Do or Die

An article from Do or Die Issue 10. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 154.

Animal Antics

Beating the Bipeds

"Male lions have a special way of urinating, using a powerful, horizontal jet aimed backwards at some landmark in their territory, so that their personal scent is deposited on it... the [London Zoo] Lion House keepers told me that one of the male lions had developed a particularly devastating refinement... of his urinating technique. When he discovered that the spray created by his jet of liquid hitting one of the cage bars could reach his adoring public, crowded to watch him from the other side, he introduced a special multi-squirt to help pass the boredom of the zoo day. As the front rows of the crowd leapt back screaming after his first dousing of them, others quickly took their place to see what was happening. They then took the full brunt of his second squirt, which he had saved up for them, so that they, too, retreated yelling and cursing. On a good day, he might even catch a third wave, by carefully staggering his ejection of pungent liquid. It was just about the only assault device left to the Lord of the Jungle, in his sadly reduced circumstances, and he made full use of it." - Animal Days, Desmond Morris (Jonathan Cape, 1979), p.118

"Perhaps before offering to help plug the hole in the Hamilton finances, the 10th Earl of Portsmouth should have spent a little time contemplating the fate of one of his ancestors. The third earl died after a riding accident while fox hunting in Devon on a Sunday. As his body was being lowered into the grave, the fox he had not managed to catch was seen a few yards away, sitting and laughing." - Letter to The Guardian, 27/12/99

"Hunt saboteur Sid Thomas has described how he was injured by a fox he was trying to save during a protest at a Devon hunt... He said: "I noticed the fox was in the middle of the pack of hounds. I jumped over a fence and chased the hounds away and managed to grab the fox. It bit me and almost took the end of my thumb off. I suppose there is a touch of irony about it." Eventually he had to let go of the fox... He added: "I had cuts to my face and bruising. But the fox might have survived." - Torbay Herald-Express, 6/2/01

"The National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology at Brickley in Somerset has been quietly testing a GM maize crop called Sheridan. If eventually passed and placed on the national seed list, Sheridan would be fed to cattle. But has anyone asked the cows? Somerset's finest are not waiting for a referendum. The institute has had to write to the Ministry of Agriculture explaining that certain cattle got into the field and, er, trampled down the crop rendering the test useless. So did the protesting cows like their new grub? No question about that. The institute reported that none of the maize was eaten." - The Guardian, 15/11/00

"Police at Tavistock, Devon, were locked out of their station after a swarm of bees blocked their front door." - The Observer, 28/5/00

"A new device aimed to help gay people identify each other discreetly has had a strange effect on animals. The Gaydar, a small electronic gadget which transmits a signal to other users and vibrates in the wearer's pocket, was tested out by an engineer in a park in Reigate. But, instead of attracting men, he found himself being pursued by an amorous badger and getting divebombed by squirrels." - Bizarre magazine No. 24, September 1999

"On hearing great commotion in the garden, I looked out to see a crow lying, inert, on the grass, with three in the apple tree making all the racket and two on the ground, pushing at their stricken comrade. I thought at first they were attacking it... but soon realised they were putting their beaks under the sick one, trying to lift it back onto its feet. The bird, though, was dead, so they soon gave up, flew up to another tree and joined in the chorus. Within seconds, more crows flew in, then more and more, all perching on branches in a ring around the dead bird, all staring down at it and cawing loudly. I counted 23 birds - almost four times as many as I had ever seen in our garden at one time. They kept up the cawing for over a minute, then, a few at a time, flew away." - Letter to Country Living, May 1999

"The Daya Bay nuclear power plant is facing what may be its biggest safety threat yet - the notorious chewing ability of termites. After chomping down boxes of banknotes in an unnamed Shenzhen bank, white ants were on the rampage through the power plant site, according to a study cited by the Hong Kong China News Agency. The study, by the Shenzhen White Ant Prevention and Control Centre, also found that termites had invaded the Shenzhen reservoir - a major source of drinking water for Hong Kong... Last year, an electronics factory in Shenzhen had been forced to close for a week after white ants ate parts of the power cables; and in January, a local hotel was blacked out for half a day after the live munching-machines wreaked similar havoc." - South China Morning Post, 10/11/94

"Pet parrots are playing havoc with TV sets - by controlling them with "silent" squawks. The birds mimic ultra-sonic beeps made by remote control handsets, which they can hear but humans can't. The "sounds" turn TVs on and off, and change channels. And owners are fooled into thinking their sets are on the blink... David Wilcox of the World Parrot Trust at Hale, Cornwall, said: "Parrots are able to imitate high-pitched sounds inaudible to people. I know one that imitates a dog whistle that no human could hear. The dog rushes up yapping to find it's been conned by a parrot." - Daily Mirror, 30/9/91

"Any animal called Joey the Thug must be one to be treated cautiously, and this Australian boxing kangaroo was no exception. He escaped from his enclosure at the Adelaide Zoo in November 1938 and kept keepers and the zoo authorities at bay for a long while. One brave policeman managed to corner Joey the Thug, but as he approached, mouthing soft words of reassurance, Joey cocked his head to one side and delivered the fiercest uppercut imaginable. The policeman was knocked out cold and Joey was still free." - True Animal Tales by Rolf Harris, Mark Leigh and Mike Lepine (Century, 1996), p.34

"Stockholm, Sweden: A newspaper gave five stock analysts and a chimpanzee the equivalent of $1250 each to make as much money as they could on the stock market. The chimp won. After one month, the chimpanzee, Ola, saw the value of his stocks rise $190, the newspaper Expressen reported yesterday... While the stock experts carefully considered their portfolios, Ola made his choice by throwing darts at lists of companies on the Stockholm stock exchange." - New York Post, 8/9/93

"Motorists who have just recovered from the recent greenfly plague could now be facing a new hazard - weasels intent on making a meal of car tyres. Swarms of the small, sharp-toothed rodents have been gnashing away at car tyres and cutting electric cables in Switzerland, and some scientists believe that the problem may crop up in Britain. Sex, say the scientists, may be at the root of it all: "It is possible that one of the smells from hot rubber is like the smell you get from the female in the mating condition - at least, to a weasel," said Dr. Donald Jefferies, mammals specialist of the Nature Conservancy Council, in Huntingdon yesterday... Dr. Jefferies pointed out that surprising things have often turned out to be true. "Nothing is impossible these days where animals are concerned," he said." - The Guardian, 1/8/79

With thanks (and deep regrets) to the Duchess. Also, to the miserable sods at the British Newspaper Library.

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