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Giant Pandas of China No Longer Endangered!

One of the most majestic creatures on the planet, the Giant Panda is a bear native to South Central China. Known for its black-and-white coat compounded by its large, round body, the giant banda lives among the mountain ranges of China, typically focusing on Sichuan. Due to deforestation and urban development, the Giant Panda has seen its natural habitation eradicated by urban sprawl. As a result, farming and deforestation have coupled together to completely push the Giant Panda from its lowland areas.

Only 12 years ago today, a report in China revealed that only 239 pandas were living in captivity. In 2015, the wild giant panda population grew to 1,864. By 2021, authorities in China would be ready to pull the endangered label from the Giant Panda species, replacing it instead with vulnerable.

Giant Pandas Are Returning to China

In China, the panda serves as a cultural symbol. Used internationally on gold panda bullion coins as well as for the Fuwa Mascots during the Beijing Olympics, it is easy to see how important pandas are to the people of China. Coming from critically endangered and returning to the vulnerable category was a remarkable sign that things are changing positively.

As most zoologists understand, breeding pandas in captivity is notoriously difficult, bordering on impossible. This has been a huge hurdle in the world of conservation, one that needs to be overcome for the panda species to thrive yet again. Still, Cui Shuhongn, Head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, stated that they had “achieved remarkable results” through their efforts.

While breeding advancements in captivity have lent themselves to progress, Cui has been vocal about much of the legislation that the Chinese government has put in place. Among the steps taken by China’s government to protect pandas, Cui credited law enforcement, supervision, and a legal crackdown on major illegal activities on and near nature reserves. As a result of this crackdown, China has seen serious progress in its efforts.

In fact, the nature preserves are so large in China that Becky Shu Chen of the Zoological Society of London pointed out that human villages reside within them. Chen pointed out that the Chinese government worked with these villages to teach them agricultural activities that benefited the environment, habitat, and pandas as well as the Chinese citizens. Thanks to these efforts, Chen believes, the villagers have been able to protect the pandas while helping to restore their population.

Panda Diplomacy and Future Optimism

A national treasure protected by wildlife conservation law since 1958, the return of the giant panda marks a huge moment of national pride for the country. Pandas have been used within panda diplomacy for years, providing zoos around the world with animals to care for as a gesture of goodwill and friendship. China has lent pandas to both the United States and Russia.

This is the second time since 2016 that the giant panda has been reclassified as a species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A prior movement had been made from endangered to vulnerable before shifting back in a positive direction in 2021. Chinese citizens on the social media platform Weibo were effusive with praise of the news. One user pointed out that China has grown increasingly wealthy, allowing for more expenses to be put toward nature conservation programs.



Twins Whose Lemonade Stand Was Robbed Gets Surprised By Community

Kevin Wells



Being robbed is bad by every means; however, when it’s a child or children who the criminals prey on, this draws the wrath of everyone.

When two innocent young girls are trying their hands at entrepreneurship, it is a sign that they have great plans ahead and believe that the world awaits them with open arms.

However, for a pair of nine-year-old twins, they saw the bitter side of life way too early, and the community decided to chime in and help remove or at least soften the scars in their minds of what the world represents.

After a robber decided to steal from a lemonade stand operated by the two 9-year-olds, the Ames community reacted.

Katelyn and Elias, twins, had a lemonade business on Monday, but things rapidly went south.

“We were simply selling lemonade when a car pulled up, and a girl got out, so I asked if she wanted lemonade,” Katelyn explained. “She answered ‘sure,’ then took the tip jar, climbed into the passenger seat, and drove away.”

When the family phoned the cops, they said the response was better than they could have ever imagined.

Officer Celena Rohland stated, “I started texting some of the folks I work with, asking them to get together and maybe visit the lemonade stand so that we could make a difference in Katelyn and Elias’ day.”

The twins reopened their stand, deciding that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.

The cops had no intention of taking the matter lightly. Four different law enforcement agencies arrived to assist them in recovering the money that the culprit stole.

“It makes me so glad to see these youngsters so happy right now. It’s all about that. Taking care of our neighborhood,” said one community member, Kyle Dirks. It is a sentiment shared by scores of other residents there.

Katelyn and Elias’ mother commented that this life lesson makes it all worthwhile.

“There was one terrible apple,” Karen Smidt explained, “but they got to experience the goodness of so many more people, and one bad apple will not spoil it for us.” “We’re going to keep going.”

According to the family, they have now raised more than $750. They intend to donate the entire sum to the Shop with a Cop program, and they are thrilled to be able to give back to the community that has helped them.

What happened to these young entrepreneurs might be a lesson to many criminals who have the money but not the people’s hearts.

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British Boy on His Way to Earning a £1 million for Hospice, Camping Outdoors

Kevin Wells



Many children have been developing the art of giving from a very young age. Some give because they saw their family members don’t, while others, like Max Woosey, an 11-year-old boy in the United Kingdom, give because someone he cared about died. He does not want anyone else to endure the pain and suffering or do so in a comfortable setting.

His friend was an elderly neighbor with a terminal illness who chose to remain home instead of getting professional care at the hospice. The pandemic impacted funding for the hospice, and it broke Max’s heart. What he did next was mind-blowing. Read the heartwarming story of love, bravery, and community below.

After a dying man gave him a tent, a fortunate set of circumstances transformed Max into a staunch hero. His parents were helping to care for an elderly neighbor, Rick Abbott, who had terminal cancer just before the epidemic hit the UK last year.

They realized how critical it was that their neighbor’s final wish, to remain in his own house, was granted by the local hospice in North Devon. Abbott presented a special present to Max just before his passing. Max said Rick gave him a tent and had made him promise to utilize it for an expedition.

Because a large number of the hospice’s fundraising had been canceled and services had halted due to COVID-19, Max began camping in his new tent in the garden on March 29th, 2020, in the hopes of generating £100 for the hospice.

While waiting for the pandemic to end, he updated his fundraising page with updates from his plush toy animals. Max refused to come in from the outside as the lockdown restrictions drew on, and pleasant summer nights changed into harsh fall frost—and donations poured in.

“Thank you so much for all the donations,” he wrote on October 12. I can’t believe how much money I’ve managed to raise. I’ve decided to live in a tent for a year to see if I can save up enough money to reach £20,000.”

The boy flew beyond that target, reaching milestones of 100 days, 200 days, and 300 days in a row. Digby, his dog, was more than welcome to stay the night with him and keep this Cub Scout warm.

His tent blew over during a December storm, but he re-pitched it, so he could check another day off his calendar. During Storm Bella’s 70 mph winds, his father kept him company.

When the first tent sprung a leak, he had to acquire a new one. When the Christmas season arrived, his family decked out his tent with lights and Santa decorations. Perhaps he hoped to catch a glimpse of the red-suited man when his sleigh passed by while sleeping outside.

Max’s mission drew nationwide and worldwide attention, and people asked him to camp in the vicinity of the London Zoo lion’s den and the garden on Downing Street.

Recently, the kid from Braunton spent his 500th continuous night on an expedition that stemmed from a tragedy but resulted in more than $770,000 in donations from strangers all over the world for the life-saving treatment.

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How Embark Veterinary Will Use Its $75M Venture Capital Funding to Help Dogs

Kevin Wells



Dogs and people have a unique relationship that goes beyond friendship. And some animal researchers believe that a mutually beneficial bond between the two species is rare in the animal kingdom. And a new Dog DNA startup is hoping to help understand our canine friends better by using $75M in venture funding to study the unique genetic makeup of dog breeds.

Understanding Dog Breeds

Dog breeds are fascinating because people artificially create them to highlight specific visual appearances and traits. For example, breeders created dachshunds by continually breeding dogs with long and round bodies, focusing these genetic traits into one breed. So, while breeds are quite different, their DNA is essentially the same, allowing for continued breeding.

However, thousands of years of this type of careful artificial selection have caused issues with many breeds. For example, dachshunds often have bad back problems that shorten their lifespans. And short-faced dogs like pugs struggle to breathe properly. So, unfortunately, what appeared to be cute or advantageous to humans isn’t always great for dogs.

Even worse, some traits and diseases are common in breeds due to one breeding mistake. For example, many spaniel breeds have a seizure disorder in which they may black out and lash out at others. This behavior is due to one trendy stud dog possessing this trait, which was passed on to many other generations. However, Embark Veterinary, Inc hopes to understand these problems better.

Who is Embark Veterinary?

Embark Veterinary is a canine genetics startup company that split from Cornell’s McGovern Business center in 2017 to focus on mapping canine genetic code and tracking differences throughout species. The startup’s goal has been to identify common genetic problems with various breeds and find solutions for these issues that help dogs live better lives.

Founded by Adam and Ryan Boyko, the firm has been examining dog genetics for over a decade. Adam Boyko has stated that it is a “labor of love,” and their goal is to “understand the origins of dogs” by using their DNA. In addition, by tracking the similarities and differences between various breeds, they believe it should be easier to understand dog behavior and follow “predisposition to illness.”

And they also hope to understand better dog aging and why some breeds live longer than others. For example, canine aging is faster than in other similar sub-species, like wolves and coyotes, which may sometimes live twice as long as shorter-lived breeds. By tracking how canine aging develops, they hope to find solutions that provide dogs with happier and longer lives.

The Venture Capital Funding

Over the years, Embark has created a unique Dog DNA Kit that has helped test and determine between 350 breeds and tracks over 200,000 genetic markers to point out potentially 200 different genetic health risks for a dog. Their success has caused many to become interested in funding their continued operation, and their most recent round of funding may be its biggest yet.

Led primarily by Lydia Jett of SoftBank Vision Fund 2, investors as diverse as F-Prime Capital, Slow Ventures, SV Angel, Third Kind Venture Capital, and Freestyle Capital have raised $75M in cash to invest in the company. They were especially impressed by the company’s ability to process around 1 million tests over the years and how well they’ve tracked various genetic issues.

This investment will help keep Embark Veterinary operating for many years and allow them to expand its genetic testing facilities in many ways. As a result, they are likely to come closer to their goal of extending canine lifespans and minimizing or even eliminating many common genetic disorders.

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One-Eyed Weed Sniffing Dog Gets a New Important Job





When most people think about dogs being trained to recognize certain smells, they are probably thinking about drug-sniffing dogs or cadaver dogs. Dogs also play an important role in other important jobs, like sniffing for explosives, scat from endangered species, and trafficked ivory. Some dogs are even sniffing out weeds to help with conservation efforts.

Conservation dogs have already had a great deal of success in helping with various kinds of conservation jobs. One important task is to learn to locate different kinds of plants, especially ones that are growing in places where they don’t belong. Wink is one particularly smart dog who has successfully learned to recognize different kinds of weeds.

Wink, the Unlikely Conservation Dog

By the time he was 4 years old, Wink had proven himself adept at different tasks. He had an unlikely, beginning, though, that makes his success even more remarkable. At the tender age of 5 months, Wink developed an ulcer that caused him to lose an eye. Losing an eye never held him back, though. Wink lives in New Zealand and goes where he needs to when he gets the call for help.

How Do Conservation Dogs Do Training?

Unlike humans, dogs can’t sit in a classroom and learn instructions. They work on a rewards system instead. Wink will spend 3 months learning to identify one specific plant. At first, Wink learned that he would get a reward if he sat after sniffing the right plant. Then Wink had to find the weed in other places, such as in a jar with a hole in the lid. As it got harder and harder to find the target, Wink learned that he now had to bark when he smelled the target plant

Invasive Species

Why do we even need conservation dogs? Dogs like Wink help to find where an invasive species has taken hold so it can be removed. An invasive species is any plant or animal that moves into a new area and causes ecological harm. The new species competes with the native species for limited resources, sometimes causing the extinction of native plants and/or animals and changing the entire habitat.

Sometimes an invasive species enters a new area by accident, such as when ocean waves carry it to another area. Sometimes humans bring the invasive species themselves without realizing the consequences. People brought Kudzu to the U.S. from Asia because they thought it was pretty, and it has taken over the southern states and is threatening others. Kudzu can a foot every day, so it gets out-of-control quickly.

Wink’s Different Jobs

Wink doesn’t realize he has a job because he’s having fun. For detection dogs, their important work is a game.Wink helped to sniff out Spartina grass in the past. Spartina grass was originally brought to New Zealand on purpose to help stabilize estuaries and river banks. Unfortunately, it grows so fast it can change estuaries into grasslands in just a few years. Wink found over a hundred patches of Spatrina grass that the conservation officers were able to dig up.

Now Wink is going to tackle African love grass. African love grass is a hearty weed that can tolerate terrible conditions, even droughts and frosts. Wink spent three months in training so that he can set out with his conservation team on his new task. If they are successful, they will head off another invasive species and then go focus on another.

Wink isn’t the only canine hero helping to save the environment. There are others with their own stories.

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Killer Whale Saved by Kind Souls

Renee Yates



Orcas, better known as killer whales to the general public, are rarely seen in a helpless position. However, that’s exactly what happened with one orca that got itself stuck on a rocky outcrop in Alaska. Whether it was confused or not paying attention, the larger predator got itself stuck on the rocks and could not get free. The tide pulled out, and eventually the animal was going to die from exposure, being unable to get back into the ocean in time. Luckily, local sailors off the Prince of Wales Island saw the mammal and radioed for help.

Interestingly, it was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) local office who were able to help out. The agency had long been made more famous by being a repeat element in Clive Cussler books, but in this situation the challenge was more about saving the orca than solving an international crisis or spy ring discovery.

The first step was to keep the animal alive. So, the sailors of the Steadfast utilized a water pump to essentially shower the orca with sea water until more help could arrive. Along the same lines, scavengers in the form of birds needed to be kept at bay so the whale wouldn’t suffer additional injuries and infection from being attacked.

Once NOAA and Alaskan state police arrived, it was clear the orca was stranded and crying for help. It kept bellowing out calls, and additional orcas could be seen in the distance out in the ocean and circling. Given that high tide was coming back, the best solution was to keep the whale alive until then, and let the ocean do the heavy work of lifting the orca and freeing it. So, patience became the name of the game. In the meantime, NOAA took the opportunity to study the orca, and it turned out to be a familiar character. The stranded whale was a 13-year-old previously seen and tracked as T146D in prior research ventures.

While some thought a recent hard earthquake off the coast might have driven the orca to ground itself, NOAA officially doesn’t agree with the hypothesis. However, the agency hasn’t put forth an alternative argument of its own either. A local conservation group, Bay Cetology, posited that the juvenile got stranded doing what it normally does, chasing prey and dinner up on beaches. Sometimes the aggressive whales venture a bit too far and then get stuck. However, all known cases have ended up being freed, even if with a bit of help from humans sometimes.

One of the sailors filmed the affair and made a TikTok episode of the rescue, filming folks pouring water on the whale as well as scrambling to get the water pump in place to help the animal. Eventually, the animal was able to get back to the ocean, and the separation didn’t seem to affect it from connecting with the orca pack out in the ocean after all.

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