Australian Zoo Says Fruit Is Now Too Sugary for Its Animals

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iStock.com/joel-t

Monkeys at Australia's Melbourne Zoo have been put on a banana-free diet because selective breeding of the fruit has made it too sugary, the zoo's head vet told The Sydney Morning Herald. It's not just the monkeys that are being restricted, either. Other animals at the zoo were becoming obese and suffering from rotted teeth, and ultra-sweet fruit was identified as the culprit.

"The issue is, the cultivated fruits have been genetically modified to be much higher in sugar content than their natural, ancestral fruits," head vet Michael Lynch tells the Morning Herald.

Some fruits, like plums, have nearly doubled their soluble sugar content in the last two decades, food scientist Senaka Ranadheera told the Morning Herald. Some wild bananas have large seeds, but the cultivated variety that we eat has been genetically modified to the point that it's unrecognizable from its less-palatable counterpart. In addition, "wild apples are smaller and more bitter than modern cultivated varieties," Ranadheera said. Fruit with a higher sugar content simply tastes better to humans as well as animals.

At Melbourne Zoo, the primates and red pandas have developed quite a sweet tooth. It's not unusual for the animals to eat all of their fruit while leaving other foods untouched. In an attempt to introduce a healthier diet, zookeepers have started feeding the red pandas bits of pear mixed with "panda pellets" containing all the nutrients and minerals they need. Other animals have had their fruit swapped out for leafy greens.

The Australian zoo isn't the first one to take fruit off the menu, though. In England, the Paignton Zoo tracked the health of its monkeys from 2003 to 2010 and ultimately decided to eliminate fruit, bread, eggs, and seeds from the animals' diets. Instead, they are fed foods rich in protein and fiber, including pellets, fresh vegetables, dog biscuits, and cooked brown rice. "Resultant health benefits have been improved dental health and weight loss in some previously overweight individuals," Dr. Amy Plowman at the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust wrote in her 2013 research paper.

[h/t Newsweek]

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves

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iStock.com/567185

During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

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