Henry the Tortoise Is Looking for a Part-Time Walker

iStock
iStock

If you live in New York City, love reptiles, and are looking for a slow-paced side gig, a local pet owner is hiring a weekday walker to take her African spurred tortoise on leisurely nature walks.

Harlem resident (and former Mental Floss contributor) Amanda Green adopted Henry three years ago. She works during the day, but her pet gets restless at home—so in March 2016, Green posted a Craigslist ad looking for someone to take Henry for strolls in nearby Central Park.

“Henry's very active when the weather's nice and paces around the apartment,” Green tells Mental Floss. “A bored tortoise can be a destructive tortoise."

News of the ad went viral, and Green received “hundreds and hundreds” of job applications from around the world. She ended up hiring Amalia McCallister, an animal-loving neighbor who worked at a local pet store. Now, McCallister is moving away to Chicago, and Green needs to find a replacement walker.

The tortoise-walking gig pays $11 an hour, according to a new Craigslist ad posted by Green. Since Henry weighs around 20 pounds, Green provides walkers with a pet stroller to transport the massive critter to and from Central Park. Once Henry arrives, “he starts his park trips by mowing the lawn, especially dandelions,” Green says. “After a while, he'll stroll the trails or along any fence line he can find. (The guy loves a perimeter.) Then he'll snack more and sun after a while. Sometimes he digs a little, too.”

The job has its challenges: For one, Henry roams freely in the grass without a leash, so the chosen candidate will need to keep a very close eye on him. “Henry is surprisingly energetic and fearless,” Green writes in her Craigslist ad. “The biggest thing to watch out for is him eating trash or kids trying to feed him.”

Also, being a tortoise walker is “more physical than people expect,” Green says. “Henry's essentially a kettlebell with four legs. He needs help in and out of the stroller, and I live in a third-floor walkup apartment. The job can also require being stern with people. A few times per year, some mansplainer will tell me I should allow Henry to swim (he'd die) or live in the park all year long (he'd die), and I have to explain tortoises to him. I've also had people try to feed Henry donuts and other forbidden foods, which is annoying. For the most part, though, people are great.”

Finally, you’ll have to pick up Henry’s poop. (For the record, Green notes that it's “quite dry and looks like the grass he eats all day.")

One perk of the job? If you're single, Henry might help you score a date. “I've told my single guy friends that Henry's the ultimate wingman,” Green says. “Women love him."

Green’s ad has already received close to 100 responses, so if you want to toss your hat into the ring, you should reply sooner rather than later. And even if you don’t end up getting hired, you can still follow Henry's adventures on Instagram.

[h/t Gothamist]

11 Facts About Mako Sharks

iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena
iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

Though dwarfed by the closely related great white shark, makos are impressive fish in their own right: They're speedy, powerful predators that have been featured in famous literature and have a bizarre connection to election forecasting. Read on to learn more.

1. There are two species of mako shark.

For over 150 years, marine biologists thought there was only one type of mako shark: the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrhinchus), which got its scientific name in 1810. A second mako—the longfin mako (Isurus paucus)—wasn't recognized as its own separate species until 1966.

Identifying the second species took so long both because the makos look similar—both are open ocean predators with conical snouts and bluish-grey skin with white underbellies. They’re also found in many of the same areas (they prefer warm waters, and typically hang out in tropical or subtropical portions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans). One way to figure out which is which is by comparing the flanks: The longfin mako is so named because, as the name implies, it’s got much longer pectoral fins. It's also a longer shark overall.

2. The longfin mako is the second-biggest Lamnidae shark.

The Lamnidae family includes the salmon shark, the porbeagle, and the great white. In terms of size, a full-grown great white, at 19.6 feet long, is the biggest. Next comes the longfin mako, which has a maximum known length of 14 feet. Even the biggest shortfins reach just 12.8 feet long.

3. Shortfin mako shark can reach speeds of at least 31 mph.

The shortfin mako is built for speed. Its body has a streamlined, bullet-like shape that minimizes water resistance, and its pectoral and dorsal fins are rather short, so they don’t create much drag—all features that combine to allow the sharks to slice through the ocean with ease. The scales behind the gills and along its sides are flexible; they can bristle upwards at an angle of over 60 degrees, and there’s some evidence to indicate that shortfin makos use these scales to manipulate the flow of water around their bodies, reducing drag still further. These adaptations help the shortfin mako reach speeds of at least 31 mph. Unverified estimates put the top speed of adult shortfin makos at 45 mph or more, and a juvenile shark was once estimated at 60 mph (though that measurement might not be 100 percent reliable).

Just how fast the longfin mako can swim is unclear. Fewer researchers have studied this fish in detail, but due to its longer fins, the shark is probably slower.

4. Mako is a word with Māori roots.

Shark tooth necklaces and earrings were traditional attire in the culture of the Māori of New Zealand. Mako is Māori word that can mean either “shark” or “shark tooth.” Longfin makos are not known to occur in New Zealand waters, but shortfins frequent the area, with the fish being especially common around the northern end of the country.

5. Male and female shortfin makos seem to avoid each other.

Beginning in December 2004, biologist Gonzalo Mucientes and his colleagues spent four months gathering data on sharks in the southeastern Pacific. Unexpectedly, they found adult shortfin makos practicing sexual segregation. On one side of an imaginary, north-south line between Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the Pitcairn Islands, the team discovered male shortfins almost exclusively. The other side yielded many more females than males. Another study noticed this same kind of sexual divide among shortfin makos in the north Pacific. Scientists theorized that adult shortfin makos steer clear of the opposite sex for extended periods so the females who aren’t looking to reproduce can avoid harassment from males.

6. Shortfin mako growth and maturation rates are slow.

When they're born—after a gestation period that is believed to last 15 to 18 months—shortfin pups are 25 to 28 inches long. According to a 2009 study, males become full-fledged adults at between 7 and 9 years of age, but females don't hit that benchmark until they're between 18 and 21. The species has an estimated lifespan of 29 to 32 years—so when a given population of shortfin makos declines, the slow maturation rates can make it difficult for these fish to bounce back.

7. Some makos hunt swordfish.

You might say the shortfin mako enjoys fast food: The shark is a quick carnivore who chases down other high-velocity fish. Bluefish are a favorite meal: In an examination of 399 shortfin mako carcasses, bluefish remains turned up in 67 percent of their stomachs. The sharks will also go after squid, tuna, and billfish, plus the occasional dolphin or porpoise.

They're also known to attack swordfish and sailfish. Unfortunately for the sharks, those fish use their sharp beaks to impale attackers. Shortfin makos with stab or puncture wounds are a common sight; one female shark was found dead with a broken-off sailfish beak lodged in her eye. Reports of similar injuries on longfin makos tell us that this species also has an antagonistic (and probably predatory) relationship with powerful swordfish.

8. Shortfins sometimes jump into boats.

Big, fast, and tenacious, the shortfin mako is a prized game fish around the world—but grappling with one is quite the challenge for anglers. “The feel of most sharks on a fishing line is like hauling on wet laundry or trying to lift a cow,” wrote Jaws author Peter Benchley. “Fighting a mako has been compared to riding a bull or wrestling an enraged crocodile.”

It gets even tougher if the fish go airborne. Shortfin makos can reportedly leap up to 20 feet out of the water, often after getting caught on a fisherman’s line. That leads to a lot of weird-but-true headlines about makos who have propelled themselves onto boat decks. In 2013, a hooked shortfin weighing 303 pounds hopped aboard a private fishing vessel off the coast of New Jersey, causing $5000 in damages. Four years later, a 10-footer was released back into Long Island waters after it had burst from the ocean and gotten stuck under the guard rail of a chartered boat.

9. One species is prized for its meat.

The shortfin mako puts up a good fight, but that’s not the only reason why fishermen target them. “They’re unlucky enough to be one of the few shark species that is commercially viable for their meat,” wildlife ecologist Michael Byrne told Popular Science. Shortfin mako meat has a swordfish-like taste and has long been used as an ingredient in everything from stews to fish tacos. Longfin mako is sometimes eaten as well, but according to the University of Florida, longfin meat is considered to be lower in quality. However, the longfin is still actively hunted down for its namesake fins, which can fetch high prices as decorative items.

If a species can be fished, it can be overfished. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies both mako species as “vulnerable,” a designation it reserves for animals that might soon become endangered. Many of these sharks get accidentally captured when schools of tuna or swordfish are reeled in by large-scale fishing operations. Also, scientists think the shortfin’s slow maturation rates have contributed to its decline in many areas.

10. Ernest Hemingway wrote about them.

In The Old Man and the Sea—one of his final works, and the novel that won him a Pulitzer in 1953—Hemingway wrote a mako shark into a scene with the book's main character, Santiago, a Cuban fisherman who is trying to land an Atlantic blue marlin. He successfully harpoons one, but nearly loses his catch to a mako:

“The shark was not an accident. He had come up from deep down in the water as the dark cloud of blood had settled and dispersed in the mile deep sea. He had come up so fast and absolutely without caution that he broke the surface of the blue water and was in the sun … He was a very big Mako shark built to swim as fast as the fastest fish in the sea and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws.”

A fight ensues between man and beast. Santiago kills the shark, but not before it rips off 40 pounds of marlin meat, thus guaranteeing that other predators will flock to the corpse.

11. Florida researchers are using makos to predict election results.

Who needs polling data when you’ve got prognosticating sharks? Researchers at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, use satellite tags to survey wild sharks. In the fall of 2016, the scientists decided to advertise their program by using tracking data from two makos to try and predict the outcome of that year’s presidential election. Both fish were named after one of the candidates and it was decided that whichever shark had swum the farthest between September 26 and November 1 would be declared the winner. Within that timeframe, the Donald Trump shark swam 652.44 miles to the Hillary Clinton shark’s 510.07. The school used the same method to try to determine the outcomes of Florida’s 2018 Senate and gubernatorial races, crowning Ron DeSantis and Bill Nelson the winners. (DeSantis won; Nelson did not.)

Missouri Deer Poacher Sentenced to One Year in Jail—Plus Monthly Viewings of Bambi

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Most people wouldn’t consider a mandatory monthly viewing of the 1942 Disney classic Bambi a harsh punishment (unless maybe you’re a parent who has seen it 100 times). However, as CNN reports, a deer poacher from Brookline, Missouri, has been sentenced to a year in prison, where he’ll be required to watch Bambi once a month. (Spoiler alert: Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter.)

Lawrence County Judge Robert George issued the unusual punishment to the defendant, David Berry Jr. According to the Springfield News-Leader, Berry "is to view the Walt Disney movie Bambi, with the first viewing being on or before December 23, 2018, and at least one such viewing each month thereafter, during Defendant's incarceration in the Lawrence County Jail."

Berry was arrested in 2016 for illegally shooting deer, then removing their heads and antlers. “The deer were trophy bucks taken illegally, mostly at night, for their heads, leaving the bodies of the deer to waste," Lawrence County prosecuting attorney Don Trotter told the Springfield News-Leader. Berry has also been banned from hunting, fishing, and trapping for the rest of his life.

His conviction was part of a larger investigation that ultimately handed down 230 charges to 14 Missouri residents, including other members of Berry’s family. Authorities say several hundred deer were illegally killed over the course of a few years; it ended up being one of the largest poaching cases in the state's history.

Judge George isn’t the only one who has turned to pop culture for creative punishments. Colorado judge Paul Sacco has been to known to make noise ordinance violators listen to the Barney and Friends theme song or Barry Manilow for an hour. In 2008, Judge Susan Fornof-Lippencott offered to reduce the $150 fine given to 24-year-old Andrew Vactor for blasting rap music in his car if he listened to Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin for 20 hours. He lasted 15 minutes, then agreed to pay the full fine. (Vactor swore it wasn't the music, though; he said he needed to be at basketball practice at Urbana University and just "didn't have the time to deal with that.")

[h/t CNN]

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