Category: wildlife

Sunday Cats: Hoarders In Buddyland, Alleged Dallas Zoo Thief Nabbed, P-22 Remembered

When police went to a Yorktown, NY, home for a welfare check this week, the last thing they expected was to find an army of cats.

The responding officers breached the home when no one answered, finding an elderly couple deceased inside, along with some 150 hungry, neglected cats. Police don’t believe there was foul play in the death of the couple, but the number of cats and the condition of the home have “hindered” their investigation.

The Westchester County SPCA is taking on the monumental task of collecting the cats, giving each of them veterinary care and finding homes for them. Staff there are calling it the largest single rescue in their history, and they’d already filled their own facilities and local shelters to capacity by the time they’d rescued 100 of the famished felines, leaving them scrambling for room to place the others. Some have upper respiratory, eye and skin infections, the SPCA said, while most of the cats were malnourished and dehydrated.

Despite living in conditions police described as “filth and squalor,” the cats are well-socialized and friendly, rescuers say. They believe the husband and wife may have been Abyssinian breeders at some point.

“It’s very unusual in a case like this, especially with that number of cats, for them to be as social and sweet as they are, usually they are scared when they come from a situation like this because they haven’t had a lot of human interaction,” the SPCA of Westchester’s Lisa Bonnano told the New York Post.

Yorktown is about 28 miles north of Casa Buddy, and we can vouch for the excellent work done by the Westchester County SPCA, whose veterinarians gave kitten Buddy his first shots and gave him the snip.

Veterinary costs alone are expected to exceed $40,000, so if you’d like to help, you can make a donation here.

Alleged Dallas Zoo thief nabbed

When 24-year-old Davion Irvin stopped an employee at the Dallas World Aquarium to ask about exotic animals there, the staffer recognized him as the same man pictured in a surveillance still from the Dallas Zoo.

Police released the image to the public after three separate enclosures at the zoo were breached, leading to the brief disappearance of a spotted leopard on Jan. 13 and the theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys about two weeks later. The langur monkey exhibit was also breached, but the animals were not removed.

After the aquarium’s staff tipped them off, cops caught up to Irvin a few miles away and have since linked him to all three break-ins. They charged him with two counts of burglary — for the monkeys and the leopard — and six counts of animal cruelty. They’re also looking into whether Irvin may have been involved with the “very suspicious” death of an endangered lappet-faced vulture on Jan. 21.

Cops, who initially suspected the thief was looking for exotic animals to breed or sell, have said Irvin hasn’t told them why he wanted the primates and the medium size cats. Their investigation is ongoing.

Thousands say goodbye to P-22

More than six thousand people crowded into The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday to say goodbye to P-22, the Hollywood Lion, a puma who made the hills above the city his home for more than a decade.

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One of several new murals of beloved mountain lion P-22, who was euthanized in December after he was hit by a car and suffering from an infection.

People spoke about seeing his curious face pop up on their doorball cameras, spotting him disappearing into the trees in Griffith Park, and how his presence piqued the curiosity of many people who took the time to learn more about mountain lions.

But the unofficial theme of the event was how P-22 showed people humans and wildlife can co-exist, and how our species can do a lot more to make sure the animals we share the Earth with will survive in the future. One woman told LAist that before she learned about P-22, she “used to think they were scary” and aggressive like the big cats they’re often confused with.

Others said he inspired them to get directly involved with conservation efforts.

“We are wildlife. We are creatures of nature, just as all the animals and plants are,” archaeologist Desireé Martinez, a member of the indigenous Gabrielino-Tongva tribe, told KTLA. “What can we do to make sure that the creatures that we are sharing this nature with have the ability to survive and live on — just like us?”

P-22’s unforgettable visage, already familiar to Los Angelinos, is now ubiquitous in his former range, with several murals adorning the sides of buildings and other displays bearing his image.

“He inspired so much happiness. I mean, look at all the people that are here,” Babetta Gonzalez told LAist. “We have to remember that we are in their neighborhood and we need to respect their environment. We have integrated, but we could do a lot better.”

UPDATED: Monkeys Go Missing From Dallas Zoo Weeks After Clouded Leopard Freed From Habitat

UPDATE, 2/1/2023: A tip led police to an empty home in Lancaster, Texas, about 15 miles from the zoo. The missing tamarins were found inside a closet and were unharmed, per CNN. They were returned to the zoo and examined by veterinarians.

Police still want to speak to an unidentified man (see story below) who was seen on zoo grounds, but they haven’t said what the man was doing or how he may be connected to the thefts. The abduction of the tamarins follows two other incidents of breached enclosures at the zoo, and the theft of 12 squirrel monkeys from Zoosiana in Broussard, Louisiana, this weekend.


Original story, 1/31/2023:

Dallas police released a photo of a “person of interest” they’d like to speak to after a pair of emperor tamarin monkeys went missing from their enclosure in the Dallas Zoo, the latest of three incidents in which animal habitats at the zoo were breached by human hands.

The first incident happened on Jan. 13 when zookeepers noticed a three-year-old clouded leopard named Nova was missing from her enclosure. They found a breach in the mesh netting that serves as one of enclosure barriers, and said it was a clean, intentional cut with a blade, not from the animals.

After a frantic search — and multiple appeals to the public informing people the leopard was not dangerous and should not be shot — zookeepers found Nova hiding in a tree on the zoo grounds, not far from her enclosure. Nova’s sister, Luna, lives in the same enclosure and remained there.

That same day, staff at the zoo also found another breach, this time at the langur exhibit. Langurs are old-world, leaf-eating monkeys native to Asia. None of the monkeys were missing, but the discovery strengthened the suspicion that someone had tried to steal Nova and at least one monkey, but were not successful.

Now it appears that same person or a copycat has been successful in another habitat. On Jan. 30, zookeepers found a breach in a habitat that hold’s the zoo’s emperor tamarin monkeys. Two of the monkeys were missing.

Tamarins are tiny arboreal new world monkeys that have become popular pets due to “influencers” popularizing them on sites like Youtube and celebrities purchasing them.

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A tamarin mother with her babies. Primate babies are virtually attached to their mothers for the first years of their lives

There are an estimated 15,000 monkeys living as pets in the US, and some species fetch up to $7,500 as infants, when they’re violently “pulled” from their mothers when they’re just days old and sold. Most are temporary pets, lasting up to two years before docile, adorable infants become destructive, resentful juveniles and the “owners” decide to cut their losses. Buying monkeys as pets and subsequently abandoning them has become so common that sanctuary spots are at a premium, with a handful of sanctuaries taking thousands of monkeys annually.

Some people buy new babies every year or two, shipping the “old” ones off to sanctuaries — or simply dumping them in the woods where they don’t know how to fend for themselves — and repeating the process of infantalizing newly-purchased monkeys. Macaques, capuchins, marmosets and tamarins are the most popular monkeys kept as pets.

Despite the appeal to some people, humans cannot meet the social or environmental needs of monkeys, who naturally live in troops with complex social hierarchies and relationships.

“Monkeys are not surrogate children, and they’re not little people,” the Humane Society’s Debbie Leahy told the New York Post in a 2013 story.

“Pulling” monkeys from their mothers traumatizes infants and the mothers, and there is a wealth of data from primate maternal deprivation studies — going all the way back to the cruel experiments of psychologist Harry Harlow — documenting the psychological damage done to the animals when they’re removed from their mothers and troops.

“If you try to keep them as pets you’re creating a mentally disturbed animal in 99.9 percent of the cases,” Kevin Wright, director of conservation, science and sanctuary at Phoenix Zoo told National Geographic. “The animal will never be able to fit in any other home. Never learn how to get along with other monkeys. And, more often than not, will end up with a lot of behavioral traits that are self-destructive.”

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A rhesus monkey baby, already separated from its mother at just a few days old.

Tamarins, which are often called “pocket monkeys” by people who keep them as pets, can fetch up to $5,000 apiece, generally less than larger primates like capuchins or macaques. Demand for macaques has skyrocketed since the pandemic, as laboratories test various drugs on the old world monkeys, and prices for infants have risen as well.

Despite officials at Dallas Zoo installing additional cameras and increasingly patrols on the grounds at night, an intruder or intruders were able to evade detection and successfully remove the animals some time between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Police have released an image of a man who was seen strolling through the zoo and have asked for the public’s help identifying him so detectives can speak with him. Police did not say why they believe the man, who is pictured wearing a hooded jacket and eating Doritos, would have information on the missing animals or what his role might be.

close up photo of a tamarin monkey
An emperor tamarin. Credit: Nathan J Hilton/Pexels

Manly, Heroic Ex-NFL Player Kills Puma For Fun, Cries About Backlash

Derek Wolfe is a badass.

The 295-lb former NFL lineman recently got a license to kill mountain lions, so when he heard about a puma that was “terrorizing” a Colorado community by existing near it, he packed his weapons of war, rounded up his hounds and set off, trailing testosterone like a beefed up Jim Corbett gone to deliver justice to the Champawat tiger.

First he spoke to a local homeowner, who had an ominous warning for him.

“And when we had talked to the landowner, they said, ‘Hey, we have house cats. And the cats are acting weird.’

No doubt the cats were agitated and wanted to get out there to cause havoc with their feline brother by existing and eating stuff. The cats would have to be dealt with later.

Arriving at the scene, Wolfe (what a badass name) found the remains of a recently-killed deer and knew the evil mountain lion hadn’t reformed its ways. By continuing to exist despite the discomfort of people in the area, and continuing to eat, the defiant cougar was practically asking to be hunted down and killed.

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Moving downwind of the fearsome predator so that it wouldn’t smell the pheromonal cloud of machismo that permanently surrounds him, Wolfe began climbing. The ascent was exhausting — not only is the 6’5″ Wolfe almost 300 pounds, but he was also carrying his sword, his health elixirs and his Bow of Righteous Smiting, a 1,000-DPS legendary weapon he obtained after slaying the Goblin King of Dreadmoore. Wolfe was carrying more than 400 pounds up the slope when he caught sight of the puma and did what men of testicular fortitude do: he released the hounds, who cornered the cat and chased it up a tree.

Then, with righteous fury, Wolfe drew his bow and killed — excuse me, “harvested” — the mountain lion, whose species is notoriously averse to conflict with humans and has killed fewer people in a century than dogs do in a week. But what are a few inconvenient facts between friends, amirite?

When Wolfe descended the treacherous slope with the corpse of the mighty cat like Geralt of Rivia toting the trophy from a monster hunt, the villagers applauded and sang songs of his bravery, then feasted in his honor.

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Derek Wolfe, conqueror. Credit: Derek Wolfe/Instagram

But all was not well, for when Wolfe posted the manly photos of himself posing manfully with the corpse of the big not-quite-big cat, a contingent of insignificant peons criticized him on Instagram for killing an animal that was allegedly “just surviving.”

So Wolfe did what men of his stature do, and went on Tucker Carlson’s show to cry about the rodential men and women nipping at his heels.

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Wolfe on Carlson’s TV show. Credit: Fox News

It is said that the combined testosterone of Wolfe and Carlson created a vortex of badassery that threatened to spark untameable hair and muscle growth in anyone who ventured too close. Female assistants had to be ushered out of the studio before the segment began, and the lesser men manning the cameras had to sign waivers absolving Wolfe and Carlson of blame if they were transformed into hulking man-beasts by the combined presence of the former lineman and the scion of a TV dinner empire.

“I’ve been through some tough training camps, brother, but this hunt was –  man – it beat me up bad. I was beat up bad. I’m all cut up and scraped up. I was in full-body cramps [and] barely made it up there,” Wolfe told Carlson.

Wolfe proceeded to regale Carlson with tales of how dangerous mountain lions are. Puma concolor, the scientific name for the species, is responsible for a whopping 27 deaths in the last century. That’s one person every four years, and most of those people triggered the confrontations by getting too close to puma cubs or cornering the animals. By comparison, dogs kill 25,000 people a year via attacks, and another 25,000 by spreading disease, the latter mostly in third-world countries. Cows killed 655 Americans over a nine-year period from 1999 to 2007. More than 40,000 Americans are killed in car crashes annually.

And while you’re 25 times more likely to be killed by a tornado than a shark, there were five times as many fatal shark attacks (144) in the US over the past century compared to fatal mountain lion attacks.

In other words, pumas rank extremely low on the list of potential dangers to people, despite their size and their superficial resemblance to much more dangerous African lions. Pumas/mountain lions, also known as catamounts and cougars, actively avoid humans and try to steer clear of conflict with people. When they kill a deer or even a pet, it’s not because they’re “terrorizing” communities — it’s because they’re obligate carnivores who need to eat meat to survive.

photo of a cougar near a log
A mountain lion. Credit: Nicky Pe/Pexels

Wolfe explained that it’s important to “tree” mountain lions in order to do recon on them and make sure they’re appropriately big and impressive-looking.

“Those full-grown males will kill kittens as well, they’ll kill kittens to get the females to go back into heat,” Wolfe said, confusing terms and the dominance behavior of African lions with American pumas, which are not the same species. “It’s important to manage that herd, right? You have to manage every population of animal out here, especially mountain lions. So we got the dogs on ’em.”

Who knew cats were herd animals? Who knew pumas had decided to give up their solitary lifestyles and live in prides? Who knew former NFL linebackers arbitrarily killing random pumas qualifies as ‘managing a population’? Someone call the wildlife biologists so they can rewrite their field guides!

Despite his ability to scale mountains and slay (mountain) lions, Wolfe was wounded by the backlash when he posted photos of himself with his “harvest.”

“I can’t believe what’s happening to me…They’ve had 200 calls to Colorado Parks and Wildlife trying to turn me in like I did something wrong,” Wolfe complained. “I’ve been harassed.”

Disclaimer: Since this is the internet, and this post is bound to bring in readers unfamiliar with PITB and the fact that we’re sarcastic jerks, allow us to state for the record that Wolfe did not kill the Goblin King of Dreadmoore, does not own the legendary Bow of Righteous Smiting, and we’re not exactly sure if the villagers in the unidentified rural Colorado community threw a feast in Wolfe’s honor after he returned with the corpse of the cat that had been “terrorizing” their community. I mean, they probably feasted him, but we haven’t confirmed it.

Who Freed Dallas Zoo’s Clouded Leopard? Cops Say Cat’s Enclosure Was Intentionally Breached

A clouded leopard who went missing from her enclosure was intentionally let loose according to police, who have opened a criminal investigation.

The medium-size wildcat, whose species is native to the foothills of the Himalayas, escaped from her enclosure some time between late Thursday night and Friday morning, prompting a zoo-wide shutdown and a massive coordinated search. During that time, zoo staff emphasized to local press — and in social media posts — that clouded leopards are not aggressive toward people and the escaped cat wasn’t a threat.

She was eventually found safe and unharmed on zoo grounds, hiding in a tree not far from her enclosure, at about 4:40 p.m. on Friday. She was secured within 35 minutes, zoo officials told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

But that’s not the end of the saga. Zoo staff say the leopard, a three-year-old named Nova, didn’t escape on her own — a person or persons breached the two-story exhibit by cutting through the mesh fence. Nova’s sister, Luna, lives in the same enclosure and did not leave the area.

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A clouded leopard. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Now investigators are trying to determine if the people responsible for breaching the enclosure were committing an act of vandalism or intended to take the 25-pound wildcat.

“We found a suspicious opening in the habitat wall in front of the exhibit,” a Dallas Zoo official told reporters on Friday afternoon. “It was clear that this opening was not exhibit failure and it wasn’t keeper error.”

Police are reviewing surveillance footage and looking for clues in the 106-acre zoological park, which is located about three miles south of downtown Dallas and is home to more than 2,000 animals.

“It is their (Dallas Zoo officials’) belief and it is our belief that this was an intentional act, so we have started a criminal investigation,” Sgt. Warren Mitchell of the Dallas Police Department said.

Harrison Edell, vice president of animal care and conservation at the Dallas Zoo, warned against anyone attempting to steal zoo animals.

“This is a cat of conservation concern,” Edell said. “This is not a pet — she’s a critically important member of our family at Dallas Zoo.”

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Clouded leopards diverged from a common ancestor shared with big cats, but typically don’t grow to more than 30 or 40 pounds. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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There are fewer than 10,000 clouded leopards left in the wild. In captivity, the wildcats live for 11 years on average. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pope Benedict Asked Us To Be Compassionate Toward Cats And Other Animals

Long before he was the pontiff, when he was just a young man named Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict was known as a cat guy.

Growing up in the village of Hufschlag, about 55 miles southeast of Munich, Benedict’s family always had pet felines and he fed strays who spent time in their garden. During his years teaching theology to students at Bavaria’s University of Regensburg in the 1970s, then-professor Ratzinger was often seen followed by an entourage of cats — the little ones he fed and cared for — as he crossed campus.

“They knew him and loved him,” said Konrad Baumgartner, a fellow theologian at Regensburg.

His affinity for his four-legged friends never faded, even as he took on more responsibility and had more demands on his time. Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone, one of Benedict’s colleagues, said the German clergyman had a natural connection with animals.

“On his walk from Borgo Pío to the Vatican, he stopped to talk with the cats; don’t ask me in what language he spoke to them, but the cats were delighted,” Bertone recalled. “When the cardinal approached, the cats raised their heads and greeted him.”

The Pope and the Cat
Pope Benedict with one of his cats.

As pope, Benedict continued to care for strays, and had two cats of his own — one who’d been with him since before he was made the leader of the global church, and another he rescued off the streets of Rome.

Photos of Pope Benedict with cats are different than the typical shots showing him meeting with world leaders or waving to crowds. His expression and posture are more relaxed in the presence of felines, and he’s often smiling in the images that show him holding a cat.

But it wasn’t just personal for Benedict.

“Dominion” over animals

For centuries, some people — mostly outside Catholicism, but some Catholics too — have argued that animals exist for the use of mankind, that their purpose on this Earth is to serve as resources. Proponents of the view point to a handful of Old Testament quotes, including a famous quote from Genesis that says God gave man “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Genesis 9:3 attributes this quote to God: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.”

The Pope and the Cats
Pope Benedict was well known for his love of cats, from his childhood in Bavaria to his days as pope emeritus living in retirement.

Other verses detail precisely which animals they can eat and remain in His good graces, and many Christian sects see those lines as a clear indication that God intended for animals to serve the needs of men.

But the Old Testament also tells us we can take slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46), that parents can have their kids stoned to death for disobeying them (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), that when children make fun of others, it’s totally cool to call upon righteous bears to maul them to death (2 Kings 2:23-24), and that people with blindness, flat noses and other ugly “blemishes” should wait outside church with the rest of the rejects while the good-looking people pray. (Leviticus 21:17-24).

Don’t even get me started on Sampson and the Book of Numbers.

The point is, if you’re going to be a stickler for things supposedly okayed or forbidden in the Old Testament, animals are the very least of your problems, especially if you trim your beard, let your hair get too long, wear shirts made of two different materials, or have ever placed a bet on DraftKings.

“Animals are God’s creatures”

As we look back on the life of the late pope emeritus, it’s worth noting that Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, have rejected the view that animals are God’s version of scripted NPC automatons who exist so we can eat steak and wear leather jackets.

“Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures,” Pope Francis declared in 2015.

Benedict spoke out about the cruelty inflicted on animals, the incalculable suffering of animals in industrial farming circumstances, slaughtered by the billions for food after short, brutal lives in which no consideration is given to them as living, sentient creatures.

In a 2002 interview, Benedict called animals “companions in creation” and criticized the modern food industry for its “degrading of living creatures to a commodity.”

“Respecting the environment,” he said in a 2008 interview, “means not selfishly considering [animal and material] nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests.”

Francis made the church’s position absolutely clear with an encyclical — an official letter to members of the church — called Laudato Si. In it, he condemned the “ruthless exploitation” of animals as commodities and asserts they are individuals who are recognized by God. He urged Catholics to treat them well, to respect and protect wildlife and the environment they depend on.

Animal life has “intrinsic value,” Francis said, adding that Christians must reject the idea that animals are “potential resources to be exploited.”

As if speaking directly to people who use the aforementioned Old Testament quotes to support practices like factory farming, harvesting animals en masse for pelts and hunting for the “fun” of it, Francis said:

“We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

Both popes also noted that, in addition to the suffering we cause, when we exploit animals as are also behaving in a way beneath the dignity of humankind. It’s a stain on our collective identity as a species, a betrayal of our roles as wardens of the planet.

Let’s put aside the moral considerations for a moment. The continued existence of the complex ecosystems on our planet — and indeed of humanity itself — depends on the many roles animals play, from carrying seeds to pollinating plants, limiting the growth of flora that would otherwise dominate and destroy other plants, rerouting water systems by creating dams, controlling the populations of creatures that would otherwise multiply unchecked, and the thousands of other roles they play in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.

Benedict left this Earth on Dec. 31, 2022, at a time when we have killed off almost 70 percent of all wildlife in the entire world. It’s not just a matter of living on a lonely planet, or tucking future children into bed while telling them that, no, they can’t see elephants or tigers because the last of them are dead. Removing keystone species, extirpating entire genera while rendering vast stretches of the planet uninhabitable, purging the oceans of life as they accumulate literal continents of plastic waste, means we’re marching toward a cascade failure most of us won’t even see coming as we argue about carbon credits, politicize common sense, tinker with viruses and edit genomes.

It’s long past time we recognize the fact that we share this planet with billions of other minds and start living in a way that respects them. If we can save them, perhaps we can save ourselves too.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The 1.6 million square kilometer Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which weighs more than 80,000 metric tons.