Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(2011; directed by Rupert Wyatt)

As I said yesterday, I hate this movie. Mindless Hollywoodity, apparently written by people with no experience of science, of animals, or, for that matter, of humans. Each character is built from simplistic motives, the kind encountered frequently on TV, but rarely in life. Good guys and bad guys. The story serves the CGI, rather than the reverse. They should have replaced James Franco with asparagus. Same performance, though the asparagus would have provided more nutrition at lower cost. (I liked John Lithgow, though; his acting felt like an organic intrusion into this plastic world.) 

Of course the movie made me think of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, of which it's a remake. I don't love that movie either; it, too, is simplistic, each character defined more by his function than by any underlying reality. Yet Conquest remains a more nearly authentic movie, because it's so clearly about racism and riots in the US. It shows us slaves, many of them with black faces, literally cast off their shackles. White fascists in riot gear try to gun them down. Our culture has a long history of perverting Darwin’s ideas to show black people as subhuman primitives. Conquest turns that racist stereotype on its head. It makes the slaves literally apes, but also shows them as more intelligent and compassionate than their masters. In the end, the slaves take over. In 1972, white America would have taken that as a threat.  I believe that's part of the reason the studio eviscerated the film, taking the shock out of its violence and maybe the sting out of its subtext. Even in the gutted form we have, the movie is about something real. 

I didn't see such a core in Rise. At the heart of Rise, I saw nothing. 

It seems telling that the movie makes so many references to its predecessors. IMDB lists 24 examples of names and such taken from the 1968 original and its successors. These have the unfortunate effect of keeping the superior original always in my mind. I’m amazed it didn’t have the effect of making the screenwriters more ambitious. Planet of the Apes was a rich slice of thought, drawing on the speculations of Einstein, the cultural history of evolution, the science of the ancient Greeks, and more. But this is what I mean by Hollywoodity: Rise draws names and images from its sources without bringing in the related ideas. It’s a mash-up, not a story. The creators have seen better works; they just haven’t understood them. 
In my view, none of the sequels and remakes is worthy of the 1968 movie. But that’s a rant for another day. 

Chimpanzees Maul Ranger

No details yet on this man's injuries, but they are said to be severe. 

US student fighting for life after chimpanzee attack - Telegraph

"A ranger at a chimpanzee sanctuary near Nelspruit is fighting for his life after he was attacked by two frenzied animals while leading a tour group at the park this afternoon," he said.

"According to eyewitnesses, two chimpanzees grabbed the man by his feet and pulled him under the perimeter fence and into the enclosure."

He said that the man was dragged nearly a kilometre into one of the enclosures, and paramedics required armed escorts to rescue him."

Update from NBC news:

Animal Attack Movies: Open Water

(2003; directed by Chris Kentis)

An obnoxiously driven professional couple go deep-sea diving and get left behind. They try to cope. That’s pretty much it. I admire the simplicity of the plot. Whereas the standard these days is to crowd the plot with reverses and twists, my idea of a good story is one that pays attention to its premise and develops it according to its own logic. Well-observed details make the story come alive.  That's what happens here: I believe it because the cameras and the cast are clearly in the water with real wildlife. 

Of course I mean sharks. According to the trivia page on imdb.com, Caribbean reef sharks are the main ones seen. This species rarely attacks humans, and mostly in self-defense. The script doesn't get specific about it. As is usually the case with real people lost at sea, the sharks come nosing around, and eventually they do more than nose. It’s a low-key movie; their are no exploding canisters or buried electric cables to help our heroes. Things take their natural course. 

Crab Spider Defecates, Runs Away

Nifty video from Nik Nimbus. Nik has some info about spider feces here

Incidentally, it's believed that spider silk had its origins in feces. It has, of course, evolved a bit beyond that.  

You Tick Me Off

Lone Star Tick

A new theory on meat allergy:

Lone Star Tick Linked to Sudden Outbreak of Meat Allergies | WebProNews

"University of Virginia researchers believe that something in the tick’s saliva triggers the allergy, which generally doesn’t manifest itself until about three to six hours after a savaged individual has consumed some sort of beef. Reactions range from hives to anaphylactic shock."

Ticks are well known as the vectors of Lyme disease, but that’s only one of the many diseases ticks can spread. Here are some others to trouble your sleep. 

First of all, the Ricksettsial diseases. Rickettsia are a family of bacteria, mostly rather odd, virus-like ones that do not survive outside the cell walls of a host. They are transmitted by not only ticks, but also mites, fleas, lice and flies to various animals, including people. In the human body they take up residence in the blood vessels and lymph vessels. Each disease has its own symptom picture, which usually includes some combination of rash, fever, headache, chills, exhaustion, vomiting, stomach and body pains, crusty black skin ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, eye infection, breathing troubles, sweats, pneumonia, heart and liver troubles, and even neurological damage. Some of the infections are mild, but others can be fatal. In general, the microbes thrive in a population of some sort of mammal—a reservoir—passing to people through the bites (and feces) of the arthropods I mentioned. The Rickettsial diseases ticks can give us include these:

-Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Siberian tick typhus, African tick-bite fever, Anaplasmosis, North Queensland tick typhus, Oriental spotted fever, and Aneruptive fever, all transmitted from rodents by various ticks.

-Boutonneuse fever, transmitted by ticks of the genera Rhipicephalus and Haemaphysalis, which are themselves the reservoirs of the disease. 

-Flinders Island spotted fever, transmitted by ticks from unknown reservoirs. 

-Ehrlichiosis, transmitted by our new friend the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum), the common dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and the blacklegged deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) from horses, dogs, deer, rodents, and possibly other animals.

-Q-fever, usually transmitted from a variety of infected animals to people who breathe in their air-borne detritus, but occasionally passed by ticks as well.

-Another disease known simply as tick-borne disease, transmitted from rodents and rabbits.

But the list doesn't stop with the Rickettsial diseases. We also have:

-Colorado tick fever, spread by wood ticks, which can occasionally inflame the central nervous system. 

-Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, which afflicts lagomorphs, birds, and domestic animals; it may pass to us either through direct handling of these animals or through the bite of a tick. In some outbreaks it has produced a death rate of 50%. 

-Kyasanur Forest disease, transmitted by the forest tick Haemophysalis spinigera from a reservoir in rodents.

-Louping ill (a.k.a. ovine encephalomyelitis, trembling ill). This viral disease of sheep produces flu-like symptoms in people. 

-Pasteurellosis, a type of cat scratch fever.

-Plague. You know, the disease that wiped out a third of the human race once, and has been back for a few return engagements since. We mostly get it from fleas, but ticks make their little contribution.

-Powassan encephalitis. The virus is often harmless, but occasionally it causes a fatal swelling of the brain. 

-Relapsing fever, which causes its victim to get sick—then well—then sick—over and over. One form of the disease resides in rodent populations, only occasionally passing to people through the bites of ticks. The death rate for this tick-borne form is less than six percent. That’s pretty good compared to some of the louse-born versions; but that’s another story. 

-Tick-borne encephalitis. This virus afflicts many mammals, including cattle, sheep, and goats. It passes to humans with the bite of the deer tick. In Europe and Russia, its incidence runs to more than ten thousand cases per year.

-Tularemia, which passes to us from rabbits through the bites of tick and deer flies. It kills about 50 people in the US each year. 

Dog tick (photo by Dee Puett)
And then there’s tick paralysis, which, until ticks were implicated in this meat allergy, was the only medical problem causes not by microbes, but by the tick’s venom. It happens when certain ticks remain affixed for several days. It can kill people if the paralysis affects their breathing. In the US, people rarely suffer from this disease, but dogs sometimes do. 

Bald Eagle

Photography by Dee Puett

Bow Fisherman Lands 8-Foot Alligator Gar

Gar-gantuan feat at Lake Corpus Christi » Corpus Christi Caller-Times

"Even together the two men could not lift the fish. Jim offered a forklift from his garage, which was just the tool they needed to hang the catch for photos and to weigh it.

But their scale's 300-pound capacity was inadequate. The fish measured 8 feet 2 inches. And it bottomed out the scale in resounding fashion.

The actual weight, which was more than a few stones greater than 300 pounds, will never be known."

Animal Attack Movies: Monster on the Campus

In 1938, a coelacanth was brought up from the depths near South Africa. That was a startling development because scientists were aware of the coelacanth only from the fossil record and assumed it had been extinct since the days of the T. rex. It’s an interesting fish because, as the characters in the movie mention, it’s more closely related to four-footed land animals than other fish are.

In Monster on the Campus, a scientist gets a frozen coelacanth for study. A dog laps up its melting juices; a dragonfly nibbles at the carcass; the scientist himself cuts his hand on its teeth. All these critters end up reverting to primitive forms: the dog becomes a wolf with massive fangs, the dragonfly grows to massive proportions and zooms around the lab, and the man develops a very poor attitude. The science is, as you may have gathered, a bit shaky. The drama, however, is rather good, and it surprised me in several ways. One was its humor. The scientist works at “Dunsfield University.” Get it? “Dunce Field”? When he phones up another scientist to ask for some info, the other guy turns out to be named “Dr. Moreau.” There’s some depth to the movie, too, as the characters make various references to our race’s primitive and civilized characteristics. It’s clear the filmmakers had nuclear anxiety in mind.

As a side note, I feel certain Stan Lee (or Jack Kirby?) must have loved this movie. The main character is named Dr. Donald Blake. About four years later, Lee recycled that name for Thor’s mortal alter ego in Marvel Comics. He also borrowed the movie’s gimmick of using gamma rays to turn a man into a primitive monster for the Hulk comic. 

Sharks Eat Dead Whale

At a beach in Northwest Australia, sharks devour the carcass of a whale. The post on GrindTV identifies these hungry feeders as tiger and reef sharks. 

Thanks to Dee Puett

The Five-Fingered Hand


I gazed at the silverbacked gorilla through a transparent wall.  His careful fingers caressed his toes.  He picked up a stem of grass from the floor, brought it to his face; his prehensile lips reached for it, wrapped it, and released it.  His hand flopped to the floor; it rested there for a second, then slowly relaxed and let the stem fall.

Three young people, two women and a man, entered the humid air of the ape house, and I moved to share the view.  I looked past the silverback to the leaner gorillas gathered outside in their pit, some of them lolling on rocks, some of them walking slowly on the grass, seeming careful to walk on the outer edges of their feet and the knuckles of their fingers.

Human screams startled me.  The women were pointing at the silverback and covering their mouths in disgust.  The man laughed nervously, then robustly.  The silverback had vomited and was casually wiping up the vomitus from the concrete floor with his long right hand and licking it.

I watched the three people watching the gorilla.  They discussed his behavior.  One woman thought he was sick (he wasn't; gorillas just do that).  The man thought the spectacle was amusing, and he teased one of the women with comparisons to her own dietary preferences.  They all seemed to agree that a tremendous breach of etiquette had occurred, though none said so in quite those words.  The man expressed his admiration for the gorilla's damn-the-critics attitude.  They left, still loudly analyzing the event.

I stayed a moment longer trying to watch the animal's behavior with scientific detachment.  But he was too damn human.  I had to look away.


Ever since Darwin, a doppelganger with the face of an ape has haunted art and literature.

An early example is Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Few books have been interpreted in such a monolithically similar way by the culture at large.  The meaning of Jekyll and Hyde is good and evil; ask anybody.  But the novelette itself doesn't read that way.

Jekyll explains Hyde as purely evil, but he depicts himself as an ordinary human being, compounded of both good and evil, powerless to resist the lure of the purer Hyde.  In other words, the two characters are not a dualistic balance; the scale is weighted in favor of evil.  Stevenson depicts Hyde as distinctly simian—a choice of imagery that cannot have been lost on a Victorian world bruised by Evolution.

After a rash of similarly sinister appearances, the ape began to evolve into a more sympathetic figure.  King Kong, the most successful popcultural representation of the ape to date, impresses many viewers as a simple-yet-noble schmoe tragically whipped by technology.  Of course, he can also be seen as a big black guy who digs white chicks—a view which probably accounts for some of the film's impact on the America of the 1930s.  By the 1960s, Planet of the Apes had turned our first cousins into an ironic lens for looking in a more intellectual way at ourselves.  That peculiar sensation crystallizes in a scene near the end of the film: a chimpanzee tells our human hero he's almost too ugly to kiss.

It wasn't until the 1960s that we started to study real apes in earnest.  There were immediate revelations.  The first was that we're not the only animals that use tools—chimps, for example, routinely use twigs to pick up ants.  In 1972, a scientist named Patterson taught a gorilla named Koko sign language.  The capacity for language was another trait we'd credited only to ourselves.  If evolution had ruined our sense of divine preferment, the study of the great apes chipped away every other excuse for feeling superior.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, a startling role-reversal had taken place.  We started to think of apes as peace-loving near-vegetarians, never inflicting violence on anything more complex than an occasional grub.  Strange as it may seem, the myth of the saintly ape was just another incarnation of human arrogance.  If we couldn't be better than everybody else, we could at least take comfort in being uniquely evil.  Other animals  kill for food; we're the only ones who kill for fun.  So the reasoning went.

But then Jane Goodall brought back footage of chimps devouring young baboons.  A few years later, Goodall witnessed a chimp war.  The winning band hunted down the survivors of the losing band and exterminated them.

The apes seemed more human than ever.


The hand of a primate is the most disturbing thing about it.  There, in a monkey's paw or an ape's, is the opposable thumb on which we formerly pinned so much of our claims.  There is the instrument of so much expression.  There is our kinship and our  uneasy sense of difference.

Once there was an gorilla named Digit, famous in some circles for his acquaintance with Dian Fossey, the naturalist who was first touched, in something like friendship, by a wild gorilla. Poachers killed Digit for his head and his hands.  If you like, you can find video of Digit's carcass being carried to Fosse's hut.  His deficiencies are disorienting: at first you hardly know what you're seeing. It seems merely a black and red abstraction for violence.  Poachers could sell gorilla heads, stuffed with sawdust and posed with the fangs exposed, for a trophy.  Gorilla hands were used to make ashtrays and other such bric-a-brac.

If that surprises you, sit with the image a moment: Smoke coming from the bowl of long black hands, which we can't help but see as monstrously disproportionate; skin that might be wrinkled black suede, coarsened and bagged at the knuckles; and on close inspection the fingertips whorled with a forgotten identity.

Related Post: A Chimpanzee Hunt

This story originally appeared in Art Byte.

Big Great White Sharks

Some huge great white sharks. The stories behind these photos can be found here

This last one shows a biologist petting a great white shark as it leaps from the water. 

Thanks to Dee Puett. 

Wolves Kill Zoo Worker

My contacts who have worked with wolves tell me the animals look for any sign of weakness or even inattention. Captive wolves have attacked people who bent over or limped. The problem for a keeper is that we humans tend to get comfortable around animals that have never harmed us. We lower our guard. But a wolf is always interested in opportunities. 

Reports: Swedish zoo worker killed in wolf attack - Wire World News - The Sacramento Bee

"The experienced 30-year-old woman was by herself in the pen when the attack occurred Sunday morning. . . zoo workers often enter the area alone.

The enclosure reportedly contains eight wolves. Park workers first realized that something had gone wrong when their colleague failed to maintain radio contact.

The Aftonbladet daily quoted Hoggren as saying zoo workers and paramedics entered the pen after forming a human chain and arming one person, but it was too late."

Related: Wolves and Me in Speakeasy

Photo by Wayne T. Allison

Horse Retaliates Against Abuser

The narration is sensationalistic and not very informative, but the video is interesting.

Giant Otter Injures Zoo Workers

Eric Gaba/Creative Commons
The giant otter is mainly a fish-eating species; humans aren't the right size to serve as its prey. Possibly the woman's scream provoked its attack. 

German woman hospitalised after otter attack | thetelegraph.com.au

"The 183-centimetre-long otter then attacked the woman, biting her several times on the arms and legs. A zookeeper nearby rushed to her aid, however he and an assistant were also attacked.

"We are very upset and cannot explain how this could happen," a spokesperson for the zoo said Friday.

The woman suffered serious injuries. She was reportedly put in an induced coma, and may have permanently lost the use of her arm as a result of the attack."

Animal Attack Movies: Alien

A larval alien emerges from its human host

The animal in question is a merely science fictional one, but it’s clear somebody involved really enjoyed earthly wildlife—particularly the parasitoid insects. I wrote about the life stages of certain parasitoid wasps in The Red Hourglass and again in this essay on the things I found in an elm tree:

Secrets of the Siberian Elm Part 1
Secrets of the Siberian Elm Part 2.

Here's the species of parasitoid wasp from my elm:

In the movie, the Alien goes through an insect-style metamorphosis. From a sort of seed pod or oothecum emerges a larva that attaches itself to a man’s face. It inserts a tube into his gut through his mouth to feed itself. The next larval stage emerges explosively from the man’s abdomen. Because we see the events only from the point of view of the clueless humans, it’s not clear exactly what mechanism the alien used here; possibly it emerged from the exoskeleton of its earlier larva and crawled into the man’s stomach, or perhaps the two larval stages are actually separate individuals, one the parent of the next. That second possibility isn’t too far-fetched. Some earthly Cnidarians progress through a similar cycle, with different individuals taking on different stages. (Cnidarians include jellyfish, sea anemones, and the like, but not all of them have that kind of life cycle.)

The final, adult stage of the alien seems to nourish itself by predation before laying its eggs. I suggest it may have raided from the ship’s stores as well. It pretty much had to, actually, because only five humans fall victim to it, and it doesn’t even eat them all; it uses at least some of them as fodder for its parasitic young. (Here's a deleted scene of Sigourney Weaver discovering the larder stocked with humans.)

Besides the real-life habits of insects, it seems to me that Alien draws on two interesting sources. One is a 1958 movie atrociously titled It: The Terror from Beyond Space. Same feel: a sweaty, claustrophobic spaceship. Same premise: a small crew picked off by a dangerous alien. This one is a sort of reptilian vampire. An animal with an alien biochemistry is extremely unlikely to find earthly blood digestible, of course, but the writers of It apparently didn’t know that. Neither did H. G. Wells, actually; he used the same gimmick in The War of the Worlds

The other possible inspiration is the Doctor Who story The Ark in Space, written by Robert Holmes. Holmes’s Wirrn appear in several metamorphic stages, are parasitic on humans, and, in adult form, look a lot like wasps. 

The Doctor and Sarah Jane examine a dead Wirrn
There's a whole universe of Alien stories, by the way--sequel films, comics, novels, and so on. Some of these expand on the biology of the Xenomorph, as they call the Alien. I'm sticking with the first movie in this post because that's the one I like best. 

Hippopotamus Kills One, Injures Another

Hippo kills man in night attack

"A hippopotamus has killed a man at Kilimambogo village in Thika East, Kiambu county, and seriously injured another . Peter Kariuki Kamau’s body was found yesterday morning after the animal killed him on his way home from Makutano shopping centre. His brother Benson Kamau said Kamau, 35, was walking home from the market at 7pm on Wednesday when the hippo attacked him near Kilimabogo Teachers Training College. Pastor John Gathuru Kimani, 57, fought with the beast for almost one hour but suffered two broken ribs and injuries on the back and face. "

Landing the Biggest Sharks

In Shark Attacks: Inside the Mind of the Ocean's Most Terrifying Predator, I mention the case of a man swallowed whole by a great white shark. That shark was estimated at better than 20 feet long. The great whites below may be in that range. As this page explains, the record size for a great white is much contested. 

The specimen above isn't a great white, but a tiger shark. Tiger sharks are more slender than great whites, so they don't reach the multi-ton weights suspected for some great whites. Nonetheless, they have managed to eat a number of people--in pieces. 

Special thanks to Dee Puett. 

Further Thoughts on Cannibal Attacks

More discussion following the recent posts about the Miami cannibal attack. Thanks to James Smith for his thoughtful contributions.

James Smith: Speculation being what it is, it's hard to say--but there's certainly precedent (think the Vikings, to  name just one group) for somebody consuming some  mind-altering drug or combination thereof and believing  themselves to be a wolf, bear or other dangerous animal  admired for its fighting prowess...the difference is, ancient  people did this as a function of their society, not acting  out on their own. 

Gordon Grice: Hard to know how much of history is true, but  there are precedents in chronicles and myth for "anti-social"  predation on fellow humans. Sawney Beane and his clan come to  mind. 

James Smith: While Sawney Beane's story is a little confused  as to exact time (probably due to confusion between James I  of Scotland or James VI of Scotland/I of England) and  probably prone to some exaggeration, there is no real reason  to doubt its essential points. I actually had a pet kingsnake  named Sawney when I was a teenager (the reason for the name  is, I'm sure, obvious.) The Beanes, though, didn't seem to be motivated (from what we  can gather) by psychosis or drugs...Sawney and his wife  simply fell back on eating people during lean times and  taught their children and grandchildren that this was normal.  It has sometimes occurred to me that the legends of  werewolves and child-eating witches probably represent  earlier societies' attempts to rationalize and explain the  deviant behavior of anti-social predators, a la Albert Fish, for instance. 

Gordon Grice: That's an interesting idea, James. Probably the best evidence for it is scarcity of serial killer stories in history prior to the Victorian era. I've heard that fact used as a basis for arguing that serial murder is a modern phenomenon, but it seems more likely to me that myths of ogres and the like are earlier ways of understanding aberrant murder and cannibalism. I'm skeptical of the specifics about the Beanes, as the whole story seems to reek of ogre-mythology. But the premise that people could establish a cannibal custom within a society that abhors it has precedent in well-attested cases like that of Fritz Haarman. (It also has precedent among chimpanzees, by the way.)

Werewolves as real-life cannibals also makes sense to me. Our friend Guy Endore implies just such a connection in his novel The Werewolf of Paris, which plays lycanthropic variations on the case of Sgt. Bertrand. In fact, even in Roman times it seems as if lycanthropy was an explanation, or maybe just a metaphor, for drunkenness and rape. (There's the drug connection again.)

I'm skeptical regarding the witchcraft part. When William Arens reviewed the literature on cannibalism, he found it was often attributed to a culture by its enemies, but in most cases, other evidence was lacking. I think that's what's at work in reports of witchcraft practices. In the Renaissance, accusations of witchcraft were frequently leveled against heretical sects. Baby-eating was part of that slander; it was a way the Church had of demonizing its enemies. The same accusations were made against Jews. So I suspect those particular allegations were politically motivated, not based on any reality. I also suspect that sort of motive behind the accusations against, for example, Gilles de Rais, who supposedly murdered hundreds of children for giggles. 

Giant Bull Shark Surprises Researchers

Photo: Giant Bull Shark Surprises Researchers - Yahoo! News

""It's one of the biggest bull sharks I've ever caught, and it's the biggest bull shark I've ever tagged," Hammerschlag said — and he's tagged more than 1,000 sharks. "When this guy rocked up, it just took my breath away."

It turned out it was, in fact, a lady. Like many other shark species, female bull sharks are larger than males. But bull sharks of either sex are nothing to be trifled with. Like great white sharks and tiger sharks, bull sharks have serrated teeth — an accessory that allows them to rip and tear apart their meals, which means they can go after far bigger prey than smaller shark species can.

Bull sharks "have the most testosterone of any animal on the planet."

Thanks to Dee Puett for the news tip.

People Just Bite

In the midst of sensationalist reports from all quarters, this article points out that humans biting each other, and even biting off each other's body parts, is rather common. It's not new and it need not involve drugs. Obviously the case of Rudy Eugene in Miami is gorier than most; and it's disturbing that Eugene seemingly attacked with no provocation and no concern for his own safety. It would be nice if we could dismiss such behavior as absolutely outside human norms, as zombie-like. . . but it wouldn't be true.

* In March, one man bit off part of another man's ear in Springfield, Mass., after a youth basketball game. The Republican report did not indicate any drugs were involved.
* A fight over what was on television resulted in one man biting off another's ear at a diner in Staten Island last week, Staten Island Advance reported. There was no indication drugs were involved.
* According to WISH, an Indiana man's ear was bitten off in a 2009 road rage incident. Drug use was not to blame.
* An LA Times article describes a highly publicized finger-tip biting incident in 2009, resulting from anger over healthcare reform, not drugs.
* Internet reports reveal more than a few fights recent and dated- some involving alcohol, some not- in which participants' tongues and testicles were bitten off.

Rhesus Monkeys of Delhi

Minghong/Creative Commons

Another case of habituation. 

Fed by Indians, Monkeys Overwhelm Delhi - NYTimes.com
"The first interloper stepped in front of her on the sidewalk and silently held up his hand. The second appeared behind her and beckoned for her bag. Maeve O’Connor was trapped. Resistance would have been dangerous, so Ms. O’Connor handed it over. The two then sauntered arrogantly away. The whole encounter lasted no more than 15 seconds — just one more coordinated mugging by rhesus monkeys. . .  some residents are getting a bigger monkey, a langur, to urinate around their homes."

Miami Cannibal Attack in Perspective

In the May 26, 2012, Miami cannibal attack, assailant Rudy Eugene was fatally shot as he assaulted Ronald Poppo on the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, Florida. During the 18-minute filmed encounter, Eugene (who himself had stripped nude) beat Poppo unconscious, removed his pants, and chewed off most of his face above the beard, including his left eye. As a result of the incident's shocking nature and subsequent worldwide media coverage, Eugene came to be dubbed the "Miami Zombie" as well as the "Causeway Cannibal".


One day in 2009, Travis the chimpanzee was out of sorts. His human companion, Sandra Herold, had been trying to calm him down all morning, even serving him tea laced with the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. She called her friend, 55-year-old Charla Nash, for help. Travis knew Nash well; they had always gotten along. When she stepped out of her car, he leapt on her and gnawed her face off. She tried to protect herself with her hands: he chewed her fingers off as well. Herold bludgeoned Travis with a shovel, but she couldn’t stop him. She tried a butcher knife next. At some point she took refuge in her vehicle and phoned the police, telling them that Travis had ripped her friend apart and was eating her. . . . Nash lost her fingers, lips, nose, palate, and eyelids in the attack; afterwards, doctors removed her ruined eyes.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


[The sloth bear] invariably attacked the face of the victim, which he commenced to tear apart with his tremendously long and powerful claws, in addition to biting. . . . Quite half the injured had lost one or both eyes; some had lost their noses, while others had had their cheeks bitten through. Those who had been killed had died with their faces almost torn from their heads. [One victim was found] lying at the foot of a tree in a puddle of his own blood. His face was a mass of raw flesh and broken bones, and the only way of distinguishing that he was breathing was by the bubbles of air that forced their way through his clotting blood.
--Kenneth Anderson, Man-Eaters and Jungle Killers


[A] young man was found disemboweled and literally defaced. One of the searchers who found the body assumed he was looking at a murder scene—until he spotted a cougar five yards from the body.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


In late 2005, Isabelle Dinoire. . . underwent a 15-hour operation in Amiens, in the north of the country, after her original face was ripped to pieces by her pet dog.
-The Telegraph


Fifty percent of dog bites to children are on the face.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


In 1995, a woman climbed into the lion exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Her body could not immediately be identified because the lions left her neither face nor fingerprints.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


Simborg then heard the hyena biting her face. It is the sound, specifically, that she remembers, followed by the feel: “My whole face just came open.”
--The Book of Deadly Animals


A Chinese man whose face was badly disfigured after an attack by a black bear received a partial face transplant. . . Li Guoxing was given a new cheek, upper lip, nose, and an eyebrow. . . Li had been badly mauled in an encounter with a black bear in the southern province of Yunnan.
--China Daily


One of the hyenas seized an eleven-year-old boy by the face and dragged him, severing his nose, destroying one eye and dislocating the other, crushing the orbital bones, and removing most of the left side of his face.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


The African’s face ended below his cheekbones: his nose, palate, upper teeth, tongue, and almost his entire lower jaw were gone. Only his eyes and the upper part of his head remained intact and yet he was alive and moderately healthy and had taught himself to swallow food. He had received one bite, just one snap.
--James Clarke, Man Is the Prey


In 2000, a pair of pet ferrets inflicted more than 100 wounds on the face of a 10-day old girl while her mother slept.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


Two teenaged male chimps escaped from a nearby cage. . . . One of them bit off Mrs. Davis’s thumb. Her husband tried to protect her. The two teens then concentrated their attack on him. He lost a foot, all of his fingers, his testicles, part of his buttocks, an eye, and parts of his nose, cheek, and lips.
--The Book of Deadly Animals


A woman was working in a potato field with her three-month-old son. A chimp appeared, pursued her when she fled, tripped her, and wrested the baby from her. A man with a spear managed to drive the chimp away, but it already eaten the baby's upper lip and nose.
--The Book of Deadly Animals

Blue Shark Feeds on Giant Squid

Giant squid are hard to find, but a freshly dead specimen has turned up. The blue shark is scavenging the carcass. 

Anglers' extraordinary find is no sea monster, but a giant squid

"The crew obtained underwater footage of the squid being preyed upon by a blue shark, which is posted below.

McGlashan, who writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph, was quoted in the newspaper as saying the squid "must have died not that long before we found it because it didn't smell at all and its colors were still strong. Most giant squid remains are smelly and rotten and just off-white by the time someone finds them." "

New eBook: Shark Attacks

Today we launch Shark Attacks: Inside the Mind of the Ocean's Most Terrifying Predator. It's a story of survivors. . . and those who didn't survive. You'll meet a ballroom dancer whose life began anew after she survived an attack. You'll hear the tales of fisherman and divers who lost their heads--and their feet. You'll meet a biologist who promises us hope. . . if only we can believe in fear. 

This is the most explicitly environmental writing I've ever done. If you've read the shark chapter in The Book of Deadly Animals, you've only just begun to hear what I have to say about mayhem and miracles in the water. 

Shark Attacks is an e-Book Short from National Geographic Books. 
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