Pet Scoop: Three Manatees Returned to the Wild, Horses Threaten Pandas’ Food Source

March 3, 2014: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

Three rehabilitated manatees were returned to the wild in Florida last week.
Three rehabilitated manatees were returned to the wild in Florida last week.

Rescued Manatees Released

Last week, three rehabilitated manatees were released off Port St. John in Merritt Island, Fla. Among them was BMan, a sub-adult male who recovered at SeaWorld Orlando for more than a year. He was nicknamed BMan because his tail is the shape of a B. BMan was suffering from severe cold stress when he was rescued from the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Coast, Fla., in January 2013, with the help of Florida Fish and Wildlife officials and Sea2Shore. He nearly doubled his weight during his stay at SeaWorld, and was 8 feet long and 810 pounds when he was released. After he was medically cleared, BMan and the other two manatees were fitted with GPS devices. You can follow them on manateerescue.org. — Read it at SeaWorld’s Inside Conservation Blog and see more photos on Flickr

Horses May Pose Threat to Pandas in China

Farmers in China’s Sichuan Province have been allowing horses to graze in the protected Wolong National Nature Reserve, where they’re eating the pandas’ food source, bamboo. Researchers discovered that farmers were buying horses and setting them free in the reserve, then rounding them up to sell when they needed quick cash. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of horses in Wolong increased from 25 to 350. By using GPS devices fitted on the animals, the researchers found that horses and pandas liked to eat at the same sunny slopes and bamboo patches, but while pandas eat alone, 20 horses would arrive at once and clear out the bamboo, leaving little for the pandas. The findings were published in the journal Nature Conservation, and Wolong officials quickly acted to ban horses from the reserve when the findings were presented to them. — Read it at Live Science

Female Goats Swoon Over Male Odor

A new study suggests that female goats get ready to mate as soon as they smell a powerful odor released by males. The citrus-like odor, 4-ethyloctanal, is released from the males’ head hair and immediately turns on the female goats’ reproductive system, the scientists found. "We are tempted to speculate that this is a clever reproductive strategy of the male goat to alter behavior and activity of the reproduction center in the female for mating by a single molecule," said Yukari Takeuchi of the University of Tokyo. — Read it at Discovery News

Researchers are closely monitoring the progress of fairy penguin chicks in Tasmania.
Researchers are closely monitoring the progress of fairy penguin chicks in Tasmania.

Fairy Penguins Offer Hope

A year after dozens of little penguins, also known as fairy penguins, were killed by dogs at the Derwent Estuary in Tasmania, scientists are hopeful that they can rebuild the birds’ population. “If you take out half of the birding population that’s taken 10 years to build, these small events can be very significant,” said researcher Luke Eindoder. “We really have been set back in time. It will take a number of years for the numbers to recover to what they were a few years ago.” He and other researchers are using scopes to check on the chicks in the estuary, and they’re cautiously optimistic about an increase in the numbers of penguins. The estuary has added signage and fencing to keep pets out of the area. — Watch it from the AP via the Washington Post

Iditatrod Kicks Off in Alaska

Nearly 70 mushers are off and running on their 1,000-mile journey from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race teams began in a staggered start on Saturday, with one musher departing every two minutes in a ceremonial start. The order was drawn at a banquet on Thursday. Among the competitors are Dallas Seavey, who won in 2012, and his dad, Mitch, who won last year. The race can take an estimated 9 to 15 days to complete. — Read it from AP via Yahoo

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