I kind of get it. I can see how you might think a silverback is sexy – they seem to be made entirely of muscle. But what do young Japenese women find so attractive about Shabani, the famous hunky gorilla of Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens?
It’s his brooding good looks, and the fact that he’s a loving dad. Two words keep coming out from all the social media associated with Shabani:
ikemen: It’s the Japanese slang for “handsome guy”. The word is a combination of “I-ke” (pronounced “ee-kay”), which is an abbreviation of a word meaning “cool” or just “good”, and “men” derived from the English.
Ikumen: Another slang word meaning “a hands-on dad who looks after his children” – “iku” being an abbreviation of the word “iku-ji” which means “raising children”.
This fascination with the ‘human-ness’ of this gorilla has shown that by examining the facial expressions of some animals we recognize deep cognition, striking sexuality and strong family relationships. This is not to anthropomorphize Shabani, but to attribute animal qualities to humans; zoomorphism, in the sense that personifying animals reminds us we are a highly evolved animal species.
Over 600 hundred people have complained about the recent animal killings in Channel 4’s The Island With Bear Grylls, which sees male and female contestants stranded on separate remote islands in the Pacific and left to fend for themselves.
Channel 4 received 450 complaints, mostly to do with the broadcast of contestants killing and eating several pigs, and a separate episode in which contestants killed and ate a crocodile. The croc turned out to be a rare and endangered species, not usually found in that area. Channel claim this was a genuine mistake and have promised to replace the American crocodile.
A further 185 complaints were directed to Ofcom, which is considering whether to launch an investigation into the animal murders.
PETA has criticised the programme’s apparent use of animal cruelty to boost ratings.
“Killing animals is a cheap ratings ploy and sends an especially harmful message to young viewers, who are greatly influenced by what they see on TV. Bear Grylls and the producers should be prosecuted. Fame doesn’t mean immunity.”
Animal abuse and even murder has a long and sickening history in TV and cinema, but these days audiences are wise to it and rightly outraged. This list talks about some of the most famous examples of how animals were harmed in the making of this film, including the notorious ritual slaughter of a water buffalo in Apocalypse Now.
Rotoroa island is a small island off New Zealand’s west coast and was, from 1908 to 2005, home to a Salvation Army’s drug and rehabilitation unit. The facility treated male alcoholics, whilst females in recovery were housed on nearby Pakatoa island. More recently, the kiwi bird is set to be introduced onto the island, as the first of many endangered species given a new lease of life there.
The Rotoroa Island Trust has a radical approach to conservation: they’re not interested in whether the kiwi would have survived on the island, or whether it would manage without human intervention. The Trust aims to build a new ecosystem rather than replicate a damaged one, and the idea could enable a new family of kiwi birds to thrive. They aim to populate the island with endangered species, regardless of whether those animals would have been part of an ecosystem. Jonathan Wilcken, director of Auckland Zoo, insisted:
We are deliberately aiming not to recreate an ecosystem, but to create an ecosystem anew… We don’t frankly care very much whether those species existed on Rotoroa Island.
Rotoroa is not the only island sanctuary, and the idea of a safe haven separated by water from pest and human invasion has often been successful in protecting biodiversity. On the mainland, brown kiwi chicks have only a 3-4% chance of survival, due to the prevalence of invasive mammals. The Rotoroa chicks will be able to use the island as a protective nest, before being released onto the mainland when they have reached maturity and a better chance of defending themselves.
So what kind of wildlife will call Rotoroa island home?
The Kiwi – small flightless bird, native to New Zealand, it lays the largest egg in relation to its body size. The are five species of kiwi, all of varying levels of vulnerability. They are a shy bird, apparently nocturnal to avoid predators. They have an usually well-developed sense of smell and nostrils can be found at the end of their beaks. They form monogamous couples that can last up to 20 years.
Takahē – looks a bit like a blue chicken. Thought to be extinct in 1898, it was later rediscovered in 1948 after a sustained search effort in the Murchison mountains.
The Saddleback – otherwise known as the tieke, this bird is black with a chestnut saddle. They sing at dawn to mark their territory, but can be antagonistic when threatened, causing the birds to fan their tails, bobbed their heads, and even attack their enemies’ wattles. The Maori believed the saddleback’s cry, when coming from the right, was a good omen, whereas when the bird came from the left, it was a bad omen.
Since the 1940s, we have known that gibbons use a secret language to communicate, but only now, with ultra sensitive equipment, have scientists been able to decipher their unusual calls. This research could give us clues to the evolution of human language.
Lar gibbons, or the white-handed gibbon, are an endangered primate, usually found in Thailand, Laos or Malaysia. Every morning, the gibbon family gathers at the edge of its territory, and sings out a ‘great call’, a duet between the breeding pair, each pair exhibiting a unique variation of the family song.
Lar gibbons can produce sounds so soft that they can’t be easily heard by the human ear. Scientists from Durham University have managed to record these calls by spending four months following them through the forests of North-eastern Thailand, and they have published their analysis in the BMC Evolutionary Biology journal.
The team found that there were different calls or ‘words’ for a range of predators, including leopards, tigers, pythons and eagles. The whispers even distinguished between different types of birds even when they were physically quite similar, such as eagle owls and serpent eagles.
The gibbons use over 450 ‘hoo’ sounds, and each ‘word’ or ‘call’ serves a different purpose in a specific context. This new research suggests that, according to the lead scientist, Dr Esther Clark:
…lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller.
Spring has sprung, and, for animal shelters worldwide, that means the imminent arrival of hundreds of discarded bunnies in the weeks following Easter.
Rabbits do not obey the myths surrounding them: they don’t like to be handled by humans, they dislike being confined in cages, and, most annoyingly for homeowners, rabbits can chew through pretty much anything. They just don’t stop chewing.
When pet stores sell their Easter bunnies, the cute little creatures are small, fluffy and adorable. Hard for most parents to resist. But they grow, and, if, paired up with another rabbit, they breed. And breed and breed and breed. Like rabbits.
Many families give up on their Easter critters within weeks, and animal shelters are consequently overwhelmed. Buying Easter bunnies encourages bad breeding practices that result in a surplus of bunnies from consumers’ ill-conceived purchases.
80% of easter bunnies end up in shelters and those are the lucky ones – some families assume bunnies will be better off in the wild, so release them. However, bunnies are prey animals, and not used to the wild so they simply won’t survive.
Red Door Animal Shelter attempt to discredit the myths surrounding bunnies so consumers can make informed decisions before making an impulse purchase.