May 22, 2015

Why Are Amazon River Turtles Important?

May 23rd is World Turtle Day, which made us wonder why these creatures are at such a risk and why they are so important. Of course they are important as a living being, but what makes turtles so special, especially the ones closer to us in the Amazon?

According to SELVA International, about 42% of all turtles are threatened with extinction! There is a great movement to help sea turtles, but freshwater turtles are at risk, too. SELVA International says,
Turtles play important roles in nutrient cycling; they are important dispersers of seeds in riverine forests, and they are sources of food for other animals. Their extinction could cause the environment to degrade in serious ways we cannot predict.
The Giant Amazon River Turtle used to be found in the thousands in the Amazon, but now they are a rare sighting and continue to be hunted! River turtles are also affected by climate change with nests being flooded before the turtles have a chance to hatch.

SELVA International works specifically in Bolivia to educate both local people and the world about the importance of saving the turtle population.

Photo Credit: eliduke via Compfight cc

May 18, 2015

Prevent Dog Bites Today - Learn How to Properly Greet a Dog

May 17-23 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.  Over 4.7 million people get bit by a dog every year, and over half of those people are children under the age of 12, which is unfortunate for many reasons.

But think about it – how many times have you seen an excited child run towards a dog with hands in the air and squealing about the “puppy”? Many times, the dog will put their ears back and shrink their bodies back towards their owner, if not try to run away, which is setting up a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t force your dog to accept the child’s advances by holding him or her in place, this only increases the chance of the child getting bitten because the dog doesn’t have anywhere to escape the scary (to them) situation. Even as adults, we sometimes walk up towards a dog with our hand over their head to go in and give them a head pat, while facing them straight on. This can also be a dangerous situation.

Here are a few tips to keep you, the dog, and everyone else self when saying "hello"!

  • Approach the dog (and owner) slowly, no matter how excited you are to see them or Fluffy.
  • Ask if you can pet their dog if you have never met them or the dog before. 
  •  Squat down sideways to the dog, avoiding direct (a.k.a. threatening) eye contact, and give the dog enough space to approach you at his own rate. If the dog appears nervous or frightened, don’t push it. Either stay still and wait, or try again next time. 
  • If she seems friendly or interested, offer the back of your hand for a sniff. 
  •  If the dog allows you to pet her, start with the chest or chin and the go to the ears/back. 
It’s all about paying attention to the dog’s body language and not pushing them into something uncomfortable. Trust your instincts!

The National Canine Research Council also has some great information if you want to learn more, and there is a great poster about how to properly greet a dog on Sophia Yin's website.

Photo Credit: anjrued via Compfight cc