Pet your stress away

Life can be stressful. The list of responsibilities seems endless as work, children, bills and so many other things demand our constant attention. As a result, it's very easy to get lost in the jungle of a long to-do-list and end up burning out. Fortunately, studies show that pets are a good source of comfort and stress relief. 

According to Jenna Stregowski, an expert in the field, pets can improve one's mood, reduce blood pressure and provide social support, among other benefits. For those who don't really like to exercise or just need some motivation, having a pet will give you a reason to exercise. Dogs, for example, have to walk regularly. This means dog owners can exercise while walking their pets, thereby promoting stress management.

Women called cows home

For centuries, women in Sweden called their cows home with a sound called kulning. Now, kulning has been embraced by many, including universities as a form of art. But from medieval times until the mid-20th century, the sound could be heard every summer, ringing across the mountains. Reaching up to 125 decibels, kulning can be heard over 5 km (1 mi) away. Since cattle tend to wander off, they needed to be able to hear the herdswomen calling them.

It was traditionally women who went up the mountains with the herd in the summer. They each lived in a small settlement, tending the animals. They milked the cows, made cheese and spent hours doing all the rest, like cooking, knitting, mending, making brooms, etc. It was hard work, but the women also had a lot of freedom without men around. They could do whatever they wanted up there.

Spotting wildlife

I once took a trip to Yellowstone National Park in America with my dad. The park was incredible—especially the wildlife.

We were driving into the entrance and saw a lot of cars parked on the side of the road so we just parked behind them and looked around. In the distance, a couple of bison were grazing. They look like cows, but with massive heads with fur on top that looks like an afro. They were majestic, like something from a bygone era. 

A little while later, we were walking along a path through the hills. A park ranger was there to keep people moving because some bison had decided to hang out right next to where people were walking. Up close, they were even more impressive. 


Tardigrades (TAHR-di-greyds), often called water bears, are near-microscopic animals with long, plump bodies. They have eight legs, with four to eight claws on each. While strangely cute, these tiny animals are almost indestructible.

Water bears can live in just about any type of water body. They prefer to live in sediment at the bottom of a lake, on moist pieces of moss or other wet environments. They can also survive a wide range of temperatures and situations. 

Researchers have found that tardigrades can withstand environments as cold as -200˚C (-328°F) or highs of more than 149˚C (300°F). They can also survive radiation, boiling liquids, massive amounts of pressure (up to six times the pressure of the deepest part of the ocean), and even the vacuum of space, without any protection. A 2008 study found that some species of tardigrade could survive 10 days at low Earth orbit while being exposed to space vacuum and radiation. 

The names of groups of animals

In English, there are over a hundred different names for groups of animals. They are called collective nouns. Most of these are not obvious at all.

Common collective nouns are a school of fish and a flock of birds. But let's talk about some lesser-known ones.

You can find a troop of baboons in the jungle and a sleuth of bears in the forest, where a swarm of bees hangs from the branches that will soon be used by a colony of beavers to build a dam.

A flock of birds and a murder of crows fly in the sky, while a cluster of cats chases a mischief of rats.

On the farm, a brood of chickens raises a clutch of chicks. Nearby, a pack of dogs and a band of coyotes chase a herd of buffalo.

Visuals: Threat of extinction

Over 900 animal species have gone extinct since the year 1500, and many more are threatened with extinction.

Extinction means that an entire animal species dies. For instance, the Dodo bird, a flightless bird that used to live on the island of Mauritius, went extinct in the 18th century because of overhunting by humans.

Please have a look at the graph below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

A German dog learns English

An abandoned dog named Hector was left tied to the gates of an RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) branch in West Yorkshire, England. When trying to give commands to the dog, staff found that Hector was not reacting. Luckily for Hector, the staff decided to try other languages, and it turned out he knew several commands in German.

Care manager Lucynda Hodgson said they started to introduce him to English words. To help Hector understand them, the staff used hand signals together with verbal commands, and he picked them up really quickly. Lucynda added, "He's a very intelligent dog and is very loving." After about three months of polishing his English skills, Hector reacted perfectly to English commands.

The platypus

When the first platypus specimen was sent back to England from Australia in the late 18th century, the scientists who examined it thought that someone was playing a trick on them. The zoologist George Shaw wrote in the first scientific description of the platypus that he thought the specimen was a mix of a few different species.

Animals speak different languages

Onomatopeia is a fancy way to describe words that sound like what they mean. For instance, in English, bees "buzz" and cats "meow". Words for animal sounds are almost always built on how the animals actually sound to listeners. But that can be different in different languages. Since each language has its own set of sounds to work with, they hear animals based on those sounds.

For example, a rooster's crow is translated as:

  • "Cockadoodle doo!" in English;
  • "Kikiriki!" in Spanish; and
  • "Kok-e-kok-ko!" in Japanese.

This video shows people from all over the world saying animal sounds in their language. How would you write the sounds the animals make in your language?

Lost cat found after 10 years

A cat named Forbes disappeared in 2011. Its owners were trying to find the cat for months. They made posters and went door-to-door asking about the cat. The cat’s owner said, “We'd had him from when he was a kitten and we had such a special bond. He was such a unique and friendly character, we absolutely adored him.” After almost eight or nine months of constant searching, they lost hope to find Forbes. 

Ten years later, the Scottish SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) found a cat with a microchip. The chip led them to the cat's owners. SPCA called the owners. The owners immediately went to collect their beloved pet. They were very happy to find him, even after 10 years. "At the moment, we are just gradually introducing him to our two dogs and two cats. This is just the best outcome for us.”

Dogs sniff out Covid-19

Dogs have already been trained to smell drugs, cancer, and even blood sugar changes in people with diabetes. Now they're learning how to smell Covid-19. In trials, dogs detected the virus over 95% of the time, more accurately than rapid blood or swab tests. The dogs have even been able to detect Covid in people who aren't showing symptoms yet, which taking temperatures can't do.

Several countries around the world are working to develop these skills in dogs. To train them, sweat from people with Covid is collected and put on cottonballs. After they've learned to identify the scent, they then have to choose the cottonball with the sweat on it from lots of untreated cottonballs.

The ancient giant shrimp

According to Shape of Life, an online resource on everything related to animals, the Anomalocaris (ah-NOM-ah-LAH-kariss), from the Greek meaning “unusual shrimp”, was a major predator of the ancient seas during the Cambrian Explosion 530 million years ago. 

It grew up to 182 centimetres (almost 6 feet) long and had eyes with thousands of lenses, which gave the Anomalocaris extremely sharp vision. It was a fast swimmer, and once it caught up to its prey, the creature could grab it using front limbs equipped with sharp spikes on each segment. This combination of excellent vision, speed and spiky front arms would have made it a formidable predator.

The Anomalocaris’ mouth was composed of 32 overlapping plates. Some scientists interpret this as meaning that it could easily crush prey.

Rare giraffes come under threat

According to National Geographic, the remains of two white giraffes were found in a nature conservancy in northeastern Kenya. The giraffes likely had a rare genetic condition called leucism, which inhibits skin cells from producing pigment. It is believed that they were killed by poachers.

The animals had been well-known since 2017, after rangers spotted them in the conservancy and posted a video to YouTube, which then went viral.

This highlights a modern-day paradox: social media allows people to experience the joy and wonder of the planet’s rarest creatures while simultaneously putting animals at increased risk. Rarity and exclusivity are among the driving factors of the illegal wildlife trade, so unusual animals are more likely to be targeted by poachers.

National Geographic concluded that navigating how to report on unique animals without helping to put a target on their backs is a delicate process. 

A bear at an ice cream shop

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported in 2018 that a private zoo in Alberta, Canada, was charged after a bear from the facility was taken through a Dairy Queen drive-thru in a pickup truck and fed ice cream through the vehicle's window.

A video of the feeding was posted to Twitter and Facebook by Discovery Wildlife Park, but the posts were later deleted. It showed a one-year-old chained bear leaning out of a truck's window and being fed ice cream by the owner of the local Dairy Queen. Another video posted by the zoo around the same time showed the bear licking frosting off an ice cream cake.

A trainer at Discovery Wildlife Park said there was no safety concern at the Dairy Queen because the bear was on a chain in the truck the entire time.

Animal police in the Netherlands

Hours before a rare snowstorm hit the Hague in the Netherlands last month, Sergeant Erik Smit got a call from dispatch: A Jack Russell was locked out on a third-story balcony.

Neighbors heard it barking and knew that the owner, who had left for work at 7:30 A.M., would not be back until the end of the day, when the terrace would be covered by several inches of snow.

Sergeant Smit of the national police force rang a few doorbells and yelled some questions to residents, but no one could help. He then radioed for a 22-ton fire truck with a crane and platform.