Pet Scoop: Blind Children Experience Tiger Encounters, “Zonkey” Born in Italy

July 26, 2013: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

A young girl has a close encounter with Amur tiger Nikki at the Oregon Zoo.
A young girl has a close encounter with Amur tiger Nikki at the Oregon Zoo.
Kids Get Up Close With Tigers

With Amur tigers Nikki and Mikhail in a deep slumber for their routine physical exams at the Oregon Zoo, a group of visually impaired children got the chance to inspect the massive animals up close. The kids were able to pet the big cats’ coarse fur, feel their whiskers and pick up their huge paws while the tigers were under anesthesia earlier this month. The zoo worked with the Columbia Regional Program, a group that supports education programs for kids with disabilities, to offer 12 kids the chance to meet Nikki and Mikhail. "Many accredited zoos are coming up with innovative programs to educate and inspire kids with special needs," Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, told the Wall Street Journal. "But I've never heard of any other zoo doing anything like this. I think it's really cool." — See more photos from the Oregon Zoo and video from Kansas City’s KCTV5

Lone Star Tick Invades Wisconsin

A tick known for its abundance in Texas and other southern states seems to have made its way north to Wisconsin. Susan Paskewitz, an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that about a dozen of the aggressive ticks have been reported this year, which “says to me there actually must be thousands and thousands of them out there.” The ticks can cause ehrlichiosis, with symptoms including fever, fatigue and a possible meat allergy. Health officials say one human case of the disease has been reported in Wisconsin. “I’m really suspicious now that we may have established populations that are capable of making it through some of our winters,” said Paskewitz. — Read it at the Wisconsin State Journal

Peacocks’ Displays Ignored by Females

Are peacocks putting on a big show for nothing? New research done at the University of California, Davis, and Duke University finds that despite the flashy displays of plumage by peacocks to attract the attention of peahens, the female birds almost always trained their eyes on the lower part of the males’ feathers, particularly below the neck. "They rarely looked at his head, or anything above it. The males put on this huge display, and females seem to look at only a small portion of it," said study author Jessica Yorzinski, an evolutionary biologist at Purdue University. The experiments were done using cameras and eye-tracking equipment. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. — Read it at Live Science

Ippo the zonkey was born at an animal reserve in Italy.
Ippo the zonkey was born at an animal reserve in Italy.

Italy’s “Zonkey” Makes Headlines

There’s a hybrid animal at a reserve in Florence, Italy, who’s making big news. The healthy foal, named Ippo, is the offspring of a male zebra and a female Donkey of Amiata, which is an endangered species. Officials at the reserve say mom and dad were separated by a fence, but the zebra climbed over to mate with the donkey. The “zonkey” was born on Saturday and is believed to be a first for Italy, but it’s not the only one of its kind in the world. Although the animals grow up healthy, they’re often not able to have offspring of their own. — Read it at Science World Report and watch video at the Daily Mail

Sergeant Reckless Statue to Be Dedicated

A statue of a Mongolian mare who earned two Purple Hearts for her service during the Korean War is set to be unveiled today at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia. Sgt. Reckless earned the rank of staff sergeant for transporting ammunition in battle, carrying wounded soldiers to safety and shielding them from fire. The statue, sculpted by Jocelyn Russell, shows the mare in an uphill stance, carrying a load of ammunition. "It's difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain,” said Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt. The dedication is part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice this weekend. — Find out more about Korean War hero Sgt. Reckless from Vetstreet

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