Displaying items by tag: whales

Movie review written by Jon Patch with 2 out of 4 paws


Sony Pictures Classic, Aconite Productions, BFI Film Fund, Danish Documentary Production, Louverture Films and Ma.Ja De Filmproduktion presents a PG, 89 minute, Documentary directed by Victor Kossakovsky, written by Kossakovsky and Aimara Reques with a theater release date of January 28, 2019.

Review written by Jon Patch with 3 out of 4 paws

The Meg

Warner Bros. Pictures, Gravity Pictures, Apelles Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures and Flagship Entertainment present a PG-13, 113 minute, Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, directed by Jon Turteltaub, screenplay by Dean Georgaris and Jon Hoeber with a theatre release date of August 10, 2018.

Talkin' Pets News

February 24, 2018

Host - Jon Patch

Co-Host - Karen Vance - Trainer/Agility

Producer - Daisy Charlotte

Network Producer - Quin McCarthy

Executive Producer - Bob Page

Special Guest -  Lora Dunn, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the Animal Legal Defense Fund will join Jon and Talkin' Pets 2/24/18 at 630pm EST to discuss AMERICA’S TOP TEN ANIMAL DEFENDERS STAND UP FOR THE VOICELESS

Environmental Ed will join Jon and Talkin' Pets at 520pm EST to discuss Climate Change, Human Encroachment, Forests...


Exciting news here at SeaWorld - - I wanted to share it with those of you who have partnered with me through the years, on our mission to care for this beautiful planet.  Your support is appreciated, as together we can inspire the next generation of ocean protectors.

Over the past 50 years, SeaWorld has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of marine animals and protect the health of our oceans. We have forged new partnerships, made strides in research to improve the health and habitats of wild animals, developed cutting edge animal rehabilitation programs and emerged as one of the leading animal rescue organizations in the United States.   We have also added amazing entertainment, attractions and experiences – all with the goal of ensuring every guest interaction with SeaWorld is both fun and meaningful.

This past weekend we launched SeaWorld’s new Park to Planet commercial spot on the world’s biggest stage, the NBC Winter Games.

Park to Planet is a way to give a voice to the great work SeaWorld and its partners are doing to make a difference for the planet.  Through Park to Planet, we want to inspire others to join our shared mission to save the animals and the oceans we all call home.  Every visit to our parks makes a difference and helps to support our wider animal rescue (over 31,000 rescued!) and conservation efforts.

We are proud to share a special message from our ambassadors, and in case you haven’t seen it, our new commercial spot.

Please also visit parktoplanet.com where we encourage you to learn more and share details on our mission and work.  

Thank you for your support!

Review written by Jon Patch with 2.5 paws out of 4

Norm of the North

Lionsgate, Assemblage Entertainment and Splash Entertainment present a PG rated, 86 minute, Animation, Adventure, Comedy, directed by Trevor Wall, written by Daniel Altiere and Steven Altiere with a theater release date of January 15, 2016.

Review written by Jon Patch with 3.5 out of 4 paws

In the Heart of the Sea

Warner Bros. Pictures, Image Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, Enelmar Productions and Cott Productions present a PG-13, 121 minute, Action, Adventure, Biography, directed by Ron Howard, screenplay by Charles Leavitt, story by Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and book “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick with a theater release date of December 11, 2015.

Vanishing baby pelicans - Conjoined whale calves - Melting sea stars - Mutant butterflies

Could Drifting Nuclear Radiation from Japan be the Cause of “Biological Weirdnesses” in the US?

Observers in Japan say the disabled Fukushima nuclear power plant is still pumping tons of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean more than 1000 days after being damaged by a 45-foot tsunami on March 11, 2011. US officials insist that no increase in radioactivity from the Japanese disaster has been detected in US monitoring stations. However, environmental scientists are noting an increase of inexplicable “biological weirdnesses” in marine life along America’s West Coast.

According to a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the number of deceased sea creatures on the floor of the Pacific is higher than it has ever been since monitoring of the sea floor began 24 years ago.

  • Currently, the ongoing “melting sea star” epidemic has been seen off the coast of California, Oregon, Washington and Canada. The disintegrating sea stars have yet to be explained.
  • In February, scientists analyzing kelp off the coast of San Diego discovered the presence of cesium, a radioactive isotope that is linked to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
  • In addition, scientists discovered the first ever documented case of conjoined gray whale calves off the West Coast of Mexico.
  • The cause of a drastic plunge in baby California pelicans, from 1,000s to 10 or less, is also unknown.
  • Mutant butterflies have been created by Fukushima radiation, said Japanese scientists.

“Ocean radiation seems to be killing marine life forms along America’s coast and the potential danger to human health is not being reported by mainstream media,” said health educators Carl and Jhoane Robinson.

The Robinsons said that as ocean water evaporates into the air and is blown inland, it will rain down on people, animals, and crops in California and the Western US. West Coast produce exposed to radioactive molecules will be shipped to grocery stores across the nation. In such a scenario, the implication for our national health is not encouraging: According to the National Academy of Sciences, any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, increases cancer risk.  

How you can boost your immune system and protect your body from radiation:

Sufficient levels of the mineral iodine in the thyroid tissues can prevent the uptake of harmful radioiodine molecules. Restoring low iodine levels to normal typically rejuvenates the entire immune system, especially the body’s ability to isolate and eliminate radioactive contaminants.  


Carl and Jhoane (Joan) Robinson are health educators and co-founders of liquid dietary supplement manufacturer Cedar Bear Naturales.

A clinical & formulary herbalist and nutritional therapist with a Master of Herbology in herbal pharmacognosy and pharmacology, Carl has been an ‘insider’ to the herbal products industry for 30 years and was involved in passage of State legislation that in turn became the template for the Federal government’s Dietary Supplements Health Education Act of 1984 (1984 D.S.H.E.A.). He is also the author of numerous White Papers and published works and educational courses on herbs and natural health.

Jhoane is a traditional herbalist, yoga instructor & meditation facilitator and organic gardener and the former lead writer for a nationally distributed herb journal and natural health newsletter. She is the daughter of an MD internist who co-founded the largest medical clinic in the northwest and was inflicted with a disabling auto-immune condition at an early age, which she overcame utilizing natural holistic means.


# #   #

War of the Whales

A True Story

**A July Indie Next Pick**

Based on years of interviews and research, Horwitz delivers a powerful, engrossing narrative

that raises serious questions about the unchecked use of secrecy by the military to advance its institutional power.”—Kirkus Reviews [STARRED Review]

In this gripping detective tale, science writer Horwitz recreates a day-by-day account of the quest to find the reasons for the mass strandings; their discovery of the probable cause—the U.S. Navy’s use of high-intensity active sonar; the Navy’s resistance and cover-up of their use of sonar in the area; and the drawn-out struggles between [marine biologist Ken] Balcomb, Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Navy…Riveting.”—Publishers Weekly [Boxed Review]

A gripping, brilliantly told tale of the secret and deadly struggle between American national security and the kings of the oceans. At once thrilling and heartbreaking, this is a landmark book of deep, original reporting which could alter forever how we view our role as stewards of the seas.”—Bob Woodward

A stunning true story that delivers us into beautiful and mysterious depths – of great oceans, top-secret military operations, and the hearts of underdogs who risk it all to save the most extraordinary creatures in the world. In War of the Whales, Joshua Horwitz has written a tale of passion and courage with all the intrigue of the best mystery novels.”—Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers

A page-turning plunge into deep seas and deep secrets.  A finely braided, tautly constructed

narrative full of science, suspense and unexpected reversals. War of the Whales is

an awe-inspiring book, and an enraging one.  You won't be able to put it down.”

Geraldine Brooks, author of March and People of the Book

Deeply researched, and brimming with colorful and interesting detail, Joshua Horwitz's gripping book reads like a thriller but, in the tradition of the best non-fiction writing, brings to light the secret history of military sonar and its devastating connection to traumatized whales and dolphins stranding and dying on beaches around the world.” —Tim Zimmermann, Associate Producer and Co-Writer of "Blackfish" and author of The Killer In The Pool

War of the Whales tells the astounding true story of how brave men and women, free from fear, spoke truth to the most powerful military on earth to save the most majestic creatures in the oceans.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Founder and President of the Waterkeeper Alliance

From severed whale heads to top-secret Naval warfare ops, from the blue waters of the Bahamas

to the inner corridors of the Pentagon, War of the Whales is a true-life detective story, military drama and legal procedural of the first order.  Joshua Horwitz channels John Grisham and Jacques

Cousteau in a way that will leave the reader inspired, outraged and deeply satisfied.”

David Helvarg, author of The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea

The paths of the world’s most powerful navy and the ocean’s deepest-diving whales collided on March 15, 2000, when veteran whale researcher Ken Balcomb witnessed a mass whale stranding that left its victims dying helplessly from a mysterious unknown cause on the shores of the Bahamas.  That heartrending event led to an epic legal battle—with Balcomb and environmental lawyer Joel Reynolds on one side and the U.S. Navy on the other—that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Along the way, the Navy conceded for the first time that its sonar war games had driven whales onto beaches, and agreed to comply with federal environmental laws intended to protect whales and other marine animals.

The product of seven years of research and writing, WAR OF THE WHALES: A True Story (Simon & Schuster; July 1, 2014; $28.00 U.S./$32.00 CAN) is a riveting, wide-ranging, and masterly account of this landmark showdown in courtrooms and the court of public opinion.  Author Joshua Horwitz takes readers onto the beaches and the research vessels, into the labs and the courtrooms, behind closed doors at Pentagon strategy sessions, and into the thick of the debate over how to balance the requirements of national security with safeguarding the ocean environment.  At the center of his vivid tale are two courageous and sometimes conflicted agents of social change —one a maverick, one an consummate insider —who put their personal and professional lives on the line in order to hold the Navy accountable for the survival of the sea’s most majestic and beloved creatures.

A reluctant whistle-blower and a lone gunslinger

Ken Balcomb was an unlikely and reluctant whistle-blower.  As a young man, he had done two tours of duty in the Navy, working with sonar in submarine detection, and had taken an oath of secrecy.  Fascinated by marine mammals, he later became a leading authority on the relatively unknown beaked whales, species that inhabit the world’s deep underwater canyons, as well as orcas, or killer whales.  Balcomb was loyal to the Navy and recognized the need for a robust national defense, but believed that it could be achieved without flooding the oceans with whale-killing sonar.  As Horwitz explains, whales and their smaller dolphin relatives depend on their own extraordinarily sophisticated forms of bio sonar for navigation, hunting, and courtship. An ocean flooded with manmade noise – from shipping, oil exploration, and military sonar – can make it difficult for whales to forage, communicate, and even survive.  As the saying among marine scientists goes, a deaf whale is a dead whale. 

Joel Reynolds, a superb litigator with a passion for environmental justice, had already made a name for himself as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  Staffed with legal gunslingers like Reynolds, NRDC was one of the groups that had made environmental law sexy in the 1980s by suing corporate polluters on behalf of its members.  In 1994, Reynolds had won a lawsuit against the Navy for its use of underwater explosions in marine sanctuaries, which violated marine mammal protection laws.  When he uncovered evidence of a secret Navy sonar system, he suspected that it was linked to a rash of mass whale strandings around the world but lacked a trail of physical evidence to support a lawsuit.  Perhaps, he hoped, that trail might begin in the Bahamas.

The war begins

Horwitz follows the dramatic unfolding of this tale from Day 1 of the Bahamas stranding, where Balcomb, his fellow whale researcher and then-wife, Diane Claridge, and their volunteer helpers tried to rescue the stranded whales. The next day, in search of forensic evidence, they had to wrestle the whales’ remains away from sharks, sever their heads, and stow them in a friend’s restaurant freezer.  Weeks later, only the last-minute intervention of a friendly Redcap at the Miami airport (whose daughter was a marine biology student) enabled Balcomb and Claridge to fly the frozen heads safely to Boston. There, Darlene Ketten, the world’s foremost whale forensic pathologist and expert on whale hearing, examined the heads in her lab at Harvard. The CT scans revealed pools of blood from brain hemorrhages, though Ketten was reluctant to speculate on the cause.

But Ken Balcomb needed no further convincing.  He had photographed Navy destroyers in Bahamian waters during the days following the strandings, and knew from personal experience that these warships were equipped with high-powered sonar transmitters.  Soon—much to the displeasure of Ketten and others in the scientific establishment and their Navy patrons —Balcomb was standing in front of the cameras on 60 Minutes and at a press conference in Washington, D.C.  Backed up by dramatic and disturbing video footage he had recorded during the Bahamas strandings, he stated, “I believe the Navy did it.”  Balcomb’s claim was soon bolstered by a groundbreaking study published by Jim Mead, the eminent curator of marine mammals at the Smithsonian, which documented the historical connection between naval exercises around the world and beaked whale strandings.

Meanwhile, Joel Reynolds pursued a relentless pressure campaign, backed up by the threat of litigation, with lawyers from the Navy, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Justice Department.  Top naval officers like Rear Admiral Dick Pittenger were charged with protecting America and its ships and sailors from attack by undetected enemy submarines.  Understandably, they had a different point of view than the Navy’s civilian leadership, who grasped the political necessity of trying to find some accommodation with Reynolds and the wider Save the Whales movement, which had grown into a mass coalition of whale and dolphin lovers, ocean conservationists, and animal rights activists.

Horwitz writes of this culture war over whales: “It defied the admirals’ comprehension that they had to kowtow to a roomful of lawyers and regulators.  They had built and trained the most powerful Navy in the history of maritime warfare, had outlasted the fearsome Soviet armada during a four-decade Cold War, and now they were being called to account because a dozen whales had stranded during a training exercise?”

But in order to retain its hard-earned Cold War sonar assets the peacetime Navy had to promote itself as a good steward of the environment – in part, by ingeniously retrofitting its sound surveillance systems to measure climate change in the ocean. However, two years after 9-11, in the most patriotic, pro-military political climate since WWII, NRDC and Balcomb won a major courtroom victory, forcing the Navy to drastically curtail the planned deployment of its LFA (Low Frequency Active) sonar system that would have flooded most of the world’s oceans with high-decibel sound.

Taking the fight to the Supreme Court

In response, the Navy turned to Congress and the executive branch for sweeping national security exemptions from a host of federal environmental laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In the meantime, evidence of the damage to whales from military sonar continued to mount.  In 2003, Balcomb witnessed another mass stranding, this time of pilot whales on San Juan Island in Washington State, where he regularly spent his summers monitoring the endangered killer whales of Puget Sound.  Balcomb videotaped a pod of orcas in extreme distress in close proximity of a U.S. Navy destroyer, which only ceased transmitting high-decibel sonar after the Coast Guard intervened at Balcomb’s request.  In another major victory for Reynolds and the NRDC, a federal judge ordered the Navy to negotiate a settlement over the use of sonar in training exercises that drastically restricted its zones of operation off the West Coast.

After losing again in the Court of Appeals, the Navy asked the White House to intervene, turning the fight over the use of military sonar into a constitutional confrontation over the separation of powers. When an executive order signed by President Bush was struck down by the courts, the Navy asked the Supreme Court to grant the case a hearing, which the Court agreed to do. In November of 2008, just weeks after Barack Obama’s election, the Roberts Court ruled, by a closely divided vote, that the national security concerns of the Navy admirals should trump the requirements of federal laws protecting whales. However, the Court did uphold many of the specific restrictions sonar trainings that the lower court had placed on the Navy.

A new level of national discussion and accountability

While Reynolds and his allies had suffered a legal setback, litigating the sonar case in front of the Supreme Court had elevated the topic to a level of national discussion that would have been unimaginable even a few years earlier.  Reynolds felt confident that they were slowly but surely reining in the Navy’s use of whale-killing sonar in training exercises.  They needed to keep pushing for better safeguards, but the Navy’s obligation to comply with federal environmental laws was no longer in dispute.

Furthermore, in the years since the Supreme Court decision, consensus has built inside the research community—including among many of the Navy’s own researchers—about the threat that noise pollution, including military and commercial sonar, poses to whales.  In particular, research has revealed that much lower sound levels than previously believed cause changes to migration patterns as well as foraging and communications habits.  Most importantly to endangered cetacean species, research has also shown that chronic noise pollution depresses their rates of reproduction.

The mass strandings—and the war—continue

Meanwhile, whales continue to mass-strand around the world in the presence of military and commercial sonar.  In 2008, sixty dolphins stranded in Cornwall, England, during sonar exercises being conducted by the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy.  That same year, more than one hundred melon-headed whales were driven ashore in Madagascar by sonar being used to explore for oil and gas by the ExxonMobil Corporation.  In 2011, at least ten and possibly dozens of beaked whales stranded or washed ashore dead on the Greek island of Corfu following a major Italian military exercise nearby. And in April of 2014, during joint exercise among U.S., Israeli, and Greek navies offshore from Crete, five beaked whales stranded and died.

In 2012, the U.S. Navy filed for permits to expand its sonar training ranges up and down the East and West coasts – including new testing ranges for mines, torpedoes, and other underwater explosive devices. The Navy’s own Environmental Impact Statements predicted millions of marine mammal “takes,” or exposures to these tests, including nearly a thousand deaths and 13,000 serious injuries.  In December, 2013, Fisheries granted the Navy its requested permits. Within a month, in separate lawsuits, NRDC and Earthjustice, along with half a dozen co-plaintiffs, sued the Navy and Fisheries for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

A major new work of narrative non-fiction, WAR OF THE WHALES is at once an enthralling piece of natural history, a gripping David-and-Goliath legal battle, an eye-opening chronicle of secret Cold War military activity, an environmental call to arms, and a probing examination of the conflicting demands of the environment, the law, and national defense. 

# # #


Joshua Horwitz is the co-founder and publisher of Living Planet Books in Washington, D.C., which specializes in books by thought leaders in science, medicine, and psychology. The co-author of two previous books of nonfiction, he lives with his wife and three daughters in Washington, DC.



By Joshua Horwitz

Published by Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Price: $28.00

ISBN: 9781451645019

E-Book ISBN: 9781451645033

Learn More about Joshua Horwitz at www.WaroftheWhales.com

Visit Simon & Schuster on the web at www.simonandschuster.com


Share this on cid:image002.png@01CEDF8E.30546370cid:image003.png@01CEDF8E.30546370


A Message from Jim Atchison, President of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™

Killer whales are one of the most majestic animals on the planet and, because millions of people can see them up close every year, they also are one of the most beloved. With 28 whales, we are privileged to have the largest group of killer whales in human care and also provide pioneering contributions to their well-being. SeaWorld® was the first zoological organization to successfully breed killer whales and has contributed to numerous scientific studies over the past five decades. Read more on these incredible animals in this special killer whale edition of SEAmail.


Voices of SeaWorld

How do our veterinarians and trainers work together to care for killer whales? In the new "Voices of SeaWorld" series, hear directly from experts whose work and passion illustrates SeaWorld’s commitment to animal welfare. More than 60 zoological professionals across the U.S. – trainers, keepers, veterinarians, scientists, rescue experts, conservationists and educators – were interviewed.


Killer Whale Research and Conservation

SeaWorld provides a unique opportunity to examine killer whales up close. Affiliated biologists study SeaWorld killer whales to improve our understanding of dolphin and whale hearing, communication, social interaction, nutrition, and health. On-going research in all three parks is determining exactly what whales hear. This kind of detailed science can only happen at a facility like SeaWorld and the results are important for understanding (and mitigating) the impact of ocean sounds on these animals in the wild. See killer whale studies here.
Learn more.


How Do You Train a Killer Whale?

Keeping it positive both above and below the water is the cornerstone of training at SeaWorld. Only positive reinforcement is used in all of the whales’ training. The reinforcement varies every day to keep the animals engaged and appeal to their different preferences. Some prefer a massage while others like discs to play with. Not only does the training process create a trusting relationship between the whales and trainers, it also enhances the level of care provided by our veterinarians. The whales’ training allows them to voluntarily participate in medical procedures such as offering up flukes for a blood draw.
Learn more.


Whale-sized Toys

What does SeaWorld use to keep these extraordinary animals engaged mentally, physically and socially? What might look like a play toy to us is known as an Environmental Enrichment Device (EED). Enrichment increases the whales’ activity level and adds choice and control to their environment. The SeaWorld trainers continually create new and unique EED’s. A few of the devices provided throughout the day include giant balls and discs, ice and even gelatin molds. Some EEDs the whales can trigger themselves such as water sprayers.
Learn more.


Whale of a Baby!

Did you know that SeaWorld cares for the largest killer whale population in human care worldwide? Our newest addition is a male calf born at SeaWorld San Diego in 2013. Named Makani which is Hawaiian for “wind,” the 8-month-old calf is doing great. He socializes with the other whales including his brother, Nakia, and sister, Kalia. Makani is part of a successful breeding program that began in 1985.
Learn more.


Killer Whale-to-Kid Communication

SeaWorld inspires millions to connect with the natural world. This connection was clearly evident when two-year-old park guest Jasmine C. met killer whales Tilikum and Trua at SeaWorld Orlando. In this short, candid video, Jasmine and the whales seemed equally fascinated with one another. Enjoy and share – it’s sure to make you smile!
Learn more.



To read more about our care of killer whales and other animals please visit SeaWorldCares.com.

Reader’s Digest: When Animals Act Like People

April 17, 2013 – Reader’s Digest compiled a list of 12 stories that show animals at their most personal: practicing yoga, driving cars and comforting their closest friends. The stories include regular pets, such as cats and dogs, and animals as wild as a lion and marmots. Here are their stories:

· Lions Care About Their Hair – According to Peyton M. West, PhD, an evolution and animal behavior expert, female lions actively court males that are more heavily and lushly maned, especially at night, which is reserved for socializing and grooming. Of course, today such bald discrimination is frowned upon by men and women, but the big cats are content to be old-fashioned. When fights break out among members of the pride, lions with flowing tresses get preferential treatment.

· Whale Says Thanks – Each winter for nearly 20 years, Great Whale Conservancy co-director Michael Fishbach has traveled with other research scientists to the Sea of Cortez off Mexico’s west coast to study blue and humpback whales. In 2011, he and his team spotted a humpback whale trapped in a fishing net and spent an hour freeing it. Afterward, in an hour-long display of thanks, the whale swam near their boat and leaped into the air about 40 times.

· Pandas Like to Cavort – Is there anything cuter than a baby panda, except maybe a human baby? Even the word “panda” is cute. In fact, cubs sometimes behave like human babies: They sleep in the same positions and value their thumbs (pandas use theirs for holding the bamboo they munch on all day). Pandas have been known to wander inside mountain homes and get into the pots and pans. And although they grow into solitary adults who roam alone and mate just once a year, they also like to snuggle. If given the chance, they’ll sleep side by side with domestic animals.

· Bear Does Yoga – Santra, a female bear at Finland’s Ahtari Zoo, entertained visitors with a 15-minute “yoga” routine following a nap. Sitting upright, Santra used her front paws to grab her right back paw, then her left, stretching her legs as if doing a One-Legged Split. Next, she demonstrated the Open-Leg Seated Balance Pose with near-perfect form, pulling up both hind legs while keeping her balance.

· Horses Are Picky Eaters – Horses have an even keener sense of taste and smell than humans do, say equine scientists. When horses wrinkle their noses and flare their nostrils, they’re activating their vomeronasal organ, which allows them to sense smells we can’t detect. Horses also have taste buds on the back of their tongues and the roofs of their mouths, which might explain why they reject stale water and meticulously move around meadows, grazing on only the tastiest herbs, experts say.

· A Cat Honors Its Owner – A sprig of acacia, paper towels, and a plastic cup are just a few of the gifts that Toldo, a devoted three-year-old gray-and-white cat, has placed on his former owner Iozzelli Renzo’s grave in Montagnana, Italy, every day since the man died in September 2011. Renzo adopted Toldo from a shelter when the cat was three months old, and the two formed an inseparable bond. After Renzo passed away, Toldo followed the coffin to the cemetery, and now “stands guard” at the grave for hours at a time, says Renzo’s family.

· Pigeons Serve Their Country – Pigeons’ speed and navigational skills made them prized military messengers in World Wars I and II and the most decorated animals in military history. Thirty-two messenger pigeons have received the Dickin Medal, a British award that honors the gallantry or devotion of animals in war. At the moment, pigeons are resting on their laurels. They’ve fallen out of military favor and are no longer used — for now.

· Dogs Drive Cars – Three New Zealand dogs recently navigated a specially modified Mini Cooper around a racetrack at about 20 mph. (Engineers raised the gearshift and pedals and added handles to the steering wheel.) The stunt was an effort by the Auckland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to show off canine intelligence and boost adoptions from animal shelters. After months of practice, Monty, a giant schnauzer, Porter, a bearded collie mix, and Ginny, a bearded collie–whippet mix, followed trainers’ commands to put the car into gear, press the accelerator, and steer with their paws. Since a video of the test drive appeared online last December, all three dogs have been adopted.

· Monkeys Do Math – If capuchins ran the world, we might have avoided the recent banking crisis. In an experiment conducted at Yale, capuchins demonstrated an understanding of pricing and budgeting, as well as a desire to avoid losses when required to buy food with tokens.

· Cat Guides Blind Dog – After Terfel, an 8 year-old chocolate Labrador retriever in North Wales, U.K., developed cataracts last year, he began to bump into walls and furniture. Soon enough, the once energetic dog was spending most of his time in his dog bed, unable to find his way around. On a whim, Terfel’s owner Judy Godfrey-Brown let a stray cat, whom she named Pwditat (pronounced Puddy-tat), into her home. The feline made a beeline for the blind dog and began using its paws and head to herd Terfel into the garden. Now the unlikely friends sleep together, and Pwditat helps Terfel find his way everywhere.

· Camel Eats Breakfast with People – The first time Joe dined with British farmers Nathan and Charlotte Anderson-Dixon, he was uninvited. The four-year-old Bactrian camel stuck his head through their open kitchen window in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and proceeded to empty the contents of a fruit bowl. Now the couple, who rent out reindeer, camels, goats, and other creatures for television shows, movies, and photo shoots, set a place at their table for the assertive double-humped creature, where he munches on cereal and his favorite: bananas on toast.

· Marmots Befriend a Boy – A colony of marmots in the Austrian Alps has embraced eight-year-old Matteo Walch, whose family vacations there in summer. The Alpine marmots are the largest of their species, sometimes reaching 15 pounds. Typically, they beat their tails, chatter, and whistle to warn other marmots of danger, but with Matteo, they behave much differently, allowing the boy to feed, pet, and even touch noses with them.

To read about these personal animals, please visit: http://www.rd.com/slideshows/animal-stories-when-beasts-act-like-humans/#slide2=&slideshow=slide1.

More: Visit ReadersDigest.com to subscribe. This hot topic and additional interesting Reader’s Digest stories are now available at www.ReadersDigest.comReader’s Digest, recognized by 99% of American adults, simplifies and enriches consumers’ lives by discovering and expertly selecting the most interesting ideas, stories, experiences and products. Reader’s Digest is available in print; online at ReadersDigest.com; via digital download on iPad, mobile apps, Kindle, Kindle Fire, Nook, Zinio; books and music. Obtain a subscription at www.ReadersDigest.com or on your favorite digital download device.

Follow Reader’s Digest on Twitter: @ReadersDigest @ReadersDigest

Follow Reader’s Digest on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ReadersDigest

Page 1 of 2