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Teaching animal pets to read: too much evolution?

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By Nury Vittachi

New Delhi: Who thought pets could read? No one. But this dog has learned to read. Fernie, a two-year-old labrador from the UK, can read four words and is working on another 20, says his owner, a teacher.

I was impressed, as I well remember the difficulty I once had trying to teach a two-year-old human not to throw herself off a balcony.

All parents know that children get furiously angry if we stop them doing things like climbing into lion enclosures, drinking poison, eating mystery brown objects off the forest floor and the like. The basic toddler philosophy is: “I wonder what (insert lethal activity here) feels like? Let’s find out.”

(I suspect there’s also a subconscious undercurrent of “Time for a quick round of Make Dad Panic.”)

Parenting books say “they grow out of it”. They don’t say that they grow right back into it as teenagers, who have the exact same philosophy, but with more expensive dangers. (“I wonder what would happen if we mixed every chemical in the school lab?”)

The obvious solution is to teach children the way we teach dogs. “Sit.” (Child sits.) “Who’s a good boy?” (Adult pats head and presents tiny morsel of food.) “Study! Pass exams! (Child studies and passes exams.) “Who’s a good boy?” (Adult pats head and presents another tiny morsel of food.) and so on and so forth.

What if your child can’t talk yet? You can still teach it, thanks to scientists in Taiwan who have just invented an Infant Cries Translator app. You download the app and stick your phone near your baby’s mouth. Wah wah waahhhhh is translated on the screen into clear, adult-readable terms such as: “I wish to have an additional beverage, carer.”

This reminded me of my first daughter, who had advanced verbal skills and actually spoke like that from about 18 months old: “Convey me to the potty immediately, carer, or you and your so-called Persian rug will live to regret it.”

Happy memories. But I was brought back on topic by a colleague from the US who says TV shows in her home country feature a dog called Willow who can read. Clearly this is the trend.

I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced that teaching animals to read is a good thing. Life is grim enough without coming home to be greeted by my dog saying things like: “What do you think of Schopenhauer’s second volume of essays? Good grief, you haven’t read it, have you?”

The fact is reading gives humans an evolutionary advantage that we should not share with less-evolved creatures such as dogs, cats, amoeba, Donald Trump fans and the like.

But I must admit I was curious. So I handed my newspaper to my dog. She stared at the front page picture (a politician of course) and then tilted her head to one side, apparently having the same gyroscopic thing in her brain that smartphones have. Then she took a step forwards and peed on it. That was probably a rather insightful thing to do. I wish I’d thought of it.

If dogs do learn to read, let’s limit them to books about their kind: White Fang, 101 Dalmatians, and Marley and Me are probably the three most famous. Do NOT give them Cujo. (IANS)

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Coronavirus Pandemic: A Punishment for Humans?

Humans have caused irreparable damage to earth over the span of millions of year

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The world has seen many pandemics in the past before Coronavirus pandemic. Pixabay

By Muskan Bhatnagar

It’s been over 6 months since the Coronavirus outbreak and the world is still fighting against it. Coronavirus Worldometer suggests a total of 4,907,135 cases so far, including cases that resulted in deaths and the ones recovered. This is not the first time that the world is going through a pandemic and crisis. Humans saw the Spanish Flu back in 1918, the spread of HIV in 1981, and the most recent one in 2009, H1N1 Swine flu. These pandemics killed millions of people across the globe, just like COVID-19

Since the onset of the year 2020, the world has faced terrible situations. The year began with Australia still on wildfires, a US drone strike on Iran which could’ve escalated to another World War in January, February saw a global stock market crash, in March COVID-19 had spread globally forcing nations to shut down, the global death toll from COVID-19 exceeds 200,000 in April and the world economy is expected to shrink  3%, which is the worst contraction since the 1930s Great Depression. With the onset of May, the global death toll exceeds 300,000 and the world faces a global mental health crisis because of isolation, fear, and economic crisis.

It’s not even been 6 months into this year and the world has already the worst of times. But the question is- who is responsible for all this? The answer is crystal clear. It is us, the human race.

The modern form of humans has existed on earth from 200,000 years. With time, humans have conquered the planet, excelled in the fields of science and technology, made impossible things possible, and developed a world with possibly the most luxurious facilities.

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Humans have caused a lot of damage to the planet with activities like deforestation. Pixabay

In the process of development, humans have caused irreparable damage to Earth and the environment which includes ecosystems, biodiversity, natural resources, etc.

Overconsumption and over-exploitation of resources, overpopulation of humans, global warming, pollution, deforestation, etc have caused damages that are irreversible now. We have exploited the planet to an extent where it’s impossible to rectify the damage we have caused.

Speaking about my personal opinion, this year seems to be a punishment to the human species for all the harm we have caused to nature and the environment since the day of our existence. We have hurt the nature, animals, birds, plants, and even our fellow human beings, and this devastating situation right now, feels like we’re repaying for it.

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People have been hunting animals and destroying ecosystems since a long time. Pixabay

We have killed a countless number of animals and birds just to satisfy our hunger even when we can live without eating them, we have killed animals for the sake of wearing good clothes, we have killed animals just to pursue our hobby of hunting, we have cut down trees so that we can make paper and write ‘save trees’ on them, we have caused air pollution so that we don’t sweat, we have exploited natural resources like petroleum just for the sake of our laziness, we have destroyed forests for the purpose of making luxurious cities, we have damaged the water bodies because we can’t even throw garbage in a bin.

And we happen to be the ‘best creation of God’ and also the smartest species to ever exist on this planet.

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The earth seems to be healing itself while we are confined to our homes. Pixabay

Read More: How Resolution 20-172 by St. Paul City Council Incites Hindu Phobia

Is the development and smartness of any use if the planet is no more able to sustain us? It feels like nature took everything in its hands and decided to punish us from all possible aspects and started to heal itself by confining us to our houses.

Nature has bounced back as we are locked inside our homes. The world has seen a significant positive change in the environment with many countries experiencing a fall in carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide of as much as 40%. With the minimum use of cars on the road, it seems to be a piece of potential good news for the climate as oil happens to be the biggest source of carbon emissions. Not just this, but the flora and fauna have also received a big positive change.

The World and its people are suffering and facing the worst of times, but the planet earth seems to be relieved.

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“The Zoo: COVID-19 and Animals”: A Documentary

The documentary shows the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on animals

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Bronx Zoo announced that their four-year-old Malayan tiger Nadia had tested positive for coronavirus. Pixabay

A new documentary, “The Zoo: COVID-19 and Animals”, shows the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on animals.

When the Bronx Zoo announced their four-year-old Malayan tiger Nadia had tested positive for the dreaded virus, the world was shocked to learn that animals can be victims of this pandemic too. Many questions were raised.

Dave Salmoni, a big cat expert, has dived deep to answer these questions in the special documentary.

Salmoni spoke with a wide spectrum of experts, from the World Health Organization to wildlife biologists to veterinarians, to uncover how the virus affects animals and how pet owners can keep their pets and family safe.

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“The Zoo: COVID-19 And Animals” will premiere on May 17 on Animal Planet, Animal Planet HD and Discovery Plus app. Wikimedia Commons

“When news about Nadia the tiger came out, the questions immediately began: What about my pets? How do I keep my animals and family safe? We’re going to answer these questions and more through this documentary. We’re speaking to a wide range of experts from the World Health Organization, to wildlife biologists, to veterinarians,” said Salmoni.

Read More: 2020 Sees a Steep Drop Of 8% in Global IT Spending Due to COVID-19: Gartner

“We are at war with this disease and so we get down to the nitty gritty, and discuss practical questions about daily lives with our pets. We know animals do play a role in this pandemic, and when it comes to our pets, we have to take care of them like any other member of our family,” he added.

“The Zoo: COVID-19 And Animals” will premiere on May 17 on Animal Planet, Animal Planet HD and Discovery Plus app.

“We have been the forefront of busting myths around novel coronavirus with international documentaries. With this latest film, we take a hard look at how animals are being treated during such a crisis and the safety measures that can be taken to keep both, the people and their pets healthy,” said Sai Abishek, Director–Content, Factual & Lifestyle Entertainment – South Asia, Discovery. (IANS)

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While the Humans Are Caged Amid the Lockdown, Wildlife and Nature Enjoys

The coronavirus pandemic has surely resulted in a huge loss of lives and economy, but on the other hand the animals and the nature are enjoying their days while the humans are locked in their homes

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A photo of two peacocks approaching to eat the grains placed by villagers in a village in Noida amid the lockdown. [Photo by: Kanan Parmar]

By Kanan Parmar

How many of you remember that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the earth was facing another crisis- the environmental crisis?

Amid the lockdown, social distancing and quarantine, people across the globe have noticed drastic changes in the environment. People have reported that they can now see the sky clearer and can breathe better due to decreasing pollution levels.

According to a CNBC report, Clear water is seen in Venice’s canals due to less tourists, motorboats and pollution, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Venice, Italy. People have also noticed fishes and dolphins in the venice’s canals after many years. 

Recent satellite images from NASA of China also showed less air pollution amid the country’s economic shutdown, due to less transportation and manufacturing, says a CNBC report.

The coronavirus pandemic has surely resulted in a huge loss of lives and economy, but on the other hand the animals and the nature are enjoying their days while the humans are locked in their homes. 

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A dolphin swims in the Bosphorus by Galata tower, where sea traffic has nearly come to a halt on April 26, 2020, as the city of 16 million has been under lockdown since April 23rd as part of government measures to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. VOA

In the waters of the Bosphorus, dolphins are these days swimming near the shoreline in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul with lower local maritime traffic and a ban on fishing.

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A Red Panda is pictured in cherry blossom at Manor Wildlife Park in St Florence. VOA

Humans getting a photoshoot was too mainstream before the lockdown and that is why have a look at this happy Red Panda posing.

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Sheep graze as security guards patrol the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge in southern England. VOA

This picture clearly depicts how the sheeps are enjoying grazing while no human is around to litter the land.

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This handout photo provided by Ocean Park Hong Kong on April 7, 2020 shows giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le before mating at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. VOA

With the lockdown in force, most zoos and parks are now closed and that is why animals are now getting the privacy they wanted. You can see how happy the two pandas are while there is no disturbance.

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Sea lions are seen on a street of Mar del Plata harbour during the lockdown imposed due to the new COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in Mar del Plata, some 400 km south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA

Well, this is a rare happening, to find sea lions on a street. The only unchanged thing about the sea lions in this photo is their laziness.

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This aerial view handout from Thailand’s National Marine Park Operation Center in Trang taken and released on April 22, 2020 shows dugongs swimming in Joohoy cape at Libong island in Trang province in southern Thailand. VOA

When was the last time an aerial photo of a sea or water body looked so clean and greenish? Well, let the water bodies breathe until the humans are adhering to the quarantine rules.

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Flamingos are seen in a pond during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Navi Mumbai on April 20, 2020. VOA

Before the lockdown, there was a time when these flamingos couldn’t enjoy in the pond because of the noise and environmental pollution by people visiting the pond in Navi Mumbai

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People take pictures of Pelicans at St James’s park, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain. VOA

Why should only humans go out for a walk to refresh themselves amid the pandemic? Pretty sure the pelicans must be thinking the same while posing for the pictures in the park.

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Deserted banks of the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna are seen during lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus in Prayagraj, India. VOA

Well before the lockdown and the pandemic, the Ganga and Yamuna river were mostly known for the pollution. But now, as people haven’t been moving out of their houses, the rivers are now cleaner and even more pure.

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Wild bluebells, which bloom around mid-April turning the forest blue as they form a carpet, are pictured in the Hallerbos, also known as the “Blue Forest”, that had to be closed to groups of tourists this year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, near Halle, Belgium. VOA

With lesser pollution, flowers and plants are now blooming even more.

Also Read- Researchers Develop New Framework To Select Best Trees For Fighting Air Pollution

The question now being raised in the minds of environmental experts is that how long will this positive effect of Coronavirus pandemic last on the environment? Is it all temporary?
Most experts believe that once the lockdown is lifted across all countries, humans may resume their normal lives and hence we will again face the environmental crisis.

It’s now “our” decision to preserve the environment and the wildlife!