Many Ubiquitous TV Jingles Make Dogs Sing, But Why?

Dogs sing to the most ubiquitous songs on TV. Do they hate the Empire Carpet jingle as much as we do? Or do they like the familiarity of another Law and Order?

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What 60 Minutes' Love Letter to TX Canned Hunts Got Wrong

Thousands of virtually extinct scimitar-horned oryx survive on TX hunting ranches. But only 110 TX oryx are in the species survival plan that spans 211 institutions worldwide. The species doesn’t need Texas hunters.

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Bear biologist Lynn Rogers hosts best Wild Kingdom episode ever

Bear biologist Lynn Rogers hosts best Wild Kingdom episode ever

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Great Migrations, Craptastic Closings

From now on they are migrants, circling the southern world, wedded to brilliant skies and slipping the surly bonds of earth.–ALEC BALDWIN, GREAT MIGRATIONS

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Survivor China: 3 Kids Camp Out with Tigers in a Safari Park

In China 667 people competed to spend three days in a safari park’s tiger compound, reports. Three twenty-somethings will get to stay in a cage/cabin at Qinling Safari Park to kick off the Year of the Tiger, which starts February 14.

This is the kind of thing you’d never see in an American safari park, what with the liability issues and common sense we have. From 10 a.m. Sunday to 11 a.m. Wednesday, the two men and one woman will stay in “a 10-square-meter cabin made out of a cage which has been placed at the center of the ‘tiger mountain area,’ the habitat of 48 wild tigers. The cabin has no electricity, heating or furniture and is covered only with straw to protect the three from the cold.”

It’s like Survivor, Chinese-style with tigers thrown in. The three bring their own food and tents and keep track of the tigers, with cameras, sound recordings and writings. Li Hang, a 25-year-old TV reporter, also brought his guitar to “kill time and hopefully communicate with the tigers.” Oh, he’ll be the first one they’ll want to eat.

The park claims this stunt is supposed to promote protection and study of the tiger. They could certainly use the help; China recently said it had only 50 wild tigers left. Qinling Safari Park (in northern China’s Shaanxi province) seems to be more about gimmicks than protection. This Chinese zoo tourist shows pictures of circus tigers at Qinling. They also had

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Five Questions Lesley Stahl Didn’t Ask the “Frozen Zoo”

Animal Tourism Blog Test Tube Wooly Mammoths

Last night on 60 Minutes Lesley Stahl went to see the Frozen Zoo, the Audubon Nature Institute’s Species Survival Center. The center is doing fascinating. historic, ground-breaking work storing the DNA of threatened species and even producing clones of endangered African wildcats. What was missing from the story, however, was a closer look at the context in which the center operates. If Stahl and 60 Minutes had asked the following questions, the piece might not have been as much of an inane exercise.

Who’s paying for all this?The nonprofit Audubon Nature Institute grew out of a once ailing, old New Orleans institution. They’re not related to the Audubon Club. ANI runs a zoo, insectarium and Imax theatre. So are they supporting the whole $43 million operation (including the $2.5 million it costs to save endangered species) by creeping out kids with bugs and selling zoo T-shirts? If so, that would be quite a feat and worth knowing. Too bad Stahl didn’t ask.

The issue is important because in 2007 the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott pointed out ANI’s ties to big oil, raising the possibility it used Chevron money to make a lame Katrina Imax movie that doesn’t mention oil’s role in destroying wetlands. (No way, say the film-maker and Audubon: Chevron was just ordered by a court to funnel cash to an environmental cause and they chose this one.)

According to finances posted online, the operation just about breaks even (a loss of $187,000 in 2008, the latest

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The Bear Who Will Objectify You

The bear who helped T.J. Miller get a role in the upcoming Yogi Bear movie is used to playing the straight man.

“We have taught our animals to look at actors and cameramen as props and to not even focus on them,” says Eric Weld, the owner and trainer at Hollywood Animals. That doesn’t exactly sound like you’ll build up a close rapport, but I guess it beats getting mauled.

About one to four people a month pay the $600 for a personal animal encounter, usually with bears or tigers, Weld says. The animal playdate business is seasonal (winter is slow) and impacted by the economy. Most people are just happy to hang out with the animal (under close supervision of a trainer), take some pictures and offer the animal some treats.

To get the animals used to being around people, they have to be handled from a young age and live in the trainer’s house. That means they’re usually bought from a breeder, Weld says, not that they wouldn’t take a rescue if one came along. “We use affection-training methods as the grow older, after they have had time to be cubs of course,” Weld says. “We believe that the first way to have a relationship with any wild animal is to create a bond with them when they are young and continue that bond through mutual respect and understanding between trainers and animals.”


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$600 Playdate with a Bear Leads to Big Hollywood Role

Here’s a goofy video of comedian T.J. Miller acting and interacting with a bear in hopes of getting a part in Yogi Bear, a combo live-action/animated movie by Warner Brothers. It worked. He got the part of Ranger Jones, thanks to his enterprising tape.

He thanks Hollywood Animal Ranch at the end of the video. By that I think he means Hollywood Animals, which says it trains bears from cubs and treats them well. (Where and how the bear cubs, elephants and big cats are acquired, I don’t know.)

No word on whether the bear Bam Bam worked for free for this occassion, or if TJ Miller paid the customary  fee of $595 for two hours. “Just you and the animals of your choice like a tiger, white lion, leopard, bear, panther or cub for an unique animal experience,” they pitch. That means for $600, you can get a date with a bear and play Ranger Jones, too.Here’s where you can see bears in the wild (or at rehabilitation facilities).


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60 Minutes Shoddy Shark Attack Research

Photo of a shark on a South African tour courtesy of David Salvatori on Flickr.Are sharks suddenly evolving into man-eaters?!60 Minutes worries they are. Last night they updated a story on shark tourism, which they blame for sharks “becoming more dangerous.”

Their proof? When they did the story in 2005, there had been six attacks off South Africa in the previous two years, three fatal. Before that Bob Simon declares shark attacks “virtually unheard of here.” Really?

Look, I know the game. Reporters always have to justify a story with a news peg. But shark attacks deaths aren’t one of those nebulous trends like people wearing straw hats; we know exactly how many shark attacks and deaths there are because the Global Shark Attack File keeps track.

The file doesn’t show any big increase in South Africa or the world. The file shows that there was about one fatal shark attack per year in South Africa since the early 1980s. Since 60 Minutes reported on this supposed surge in shark attacks in 2005? There have been three confirmed deaths off South Africa (and two deaths where sharks might have been involved). In other words, shark deaths have been following the same pattern for three decades: about one death a year off South Africa. And worldwide it’s about five a year.

You know what would’ve been a smart update? How about the study out just last month that tours off Hawaii aren’t really effecting shark behavior?

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SHARK WEEK: Not Just for the Discovery Channel Anymore

SHARK WEEK, which had 29 million viewers last year, is becoming some kind of international holiday. It’s not just the Discovery Channel celebrating across the board with MythBusters‘ shark experiments and a reliving of Mike Rowe’s shark Dirty Jobs. But now everyone’s jumping on the SHARK WEEK bandwagon. Even the other networks.

Sharks EverywhereAre You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (FOX) features a shark attack victim. Smithsonian Channel has a show on therapy for shark attack victims. The Early Show (CBS) is featuring a shark. My local PBS station had a show on a guy “with an unusual relationship with a shark.” Showtime has a shark movie.

Win a Dream Date with a Shark Researcher! The Shark Research Institute is auctioning off lunches with shark researchers around the globe, starting at $25–plus you pick up the tab for lunch. Chris “Air Jaws” Fallows is the hottie so far, but that’s probably because he’s throwing in a shark tour.

Dueling Petitions.Think Shark Week is too sensational and bloody? Sign this petition of concerned scientists, surfers and other shark lovers.Want more gore 24/7? Then this petition is for you.Want Spain to stop finning sharks? Sign here.

European Shark WeekJust as you would expect from Europe, their Shark Week (Oct. 10-18, 2009) is short on melodrama and long on serious conservation. The Shark Alliance is asking Spain to stop chopping fins off live sharks and throwing the fish back to the ocean to bleed to death.

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