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Swans Used to Be an Aristocratic Delicacy—Now They're Practically Royalty

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If you've ever wondered why people in the United Kingdom eat duck, chicken, and goose, but never swan, there is a simple explanation for that: Swans are the property of Queen Elizabeth II, who exercises a strict no-eating policy for the birds that dwell on London's River Thames.

In fact, she's even hired individuals called "swan markers" to protect the royal species. Great Big Story caught up with David Barber, a swan marker tasked with looking after the swans wherever the Queen has requested service. Among his responsibilities is "swan upping," a practice that has taken place since the 12th century. Once a year, Barber—alongside a crew of people in six rowing skiffs—rides along the River Thames collecting information about the birds. During this excursion, the crew will weigh and measure every swan they encounter, as well as check for any injuries or diseases.

A couple of years ago, the Queen herself joined the team for their annual excursion. As for whether she enjoyed herself? Well, Barber wouldn't dare answer for the Queen, but he suspects so.

Watch the video from Great Big Story below:

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Dive into the world of Shark, a new book by award-winning photographer Brian Skerry.

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Animals
The Mules That Help Fight California's Wildfires
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Forget dalmatians—in remote parts of Northern California, mules are the fire department's four-legged helpers of choice.

When a blaze roars to life in a residential area, firefighters can use trucks to transport the tools needed to battle it. But in the California wilderness, where vehicles—and sometimes thanks to environmental restrictions, helicopters—can’t venture, mules bear the burden. According to Business Insider, the donkey-horse hybrids can carry 120 pounds of supplies apiece while walking 4 mph up rugged terrain. Llamas are also capable of making the trek, but mules are preferred for their resilience and intelligence.

You can see them at work in the video below.

These animals do extraordinary work for the country, but they’re not the only mules assisting the U.S. government. The Havasupai village of Supai is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and the mail is delivered there each day by parcel-toting mules.

[h/t Business Insider]

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