Dec 30, 2020 Episode 27
It’s the end of the year, so time to reflect back on the best of the best. Yes, there were some good stories that really made us happy. Did you know there’s a new way to track dog years? Or how to make your cat smile? And what are your pets really thinking? How about the rat who saves lives, the mice that aren’t mice, or coronavirus sniffing dogs? Have a listen to the best animal stories of the year!
OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Jacuzzi!”
LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Jacuzzi – a whirlpool of news and information! I’m Leela Sivsankar Prickitt.
MAMA: And I’m Lyndee Prickitt.
LEELA: We’re nearly at the end of 2020. And, boy, aren’t we glad this year is over?!
MAMA: Too right. Good bye, I say.
LEELA: But before the year closes, we want to look at back some of the good news that made us smile this year. Yes, there was some! In fact a lot of very good animal news!
MAMA: From the fluffy…
LEELA: To the funny.
MAMA: And the super useful…
LEELA: Here comes our best animal news stories of the past year…
SFX OF DOGS
LEELA: So, how many of you listeners have dogs? I don’t have one unfortunately but my grandparent’s do… He’s the sweetest, yellow Lab you’ll ever meet…. But he’s getting really old…
MAMA: How old?
LEELA: Well, in human years, he’s 12. But in dog years…
MAMA: You gotta know your 7 times table for this.
LEELA: Well… Let’s see… 7 times 12… 84!
SFX OF GONG SOUND
MAMA: Your math is correct, but your answer is wrong.
LEELA: That’s right scientist at the University of California, in San Diego… say they have a NEW formula… to convert dog years to human years.
MAMA: Yeah, because you know before we were just kind of guessing. Most people back in the olden days lived till about 70 years old. And most dogs till about ten. So they reckoned people just divided 70 by ten and got seven. But that’s not really very exact, is it?
LEELA: Yeah, all four of my grandparents are well over 70 and still very healthy! So, that’s an outdated number!
MAMA: That’s true. But more importantly, using new developments in a study of ageing, called epigenetics, scientists have found that dogs age… at a different rate to humans. They can have puppies when they’re one…. but be middle-aged according to the biology of their body by two!
MAMA: Yep, a two-year-old dog is middle aged! But the good news is… dogs “epigenetic clock” as this system of charting the aging process is called slows down. Basically, they stay middle aged a looooonggg time before getting properly old…
LEELA: OK… So how do we tell how old Buddy, the yellow lab, is?
MAMA: Well, there’s a new fancy formula, using something called a natural logarithm. And it’s not as easy as multiplying by seven. But don’t worry, go online and look at a the handy chart the scientist have created.
LEELA: And, so…. Buddy is how old….?
MAMA: Ah! Let me see.. Let me look at it.. The average 12-year lifespan of Labrador retrievers is… 70 human years old. Not far often what we thought, but next door neighbour has spaniel who’s half buddy’s age just 6-years-old. And guess how that is in human years?
LEELA: How old?
MAMA: 60-years-old! Still young, just not quite as young as we have previously thought before…
SFX DOG NOISES
LEELA: Good boy, Buddy. Buddy, down now! Age really doesn’t matter. Down, Buddy, down!
SFX OF DOG NOISES
LEELA: Mama, are you finally agreeing to let me have a dog???
MAMA: Er, not exactly. That’s one of our very animated and talented tech reporters getting ready to bring us a super cool story about pets and artificial intelligence.
MAMA: But first do you know what artificial intelligence or AI as it’s also called actually is?
LEELA: Yeah, like robots. Or computers that play chess.
MAMA: Well, sort of… It’s when computing is used to make a device do something on its own. So, whether a computer playing chess or robot that looks like person, or a self-driving car or even household appliance. Like an AI vacuum cleaner is programmed to constantly scan a floor for any small rubbish to suck up.
LEELA: Oh, cool can we get one of those! But wait what’s this got to do with dogs?
MAMA: Oh, yeah! Well, for that we need to go to…
LEELA: Ah! Maia Sodha, one of our tech correspondents. Take it away, Maia!
SFX: DOG BARKING
MAIA: Thanks, you guys! So, here’s a question, how many times have you played with a pet and wondered what they were thinking? Well, thanks to a new app this can now happen!
It was developed by some super smart professors from the University of Melbourne (Mel bun) in Australia. It’s called Happy Pets. But those aren’t the only emotions it can detect.
It uses artificial intelligence and something called facial recognition.
Here’s how First the developers took loads of pictures of animals, so that the app could tell the difference between an animal and a… car… or a human! ((Maia giggles))
But they had to take even more pictures, so that the app could learn to tell the difference between different breeds, like a Chihuahua and a bulldog. But here’s where it gets interesting.
They also took pictures of animals when they were in different moods. Then they assigned these different emotions to the pictures, basically teaching the app how to tell the difference.
For example, if a dog tightens its eyes and mouth, while changing the position of its ears in a particular way, that’s a sign of being scared. And there’s several more emotions than scared… there’s happy… sad… angry… or just neutral, like a chill-laxing kind of mood. So, now you can know the difference between your pet’s whimper… and whine. In Mumbai this is Maia Sodha, reporting for Newsy Jacuzzi!
LEELA: Thanks Maia!
MAMA: Yeah, thanks! Super cool tech news. Maybe you should use that on your cats
LEELA: Yes, please! Can we get it, please, please?!
MAMA: We’ll see…
LEELA: But, actually, mama, I know how to communicate with my cats.
MAMA: Right, of course you do….
LEELA: The Happy Pets app isn’t the only animal news this week… But for that… we’ll have to head outside… Because it’s time for…
STING: For the world of wow, wow, wow… In other words, Science!!!!
LEELA: (talking to cats) Here, kitty, kitty… Hello, my lovelies.
MAMA: So, Leela, how many cats do you have, or I should say how many stray cats do you care for…
LEELA: Seven. And they’re not stray, they’re mine. You just won’t let them live inside, that’s all.
MAMA: Well, they’re not exactly domesticated… they’re pretty wild.
LEELA: Hmph. Do you know what a group of cats is called?
MAMA: No, actually, I don’t.
MAMA: Huh. Didn’t know that.
LEELA: And there’s another word for it…
MAMA: Go on.
LEELA: A “glaring” … As in… glare.
MAMA: Oh, yeah, that’s more apt! I can see them glaring right now.
LEELA: Hey… (talking to cats) Is my mama being mean to you? Well, I still love you… Yes, I do!
LEELA: Oh, yes. A “glaring” is used if the cats are… let’s say… uncertain of each other.
MAMA: And then glare.
LEELA: Mama! Yes, alright…
MAMA: I’ve got one.
MAMA: Another fab cat fact…
LEELA: Let’s hear it, then.
MAMA: You know cats have been domesticated since prehistoric times, like 10,000 years ago before things were even written down. Historians believe the ancient Egyptians domesticated cats, and used them to retrieve the birds they hunted, and of course for catching rats and mice and then the trend spread over to Europe.
LEELA: Well, I wonder if any of those ancients knew the cat eyes trick.
MAMA: The what?
LEELA: Well, a new study from England’s University of Sussex has confirmed something cat-lovers have known for a long time that, yes, you can bond with your cat by sending them a slow blink.
LEELA: Oh yeah. You can get your cat to smile back. Look… By narrowing my eyes… really slowly… And giving a little blink. See! Little Rascal smiled back.
MAMA: That? All she did was blink black… She didn’t exactly show you her pearly white teeth, thank goodness.
LEELA: Mama…… it’s a smile for a cat. That’s how they do it. And, according to the study, it makes the owner more attractive to their pet. Isn’t that right, Little Rascal?
MAMA: Well, cats aren’t the only creatures whose communications is being studied… Another team of scientist confirmed the amazing bond between dogs and humans. When a dog owner, or pet parent, says “I love you” their dog’s heart rate soars. Cuddling your pooch also has a calming effect on both owners and pets.
LEELA: Well, I think that study needs to include cats next time too!
LEELA: We have a happy but odd update on the coronavirus.
MAMA: Wait, you think this is odder than our poo fighters’ story a few weeks ago?
LEELA: Huh? What’s so odd scientist inspecting our poo, I mean the sewage, in order to detect the virus is spreading? That’s just clever science.
MAMA: I guess that’s why we call it the world of WOW.
LEELA: Indeed. But, while this week’s story is less pooy, it’s no less smelly!
So, this is a COVID-19 story with a twist that’s barking mad (that’s British for totally crazy).
SFX: barking noise
LEELA: Oops, we really let the “cat out of the bag” now… I mean the dog off the leash!
Here to tell us more is our reporter Ameyaa Kohli.
AMEYAA: Thanks, Leela! Now, we all know dogs like to sniff a lot! But did you know their ability to smell is ten thousand times more accurate, or better, than humans? That means they can smell odors we can’t even detect. Dogs can even smell… illnesses and diseases on other dogs AND on humans.
Yep, last year scientists found dogs can smell the disease known as cancer! And now they’ve discovered they can smell COVID-19 too! Well, in Finland where I sometimes live, because I’m part Finnish they’re putting this to good use.
At the main airport near the capital, Helsinki, sniffer dogs will be on duty to check if arriving passengers have the coronavirus. Travelers – who want to be tested – will swipe their skin with a special material.
That will be put into a container and taken to a dog to smell in a separate area. In just ten seconds the clever canine can tell if the sample is COVID positive or not.
If so, the passenger can take a proper test to confirm if the dog got it right. The airport says this method is not only faster and friendlier, but cheaper too.
Back to you, Leela!
LEELA: Thanks for that Ameyaa. I like your Finnish goodbye. But surely, you’re not done yet? You said you were part Finnish … Get it, like, you’re not finished…
AMEYAA: Good one, Leela! Let me be clear then. I’m part Finnish, but I’m finished with this report!
LEELA: Move over mighty mouse… this story is about a hero rat. But first, Mama you’re gonna have to explain a few things, please.
MAMA: Sure, watch got?
LEELA: First, what is a landmine?
MAMA: Oh, Crickey! That’s a serious question. Well, it’s a bomb that’s hidden in or under the grass. Usually meant to be used against enemy tanks rolling into an area.
LEELA: During wars?
MAMA: Yes. But the problem is they’re hidden so well, that people easily forget where they are… even after the war.
LEELA: Ah ha. OK. Got it. That explains this oddball then: a rat that’s received a gold medal… for bravery.
LEELA: Over the past five years, a large rat called, Ma-gawa, has saved hundreds of lives sniffing-out landmines in Cambodia.
MAMA: Ahhh… Cambodia not far away from us here in India then. A country that was torn apart by civil war that’s when people within the same country fight each other. But that war ended almost 50 years ago, Leela.
LEELA: Well, That’s the thing, Mama. I’ve been told there are still loads of leftover explosives that can be anywhere even parks and playgrounds!
MAMA: Ewww God That’s scary, isn’t it? I don’t like to imagine that!
LEELA: Well, then you’re not going to like this nugget of news: over 60 million people live in fear of landmines and old explosives from past wars… without any warning
MAMA: 60 million that’s practically like everyone in the UK!
LEELA: Yeah. And without any warning… poof! But… enter… a troop of African giant pouched rats… to save the day! They have superior sniffing skills to identify the chemicals in landmines. So, they’re better at finding them than basic metal detectors, that have to be held by a human I would not want that job!
MAMA: No ways!!
LEELA: And they beep at any old piece of metal, which might not even be a bomb. The rodents, however, are easy to train AND they’re so light they don’t set off the explosives, even if they mistakenly crawl across one.
MAMA: Hurray for the African giant pouched rats! It’s a big name
LEELA: And the best on of all is six-year-old Ma-gawa, who has sniffed out 67 explosives in Cambodia.
LEELA: That’s why she’s the first rat ever to receive a medal from the British animal charity, the PDSA.
MAMA: I can see why!
LEELA: Although I’m not really sure what a rat will do with a gold medal.
MAMA: Well, I’d like to say this will make me look at rodents a bit differently, but… I’d be lying.
LEELA: Well this could easily be our oddball story, too, because it’s about little critters called, “glacier mice.”
MAMA: Glacier mice? Mice? As in rodents? Those little mammals with creepy long tails that gnaw on things?
LEELA: That’s what I said. But not what I mean… Well, if you’ve never heard of rodents called “glacier mice” that’s because they’re not really rodents at all! They’re just moss balls.
Yep, you heard me right: balls of moss growing on glaciers.
They were first recorded by an Icelandic researcher – almost 70 years ago – who thought they looked like mice… and the name stuck. Of course in Icelandic it’s pronounced a little differently: yuckla meece.
They’re fuzzy bright green blobs in a world of white.
MAMA: But aren’t glaciers cold and barren places?
LEELA: What’s barren mean?
MAMA: Ah, barren means infertile, can’t produce anything – nothing will grow there. So how the heck is moss growing on glaciers?
LEELA: Well, that’s what glaciologist – as in scientists who study glaciers, get it? – are still trying to figure out.
First of all, they have no roots – they’re not attached to anything – they just rest on the ice.
A study released last month, tracked the movements of thirty little moss balls for over ten years and found they move together very slowly, as if in a herd.
But they’re still trying to figure out WHYYYYY!
MAMA: Maybe they just like each other.
LEELA: Yeah, like…. Hey mate, mossy, I’m over here… Don’t leave without me!
MAMA: Of course I won’t, darling. We mossballs must stick together. Everything else here is too blanched and boring, plain and dull!
And finally… We have a story of some naughty parrots.
LEELA: Naughty pirates?
MAMA: Nope, naughty parrots.
STING: Step right up, Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!
LEELA: An odd parrot, more like.
MAMA: Five odd parrots, in fact.
LEELA: But parrots are super smart creatures. They can mimic humans.
MAMA: And they can also add, subtract and understand the meaning of zero! But let’s just go back to that bit about mimicking, or copying, human speech.
MAMA: What if the speech, the words, they’re mimicking aren’t very nice words?
MAMA: Oh yeah! Here to tell us more about the naughty parrots in an English wildlife center is…
LEELA: Jackson Hosking, our England correspondent.
JACKSON: You’re right that parrots are super smart and super chatty creatures. Maybe that’s why a group of parrots is called a “pandemonium” – which is a word we usually use to describe noisy chaos.
Well, it’s been parrot pandemonium at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, here in England. Five African grey parrots are now on the “naughty step” for their very colorful language.
SOUNBITE: “Naughty step Naughty Step”
JACKSON: Here in the UK, being sent to the naughty step is another way of saying you’ve behaved badly and need time out from the main event. Well, these parrots have ruffled a few feathers with their choice use of words, swear words, to be more precise…
SOUNDBITE: “Swear words, Swear words”
JACKSON: And guess what? The more people laugh, the more the parrots swear! They’re playing up to their audience. Just like you. But that’s not the only trait they share with us. Apparently, these parrots are worse when all five of them are together and they egg each other on….
SOUNDBITE: “Egg each other on, Egg each other on”
JACKSON: Guess that’s why they say birds of a feather stick together! So, rather than washing their beaks out with soap… the keepers have decided to separate the parrots.
They’re introducing them to better behaved birds. They’re hoping the nicer birds will have a good influence on the naughty parrots and encourage them more bird calls and less expletives.
So far no one really knows who taught these parrots such profanities in the first place… now that would make an interesting story! As I don’t know the answer to that one, I’ll end with a parrot joke instead. “What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?” and no, the answer is not a colorful swear word!
the answer is… “A CARROT”! (laughing) Did you like that one, Leela?
LEELA: Ha, ha, Jackson! Here’s one back at ya – What’s a parrot’s favorite game?
JACKSON…. I don’t know.
LEELA: Hide and speak!
MAMA: Oh, you guys can’t resist…!
LEELA: And expect more animal stories in 2021.
MAMA: Speaking of animals… if you’re a podcast nerd, like we are, and you want to hear more about the animal world, then do check out a fun but fact-filled podcast called “Cool Facts About Animals.”
LEELA: It’s for kids, presented BY kids, with a little help from a mama… just like us!
MAMA: It’s really sweet. Cool Facts About Animals – check it out!
LEELA: And with that we are officially over and out for 2020. We might’ve had the nasty old coronavirus to deal with – but hey – we created a podcast as a result of being lockdown and I’m pretty pleased about that!
MAMA: Me too! Hope y’all are as well. If so, you know what to do…
LEELA: Go on – give us a good rating or leave us a review on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Podcast Republic or wherever you get your podcast.
MAMA: Go on, start the new year with a kind deed – it really helps others find us.
LEELA: And keeps us going…!
MAMA: You said it!
LEELA: So long, 2020! See you guys the 2021 Newsy Jacuzzi!
– ends –