Napcatcher rather than ratcatcher: Larry the Downing Street cat shows 'no interest' in going after the rodents


Napcatcher: Photographers had to wait 45 minutes to meet the new recruit when he arrived - because he was asleep

Larry the Downing Street cat may have been brought in to catch the rats but he has spent his days curled up asleep, it has been claimed.

The tabby was expected to go chasing after the rodents who have been seen scuttling down the street during television reports - but he's shown no interest in going after them.

Within hours of arriving at No 10 he had courted controversy by taking a swipe at ITV News reporter Lucy Manning when they tried to get him to pose for an item.

And he kept waiting reporters and photographers waiting for 45 when he was unveiled as the new pet because he was asleep.

The cat has also apparently covered the Prime Minister's suits with fur and has dug his claws in when sat on members of staff.

He's got a long way to go until he has the fierce reputation of Harry - Downing Street's first official moggy who arrived when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

The animal - who also served under Thatcher and Blair - acquired a fearsome reputation after being falsely accused of killing a family of robins in the garden.
He was known to energetically catch the rats.

Despite Larry's failure to deal with the pest problem, Downing Street's newest resident has quickly become popular among the staff.

A source told the Independent on Sunday: 'He has shown no interest in the many mice in Downing Street. There's a distinct lack of a killer instinct.'

Taking over the cabinet: Larry wanders across the table in the Cabinet Room at No 10

Rat catcher: Larry was brought in to get the Downing Street rat which appeared in Lucy Manning's report

The four-year-old cat arrived from Battersea Dogs and Cats home three weeks ago has apparently made several bids for freedom.

His former keepers at the rescue centre have recommended that he is not let out for at least three weeks until he becomes fully acclimatised to his new surroundings.
But as David Cameron posed on the steps outside with Kevin Spacey, Larry made a bid for freedom.

In between his frequent naps, the cat dines out not on taxpayer-funded meals - but dishes paid for by the Prime Minister's own staff.
With George Osborne clamping down on public spending, there is no room for a pet paid for by the public in No 10.

He arrived on February 15 - just days after a spokesman said on January 24 that there were 'no plans' for a cat to move in.

Arrival: Larry is carried in to No 10 for the first time earlier this month

The four-year-old tabby has apparently shown no interest in going after the rodents in Downing Street

source: dailymail

Foster mutt: Rottweiler plays mother to orphaned bunnies, birds... and even kittens


Dave the rottweiler has helped bring up four ducks, three geese, five rabbits, 13 kittens and five puppies - plus countless new-born chicks

You probably wouldn’t pick a ten-stone rottweiler to nursemaid orphaned bunnies and birds. But even kittens are in no danger from Dave the Dog. All he wants to do is look after them.

Owner Amanda Collins discovered her six-year-old pet’s maternal nature when she brought home an unwanted French giant rabbit.

‘Dave just walked over to him and started licking him to clean him,’ said the 25-year-old, who runs a pet shop in Blackpool.

‘They bonded straight away. Now they sleep together, and I’ve even seen them sharing each other’s food.’

Miss Collins, who has looked after a menagerie of abandoned animals, soon found this wasn’t a one-off.

'When I brought home the ducklings, I thought he might not be the same as with the rabbits, but he just went over to them and licked them on the head,' she said..

'I filled a paddling pool with water so they could learn to swim in it, and Dave went and laid down in the water so they could clamber over him. He even lifted them out if they got into trouble.'

So far, Dave has helped bring up four ducks, three geese, five rabbits, 13 kittens and five puppies - not to mention countless new-born chicks.

Dave had a traumatic upbringing – his first owner docked his tail with a cleaver – but has remained amazingly good-natured and has now been voted Britain’s most inspirational dog in a contest sponsored by worming specialists Drontal.

The online contest attracted over 6,000 entries and 265,515 votes were cast.

And six-year-old Dave's owner hopes his success will help improve the breed's image.

'People see him coming and cross the road to the other side - it's so sad,' said Miss Collins.

'Most rottweilers aren't big vicious things - they can be very gentle and obedient if they're looked after and trained properly, and Dave is the perfect example of that.'

source: dailymail

Ambam, the swaggering silverback gorilla who walks around his pen on two legs


A kind of man: Ambam has become an internet hit after teaching himself to swagger like a human

Striding purposefully across the ape enclosure, he looks like a portly – and slightly grumpy – commuter in a hurry to catch a train.

While most gorillas are happy enough walking around on all fours, Ambam the silverback prefers a more human form of ambulation.

To the amusement of his keepers and fascinated onlookers, the agile ape has mastered the tricky art of walking upright on his hind legs for long distances.

The feat has placed Ambam, a Western lowland gorilla at Port Lympne wild animal park in Kent, on the brink of international stardom.

An 18-second piece of footage showing the 21-year-old male walking like a man has become the latest YouTube sensation, viewed by 150,000 people over the last few days.

Gorillas usually prefer to get around by ‘knuckle walking’ – using the padded backs of their front hands to support their huge weights as they move around the floors of forests or zoo enclosures.

High and mighty: Ambam the gorilla stands up and strolls off...He sets off across his enclosure with purpose

However, they will also stand on two legs to reach branches or get a better view, and can walk upright, swinging their arms parallel to their opposite legs to counterbalance their weight.

But few gorillas are as good at it as Ambam. Keeper Ingrid Naisby, who has worked with him for 16 years, said: ‘It’s quite unusual in gorillas but Ambam does it quite often and he can balance very well. Other gorillas do it occasionally, but he will do it for a bit of a distance.

Long arms swinging he really gets into his stride...and a backward glance to see if anyone's following him

‘He’s always liked to stand up. It’s about getting his balance right and he’s well practised. He has perfected it.’ Ambam was born at Port Lympne’s sister park, Howletts, in 1990. He was moved to Port Lympne aged seven and is now the park’s largest gorilla at an impressive 34 stone. Standing upright, he is an impressive 6ft tall.

The footage of him was taken by animal researcher Johanna Watson while she was working for a project on great ape locomotion.

Hulk: Ambam is the park's biggest gorilla, weiging in at 220kg

source: dailymail

Swimming with alligators: Snap-happy close-ups captured under water in the Everglades


Say cheese: Two alligators smile for the camera as they swim side by side in the Everglades National Park, Florida

Posing with what appear to be toothy grins, these alligators were captured in stunning close-up as they enjoyed a dip in the Florida Everglades.

Totally submerged in the murky water, photographer Jim Abernethy got within inches of the huge predators to capture the perfect image.

Brave Mr Abernethy, 52, even played snap with the creatures by copying the way alligators square up to each other in the wild.

He would raise his arm above the water, similar to the way an alligator raises its jaws - to coax the animals into opening their mouths for the 'killer shot'.

Luckily for him, the 200lb reptiles did not choose to clamp their razor sharp teeth on his arm instead.

Alligators are at their most unpredictable and dangerous while underwater.
'I gave them nicknames like "Fluffy" in the hope I would forget for a moment that they were hunters,' Mr Abernethy said.

'Some were actually quite friendly in an alligator way. Whenever I entered that lake the one called Fluffy would swim right up to me.

'If she came too close I would have to physically push her away with my lens.
'If any of them seemed to be showing threatening behaviour then I just got out of the water.'

Razor sharp: Photographer James Abernethy coaxed the alligators into opening their mouths by copying their behaviour in the water

Terror from the deep: An alligator flashes a toothy grin as he looms towards the camera in the murky water

Based in Florida, Mr Abernethy said he felt confident enough to enter the water because of his careful respect for alligators.

The most recent attack in the U.S. state was in July last year when teenager Tim Delano's hand was bitten off as he took a morning swim in a creek.

The 18-year-old, from Fort Myers, survived the attack by punching the alligator with his free arm until it let him go.

Hunters killed the alligator and retrieved his hand, but it was too damaged to be re-attached.

In a separate incident in November 2007, Justo Padron, 36, was killed by an alligator as he attempted to flee police officers chasing him for breaking into a car close to his home near Miccosukee Resort, Florida.

Thriving: Mr Abernethy said some of the alligators got a bit too friendly and he had to push them away with his camera lens

Mr Abernethy said: 'Large alligators will explode into action when they see viable prey.

'I felt safe as I was slightly larger than most of them and they rarely attack anything bigger than themselves.'

American alligators are more than 150 million years old.

Hunting by humans in the 20th century reduced their numbers heavily and saw them listed as an endangered species.

Strict hunting laws have since seen their population recover and thrive.

One million wild alligators live in freshwater rivers, lakes and marshes of Florida and Louisiana.

They commonly eat birds, raccoons, fish, turtles and snakes.

source: dailymail

I've lost my psychic, life-saving dog: Pregnant mother-to-be distraught at losing pet who senses when she will have a fit


Remarkable: Max has not had any formal training but can predict when Andree Trotter is going to have a fit

A pregnant mother-to-be has lost her 'superdog' which can predict when she is about to have an epileptic fit.

Andree Trotter's missing greyhound-Weimaraner cross Max rushes to her side when she is about to have a seizure and she gets into a safe position.

The remarkable animal has not been specially trained to help her - although he was a rescue dog.

The 31-year-old is due to give birth to her first child in two months time and is scared of hurting herself and her unborn baby without the dog at her side.

Miss Trotter, from Oxted, Surrey, has up to five seizures a week when her condition is at its worst - and does not know when they are about to happen.

The dog disappeared from her back garden two weeks ago while she and fiance Alan Whitlock were away and friends were dog sitting.

She said: 'Obviously our friends feel terrible but it's nobody's fault, we just want him back. He is a beloved pet but he's so much more than that.

'He was a rescue dog and we started to notice that he would always be by my side, guarding me protectively, just before I had a seizure, then he would lie right by me until I recovered.

'He would growl at Alan, even though he's really Alan's dog. It was uncanny. We started giving him treats when he did it to encourage him and now I don't know how I got by without him.

'I can have four or five seizures a week when I am bad and I never know when they are coming on. I have hurt myself in the past and even fallen in the road.

'I am terrified I will have one at the top of the stairs and lose my baby without Max here. He is a lifesaver.'

Expectant mother: Andree Trotter, pictured, is concerned she will injure herself and her unborn child without missing dog Max

Max even runs upstairs - normally out of bounds to him - if she is about to have a seizure in the bedroom or bathroom.

She said: 'It gives me just enough time to lie down somewhere safe. He lies next to me cushions me and it is comforting to have him watching over me when I come round.

'I just hope he has wandered off and someone has taken him in as a stray. I would beg them to call us so we can bring him home.'

Alan, a 45-year-old graphic designer, said: 'We got him from the dog's home after he was found tied up next to a motorway.

'He is incredibly jumpy and gets spooked easily, by a vacuum cleaner or any loud noise.

'I think someone must have taken him in because he doesn't particularly like being outside.

'We're offering a substantial reward for anyone who finds him.'

They have put up hundreds of flyers, visited local rescue homes and even been to a pet psychic in a desperate bid to find him and bring him home.

source: dailymail

A little fishy: World's smallest aquarium creates a (tiny) splash


Small fry: The tiny fish tank was made by a Russian artist who specialises in miniatures

Here is the perfect home for small fry: the world's smallest aquarium.

Created by Russian artist Anatoly Konenko, who specialises in miniatures, the tiny tank is made of glass, contains tiny stones and plants and is home to a group of tiny fish.

It is just 30mm wide, 24mm high and 14 mm deep - enough to hold just 10ml of water, or about two tablespoons' worth.

The water has to be applied using a syringe so as not to disturb the landscape the Siberia-artist lovingly created.

Konenko, who calls his art 'micro-miniatures', even made a minuscule fishing net which he used to place the fish, baby Danios.

The adults are usually a favourite with more normal sized tanks but the tiny fish look at home in Konenko's construction for which he has since added a specially built air pump.

In the net: Anatoly Konenko made a small net to match, and tiny Danios fish swam around in the tank, which takes only two teaspoons of water to fill

Something fishy: The tank is just 30mm wide, 24mm high and 14 mm deep

Konenko is also a painter and is in the Guinness World Records book for making the world's smallest book.

He said: 'I've been doing microart for 30 years, doing the smallest things in the world.

'This tank was made out of curiosity.'

He works using a microscope for most of his work and has won awards in his home country and round the world.

source: dailymail

Out of my way, don't you know this is a trunk road? Angry elephant rams car into ditch


Road hog: Five-tonne elephant tries to barge car off road in South African safari park

When an elderly man booked a safari adventure of a lifetime to South Africa he knew he'd been in for a trip he'd never forget.

But little did he know that he'd end up getting involved in a physical encounter with an aggressive elephant.

Irishman John Somers took a friend for a relaxing holiday to the Pilansberg Game Reserve in Johannesburg to celebrate his 66th birthday.

But as the wildlife enthusiasts drove along a dusty road they found themselves in the path of a five-tonne bull elephant, who charged towards them.

At first the massive mammal, named Amarula, went trunk-to-trunk with the grey car, before resting his weight right down on top of it.

The boystrous elephant then flipped the vehicle over into a ditch like a toy car as the terrified occupants hung on for dear life.

Trunk-to-trunk: Sexually charged bull elephant shows the wildlife enthusiasts in the car who's boss

Give it a rest: Massive mammal sits on top of the vehicle, driven by 66-year-old John Somers, who was on a birthday trip with a friend

Luckily the bull eventually got bored and the pair escaped with only minor cuts and bruises.

It is believed the animal was pumped full of hormones as it went in search of the mate.

The full sequence of bizarre events was captured by photographer Riaan van Wyk, who was watching from a safe distance.

Bowled over by the wildlife: The elephant flipped the vehicle like a toy car but luckily both passengers escaped with only minor cuts and bruises

source: dailymail

If you need to come to Britain, you might as well do it in style: Illegal immigrants caught hiding in Rolls Royce body shells


Sniffer dog Jake, a four year old labrador helped make the discovery at the Calais port

Illegal immigrants tried to smuggle themselves into the country by hiding in the body shells of £275,000 Rolls Royces, it was revealed today.

The nine men were discovered by a sniffer dog at Calais Port, France, in a German lorry heading for the luxury car maker in Goodwood, West Sussex.

The stowaways, from the African country of Eritrea, were handed to the French border police and the lorry was allowed to continue on its way.

Rolls Royce Motor Cars today confirmed the lorries usually carry four car body shells and they would have been for either their Rolls Royce Ghost or Phantom.

The Ghost costs around £200,000 and the Phantom £275,000. Stephen Fabman-Beker, from the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club, said: 'The immigrants have certainly got good taste. It does make you wonder how they got in.

Caught: Two illegal immigrants cover their faces after being caught trying to smuggle themselves into the country in the shells of luxury Rolls Royce cars

'The only thing the Germans make is the shell, the skeleton. There's no interior or panels. I very much hope they haven't been messing about and damaged anything.'

The aluminium shells are supplied to Rolls Royce technicians from German BMW factories because the car giant owns the famous British brand.

Andrew Ball, from Rolls Royce, said: 'A group of people were found in a truck from one of our suppliers and it was heading for our Goodwood factory.

'They were not complete vehicles but body shells for either our Phantom or Ghost models. The French authorities dealt with the matter and I do not believe there was any damage.'

One of the nine stowaways covers his head and face while he hides inside one of the cars. The German lorry was transporting the luxury vehicles to the car makers in Goodwood, West Sussex

The German driver and haulage company each face a potential fine of up to £2,000 per stowaway if they are unable to prove they took steps to secure the vehicle properly.

The immigrants were found at 7.20am on February 15, but the details have only just been released. The sniffer dog was a four-year-old Labrador cross collie called Jake.

Mandy Jones, UK Border Agency deputy director for south and Europe, said: 'This incident shows why we base UK Border Agency staff in France - to stop would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK.

'Our strong presence in French ports like Calais helps protect the whole of the UK from people attempting to enter the country illegally.

'As well as using sniffer dogs, officers also use heartbeat detectors and carbon dioxide probes and physical searches to find people hiding in vehicles.'

The UK Border Agency said they had no details of the ages of the men because it was the responsibility of the French authorities to record such information.

source: dailymail

How the leopard REALLY got his spots: Scientists identify gene that determines patterns of colour on mice


Distinctive: Scientists have unlocked a gene that determines patterns of colour on the coats of mice - and believe it plays a role in the formation of leopard markings

Kipling would have us believe that the leopard got its spots to hide in the ‘stripy, speckly, patchy-blatchy shadows’ of the African forest.

But the reality behind the big cat’s distinctive coat is much more prosaic.

Scientists have identified a gene that determines the patterns of colour on the coats of mice.

While the research is still preliminary, they believe that the stretch of DNA may also play a role in the formation of the markings of other animals – including the leopard’s spots.

Researchers already knew that the gene, called Agouti, affects how deeply adult fur is shaded.

But the latest research also implicates it in the formation of patterns.

The finding, from a team at Harvard University in the US, comes from a study of deer mice, which like many creatures, has a lighter-coloured belly than back.

The researchers showed that small changes in how active the Agouti gene is in the womb affects the distribution of pigment on the animal’s body in later life.

Study: The scientists found the Agouti gene when they examined the difference in colour between the belly and back of deer mice

In the case of the deer mice, the gene is highly active in the unborn rodent’s belly, where it delays the maturation of the cells that will eventually produce pigments.

‘This leads to a lighter-coloured belly in adults, which is the most common colour pattern across a wide variety of vertebrates, from fish to antelope,’ said researcher Hopi Hoekstra.

The study’s lead author, Marie Manceau, said: ‘The question of how colour patterns are established in vertebrates has been a black box.

‘Taking advantage of the simple colour pattern of deer mice we showed that small changes in the activity of a single pigmentation gene in embryos generate big differences in adult colour pattern.’

Next up: The scientists who conducted the research now hope to study other animals, including how zebras got their stripes

The researchers, who detailed their findings in the journal Science now plan to dissect the mechanics of more complex colour patterns, starting with striped mice and squirrels the ‘racing stripes’ of chipmunks.

The leopard’s spots and the zebra’s stripes are also within their sights.

They said: ‘It is hard not to speculate that Agouti plays a role in generating more complex patterns, from stripes to spots, in a diversity of vertebrates.’

source: dailymail

Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo

Veterinary technician Jessica Sosa and veterinary technician Peter Flowers perform an examination on Soy, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 24, 2011. The tiger receives a physical exam, complete with dental cleaning, x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work, every one to three years.

Veterinarians look at the paws as they perform an examination on Soy, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 24, 2011. The tiger receives a physical exam, complete with dental cleaning, x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work, every one to three years.

Veterinarians look at the mouth and teeth as they perform an examination on Soy, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 24, 2011. The tiger receives a physical exam, complete with dental cleaning, x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work, every one to three years.

Veterinary technician Jessica Sosa puts drops in the eyes as she performs an examination on Soy, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 24, 2011. The tiger receives a physical exam, complete with dental cleaning, x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work, every one to three years.

Veterinary technician Peter Flowers (R) draws blood as they perform an examination on Soy, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 24, 2011. The tiger receives a physical exam, complete with dental cleaning, x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work, every one to three years.

An ultrasound monitor shows the abdomen as veterinarians perform an examination on Soy, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger, during a routine checkup at the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 24, 2011. The tiger receives a physical exam, complete with dental cleaning, x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work, every one to three years.

source: daylife
photo: Gettyimages

Better luck next time bird lovers! Mission Impossible rodent make short work of breaking into 'squirrel proof' feeder


Treasure: The cheeky squirrel has a look round the cage to get to its prize

This is supposed to be a 'squirrel proof' bird feeder, but it didn't out-smart one particularly crafty critter when he turned up in a British garden.

The feeder had flummoxed his friends but this clever creature was determined not to be beaten.

After some careful negotiation of the extraordinary-looking feeder in front of him, the squirrel cracked it by squeezing his fat body through the protective wiring.

His incredible feat was captured on camera by Sandra Carter in her garden in Gosport, Hampshire, who snapped away as he rewarded himself with the bird nuts inside.

The 57-year-old support worker said the grey squirrel had become a regular visitor in recent months.

She and her husband, Richard, 63, invested in the £19.95 Gardman 'squirrel proof' feeders after watching the greedy animal devour the nuts from all their other feeders.

They hoped the space-age looking design, which protects the bird nuts with a wire globe, would be a strong enough deterrent.

But they were stunned when they peered out of the window one day and saw the squirrel had worked his way around it.

Greedy: The cage's manufacturers say the squirrel will soon be too fat to fit between the bars

Ms Carter said: 'This particular squirrel is very greedy and very clever.
'He comes into the garden a dozen times a day to eat from the bird feeders.

'The poor birds hardly get a look in - they just sit in the surrounding trees waiting for him to finish.

'We've tried so many things to stop him - we tried making our own 'squirrel proof' feeders but he always work them out.

'Once we tried hanging bird feeders on wires out of his reach but he managed to get to them by tight-rope walking.

'When we saw a "squirrel proof" feeder on sale we thought it was the answer to all our problems.

Squeeze: The squirrel manages to get its head and body through one of the wider holes in the middle of the cage

'We bought one first to test it and, initially, it seemed to work so we bought another one.

'But I peered out of the window one day and was stunned to see he was inside one of the feeders, eating all the nuts.

'And it wasn't long before he figured out the other one, which contained seeds.
'We thought it would be a little harder for him to feed from because it has a plastic covering.

'But he simply shakes it from side to side until the food comes out of the holes.

'My husband has since tried to put more wire on the outside of both feeders to make the holes smaller but it hasn't worked.' When Ms Carter wrote to Gardman to inform them of what had happened she was refunded the cost of both feeders.

Victory! It manages to squeeze its whole body into the cage to get its reward

She said: 'I wrote to them and said it was perhaps time to go back to the drawing board with the design and they gave me my money back.

'My husband and I have now given up trying to outwit the squirrel.

'It is very frustrating but you can't deny he's a clever little animal and I admire his tenacity.'

Jane Lawler, marketing director at Gardman, said: 'Our squirrel proof feeder is designed to keep squirrels out but to let as many birds as possible into the feeder.

'Very occasionally, some skinnier squirrels squeeze through and with all the extra food this one is eating, it won't fit through the bars for long.'

source: dailymail

He's one cool cat: Jimmy's party trick gets a big thumbs-up


Jimmy the cat stars in a YouTube video in which a woman with a British accent asks him to give her the thumbs up

Jimmy the cat has an amazing party trick.

In a YouTube video a woman's voice can be heard saying: 'Hi Jimmy. Can you give me a thumbs-up, Jimmy?'

And then the woman and a man are heard laughing as Jimmy obliges and sticks his 'thumb' up.

The description attached to the video says: 'Jimmy is a polydactyl cat. He's probably the laziest cat in the world but he's also super clever and has thumbs. And he's got a great party trick :-)'

Jimmy has polydactyly, which means he has extra digits, a physical anomaly that's sometimes caused by a genetic defect.

Polydactyl cats are fairly common in some parts of New England in the U.S. and they are sometimes called Hemingway cats, because the writer Ernest Hemingway grew to love them after being given a six-toed cat.

The Guinness World Record holder for the cat with the most digits is Jake, a cat from Ontario, Canada, which has 27 digits. The unofficial record goes to Bandit, a 29-toed cat from Hoboken, U.S. Bandit is owned by Beth Stuart, who is in the process of applying for recognition.

source: dailymail

An Academy Award-predicting possum? Cross-eyed Heidi's tips for the top Oscar winners


Squinting possum: Heidi's pronounced squint doesn't prevent her from leading a full life...and she has hidden talents

A cross-eyed possum in Germany is predicting this years Oscar winners.

Following in the footsteps of Paul the octopus, who predicted the World Cup results, Heidi the possum is giving her tips for the Academy Awards.

Heidi the cute marsupial gives her tips for the Academy Awards by sniffing and touching the fake Oscar statuettes, complete with squinty eyed actors pinned to each one

Each day the cute marsupial is being released in a pen, where she comes face to face with a row of fake Oscar statuettes.

Whichever statue she touches with her paw first signifies the winner in that category.

On Tuesday night, Heidi picked Black Swan star Natalie Portman to take home the Best Actress award.

The possum made Portman her chosen one after sniffing around the trophies and walking in and out of her box.

Out of the box: Here she comes for her daily walk around her pen, ready to choose the next Academy Award winner

The hilarious footage was broadcast on Jimmy Kimmel's US chat show.

A picture of each actress was taped to each statuette - complete with cross eyes to make Heidi feel at home.

Heidi, who is believed to be two-and-a-half-years-old, was abandoned outside an animal shelter in North Carolina in the United States with her sister Naira, and has been living at Leipzig Zoo in Germany since May last year.

Which one will win? Heidi's on the prowl, inspecting all the statuettes put out for her yesterday

The zoo thinks her eye condition could have been caused by her diet before she was abandoned, or because she is overweight, leading to fat deposits behind her eyes.

Heidi, who will be picking Oscar winners on Kimmel's show all week, already has thousands of followers on her Facebook page.

Her popularity is reminiscent of Knut the polar bear, who became a global star in 2007 and even featured on the front of Vanity Fair magazine.

She has also been compared to Paul the octopus, who achieved fame when he correctly predicted the outcome of matches in last year's football World Cup. Paul died from natural causes in October.

Heidi the Cross-Eyed Possum Picks the Winners - Best Actress

source: dailymail

Apestronaut! Meet Ham, the chimp recruited by the U.S. 50 years ago to help beat Russia in the space race


The right stuff: Ham is bolted into his capsule on top of the rocket that will blast him over 150 miles into space

He may sound like a comic book character from the age of Dan Dare, but Ham the astro-chimp had a serious purpose.

One of a squadron of 40 chimpanzees specially trained by the U.S. to make a monkey out of the Soviet Union’s attempt to win the space race, Ham made history 50 years ago as the first chimp to be launched into space.

With the Russians inching ever closer to the Holy Grail of sending a human into orbit, the Americans decided to use a three-year-old chimp — in the style of a gas-detecting canary in a mine — to find out whether humans would be able to survive in space.

The Soviet Union had previously sent dogs into space, but the U.S. chose chimps because of their similarities to humans.

Originally from Cameroon in Africa, and once the star attraction at a Florida zoo, Ham was purchased by the United States Air Force to boldly go where only fruit flies, rhesus monkeys and a dog called Laika had gone before.

Laika was a Russian hound who became the first animal to orbit the earth in November 1957 aboard the Sputnik 2 satellite. She survived for seven days before her oxygen ran out.

The difference with Ham — whose name was taken from the initials of the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center in New Mexico, where he was housed — was that he would not only go up into space, but also come down again safely.

Laid back: Ham appeared just as relaxed while preparing for take-off (left) as he did having come back down to earth

He and his fellow chimps were prepared for the flight for two-and-a-half years, and taught to complete simple tasks in response to lights and sounds. Pushing a lever within five seconds of seeing a flashing blue light earned him a banana pellet; failure gave him a mild electric shock to the soles of his feet.

Teams of white-coated scientists put the apes to the test on machines that measured the stresses they could cope with in terms of gravity, velocity and heat. They were even fed the diet of banana capsules that would sustain them in space.

On January 31, 1961, Ham was launched on Mission MR-2 — but almost immediately there was a hitch. The flight path was a degree higher than it should have been, meaning the craft reached an altitude of 157 miles above the earth — higher than the planned target of 115, and oxygen levels began to drop.

For six minutes of the flight, Ham was weightless as the capsule sped across the sky at around 5,000mph.

It splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean 16 minutes and 39 seconds later, and when rescuers reached it, Ham gratefully accepted an apple and half an orange.

Testing time: Ham, wearing his military dog tags, undergoes medical tests

He was unharmed by his adventure, and went to live at the National Zoo in Washington for 17 years. He died at North Carolina Zoo at the age of 25.

The space race didn’t end with his flight, though. Although the Americans could claim they had put a primate into space, the Russians argued that the flight was only sub-orbital — in other words, it hadn’t gone right round the world.

On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin entered the history books when he became the first man in space aboard Vostok 1.

The Americans followed a month later on May 5 when Alan B. Shepard became their first astronaut. By then, Ham already had his feet up.

source: dailymail

Who's a clucky boy then? Flyaway parrot found in a hen house sounds like a CHICKEN


Home sweet home: Jack the pet parrot sits comfortably at home in Prenton, Wirral, with astonished owners Jerry and Irene Williams and zoo keeper Andy Woolham

A flyaway parrot has been reunited with his owners after surviving the bitter winter by apparently sheltering in a chicken coop.

Jack the blue-fronted Amazon began to cluck when he was found – thought to be a sign that he had set up home in a heated hen house as he searched for his owners.

The 12-year-old bird vanished for 66 days after he flew out of an open door at Jerry and Irene Williams’s home in Prenton, Wirral, on November 21.

Who's a clever boy: Jack the pet Bluefronted Amazon parrot survived sub-degree temperatures before his miraculous return

After making it through the coldest December for a century, he was then found perched on a fence outside a tropical aviary at Chester Zoo, some 15 miles away, towards the end of January.

Andy Woolham, the zoo’s head parrot keeper, said: ‘I could tell he was ravenously hungry so I enticed him down with a grape.

'No parrot can resist a black grape.’

He said Jack would have been killed by the cold had he not apparently found shelter and food in a poultry shed.

Mr Woolham fed him up and passed him to his mother to care for while they searched for his owner.

Two weeks later a visitor to Mrs Woolham’s home recognised Jack from a ‘missing parrot’ poster she had seen at a local vet’s surgery.

Mr Williams, 58, said he was speechless when the zoo called to say Jack had been found.

‘Ever since the day I watched helplessly as he flew off over the trees at the end of the garden, I thought I’d never see him again,’ he said.

‘It’s wonderful to have him back.’

source: dailymail

Baby Rothschild giraffe 'Magoma' stands in front of her mother 'Koobi'

Baby Rothschild giraffe 'Magoma' stands in front of her mother 'Koobi' in their enclosure at Cologne's zoo February 22, 2011. The male baby giraffe was born on February 8, 2011, weighs about 80 kilograms and is 1.8 metre tall.

Baby Rothschild giraffe 'Magoma' drinks from her mother 'Koobi' in their enclosure at Cologne's zoo February 22, 2011. The male baby giraffe was born on February 8, 2011.

Rothschild giraffe 'Koobi' sniffs at her baby 'Magoma' in their enclosure at Cologne's zoo February 22, 2011. The male baby giraffe was born on February 8, 2011, weighs about 80 kilograms and is 1.8 metre tall.

Baby Rothschild giraffe 'Magoma' stands next to her mother 'Koobi' in their enclosure at Cologne's zoo February 22, 2011. The male baby giraffe was born on February 8, 2011.

source: daylife
photo: Reuters