Pet Scoop: FlipperBot Moves Like a Sea Turtle, D.C. Zoo’s Cheetahs Celebrate 1st Birthday

April 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.

Georgia Tech
A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling heads for the ocean at Jekyll Island, Ga.

Turtles Show How to Walk on Sand

When they come out of their beach nests, baby sea turtles make a beeline for the water, where they can avoid many predators. But how do these tiny turtles make it over both sandy and firm terrain so quickly? Researchers at Georgia Tech observed that they would bend their wrists while moving over sand and keep them straight when navigating hard ground. They built the FlipperBot — a robot that mimics the baby turtles’ movements — to study the movements more closely. Their findings, published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, may help engineers design robots that can move over different types of terrain, and help conservationists understand what conditions can slow baby turtles down on their first run to the water. — Watch it at the LA Times

Elephants Use Sophisticated Sign Language

A flap of the ears, a lift of the trunk or just a small step backward are some of the many things elephants do that may not mean much to a human who’s watching, but that allow the animals to give important information to other elephants in the herd. Now, Joyce Poole and her husband, Petter Granli, who direct Elephant Voices, a research and conservation charity in Africa, have compiled an online database to help humans crack the code of the animals’ signals and gestures.  “Elephants can be drama queens and really expressive, or they can be incredibly subtle and understated,” Poole told National Geographic. “It depends on what’s going on and the dynamics of the group.” — Read it at National Geographic

Dog Rescued From N.Y. Marshland

Police in Staten Island wearing dry suits used an over-sized boogie board to save a young German Shepherd who got stuck in a tangled marshland on Thursday. The dog, Mikey, had just been adopted on Wednesday from New Jersey. He belongs to 11-year-old Amad Awada, and was out for a walk with the boy’s uncle when he took off into the marsh, which had been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. “He didn’t know that this is not New Jersey, this is Staten Island, and that what we have here is the swamps,” said Awada’s father, Mohammad. After “a little convincing,” police were able to get the scared dog back to safety. The family promised police they’d be sure Mikey was on a leash in the future. — Watch it at CBS New York

Jen Zoon, Smithsonian's National Zoo
Lita and Gat open a birthday present at the National Zoo.

Cheetahs Indulge in Birthday Treats

Lita the Cheetah and Gat the Cat were thrilled to open their first birthday presents at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Named for Justin Gatlin and Carmelita Jeter, the “fastest Americans” in the 2012 Olympics, the pair tore into boxes filled with bones and enrichment toys. Just last month, the two were introduced to the zoo’s larger cheetah yard for the first time, where they encountered neighboring Grevy’s Zebras through a mesh divider. The brother and sister duo will remain together for another six months before they’re separated. — See more photos on Flickr

Baby Gorilla Born at Tokyo Zoo

Momoko, a western lowland gorilla, gave birth at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo on Thursday while other gorillas looked on. Usually, the zoo’s expectant mothers are taken off exhibit before birth, so this was a rare situation that mimicked what happens in the wild. The six other gorillas were fascinated, and touched the newborn as it nursed from its 29-year-old mom. Mom and baby are in stable condition. — Read it at Paw Nation

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