Pet Scoop: African Lion Population Plunges, Cat Makes Royal Baby Prediction

Dec. 5, 2012: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

African lion
Researchers are concerned about the impact that the loss of the savannah habitat is having on African lions.

Habitat Loss Threatens Lions

Researchers from the U.S., Africa and Britain were surprised to discover that the savannah habitat that sustains African lions has shrunk by 75 percent in the last 50 years, due to changes in land use and population growth. And that’s resulted in a drop in the lion population during that timeframe from about 100,000 to just 32,000, threatening the majestic species, according to the study, which was published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. “It’s a shock,” said Stuart Pimm of Duke University, the paper’s co-author. “Savannah-­Africa has been massively reduced … As [people] moved in, lions have been hunted out.” Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would study whether African lions should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. — Read it at the Washington Post

Giant Panda Relative Found in Spain

You never know who your ancestors are. A new study suggests that the giant panda — an icon of China — may have its familial roots in Europe. Researchers said a small tree climber that lived 11 million years ago in what’s now Spain is the oldest relative of the giant panda. Based on a jaw fragment that was found earlier this year, researchers said that although the bear was much smaller than modern giant pandas, it shared similarities like being an omnivore that fed on tough plants, and it was likely a great climber. The findings were published last month in the journal PLOS ONE. — Read it at National Geographic News

Old English Sheepdogs Becoming Rare

The Shaggy Dog may have beena celebrity in the '60s. But now, with the rise in popularity of small, low maintenance dogs, it’s becoming hard to find the longhaired Old English Sheepdog. At the height of the breed’s popularity in 1975, nearly 16,000 sheepdog puppies were registered with the American Kennel Club. But recently, that number has dropped to about 1,000. Despite the drop, kennel clubs aren’t concerned about losing the breed. “But we might have to go to shows to see them," said David Frei, director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club. — Read it from the AP via Yahoo News

A dog who was passing by stopped to help firefighters pull on a rope to take down a damaged tree.
A dog who was passing by stopped to help firefighters pull on a rope to take down a damaged tree.

Video of Dog Helping Firefighters Take Down a Tree Goes Viral

While firefighters in the Netherlands town of Harderwijk were using a rope to pull down a damaged tree, a dog who was out for a walk with his owner decided to use his tug-of-war skills to help out. To the delight of a watching crowd, he grabbed a part of the rope that was on the ground and pulled — and kept on tugging even after the job was done. The video, originally posted on YouTube on Nov. 25, has now been viewed more than 1 million times. — Watch it at Yahoo News

Mr. Nuts Predicts a Prince for the Duke and Duchess

William and Kate may not know the gender of their baby yet — but this cat does. Mr. Nuts, a tuxedo cat who lives in California, correctly predicted the losers of the last two Super Bowl games and the presidential election. He makes his forecast by relieving himself in one of two litter boxes — the one where he does his business is the loser, and thus, the other is the winner. In the case of the royal baby, Mr. Nuts went with the girl box, indicating that a boy was on the way. We’ll have to wait until next summer some time to see if he’s right! — Read it at the San Jose Mercury News

Plus: It’s going to be a long wait for the arrival of the latest heir to the British throne. But in the meantime, you can see photos of the royal couple’s fur baby, Cocker Spaniel Lupo. — See gallery at People Pets


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