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UK’s new polar bear sparks controversy

Walker, the new addition to the Highland Wildlife Park

By Emma Smith

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is facing criticism after Britain’s second polar bear arrived at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig.

Walker, a 23 month old cub was transported from Rhenen Zoo in Holland and arrived at his new home in Inverness-shire last night.

The news is not being welcomed by some animal protection groups as it has been said by some that Mercedes should be the last ever polar bear kept in a UK zoo.

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) have announced their concern at another polar bear being introduced into captivity in Britain.

Campaign Director Craig Redmond says:  “We are very concerned they have brought in a new polar bear and we fear it may encourage other zoos to do the same. It is like they have taken a step back 20 years as all other UK zoos have now stopped keeping polar bears.”

He said the organisation are now questioning the motives of Mercedes move to the Highland Wildlife Park from Edinburgh Zoo last year:

“Mercedes move to a more suitable enclosure came after years and years of complaints and while it was welcomed, no enclosure will ever be suitable. Now we are asking if Mercedes would have been moved at all if it was not their intention to bring in more bears for breeding all along. We think it was a plan to avoid the criticism they would receive for building an enclosure specifically for breeding purposes.”

Mercedes, 28, moved North last year and has been living solitary for the last thirteen years after her mate Barney died after choking on a plastic toy which was thrown into their enclosure.

Animal Collection Manager for the Highland Park, Douglas Richardson, says: “Walker arrived last night and he was let into the enclosure this morning. Mercedes was not that impressed but she had just woken up and found a stranger in her home.”

He is hopeful that the move will help conserve the species of this threatened animal.

“The polar bear European Endangered Species Programme coordinates the movement of animals around European zoo collections as part of the breeding programme. The decisions for these moves are largely based on the quality of the enclosures, and having one of the largest polar bear enclosures in the world I am pleased to say that Highland Wildlife Park was top of the list for Walker’s new home”.

It is hoped Walker will be able to start breeding in three years time when he is old enough but it will not be with Mercedes.

CAPS have also criticised the intention to breed the animals, saying: “there is no purpose breeding any species in a zoo. They are bred in order to continue captive populations- that’s not conservation.”

There are currently 20-25,000 polar bears living in the wild and although they are not currently endangered, their future is uncertain due to climate change.

Scientists have previously noted that zoos, on average, provide one million times less space for polar bears than their natural home ranges.

Zoo Comes Under Fire for Cull of Piglets

By Emma Smith

Edinburgh Zoo is facing a public backlash after their culling of two healthy Red River hog piglets was revealed on Wednesday.

Sammi and Becca play together at Edinburgh Zoo

Sammi and Becca were born as part of a breeding programme in August of last year but the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) recommended the animals to be put down due to a surplus of the species.

The piglets were euthanised humanely at the beginning of this year and there are now fears for the three remaining piglets, Ellis, Moses and Nelson, although the zoo has said it intends to keep them as long as is viable.

The birth of these rare piglets was advertised by the zoo last summer, which has caused anger among many people, including animal rights organisation One Kind – formerly Advocates for Animals.

Policy Director, Libby Anderson, says: “It’s a really depressing story. This is an iconic case of why zoos are not as good as they say they are.

“The public paid money to go and see these cute and playful babies but what they didn’t realise was that they were destined to be put down.

“All pigs are very intelligent and have individual characteristics, thoughts and feelings. Doesn’t their life have a value?”

The population of the Red River hog is in decline in its native Africa due to hunting. One Kind believe educating the huntsmen is the way forward, not taking part in captive breeding programmes, which ultimately result in culling surplus animals.

The hogs, also known as bush pigs, can live for up to 20 years and in their natural habitat live near swamps and marshes.

Edinburgh Zoo issued a statement saying: “If a species does not have breeding recommendation for the EEP, the EEP will advise the culling rather than re-homing of a species.

“As a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, it is imperative that the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland complies with the recommendations given.”

They also added that the reason the hogs were not prevented from breeding was to  “ensure the animals in our collection lead as natural a life as possible.”

Culling of unwanted young is a common practice among zoos, although frequency and exact details are not always known. In May 2006 the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig came under fire when a pack of Mackenzie River wolves were culled because they were not displaying their natural behaviour.

International News in Brief

By Emma Smith

A German soldier has been by killed in a suicide bomb attack in the north of Afghanistan, raising the number of German soldiers killed to 44. Six others were also injured Thursday’s attack in Baghlan.

A UN employee has been kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region. The employee, who was working with peacekeepers, was snatched from his residence in the city of Fasher by armed men on Thursday.

The death toll from floods in Indonesia has now risen to over 100. Flash floods and landslides were triggered when a river burst its banks on Monday in West Papua. More than 5,000 people have lost their homes.

The trapped Chilean miners could be reached by tomorrow, but may have to wait a further ten days to be rescued. Once the drill has broken through, engineers will have to assess how safe the shaft is before the 33 miners can be pulled to safety.

Heavy rain causes flooding across Scotland

Homes have been evacuated as a result of the flood. Photo: BBC news

Heavy rain has caused major flooding in parts of Scotland.

One care home in Aberdeenshire had to be evacuated after Loch Soy burst its banks. The 40 residents are now in temporary accommodation.

Other areas affected include the North Ayrshire towns of Largs, Fairlie and Kilbirnie.

Further rain alerts have been issued by the Met Office for the rest of Scotland, including Lothian and Borders.

50th day for trapped miners

A woman holds up a picture of a loved one trapped in the mine.

Today marks the 50th day the Chilean miners have been trapped underground, longer than any group of miners in recorded history.

During these 50 days one has missed the birth of his daughter, several have celebrated their birthdays and the men have also had conversations with the country’s president and NASA. Their survival has launched them to international fame and in the process, over 1000 jobs have been offered to them.

And with a rescue possibly just weeks away, medical teams and psychologists are preparing to brief the trapped Chilean miners on interview techniques and financial training.

Having spent over two months trapped beneath the ground, the 33 miners are nearing the end of their ordeal, which government officials say could take place days – even weeks – earlier before November 1.

Channel 4 are co-producing an hour long documentary about the trapped miners with American company Nova. “In addition to the compelling human story, Nova is interested in giving viewers a more in-depth understanding of the incredible engineering feats and scientific concepts being employed in the rescue operation, as well as the risks involved in these unfolding events,” said Nova exec producer Howard Swartz.

Both the wife and mistress of Yonni Barrios, one of the miners, are awaiting his rescue. Earlier in the week, Barrios had been portrayed as the heroic underground doctor, a bookworm whose dream of working in medicine had finally come half a mile below the surface. The eldest of the trapped men is 63 year old Mario Gomez, who released a letter to his wife and family saying, “I haven’t stopped thinking about all of you for a single moment.”

In 1950 thirteen miners died in Ayrshire after they were trapped underground by a landslide. Another 116 were rescued from Knockshinnoch Castle colliery at New Cumnock. The men became trapped when a field about the size of a football pitch collapsed, sending liquid peat cascading into the mine and blocking the way out.

The Chilean miners became trapped on 5 August after the main access tunnel collapsed, leaving them 4.5 miles underground in a space the size of a small flat.

Woman defends from Bear attack…with Courgette

Black bears still live amongst people in many forested areas in the US.

A woman in the US state of Montana managed to fight off a bear armed only with a courgette.

The woman awoke – hearing noises in the night – to find a 14 stone black bear attacking one of her dogs.

She tried to divert the bear’s attention by screaming before it charged at her, swiping at her leg with its paw. She grabbed the nearest object – a 30cm long courgette – and threw it at the bear’s head, causing it to flee.

“The bear growled and was very aggressive, and tried to come inside her back door,” said Sheriff Lieutenant Rich Maricelli of Missoula County. “She was able to stop the pursuing bear by improvising.”

The woman escaped with scrapes to her leg and the dog was left shaken but unharmed. State wildlife officials are currently searching for the bear.


By Emma Smith

The jury in the Rhys Jones murder trial have been sent out to consider their verdict today.
Rhys was eleven when he was shot in the neck on his way home from football practice in Liverpool.
Sean Mercier, 18, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, denies murdering the school boy in a pub car park on 22 August 2007. He claims he was watching a DVD at a friend’s house at the time.
The prosecution claim that Mercier, a member of the Croxteth Crew gang, was targeting members of the rival Strand gang when innocent Rhys was shot.
He died in his mother’s arms at the scene a short time later.
Six others deny assisting an offender. James Yates, 20, Nathan Quinn, 18, Gary Kays, 25 and Melvin Coy, 24, deny the charge along with Boy M, 16, and Boy K, 17, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Boy K is also charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The prosecution claim that three bullets were fired, the second of which killed Rhys.

Rhys died after being shot in the neck
Rhys died after being shot in the neck


By Emma Smith

A mother has been charged with stabbing her two sons to death in their Manchester home.
Jael Mullings, 21, will appear before Manchester City Magistrate’s Court for murdering two year old Romario Mullings-Sewell and his three month old brother Delayno on 12 November.
Their mother was sectioned under the Mental Health Act following their deaths.
Both boys died from a single stab wound to the chest. They were found by police officers, who were called to the house after concerns over the children’s welfare.
However it emerged that officers had also visited the house just hours before the murders. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is reviewing Greater Manchester Police’s handling of the case.
The boys were described as “gorgeous” and “beautiful” by family members.

Delayno and Romario
Delayno and Romario

Motorcycle Gang Jailed For Life For Hell’s Angel Murder

Murdered- Gerry Tobin
Murdered- Gerry Tobin

By Emma Smith

Seven members of a motorcycle gang found guilty of murdering a Hell’s Angel were sentenced to life today.

The men who belong to rival motorcycle club the Outlaws were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court after being convicted of shooting Gerry Tobin on August 12 last year.

Tobin was killed instantly after being shot in the head as he rode along the M40 on his way home from the annual Hell’s Angel Bulldog Bash in Warwickshire.

The gang received over 190 years behind bars in total.

Simon Turner, 41, received a minimum of 30 years for murder and two firearm offences.

Sean Crichton, 44, the gang’s president, was convicted of the same charges and will serve a minimum of 28 years and six months.

Dane Garside, 42, was sentenced to a minimum of 27 years for the same offences.

Malcolm Bull, 53, was convicted of murder and possessing a shotgun and will serve a minimum of 25 years and Dean Taylor, 47, will serve a minimum of 30 years for the same charges.

Karl Garside ,47, was convicted of murder and will spend at least 26 years behind bars and Ian Cameron, 45, will serve a minimum of 25 years.

As he sentenced, Mr. Justice Treaty told the defendants how shocked he had been at the nature of the murder. He said: “This was an appalling murder.

“A totally innocent man was executed with a firearm in broad daylight on a busy motorway for no reason other than he belonged to a different motorcycle club than yours.

“The utter pointlessness of what you did makes his murder more shocking.”

During the trial the jury heard how the seven men had “scouted” Tobin for three days prior to the murder.

The vehicle which was used to fire the gun from was taken to a remote country lane and burnt by the gang after the murder.

Mr. Justice Treaty added that the scouting had been done by the gang with murder in their hearts.

Rivalry between the two gangs originates from the 1960s, after a series of murders in North America.

Warwickshire is regarded by the Outlaws as their territory and so the location of last year’s festival was thought to have been a deliberate provocation by the Hell’s Angels.

Around one hundred members of the Outlaws gang waited outside the court, which had to be patrolled by armed police officers.

Prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC described Tobin as “a man of good character” and a “soft target”.

A Jaffa Cake Just As Healthy As An Orange?

jaffacakesBy Emma Smith 

Some parents believe that Jaffa cakes, cola and chips count as part of the recommended five-a-day portion of fruit and vegetables.

The survey conducted by Green Giant revealed that one in ten parents believed that the orange part of a Jaffa cake counted as a portion of fruit.

Although one in twenty did not think that actual oranges or bananas counted towards the target.

Fruit flavoured sweets, spaghetti hoops and orange squash were also one of the treats to be mistaken as  counting towards the intake of fruit and vegetables.

Nutritionist Vanessa McConkey said: “It is both disappointing and concerning to see that the five-a-day message isn’t getting through clearly enough to parents. Good eating habits start at home and British parents need to get their children into the habit of eating more vegetables and fruit.”

The survey also revealed that one in twenty children do not eat any fruit or vegetables at all.

Fifteen per cent of parents thought that celebrity chefs were better qualified to teach their children healthy eating habits than themselves.

Happy Birthday Mickey!

By Emma Smith
                                                                Mickey Mouse celebrates his 80th birthday today.
The much loved Walt Disney character first graced the screens on this day in 1928 in the black and white cartoon Steamboat Willie, where he was voiced by Walt himself.
The cartoon character has undergone many changes since his debut, often representing the mood in America at the time.
Mickey Mouse expert Brian Sibley says: “In the 1930s, the time of the great depression, Mickey represented something very American to do with endurance and the ability to rise above defeat.”
Said to have been Walt Disney’s favourite of all the characters, the infamous mouse could have been very different.
Walt was originally animating a rabbit called Oswald when he lost the rights to it.
He quickly had to come up with a new character and decided on a mouse, although it was his wife Lillian who convinced him not to name him Mortimer as planned.
It was not long after that Disney released the hugely successful Steamboat Willie, the first ever cartoon to use synchronised sound.
Nowadays Mickey is instantly recognisable in his red shorts, white gloves and yellow shoes.
His love interest Minnie Mouse is never far from his side either and has co-starred with him in many of his screen outings.
Walt Disney revealed in 1933 that the couple enjoyed an off-screen relationship as well as on, and were in fact married.
Mickey has not starred in a film for over twenty years, although he does make regular appearances at the many Walt Disney World theme parks around the world.
Walt died in 1966 after battling lung cancer, just years before the opening of the first Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Edinburgh’s Top Department Stores Struggling

One of Edinburgh’s top department stores is feeling the strain but blames the British weather rather than the economic crisis.

House of Fraser, situated at the west end of Princes Street, was forced to close early on what is normally one of its most successful trading days.

Jenners also closed early despite participating in the same event as Frasers, which offered up to 25% off everything in store.

The sale once had people queuing at the door but on Thursday a lack of customers forced store manager Ian Elder to close one hour early.

Rather than blaming Britain’s money troubles, he thinks that strong winds and heavy rain were more of a detterrant to Edinburgh shoppers.

Mr Elder said: “The credit crunch was not the reason for closing early, the weather was.

“A number of factors went against us on Thursday, primarily the Forth Road Bridge closure. Our corporate customers went straight home after their day at the office instead of coming into the store.”

The Office for National Statistics released somewhat surprising figures for last month, which showed that retail sales fell by only 0.4 percent despite predictions of a considerably higher drop.

Jenner store manager, George Bell, believes that the credit crunch should not spell a disaster for them, despite reporting falling figures.

He said: “It’s all about confidence and good customer service.

“If we give a great service to our customers then they will continue to return and spend money with us. It really is as simple as that.”

John Lewis have also suffered a decline in sales with figures for last week showing a fall by 7.6 percent compared to last year.