WCBE

Barbara J. King

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Last month, Australian surfer Jade Fitzpatrick sustained three bite wounds to his thigh from a great white shark as he waited for a wave on his surfboard off the north coast of New South Wales.

As the Guardian newspaper reported, he was helped out of the water by a friend, received medical treatment and planned to surf again in the same waters within 10 days.

It's an all-too-familiar practice.

Families go to see movies that feature fun, friendly animals on the big screen. Then they rush out to buy one of the very same type of animal, to keep as a pet. Before long, the cute new member of the family becomes too much trouble, or isn't cared for properly; the animal dies, is abandoned, or is surrendered to overwhelmed rescue groups.

The National Park Service turns 100 this summer, and I've been thinking about how all of us might celebrate this milestone.

Bioethicist Jessica Pierce includes pets — or "animal companions" — among her family members: a cat, two dogs and fish.

So, it's startling to read this passage near the beginning of her new book released this week, Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets:

I love viral animal videos as much as anyone. Sometimes I share them here, because the good ones can be a way to raise awareness about animal welfare, tune in to animals' intelligence or just enjoy a laugh.

Fans of author Yann Martel's immensely popular Life of Pi, or of the film adapted from the novel 11 years later, will understand my eager anticipation of his new novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, released last week.

For people in the 43 million U.S. households with domestic cats, there's good news: Your cat doesn't really want to kill you.

In the arena of ocean ecology and conservation, Carl Safina is a superstar. Through television documentaries, his writings and the Safina Center, he's been a vital force for years in educating the public about ocean pollution, overfishing and conservation.

In The New York Times travel section Sunday, Stephanie Rosenbloom described a hot day this summer when she sat in the Roman amphitheater in Arles, France.

As she imagined scenes Van Gogh may have observed there during the 19th century, she says, a soft whirring sound broke into her reverie. Rosenbloom writes:

An 11-question quiz that tests science literacy — some would say very basic science literacy — is on my mind this week.

The methodology described in a recent study, a peer-reviewed paper on animal behavior — in which biologists Tina Peckmezian and Phillip W. Taylor of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, worked with 56 female jumping spiders — is fascinating.

Here's what the biologists did:

More people are moving toward a plant-based diet, owing in part to evidence about human health and environmental sustainability, and in part to the emerging scientific consensus on the breadth and depth of animal consciousness and sentience.

Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don't know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.

Babies "social reference" by checking out their parents' facial expressions and voice tones when they encounter a new or strange object or event in their environment — then base their own reactions on mom's or dad's. They look to their parents as they wonder: Is it OK to stay calm, or is it time to worry?

The question of why the Ebola virus seems to so badly frighten so many people seems, at first, to have an obvious answer.

Ebola, after all, is an incurable hemorrhagic virus with a mortality rate that soars in some outbreaks to 90 percent of those infected. Symptoms in sufferers with advanced disease go beyond high fever and gastrointestinal misery to bleeding from the mouth, nose, ears and eyes.

For Philip Lymbery, head of the U.K.-based Compassion in World Farming and his co-author Isabel Oakeshott, a visit to California's Central Valley amounted to an encounter with suffering.