Richard Collins

Zoos and the horrors of war

According to press reports, two traumatised lions have been moved from Gaza to a new home in Jordan. Let me apologise in advance for dwelling on the plight of animals when more than 1,200 people, including hundreds of innocent children, were killed in the 50-day onslaught on that beleaguered enclave.

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Sharks’ short shrift in life aquatic

I WENT ‘cage-diving’ with great white sharks off South Africa’s Dyer Island last month. The giant fish are lured to the boat by a smelly concoction of offal and the head of a large tuna, suspended from a line in the water.

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Home birds baulk at sprint finish

SWALLOWS are still around but most southern migrants have left our shores by now. The wheatears from Iceland, Greenland and Canada, now passing through Ireland on their way to Africa, are ‘the last of the summer wine’.

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The ‘tail’ of the supermarket bird

Willie wagtail has taken up residence in a supermarket in England (Ken Kendall, Irish Examiner, September 13).

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Big five are live and dangerous

FRANCIS MACOMBER, in Hemingway’s celebrated story, is on safari in Africa. A male lion has been roaring during the night, keeping the wealthy American awake in his tent. The animal is tracked next day.

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When more enlightened attitudes towards birds of prey and scavengers developed, the opportunist ravens colonised the lowlands, nesting in quarries and tall trees.

Ravens are adapting to change

RAVENS, according to a study in the US state of Idaho, are changing their behaviour. These huge crows used to live only around mountains, desert anyons and sea cliffs. Now they are nesting on phone masts, buildings and steel towers.

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Fantastic fossils, feds and the FBI

AN unusual documentary film was shown recently in Dublin. Dinosaur 13 depicts an extraordinary series of events which began in 1990. This story is enriched with multi-media content

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Tern breeding numbers a record

THERE’S good news on the wildlife front; BirdWatch Ireland has announced that terns nested very successfully on the east coast this summer. The numbers breeding ‘are at an all-time high’, says tern expert Dr Steve Newton.

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For female baboons, maintaining close ties with mum and having supportive sisters can boost social ranking, according to a new study.

Sisters doing it for themselves

ACCORDING to the cynics, it’s not what you know but who you know, which matters in life. This could hardly be true of the animal world, or could it? Surely, health and strength are the crucial factors in staying alive and reproducing successfully.

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The famous belfry in Béthune, northern France, where Cork woman and Franciscan nun Kate McCarthy spent two world wars as a nurse.

A Cork nun’s extraordinary life at war

LAST month, during a walking tour of Béthune in northern France, our guide recalled the work of a Cork woman, Kate McCarthy, who nursed wounded soldiers during both world wars. Her niece, Sr Breda McCarthy of the Loreto Convent in Bray, told me this extraordinary woman’s story.

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Experts decode chimp gestures

JARED Diamond, in his 1991 book The Third Chimpanzee, compared chimp biology with our own. Sharing 98.4% of their DNA with humans, chimps are more closely related to us than they are to the other great apes.

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The war memorial at Vimy, France

Tunnel vision in French underground

ARRAS, in the Pas-de-Calais, has the rat as its symbol. Grain stored there in medieval times attracted the rodents and, perhaps, ‘un rat’ was a pun on the city’s name.

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Armadillo on World Cup stage

SOME creatures have massive public profiles; elephants, big cats and pandas come to mind.

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Whitethroats feeling the heat

The whitethroats numbers have been affected by climate change in its winter home in the Sahel.

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A woman and her son admire a partly fossilised elephant bird egg which made nearly £70,000 at a Christies auction last year. DNA analysis has shown its closest kin were New Zealand kiwis. Picture: Getty

Flightless bird theory in a tailspin

THE kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird, is the weirdest feathered creature on earth.

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Who’s the fastest land animal?

FOTA Wildlife Park is famous for its cheetahs; hundreds of cubs have been born there.

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Spectacular Old Man of Hoy

THE Old Man of Hoy, in Orkney, is a spectacular sight. This vertical pillar, rising from the sea, 60m out from a sheer cliff-face, is 137 metres high and about 30m thick.

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