Pet Scoop: Stolen Monkey Returned to a Major Zoo, Colleges See Boom in Animal Studies

January 3, 2012: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

Banana Sam
Banana Sam was part of a great monkey caper recently when thieves stole him from The San Francisco Zoo.

Kidnapped Monkey Makes it Back to the San Francisco Zoo

The staff at The San Francisco Zoo is breathing a collective sigh of relief now that a 17-year-old squirrel monkey named Banana Sam has been returned safe and sound. Last Thursday, thieves swiped the little guy from an exhibit by cutting holes in a mesh enclosure, prompting zookeepers to offer a $5,000 reward. Thankfully, a bystander found Banana Sam about a mile away at a park. — Read it at Today.

For The Birds: Mystery Behind Hitchcock's Film Revealed

It's no secret that Alfred Hitchcock's terrifying flick, The Birds, was inspired by real life events when flocks of seabirds mysteriously flew into Monterey Bay, Calif., homes throughout the summer of 1961. Environmentalists at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge now know the reason for the bizarre behavior: The researchers recently discovered that poisonous plankton was to blame. — Read it at USA Today.

New Species Of Snake Discovered in Africa

If you happen to hear a hiss in a remote Tanzanian forest, it could be a Matilda's horned viper. The previously unknown black-and-yellow bush viper, with luminous green eyes, was uncovered during a recent biodiversity study. Scientists believe that the snake is likely critically endangered, since its remaining habitat only spans about 40 miles. — Read it at National Geographic.

Cat Reunites With Aussie Family — After Four Years Away

When the Worth family's cat, Willow, went missing — along with three other black cats — from their Devon neighborhood, it seemed like something out of a Halloween nightmare. Four years later, on December 27th, their beloved pet was finally found at an animal rescue center 20 miles away, thanks to a microchip. And that sounds more like a Christmas miracle! — Read it at SMH.

Trade in Endangered Species Thrives

It's time to take the bull by the horns (metaphorically speaking) and raise awareness about the increasingly lucrative and burgeoning trade in endangered wildlife products, from rhinoceros tusks to dried tokay geckos used for medicinal purposes. According to the New York Times, the illegal activity is on the rise due to growing affluence and transport capabilities in Asian markets like China. — Read it at the NY Times.

World's Cutest Lion Roar

"I am adorable! Hear me roar!" squeaks one seriously fierce little lion cub. — Watch it at People.

America's Hot New College Major: Animal Studies

At Harvard, Dartmouth and NYU, students can now enroll in Animal Studies courses that focus on the interaction between humans and our furry brethren. The growing fascination with our unique relationships to various creatures great and small has also led to a summer fellowship at Wesleyan and a post-graduate concentration at Michigan State. — Read it at the NY Times.

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