Government searches for big cats in Victoria
theage - The state government is on the prowl for the folkloric big cats of Victoria - such as the panther-like creature said to haunt the sheep country around Beechworth. But veteran hunters of the often-seen but never caught pumas and cheetahs say the government is on the wrong track.
Simon Townsend and John Turner of bigcatsvic.com.au are urging Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh to grab rubber gloves and a swab and start DNA testing the claw marks found on the remains of savaged lambs and calves.
Mr Townsend says his website receives up to three sightings a week, many by farmers who have complained about big cats killing stock.
It was this history of unhappiness that led Nationals leader Peter Ryan to pledge an investigation into the big-cat issue and establish ''once and for all'' if they actually exist.
Says John Turner: ''There's no doubt they exist. We have more than 500 eyewitness accounts. People can say it's just a black wallaby … but it's not a wallaby if it snarls and slinks about on four legs.''
Mr Turner has seen two such beasts, the last being a leopard-sized cat outside Beechworth four years ago. He and Mr Townsend worry that the government won't commit enough funds to the task. Says Mr Townsend: ''The best way would be DNA analysis of stock kills. That costs $500 for one sample. So let's hope they have sufficient funds allocated.''
Mr Townsend says the government ''seems to be serious, but I don't think they understand what a big undertaking it will be. They want to get it done quickly but that's not viable.''
Mr Townsend has been after them for 40 years, after first spotting a ''large black feline'' along the pipeline outside Warburton.
The Sunday Age has been told the preferred rubber-glove forensic approach has taken a back seat to the cheaper option of whatever you call that rubber studded thing you put on your thumb to avoid a paper cut.
Rather than hitting the bloodied trail, Department of Agriculture staff are trawling through all the records of sightings to establish if any of them ring true. A spokeswoman says: ''We are conducting a limited investigation into the issue of big cats to determine once and for all if they exist.''
'Frost quakes' shake Southwest Ohio, Indiana
daytondailynews- Frost quakes, a rare phenomena that simulate earthquakes, rattled hundreds of residents Thursday in Darke and Miami counties in Ohio and Randolph County in Indiana, emergency management officials said.
The quake, or cryoseism as it’s known in scientific circles, occurs when moisture soaks into the soil and a quick freeze causes a sudden, even violent expansion and contraction. Darke County’s 911 director Brandon Redmond said the quakes erupted for eight hours Thursday, starting at 1 a.m. The heaviest reports were between 5:30-7:30 a.m.
Redmond, who lives in Arcanum, experienced it Thursday morning in the shower. The shaking of his house caused him to rush out of the bathroom at 7:15 a.m., thinking a transformer exploded nearby. He watched as his lights flickered. “It wasn’t ‘till I came in to work that I realized I hadn’t lost my mind, and I started hearing that other people experienced the same thing,” he said.
Throughout Thursday, hundreds of messages appeared on the Darke County Sheriff’s Facebook page.
Redmond said consultation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio and Indiana Emergency Management officials led to the frost quake assessment.
There have been no reports of damage, Redmond added, although damage has been reported from other occurrences. The phenomenon has been reported mainly in northern states such as Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts and upstate New York.
Cyclone affected Aussies warned to stay away from deadly giant birds
telegraph - Residents of communities around Mission Beach, on the north Queensland coast, which was almost flattened by the category five cyclone earlier this month, have been advised to beware of the 6ft tall birds, which are known to attack if they feel threatened.
Famed for their long talons – their dagger-like middle claws measure 12cm long – and powerful legs, the birds, which are unique to the rainforests of northern Australia, are said to be able to disembowel humans, dogs and horses with just one kick.
Weighing more than 10st, cassowaries resemble an emu, and in 2007 were named the most dangerous birds in the world by the Guinness Book of Records.
However, thanks to land clearing and development along the coast, the fearsome birds are seriously endangered, with just 1,000 left in the wild.
Queensland authorities and green groups have warned that over the coming weeks the birds will be forced out of the rainforest after violent winds from Cyclone Yasi stripped trees of their main food source, fruit.
The government, which is arranging emergency aerial food drops for the birds in an attempt to keep them away from residential areas, has warned locals to be on the lookout for hungry cassowaries.
"It's vital that members of the public don't feed cassowaries – for their own safety and in the interests of the birds' survival long term, Kate Jones, the Queensland sustainability minister, said.
"Cassowaries that come to expect food from humans can become aggressive and dangerous."
The warning comes after several cassowaries were spotted close to towns following Cyclone Larry, which hit the same stretch of coast in 2006. After the storm, one third of the population of cassowaries died, and conservationists fear that without intervention the same could happen.
Bob Irwin, a conservationist and the father of late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, said it could take 18 months for the rainforest to grow back and that in that time scores of cassowaries could starve to death.
"As well as losing their food they are losing their homes so they will be very disoriented.
"Like any other animal, if you interfere with them there could be a risk, but the main threat is to the birds themselves."
While the birds, which resemble emus, are known to be highly aggressive if approached, there is only one documented human death caused by a cassowary.
In 1926 Philip McClean, 16, was killed after he and his brother attempted to beat a cassowary to death. The bird fought back, charging at McClean and knocking him down and slashing his neck with a claw.
Mystery Illness Spreads at Playboy Mansion
thecelebritycafe - After a party on February 3, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion is undergoing an investigation by the Los Angeles Department of Health. 100 guests reportedly came down with respiratory illnesses, some with flu-like symptoms and pneumonia, the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to the Los Angeles Times, one party guest, Nico Zeifang, created a Facebook list of 77 people that contracted the illness.
"Only medical authorities are qualified to identify this illness and investigate its ultimate source.... It's important not to speculate or make unfounded assumptions," conference organizer Mason Cole stated.
This party was the finale of the annual DOMAINfest global conference, which lasted for three days and took place in Santa Monica, California.
"There were a lot of models brought into the Playboy party that were not at the rest of the conference. They should find out if those girls became ill," party guest David Costello said, according to ABC.
The Playboy Mansion is giving its full cooperation to the ongoing investigation.
Yeti Hunt in Assam
Whilst in Tura on the trail of the Indian yeti we visited a local surgeon Dr Lao. Dr Lao believed that the mande-barung existed but he thought that it was now very rare. He had a collection of books on Indian wildlife. Among them was a book entitled A Naturalist in Karbi Anglong by Awaruddin Choudry first published in 1993. The book, by one of India’s best known naturalists, records his time in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam, the Indian state to the north of Meghalaya.
One chapter of Chourdy’s book is given over to the Khenglong-po, a yeti like creature seen in the area and unheard of in the west. As Assam boarders onto Bhutan there is a link or corridor if you will directly from the Himalayas down to the Garo Hills along which yetis are reported and along which they could travel at will. Continue reading at THE YETI IN ASSAM