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Amazonian Manatees on the Increase, Researchers Say

The manatee inhabitants in the Amazon have been showing signs of growth following a period of extreme commercial fisheries from the 1930s to the 1950s. There are substantial manatee communities adjacent to residential areas in the Piagaçu-Purus protected zone in the province of Amazonas.

Calves that have lost their parents or have sustained injuries in these events go to rehab facilities. However, these facilities are underfunded and overpopulated. There are still threats in the shape of illegal hunting and unintended capture.

Observers soon discovered that one of the manatees released back into the wild from these treatment facilities was pregnant after being monitored since her return.

As soon as the sun arose, Diogo de Souza and a local manatee expert would sneak out of their home (where he went from 3:00 a.m.) to get to work among the carapanãs, giant Amazonian mosquitoes.

They sat still in their wooden rowboat under the blazing hot sun, pretty standard of the dry period, watching for indications of the existence of Brazil’s biggest mammal, which can sprout up to three meters (10 feet) in length and weigh 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). Is there any way an animal this large could be so difficult to spot?

Known as the “ghost animal,” Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis) are notoriously tricky to track down. Even cigarette ashes fall into the Amazonian waters, where the manatee quickly blends into the murky waters, say, fishers. Biologists also suggested that manatees developed their ability to hide from humans by sticking only their noses above the water’s surface to take a breath during the unregulated hunting that occurred between the 1930s and the 1950s. The clamor for manatee leather for commercial applications like hoses, transmission belts, pulleys, and loom parts was at its peak at that time.

De Souza, Vice President of Manatee Friends Association, performed a study assessing various methods for inferring the manatee’s central Amazon distribution range. Thirty-three lakes in the Piagaçu-Purus protected area, established in 2003 and located just over 120 miles from the capital of Amazonas state, were under survey for 44 days by the researchers.

There are encouraging signs that the manatee population in the Purus River region is rebounding, according to their research. Even though they can’t count the number of manatees in the same way as porpoises, hints like fecal matter, the vegetation they eat, plus glimpses of the creatures themselves indicate growth. Residents agree that the community is coming back as well.

“It appears that setting up the reserve had a positive impact,” Souza said, adding that “the population may have rebounded in the region that we were studying. Manatee sightings have increased, according to residents and anglers we spoke to.”

The researchers cannot apply these findings to other Amazonian reserves, but the results of a 2004 genetic analysis in the Brazilian Amazon uncovered evidence of manatee population growth.

At the National Institute for Amazonian Research, Vera da Silva, a scientist and co-author of both the studies claims to have seen clusters of up to 12 creatures.

The Piagaçu-Purus findings show that several manatees live close to human communities, surprising the experts. The perfect location for the mammal to live is also the most excellent spot for humans to live, and they coexist peacefully within the sanctuary.

Both species prefer regions fertilized by nutrients floating down from the Andes, such as floodplains, zones with abundant streams, and areas linked to other waterways.

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Missing Hiker Spotted By Train Passenger

Kevin Wells

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Day Trip Turns Into Two-Day Trip

A young woman hiking in Colorado found herself completely unprepared when she fell down a 90-foot cliff, becoming badly injured. A New Mexico native, the hiker left the trail in search of better photo opportunities. While trying to take pictures of the beautiful scenery, she lost her footing and could not prevent her accident. Her injuries included a broken leg and possible concussion, and she may have been unconscious for several hours. Because she only planned to be out during the day, the hiker only had enough supplies to last for a short time. Her clothes were suitable for a day trip, but not warm enough for nights in the area.

Injured Hiker Starts by Helping Herself

In her 20s, the hiker survived for two days with her injuries, but it is unknown how much longer she could have gone on without food, water, or medical aid. Because of her will to live, she managed to crawl to an area where she was more likely to be visible to passing travelers. The Animas River was cold and moving quickly, but the injured hiker managed to make it close to the riverbank. On the other side of the river, she could hear and see the train passing.

Train Passenger Becomes Unlikely Hero

Luckily for the injured hiker, at least one of the passing trains was a passenger train. One of the passengers was enjoying the view through the area and paying attention to the landscape, probably hoping for interesting sights and animal spotting. There is no doubt that she was surprised to see a human hand waving for help, but she did what all heroes do and acted immediately. The woman who spotted the injured hiker immediately notified the train officials so that they could notify the train company and find a train that could stop and see what was going on with the person waving.

Qualified Heroes

The engineer and fireman on the next train were a married couple who knew how to help injured people in emergencies. Nick and Kylah Breeden were on the next passing train, and they willingly stopped to help. Over 300 passengers waited while the couple checked out the situation, and Kylah stayed behind when it became clear that the hiker could not be transported across the river without extra help.

Kylah is a trained paramedic and she stayed with the hiker while waiting for help. The hiker needed to be transported across the river on a backboard because of her injuries. Then a gurney took her to a waiting helecopter.

Willing Heroes

If not for the actions of all those people, the hiker would doubtless have stayed alone without help. Many of the people who helped did so as part of their jobs, but they went above and beyond, such as when Kylah Breeden stayed overnight with the hiker while waiting for help. But none of it would have been possible if the train passenger simply wanting to enjoy the scenery didn’t notice and immediately find help.

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Doing a Critical Job Even When Pregnant

Kevin Wells

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Firefighters make it their life mission to save people and property. So, it’s fairly challenging for them to turn off that mentality, even when they know they should be off the clock. That was the case for one Maryland fire ground pounder who has been a firefighter much of her adult life.

At 30, Megan Warfield was dealing with contractions and expecting to have a baby in a matter of hours or a day. However, working through the sensations while being driven as a passenger, she ended up in a multiple car accident. Warfield was fine, a fender-bender at most for the vehicle she was in. So, her firefighter training kicked in, and she began helping direct traffic away from the accident itself. However, as Warfield surveyed the situation, she realized someone was trapped inside one of the cars turned upside down by the event.

Not even thinking about herself or the contractions, Warfield wiggled into the overturned car to stabilize the victim and prevent the person from getting injured further. Knowing it’s a common situation for folks to go into shock, get dropped and land on their head and knock or similar, stabilization was key in the first moments of an accident to protect the victim. As regular paramedics flooded in minutes later and took over, Warfield herself realized she needed to get to a hospital as well, just in case something happened to her baby from the accident. As it turned out, after being admitted, the hospital staff confirmed she was fully in labor and her baby was out of position thanks to the accident motion.

Being sideways versus upside down is a serious issue, but Warfield hadn’t even noticed being entirely in firefighter mode during the event. So, no surprise, when things settled the cramps really started kicking in, and she knew her baby was on the way. Less than a day later, Warfield was a new mom, giving birth to her third child on October 4. With a brand-new daughter, Charlotte, Warfield finally relented and completely gave in to relaxing and staying off the clock for a while as a firefighter.

The accident was no small one either. A total of six people were moved by ambulance to local hospitals, and everyone fully recovered after the fact. Warfield’s stations gave big kudos, not just for the service the pregnant firefighter provided at the scene, but congratulations on her new child as well. The whole story and details got repeated airtime on her fire department’s social media account as well as the local news circuit as well. Sure enough, the story got picked up nationally, and the TODAY show interviewed Warfield as well afterwards.

It’s not surprising Warfield jumped into the fray. She had been put on light duty due to her pregnancy and had spent most of her working days up to the day of delivery managing administrative functions for her fire department and related paperwork. She herself admits she was a bit stir-crazy and wanted to get back on the engine fire line.

Now that Charlotte is taken care of and growing, it won’t be surprising to see Warfield out at vehicle accidents and local fires again doing what she does best as a firefighter.

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Ukrainian Lion Rescue by the Dozen

Kevin Wells

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War comes with a lot of different costs, and one that gets less fanfare and almost becomes invisible is what happens to animals in zoos affected by conflicts. Some of the more recent examples have been seen in Iraq, but the latest case is now in Ukraine.

Odessa is a well-known coastal city, and it is also home to the Bio Park Zoo. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian conflict and Russian invasion has made it literally impossible to operate the local zoo facility safely, and an entire pride of lions has had to be moved as a result. The large felines were quickly moved out of the conflict zone via convoy early on and were temporarily being housed in Romania back in May. Unfortunately, conditions have made it impossible to return to their home zoo, and now that lions have been relocated to the U.S. after a significant migration effort.

Granted an emergency permit, almost a dozen lions were granted approval to be moved into the U.S., specifically to an animal sanctuary in Colorado. The Wild Animal Refuge engaged and agreed to take seven adults and two cubs, while the remainder were moved to South Africa, both being distant locations from the conflict that caused their move in the first place. The combination has proven to be the largest transport of a group of lions in history, an unfortunately additional bookmark in the history books caused by war.

The above said, and despite the cause, the big win is that the lions are safe and out of harm’s way now, which has not always been the case for other zoo animals caught in conflict zones. Interestingly, a modern age problem, zoo animals and similar in earlier decades were considered simply victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the nineteenth century and early twentieth, such situations ended tragically with the zoo animals having to be put down versus risk them getting loose or killed by stray artillery and fire. However, today, a lot more can be done, literally moving the animals in a day halfway around the world.

The effort takes a tremendous amount of cooperation from different groups, governments, agencies and companies, but the payoff is tremendous for the animals involved, as well as the bigger goal of reducing the damage of war and secondary costs. Not everything can be saved, but when folks can come together and pull off a project like this for the Ukrainian lions saved, it gives everyone else hope for better days.

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US Couple Saves Babies From Fire While on Barcelona Vacation

Kevin Wells

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A United States couple are being celebrated as heroes after they saved infants from a raging fire in a Spanish daycare. Doran Smith and David Squillante, who married two years ago, had to wait to take their honeymoon due the COVID-19 pandemic; however, they finally were able tour Barcelona. While on a walk enjoying views of a picturesque park, the pair saw black smoke emanating from what turned out to be an inferno at a local daycare.

“As I was watching the women leave, I suddenly noticed that the door they had just exited was on fire,” Smith told WJAR reporter Katie Benoit. “I was in disbelief and said, ‘Oh my god, there’s a fire.'”

After Smith notified everyone of the fire, Squillante recalls that his “instincts kicked in.” The oblivious newlywed ran into to building without any hesitations, not knowing that he was running into a nursery with sleeping infants.

“I was looking at 15-20 sleeping babies and lining them up in the cribs,” Squillante told Benoit.

Squillante stated that none of the employees at the nursery knew English.

The couple helped save the babies by rapidly moving all of the young children out of the nursery as smoke from an electrical fire filled the space, according to Benoit’s report.

“We were just taking cribs with a few kids in them and rolling them across the street to the high school lobby,” Smith explained.

Squillante told Benoit that, although the heroic efforts lasted around 10 minutes, it felt like it was over in an “instant.”

“It turned out okay in the end,” Squillante said.

After Barcelona fire crews put out the blaze and calmed the scene, the couple said they walked to the park as if it were any other day.

The couple’s honeymoon tale is now unique and heroic. Benoit noted in her report that it wasn’t a normal day.

Barcelona is located in the Catalonia region of Spain. Catalonia is a renowned tourist destination. According to the U.S. Department of State, over 18 million American citizens visit Spain each year. 

Doran Smith and David Squillante are from Bristol, which is part of Rhode Island’s East Bay region

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After Seven Hours Trapped in a Quarry, a Dog Was Rescued by Dartmoor Firefighters

Shannon Jackson

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A dog named Jess became stuck in an old quarry in Dartmoor – an upland area in England – after she ran down a hole and several granite boulders collapsed over it. Firefighters and police joined members of the Devon Cave Rescue Organization (DCRO) to help reunify her with her owner shortly after 23:30 BST on Thursday.

The DCRO is a voluntary organization that specializes in rescuing animals from difficult situations. The organization is known for their delicate and complicated rescues, as was the case with Jess.

Tara Beacroft, from the DCRO, described the operation as being “like trying to deconstruct a Jenga tower without toppling it over”.

“We had to carefully remove sections of soil and rubble, as well as larger boulders one at a time,” she explained. “We needed to know exactly where each boulder was placed before we could move it without endangering Jess further. It took several hours – we worked slowly and carefully to avoid any mistakes.”

Ms Beacroft stated that after rescuers removed enough rubble, they had hit a “turning point” where they could then see her.

Rescuers continued to dig around the hole, surrounding it and sustaining the pooch with chicken treats.

With the final rocks finally gone, owner Shane Darwood’s pet was successfully extracted from the hole by her harness.

“She was wagging her little tail so rapidly,” Ms. Beacroft said. “She had a reunion with her owner after being pulled to safety.”

She said she was grateful that Jess escaped unharmed.

“Although we stayed confident throughout the process, it was tense knowing that a fall could mean dropping boulders on top of her. With no visual reference points to help us gauge where things were located, we had to rely on our instincts and skill set.”

Dartmoor National Park is in Devon, England. It is known for its rugged beauty, moorland landscapes and granite tors. The park covers an area of 954 square kilometers (368 square miles). It also has a number of old mines and quarries, which have been abandoned for centuries. Many of these are now used as hiking trails or for other recreational activities.

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