Weekly News Roundup 6/22–6/28
Koko the talking gorilla dies
Koko, the western lowland gorilla who learned to speak sign language and had an affinity for kittens, died in her sleep last week. She was 46. The Gorilla Foundation announced Koko’s death, saying she will be “deeply missed.” Born on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, Koko started learning sign language when she was a year old from Francine “Penny” Patterson, PhD, who remained her trainer throughout her life. Over the years, Koko was able to understand and use more than 1,000 different signs—and famously asked for a cat for Christmas in 1983. Researchers initially gave her a stuffed animal, but Koko wouldn’t play with it and continuously signed “sad.” For her birthday that year, researchers brought her a litter of kittens and let her choose one. Koko chose a gray and white kitten that she named “All Ball.” She treated the feline like one of her own—nurturing it, carrying it around like a baby, and even trying to nurse it at one point.
Meet the ugliest dog in the world
The 30th annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest came to a close in Petaluma, California, last Saturday as Zsa Zsa, an English bulldog with a bodacious tongue that dangles down to her chest, taking best—er, worst?—in show. “Nine years young with a swaggering tongue, Zsa Zsa delivered a shower of slobber as she claimed this year’s title,” said a news release announcing her victory. Owner Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota, said in an email to CNN that Zsa Zsa owes her impressive tongue to her almost horizontal upper teeth and heavily pronounced underbite, which make it difficult to keep the pink, fleshy mass in her mouth. The competition was ruff. Underbites and awkward tongues were a theme among the 15 homely contenders, as were crazy eyes.
Feral cats kill 2 million Australian reptiles every day
Nearly two million reptiles are slaughtered every day by Australia’s out-of-control feral cat population, including several species under threat of extinction. Australia is home to a unique array of animals, and many of these creatures are being pushed to the brink of extinction by the nation’s cats. Across the country, cats have been implicated in the loss of at least 20 mammal species, such as the lesser bilby and desert bandicoot. The Australian government has already declared war on the feline menace, but a new study by its Threatened Species Recovery Hub is the first to assess the impact on the region’s lizards and snakes. They found that in total about 650 million reptiles are being killed by Australian cats annually, with the average cat taking 225 every year. One cat was found with a record 40 individual lizards in his stomach.
Did that dog really perform CPR on that guy?
Chances are you’ve seen that viral video of a K-9 responder named Poncho performing what looked like CPR on a Spanish police officer last week. Spoiler alert: Poncho’s performance was a well-done “trick” but not really a first-aid technique, said Ronnie Johnson, lead trainer at Global Training Academy, a training center for K-9s in Somerset, Texas. Police dogs can be taught to do a variety of things such as sniffing out drugs or explosives or other contraband, tracking missing persons or even apprehending criminals, Johnson said. But he added, “I don’t think a dog could actually do CPR.” Explaining that the lifesaving measure requires precision and strength. Jonathan Epstein, senior director of science and government relations for the Red Cross, agreed, saying that the video is “cute” but “from a medical perspective, it’s not truly providing CPR.”
Woman takes shelter dogs on adventures
“Every breed of dog is an adventure dog,” Rachael Rodgers says. “The trick is matching the type of adventure to the dog’s personality.” Rodgers, who lives in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, volunteers to take dogs from local animal shelters on adventure hikes and kayaking tips in the mountains of Alberta. “It’s a way to get more positive publicity for adoptable dogs,” she says, “A shelter isn’t a place where you’re going to see their true character.” In less than a year, Rodgers has helped 30 dogs find permanent homes. She got the idea in 2017 after her a photo of she took of herself kayaking with her dog Denali went viral on Instagram. Now she shares her tips on how to take any kind of dog (including shelter dogs) on a wilderness adventure.