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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Animal's Victoria Cross given to dog killed in conflict

Story today published in VNonline that we felt should be shared:    

Animal's Victoria Cross given to dog killed in conflict. A military working dog killed on patrol in Afghanistan will be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for life-saving bravery in conflict.

Sasha and Lance Corporal Rowe were known as the best dog-handler team in their region.

Soldiers entrusted their lives to four-year-old Labrador Sasha, who boosted morale with her determination to push forward in gruelling conditions and relentless Taliban attacks.
Along with handler Sergeant Andy Dodds, Sasha's main role in Afghanistan was to search in advance of patrols - uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb-making equipment - providing a safe passage for soldiers.
Overall during her time in Afghanistan, Sasha made 15 confirmed operational finds, saving the lives of countless soldiers and civilians from death and serious injuries.
Sasha developed a particularly strong bond with Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe when she was assigned to him in May 2008. The pair were deployed to Kandahar where they were considered the best handler and dog team in the region.
He says: "The award is even more poignant as we approach the centenary of World War One and we are reminded of the huge debt we owe the animals who serve in times of conflict…"
"Sasha's story exemplifies the dedication of man's best friend and reminds us all of the amazing contribution they make to our lives."
The medal was first introduced in 1943 by PSDA founder Maria Dickin CBE. Since then it has been awarded to 29 dogs (including Sasha), 32 World War Two messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.

Regimental colleagues remember one occasion where Sasha searched a building in Garmsir and found two mortars and large amounts of weaponry, including mines and explosives.

Sadly, on July 24, 2008, Sasha and Lance Corporal Rowe were both killed when their patrol was ambushed twice as they returned from a routine search operation.
The PDSA Dickin Medal will be awarded posthumously in May. It is the highest award any animal in the world can receive for bravery in military conflict.

PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin says it honours Sasha's "unwavering service and her ultimate sacrifice." 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Hedgehogs in April

At this time of year there will be lots of hungry hedgehogs trying to fatten up after their hibernation, so a plate of hedgehog food or meaty dog or cat food will be appreciated, plus a dish of water.

Although it is a little early for hoglets there may well be some courtship going on. 

Hedgehogs prefer their own company as they are solitary animals.  However in the breeding season the male will be on the look-out for lady friends.  Most meetings, whatever the sexes involved, will start with a lot of huffing and puffing.  Indeed this will often be the first time you will notice there are hedgehogs in your garden.  If the hedgehogs are one of each sex then the male will start to circle the female.  She will keep turning to face him but eventually the noise will stop and the female will lower her prickles so a careful mating can take place.

If the hedgehogs meeting are both males then the larger one may well butt the other one making it cry out in fear (a loud sort of scream).  Sometimes the larger one will push the other over and roll it around (the smaller one having rolled into a ball when attacked).

The noise may not be the only sign of visiting hedgehogs.  They also leave their calling cards.  Hedgehog droppings can be as large as a lady’s little finger.  It is often black in colour with some shiny bits due to the wing casings from any beetles they have eaten – these cannot be digested so come out the other end, giving the dropping its dark colour.

If you seem to have a regular visiting hedgehog at this time of year it may well be a female as the males are mainly nomadic looking for females.  Whereas the females just want a small home patch that will support them and their expected litter.

If you are concerned about any hedgehog that you see contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 (if you can weigh the hedgehog first that is always helpful).  Out of hours you will be directed to other numbers but whatever the time, with patience, you should be able to speak to a real person.  For more information about hedgehogs and how to help them visit the BHPS web site at  www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk  

Friday, 4 April 2014

Rare tiger cubs make public debut

Melati with cubs
Melati with her cubs in the main paddock.
London Zoo celebrates as cubs explore outdoor paddock

A trio of rare tiger cubs made their public debut at London Zoo last week as they ventured to their outdoor paddock.

The seven-week-old Sumatrans explored the main paddock with mother Melati last Wednesday. Keepers say the cubs will not be named until they are able to be sexed.

Tracey Lee, a keeper a London Zoo said: "“We were watching the cubs on the hidden cameras in their dens, when it looked like they were about to follow Melati outside – we all rushed to the exhibit and were just thrilled to catch them playing outside for the first time.

“We got a real glimpse of their different personalities, as two of the cubs confidently bounded outside while the other one hung back a little and needed a bit more encouragement from mum."

The zoo announced the birth of triplets earlier in March. Tigress Melati gave birth to the cubs on February 3, just five months after her first cub was found dead in its enclosure. Keepers were left "heartbroken" after the three-week-old cub apparently drowned after falling in the pool.

Melati's triplets are being observed by keepers using remote camera technology. With less than 300 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild, the births represent a significant achievement for the species global breeding programme.