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From my hide: A menagerie of tales to kick off the new year

From my hide: A menagerie of tales to kick off the new year

Still in Britain, for the first time in about 500 years, Britain’s famous Kew Gardens has opened to the public a large swathe of woodland that belonged to Henry Vlll.

A British photographer was delighted when, on a trip to Indonesia, he managed to pursue a very rare crested black macaque to take a selfie. Arriving home, the photographer quite naturally marketed his unique shot and made thousands of ZARs out of it.

Then disaster struck. The animal rights group, PETA, took him to court, arguing that the photograph had been taken by the monkey and therefore he, the monkey, owned the copyright.

The ongoing legal battle has cost the photographer far more than he earned from the photograph — the response of the macaque has not been recorded.*

Why do turtles and tortoises have shells? That’s a good question and an international team of scientists, including those from the Evolutionary Science Institute at Wits University, may have come up with an answer.

Studying new fossil finds in South Africa, specifically a 260 million year old proto tortoise found in the Karoo, the scientists believe that the adaption of a shell was in response to a need for the animal to burrow underground to avoid the harsh climatic conditions of the time.

The first signs of the development of a shell are apparently a broadening of the rib cage, a point well-illustrated by the new Karoo find.**

Emergency first aid is apparently for everyone. A retired postman in England recently found his pet tortoise Freda at the bottom of his pond. He pulled 45-year-old Freda out and gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until she showed signs of life and then he warmed her up with a hairdryer. Today, Freda is as fit as a fiddle thanks to CPR.*

Still in Britain, for the first time in about 500 years, Britain’s famous Kew Gardens has opened to the public a large swathe of woodland that belonged to Henry Vlll.

The park was part of the king’s royal estate and was donated to the Royal Botanic Gardens by Queen Victoria in 1898. The woodland has largely remained untouched for all that time and will now give visitors and tree huggers an opportunity to see some ancient and beautiful trees.*

And another very positive report from London. The River Thames was declared biologically dead in the 1950s due to pollution, but there has been a dramatic turnaround and seals are thriving in the Thames estuary.

A study by the Zoological Society of London says the grey seal colony now numbers over 1 500 and a harbour seal colony is doing almost as well. The study says the seals are gradually moving westwards up the river towards the city of London.*

And a final note from Britain, London’s famous underground has stopped using the introduction, ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ for service announcements on the tube and at stations because they are gender specific and apparently unacceptable to some passengers who are not (gender specific, that is).*

*The Week: The Best of the British and Foreign Media.

**The Digging Stick, journal of the South African Archaeological Society.

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