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Christmas spirit saves starving baby penguins

An endangered species in need of love and care. Credit: Mathilde Bernasconi

Hundreds of baby penguins have been saved from starving after an urgent appeal by Bristol Zoological Society raised nearly £50,000 in under three weeks.

African penguins are an endangered species. Their population plummeted by 70% between 2001 and 2013, and each winter hundreds of chicks are abandoned by parents who are unable to feed them.

Donations were needed by Christmas to feed all the rescued penguins. Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

Many are rescued by a rehabilitation centre in South Africa, a project led by the Bristol Zoological Society.

However the rising price of fish and many chicks arriving early meant an extra £20,000 was needed before Christmas to feed and care for them all.

The Society has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all those who donated, from us and the penguins of South Africa.

The money raised through the urgent appeal will literally help to save a species.

– Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society
Hundreds of baby penguins are rescued every winter. Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)


Dog abandoned because "he wagged his tail too much"

Street artists join campaign to not buy a dog just for Christmas Credit: Dogs Trust

Street artists have joined a campaign to make people think again about buying dogs for Christmas. A mural of a puppy wrapped up as a present has gone up in North Street in Bristol, reminding people of the slogan that a dog is for life not just for Christmas. The Dogs Trust is hoping to put buyers off and released reasons why owners have given up their pets:.

  • "He kept chasing frogs”
  • “He looked different after we walked him in the rain”
  • "He was too loving and needed too much attention"
  • “I’m worried our toddler will copy him and poo in the garden”
  • "He’s too playful - we haven’t sat down since we got him"
  • “My dog is old and going to die soon”
  • "He was scared of the cat next door”
  • "He barks every morning”
  • “He wags his tail too much”
  • "She’s seems hungry all the time and follows me around the house"
  • “He kept coughing in the night and woke me up”
  • “All the puppy did was sleep. We wanted a dog we could play with”

With more and more puppies flooding the Christmas market, all available at the click of a button - it is more essential than ever that our iconic message “A Dog is For Life, Not Just For Christmas” is ingrained in people’s minds.

We hope that this visually striking campaign will encourage people to think twice about the commitment of dog ownership before impulsively buying a puppy.

Our aim is to ensure that the artwork will be the only abandoned dogs the British public will see on their streets this Christmas period.

– Giles Webber, Dogs Trust

Claire Joselin from the Dogs Trust was in Bristol today to bring the message home.

We don't like people buying puppies at Christmas time because we see them coming in in the New Year when everything's calmed down and they've realised how much work a puppy actually is.

We get ridiculous reasons for dogs coming in in the New Year so we just want people to stop, think about what they're doing, how much it costs just before they do decide to buy a dog.

– Claire Joselin, Dogs Trust

Bristol Zoo helps some penguins in a pickle

Some of the hundreds of penguin chicks being cared for at a rehabilitation centre in South Africa Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

Penguins are all the rage this Christmas, thanks to THAT TV advert but Bristol Zoo is drawing attention to the plight of penguins in Africa, which it warns are at risk of extinction.

The population of African penguins fell 70% between 2001 and 2013 and is continuing to decline.

This penguin chick is no soft toy but it certainly needs some loving care Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

Every winter, hundreds of African penguin chicks, who have been abandoned by their parents foraging for food, are rescued by a rehabilitation centre in South Africa, in a project led by the Bristol Zoological Society.

This year. the youngsters are coming into the centre in their hundreds from the colonies. The rehabilitation centre is already helping to care for 430 and this number continues to grow faster than expected.

With the price of fish soaring, an extra £20,000 is needed before Christmas to enable food and care to be provided for all the chicks.

P-p-p-pick up a penguin? Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

There are less than 18,000 breeding pairs left in the wild in South Africa. African penguins are an endangered species so every individual possible needs to be saved to increase numbers in the wild.

Unless conservation organisations intervene, these chicks will starve to death. As African penguin populations are currently facing a crisis due to a diminished food supply near their nesting colonies, there is a substantial risk that this species could eventually become extinct without action.

– Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society

To find out more about the plight of the penguins, click here.

Could this be the first Christmas jumper for a cow?

Gloria looks very festive in her jumper - but it's also carrying an important message Credit: Send A Cow

Christmas jumpers - in varying degrees of tastelessness - have become fashionable festive wear but a charity based near Bath has come up with what it believes is the first to be worn by a cow.

Gloria, the mascot of Send a Cow, has had a jersey knitted for her (with natty Velcro straps) to highlight the charity's alternative gift catalogue. People are invited to come up with presents that can change the lives of families in Africa.

A local cow would set you - or your group - back £205 and would provide a farming family with milk and manure to keep their land fertile.

This year we’ve taken the idea of the quirky Christmas jumper one step further, to encourage people to think differently about the gifts they buy this Christmas.

Instead of buying chocolate for a friend, why not buy something unusual - for as little as £5 you will greatly improve the lives of poverty-stricken families in Africa.

This is our 13th year of the Christmas catalogue and over the years we’ve raised over £8 million to help poor families.

– Simon Barnes, CEO of Send a Cow

For more information go to the charity's website


Four pregnant horses stolen in Bristol

Avon and Somerset Police are appealing for witnesses after four pregnant horses were stolen from a charity on the outskirts of Bristol.

It is thought thieves broke through fencing to enter the fields in Frenchay where the mares were being stabled. They then loaded them onto an animal transporter to take them away.

Only two arrested during this years' badger cull

Gloucestershire Police regard their reponse to the badger cull as a success Credit: PA

Gloucestershire Police are regarding their response to this years' badger cull as a success.

Operation Themis focussed on community policing as opposed to public order policing, like last year. Officers found that most people were co-operative and courteous because of this style of policing.

In 2013, the first year of the cull, 38 people were arrested. This year two were arrested and one was served a court summons.

We would like to thank everyone involved and directly affected by the badger cull for their help and understanding during what could be a very difficult time. Those directly involved or indirectly involved in the cull were helpful, co-operative and courteous to our officers. Their positive conduct was reflected by the fact that very few criminal incidents took place during the whole 6 week cull period.

– Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry

Five cats poisoned in two weeks on one Somerset road

Five cats have been poisoned with antifreeze in a single road in Somerset over the past two weeks, prompting fears it's being done on purpose.

Some owners in Woolavington are now keeping their pets indoors out of fear their animal could be next. Tamsin Wheeler has already lost one cat, Bluebell, and is concerned for the safety of her two other pets.

But Bluebell wasn't the only one. Five cats from this one road in Woolavington in Somerset have died from antifreeze poisoning in the past two weeks - prompting fears that somebody's been doing it deliberately.

Of course there's a chance the cats could have got hold of this antifreeze accidentally and the RSPCA is reminding people to make sure it's stored properly and cleared up if it's spilled but if it was left out on purpose, that's an offence which could lead to a £20,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

For now this family is taking no chances - Max the dog stays shut in the garden and the cats are kept indoors.

Panda doesn't go out so he's safe enough but I'm more worried about Tinkerbell because she likes to come up the shop with me. She doesn't like staying inside She's more of an outdoor cat but I'm just afraid that it's going to happen to her and to other cats around this area.

– Tamsin Wheeler, cat owner

Animal welfare officers say the five cats that were poisoned would have suffered a lot of pain and distress - they're hoping no more have to suffer in the same way.

Five cats poisoned in two weeks on a Somerset road

Five cats have been poisoned with antifreeze in a single road in Somerset over the past two weeks, prompting fears it's being done on purpose. Some owners in Woolavington are now keeping their pets indoors out of fear.

I could hear her crying and I thought something's not right here. She sounds in distress, she sounds in pain and when I got a chair and looked over at number 3's door, there she was lying there lifeless, unable to move. When I got him to open his back gate to let me in, she was paralysed.

– Tamsin Wheeler, cat owner
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