About Animals 7

A CLEAR MOON and the HEDGEHOG

The school tradition of thinking a groundhog forecast the weather each February didn’t enfold a whisker of wisdom about the European hedgehog.

A yarn at a hedgehog site in British Columbia, Canada, spins the story that Romans decided that if a hedgehog, from its den, saw a shadow at this time of year, the hedgehog knew it was looking under a clear moon, which somehow meant a return to the den for six more weeks of winter.  http://hedgehogcentral.com

While a Punxsutawney, Pennsylvina groundhog and a Wiarton, Ontario groundhog are compelled to be in a weather sideshow at this time each year, very few people attempt to keep groundhogs as pets.

No so for the hedgehog, a wild creature not suited for milk, or bread soaked in milk.

But this is what many hedgehog pets are given, a prominent British hedgehog rescue group reports. Here in North America,  the pygmy hedgehog is now bred.

It has an undeniable cuteness factor but hedgehogs, which are wild creatures, can become discarded. Any kitten who has grown into a cat and found itself without a home can tell you that cutness is no guarantee to a life of leisure. 

Two groups helping hedgehogs in the US include

Hedgehog Rescue,  Box 148, Tigard, Oregon 97223

Information about that organization’s work is available on the links page at

http://hedgehogclub.com

which is The International Hedgehog Association, a source of connectivity among hedgehog groups.

Also listed there is The Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue 

http://www.hedgieflash.org  

Some of the best hedgehog sites are in England.

Harrassment of the wild creatures there is a reality. They are chased by dogs and considered a garden (rooting among the hedges) nuisance, although they eat beetles.  (They, alas, also eat earthworms.)  

A busy animal shelter, St. Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, in Aylesbury, England, which handles many species, was named for the Beatrix Potter hedgehog character, Tiggywinkles.

This clinic treats and releases about 3,000 wild European hedgehogs each year.  About 500 of the hedgies are overwintering.  http://stiggywinkles.org/uk

Hedgehogs, you might want to know, aren’t releated to porcupines.

That Tiggywinkles Hospital? The other rescue groups?

They could definitely use some hedge funds.

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About Animals 6

A HIPPO in Our TIME

 Each year on the Central West Coast of FLORIDA, a hippo born at the San Diego Zoo that has lived in Florida since 1966, receives extra visitors at a birthday bash. 

If you watched TV in the 1960s you may have seen Daktari. On that show you may have seen a hippo, an actor in the Ivan Tors  animal acting troupe.  Recently at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, visitors, children from Homosassa Springs Elementary School and hippo fans celebrated this same hippo’s 48th birthday.  The children call him Lu.  http://chronicleonline.com/

At the morning event Lu ate the first “cake,” bread baked in the peninsular shape & iced in red, white and blue. At the afternoon party, Lu declined the bread but took melon from park volunteer Vicky Iozzia, who is producing a children’s picture book about Lu, who she has observed during her 17 years of volunteer work at the park. 

The park takes responsiblity for Lu, who as a baby was taken from his mother hippo, Lotus, to work as an actor. Exotic animals often make cute appearances in a TV commercial or a series or a movie.  Lu mugged memorably in a commercial for a tire company. But fast forward 10, 15, or 20 years. What happens to animal actors when they are too told to perform? Who cares for them then?

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This blog has produced a new book, Florida’s Famous Animals, which lists some animal retirement sites in Florida,  such as a non-profit, closed-to-the-public site, that shelters some former orangutan and chimpanzee actors, along with casts-offs from private ownership. It is the Center for Great Apes. www.prime-apes.org

Florida’s Famous Animals also features comments from fans of Lu, a black and white glamour shot of him, and his life story told in a chapter, “Lu, Town Hippo.”  www.globepequot.com

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In 1850, the first hippo thought to be seen outside of Africa was visited by up to 10,000 of the curious daily, at the London Zoo. It arrived there as a trade from Egypt,  in an exchange for British hunting dogs. Named Obaysch for the island from which it was taken, the London hippo died in 1878.

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Male hippos in captivity can live to 61, as was the story for Tanga of the Munich Zoo, who died in 1995. So Lu, Town Hippo of Homosassa, has perhaps a decade of birthday hoopla on the horizon.

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For conservation information about the 125,000 to 150,000 remaining hippos in Africa look to www.savethehippo.com

Other hippo conservation news is at the site that tells the tale of Owen and Mzee, hipppo and tortoise who became friends after the 2004 tsunami made hippo Owen an orphan. www.lafargeecosystem.com

And for conservation advocacy about many exotic animals look to The World Wildlife Fund. www.wwf.org

To meet fans of hippos the world over, connect with www.hippos.com website of the Hippolotofus group, a traveling club of hippo lovers who convene to celebrate and collect all things hippo.

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This blog slautes those who care about and care for exotic animals in retirement ~ you saw this kicker coming didn’t you ~ so

hip hippo hurray~