The Year of Animals in the News (Photos)

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A woman, identified only as Mrs. Wang, poses Sept. 9 with what is reported to be the world's most expensive dog, Yangtze River Number Two. The Tibetan mastiff cost Mrs. Wang $582,135.

At the 2009 Surf Dog Surf-a-Thon at Del Mar beach in San Diego Sept. 17, 4,000 people cheered on the talented pups in a competition organized by the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

Officials rescued a lone llama, pictured, from the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado on Oct. 3. Members of the Southwest Llama Rescue group coordinated efforts to capture the llama, dubbed Homer, before he fell prey to mountain lions, coyotes or the coming winter. Llamas are domesticated animals, not fit to survive in the wild, according to the group.

A study released Sept. 25 indicates that Monarch butterflies, seen here in their annual migration, use a mini-GPS in their antennas to steer a correct course.

This little kitty was found in the Philadelphia area covered in duct tape. The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported on Sept. 23 that she was doing well after vets sedated the cat and removed the tape. A $1,000 reward was offered for information leading to the conviction of whoever is responsible for this.

Chanel, a white dachshund who held the Guinness world record for oldest dog, died Aug. 28 at age 21. Earlier this year, her owners said she was in good health, with the exception of sunglasses she had to wear for cataracts.

A 140-pound cougar that had lived in Seattle's largest park for more than two weeks was captured Sept. 6 and returned to the wild, officials said. The cougar, here after its capture, likely preyed on house cats and other small animals during its time in Discovery Park, an authority said.

Motola, a female Thai elephant, lost part of her leg a decade ago after stepping on a land mine while working at a logging camp along the Myanmar-Thailand border, an area riddled with explosives. On Aug. 16, experts fitted Motola for a permanent prosthetic leg.

This gorilla may look like a geriatric, but don't be fooled. Kadogo has had a bald patch since he was born in 2000. Staff at Virunga National Park in the Congo are at a loss to explain the 9-year-old's hairless pate, but it has made the primate a bit of a celebrity. He's the only one of his kind not to have hair on his head, the Daily Mail said July 30.

Connecticut authorities offered residents a chance July 25 to turn over illegally owned pets without punishment. The state's first exotic animal amnesty day netted 15 boa constrictors, 15 pythons, 7 alligators, a small monkey, a rattlesnake and an anaconda. Here, zoo officials display a surrendered 8-foot albino Burmese python.

An Ohio man moved out of his foreclosed home near Akron and left behind nearly 100 cats, authorities said July 23. Rescuers tried to round up the abandoned felines for two weeks. Cats were found in heating ducts, under mattresses and in closets and cabinets.

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Gibson, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's tallest dog, died Aug. 7 after a battle with bone cancer. The harlequin Great Dane was 7 years old and measured 7 feet, 1 inch tall when standing on his hind legs. The California pooch, shown with owner Sandy Hall in 2005, was a certified therapy dog and appeared on several TV shows.

Gidget, the Chihuahua that professed her love for Taco Bell in commercials, died July 21 after a stroke at her trainer's home in Santa Clarita, Calif. The canine star was 15.

Lilly, a five-legged Chihuahua-terrier mix, was saved from life in a Coney Island freak show after Allyson Siegel bought her for $4,000. Siegel, of Charlotte, N.C., outbid a sideshow proprietor in mid-July for the dog. Lilly underwent successful surgery to remove her extra appendage on July 23.

Two baby red pandas born at a zoo in China's Shanxi province in June were rejected by their mother in front of a huge crowd of zoo visitors. But a dog came to their rescue, nursing the protected pair. Here, the babies and the mother dog appear on July 15.

Staff and volunteers from a turtle hospital release "Obama" the loggerhead sea turtle at Higgs Beach in Key West, Fla., July 4. The turtle was found severely ill on Jan. 19, the day before President Barack Obama's inauguration, thus inspiring his nickname. Hospital representatives felt it was appropriate to release "Obama" on Independence Day.

Argentine ants have spread from South America to every continent except Antarctica. A study in the journal Insectes Sociaux found that billions of the ants have now formed a global colony with enormous branches in Europe, the United States and Japan, the BBC reported.

Meet the World's Ugliest Dog. Pabst, a boxer mix, shows off his under-bite during the 21st Annual World's Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma, Calif., on June 26. The 4-year-old pooch took the top prize at the contest.

This moose apparently went to the right kiosk when it was lost. Or maybe it wanted to get in on the action after wandering onto the grounds of a historic racing track in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., June 15. The animal was eventually tranquilized by a state wildlife officer and removed from the area.

African wildebeest herds often form the largest migrations in the world, but new research reported June 9 found that six large animal species, including a type of wildebeest, no longer migrate en mass. The report suggests broader conservation efforts are needed.

A bear cub was spotted in Wisconsin with a bird feeder stuck to its head during Memorial Day weekend. Wildlife officials caught the cub and its mother in a live trap. The feeder was found in pieces next to them. Authorities think the mother chewed the feeder apart.

A Hawaiian man said he noticed this 10-inch reef fish's belly looked strangely large when he caught it by hand on June 3. But Curt Carish was still surprised when a gold watch appeared next to its mouth a short while later. The fish apparently coughed up the still-ticking watch.

This horse, a Clydesdale named Remington, may soon hold the Guinness record for the tallest living horse. Though owner Cheryl Davis has not been able to get him to stand still for an accurate count, she believes he stands over 20 hands tall, or 6 feet, 8 inches, and he weighs over 2,900 pounds.

More than 50 whales beached themselves along the South African coast on May 30. While rescue workers attempted to return the false killer whales to the sea, they kept coming back to shore. Authorities ultimately had to euthanize 44 of the whales, while the others died of stress and organ failure. Three whales who were initially returned to sea died and washed up later.

This patriotic squirrel stole American flags from a Port Huron, Mich., cemetery on May 25. Volunteers placed flags next to the gravesites of almost 1,000 veterans on Memorial Day, only to realize many were missing the next day. The cemetery superintendent solved the mystery when he saw this squirrel taking flags up a tree to furnish his nest.

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An Australian firefighter shares his water with an injured koala on Feb. 1 at the outset of Australia's worst-ever wildfires. The disaster killed scores of people and possibly millions of animals. (Soures: AP, Livesceince, Getty, MCT)

The Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard, is a killer -- but not in the way scientists thought. A study published in May said the giant creature doesn't poison victims' blood with bacteria, but instead injects venom with a unique motion of biting and pulling, according to National Geographic.

An international team of scientists has discovered the world's largest nesting population of leatherback turtles -- numbering in the tens of thousands -- in Gabon, West Africa. The leatherback is critically endangered, so the find announced in May makes Gabon a key location in the conservation efforts for this species.

Who knew monkeys were so smart? Their brains respond to rewards they observe but do not experience -- and monkeys change their behavior when they are shown prizes that they could have had, according to research published in the May 15 issue of the journal Science.

A rare bird that's able to fly immediately after hatching from eggs buried beneath tropical sand has been given its own stretch of private beach on an Indonesian island, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced May 15. The Maleo, which number from 5,000 to 10,000, can only be found on Sulawesi island. The biggest threat to its survival are villagers who often dig up their eggs and harvest them for food.

Right whale births set a record in 2009, with 39 calves born to the endangered group in the spring, officials said May 9. Here, a North Atlantic right whale mother swims with her calf in the Atlantic Ocean.

Gray wolves living in the Great Lakes region and parts of the northern Rockies were removed from the endangered species list May 4 after federal officials determined the populations in those areas were large enough to survive without special protection. The change means that states can allow the wolves to be hunted.

Tinker Bell, a 6-pound Chihuahua, rests in her owner's arms after a happy reunion. The dog was lost for two days in April after a 70 mph gust blew her away. Dorothy and Lavern Utley of Waterford Township, Mich., said a pet psychic helped them find Tinker Bell.

An albino kangaroo and its mother hop around their enclosure at the Enghave Animal & Nature Park in Broerup, Denmark, April 24. The albino Bennett kangaroo has been exploring the world outside its mother's pouch for about two weeks, the park owner said.

The bizarre call came after midnight on April 22 -- a shark had been left on the doorstep of an Australian newspaper. Neither police nor reporter Matt Neal knows why the live shark with poisonous spikes was left at the Warrnambool Standard office. Police returned it to the water.

A four-legged outfielder had security guards scrambling during the fourth inning of a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field on April 21. The calico kitty was finally nabbed and handed into the stands by a guard, who held the cat by the tail. Some denizens of the Windy City slammed the ball club for treating a cat like that, although a local vet said the furry trespasser was fine.

Authorities in Texas seized 22 dogs found crammed in this station wagon with their owner on Feb. 9.

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It's good to be king. Just ask Porterhouse, who was crowned the winner of Drake University's annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest on April 20. The 4-year-old pooch had come close three times before. He was runner-up twice and earned the "Mr. Congeniality" title another year. But now he's indisputably No. 1.

A mountain bluebird was spotted in Ohio in early April, the first reported sighting in the state in more than 100 years. The birds' regular range is in the West, but they have been known to show up in the Midwest and East during the winter. Here, a mountain bluebird perches on barbed wire in Colorado.

Wednesday is one influential porcupine. After the New York State Legislature announced proposed $9 million in budget cuts for New York City zoos, officials used this prickly critter in a clever commercials aimed at swaying public opinion. Tens of thousands of residents flooded government offices with letters protesting the cuts in April. The result? No cutbacks.

Conservationists working on Borneo Island, Indonesia, said they found more than 200 orangutan nests -- an indication there might be as many as 2,000 of the endangered apes, one of which is seen above, in the remote area, according to a story published April 12. There are only 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, with most of them in Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia.

A pink-looking baby elephant was photographed by a wildlife cameraman in the African country of Botswana, according to a BBC report March 20. Experts said the little fella is probably a rare albino elephant. Does it look pink to you?

In November 2008, the cries of alarm from Willie, a Quaker parrot from Denver, Colo., alerted his owner, Megan Howard, that the toddler she was babysitting was choking. His yells of "Mama, baby" led Howard to perform the Heimlich maneuver and earned Willie the local Red Cross chapter's Animal Lifesaver Award on March 20.

When Vickie Mendenhall bought a used couch for $27, she didn't realize it came with a furry surprise inside. This curious calico kitty had crawled inside the sofa and become trapped. "Callie" was reunited with her owner, the man who gave away the couch, earlier this year.

Who, me? Staff at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium said an eight-armed prankster -- specifically, this two-spotted octopus -- caused a very messy flood Feb. 24. They believe the octopus, a female known for her curiosity, loosened a tank valve, causing hundreds of thousands of gallons to spill. No sea life was harmed.

A stingray caught off the coast of Thailand is the largest freshwater fish snagged by a rod and reel according to British press reports Feb. 24. Fisherman Ian Welch was almost pulled off the boat by the 772-pound monster. The stingray was pulled ashore, tagged for tracking, and then released.

The barreleye fish, first discovered in 1939, has a see-through head and tubular eyes. On Feb. 23, scientists said its eyes rotate and allow the fish to look upward through its transparent head. The barreleye has adapted for life in a deep-sea environment where there's no sunlight.

Augie, a 2-year-old greater Swiss mountain dog, ate $400 in cash that owner Kelley Davis made working extra hours. The North Carolina woman found parts of the bills in his waste. She washed the bills and said March 18 that she hoped to trade the pieces for cash at the bank.

Authorities were stunned to find this dog hanging out on top of a roof in Minot, N.D., Feb. 10. Minot animal control officer Dick Schnell said the pooch apparently climbed up a high snow bank. The dog's owner eventually returned home and persuaded the dog to come down.

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I may have finally found employment, so this week I'll be moving to a different town. New posts will continue soon. Thanks for stopping by. - John B.

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