found at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation (click “Rare Species Profiles”). For more on the Wildlife Action Plan, see www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan.

Help conserve endangered and other nongame wildlife through buying a bald eagle or ruby-throated hummingbird license plate, or donating directly to the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Wildlife plate sales and direct contributions provide vital support for the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.

Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Bald Eagle Nesting Pair Survives Tornado-Like Storms & Hatches First Of Three Eggs

(BUSINESS WIRE)--While tending to their nesting duties, non-releasable Bald Eagles "Franklin" and "Independence", cared for by the non-profit American Eagle Foundation (www.eagles.org), recently survived severe storms that passed through the East Tennessee area.

“During the high winds and intense thunder showers, I intently watched the eagle nest day and night from a video camera available over the Internet”

"During the high winds and intense thunder showers, I intently watched the eagle nest day and night from a video camera available over the Internet," said AEF President Al Cecere. "It always amazes me how the parent birds faithfully cover the eggs and young with their body and wings during severe weather, even when chunks of hail are pounding on their backs."

The first of three eggs laid in March, which both parents have been diligently incubating and shielding from inclement weather over the past several weeks, hatched on the day of the Royal Wedding (April 29). The second egg and third eggs hatched May 5 and 6 respectively.

The most intimate nesting activities of these majestic birds are under a microscope lately, as the conservation group has established a "live" Eagle Nest Cam which can be viewed from their www.eagles.org website (or www.ustream.tv/americaneaglefoundation).

At about 5 or 6 weeks of age, all the eaglets that hatch in the nest will be moved to an artificial nesting tower located on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake. They will be released into the wild at 13 weeks of age after they've grown to full size.

"We invite anyone who loves animals, birds, nature and America to drop by our website (www.eagles.org) to watch and enjoy these wonderful birds," said Cecere. "We're even open to suggestions from our viewers regarding any possible names for the babies."

Both parent birds suffered permanent disabilities to one wing due to gunshot wounds. The American Eagle Foundation is headquartered at its United States Eagle Center located at Dolly Parton's family entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buford Trout Hatchery Hosts Guided Bird Walk On May 7th

Springtime is a great time to observe many species of colorful birds known as neotropical migrants. Just north of Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division’s Buford Trout Hatchery offers a combination of habitat that is attractive to neotropical migrants, making it the perfect location to spot a beautiful summer tanager or orchard oriole.

Local bird expert Rusty Trump, will be leading a bird walk along the hatchery’s Lincoln Sparrow Trail Saturday, May 7th at 8 a.m.

The Lincoln Sparrow Trail is a short, half-mile loop that is easy to walk and features two wildlife-viewing blinds and an observation deck which overlooks a wetland. Bird checklists and a limited number of binoculars are available for participants of the May 7th bird walk.

The walk is intended for individuals and families and is not designed to accommodate large organized groups. The walk is scheduled to begin promptly at 8 a.m. and should last until 9:30 a.m.

Birding participants can expect to see or hear a variety of neotropical species, including indigo buntings, summer tanagers, orchard orioles and numerous warblers. These neotropical migrants now are winging their way north on an annual migration from the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Buford Trout Hatchery is located between Cumming and Buford off Ga. Hwy. 20. From Atlanta, take Ga. Hwy. 400 north to Exit 14. Exit right on Ga. Hwy. 20 and travel east for four miles, turn left on River Club Drive in the Chattahoochee River Club subdivision. Travel approximately ½ mile and turn right at the second stop sign onto Trout Place Road. Trout Place Road dead-ends into Buford Trout Hatchery.

For additional information about the May 7th bird walk, contact the Buford Trout Hatchery at (770) 781-6888.

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Coming Soon to a Beach Near You: Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Loggerhead sea turtles will soon start crawling onto Georgia’s barrier island beaches to nest.

One ambitious leatherback sea turtle already has.

For the second year in a row, a female leatherback reached the beach first, nesting on Ossabaw Island April 19. The early arrival of this endangered species is not unusual, and the loggerhead sea turtles that are more common to the Georgia coast will begin arriving next month, said Georgia Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Dodd expects a strong loggerhead nesting season, although not quite the 1,750 nests found last year, the most since daily monitoring of all Georgia barrier islands began in 1989. “My guess is it will be down a little bit but still an above-average nesting year … somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 nests.”

From May through September, these massive turtles named for their large heads will lay eggs in the soft sand where beaches meet dunes. Loggerheads are federally listed as threatened, with a proposal pending to classify some populations – including the one found year-round along Georgia’s coast – as endangered.

A group of volunteers, researchers and others called the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative manages and protects sea turtle nests from Tybee to Cumberland Island. “What they do is absolutely critical to our overall conservation effort,” said Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.

Data gathered contribute to management decisions and genetic research that is mapping the loggerhead’s family tree along the Southeast. Nests sheltered by being moved above the high-tide line and protected from predators such as feral hogs result in more eggs hatched, which could pay dividends as more sea turtles reach the age of 35 years and older at which the females first nest.

Loggerheads have a long way to go. Although the last five years of nest counts show a slight upturn, the federal definition of recovery is a 2 percent increase per year for 50 years, leading to an annual count of 2,800 nests. Georgia recorded 995 nests in 2009 and 1,646 in 2008. The 2011 season starts within days.
Help conserve loggerheads through buying a bald eagle or ruby-throated hummingbird license plate, or donating directly to the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Wildlife plate sales and direct contributions provide vital support for DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.

Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for details, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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How Fire Ants Build Waterproof Rafts

It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon that has puzzled biologists for decades: Place a single fire ant in water and it will struggle. But a group of fire ants will bind together and float effortlessly for days.

Georgia Tech researchers – Nathan Mlot, mechanical engineering graduate student; Craig Tovey, professor of industrial and systems engineering; and David Hu, professor of mechanical engineering – have solved the mystery of how fire ants self-assemble into a waterproof raft.

Using time-lapse photography and mathematical modeling, the Georgia Tech team found that fire ants act collaboratively rather than individually to form a water-repellant, buoyant raft.

A paper describing the research, titled “Fire ants self-assemble into waterproof rafts to survive floods,” was published April 25 in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It’s a real thrill unraveling what at first looks like chaos,” Tovey said. “To understand what the individual behaviors are and how they combine in order to achieve the function of the group is the central puzzle one encounters when studying social insects.”

An individual ant’s exoskeleton is moderately hydrophobic. But fire ants enhance their water repellency by linking their bodies together, a process similar to the weaving of a waterproof fabric, researchers said.

By freezing the ants, the Georgia Tech team observed that fire ants construct rafts when placed in water by gripping each other with mandibles, claw and adhesive pads at a force 400 times their body weight.

The result is a viscous and elastic material that is almost like a fluid composed of ant “molecules,” researchers said. The ants spread out from a sphere into a pancake-shaped raft that resisted perturbations and submergence techniques.

To determine how this is possible, Tovey and the team tracked the ants’ travel and measured the raft’s dimensions. They found the ants move using a stereotyped sequence of behavior. The ants walk in straight lines, ricocheting off the edges of the raft and walking again until finally adhering to an edge, Tovey said. The ant raft is water repellent because of cooperative behavior.

The ant raft provides cohesion, buoyancy and water repellency to its passengers. Even more remarkable, it is self-assembled quickly, in less than 100 seconds. It is also self-healing, meaning if one ant is removed from the raft, others move in to fill the void.

“Self-assembly and self-healing are hallmarks of living organisms,” Hu said. “The ant raft demonstrates both these abilities, providing another example that an ant colony behaves like a super organism.”

The research could have application to logistics and operations research and material sciences, specifically the construction of man-made flotation devices. It also could impact the field of robotics, the team said.

“With the ants, we have a group of unintelligent units acting on a few behaviors that allow them to build complex structures and accomplish tasks,” Mlot said. “In autonomous robotics, that’s what is desired—to have robots follow a few simple rules for an end result.”

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Humane Society of the United States Responds to Android Dogfighting Application

The following is a statement from Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS regarding the Android application “Dog Wars.”

Law enforcement and animal advocates nationwide are making significant strides against both professional dogfighting and street-level dogfighting, and it is a step backwards to offer a video game for young people that glorifies this cruel and criminal activity. The Humane Society of the United States urges Android to drop “Dog Wars” from its applications and to join the national movement to save dogs from this violent pastime. Because “Dog Wars” actually instructs players on how to condition a dog using methods that are true to organized dogfighting, this game may be a training ground for young people to try the activity in the real world, encouraging cruelty to dogs and leading young people down a dead-end path. For more information on The HSUS’ work against dogfighting, visit http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/dogfighting/

Giant tortoises show rewilding can work

‘Rewilding with taxon substitutes’, the intentional introduction of exotic species to fulfil key functions in ecosystems following the loss of recently extinct species, is highly controversial, partly due to a lack of rigorous scientific studies.

In a paper published today in Current Biology, Christine Griffiths of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and colleagues present the first empirical evidence that rewilding can work.

Exotic giant Aldabra tortoises, Aldabrachelys gigantea, were introduced to Ile aux Aigrettes, a 25-hectare island off Mauritius, in 2000 to disperse the slow-growing ebony Diospyros egrettarum (Ebenaceae), which once covered the island, but today is critically endangered following intensive logging for firewood that lasted until the early 1980s.

To highlight the extent to which the ebony forest had been decimated, the researchers surveyed and mapped all ebony trees in an island-wide survey in 2007 and located a total of 3,518 adult trees. However, large tracts of the island remained denuded of ebony, particularly in the northern and eastern coastal areas nearest to the mainland where logging was most intense.

There had been no regeneration in these areas even though logging ceased thirty years ago because, with the extinction of the island’s native giant tortoises, there were no large fruit-eating animals left to disperse the seeds of these critically-endangered trees.

The introduced Aldabra tortoises not only ingested the large fruits and dispersed large numbers of ebony seeds, but the process of passing through a tortoise’s gut also improved seed germination, leading to the widespread, successful establishment of new ebony seedlings in the heavily logged parts of the island.

Christine Griffiths said: “Our results demonstrate that the introduction of these effective seed dispersers is aiding the recovery of this critically endangered tree whose seeds were previously seed-dispersal limited. Reversible rewilding experiments such as ours are necessary to investigate whether extinct interactions can be restored.”

Professor Stephen Harris, co-author of the study, said: “Ecological restoration projects generally involve the plant community, as more often the animal components are extinct. There is, however, increasing evidence that restoration ecologists should be most concerned with the decline of species interactions, rather than species extinctions per se. Species interactions structure ecological communities, and provide essential ecosystem processes and functions such as pollination, seed dispersal and browsing, that are necessary for the self-regulation and persistence of a community.”

Paper

‘Resurrecting extinct interactions with extant substitutes’ by Christine Jane Griffiths, Dennis Marinus Hansen, Carl Gwynfe Jones, Nicolas Zuël and Stephen Harris is published in Current Biology.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reward Offered in Illegal Alligator Killing in Georgia

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward of as much as $2,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal killing of an alligator.

The Case: According to published media reports, on Apr. 10, the body of a mutilated alligator was discovered in the Flint River. The alligator’s tail had been cut off.

“The person or persons responsible for mutilating this alligator deserve to be brought to justice and we implore anyone with information to come forward,” said Jessica DuBois, Georgia state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States commends the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for their efforts to find those responsible for this serious crime.”

Alligators can be legally hunted in Georgia, but the season was closed at the time the alligator was killed.

Poaching:

Wildlife officials estimate that for every wild animal killed legally — tens of millions of animals per year — another is killed illegally.
Every year, thousands of poachers are arrested nationwide; however, it is estimated that only 1 to 5 percent of poached animals are discovered by law enforcement.
Poachers injure or kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.

The HSUS and HSWLT work with state and federal wildlife agencies nationwide to offer rewards of $2,500 for information leading to arrest and conviction of suspected poachers.


The Investigators: Anyone with information about this case is asked to call 1-800-241-4113 or the Georgia DNR Office in Albany at 229-430-4252.

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Landmark UGA study reveals breed-specific causes of death in dogs

Dog owners and veterinarians have long relied on a mix of limited data and anecdotal evidence to assess which breeds are at risk of dying from various conditions, but a new University of Georgia study provides a rare and comprehensive look at causes of death in more than 80 breeds.

The study, published in the current edition of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, can be used to create breed-specific health maintenance programs and is a starting point for future studies that will explore the genetic underpinnings of disease in dogs.

“If we can anticipate better how things can go wrong for dogs, we can manage their wellness to keep them as healthy as possible,” said study co-author Dr. Kate Creevy, an assistant professor in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

Creevy and her co-authors examined data from the Veterinary Medical Database to determine the cause of death for nearly 75,000 dogs over the 20-year period of 1984 through 2004. They classified the deaths by organ system and disease process and further analyzed the data by breed, age and average body mass. Eighty-two breeds are represented in their study, from the Afghan hound to the Yorkshire terrier.

While some of the findings corroborate smaller, breed-specific studies, the UGA researchers also found plenty of surprises. Toy breeds, such as Chihuahuas and Maltese, are known to have high rates of cardiovascular disease (19 and 21 percent of deaths within the breeds, respectively), for example, but the researchers found that Fox Terriers also have high rates of cardiovascular disease (16 percent of deaths). Golden retrievers and boxers are known to have high rates of cancer (50 and 44 percent of deaths, respectively), but the researchers found that the Bouvier des Flandres actually has a higher death rate from cancer (47 percent) than the boxer.

Creevy noted that the previously unknown high risk of cancer in the Bouvier, a relatively rare breed, highlights the power of their comprehensive approach.

“With rare breeds, an individual veterinarian may not see enough cases to be able to develop the opinion on whether the breed has a high incidence of conditions such as cancer,” Creevy said. “But if you analyze records that have been compiled over 20 years, you can detect patterns that you wouldn’t otherwise notice.”

Study co-author Daniel Promislow, a genetics professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the study may help solve one of the great enigmas of canine health. “Normally, if you compare different species of mammals, big ones live longer than little ones—elephants live longer than mice, and sheep are in the middle, for example—and that pattern holds pretty well across hundreds of different species of mammals,” Promislow said. “Within dogs, the opposite occurs; the little dogs live longer.”

The researchers found that larger breeds are more likely to die of musculoskeletal disease, gastrointestinal disease and, most notably, cancer. Smaller breeds had higher death rates from metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease.

Promislow said dogs are an ideal species in which to explore the genetic basis of disease. There’s an unparalleled degree of diversity among breeds—compare Chihuahuas to Great Danes, for example—yet all dogs are of the species Canis lupus familiaris. Within breeds, on the other hand, dogs are genetically very similar.

Scientists first mapped the dog genome in 2003 and have since compiled data on genetic variation at single points on the genome for more than 80 breeds. By combining the genetic data with the data from their study, the UGA team can search for genes that influence the risk of diseases such as cancer.

Promislow pointed out that because the building blocks of the dog genome and the human genome are the same, understanding the genetic basis of disease in dogs can inform human medicine. If specific genes are found to play a significant role in Cushing’s disease in dogs, for example, scientists can assess whether the same process occurs in humans with the disease, with the ultimate goal of creating new strategies for early diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

“Is genetic variation for disease due to a few genes that vary in the population and have a big effect or dozens or hundreds of genes with small effects? That’s a basic biological question that we can address,” Promislow said. “There’s potential to learn a lot about the genetics of disease in general using the dog as a model.”

Promislow approached Creevy with the idea of collaborating after acquiring gigabytes of data that required a veterinarian’s expertise to analyze. Much of the initial data analysis was performed by former veterinary internal medicine resident Jamie Fleming, who is now in private practice in Port Washington, Wis.

Creevy noted that Promislow’s background in evolutionary biology allows the team to explore questions that have implications far beyond veterinary medicine. She also pointed out that their collaboration underscores the potential of interdisciplinary research. “This study is a good example of the unique things that can happen at a research university,” Creevy said.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bald Eagle Nesting Going Strong in Georgia, Survey Shows

Chalk up another solid nesting year for bald eagles in Georgia.

Department of Natural Resources aerial surveys in January and March documented 142 occupied nesting territories, 111 successful nests and 175 young fledged. Totals for eaglets and successful nests declined slightly compared to 2010, when the respective counts were 194 and 122. But the number of occupied nests increased from 139 last year.

Each count this year topped 2009, when the statewide search revealed 128 occupied or active territories, 101 successful nests – those in which young are raised to the point they can fly – and 166 eaglets.

Survey leader Jim Ozier said the fluctuations could reflect factors such as harsh weather and sampling error, and “are not outside the range we would expect.” His opinion is the state’s bald eagle population is strong.

“I think it will continue to grow,” said Ozier, a program manager in the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.

Thanks to conservation laws, restoration work and a ban on the pesticide DDT, bald eagles have rebounded from near-extinction through much of their range 40 years ago. Nests numbered in the single digits in Georgia when Ozier started searching for them more than two decades ago. Nesting territories steadily increased, and then surged to 96 in 2006 and beyond 100 in recent years.

Ozier and others are concerned about the impact of Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy, or AVM, a neurological disease deadly to waterbirds, mainly coots and bald eagles. One suspected link is that coots ingest a strain of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae common on submerged aquatic plants – particularly hydrilla – and a toxin in the algae sickens eagles that eat contaminated coots.

Discovered in Arkansas in 1995, AVM has been documented in Georgia at lakes Clarks Hill, Juliette, Varner and West Point, and some small reservoirs near Atlanta. Clarks Hill, also known as J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir, is a hotspot. Eagle nesting territories on the lake have dwindled from eight to one, Ozier said. He saw two adult eagles dead on nests there this year. At one of the nests, another dead adult eagle was found a few days later on the ground below. Apparently both members of this nesting pair were lost at about the same time.

Scientists are probing AVM and what can be done to combat it.

Although concentrated on the coast, bald eagle nests are found across the state, usually near major rivers and lakes where the fish, birds and turtles that eagles eat are abundant. The nests are big – averaging 5 feet wide – but they can be hard to find. Ozier encouraged the public to let his office know of any eagle nests they see, by form (www.georgiawildlife.com/node/1322) or phone (478-994-1438). Each year, these reports lead to the documentation of nests not monitored before.

DNR works with landowners to help protect nests on their property.

Bald eagles are one of more than 600 high-priority nongame animals and plants identified in the Georgia Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy guiding conservation efforts statewide. Georgians can also help conserve eagles and other rare and endangered nongame wildlife by contributing to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund checkoff on their state income tax returns.

The Wildlife Conservation Fund supports conservation of animals from sea turtles to southeastern American kestrels, as well as native plants and natural habitats. DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section also uses donations to attract and match grants, gaining about $1 for every 25 cents spent.

Make a mark for eagles this tax season: Fill in any amount more than $1 on line 26 of the state’s long tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ). Visit www.georgiawildlife.com/node/338 for more information. State income tax forms are available online at https://etax.dor.ga.gov/.

The Nongame Conservation Section receives no state appropriations for its mission to conserve nongame animals – those not legally hunted, fished for or trapped – and native plants and habitats. The sales of bald eagle and hummingbird license plates also benefit the agency and the Wildlife Conservation Fund. Details at www.georgiawildlife.com.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Georgia Aquarium's AT&T Dolphin Tales Makes Debut Splash

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Aquarium is proud to announce the debut of the much-anticipated AT&T Dolphin Tales gallery and show on Saturday, April 2. Dedicated to inspiring memorable connections between humans and dolphins, AT&T Dolphin Tales strives to create a greater understanding of these magnificent animals and to develop a lasting legacy for the conservation of dolphins and other marine mammals.

"The new gallery and show is an important addition and expansion of Georgia Aquarium's focus on the care of marine mammals," said David Kimmel, president and chief operating officer for Georgia Aquarium. "This commitment began with the opening of the Aquarium in 2005 when the beluga and sea otter exhibits were first featured. AT&T Dolphin Tales represents nothing less than the next level of engaging the public to care about these animals."

Serving as a moving tribute to the beauty and grace of dolphins, the 84,000-square-foot AT&T Dolphin Tales exhibit uses entertainment to educate audiences with dynamic performances by a live actor, trainers and charismatic animals and effects utilizing light, water, video, sound and dramatic costuming, all set to the storyline of a professionally orchestrated soundtrack.

The spectacular 25-minute show, created specifically for Georgia Aquarium, is narrated by the show's lead character, the StarSpinner, a mysterious adventurer and storyteller who leads the audience through an interactive journey across the oceans and through the ages. Throughout a mythical journey of good versus evil, aided by the guidance of the dolphin cast and engaging audience interactions, guests will be on the edge of their seats one moment, and soothed by an aquatic ballet the next.

Emmy award-winning producers and directors developed the production in concert with a world-class team of talented individuals, assembled from the worlds of television, film and Broadway. An original musical score was written and composed by renowned composer Tim Williams, and recorded by a 61-piece orchestra at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles as a tribute to the beauty and whimsy of the dolphins.

All Georgia Aquarium guests can get an up-close look at the naturally playful behaviors of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins through a 25-foot-long acrylic viewing window located in the gallery lobby. Periodic dolphin viewing is included with Georgia Aquarium general admission. Entrance to the AT&T Dolphin Tales gallery is included with Georgia Aquarium general admission. An AT&T Dolphin Tales ticket is required in order to see the live show.

Through AT&T Dolphin Tales and its many other programs, Georgia Aquarium seeks to educate audiences on the importance of embracing aquatic animals, motivating viewers to care about them and inspiring them to make positive environmental choices. AT&T, a sponsor of the Aquarium's Deepo's Undersea 3D Wonder show since 2005, is the new sponsor of the AT&T Dolphin Tales gallery and theater. AT&T recently completed an expansion of its Distributed Antenna System (DAS) inside the Aquarium to include the AT&T Dolphin Tales gallery and theater. A DAS consists of several strategically-placed antennas that distribute AT&T's wireless network coverage throughout the Aquarium, providing for more efficient management of wireless capacity in heavily-trafficked areas.

Tickets to the AT&T Dolphin Tales show are now available at georgiaaquarium.org. Walk-up tickets will be in short supply. To ensure a seat at this spectacular production, guests are requested to book their seats in advance. Ticket packages including admission to the Aquarium and AT&T Dolphin Tales start at the following rates: Adult, $37.45; Child (age 3-12), $25.95; Senior (age 65 and up), $30.45.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Rescue of "Orphaned" Wildlife Not Necessary

Concern for wildlife, especially young animals, is simply human nature. Most people who come across a deer fawn, a young bird or a newborn rabbit that is alone will initially watch in amazement and then sometimes wonder if the animal is in need of help. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages residents to resist the urge to ‘rescue’ these animals.

"Despite good intentions, young wildlife taken into captivity can lose their natural instincts and ability to survive in the wild,” explains John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division assistant chief of Game Management. “In most instances, young wildlife that appear to be helpless and alone are only temporarily separated from the adults. This natural behavior is a critical survival mechanism. Adults spend a significant amount of time away from their offspring to minimize predation.”

Additionally, handling such animals and bringing them into the home poses health risks for both people and domestic pets. Despite the fact that they make look healthy, wildlife can transmit life-threatening diseases such as rabies and can carry unhealthy parasites such as roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks. Certain ticks are especially known to transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness to humans.

Individuals who are not trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife and additionally, Georgia law prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit. Residents that encounter a seriously injured animal or an animal that clearly has been orphaned should first try to contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator.  A list of rehabilitators is available at www.georgiawildlife.com (select “Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator” from the home page). People also can contact their local Wildlife Resources Division office to obtain a contact number for a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to provide proper care for the animal until it can be released into the wild.

Residents that encounter an animal such as a bat, fox, skunk, raccoon, coyote or bobcat during the daytime that appears to show no fear of humans or dogs, or that seems to behave in a sick or abnormal manner (i.e. weaving, drooling, etc.), should avoid the animal and contact the local county health office and/or a Wildlife Resources Division office for guidance. The animal may be afflicted with rabies, distemper or another disease. Residents should not attempt to feed or handle the sick animal. Pets, livestock and humans should be kept away from the area in which the animal was observed.

The two most important steps people can take to protect themselves and their pets from rabies is to 1) get pets vaccinated and 2) avoid physical contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

SCAD to Host 2011 ANRC National Intercollegiate Equitation Championship April 15 - 17

/PRNewswire/ -- The Savannah College of Art and Design will host the 2011 ANRC (American National Riding Commission) Intercollegiate Equitation Championship from Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17 at the school's equestrian center, the Ronald C. Warranch Equestrian Center, Highway 17, 3650 Speedway Blvd., Hardeeville, South Carolina. Admission to select events is free and open to the public.

The ANRC Intercollegiate Equitation Championship is a national championship where colleges showcase their most talented riders in a team competition judged and scored on both a written test and riding skills. Among the almost twenty schools scheduled to join SCAD in the competition are Virginia Intermont, Goucher College (MD), Centenary College (NJ), Georgia Southern, Otterbein College (OH) and Sweet Briar College (VA). Awards will be presented to both school and individual champions.

The first of three riding phases consists of the dressage sportif, the guiding of the horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of the rider's hands, legs and weight. The second phase is an equitation round over fences; and the final phase is the hunter trials phase which takes place over fences in the open field.

This is the first time SCAD has hosted this 34-year-old competition. SCAD has taken home the championship title six times in the past eight years, and has won the competition for the past three years.

Spectators are welcome Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The schedule is as follows:

* Friday, April 15: Dressage sportif demonstration and competition.
* Saturday, April 16: Dressage sportif demonstration and competition.
* Sunday, April 17: Medal round phase over fences, hunter trials phase and award presentation.

There will be bleachers available for spectators to watch the competition. Food and drink will be available for purchase from Krusin Krepes.

For more information, call 912.344.6750.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Community invited to get buggy at UGA insect zoo

EVENT DATE: Apr. 1, 2011 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM 

Roach races, cricket spitting and insect eating will once again highlight the annual Insect Zoo put on by the University of Georgia entomology department and the H.O. Lund Entomology Club. The zoo, now in its 26th year, will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. April 1 at the biological sciences building on UGA’s campus in Athens, Ga.

The day will also include insect displays with everything from tarantulas and honeybees to scorpions and hissing cockroaches, insect trivia, a spelling bee, an insect eating contest and arts and crafts.

Besides the insect zoo, UGA’s Entomology Department works within the local community bringing living insects, centipedes, millipedes, scorpions and spiders and museum specimens from Georgia and other parts of the world to schools, libraries, organizations or community centers for interactive display.

For more information and an updated schedule of events, visit www.ent.uga.edu/insectzoo or e-mail Marianne Robinette at entomolo@uga.edu.

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Rescue Teams Deployed to Japan

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters, deployed Canine Disaster Search Teams to Japan last week to assist with the rescue efforts in response to the powerful 8.9 earthquake that struck the island nation on March 11th.

Six canines and their firefighter-handlers trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation are searching from dawn to dark, combing the wreckage in Ofunato City on the North East coast of Japan to find survivors buried alive in the rubble. Their base of operations is a gymnasium which California Task Force 2 shares with Virginia Task Force 1 and a British Task Force, our partners in the search effort.

The teams are 'delayering' areas at a time so that Task Force members can remove layers of debris after being searched. The dogs have been divided into groups in order to continue the search around the clock.

The job of the Search Dogs is to find live victims, conscious or unconscious, in the debris left by the earthquake and tsunami. All rescue personnel will be awaiting a "Bark Alert" from the dogs, letting them know there is someone in need of rescue. Equally important is the dogs' ability to "clear" an area, i.e. determine that there is no one alive in the wreckage, and the rescue crews can move on to the next site. Everything the teams have learned during their intensive training will be put to use in saving lives.

"Every minute counts as the teams work to find people buried beneath the rubble," says SDF Founder, Wilma Melville. "After the Haiti deployment, this is a battle-seasoned group. If there are people still alive in the rubble, the dogs will find them. I am so proud of every canine and handler out there combing the debris for signs of life, and feel confident in their abilities knowing they have had the best training possible and are at their highest skill level."

SDF is the only organization in America dedicated to partnering rescued dogs with firefighters and providing them at no cost to fire departments to find people trapped in the wreckage of disasters. They have rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia, and turned them into highly skilled rescuers.

Their 71 teams have responded to 76 disasters, including the World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake— where they helped bring 12 people to safety. Each time the teams deploy they come back with crucial lessons that are shared with all Search Teams to sharpen training techniques and tactics and enhance emergency response in our country and abroad.

SDF will train 21 new teams in 2011 (at a cost of $15,000 per team) to be ready for the next local, national or international disaster. SDF receives no government funding and relies solely on support from individuals, private foundations, and companies to provide this critical resource—at no cost to fire departments or taxpayers.

About The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF)

The Search Dog Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen emergency response in America by teaming rescued dogs with firefighters to find people trapped in the wreckage of disasters. Since its founding in 1996, SDF has rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia. They have trained 117 Search Teams, 75 of which are currently active.

For more information about the Search Teams or to make a donation to turn rescued dogs into rescuers, help form our new 2011 teams, and provide the highest-level training to our existing teams: visit www.SearchDogFoundation.org, and follow the teams on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Today! Adopt the Internet Day

More than 320,000 pets are waiting for homes on Petfinder.com.  Help Petfinder Adopt the Internet today and find forever homes for as many as possible!

Petfinder Adopt-the-Internet Day




As a matter of record, I did find one of my three adopted pets by using Petfinder.  It was a great way to begin the search for just the perfect dog to help fill my heart with love after the loss of our old gal.  After looking at hundreds of available dogs while sitting in the comfort of my home, we selected the final candidates and started visiting the little tykes.

I am pleased to say our little Buddy, aka Fufala, stole our hearts as soon as he came out to greet us.  We've had the pleasure of his love and devotion for almost 4 years now.

Would I use Petfinder again?  You betcha!

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As coastal fisheries decline, major source of nutrients for entire ecosystem is lost

A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia and Florida International University has found that the elimination of large marine predators through overfishing and habitat alteration removes a vital source of nutrients for coastal ecosystems.

The study, currently in press in the journal Ecological Applications, shows that the influence of these large marine species goes far beyond their role as predators.

“The effects are not just top-down,” said study co-author Jacob Allgeier, a doctoral student in the UGA Odum School of Ecology who led the study with Craig Layman of Florida International University. “When you eliminate these large predators, you also eliminate a major source of nutrients for algae and plants in the food web, especially in tropical and sub-tropical coastal areas.”

Working at study sites on Andros Island, the largest island in the Bahamas, the team, which included UGA associate professor of ecology Amy Rosemond, compared populations of gray snapper – an abundant and economically important species – from areas that experience varying levels of human impact, specifically overfishing and habitat alteration. One group of sites was located on the west coast of Andros, an area with virtually no human impacts. The other sites were on the island’s east coast, home to most of Andros’s population. Those sites were affected by fishing and habitat fragmentation in the form of roads that cut off interior wetlands from the ocean. The study sites, deep tidal creek mouths lined with mangrove trees, were otherwise similar.

Allgeier said that tropical and sub-tropical coastal waters are typically low in nutrients. “That’s why places like the Bahamas have such clear water,” he said. “That’s also why the fish are so important there. They recycle the nutrients they take in from the food that they eat, making them available for lower-level organisms, like algae, that form the base of the food web.”

The researchers found significantly higher fish densities at the sites that experienced no human impacts, which led to much higher quantities of nutrients being recycled at these sites: 4.6 times more nitrogen and 5.4 times more phosphorus.

“We were surprised at the quantity of nutrients supplied by the fish,” said Allgeier. “The density of the fish is high, but still it was surprising that this one species does so much.”

Not only that, they found that the size of the fish differed greatly between impacted and unimpacted sites. Unimpacted sites had eleven times more snapper that were over twenty-five centimeters in length than did impacted sites. According to Rosemond, reduced fish size is a hallmark of high fishing pressure.

The team’s findings point to the complexity of nutrient cycling in coastal ecosystems. “The implications of fish in nutrient cycling may not be as important in nutrient-rich environments,” Allgeier said. “But a lot of people live in areas with nutrient-poor coastal waters, near the equator and along the coasts.”

Allgeier said that the east coast of Andros is home to roughly 10,000 people. “What that means is that these are conservative estimates, compared to what you would see in more populous areas like Jamaica or Haiti. We need to learn a lot more about how the ecosystem will function as fisheries in these areas continue to decline.”

In a related paper currently in review in the journal Ecology, Allgeier and Layman continue their investigation into the mechanisms by which fish excretion enhances algal growth through a series of experiments using artificial reef habitats.

The study’s other co-authors were Craig Dahlgren of the Perry Institute of Marine Science and Lauren Yeager of Florida International University. Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finalists for Fourth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards Announced

The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to announce the Top 10 Finalists in the fourth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards. The awards honor dogs who have exhibited an extraordinary sense of courage or resolve by heroically helping a person in need.

Online voting for the People’s Hero award will open Friday (March 4)  at humanesociety.org/dogsofvalor and will run through Friday, March 11 at 5 p.m. EDT. One lucky People’s Hero voter will be randomly selected to receive a $100 gift certificate for The HSUS’ online store, Humane Domain.

The Valor Dog of the Year will be chosen by a panel of celebrities, including Charlotte Ross who has played a tough cop on NYPD Blue and shown her lighter side in Glee; Chris Riggi, who is best known for his roles on Gossip Girl and his version of Twilight’s werewolf Jacob in Fox’s parody, Vampires Suck; and Jon Prescott, who will be starring in the upcoming film The One and will also appear in Maladies.  Both films are scheduled for release in 2011.

All winners will be announced March 14.

The finalists are:

Ceili (Portland, Ore.) – Stalled her owner as he tried to go upstairs to bed by nipping at his shorts and pulling off his shoe, preventing him from being alone when he had a massive heart attack.
Coco (Summerfield, Fla.) – Barked and clawed at his owner to alert him that the tractor-trailer in which they were sleeping was being consumed by flames.
Diamond (Hayward, Calif.) – Barked and alerted her owner when his second floor apartment was on fire, giving him just enough time to escape the flames and save his two daughters.
Effie (Pine City, Minn.) – Strained on her leash and pulled her owner 50 yards to a 94-year-old man who was unconscious and bleeding in his driveway.
Emmett (Boise, Idaho) – Drew attention by running around and barking right before his owner was about to snowmobile over a live wire than had fallen during a snow storm.
Gangsta (Selden, N.Y.) – Barked hysterically to get her family’s attention when their daughter suffered a violent seizure in the shower and collapsed unconscious in a tub of scalding water. 
Sarge (Forsyth, Ill.) – Woke his owner by barking and then led him to his daughter’s room where there was an intruder lurking inside.
Sirus (Conneaut, Ohio) – Was shot after he aggressively barked until he was let outside, giving his owners time to hide their baby and grab a gun before intruders kicked their way into the home.
Wyatt Earp (Royal Oak, Mich.) – Alerted neighbors by barking incessantly when his 72-year-old owner collapsed and lost consciousness from dangerously low blood sugar during a winter evening walk.
Yogi (Austin, Texas) – Ran around and barked furiously until he got help for his owner who hit a bump and flipped over the handles of his mountain bike, paralyzing him from the chest down.

The complete stories can be viewed online at humanesociety.org/dogsofvalor.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Pets Unleashed Their Inner Party Animal at the 18th Annual Beggin'(R) Pet Parade

Thousands of eager sniffers discovered millions of exciting smells at the 18th annual Beggin' Pet Parade on Sunday, Feb. 27.

As one of the world's premiere pet events, the Beggin'(R) Pet Parade attracted more than 8,000 pets and 80,000 people looking for a tail-wagging good time. Pets unleashed their inner party animal with fun games, including "Thick Cut Bead Toss" and a photo booth.

Best of all, the 2011 Beggin'(R) Pet Parade helped to raise funds for the homeless pets at the Open Door Animal Sanctuary. More than $12,000 was raised to benefit this St. Louis animal sanctuary.

One of the highlights of the Beggin'(R) Pet Parade was the coronation ceremony to select the 2011 Beggin'(R) Court. Five lucky costumed canines were chosen to be the King, Queen, Prince, Princess and Jester.

And back by popular demand, the best group costume title of "Most Loyal Subjects" was awarded to the pack of pets whose collaborative costume efforts were heads and tails above the rest. The Beggin'(R) Court represented the spirit of the celebration through the memorable, fun-loving personalities and elaborate attention-getting costumes. All five of the canine court members took home royal titles, along with prizes including a year's supply of Beggin(R) Strips.

For more information about the parade, visit www.begginpetparade.com or www.internetvideorelease.com/parade .

About Nestle Purina Pet Care

Nestle Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestle Purina PetCare ispart of Swiss-based Nestle S.A., the world's largest food company.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Helping Paw: Trained Therapy Dogs Aid with Chronically Ill Patients

Editor Note:  This is just so fantastic!  Anyone know of any Georgia hospitals who offer this service?

/PRNewswire/ -- Lexi trots down the hall of the inpatient oncology unit at Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital and is greeted with smiles, cheers, and even a few tears. The anticipated visitors sense the excitement, but understand Lexi is there to do her job and she gets right to work visiting 54 year old cancer patient Leonard Pal. Lexi is not your typical visitor; she's a Golden Retriever bringing distraction and cheer to very sick patients. The visits are part of a new animal-assisted therapy program launched at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago.

"Who wouldn't mind getting a visit by a beautiful red head," said Pal about the five year old Golden Retriever. Pal is being treated for colon cancer which has metastasized to his liver. He's in and out of the hospital undergoing tests and receiving medicine to manage his pain. "This is the highlight of my day; I was waiting for her all morning," added Pal as Lexi cozies up to his bedside.

The program began this summer on the oncology unit of Prentice Women's Hospital, part of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where Lexi, Willow and Piper, the newest dog in the program, visit cancer, palliative care and hospice patients. The program has been so well received, that it has been recently expanded to include visits with patients in the women care unit as well as the surgical floor where many of the patients have paralysis and are in the hospital long-term.

"We are excited to be able to provide a welcomed break in the day for patients, many of whom are in the hospital for long term care. Interacting with the dogs has a noticeable impact on their mood and enhances their well being," said Patricia Murphy, RN, MSN, director of oncology nursing at Northwestern Memorial.

Research suggests that visits with animals may improve patient outcomes, decrease length of hospital stay, help with confusion, depression and manage pain symptoms.

"It's never fun to be at the hospital. It's uncomfortable to have needles in your arm and scary to undergo tests, but when I see the dogs I forget about my treatment. They ease the burden of being in the hospital and really make a big difference in my day," said Pal.

Interaction with animals has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, increase sensory stimulation, inspire a sense of purpose, increase social interactions with staff and reduce loneliness by creating a sense of companionship.

If a patient is unable to receive a visit from the dogs because of infection control, open wounds or compromised immune systems, the dogs are trained to stand in the doorway and wave to the patient.

"Anyone who has a pet knows the joy they bring to our lives. Sharing that joy is so rewarding," said Judith Jaffe, trained dog handler for Canine Therapy Corps and Willow's owner.

Lexi and Willow not only bring a smile to the faces of patients like Pal, but visitors and the hospital staff are always excited to see the pups. "The oncology unit can be very stressful for staff, families and the patients. The dogs bring great energy and happiness when they come to visit. It really brightens everyone's day," said Jessica Palis, RN, clinical coordinator at Northwestern Memorial.

If interested in learning more about how you can get involved please visit Canine Therapy Corps.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are Atlantans Visiting Some of the World's Last Turtles?

New report lists species housed at Zoo Atlanta among the planet’s rarest

One might assume that an animal with a shell has one of nature’s greatest built-in security systems. If that were true, there might not be a need to identify 2011 with the conservation imperative, “Year of the Turtle.” But according to a new report issued by a consortium of conservation groups, many of the turtles currently housed at Zoo Atlanta are among the last of their kind.

Issued by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Turtle Conservation Fund on February 21, 2011, the report included an alarmingly long list of turtle species now at risk of extinction. Three of the 25 species listed at “extremely high risk of extinction” are represented at Zoo Atlanta: the McCord’s box turtle; Burmese star tortoise; and Sulawesi forest turtle. An additional six identified as “very high risk” – the Pan’s box turtle; Arakan forest turtle; flat-shelled spider tortoise; radiated tortoise; common spider tortoise; and Georgia’s own bog turtle – are also represented at the Zoo.

“The rate at which we’re seeing turtles decline in the wild makes it hard to make much distinction between words like ‘extremely’ and ‘very,’” said Dwight Lawson, PhD, Deputy Director at Zoo Atlanta. “And the fact that there’s a Georgia species on that list makes it clear that this isn’t just a phenomenon seen in far-off parts of the world.”

While the bog turtle is most threatened by habitat loss, most of its endangered cousins around the world are declining as a result of extreme over-harvesting for food, particularly in Asia, where high demand for turtle meat has already resulted in extinction of some species. Zoo Atlanta is an active partner in the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), an international conservation initiative composed of public and private sector animal management and zoological organizations, academics and veterinarians. TSA manages collaborative breeding programs and husbandry of turtles at partner facilities worldwide, including Zoo Atlanta.

“We want our Members and guests to appreciate turtles for their beauty and diversity, but we also want them to understand the plight facing turtles in the wild,” said Lawson, who currently serves as Vice President of TSA. “The story we tell here at Zoo Atlanta isn’t one of gloom and doom. It’s a message of hope for the things we as individuals can do in our own lives to put an end to unsustainable trade of wildlife around the world and here in the U.S.” Zoo Atlanta is a recognized center of excellence for the care and study of vanishing reptiles and amphibians. The World of Reptiles is home to more than 500 individual animals, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Guests interested in learning more are encouraged to visit Trader’s Alley: Wildlife’s Fading Footprints, an interactive series of educational exhibits devoted to the global problem of the wildlife trade.

Citizen science data reveal links between migration and disease in monarch butterflies

A University of Georgia study that enlisted the help of hundreds of citizen scientists from across the U.S. and Canada has found that parasite infections in monarch butterflies increase during the summer breeding season, a finding that could help improve conservation efforts.

The researchers, led by postdoctoral associate Rebecca Bartel of the UGA Odum School of Ecology, studied populations of monarch butterflies in eastern North America, which migrate up to 1,500 miles each fall, and measured levels of parasitism in monarchs at their breeding grounds, at points along their migratory route, and at overwintering sites in Mexico. Their findings are featured as the cover story in the current issue of the journal Ecology.

According to Odum School associate professor Sonia Altizer, one of the study’s authors, the finding that parasite infections build up during the summer breeding season is likely due to the fact that parasites accumulate on host plants—milkweeds—in patches used by monarchs.

“Monarch population density increases from early to late in the breeding season, increasing opportunities for parasite transmission,” Altizer said. “Monarchs from sites that were more densely populated had a higher prevalence of infection.”

Altizer said that parasite prevalence decreased as the fall migration progressed. In addition, the prevalence of infection among monarchs wintering in Mexico was lower than for summer breeding or fall migrating monarchs. “This is likely because heavily infected monarchs are weeded out of the population during the arduous fall migration journey,” she said.

“Migration is a strong selective force for many different animals,” said Jaap de Roode, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University and a co-author of the study. “It’s important to understand how the movement of these animals affects their disease risk.”

Understanding the interaction between migration and infectious disease is fundamental to conservation efforts for many species. But the logistical challenges involved in collecting samples across the geographic scope of a species’ range, from breeding to overwintering sites, can be enormous.

The two citizen science projects the team drew upon were MonarchHealth, launched in 2006 and run from UGA, and the Monarch Larva Monitoring project, which began in 1997 and is run through the University of Minnesota. Altizer said that MonarchHealth volunteers capture wild monarchs, collect parasite samples using non-destructive methods, and send them to UGA for analysis. MLMP volunteers count monarch eggs, caterpillars and adults in wild milkweed patches during the spring and summer.“No single person could monitor monarchs across hundreds of sites simultaneously as the volunteers can,” she said.

Bartel agreed that the contributions of the citizen scientists were invaluable. “It allowed us as scientists to accomplish research objectives such as data collection across a broader geographic area than would otherwise have been possible,” she said. “It was also a way to engage people from a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds in the scientific process and an exciting way to practice science education on the ground.”

According to co-author and University of Minnesota associate professor Karen Oberhauser, the project is unique in that it combines data from two different citizen science projects, using data from MonarchHealth volunteers to assess disease status of the insects, and data from MLMP volunteers to assess monarch density. This collaborative effort benefited both the research and the volunteers. “Volunteers from both projects were exposed to the bigger picture of monarch biology, and many have decided to contribute data to both projects as a result of this collaborative analysis,” Oberhauser said.

The team’s findings could help direct conservation efforts. Bartel said that lessons learned from the monarch system could be applied to help predict threats of infectious disease to other wildlife. “Many migratory species—whether insects, birds, mammals, or fishes—are suffering severe and often sustained population declines, with habitat loss and climate change disrupting their migration patterns,” she said. “Some of these species provide critical ecosystem services, including crop pollination, nutrient cycling and pest control. Because migration can affect their level of parasite infection, understanding the interactions between human activities, migration and infectious disease is crucial.”

Funding for the study was provided the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation Announce Panda Cub's New Name

/PRNewswire/ -- Officials at Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) have issued a joint announcement that the only giant panda cub born in the U.S. in 2010 has a name: Po. The name is a tribute to the lead character, Po the panda, in the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film, Kung Fu Panda 2, which will be distributed by Paramount Pictures starting on May 26, 2011.

The announcement was made this morning by representatives from Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation, the official sponsor of the 100 Day Giant Panda Cub Celebration and the naming of Po. Actor Jack Black, who voiced the iconic character of Po the panda in Kung Fu Panda – which grossed over $630 million at the worldwide box office – and who will reprise his role in the upcoming sequel, was present for the naming of the newborn panda cub.

"Today's announcement is the beginning of an amazing alliance between Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation. Our organizations share a commitment to giant panda conservation, particularly at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding," said Raymond B. King, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta. "We are proud and honored to share this moment with Jack Black, who has already helped to bring the importance of saving this species to a new generation of conservationists."

Giant pandas are among the world's rarest mammals, with fewer than 1,600 believed to remain in the wild. The giant panda program at Zoo Atlanta supports conservation programs at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and in nature reserves in China.

In the Kung Fu Panda films, Po is an unlikely hero challenged by preconceived notions of what a kung fu warrior should be. Following the likeable but clumsy Po and his allies on a series of adventures, the films celebrate the power of self-worth and the ability of an individual to affect positive change.

These themes are equally fitting for the giant panda cub. He is an ambassador for his species, helping to draw attention to the plight of giant pandas in the wild. Born to Lun Lun on November 3, 2010, the 3-month-old now known as Po is already proving to be a great ambassador. Followed by thousands of fans on the world-famous PandaCam presented by EarthCam, the cub is expected to make his public debut in late March or early April. View the PandaCam at www.zooatlanta.org/pandacam.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Researchers examine how primates and humans cooperate to gain rewards

Humans often work together toward a common goal. Now, Georgia State University researchers and their colleagues have found that humans aren’t the only ones to work together for a bigger payoff.

They found that in primates such as chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys, the animals also cooperated in a game to test whether two individuals would aim for higher rewards at a higher risk.

The results were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

As part of research investigating the development of economic decision making in humans, Sarah Brosnan, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State, and her partners, tested primates and humans by having them play the “Assurance” game.

The game involves two individuals working together to earn a high reward at a greater risk, called the “payoff dominant outcome,” or going for a lower risk, lower payoff reward, called the “risk dominant outcome.” In both cases, the chimpanzees and monkeys received fruit, while humans received money.

In this version of the game, neither humans nor other primates were given instructions, but learned the payoff structure as they played, leveling the playing field among the species.

The primates performed about the same as humans, but humans didn’t perform as well in this game as expected compared to results in the more typical game format, which uses instructions, Brosnan said. In addition, the results yielded other differences in how primates and humans perform in the game.

“Humans and capuchins may not make decisions in exactly the same way,” she said. “But capuchins seem to have the capacity to reach similar decisions as do humans. Bear in mind that only a fifth of the humans found the payoff dominant outcome.”

The researcher also found differences between chimpanzees, some of whom had been reared in a cognitively enriched environment from an early age and some of whom had been raised typically, Brosnan said. The former chimpanzees did far better than did the latter.

“This implies that rearing is important, which nobody disputes when it comes to humans, but as these results indicate is clearly the case for chimpanzees as well,” she said.

Brosnan and her colleagues are interested in the study of decision making and how it evolved in humans to better understand how humans developed complex economic systems, including such things as specialization and trade.

“These decisions about who to interact with and who to cooperate with are essential to human life,” she said. “Even in non-Western societies that are not as well tied into the global economic system, people are still making decisions about how to acquire and distribute resources in ways we don’t see in other species.

“Other species show evidence of some degree of these behaviors, but none of them have taken the extra step and gone on to specialization and then trade, which are one of the foundations of human economics,” Brosnan explained.

Researchers used the non-human primate facilities of Georgia State’s Language Research Center, as well as the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research at the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Bastrop, Texas. Human research was done at the Economic Science Institute of Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

The team included Brosnan, Audrery Parrish, Michael J. Beran, Timothy Flemming, Lisa Heimbauer and Catherine F. Talbot of GSU; Susan P. Lambeth and Steven J. Schapiro of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Bart J. Wilson of the Economic Science Institute of Chapman University.

 The study is available online at www.pnas.org under the “Early Edition” section.

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As Frigid Temperatures Grip the U.S., The HSUS Reminds Pet Owners Not to Ship Your Pet by Air Unless Absolutely Necessary

Animal lovers were shocked this week by news accounts of the death of a kitten travelling by air from Utah to Connecticut on a Delta Airlines flight, in what were supposed to be climate controlled conditions. During this cold wave enveloping much of the country, The Humane Society of the United States reminds pet owners not to transport their beloved companions by air as cargo unless no other options exist.

As the nation’s largest animal protection organization, The HSUS regularly receives reports from pet owners that animals continue to be killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year. Our pets can face risks including excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, scarcity of oxygen, and rough handling when flown in the "cargo" area of a plane. The Department of Transportation tracks animal deaths in transit, but not how many die of cold or heat in cargo holds or elsewhere. Heat deaths are more commonly reported, but this year’s extreme winter weather may cause that number to climb.

If your pet must travel by air, your best option is to keep him on board with you. But if he must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips on The HSUS’ website.

 The airline industry treats live animals as baggage. In the past, airlines have neither responded appropriately to reports of animal injuries, nor provided accurate information to the public. All American-based airlines are now required to report any companion animal incidents that occur in the cargo holds of their planes, including any deaths, injuries, or losses of these pets. Many airlines have responded to this law by implementing restrictions on accepting pets as cargo. For a complete month-by-month breakdown of these animal incidents, visit the Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report.

 Before you make plans to travel with your pet, The HSUS suggests:

consider driving instead of flying if planning on bringing a pet on vacation. If this isn't possible, consider leaving your pet behind under the care of a pet sitter or boarding kennel.
Above all, when making travel decisions, consider what is best for your pet.

If you must transport your pet by air, your first decision is whether you can take him or her on board with you. If your pet is a cat or small dog, most airlines will allow you to take the animal on board for an additional fee. To find out about this option, call the airline well in advance of your flight; there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin area.

When you contact the airline, be sure to find answers to these questions:

Does the airline allow you to take your cat or small dog on board with you?
If that option isn't available to you, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet as cargo?
Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers, which may be more comfortable for your pet, but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.

The HSUS also urges air travelers not hesitate to complain if they witness the mishandling of any animal at any airport.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Georgia DNR Board Passes Resolution in Support of Investigating Whooping Crane Killing

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board passed a resolution January 27 supporting the investigation of the recent killing of three whooping cranes in Calhoun County, Ga.   Members of the Georgia DNR Board and the Georgia DNR Foundation also are contributing an additional $4,800 to the reward fund. This addition brings the total reward fund amount to$20,800.

“This generous contribution comes at a time when there are no real leads in the investigation,” said Philip Watt, DNR Board Chairman of the Wildlife Resources Committee. “We hope the additional funds will entice someone to come forth with new information that will help solve the case. We are proud to be able to show our support in this way.” 

The DNR Board resolution urges the Wildlife Resources Division to continue cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to use “all available resources to investigate and prosecute the individual(s) responsible for killing the whooping cranes.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents are leading a joint investigation with Georgia DNR conservation rangers. The cranes were shot sometime before Dec. 30, 2010, and were discovered and reported by hunters. An examination by scientists at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, it was determined that the birds had injuries consistent with gunshot wounds.

“The DNR Board is putting its money where its mouth is,” said Joe Hatfield, Vice Chairman of the Board’s Wildlife Resources Committee. “We will continue to monitor this case and help DNR provide all appropriate resources to help apprehend the individual or individuals who shot the cranes.”

Other recent contributions to the reward fund include $2,500 from The Environmental Resources Network (T.E.R.N.) and $1,000 from the Atlanta Audubon Society. The reward will be provided to the person or people who provide information leading to an arrest and successful prosecution of the perpetrator(s). T.E.R.N., is the friends group of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.

The cranes were part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States. There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 in the wild. This was the three crane’s first migration. They were banded and equipped with transmitters and were not part of the ultralight aircraft-led migration effort. Their identities were confirmed by recovery of their bands. The three cranes, 20-10, 24-10, and 28-10, were part of a group of five 2010 Direct Autumn Release cranes. According to Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership trackers, they had last been tracked in Hamilton County, Tenn., where they roosted on Dec. 10, 2010, with cranes 6-05, 6-09, and 38-09.

In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at 404-763-7959 and/or Georgia Department of Natural Resources 24hr. TIP Hotline at 1-800-241-4113.

For more information about the reintroduction effort, visit http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coffee and Cub Conversations at Zoo Atlanta

Event will feature chats with experts and an exclusive silent auction

As the only giant panda cub in the U.S. draws closer to his public debut this spring, his fans have an opportunity to spend an intimate morning discussing his progress with the experts who know him best.

Set for Saturday, January 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Coffee and Cub Conversations will feature a special roundtable discussion with curators, veterinarians keepers, moderated by Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Mark Davis. The program will be preceded by an exclusive silent auction of items and experiences that will only be available during Coffee and Cub Conversations. Although technically in absentia, the guest of honor and his mother, Lun Lun, will make appearances on camera during a rare Saturday PandaCam viewing for Coffee and Cub guests.

Space is limited, and advance reservations are encouraged. Discounted advance tickets are available online on zooatlanta.org: $20 for Zoo Members; $25 for non-Members. Tickets purchased the day of the event may only be purchased at Zoo Atlanta Admissions and will be $25 for Members; $30 for non-Members.

Saturday, January 29, 2011
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Conservation Action Resource Center (ARC)

Zoo Atlanta
800 Cherokee Avenue, S.E. Atlanta, GA 30315

The Labrador Retriever Reigns Supreme Once Again in Atlanta

/PRNewswire/ -- Once again, the Labrador Retriever took Atlanta's top spot in the American Kennel Club's (AKC®) 2010 ranking of the most popular AKC-registered dog breeds in U.S.

"Atlanta's love of large dogs may be changing," said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "While Atlanta's top five breeds have remained constant over the past two years, the Yorkshire Terrier did manage to edge out the Boxer for Atlanta's forth spot in 2010."

Atlanta's top 5 breeds for 2010 compared to 2009:
Atlanta's Most Popular Breeds 2010
Atlanta's Most Popular Breeds 2009
1. Labrador Retriever
1. Labrador Retriever
2. Golden Retriever
2. Golden Retriever
3. German Shepherd Dog 
3. German Shepherd Dog 
4. Yorkshire Terrier
4. Boxer
5. Boxer
5. Yorkshire Terrier


* Registration data pulled from Atlanta's zip codes as specified by U.S. Postal Service

Among the Changes in Atlanta's Rankings:

* The French Bulldog looked like it was poised to enter Atlanta's top 10, being ranked 11th in 2009, but slipped nine spots, to 20th most popular breed this year.
* It was a three-way tie for ninth most popular breed, with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dachshund and Rottweiler splitting the honor for Atlanta.
* Mirroring the national rankings, the Bulldog proved to be Atlanta's 6th most popular breed.


The AKC also announced its nationwide registration statistics today, revealing that for the 20th consecutive year the Labrador Retriever is the most popular purebred dog in America. However, this year's list includes some shakeups in the top 10 - the Beagle overtook the Golden Retriever for the 4th spot, and the Bulldog took 6th place away from the Boxer, who dropped to 7th in 2010.

The Bulldog has been steadily rising up the list over the past decade, going from 21st to 6th. While impressive, it is not the biggest mover – that distinction goes to the French Bulldog. The Frenchie jumped 50 spots (from 71st to 21st) over the past 10 years.

Most Popular Breeds Nationwide 2010
1. Labrador Retriever
2. German Shepherd Dog 
3. Yorkshire Terrier
4. Beagle
5. Golden Retriever
 
In addition, the AKC expanded its litter of registered breeds on January 1 to welcome the Norwegian Lundehund, the Xoloitzcuintli and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog - growing next year's list of Most Popular Breeds to 170 dogs.

Additional information on the AKC's ranking of the Most Popular Breeds in the U.S. can be found online at www.akc.org.

Get social with the AKC! Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

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