YouTube // Great Big Story
YouTube // Great Big Story

The Kind-hearted Chaos of NYC’s Only Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

YouTube // Great Big Story
YouTube // Great Big Story

You’re sitting in your third-floor office, minding your own business, when suddenly there’s a loud thud at the window. When you walk over to determine the source of the startling noise, you find a starling lying on the window ledge, looking stunned and hurt. What can you do? Well, if you’re in New York, you can don a pair of gloves, put the bird carefully in a box, and bring it on over to the Wild Bird Fund.

Every day at the rehabilitation center is a surprise, co-founder and director Rita McMahon tells Great Big Story in the video below. “You never know who’s gonna walk through that door, or what they’re holding in that box.”

The center is “something of a three-ring circus,” McMahon says—an assessment confirmed by a quick look inside. Ducks waddle unsupervised across the linoleum floor while pigeons whoosh through the air just above vet technicians’ heads.

In spite of the chaos, the center is mind-bogglingly successful, caring for thousands of injured birds every year. On average, half of the center’s avian patients will be released into the wild near the sites where they were found. Some of the birds are migratory and will continue on their journey, while local birds may return to their families or flocks.

To learn more about the center, check out the video below or visit the Wild Bird Fund website.

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What to Know About Shark Attacks Before You Hit the Beach
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A few hours spent watching shark attack reenactments on TV is enough to convince you it's not safe to go back in the water. But sharks aren't exactly the mindless manhunters pop culture makes them out to be. According to these statistics compiled by the home security company SafeWise, shark attacks look a lot different in the real world than they do in movies and TV shows.

Between 2007 and 2016, 443 non-fatal shark attacks and seven fatal attacks were reported in the U.S. That suggests most sharks aren't looking to make a meal out of swimmers—when they do "attack" people, they usually take a bite because they're curious and swim away as soon as they realize they're not dealing with a fish.

Dangerous shark encounters are also incredibly rare. Your risk of being attacked by a shark is about 11.5 million to one. That means you're more likely to be struck by lightning or die from the flu than fall victim to a shark attack.

Your risk of encountering a shark also depends on where you choose to go for your beach vacation. Florida is the shark attack capital of America, accounting for 244 shark attacks over the span of a decade. Hawaii was the runner-up with 65.

If you still have a love-hate relationship with sharks, no one would blame you for skipping the beach this summer and binge-watching Shark Week instead. Here are some facts to brush up on before the Discovery Channel event launches July 22.

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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