Tiptoeing in the snow, a f-f-frozen pheasant as the Met Office predicts it will be the coldest December for a century

By TAMARA COHEN and DAILY MAIL REPORTER

A bit chilly: This cock pheasant had to walk across ice in Fakenhham, Norfolk, on tiptoes because of the cold


He was probably wishing auntie had given him the usual pair of socks for Christmas.

For as this cock pheasant picked his way through the snow on tiptoe yesterday, he looked none too happy with the chilly ground beneath his feet.

Puffed up against the cold, he stepped gingerly across a frozen field near Fakenham, Norfolk, no doubt hoping Mr Fox hadn’t unwrapped any winter woollies either and was shivering at home instead


The Famous Grouse: The pheasant on ice looked a little like the Scotch whisky advert


But it’s little wonder he was feeling the cold.

The Met Office predicts this will be the coldest December since records began 100 years ago.

Boxing Day fell right into line, with temperatures staying stubbornly below freezing in many areas.

The previous coldest December was in 1890, when the average temperature for the whole month for England was minus 0.8C.

The average temperature for all of Britain up to Christmas Eve this year was also minus 0.8C, though forecasters said the weather would improve from Wednesday.

Snow fell in Northern Ireland and Scotland – and more is expected tomorrow, spreading south into central England.

But although 6in is predicted in some areas, forecasters believe this will be the last snow we’ll see for a while – a prediction that’s likely to please humans and birds alike.



Deep freeze: As temperatures dipped overnight, Hampshire's New Forest National Park was left with an 'all-over' frost this morning Sunday. The resident, free-roaming ponies were left with little to eat, as they struggled to get to the frozen grass


Forecaster Barry Gromett said: 'The national record goes back to 1910 and it's running by some margin the coldest December at the moment.'

He added that we were 'over a degree colder' than the previous record.


Cold patch: It's bad weather for ducks in York where the River Ouse has been completely frozen over


Mercury plunge: rhe River Severn at Ironbridge near Telford, Shropshire, has also frozen over


Today will see rain, sleet and snow staying in Scotland and spreading southwards into central parts of England.

Parts of south west England and south Wales will enjoy milder conditions though, with temperatures climbing towards double figures.

The freezing weather wreaked havoc with Britain's popular Boxing Day sporting fixtures.

Two Premier League and two SPL matches were postponed, while a total of just nine games survived in the Championship, League One and League Two.

All of today's race meetings were victims of the weather, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton.


Face-to-face: Two wolves fight at Whipsnade Zoo in Dunstable, Beds., yesterday


Rough and tumble: Wolves play in the cold as revellers flock to the zoo on Boxing Day


Frosty relations: Animals had fallen out


source: dailymail

The saddest puppy: Princess has never been cuddled and can never go outside... now she's looking for a loving home

10:03 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Heartrending: Six-month-old puppy Princess, a bull-breed-greyhound cross, prepares for her special bath


An ultra-cute bald pup was abandoned and rescued earlier this month suffering from a severe medical condition that has left her with no hair.

Staring sadly at the big outdoors through a window, her illness means that she can never go outside, and these pictures show her receiving her first ever cuddle.

With such delicate skin she can't wear a jacket to keep her warm enough for the outdoors - even in summer.


Puppy love: Princess gets her first ever hug from Sallie Conroy, Dog Isolation Staff member, at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary days before Christmas


And she's so fragile nobody - until her treatment began at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary near Edenfield, Lancs - had ever touched her.

Carers at the centre are hoping she will respond to bath medicine Aludex but it's likely she will need £10,000 of expensive tablets for the rest of her life to make her happy.

The six-month-old, a bull-breed-greyhound cross, was discovered abandoned in Colne, Lancashire. Rescue organisation Bleakholt took her on and are now battling to help her recover.

Manager Neil Martin, 56, said: 'She's the saddest looking dog we have ever seen.

Princess suffers from a very advanced case of demodectic mange - one of the worst cases we have ever seen.

'It's not infectious, but is passed through prolonged contact, so we think she probably caught this from her mother.


So delicate: The puppy suffers from a severe medical condition called demodectic mange that has left her with no hair. With her delicate skin she can't stay warm enough to go outdoors, even in summer


A bit of TLC: Sallie Conroy gives Princess an Aludex bath which staff hope will help her condition, but they say she may need £10,000 to treat her with Atopica


'She has a very sad story, so it's no wonder she looks so sad. When she came to us it was clear she had never had any love. She has been emotionally starved and she didn't know how to take affection.

'Our staff are all in love with her but it's only recently that she's started learning how to enjoy a cuddle. She didn't even know how to play.

'We tried to get her to cheer up with some toys but she was scared of them. We're a long, long way from having a happy and trusting puppy who is wagging her tail and doing everything a dog should be doing.

'It will also be a long time before she can ever go outside and enjoy running around or chasing a ball.

Even in the summer she cannot go outside without any hair. And we need her to recover significantly before we can put a coat on her to keep her warm.'

Demodectic mange is caused by tiny mites burrowing into the hair follicles, which stops hair from growing.

To make Princess a happy dog, charity Bleakholt could be facing a huge five-figure bill.

'We are trying a more basic skin treatment to see if she responds,' said Neil. 'But for the last dog we had with a condition as severe as hers it didn't work. She might need Atopica, which is very expensive.'

Atopica is a drug used to treat skin conditions which is also taken by humans. As a relatively new drug, it can cost as much as £12 per day and sufferers stay on it for life.

Neil added: 'The last dog we treated with Atopica is now happy, healthy and has been re-homed in a loving, caring household. It's the ultimate goal for all the animals we take in.

'All we want to do is turn Princess' sad face into a happy one. We want to fix her problem and give her a new life. It will be very expensive but we will not stop short of what she needs.'


To help Princess and other animals like her donate at www.bleakholt.org

source: dailymail

How a dog in class can make reading a pet subject

By NICK CRAVEN

Good listener: Breeze is read a story by nine-year-old Ellen Parker as Karine George, head of Westfields Primary School in Yateley, looks on


Children who don’t like books are being helped to read – by a friendly dog called Breeze who visits their school.

The youngsters sit with a book reading to the dog, and the improvement in their literary skills has astonished teachers.

One little boy who hadn’t spoken in school for two years has been happily sitting down reading aloud to the pet.


The trial of the Read2Dogs scheme, run by the charity Pets As Therapy, has been deemed so successful that it is to be offered to schools nationwide next year. It has been taking place at Westfields Junior School in Yateley, Hampshire, encouraged by head Karine George.

Teacher Debbie Jones said: ‘I didn’t know what to think of the idea when I heard it but you just have to see the confidence the children gain when they read to the dog.’

The school found that all 20 of the pupils who took part in the scheme – all reluctant readers – felt more confident about reading afterwards. While only three of them had regularly read aloud to their parents before the trial, all of them did so afterwards.

Remarkably, 60 per cent of the children improved their reading age by three months or more in just six weeks, and all the pupils’ reading ages advanced by at least two months.

Nine-year-old Ellen Parker has been reading to golden retriever Breeze. She said: ‘I try to think about stories that Breeze might like, interesting ones.

‘I’m reading her a story about a rabbit and a badger who go on a picnic. I think she likes that because it’s about animals.

‘I can tell she’s listening because she wants to have a little stroke when you’re reading; she doesn’t wander around, she sits down.’


source: dailymail

Why elephants can't dance... Royal Institution reveals how size and strength go hand in hand

10:32 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By LIZ NEALE

Big or beautiful? Graceful ballerinas glide through the air with ease - but physics dictates that it's a lot harder for something as big as an elephant to take off


Ever wondered why elephants can’t dance?

Strictly Come Dancing showed us that the most graceful performers are not usually the biggest, despite valiant efforts from the likes of Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant.

But is it all down to rhythm, or something a bit more scientific?

Big or beautiful? Graceful ballerinas glide through the air with ease - but physics dictates that it's a lot harder for something as big as an elephant to take off
This year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures promise to reveal exactly why size matters, demonstrating everything from skydiving hamsters to building a lift all the way to the moon.

Materials scientist Dr Mark Miodownik explained: ‘It’s to do with your surface area to volume ratio. It’s how much skin you have on the outside compared to how much of you there is on the inside.

‘As you get bigger of course you get heavier but you get disproportionately heavier.
‘If something doubles in size it gets eight times heavier so gravity has a bigger impact on you – and then as you shrink down the opposite happens.’



Full marks for effort: Ann Widdecombe with Anton on Strictly Come Dancing


Dr Miodownik demonstrated his theories with volunteers on an extreme scale - a strongman lifting dumb bells the scientist couldn't even move, and an army of leaf cutter ants with genuinely superhuman strength.

There's also a real-life flea circus, performing acrobatic stunts on a tiny - and impressive - level.

'I suppose the interesting thing is that you think that little animals are miniature versions of us but the physics that dominate their scale means they live completely different lives,' he said.

'The whole concept of the first lecture is that although we think that everything lives in the same universe and is subject to the same laws, it does not work out that way.

'The new Jack Black movie Gulliver’s Travels completely ignores this issue.'
But he added: 'It’s a weird world we live in and that’s what makes it interesting.'


source: dailymail

Cold, hungry and left to die: The two puppies abandoned in the snow searching for a home for Christmas

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Cold, hungry and left to die: Brandy and Pudding were cruelly dumped by their owners and left to fend for themselves in the freezing snow


Lost, starving and alone, these two innocent 12-week-old puppies were cruelly dumped by their owners and left to die in the freezing snow.

But the helpless pair - who have been named Brandy and Pudding - were fortunately scooped up and saved from the elements.

They will now be spending their first Christmas recovering at a dogs' home.

Brandy, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was discovered very underweight and alone on a street in Reading, in Berkshire, while Pudding, a Boxer cross, was found with a distended stomach in snowy woodland.

The pair are now getting round-the-clock care from staff at the Dogs Trust, in Newbury, and will be available to be rehomed in the new year.

Manager Maureen Iggleden said staff were shocked at the way the puppies had been abandoned.

'We suspect Brandy and Pudding may have been bought as Christmas presents and dumped when their owners realised the work involved in looking after a puppy,' she said.


Dog carer Jess Ockwell with Brandy and Pudding. The pair will now be spending their first Christmas recovering at a dogs' home after they were scooped up and saved from the snow


'Our centre looks after hundreds of abandoned and unwanted dogs every year but it still shocks us to think that someone could so callously abandon a puppy, especially in these weather conditions.'

Dogs Trust chief executive Clarissa Baldwin, who coined the famous slogan 'A dog is for life not just for Christmas', added: 'Sadly there are still people out there who think pets are as disposable as Christmas wrapping paper.

'Our research this year revealed that one in five parents would still consider buying their child a dog for Christmas, even though most presents are discarded by their bored recipients after just four weeks.

'We're urging people to 'think life' before taking on a dog.'

To help discourage people from thoughtlessly buying dogs as Christmas presents, the charity's 17 rehoming centres have put a hold on rehoming dogs from December 19 to January 2 2011.

People are still able to visit the centres and reserve a dog but will not be able to take it home until the new year.


Anyone interested in rehoming Brandy or Pudding should contact Dogs Trust Newbury directly on 01488 658391 or visit the centre at Plumb's Farm, Hamstead Marshall.


source: dailymail

No I DON'T want my picture taken: Polar bear smashes £130,000 of camera equipment during wildlife documentary

11:57 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By GAVIN ALLEN

Chase me: The bear sets his sights on the mobile blizzard camera


Wildlife documentary-makers are going to increasingly cunning means to sneak into the secret world of their subjects but don't think for a second that the animals are fooled, as these images prove.

Award-winning director John Downer had disguised one of his remote-controlled spy cameras as a large snowball to capture the journey of a polar bear mother and her cub crossing the sea ice in Svalbard, Norway, in search of seals.

But - in a documentary Dowler says captures the bears' 'astonishing intelligence' - this adult male wasn't having the wool pulled over his eyes.


Gotcha: Once the bear gets hold of the expensive piece of equipment ...


...it doesn't stand a chance and the bear reduces the £100,000 piece to pieces


Instead, he marched straight up to the 'snowball' camera and, after briefly exploring it with a massive paw, gave the director and his producer a close-up while he smashed it to pieces.

But the bear wasn't finished there and without pause for thought he set his sights on a second piece of equipment, Downer's £100,000 blizzard camera.

The 'blizzard cam' is on wheels and remote-controlled, and even though the film-maker tried to steer the expensive equipment out of harms way it was no match for an angry polar bear weighing upwards of half a ton.


Round two: The bear finds the snowball camera, gives it the once over with his massive paws and then ...


... smashes it to bits, sending half of it spinning away into the arctic wastes


Fortunately, the documentary maker had other equipment with which to record the attacks and, after destroying two cameras, the bear calmed down.

'Curiosity satisfied, the animals eventually behaved normally,' said Mr Downer.

'Ultimately, out spycams reveal that polar bears’ intelligence and curiosity are key to their survival in a world of shrinking ice.'

His film, Polar Bear: Spy On The Ice, is on BBC1 next Wednesday.


What are you looking at: The spy cameras took some incredible close-up footage before they were destroyed


source: dailymail

An elephant dressed as Santa Claus distributes candy to students

An elephant dressed as Santa Claus distributes candy to students during Christmas celebrations at Jirasart school in Ayutthaya, 70 km (44 miles) north of Bangkok, December 24, 2010.



An elephant dressed in a Santa Claus costume gives out gifts to students to mark the Christmas season at a school in Ayutthaya province on December 24, 2010. The event was held as part of a campaign to promote Christmas in Thailand.



Elementary school students at Jirasartwitthaya school in Ayutthaya, Thailand, reach out to receive presents from elephants dressed as Santa Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. The Christmas event has been held for at least five years at the Thai school where the majority of the students are Buddhist.



Thai mahouts dressed as Santa's helpers gather outside Jirasartwitthaya school in Ayutthaya, Thailand, prior to a show featuring elephants dressed as Santa Claus Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. The Christmas event has been held for at least five years at the Thai school where the majority of the students are Buddhist.




An elephant dressed in a Santa Claus costume performs by standing on its hind legs before giving out gifts to students to mark the Christmas season at a school in Ayutthaya province on December 24, 2010. The event was held as part of a campaign to promote Christmas in Thailand.



A Thai mahout, dressed as Santa's helper, watches outside Jirasartwitthaya school in Ayutthaya, Thailand, prior to a show featuring elephants dressed as Santa Claus Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. The Christmas event has been held for at least five years at the Thai school where the majority of the students are Buddhist.



Foreign tourists pose with an elephant dressed in a Santa Claus costume for a group photo during a promotional event to mark the Christmas season at a school in Ayutthaya province on December 24, 2010. The event, where the elephants passed out presents to the school's students, was held as part of a campaign to promote Christmas in Thailand.


Christmas Elephant twirling hoola-hoop (old clip)


source: Daylife
photo: Gettyimages

Scrubbed up for Christmas: Spike, the orphaned hedgehog gets a festive make-over

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Bath time: Spike, an eight-week-old hedgehog has a wash at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre


This is a baby hedgehog receiving a good old fashioned rub-a-dub after he was found wandering in a garden, unable to roll into a ball.

Named Spike, the tiny creature has to be scrubbed clean with a toothbrush because of his delicate skin.

Rescue staff have been treating the youngster to a frothy bath for three weeks after the distressed hedgehog was discovered during daylight.

He was unable to curl up in a defensive ball and concerned locals took him to a vet in Somerset

He was then transferred to the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre, in Highbridge.

Care manager Sarah Cowen, 44, said: 'He was having problems rolling into a ball because the skin on his belly was so sore.


Rub-a-dub: Staff have been treating Spike to a bath for three weeks after he was found wandering in a garden


'It's not uncommon for hedgehogs to get skin problems. Just like humans they can get rashes and eczema.

'We decided to treat him to a bath.'

Brushing his tummy with a toothbrush and behind the ears, staff have nursed him back to health.

They will carefully monitor his skin and his ability to curl into a ball to see how he improves.


Safe at last: Hedgehogs wandering in daylight are often distressed and Spike was unable to curl up


Secret World Wildlife Rescue is the only 24/7 wildlife rescue centre in the South West, annually caring for over 4000 sick, injured and orphaned animals.

The operation relies solely on donations to help its 623 staff rescue and rehabilitate sick or injured animals and return them to the wild in Britain.



Poser: Spike with care manager Sarah Cowen, 44. She said: 'He was having problems rolling into a ball because the skin on his belly was so sore.'

source: dailymail

Say cheese! Breathtaking pictures snapped by daredevil divers swimming with great white sharks

10:12 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Close for comfort: This breathtaking snap was taken 40 feet beneath the surface off Guadalupe near Mexico. Clients pay more than £3,700 for the opportunity to dive with two-time BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year


Ominously circling just feet away from divers with no more protection than a wooden stick, these great white sharks are known as the most curious in the world.

Intrigued by the brazen behaviour of the rubber-suited invaders moving in and out of cages 40ft underwater, the massive beasts even get close enough for intimate portrait shots to be taken.

Attracted only by the sound of the metal clunk of the protective cages and the breathing apparatus on the divers, the great whites of Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico have gained a reputation as some of the most relaxed on Earth.


Different approach: Organiser Amos Nachoum use some small fish dangling from cages to allow the great white's natural curiosity to take over


So much so, that experienced divers have the confidence to swim alongside them and observe them in their natural habitat as they migrate to feed on elephant bull seals that congregate on Guadalupe at this time of year.

'Of course they are wild and unpredictable animals, but I have 45 years of diving experience to call upon to understand the movements and behaviour of these graceful creatures,' said Amos Nachoum, 60, who photographed these remarkable scenes earlier this month.

'We don't throw in bloody chump into the water, we use some small fish dangling from cages and allow their natural curiosity to take over.


Deep blue: The sharks from the surrounding area are said to be some of the most relaxed on the planet


'Over the course of that week 15 different sharks came to see us and according to my own rules we would never continue an encounter when more than three sharks arrived.

'The aim of these expeditions is to show my clients that great whites are not the ferocious snarling creatures that we see in Spielberg movies or in the National Geographic documentaries.'


Menacing: Amos has a 100 per cent safety rate but does make all his clients sign a disclaimer


Trained by South African white shark expert Andre Hartmann in the 1990's, Amos is still stunned by the reaction of first time customers to his great white excursions.

'They have this look in their eye afterwards,' says Andre who has been diving since he was 14 and a photographer since he was 12.

Each customer must sign a legal disclaimer that in turn must be signed by the legal representative of the client.

'They have to exhibit a full awareness of what they are asking me to do with them,' says Amos. 'They must realise that I only have a broomstick to push the shark away.

'I do not carry a spear gun - it would not help in the event of an attack.'

source: dailymail

Female giraffe Monique licks the head of her new born male cub

10:12 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments

Female giraffe Monique licks the head of her new born male cub Tebogo at the zoo of Frankfurt, central Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. Tebogo was born during the night of Dec. 8 to 9.



Female giraffe Monique tends to her new born male cub Tebogo at the zoo of Frankfurt, central Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. Tebogo was born during the night from Dec. 8 to 9.




New born male giraffe cub Tebogo stands next to its mother Monique at the zoo of Frankfurt, central Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. Tebogo was born during the night from Dec. 8 to 9.


source: Daylife
photo: AP photo

The festive foods were given to the animals

10:11 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, a bear looks at a paper made snowman at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.



SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, two chimpanzees share a piece of watermelon at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.



SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, a bear plays with Christmas decorations at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.



SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, a meerket rests inside a Christmas present at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.




SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, a meerkat plays with Christmas presents at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.




SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, a tree kangaroo eats slices of watermelon at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.



SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by Taronga Zoo, a tree kangaroo eats slices of watermelon at Taronga Zoo on December 23, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The festive foods were given to the animals as part of the regular enrichment program in place to encourage the animals to forage for food and help improve hunting abilities.



source: Daylife
photo: Gettyimages

Scientists launch fightback against mite that is wiping out our bees... by making it self-destruct

10:10 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAVID DERBYSHIRE

A honeybee with a Varroa mite (circled) attached to it. Conservation groups are welcoming a breakthrough in the battle against the deadly mite responsible for decimating the honeybee population


For 20 years it has ruthlessly attacked Britain's hives - wiping out millions of bees and bringing misery to honey producers.

But now scientists have launched the fightback against the invasive, blood sucking varroa mite parasite - the world's biggest killer of bees.

The bug drills a hole in the honey bee's back and drinks its blood while injecting viruses to suppress the bee's immune system leaving it vulnerable to disease.

Attempts tried to wipe it out but they failed as it becomes increasingly resistant to chemicals.

Now researchers have developed a new technique that turns off genes in the pest's DNA, forcing the bugs to self-destruct.

Although the treatment is still experimental, it could eventually kill the mites without harming bees within years.


The breakthrough won't come soon enough for Britain's beleaguered honey bees - in England alone the population has shrunk by 54 per cent since the 1980s as a result of the varroa mite, pesticides, industrial farming and disease.

Farmers say the decline could be disastrous for agriculture because bees are vital for pollinating crops and are worth an estimated £200 million to farming each year.



A varrao mite. The tiny creatures infect bees with viruses suppressing their immune system


The new treatment would allow beekeepers to treat the parasites without harming the bees. Currently they have to use pesticides.

Prof Francis Ratnieks, a bee researcher from the University of Sussex, said it could be a long time before it was used on British bees.

'It may be possible to use gene knockout techniques such as RNAi to learn more about the physiology of pests and to use this to develop ways of controlling them, maybe by the development and application of novel pesticides,' he told the BBC.


source: dailymail