BBC: Facebook animal trade exposed in Thailand. “More than 1,500 listings of live animals for sale have been found on Facebook in Thailand by a wildlife trafficking watchdog. Traffic, which monitors such activity, said many of the species, despite having international protection, were not native to the country, and so trading them was unregulated.”
NPR: Mourning And Instagramming The Death Of A Pet. “In 1998, photographer Preston Gannaway and her college roommate answered a newspaper listing that advertised kittens. They drove out to a house and found a man waiting in the driveway, carrying a kitten in each arm. Gannaway picked the one with short hair, because of allergies, and named her Isis because of the Bob Dylan song — ‘Isis, you mystical child’ like the Egyptian goddess, not the terrorist group. They lived together for almost 17 years.” Warning: may punch you right upside the feels.
Mental Floss: Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.. “There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people’s homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.”
Forbes: Instagram Zoo: The Rise and Rise Of Pet Influencers. “Move over cats with your videos! The influencer race is taking over the pet kingdom. Accounts for animals now often outperform verified humans on Instagram. However, it takes more than a devoted owner with a smartphone to get Instafamous. The rise of furry superstars on social media began more than a decade ago. Today, pet influencers merge the perfect formula of clickbait and memes and tie that with branding knowhow. Pet celebrities, like Juniper Foxx, Mr. Pokee the Hedgehog, Hamlet The Piggy or Pumpkin The Raccoon, spend their days starring in endorsement deals worth $2000+ per post.”
National Parks Conservation Association: Eliminating Species Act: Senate Legislation Threatens Wildlife and Wild Lands. “Senator John Barrasso hosted a hearing today in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) on his draft Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018 legislation. The draft bill proposes to radically weaken the Endangered Species Act, which has been the nation’s most effective law protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. The legislation undermines reliance on best available science and reduces public involvement in the process of adding ESA protections to species. The more than 500 plant and animal species with habitat in our national parks are chronicled in a new online database, launched this week by National Parks Conservation Association.”
The Register: AI threatens yet more jobs – now, lab rats: Animal testing could be on the way out, thanks to machine learning. “Machine learning algorithms can help scientists predict chemical toxicity to a similar degree of accuracy as animal testing, according to a paper published this week in Toxicological Sciences. A whopping €3bn (over $3.5bn) is spent every year to study how the negative impacts of chemicals on animals like rats, rabbits or monkeys.”
The Atlantic: A Game-Changing AI Tool for Tracking Animal Movements. “Developed this year by Mackenzie Mathis and Alexander Mathis, a pair of married neuroscientists, DeepLabCut is remarkable in its simplicity. It has allowed researchers to download any video from the internet and digitally label specific body parts in a few dozen frames. The tool then learns how to pick out those same features in the rest of the video, or others like it. And it works across species, from laboratory stalwarts like flies and mice to … more unusual animals.”