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Funky, Green-Haired Turtle Is in Trouble

The Free Press WV

You’d think its punk-rock hair would be enough to bring an Australian turtle fans, even before they learn of its ability to breathe through its genitals. But if overlooked now, researchers hope the Mary River Turtle’s spot on a list of unique, endangered reptiles will bring necessary attention before it’s too late. Found only in the Mary River of Queensland, the docile turtle that spouts green algae resembling spiky hair is in the 29th spot on the Zoological Society of London’s Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list, which identifies 572 reptiles in all. Its cousin, the Madagascan big-headed turtle, takes the top spot, with a score denoting it as more at risk than any other amphibian, bird, or mammal in the world, per the Press Association.

“Just as with tigers, rhinos, and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals,“ says an EDGE coordinator, noting many endangered reptiles “are the sole survivors of ancient lineages” that “stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs.“ In the case of the Mary River Turtle—which uses gill-like organs to breathe when underwater—“you have to go back about 50 million years to find a closely related species,“ a researcher tells Reuters. Though the Mary River Turtle’s total population isn’t known, numbers plummeted beginning in the 1960s, when nest sites were pillaged and the reptiles sold as pets. Advocates hope the new listing will help in the push for better protection of its habitat.

‘Friendly’ African Warthog Captured in Florida

The Free Press WV

African warthogs, not surprisingly, are not native to Florida so state wildlife officials are investigating how one wound up loose in a suburban neighborhood. Per the AP, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials told TCPalm.com that it captured the tusky animal last month after a five-day search about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach. That included failed attempts to capture it with traps and a rope snare before a wildlife officer spotted it and tackled it. The newspaper reports the officer got some cuts on his legs in the process. Under state law, owning a warthog requires a permit but no one in that area had one. Officials said the beast is tame and is friendly when offered food.

The Sheep-Filled Ship Left Australia, With Horrible Results

It’s not every day that a livestock-abuse video is set at sea, but such is the situation in Australia. The New York Times reports the country’s 60 Minutes on Sunday broadcast footage shot by a whistleblower in August 2017 on a ship laden with sheep that was sailing from Western Australia to Doha, Qatar. The voyage is common: Roughly 1.4 million sheep are sent around the globe via boat from Western Australia annually. But in this case, more than 2,400 of the 65,000 animals aboard didn’t make it, having succumbed to heat stress. The Times’ report describes “rotting corpses” being thrown into the sea and “images of sheep dying in their own feces.“ The Guardian reports Australia’s Department of Agriculture investigated at the time and noted the temperatures in the Persian Gulf had hit about 96 degrees with 95% humidity overnight—perilous conditions for animals.

The department found that Emanuel Exports switched to heavier staffing to help with water distribution and opened “excessively boggy pens and those in hotter areas,“ but the steps taken were “insufficient.“ It was the publication of the footage months later that spurred outrage. The government has vowed to investigate, and the ship the animals sailed on was on Sunday barred from leaving with another 65,000 sheep due to airflow concerns, reports Australia’s ABC. Critics, including one lawmaker who referred to the vessels as “death ships,“ want real change—a ban on live exports during summer months, perhaps, or a shift to more onshore butchering. One farmer tells the Times that doesn’t work for him, citing a lack of slaughterhouse facilities and his own need to export. “I would go broke.“

Zoo Drops 500 Lizards in Liquid Nitrogen

A Swedish zoo that couldn’t properly house over 500 reptiles made the hard choice of having them dropped into liquid nitrogen, The Local in Sweden reports. The Tropicarium Rescue Centre at Kolmården Zoo near Norrköping took in the reptiles after Swedish police rescued 760 lizards and other creatures from animal smugglers last month. But housing them was pricey, and other institutions only took 50 of over 550 helmethead geckos off their hands, so the decision was made. “We applied for an exemption so we could use a killing method that is not yet approved in Sweden but is used internationally,“ says a police officer. “That is to kill them in liquid nitrogen.“ In other European lizard news, a judge ruled last year that children are no longer allowed to swim with crocodiles and alligators at the Crocodile Zoo in Friedberg, The Local in Germany reported.

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