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Dec. 13, 2013: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
Some lucky people across the country found a special treat in their mailboxes this week: a pop-up holiday card from the Obamas starring their dogs, Bo and Sunny. This is the third year in a row that Bo has represented the first family in their Christmas greeting (he appeared on it in 2011 and 2012), but it’s a first for his little sister, Sunny, who arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in August. The 1-year-old Portuguese Water Dog made headlines last week when she accidentally knocked over a little girl who was at the White House for a holiday event for military families. As is tradition for Bo, the pooches are also featured in some of the White House Christmas decorations, including miniature likenesses of them in front of the Gingerbread White House. — Read it Today
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo released two internal reports late Wednesday detailing concern that animal care was “severely lacking” at the Washington facility. Zoo Director Dennis Kelly told the Associated Press on Thursday that its keepers are stretched too thin because of budget cuts in recent years. As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the zoo is funded by the federal government and doesn’t charge admission. The reports examined the death of a Red River hog after significant weight loss, an injury to an antelope, the escape and capture of a vulture and several other recent incidents. The investigations began after a volunteer complained about animal care at the zoo in July. "The core issue is the stress that being more thinly staffed and (budget) uncertainty puts on the team," Kelly said. "As much as the budget has declined, it's the budget uncertainty. It's hard to plan when you don't know what your budget is going to be." As the reports were being released on Wednesday, the zoo also announced that an endangered Przewalski's horse died after breaking its neck at the zoo’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. Animal care staff at the zoo disputes the reports’ findings, and says the staff is in the process of implementing recommended changes. — Read it from AP via Yahoo
Outside scientists are criticizing a report by the federal government that finds that Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bears are not threatened by the loss of one of their main foods, whitebark pine nuts, and could be removed from the Endangered Species list. Whitebark pines are in decline because of destruction by mountain pine beetles, which lay their eggs under the bark, killing the trees. It’s the latest in an ongoing battle over whether to delist grizzlies. The outside scientists say that the report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downplays the links between pine nuts and grizzly health. Keeping the bear on the list also ensures that they can’t be hunted. — Read it at Live Science
Keepers at the St. Louis Zoo are pitching in to help the parents of a tawny frogmouth chick who hatched on Nov. 2. “Our goal is to always have the parents rear their own birds, but this pair is a pair of first-time parents and often times the learning curve is pretty steep, so we try to help out the parents if we can," said the zoo’s birdkeeper Matt Schamberger. The nocturnal birds are native to Australia, Tasmania and southern New Guinea. The zoo compiled a cute video that shows the fluffy female chick’s first month. — Read it at Zooborns and watch video from YouTube
There were some unusual guests invited to the African wedding of a Pennsylvania couple late last month. After having a small ceremony in the U.S. three years ago, Corey and Lynette Perkins traveled to the bride’s native Zimbabwe for a much larger event, attended by Lynette’s family — as well as exotic animals. Giraffes stood by while they said their vows, and instead of sliding into a limo afterward, the couple rode off on an elephant provided by the Chengeta Safari Lodge. — Read it and watch it at ABC News
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