Tokyo – A Greenpeace effort to expose what it sees as widespread corruption in Japan's government-subsidized whaling industry ended on Monday with two of its activists convicted of theft and trespassing.
Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki -- dubbed the "Tokyo Two" by their organization -- received suspended sentences for taking a package from a delivery company in April 2008 that was filled with prime whale meat and addressed to the home of a crewmember on one of Japan's research whaling vessels.
The pair, acting on a tip from a former whaler that crews were privately taking and selling whale meat that rightfully belongs to the government, delivered the package along with an explanation of their investigation to the Tokyo Prosecutors`Office the following month. But rather than resulting in government action on the alleged practice, the two were soon arrested and charged.
This is the second recent case in which prosecutors have taken action against opponents of Japan's whaling industry. In July New Zealander Peter Bethune was handed a two-year suspended sentence for illegally boarding a Japanse whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean as part of an effort to disrupt whaling by Sea Shepherds activists.
The verdict was â€œa partial vindication, because the two activists are not going to prison,â€
A brief investigation into embezzlement in Japan’s “scientific whaling” industry was dropped in June 2008 and the pair arrested following dramatic raids involving dozens of policemen and in front of the media, who had been tipped-off by the police.
The trial began in February this year, despite protests from the defense team that there was no case to answer as the investigation had been in the public interest and there had been no intention to profit from taking the meat.
With the conviction rate in Japanese criminal trials still running at over 99 percent, despite the introduction last year of a jury-like lay judge system, the chances for the activists were never good.
The court acknowledged that there had been â€œdubious practicesâ€
“The activists’ actions were clearly not criminal in nature, and they acted solely in the public interest to expose theft of Japanese taxpayers’ money,” said Naidoo, who called on the government to open an inquiry into corruption in its subsidized whaling industry.
"While the court acknowledged that there were questionable practices in the whaling industry, it did not recognize the right to expose these, as is guaranteed under international law,” said defendant Sato. “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on which our defense was based, supercedes domestic criminal law, but the judgment did not properly take this into account."
The prosecution had sought terms of 18 months for the accused. Instead they received 12-month suspended sentences. But according to Sato the verdict sends a message that “if you do something like this, you can be imprisoned.”
Greenpeace says it will appeal the verdict.
NEW YORK (AFP) – Animal rights activists stuck a fork in Lady Gaga's meat dress Tuesday but supporters rallied around the bizarre singer, saying her outfit was absolutely sizzling.
The professional provocateur upstaged the MTV music video awards late Sunday not just by walking away with eight prizes, but taking that walk in enormous shoes and a nifty dress made entirely of raw steak.
Now Lady Gaga, whose "Bad Romance" hit swept the awards, stands accused of bad taste.
"Lady Gaga has a hard time being 'over the top,'" said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Someone should whisper in her ear that there are more people upset by butchery than impressed by it."
"Meat is the decomposing flesh of an abused animal who didn't want to die, and after time spent under the TV lights, it would smell like the rotting flesh that it is and likely be crawling in maggots."
The singer is known for her theatrical sartorial taste so it was no surprise when she shuffled awkwardly across the MTV stage in Los Angeles in what appeared to television viewers to be simply an uncomfortable and oversized pair of boots bound in string.
The only reference Lady Gaga made to what she was wearing was a mysterious comment while collecting her Video of the Year gong about handing her "meat purse" to '80s icon Cher.
The purse, it turned out, really was a big chunk of meat -- cheap cuts and trimmings, not sirloin, according to butchers. And so was her hat.
Lady Gaga explained later that the fleshy look -- which she repeats with a meat swimming suit on the October cover of Vogue Hommes in Japan -- "has many interpretations."
The most common theory is that her steak-powered statement referenced her support for gays in the US military and opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the ranks.
"Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian," she told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who is a vegan.
"If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat."
Whatever it meant, the stunt ensured Lady Gaga's continued notoriety -- and a long menu of meaty jokes.
"She's Lady Tartare in this moo-moo!" screamed the New York Daily News. "Gaga in all her 'gory'" punned the rival New York Post.
And far from everyone felt disgusted.
Designer Franc Fernandez proudly posted pictures of the project on his website, http://francfernandez.blogspot.com, and fans congratulated him on his workmanship.
"You are a cut above the rest," one wrote on the blog.
Cher, who certainly got close enough to know whether there were really maggots, also applauded the skirt steak.
"The way it was cut and fitted to her body was AMAZING! Meat purse was genius! As Art piece it was astonishing! No moral Judgment!" tweeted the singer.
Rich Hanley, professor of communications at Quinnipiac University, said Lady Gaga showed perfect media savvy in how she unveiled her stunt -- showing up in the attention-grabbing outfit, but not talking about it.
"If she'd said 'look at me, I'm wearing meat,' it would have destroyed any build up in the eco system of the web," Hanley said. "You just let Facebook and Twitter do the heavy lifting for you."
"It shows how high the bar is -- or how low the bar is -- in this media environment," he said.
TOKYO (AFP) – Animal rights activists protested against Japan's dolphin hunts in a rally outside the US embassy in Tokyo Thursday, calling on President Barack Obama to pressure the country over the issue.
Ric O'Barry, star of the Oscar-winning eco-documentary "The Cove", handed a petition with 1.7 million signatures from more than 150 countries to US embassy officials, a day after the dolphin season started in the town of Taiji.
"We have come to ask President Obama to get involved in this issue and ask the Japanese government to abolish this annual, anachronistic, brutal slaughter of dolphins," said O'Barry, who trained dolphins for the TV show "Flipper".
The US president is expected to visit Japan in November for an annual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.
Some 70 volunteers from countries including the United States, Canada and Australia have gathered in Tokyo to join O'Barry, and 40 of them accompanied him up to the police security perimeter around the US embassy.
O'Barry said the group had called off plans to visit Taiji, in southwestern Japan, after receiving threats of violence from right-wing nationalist groups that defend the country's right to hunt dolphins and whales.
"Police have warned me that, if I went, there would be violence," he said. "We don't want to provoke violence."
Every year, fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a shallow bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat.
Japanese media said fishermen in Taiji had trapped some 20 bottlenose dolphins in the secluded cove on Thursday, the first
catch of the season, but a local fisherman declined to confirm the reports.
"We don't want to be reported on by foreign media," he said. "This is what we do for a living. We are worn out because of the row over 'The Cove'."
The crew that shot the film over several years often worked secretly and at night to elude authorities and angry fishermen, setting up disguised cameras underwater and in forested hills around the rocky cove.
"The Cove", directed by Louie Psihoyos, won the Academy Award for best documentary this year. A follow-up television series called "Blood Dolphins" is airing on the Animal Planet channel.
Kou Kou, or Xing Xing in Chinese, died Thursday of cardiac arrest after failing to recover from an anaesthetic at the Oji Zoo in the western port city of Kobe.
Veterinarians had sedated the 14-year-old animal as part of a programme to impregnate his partner Tan Tan, or Shuang Shuang in Chinese, also 14.
The zoo has set up a site for floral tributes and a message board.
Giant pandas, a highly endangered species native to parts of China, are notoriously slow at reproducing in captivity.
The Kobe zoo, after trying in vain to naturally mate the pair from 2003 to 2006, then began trying artificial insemination.
Tan Tan became pregnant in 2007 but the cub was stillborn. She had a live birth the following August, but the cub died three days later.
- September 11, 2010
"You need to invest in your future." "A home is a great investment." "It might be painful for a while, but it's worth it."
These are the refrains Dawn Crowell of St. Paul, Minn., heard over and over again from just about everyone.
The single mother of four eventually bought a house with the assumption that it would only increase in value. But like millions of Americans, Crowell has seen the value of her house plummet.
Over the past four years, Americans have lost more than $5 trillion in wealth tied up in their homes. Economists hold vastly different views on whether there are worse days to come, and whether the home was ever meant to be a nest egg.
The 40-Year Bubble
Market-watcher Barry Ritholtz tells NPR's Guy Raz that based on his estimates, homes are still overvalued by about 10 to 20 percent, and that means prices can go down even further.
For him, there is no such thing as a foolproof investment, and the conditions that created the rising home values of the last 20 to 40 years were rare.
"If you look at the factors that were driving home prices from 1970 to 2000, they don't exist going forward," he says.
Ritholtz attributes the housing bubble to both the availability of credit and the baby boom generation. He says in the '80s and '90s that generation was at prime home-buying age, and now, that demographic bulge no longer exists.
Plus, he says, there’s the impact of mortgage rates, now at record lows just above 4 percent.
"They're likely over the next 10 to 20 [years] to go higher and that creates a headwind to potential real estate appreciation," he says.
But according to professor Karl Case, one half of the Case-Shiller index, there's some good news as well.
The Case-Shiller index is one of the best measures of home values, and the latest numbers show that homes are now worth about the same as they were in 2003.
Case says the housing market seems to have bottomed out, and in some places, prices are coming back up.
The cost of California homes -- which account for a quarter of the market -- have gone up dramatically. Not long ago, San Francisco had hit bottom; Case says that market is now up by 21 percent.
"Eventually when prices get down low enough, people are going to buy this property," he says. "They're going to buy it up, they're going to live in it, and by all historical standards, they're getting a pretty good bargain right now."
According to Case, prices are the best they've been in five years -- and perhaps in his lifetime. He says the idea of a house having ever-increasing value never existed, but a house can still be a good long-term investment.
"If you don't think of housing just as something to earn you capital gains in the long run, but something you're going to live in, and you can afford to pay the payments on it," he says, "it looks to be a pretty good deal." [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]
To learn more about the NPR iPhone app, go to http://iphone.npr.org/recommendnprnews
A Japanese town is offering a 200,000 yen ($2,400) reward for the capture of a monkey that’s broken into houses and attacked 43 people in the past month.
A single male macaque, aged about 5 years, is believed to be responsible for the attacks, said Masayuki Miyazaki, a spokesman for the Mishima city government. The bounty will be introduced today and given to anyone able to lock the monkey in their house, he said.
“Many people are afraid to go outside,” Miyazaki said by telephone today. “We’ve had isolated cases of crop damage by monkeys before, but there’s never been anything like this.”
The monkey is also believed to be responsible for 38 attacks in three nearby towns, he said. The only reported injuries have been minor scratches and bites. Mishima, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Tokyo, updates a website every day to provide residents with information about the attacks.
At least eight people were lightly bitten in the town yesterday and there were 15 reported monkey sightings, according to the website.
About 10,000 Japanese macaques, also known as Snow Monkeys, are caught nationwide each year to prevent damage to crops, according to the Ministry of Environment.
More than 200 Mishima government workers, some armed with tranquilizer guns, this morning searched the town for the monkey, Miyazaki said. There were no sightings of the primate.
Parents have been advised to walk their children to school, and the city has increased police patrols. Residents should be particularly watchful in the morning when monkeys are likely to be more active, Mishima’s website says.
“The monkey is probably just seeking attention and wanting to play, but people need to be careful,” Miyazaki said. “They should run if they see the monkey.”
TOKYO (AFP) – A Japanese man drove the wrong way down an expressway for 90 kilometres (55 miles) and broke through five police barricades because his cat had died, he told police.
Tsutomu Mizumoto, 31, was arrested early Wednesday on the northern island of Hokkaido, the Mainichi daily reported.
Police said they responded to an emergency call about 5:45 a.m. about a car driving the wrong way on a motorway near the city of Otaru. They spotted the vehicle 15 minutes later and pursued the driver, ordering him to stop.
Mizumoto ignored them and drove on, smashing through five emergency blockades and passing through a tollgate. He finally stopped at about 7:15 a.m. when police detained him.
"I was sad that my pet cat died," he was quoted as telling police. "I wanted to do something crazy."
TAIJI, Japan – As children in inner tubes bob on the calm waters of this small ocean cove, a 550-pound (250-kilogram) dolphin zips through the crowd in pursuit of raw squid tossed out by a trainer.
Niru, a Risso's dolphin caught locally, seems unbothered by all the people and the squeals of surprise and delight. The cove is packed — it's a bright summer Sunday and hundreds of families have come.
But in two weeks, the waters of the cove will turn blood red, as it becomes a holding pen for annual hunts that capture and kill hundreds of dolphins each year.
The ancient village of Taiji, portrayed in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove," has a long and complex relationship with the dolphin. The film portrays the dolphin hunts as a sinister secret, cruel and dangerous because the the animals have high mercury levels.
But the hunts are no secret in this village, where Risso meat sells for $10 a pound at the local supermarket. And the villagers are deeply and stubbornly proud of their centuries-old tradition, whatever Hollywood says.
"We will pass down the history of our ancestors to the next generation, preserve it. We have a strong sense of pride about this," Mayor Kazutaka Sangen told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. "So we are not going to change our plans for the town based on the criticism of foreigners."
For Sangen, dolphins are no more special than other animals, and fishermen have the right to start their hunts when the season opens again Sept. 1. He emphasized that he didn't speak directly for Taiji's dolphin hunters, who number about 60 and hunt with the permission of the national and prefectural governments.
But to activists like Ric O'Barry, the "Flipper" trainer-cum-activist who stars in "The Cove," dolphins deserve to be protected because they are different from other animals.
"Dolphins have a brain larger than the human brain. They're self-aware, like people and like the great apes. They're not fish, chicken, cows, pigs or other domesticated animals," he said while in Tokyo to promote the movie in June.
The dolphins caught in the region are not endangered. In 2008, the prefecture caught 1,857 dolphins, far less than other parts of Japan, which allows about 20,000 to be killed each year. Taiji fishermen use a method called "oikomi" to hunt dolphins, banging on metal poles in their boats to create a wall of sound and herd them to shore, where they are harpooned for meat or captured alive as show animals.
Nestled around a small bay, the tiny town of 3,500 is suffused with a fierce independence. It has refused to join surrounding villages as they merge, and ignores criticism as it seeks to become an international whaling and cetacean research center.
This was the birthplace of Japanese whaling in the 1600s, and shrines to the animals dot the streets, with the history celebrated in a series of annual festivals. While dolphins can be playmates, they are primarily seen as big game animals — an idea many foreigners find difficult to stomach.
The Cove's success has thrust the town and its traditions into the international spotlight, with much of the attention negative. Local fishermen decline comment, saying their words have too often been twisted by foreign reporters.
The movie depicts a team of environmentalists with hidden cameras as they capture bloody footage of dolphins being slaughtered. The fishermen who try to block the film crew are presented as rough goons.
Sangen and other officials say that during hunts, the cove is the equivalent of a slaughterhouse, a gory place by nature and usually closed off from public view anywhere in the world.
"We just hope that this issue can be viewed in a more realistic way," says Katsutoshi Mihara, head of the town council.
Taiji's pride was on display at its annual whaling festival earlier this month, when two sleek rowboats full of men in red loincloths chased a 30-foot (nine-meter) mechanized whale around the main bay, its artificial blowhole shooting up jets of water. It is a re-creation of the old hunts, when 200 men in dozens of boats would set out with knives and harpoons to kill a whale, young daredevils diving into the sea to prove themselves against an angry leviathan 1,000 times their weight.
Crowds line the dock to watch the "hunt," then everyone settles in for a night of fireworks, which include giant sparkly whale and dolphin outlines.
Hayato Sakurai, a history curator at the local whale museum, says the town's past links the issue to its pride and sense of duty, though few are directly involved today.
Taiji residents also carry their history in their last names, which many Japanese adopted in the 1870s, usually based on their occupation. Twenty-five percent of the town is still named Ryono, which means "sea field" and was often taken by whaleboat rowers. Descendants of harpooners are named Seiko, after their pursuit boats, and lookouts became Tomi, literally "far seeing."
The Japanese debut of "The Cove" this summer turned into a battle over free speech, with nationalist groups intimidating cinemas into canceling showings even while intellectuals urged them not to back down.
The accuracy of the documentary, and the context under which people agreed to appear in it, have been hotly debated in Japan. Unlike the U.S. version, most faces are blurred out, with disclaimers added that those interviewed are not protesting or supporting dolphin issues.
Many in the town say they are unhappy with how they are portrayed. Councilman Hisato Ryono, who talks about mercury levels in the dolphins, says he was deceived about the film's content beforehand.
Louie Psihoyos, the American director, said that he was open about the subject of the film with those he interviewed, and complaints have only come after its success and the accompanying backlash against the town.
"It wasn't a film on dog walking. There is only one reason you go to Taiji — that's to film dolphin hunting. That's what we were doing," he told The Associated Press.
The success of the movie has emboldened activists and deepened their pockets. This year, the usual motley assortment of local English teachers, surfers and save-the-dolphin activists are likely to turn out in bigger numbers than normal to protest the hunts and perhaps scuffle with local fishermen. But a major nationalist organization also says it will go to "stop disturbances by Western white people," while a more liberal group is planning a "Peace Walk" in honor of Taiji.
Even the more sympathetic in the town government say protests are unlikely to cause any change.
"They're not going to stop the hunts," says Ryono.
Several years ago he helped raise the issue of high mercury levels in local dolphins, the meat of which was being fed to school children, an issue later covered in the movie. That practice was stopped and a national lab was called in to conduct ongoing mercury tests on Taiji residents. The results showed some abnormally high mercury levels in the villagers, but no ill effects have been found.
Local residents mostly roll their eyes when asked about the film. Many, such as Sen Morimoto, 61, a former firefighter, are more worried about the future of the town as its younger generations leave for broader pastures — two of his three children have moved away, and the third says business at the local auto company where he works is worsening.
Mayor Sangen says that most people in Taiji are unconcerned about "The Cove" or the protests.
"People here really don't care about this," he said. "They've been living the slow life for 400 years. Even if foreigners suddenly appear, and Japanese, waving flags and saying 'it's terrible, it's terrible,' we've always eaten this way."
CHITOSE, Hokkaido -- A giant brown trout, possibly the largest ever landed in the country, has been caught in Lake Shikotsu, Japan Game Fish Association officials said.
The 97.5-centimeter, 14.05-kilogram trout was caught on July 21 by Yuichi Yamao, 38, a company manager who lives in Hong Kong. With a fishing career of some 30 years, the angler hooked the fish at around 4 a.m. after a 15-minute fight.
It is highly likely that the brown trout will be registered as the largest ever landed in Japan, breaking the current record of a 13.55-kilogram trout caught in the lake in June last year, according to the association.
Originating from Europe, brown trout mainly inhabit lakes worldwide.
"It may be possible to even beat the world record (18.79 kilograms) here in Japan," said Yamao, who often travels around the world in search of big fish.
By Antoni Slodkowski
TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - As two bulls crush their sweat-drenched bodies against each other with blood-shot eyes and foam dripping from their mouths, the referee shouts "draw" and the moment of truth comes for the Japanese "bull separators".
While the bloody Spanish corrida comes under scrutiny from animal rights activists and politicians, bullfighting in northern Japan is gaining popularity as fans cheer on both the bulls and the brave men who break up the match before the bulls get hurt.
Each match in "tsuno-tsuki", or bullfight, starts with 20 "seko" bull separators leading the animals on as they face off in a ring. But after just several minutes of muscle-straining and horn-goring, the referee ends the fight before any blood is shed.
The "seko" then showcase their skills as they catch the feisty beasts weighing over a tonne by their rear leg with a rope and separate them, often risking their lives.
"I can't imagine bloodshed in our ring," said Haruji Matsui, a bullfighting veteran from the tiny village of Yamakoshi in Niigata, northern Japan, as he sipped iced tea sitting among the bulls before the matches started.
"We grew up with them sharing the same earthen floor."
Older farmers in Yamakoshi speak fondly of the bulls, remembering the times when the animals were necessary to move supplies in winter and for help in the fields.
"We treat them like our children," said Fumihiro Aoki, an 80-year-old rice farmer, who started as a "seko" 65 years ago.
"I named my bull after my youngest son, Mitsuru. It loves like a human, behaves like a big dog and even recognizes the sound of an engine when I come back from the fields."
Tsuno-tsuki is steeped in Japanese culture, with salt and sake rice wine poured around the arena at the opening.
"The same ritual is performed during sumo fights to ward off evil spirits as fights carry a semi-religious meaning," said University of Tokyo professor Yutaka Suga, a researcher of the sport's tradition and an owner of a bull.
Bullfights between bulls are performed across Japan with the most famous matches on the southern island of Okinawa.
"But our area is special," said Matsui with pride, as he watched another pair of fighting bulls with a spark in his eye.
"Not only is it just here that we end matches with draws, but also unlike in other parts of Japan, we don't make bets."
According to professor Suga, Niigata is the only place in the world where animal fights end in a draw.
"One of the legends goes that these communities are tiny and heavily reliant on each other, so they avoid gambling and fights with clear winners and losers."
The biggest challenge facing tsuno-tsuki is keeping up the rising interest in the sport that was named an "important cultural property" by the Japanese government in 1978.
After an earthquake in Niigata in 2004 killing 65 people and injuring 3,000, many families fled to cities and never returned, but those who stayed say they would never let the tradition die.
"We organized bullfights even when we lived in temporary housing after the earthquake and the bulls gave us the energy to overcome our hurdles and carry on," said Aoki, the rice farmer.
"In a sense, we owe them our lives".
Researchers have observed small monkeys called Japanese macaques going bananas at the sight of a flying squirrel.
This http://www.livescience.com/common/media/video/player.php?videoRef=LS_100730_j...">riled-up response is probably just a false alarm, with the monkeys mistaking the squirrel for a predatory bird. On the other hand, male macaques - some of whom give chase and even attack a harmless rodent - might be trying to impress females in their troop.
Although this tough-guy motive was not proved in a new study, "it is possible that adult or sub-adult male monkeys may be 'showing off' their fitness" as potential mates, said Kenji Onishi, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Osaka University and lead author of the paper being published in the current issue of the journal Primate Research.
Biologists and psychologists have long studied macaques' complex social interactions for insights into human evolution and behavior.
However, much remains unknown about how macaques get along (or not) with other creatures. Better documentation of such encounters could reveal more about macaque societies as well as that of our shared primate forbearers.
"Human evolution occurred alongside primate evolution from a http://www.livescience.com/health/070412_rhesus_monkeys.html">common mammalian ancestor," Onishi told LiveScience. "Therefore, it is important to learn the evolution of primates in understanding the previous steps in human evolution."
When Japanese giant flying squirrels glided over to a tree in the monkeys' vicinity, adults and adolescent macaques started hollering at it threateningly, the researchers report. Young macaques screamed and mothers scooped up their infants, while adults and high-ranking males in particular went and physically harassed the offending squirrel.
Onishi said other researchers have observed macaques responding in a similarly aggressive manner to birds that prey on the monkeys, such as the golden eagle and mountain hawk eagle. These raptors glide and swoop much like the flying squirrels.
Upon closer inspection up in a tree or on the ground, however, the squirrel is clearly no bird of prey. Yet the animal still raises the hackles of the macaques.
Other woodland creatures, including hares, deer and wild boars, barely elicit a response from macaque groups, said Onishi, though dogs and people will sometimes instigate alarm calls and a fleeing from the immediate area.
Meet the macaques
After humans, macaques are the most geographically dispersed primate on the planet, living across southern Asia and into North Africa. The http://www.livescience.com/animals/monkey-mothers-milk-100305.html">rhesus macaque is also perhaps the most familiar monkey to Westerners, common both in zoos and as lab animals.
The http://i.livescience.com/animals/imageoftheweek/061106_wcs.html">Japanese macaques in the study are well-known for a group of them that hang out every winter in the Jacuzzi-like Jigokudani hot springs when it gets too cold and snowy outside (no wonder the species is also nicknamed "snow monkey").
The adult male Japanese macaques range in size from about 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 centimeters) tall and females about 19 to 22 inches (4.8 to 5.5 centimeters).
This gives the monkeys a clear size advantage over their flying squirrel antagonists, if one does not count the squirrels' tails. The squirrels documented in the study were typical for their kind, about 12 to 15 inches (30 to 40 cm) long and with a bushy tail of about equal length.
Show of (non)force?
When chasing macaques did succeed in getting close to these infringing squirrels, the monkeys tended to look on "in fear and hesitated to attack," Onishi said.
In rare instances when the bolder monkeys did physically assault their quarry, Onishi said the squirrels were neither harmed nor eaten and eventually escaped.
Though clearly not interested in eating each other, the diets of the animals do cross when it comes to fruits, nuts and other delectables. But a territorial defense of food resources is not the motive of these http://www.livescience.com/animals/top-10-animal-recruits-war-100726.html">militant monkeys, as there are "low levels of food competition between macaques and the squirrels," Onishi noted
It is more likely that a simple misunderstanding about the squirrels' nature underpins the melee.
Mewa Singh, a professor of psychology at the University of Mysore in India who has studied macaques, pointed out that the flying squirrels are generally nocturnal, whereas the monkeys are active during the day.
"The interactions between monkeys and a flying squirrel, therefore, are not expected to be frequent and the monkeys may not "know" whether the squirrel is a predator or not," said Singh, who was not involved in the study.
All in the game
Nevertheless, the fact that adult males had a greater tendency to be the ones beleaguering the flying squirrels led Onishi and his co-authors to speculate that a measure of flaunting biological fitness to the females is in play.
At the same time, a generic "battle stations!" response to raptor-like behaviors from any sort of animal, whether featured like a bird or not, might prime the macaques for when real danger glides into town.
This hair-trigger might increase the possibility that macaques in the troop "survive when true predatory threats emerge," Onishi said.
By Kim Kyung Hoon and Olivier Fabre
TOKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters Life!) - It's a dog's life for a stray mutt in any country, but in Japan a canine that ends up in the municipal pound is far more likely to be put down than to find a new home.
While in some other industrialized countries the idea of "saving" a pet from a shelter is well-established, in Japan animal welfare activists say strays often fall foul of an attitude that prizes puppies and pedigrees as status symbols.
"In Britain, the public go to animal welfare shelters to adopt an animal and save a life. The mindset in Japan is still 'if you want a pet, go to a pet shop'," said Briar Simpson, a New Zealander who works for Japan's animal shelter ARK, via e-mail.
In Britain, approximately 6 to 9 percent of dogs in pounds are put to death every year, 2007-2009 figures show, according to the website of Dogs Trust, the nation's largest dog welfare charity.
In Japan that figure is more than 70 percent, the Japanese animal welfare organization ALIVE says.
In rural areas such as Tokushima Prefecture, on the southwestern island of Shikoku, the situation is even worse. In 2008 alone, more than 88 percent of abandoned dogs at the Tokushima Animal Welfare Center were put down.
Most strays have been abandoned by their owners, while others are the offspring of abandoned dogs that have gone wild. Some hunting dogs are dumped in the off-season rather than kept for the following year's season, activists say.
But whatever their former lives, once at the center the dogs are kept for a maximum of only seven days.
Kensuke Kuramoto, a dog trainer exercising his Dobermann in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park, said too many people treat dogs like toys and trinkets.
"First of all, too many people are raising dogs in Japan, and people tend to view their lives too lightly," he said.
"As there are people who treat dogs as part of their family, there are also those who buy them for simple reasons like celebrating a daughters birthday."
Attitudes are changing slowly due to media coverage in recent years, especially in the cities where the pet boom is at its height. More people are adopting strays.
"I have these two dogs because someone threw them away, but as dogs are living creatures, it's similar to murder if you throw them away," said Mika Takahashi, a 21-year-old resident of Tokyo as she walked her two pets -- one a pedigree Italian greyhound and the other dark-grey husky mongrel.
However, taking in an abandoned dog is still not very common in Japan despite the burgeoning dog population. At more than 6.8 million in 2008, there are already more canines in the nation than children under the age of six.
And more than 118,000 dogs a year Japan still end up in the dog pound, according to the latest 2008 statistics. Out of these only a handful will be found new homes.
At the Tokushima Animal Welfare Center alone, more than 2,700 dogs were put to death in the year to March 2009.
When the center was built, officials promised locals they would not kill any dogs on site, so they are asphyxiated with carbon dioxide gas in metal containers euphemistically called "dream boxes" aboard a truck between the center and the local crematorium.
However painless the operation is, the process is still emotionally painful for those that have to see it daily.
"Whenever I press the button to inject the gas, I feel totally powerless," said the centre's chief veterinarian, Akinori Kume, his eyes filled with tears.
"There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornados, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.
|Taking no chances: Workers load destroyed livestock onto a truck Tuesday in Kawaminami, Miyazaki Prefecture, an area hit by foot-and-mouth disease. KYODO PHOTO|