Sunday, March 13, 2011

An elephant named Lucky, 12, entertains visitors

An elephant named Lucky, 12, entertains visitors during a show at a wildlife rescue center of Phnom Tamao zoo in Tro Pang Sap village, Takeo provice, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Phnom Penh Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 13, 2011.

Cambodian visitors watch an elephant named Lucky, 12, at a wildlife rescue center in Tro Pang Sap village, Takeo provice, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Phnom Penh Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 13, 2011.

A Cambodian boy is carried by an elephant named Lucky, 12, during its weekend performance for visitors at a wildlife rescue center in Tro Pang Sap village, Takeo provice, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Phnom Penh Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 13, 2011.

source: Daylife
photo: AP photo

PE teacher tells headmaster: 'I can't come in to work... I've been bitten by a CROCODILE'

By Daily Mail Reporter

Mr Brand shows off his arm bite from the reptile in his native Zimbabwe after he had gone 'crocodile wrestling'

A PE teacher phoned his headmaster to tell him that he couldn't make it into school because he had been bitten by a crocodile.

Scott Brand, phoned school chiefs at the £9,630-a-term at the Cumnor House School in Haywards Heath in West Sussex, to say he 'needed a few days off' after the croc sunk its teeth into his left arm while he was on holiday.

The 21-year-old said the razor-toothed reptile had struck in his native Zimbabwe after he and his friends had gone 'crocodile wrestling' after a 'few beers'.

He told school chiefs that he couldn't come in, adding: ‘Sorry, I've been bitten by a crocodile.’

The teacher - who also plays as an openside flanker for Uckfield Rugby Club in East Sussex - explained how he had gone 'croc wrestling' with friends in Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe in January.
He admitted he had had a few drinks before deciding to tackle the crocodile by jumping into the water from his boat and trying to grab it round the neck.

He said: ‘Unfortunately I had also been sampling Africa's finest lager all afternoon, making our plans to wrestle with one of the water's most dangerous predators all the more tricky.

‘I saw a four-foot long croc and just jumped in and grabbed it.
‘It went nuts and was really going for me and it eventually got a hold of my left arm and bit down.’

He added: ‘It was bloody sore, but I got back on land and just poured some vodka over it and bandaged it up.’

Mr Brand admitted that he and his pals 'weren't too concerned', adding: ‘We were in the middle of a lake, right in the middle of nowhere.

‘We were four days away from civilisation, but to be honest it only took a few seconds before I got another beer down me and we stayed for another six days.’

When he got back to the UK, however, his left arm had swollen up and become infected and he was rushed to hospital for treatment.

Scott Brand said of the croc: 'It went nuts and was really going for me and it eventually got a hold of my left arm and bit down'

Doctors at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead operated on the wound after discovering that blood poisoning was setting in and stitched the wound up.

He said school staff and pupils were 'amazed' when he told them why he needed a few days off sick, adding: ‘Everyone at school, the headmaster, kids and other teachers, were shocked and couldn't believe I had been bitten by a crocodile.

‘I was off school for a few days and missed three rugby matches.

‘Everyone is calling me croc bait or Mick Dundee now.’


Incredible swarms of fish form off coast of Acapulco: But was surge caused by tsunami thousands of miles away?

By Daily Mail Reporter

A man photographs a shoal of sardines off the shore of Acapulco

The shores of Acapulco's beaches were this weekend teeming with masses of fish packed so tightly they looked like an oil slick from above.

Thousands of sardines, anchovies, stripped bass and mackerel surged along the coast of the Mexican resort in an event believed to be linked to the devastating Japanese tsunami.

Delighted fishermen rushed out in wooden motor boats, abandoning their rods and nets and simply scooping the fish up with buckets.

Fishermen flocked to the water to take advantage of the surge

Some experts believe the phenomenon is directly related to the Japanese tsunami

'There were about 20 or 30 fishermen and there were people who came with their kids to take advantage of it,' Carlos Morales said.

The fishermen attributed the strange phenomenon to the unusual currents unleashed by tsunami that followed the earthquake in Japan.

Experts couldn't be sure.

'It would fall into that category where you would love to make the connection, but who knows?' said Rich Briggs, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

'Tsunamis can change local currents, but it's hard to make a firm connection.'

Fishermen in Acapulco say they have never see such large schools of fish so close to the coast

The fish were so tightly packed they looked like an oil slick from above

Some bathers steered clear of the mysterious event and kept out of the water


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Don’t blink! Britain’s smallest owls make their home on West Country farm

By Daily Mail Reporter

Wary: The owls only emerge from their hiding place in the farm's silage one at a time to search for food

Visitors to this West Country farm were unable to shake the feeling that they were being watched.

Then a wildlife enthusiast noticed Britain's smallest owls have set up home the silage bales.

The tiny birds, part of a species called Little Owls, have made their home in black plastic covered bales left on a farm outside Winford, near Bristol, Somerset.

They sit on the bales and watch the animals and people go about their farmyard business.

Nature photographer, Ian Wade, 35, from Bristol was delighted by his first encounter with the creatures when he visited family friends who own the farm.

'It was quite weird. As soon as I got close to the silage I got this feeling of being watched,' recalled Ian.

'They've got these amazing big yellow eyes, which just stare at you.

'I've never even seen one blink.

'They are really tiny, smaller than a bag of sugar.

'When I saw one in the silage bobbing her head up and down, it was like she was trying to size me up in this amusing way.

'They've got funny little faces which clearly show them trying to work out who I am and what I'm doing.'

The owls leave their little silage holes separately so they can efficiently hunt the insects they catch.

'It's quite nice and warm in the silage. The sun shines down on the black and warms it up,' explained Ian.

'It's quite a good place to hide and watch what's going on at the same time.'

Ian had to get as close to an owl as possible to take his pictures. But as soon as he got close it would move to a nearby wall.

Ian would then approach with his camera and again get as close as he could before the uncooperative creature would return to her silage watching hole.

'This continued back and forth all day long,' said Ian. 'It must have looked very funny to anyone watching me.'

Watcher: One of the owls waits on a wall beside the bales that have become their home


Dog owners 'are healthier than people without pets'


Walk on the wild side: Dog owners were found to be more active overall

Man's best friend may be more than just a faithful companion.

A new study has revealed dog owners are more likely to reach recommended fitness levels than people without a pet.

Researchers say people who own and walk their dogs regularly are 34 per cent more likely to hit exercise targets.

The results, said study co-author Mathew Reeves, from Michigan State University, show that promoting dog ownership and dog walking could help many people become healthier.

Using data from the Michigan Department of Community Health, researchers found that not only did owning and walking a dog affect the amount of walking a person does but also that dog walkers were more active overall.

The study showed people who walked their dogs generally walked about an hour longer per week than people who owned dogs but did not walk them.

Dr Reeves said: 'Obviously you would expect dog walkers to walk more, but we found people who walked their dog also had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activities.

'There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking.'

The study analysed the amount of leisure-time physical activity a person gets, including playing sports, exercise conditioning and recreation such as walking, dancing and gardening.

It is recommended that people get at least 150 minutes of such activity a week.

source: dailymail

Two legs good, six legs better! Chihuahua triplets adapt to life without front paws


Kensi, Hetti and G are Chihuahua triplets who were born without their front legs but are adapting to life on two legs

They may be the cutest things on six legs.

And these 10-week-old Chihuahua triplets are ready for a good home.

Foster careworkers are currently working with the Methuen, Massachusetts MSPCA who are looking after the puppies that were born without front legs.

Adapting: The puppies were said to be showing tremendous resilience and enthusiasm despite their disability and may be candidates for wheeled carts

Kensi, Hetty and G were not only born disabled, but soon after their birth their owner died, leaving them homeless.

Staff have confirmed that the puppies are adapting to life without front legs and are potential candidates for wheeled carts.

The Boston Herald reported that keeping up with the other dogs has been no easy feat for the tiny pups as they work to strengthen their abs and graduate to the use of wheeled carts.

The adoption centre staff quickly assessed that the Chihuahuas were adapting to life without front legs and could be potential candidates for wheeled carts

The puppies astounded MSPCA workers with their resilient nature and how well they were coping with only two legs

MSPCA spokesman Brian Adams said: 'This is a condition that we rarely see. Even more rare is to see it occur in so many puppies from the same litter.

'These animals have amazed us with how much they can accomplish on their own.

'They don’t know they’re missing those front legs, so they have adapted and overcome the hurdles in front of them.

'They learn behaviours but also to interact and socialize with other young animals of the same mindset.

'Many animals do fantastic with front or rear wheel carts. They have fantastic outlooks, remain consistently upbeat, and basically we are ensuring they’ll have a bright future ahead of them, but they’re the ones doing all the work.

'The puppies astounded us with their upbeat and resilient nature. They immediately showed us that they could overcome their physical obstacle as they hopped and ran after each other.'

The three Chihuahuas are currently in the care of experienced foster parents, Linda and Marty Jones, who have provided care to the MSPCA's homeless animals.

source: dailymail

Friday, March 11, 2011

Saved from a grizzly end: Mother bear rescues cub from attack by angry male

By Daily Mail Reporter

On the attack: The male grizzly, which photographer Jim Abernathy named Secretariat, turned on bear cub Spice while his mother was out fishing

This ferocious bear wanted to make a meal of these little cubs - until their mother declared war and sent him packing.

Shown in this amazing sequence of pictures, the giant male can be seen catching a helpless cub, wrestling him in the water and biting him to within an inch of his life.

But when the bully bear heard the mother's roar there was only one winner.

Wildlife photographer, Jim Abernethy, 52, from Florida, travelled to the Katmai National Park in Alaska to photograph the grizzly bear packs that roam freely on the shore.

Following the movements of one mother and her two cubs, Jim was able to get up close and personal with the family. Naming the cubs 'Sugar' and 'Spice' he spent a number of days documenting their playful behaviour. Each day the mother bear entrusted Jim with the care of her cubs while she joined the other adults to hunt for salmon in the nearby river.

Several days into his shoot Jim saw a huge shadow emerge from nearby trees.

'I thought to myself oh my gosh will you look at the size of that grizzly bear coming towards me,' said Jim. 'This bear was so big it looked like a horse, that's why I called it Secretariat, after the award winning American horse.

Mum to the rescue: The cubs' mother quickly returned to the scene when she realised what was going on, to confront the grizzly

'I looked to see what the baby bears were doing. 'Spice was standing on its hind legs in the path of this big bear walking towards it.

'The little bear knew the danger looked back over at its mother.' Female grizzly bears have a low reproduction rate and will not mate with males while they are looking after their cubs.

This may cause a newly migrated male bear to become potentially infanticidal towards cubs of the resident females and the late male bear.

Generally, females try to avoid these immigrant males, causing a reduction in the female's reproduction rate to approximately three to four cubs per mating season.

Get away! Secretariat tried to escape but Spice's enraged mother came after him in hot pursuit after the attempted attack

Unfortunately for the bear cubs the mother bear was over 150 yards away by the river She had just caught a fish and was not facing her children, totally unaware of the deadly peril they faced.

'Huge Secretariat walked towards us very slowly not noticing the two little cubs in his path,' said Jim.

'The two bear cubs got nervous and started walking away towards their mom. All of a sudden one of these little cubs just lost it. Spice went into a full gallop towards his mom. 'The second that happened the large grizzly bear ran like a horse to the little cub.

'He was gaining on it very quickly.' Cleverly the two cubs separated, Spice made a left hand turn and Sugar ran out towards where their mother was fishing. Secretariat chose to pursue Spice.

Safe again: Having seen off the attacker, the mother bear walked Spice and his sister Sugar to safety in nearby grasslands

'The little bear was running for its life,' Jim explained. 'At that point I thought Spice was going to die. 'I saw him bite the cub twice.

'Then I heard the sound of a mother bear that has just realised that one of its kids was about to die. She let out a blood curdling scream. That big male bear was twice her size. In that instant knew he had to drop that cub and run for it. He was scared to death.

Fortunately for the mother bear her cub was bloodstained but survived. Sugar came to comfort her badly shaken brother until their mother came and walked them to the safety of the nearby grasslands.

'This experience was completely different from anything I ever expected to see,' said Jim.


Health Checking, six gorillas

Members of the Veterinary Services Department within the Chicago Zoological Society examine Binti Jua, a 22-year-old female western lowland gorilla, as the team performs physicals on two of the Brookfield Zoo's six gorillas, Thursday, March 10, 2011, in Brookfield, Ill. During the physicals performed every couple of years, the team draws blood to test cholesterol, metabolism, kidney and liver functions, performs dental and eye exams, takes radiographs of the chest and abdomen, and the team also does a cardiac ultrasound.

Members of the Veterinary Services Department within the Chicago Zoological Society examine the teeth of Binti Jua, a 22-year-old female western lowland gorilla in an examination room

Members of the Veterinary Services Department within the Chicago Zoological Society perform radiographs of Binti Jua, a 22-year-old female western lowland gorilla

The hand of Bakari, a 6-year-old male western lowland gorilla rests on an examination table as members of the Veterinary Services Department within the Chicago Zoological Society perform physicals on two of the Brookfield Zoo's six gorillas, Thursday, March 10, 2011

source: Daylife
photo: AP photo

A female Queensland joey koala clings to its mother Zakary

A female Queensland joey koala clings to its mother Zakary Thursday, March 10, 2011, at the San Francisco Zoo. This is the first koala birth at the SF Zoo since 2000. The new joey began to emerge from her pouch in January. She will make her public debut at the zoo next week.

San Francisco Zoo animal keeper Heather Givner holds Zakary, a Queensland koala and her female joey as they are introduced to the media Thursday, March 10, 2011, in San Francisco. This is the first koala birth at the zoo since 2000. The new joey began to emerge from her pouch in January. She will make her public debut at the zoo next week.

A female Queensland joey koala rests on its mother Zakary Thursday, March 10, 2011, in San Francisco. This is the first koala birth at the zoo since 2000. The new joey began to emerge from her pouch in January. She will make her public debut at the zoo next week.

A female Queensland joey koala clings to its mother Zakary Thursday, March 10, 2011, in San Francisco. This is the first koala birth at the SF Zoo since 2000. The new joey began to emerge from her pouch in January. She will make her public debut at the zoo next week.

source: Daylife
photo: AP photo

Legs eleven? No, just nine for the mother bird keeping her little chicks warm


Birds of a feather: The piping plover parent provides warmth for its four chicks

Are you pulling my leg? This bird got a photographer twitching with excitement when it went for a walk on the beach.

At one point, the piping plover looked like it had a staggering nine legs as it took its four newborn chicks under its wing to keep them warm.

It would have 'had' ten limbs but one was obscured by the others.

The chicks are able to walk and feed themselves within a few hours of hatching but they have to huddle together for the first week to keep warm. They can fly after one month.

Photographer Michael Milicia, 53, snapped away as the young shorebirds hid from view at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts in the U.S.

The reservation is a popular nesting site for the threatened species and access to the beach nesting areas is often restricted.

Home to roost: One of the chicks decides to brave the elements while its siblings remain undercover

Michael said: 'The chicks are very independent and wander in all directions with no control from the parent.

'If they wander too far, the adult bird will call and the chicks will return.

'For the first week after hatching, the chicks are unable to maintain their own body temperature. They must periodically return to one of their parents to be brooded under the warmth of their protective wings.

'I took the picture as the adult plover took the four chicks on a stroll to feed outside of the protected nesting area.

'In one image, there are four chicks under the parent. One leg of one chick is mostly obscured by another so there are only nine legs clearly visible.

'The chicks are less than a week old as the parent will only brood chicks for the first seven days or so after hatching.'

Michael, from Massachusetts, said it was unclear whether the brooding parent was male or female because they look 'pretty much identical'.

He added: 'I most often lie flat on the beach and move around by crawling commando-style with the camera mounted on a ground pod.

'This not only yields more intimate, eye-level images but also serves to disassociate you in the mind of the birds from the form of a threatening human.

'Once you are down on the ground, you are quickly accepted into the birds' environment and will often have shorebirds approaching you from all directions.Some of them even come too close to focus.

'When I am finished photographing, I either wait for the birds to move away from me or I slowly back well away from them before standing.'

source: dailymail

The secret of how kangaroos bounce revealed by 'Lord of the Rings' infrared technology


Captured: Reflections from small markers on the kangaroo are used in motion-capture to record movement

Hollywood technology used to bring Gollum to the screen in the Lord of the Rings blockbusters has been used by scientists to understand how kangaroos bounce.

Experts have been puzzled as to how the animals - especially when they become larger - are able to attain high speeds without breaking their bones.

But by using motion-capture technology, which records and analyses information from markers stuck on to the body, and infrared lights which illuminate the animals, they have been able to track their motion and force.

Motion: Infrared technology illuminate the subject and help researchers track the kangaroo's bounce

The motion-capture technique has previously been used to help golfers perfect their swings, and translate actor Andy Serkis' movements into Gollum in the celluloid trilogy.

However, the technique is not normally used outdoors because of the amount of infrared light from the sun, and so the Anglo-Australian research team utilised technology from Vicon to enable them to focus on kangaroos, screening out the ambient light.

The researchers are from the Royal Veterinary College in London, the University of Idaho, the University of Queensland, and the University of Western Australia, and hope their studies can be used in animal treatments and for conservation.

Craig McGowan of the University of Idaho told the BBC they wanted to find out how kangaroos change posture and 'hopping mechanics' with body size.

Monitor: A researcher monitors the kangaroo as it hops along a canvas tunnel during the experiments

'There are a number of species that, as they get larger, adopt more and more upright postures,' he said.

'That reduces the mechanical demands on the musculature - so it increases their mechanical advantage.'

The team's investigations - which also use the more usual method of high-speed video - were undertaken at Alma Park Zoo in Brisbane.

Wizardry: Motion-capture technology translated actor Andy Serkis' movements into Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy

Alexis Wiktorowicz-Conroy, researcher at the Royal Veterinary College, says they hope the experiments will explain how the animals manage to run so efficiently, and why they do not hurt themselves as they gain speed.

'We want to know how are they able to hop fast - even when they are quite heavy - and not change posture," she told BBC News.

'That's important, because these animals get really big, and we can't really explain without this why their bones don't break at high speeds.'

source: dailymail

On the pull: The Crufts dog with an eye for the ladies (who don't mind a bit of dribble)


Looking for attention: A Dogue de Bordeaux keeps a keen eye out for da lady dogs at Crufts in Birmingham. Is that bib an atttempt to catch the enormous amount of saliva he produces?

Thousands of dogs and their owners have turned out for the first day of the annual Crufts dog show, which is celebrating its 120th anniversary.

Around 28,000 dogs are set to compete in various categories during the four-day show, held at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.

Dogs which helped save lives in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and the 7/7 London bombings are among those competing for the prestigious Friends for Life award.

Ow, easy does it mate: A Dogue de Bordeaux has his teeth cleaned during a demonstration by a vet. But what brand of toothpaste does he use?

Television presenters Ant and Dec - Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly - briefly stole the limelight from the animals as they filmed a segment for their ITV1 show Push the Button in the main arena.

The 'secret challenge' involved members of two competing families testing their dog handling skills in a timed agility exercise.

The competitors each led a dog around an obstacle course which included a number of jumps, a tunnel and a seesaw.

Limelight: Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly filmed a segment for their ITV1 show Push the Button in the main arena

The presenters, who back competing families in the programme, will not find out the results of the challenge until it is aired on Saturday evening.

Cheering his team on from the side of the arena, Ant joked: 'I am proper nervous, I am going to start running around (the course) myself.'

Dec told the crowd he was impressed with the good behaviour of the dogs he had seen at the show, adding:

'My girlfriend has got a dog, she's got a little dachshund. It's a cheeky little thing... very very disobedient.'

Crufts, which is sponsored by furniture retailer dfs, will be screened on More4, with Clare Balding at the helm. The channel is extending its coverage of the event to two hours each night, from March 10-13.

You looking at me? The Crufts annual dog show at the NEC, is celebrating its 120th year

Big doggy eyes: Oriel the Weimaraner waits for his turn in the parade ring, where nearly 22,000 dogs and their owners will vie for a variety of accolades

A fully-updated version of the documentary Good Dog! Bad Dog! from Mentorn Media will air at the same time, examining the issues and concerns surrounding dog welfare, responsible dog ownership and best practice in dog breeding.

The BBC pulled out of covering the event in 2009 following a documentary which alleged that dogs on show often suffer from genetic diseases following years of inbreeding.

Up, up and away! This one-eyed dog may not be pawfect but he's qualified to compete at Crufts despite his disability. Dudley the rescue mutt developed an infection before he was born and vets had to remove one eye

And they call it puppy love: Two dogs are held by their owner before they take to the ring

But Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club which organises the event, says Crufts is a celebration of the special relationship between man and dog.

'It offers people the opportunity to explore the issues surrounding how to buy, breed, train and care for a dog responsibly, so that everybody involved in dogs can help them to lead healthy, happy lives.'

As well as a one-eyed rescue dog called Dudley competing this year, the show also features the first deaf canine, Zippy. The dog is just 20 months old and was born deaf. His trainer Vicky says,

'As Zippy can’t hear me, it is important that we have eye contact, so he can see the hand signals for the commands. Generally, I touch his nose first and then touch my nose to make sure he is looking at me before I give him the hand signal. Zippy is a clever dog and very quick to learn. He is a real inspiration.'

Paws for thought: A Pointer gazes into the distance as he dreams of some choice cuts in his food bowl later

Furry best wishes: A dog surrounded by good luck cards from well wishers...and some fluffy toys thrown in for good measure

Dog tired: English Setter 'Sparsett Hembury Explorer' looks like he's had enough already

You must be barking: A long line of Weimaraners stand poised for the scrutiny of judges in the parade ring

source: dailymail

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Government gives up fight to stop caterpillars that can trigger severe asthma attacks from invading Britain

By David Derbyshire

-Oak processionary moth is concentrated in London and could affect 2012 Olympics if trees suffer infestation

Pest: Ministers say there is no longer any point trying to eradicate the oak processionary moth, a toxic caterpillar whose hairs can trigger asthma attacks

The Government has abandoned its battle to stop an invasive and potentially deadly caterpillar from setting up home in the UK, it emerged yesterday.

After a futile five-year struggle, ministers say there is no longer any point trying to eradicate the oak processionary moth, a toxic pest whose hairs can trigger severe asthma attacks.

Instead, it will try to restrict the alien invader to its stronghold in London and the south-east.

The U-turn has angered wildlife experts who say the insect will pose a major public health menace.

The pest, whose nests have already trebled in the worst-affected areas in the south-east in recent years, will spread even more rapidly, they say.

There are even fears that the caterpillar could affect the Olympics in 2012 if east London oak trees suffer an infestation.

The moth, which devastates oak trees by stripping their leaves, first appeared in London in 2006 and has been spotted as far afield as Reading and Sheffield.

Each of its caterpillar is covered with 62,000 hairs that can provoke asthma attacks, allergic reactions, painful skin and throat rashes, running eyes, breathing problems, vomiting, dizziness and fever.

Earlier this month Forestry Commission - the Government department responsible for protection of Britain's forests and woodlands - abandoned its policy of attempting to eradicate the pest.

It says it now aims to 'contain' the caterpillar in the core outbreak zone - the west London boroughs of Ealing, Brent, Hounslow, Richmond-upon-Thames and Hammersmith & Fulham.

The Commission will no longer issue statutory notices requiring owners to have the nests and caterpillars removed from their trees.

It will now be up to local authorities and tree owners to manage the moth’s impact.

Council tree managers met last week to discuss the crisis, including the threat to the Olympics.

The Forestry Commission will no longer issue statutory notices requiring owners to have the nests and caterpillars removed from their trees

Dave Lofthouse, chairman of the London Tree Officers Association, branded the Commission’s move as 'a recipe for failure'.

He said: 'I suspect that if the Forestry Commission had the funding, then they would not be doing this.

'If you retreat in the area you are patrolling, it can only lead to a more rapid spread.'

The moths arrived in Britain on a batch of oaks shipped in from Holland and quickly became established in the South East.

The pest is so serious in Holland and Belgium that giant vacuums are deployed to suck thousands of nests from trees and burn them at 600°C, using incinerators.

The number of nests in the west London boroughs has rocketed from 700 in 2007 to 2,100 last year.

Mark Townsend, of contractor Gristwood & Toms, which manages trees for councils nationwide, said: 'With the Forestry Commission taking a step back, what happens when we are faced with a Netherlands-style outbreak?

'Tree officers will be the ones who have to deal with it but they won’t have any more resources.

'Yet the early years are the crucial ones. It will now follow an exponential curve. I would be surprised if there aren’t more outbreaks festering.'

Tim Rumball, editor of Amateur Gardening magazine, said: 'The oak processionary moth has the potential to be the most dangerous garden and countryside pest of modern times.

'Unless it is eradicated quickly, children and pets will not be able to play safely outdoors wherever oak trees are present.

'With thousands of foreign visitors and many of the Olympic competitors staying in and around the London area throughout the period of the games, there is a real threat that many could be seriously injured by contact with oak processionary moth caterpillars while travelling to and from their hotels and lodgings to the venues.'

He added: 'If ever there was a catastrophe waiting to happen, this is it.'

In a statement, the Commission said that its decision 'follows scientific advice that it is no longer practicable to eradicate the species from the core outbreak zone'.

Roddie Burgess, head of the Commission's plant health service, said: 'We fully understand that local people and organisations will be very disappointed that we are no longer pursuing a policy of eradicating oak processionary moth from west London.

'However, Ministers have accepted scientists' advice that it is no longer practicable to try to eradicate it from the area and have asked us to move to a policy of containment and management.

'The wisest use of the available resources is to continue to work towards keeping it contained at the lowest practicable level within the current core outbreak area and to prevent it from spreading outwards to the rest of the country.'


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