There will never exist again a time quite like P.T. Barnum’s. The growth of circuses in America and their role in culture is hard to quantify. Once a traveling show that brought entertainment from one city to the next, we now recognize the harm that circuses can cause animals of all types and sizes. For that reason, this story is particularly heartwarming and more than slightly bittersweet.
The White Oak Conservation Center would announce in 2021 that they were welcoming female Asian elephants at their Yulee refuge, seated just north of Jacksonville. The expectation is that an additional 20 elephants are poised to arrive at the 2,500-acre space.
Newcomers to the White Oak Conservation Center
The White Oak Conservation Center is considered a one-of-a-kind location. Nestled in the heart of northeastern Florida, White Oak encompasses more than 17,000 acres of land with dedicated spaces to endangered species including rhinos, elephants, zebras, condors, and more.
White Oak recently made headlines when it was announced that they were acquiring up to 20 elephants that had previously traveled with circus acts such as Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The elephants were retired in 2016 and desperately in need of a home for care and attention.
Nick Newby is the team leader at the White Oak Conservation Center, and he took point on many of the questions surrounding the new additions. Newby said of the elephant’s arrival, “Watching them go out into the habitat was an incredible moment.” Newby would go on to describe how the elephants all gathered together to comfort and reassure one another before exploring the habitat as a unit.
There are nine fully interlinked areas throughout the White Oak Conservation Center that encompass wetlands, woods, meadows, and more. The Asian Elephants will eventually travel throughout all of these interlinking areas even while the center is continuing construction on future areas. While Oak hopes to have an additional 11 waterholes and a trio of barns installed before too long.
White Oak was established by Kimbra and Mark Walter, a pair of philanthropists with an animal-focused tilt. Already encompassing nearly 17,000 acres, White Oak seeks to become a home to endangered species far and wide.
Understanding the Asian Elephant
The Asian Elephant is sometimes referred to as the Asiatic Elephant. Traditionally found throughout Southeast Asia, the Asiatic Elephant is the largest living land animal on the continent. Endangered since 1986, the Asian Elephant has seen its population decline rather precipitously over the last three generations, entailing a total of 75 years.
Asian Elephants are primarily targeted by poachers, and they are impacted by habitat degradation, fragmentation, and habitat loss due to human encroachment. At the time of this writing, the wild population of Asian elephants sits around 48,000 on a global level.
Within the captive population, female elephants can live upwards of 60 years. Asian elephants don’t always prosper in zoos at a young age, however, which makes fostering their population growth an even tougher challenge due to early deaths.
In the wild, Asian Elephants are classified under the mantle of megaherbivore, consuming more than 330 lbs of plant matter every single day. As grazers and browsers, these giant creatures like to roam for their nutrition, ensuring the consumption of more than 200 liters of water a day in addition to their food stores.
Intelligent and elegant animals, restoring the Asiatic Elephant population is a goal that all conservationists should align on. With the White Oak Conservation Center providing a home for retired female Asian elephants, we can hope that there is more progress in the future.
Missing Hiker Spotted By Train Passenger
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.
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.
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.
Doing a Critical Job Even When Pregnant
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.
Ukrainian Lion Rescue by the Dozen
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.
US Couple Saves Babies From Fire While on Barcelona Vacation
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
After Seven Hours Trapped in a Quarry, a Dog Was Rescued by Dartmoor Firefighters
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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