New giant horse sculptures in Scotland


This video from Scotland says about itself:

11 March 2014

A fantastically clear, calm evening in central Scotland and the perfect time to admire the Kelpies as building work continues and the surrounding area takes shape. Looking forward to the grand opening in April when the Kelpies will be centre stage for the launch of the John Muir Way.

Music courtesy of last.fm featuring Intuíció playing Isten áldja édesapám.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday 22nd April 2014

Huge horses’ heads open as Scotland’s newest cultural landmark

A pair of gigantic horses’ heads sculpted from 300 tons of steel, Scotland’s newest cultural landmark, will be open to the public today.

Titled The Kelpies, the 98ft-tall sculptures in Falkirk were inspired by Scotland’s history of working horses which once pulled barges along the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal.

Created by Glasgow artist Andy Scott, the Kelpies form the centrepiece of the new Helix Park development close to the M9.

The artist said: “I have always been fascinated with horses and the heavy horse was at one time the driving force in industry.”

The sculptures were brought to life over the weekend with an inaugural firework display.

A canal link to the North Sea is expected to open up the inland waterways to more boating traffic and it is hoped the Kelpies will draw up to 350,000 visitors each year, bringing £1.5 million of extra tourism revenue.

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Terschelling island wheatears helped by horses


This is a video of a male northern wheatear.

In the Netherlands, generally speaking, things are going badly for northern wheatears. Nesting pairs have declined about 90% since the 1970s.

Warden Joeri on Terschelling reports that his island is an exception to this.

Since the 1970s, wheatear nest numbers on Terschelling have nearly doubled. In 1942, there were at least 45 nesting couples; about 15% of the whole Netherlands.

A major factor in this good news seems to be horses grazing in the Terschelling dunes. This means more and more varied flowers; so, more insects on which wheatears feed. More open, sandy patches also means more rabbits. Northern wheatears nest in rabbit holes.

Terschelling nature in 2013: here.

Vlieland wheatears: here.

Flies and horses, video


This video is about golden dung flies in Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve in the Netherlands; on local konik horse dung.

Contrary to what their name suggests, (adult) golden dung flies don’t feed on dung. They eat flowers’ nectar. Females lay their eggs in big mammals’ dung.

Wikipedia writes about them:

Scathophaga are integral in the animal kingdom due to their role in the natural erosion of dung in fields. They are also very important in the scientific world due to their short life cycles and susceptibility to experimental manipulations, and have thus contributed significant knowledge about animal behavior.

Walter Debloudts made this video.

Starlings help horses, video


This video is about starlings, helping konik horses in Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve in the Netherlands, by eating insect parasites troubling the mammals.

The video is by Walter Debloudts.

Konik horses and barn swallows, video


This is a video about a big konik horse herd, living in Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve in the Netherlands.

And about a barn swallow nest there.

The video is by Henk E. Groenewoud.

Przewalski’s horse born by artificial insemination


From redOrbit:

First Przewalski’s Horse Born As A Result Of Artificial Insemination

August 6, 2013

Przewalski’s Horse Born

Image Credit: Doloros Reed, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The recent birth of a Przewalski’s horse at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) has given new hope for the future of the rare and endangered species, which at one time was believed to be extinct.

The yet-to-be-named foal is the first Przewalski’s horse in the world to be born via artificial insemination, according to Emily Shenk of National Geographic. It was born at the Front Royal, Virginia campus on July 27 to a mare named Anne, a first-time mother raised at SCBI.

“Anne is a young, first-time mother,” SCBI supervisory biologist Dolores Reed said in a statement. “She had a normal pregnancy that lasted 340 days and the foaling lasted less than 10 minutes. I’ve raised a lot of foals and other hoofed stock over the years, but this filly feels like an extra-special triumph for us and her species.”

While the pregnancy officially lasted just 340 days, Shenk said the birth was actually seven years in the making. According to Reed and reproductive physiologist Budhan Pukazhenthi, the institute’s staff had to begin by learning how to work with the wild horses. Then they had to devise a reproductive game plan.

First, they established a reward system devised to allow them easier access to mares for the collection of urine samples. Next, they needed to learn how to successfully collect semen from stallions, monitor the hormone levels of the mares, and figure out how Przewalski horse estrus cycles compared to those of domestic horses.

“Previous attempts to artificially inseminate the mares were unsuccessful. But last year, after consultation with experts at Auburn University, Pukazhenthi tried a different method that minimized the distance that the sperm had to travel in the uterus,” Shenk said. “It worked, making the yet-to-be-named filly the first Przewalski’s horse of its kind.”

He and Reed told National Geographic, despite increases in the Przewalski’s horse through natural means, the limited number of mares and stallions in the wild could result in inbreeding. They believe artificial insemination will help diversify the population, while also allowing ideally matched animals to remain in one location – thus limiting the cost, safety and space issues that typically arise when transporting wild horses for mating purposes.

According to Mother Nature Network‘s Russell McLendon, Przewalski’s horses were declared extinct in the wild 44 years ago. Fourteen survived in zoos, however, and thanks to the breeding efforts of conservationists, there were enough members of the species to begin reintroduction roughly two decades ago.

In 2008, the species was upgraded from extinct to endangered, and McLendon reports there are currently approximately 500 Przewalski’s horses living in the wild – all of which still carry the genes of the original 14. In addition, there are about 1,500 more living at zoos and breeding centers, but it has been challenging finding a way to increase the population while also maximizing genetic diversity.

Two years ago, a sequencing of the Przewalski’s horse genome revealed the species is far more distantly related to the domestic horse than researchers had previously hypothesized. While scientists had previously believed the two creatures had diverged around the same time horses were first domesticated (6,000 to 10,000 years ago), the divergence actually occurred much earlier than that – perhaps as much as 160,000 years ago.

Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online