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Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center via Facebook

Pennsylvania Wildlife Center Gives Orphaned Animals a New Lease on Life

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Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center via Facebook

Chalfont, Pennsylvania, an hour outside of Philadelphia, is a lucky place to be a baby squirrel in need. It’s home to one of the oldest wildlife rescues in the U.S., the Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center.

Over the course of the year, Aark takes in more than 5200 animals, focusing its efforts on anything wild, native, and in need. That means everything from sick hawks to injured raccoons to orphaned squirrels, rabbits, and fawns.

Aark doesn’t see its mission as saving the environment as much as helping both four-legged and two-legged creatures deal with how human activity affects animal habitats. “As human beings encroach more and more on their habitats, they get involved with us in often not-good ways,” Aark’s executive director, Leah Stallings, tells mental_floss. “So instead of the squirrel building the nest in the tree, they build it in the house—because the house is where the tree used to be. And then people have squirrels living in their ceiling.”

Neither the people nor the squirrels win in that kind of situation. “It’s not really the people’s fault, but it isn’t really the animal's, either,” she explains. Aark can help alleviate the problem for both. “There’s no government place where you can take something like that—that’s where we come in.”

Image Credit: Sara Kushner, courtesy Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center via Facebook

Having critical care centers for wildlife that has been affected by human activity—whether it’s a songbird with a broken wing or a raccoon that’s been orphaned after its mother got hit by a car—gives the animals a second chance at life, and the people who are desperate to help, but don’t know a place to go.

Aark isn’t the only center of this kind—but since wildlife rehabilitation centers are not particularly abundant, Aark has more than its fair share of furry and feathered clients. According to Stallings, people drive up to two hours to bring injured and sick animals to the clinic. So to make room for more animals, the center is embarking on an ambitious expansion plan that includes fundraising $300,000.

The money will go toward more than tripling the rehab center’s space, expanding it from 1000 square feet to 3600 square feet. As is, the center—which was founded in 1979 by Stallings’s mother—has a critical care room where young animals that need to be fed around the clock or animals that need constant medical attention can be housed, as well as a separate room for animals that are known to transmit rabies (like raccoons). Then the center has what it calls a “step-down unit,” a covered, outdoor area where animals who are on the mend can reacclimate to life outdoors without being completely exposed, as well as an actual outdoor area for animals that are almost ready for release.

Currently, the center can only support so many animals, both because they don’t have the room to house them safely and hygienically, and because they don’t have the room for any more volunteers. The expanded building will make it a lot easier for 50 to 75 baby raccoons to run around in one room without getting each other sick, and the center will be able to bring in two or three more volunteers per shift.

Once Aark raises the $300,000 necessary for its expansion, Stallings hopes to break ground on the new construction in October and open up the new clinic by April 1, 2018. Aark is open every day of the year, 24 hours a day, and in the busy months of May and June, it may take in as many as 20 or 30 animals per day. So while the construction timeline may be ambitious, speed is necessary. “We have to finish it during the off season,” Stallings says. “I have never closed—not one day.”

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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