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July 31, 2008

UCSF researchers identify virus behind PDD!

News Release
Source: Kristen Bole

29 July 2008

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have identified a virus behind the mysterious infectious disease that has been killing parrots and exotic birds for more than 30 years.

The team, led by UCSF professors Joseph DeRisi, PhD, and Don Ganem, MD, also has developed a diagnostic test for the virus linked to Proventricular Dilation Disease, or PDD, which will enable veterinarians worldwide to control the spread of the virus.

Results of the study will be published in “Virology Journal” and will appear online in August. The findings also will be presented in full at the August 11 annual meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, in Savannah, GA.

The new virus, which the team named Avian Bornavirus (ABV), is a member of the bornavirus family, whose other members cause encephalitis in horses and livestock. Working with veterinarians on two continents, the group isolated this virus in 71 percent of the samples from infected birds, but none of the healthy individuals.

“This discovery has potentially solved a mystery that has been plaguing the avian veterinary community since the 1970s,” said DeRisi, a molecular biologist whose laboratory aided in the 2003 discovery of the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in humans. “These results clearly reveal the existence of an avian reservoir of remarkably diverse bornaviruses that are dramatically different from anything seen in other animals.”

The discovery could have profound consequences on both domesticated parrots and in the conservation of endangered species, according to DeRisi and Ganem, both Howard Hughes Medical Investigators at UCSF. Those species include the Spix’s Macaw, currently one of the most endangered birds in the world, whose number has dwindled to roughly 100 worldwide and whose continued existence is threatened by PDD.

The research was spearheaded by Amy Kistler, a postdoctoral fellow in the DeRisi and Ganem labs. Together with veterinarians Susan Clubb, in the United States, and Ady Gancz in Israel, Kistler analyzed affected birds using UCSF’s ViroChip technology.

The ViroChip, which DeRisi and Ganem developed, is a high-throughput screening technology that uses a DNA microarray to test viral samples. The team was able to recover virus sequence from a total of 16 diseased birds from two different continents. The complete genome sequence of one isolate was captured using ultra deep sequencing.

The virus they identified is highly divergent from all previously identified members of the “Bornaviridae” family and represents the first full-length bornavirus genome ever cloned directly from avian tissue. Analysis of the Avian Bornavirus genome revealed at least five distinct varieties.

PDD is a fatal disease that causes nervous system disorders in both domesticated and wild birds in the psittacine, or parrot, family worldwide. The disease has been found in 50 different species of parrots, as well as five other orders of birds, and is widely considered to be the greatest threat to captive breeding of birds in this family, the researchers said.

The disorder often leads to the birds’ inability to swallow and digest food, with resulting wasting; many birds also suffer from neurologic symptoms such as imbalance and lack of coordination. Regardless of the clinical course the disease takes, it is often fatal.

Scientists have theorized for decades that a viral pathogen was the source of the disease, but until now, no one had been able to identify the likely culprit.

“This provides a very compelling lead in the long-standing search for a viral cause of PDD,” Ganem said. “With the development of molecular clones and diagnostic tests for ABV, we can now begin to explore both the epidemiology of the virus and how it is linked to the disease state.”

Co-authors on the paper include Amy L. Kistler, Peter Skewes-Cox, Kael Fisher, Katherine Sorber, Charles Y. Chiu and Alexander Greninger, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Medicine at UCSF; Ady Gancz, from The Exotic Clinic, Herzlyia, Israel; Susan Clubb, Rainforest Clinic for Birds and Exotics, Loxahatchee, Fla.; Avishai Lublin, Sara Mechani and Yigal Farnoushi, of the Division of Avian and Fish Diseases, Kimron Veterinary Institute, bet Dagan, Israel; and Scott B. Karlene, of the Lahser Interspecies Research Foundation, Bloomfield Hills, MI.

The research was supported by funding to DeRisi and Ganem from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Funding for US specimen collection and veterinary care was provided by the Lahser Interspecies Research Foundation.

The DeRisi Laboratory is part of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, known as QB3, a cooperative effort among private industry and more than 180 scientists at UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. The collaboration harnesses the quantitative sciences to integrate and enhance scientific understanding of biological systems at all levels, enabling scientists to tackle problems that have been previously unapproachable.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. For further information, please visit www.ucsf.edu.

Posted by sue at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2008

Whale Shark!

Introducing the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library
The ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library is a visual database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounters and of individually catalogued whale sharks. The library is maintained and used by marine biologists to collect and analyse whale shark encounter data to learn more about these amazing creatures.

The Library uses photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark and any scars to distinguish between individual animals. Cutting-edge software supports rapid identification using pattern recognition and photo management tools.

You too can assist with whale shark research - by submitting photos and sighting information. The information you submit will be used in mark-recapture studies to help with the global conservation of this threatened species.

Check it out here.

Posted by sue at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2008

Christian the Lion - the full story

Posted by sue at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2008

Turtle Love from beyond the grave?

This is one of the most beautiful and sad things I have ever seen. It also goes far in showing that love and grief are not only "human" emotions, as many would like us to believe.

Please watch the VIDEO here.

Posted by sue at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2008

Houston Zoo welcomes birth of rare parrot

On April 25, 1972 the Houston Zoo made history, recording the first hatching in captivity of an endangered St. Vincent Amazon parrot. That first birth was followed by a second hatching in 1999. Today, the Houston Zoo is proud to report that history has repeated itself again and Zoo bird keepers are caring for a St. Vincent Amazon that hatched on May 28, 2008. The chick has been named Vincent after the father of the first St. Vincent born at the Houston Zoo.


“The chick hatched after 25 days of incubation and is being hand raised at the Zoo’s off exhibit Avian Conservation Environment (ACE) building,” said Houston Zoo Bird Department supervisor Chris Holmes. “For the first 28 days Vincent was hand fed every two hours from 5 in the morning until midnight. He went home with me in the evening and came to work with me every morning,” said Holmes. Vincent was transported in a specially made climate controlled carrier.

Read the full story at the zoo site

More coverage here with a great picture of full grown parrot.

Posted by sue at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2008

Jockey Club launches horse injury database


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A system for tracking injuries to thoroughbred racehorses is being enacted on a national level.

The Jockey Club on Tuesday announced the launch of the Equine Injury Database system for monitoring on-track racing injuries. Most major tracks already have been keeping track of injury data for the past year in a pilot program.

The Jockey Club is funding and developing the project. Kentucky equine medical director Mary Scollay developed the standardized reporting form for listing injuries.

Racehorse safety has received heightened public awareness lately with the high-profile deaths of Barbaro and Eight Belles.

A study by The Associated Press found at least 5,000 horse deaths reported at thoroughbred tracks since 2003. Countless others went unreported.

Posted by sue at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2008

7 pandas remain at famed breeding center in China

BEIJING (AP) — Only seven pandas remain at China's most famous breeding center, after a final group of 13 animals were transferred from the earthquake-damaged facility, an official said Tuesday.

Most of the pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve, tucked in the lush mountains of Sichuan province, had already been moved following the powerful May 12 quake that rattled Sichuan province and killed nearly 70,000 people.

The quake killed at least one panda and left the Wolong center vulnerable to aftershocks and landslides.

The 13 giant pandas arrived at the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base in the Sichuan province town of Ya'an on Monday night, said Li Desheng, research director at Wolong. Only seven 1-year-old cubs remained at the center.

"This is because the staff at Wolong really loves pandas, and they wanted to keep some little ones," he said in a telephone interview. "They are the hope for the future reconstruction of the panda base."

There were 63 pandas living at the Wolong center when the quake struck. The others have been moved to Bifengxia and a breeding center in the provincial capital of Chengdu. Facilities in the Chinese capital of Beijing, the eastern province of Fujian and the southern province of Guangdong are also keeping Wolong pandas.

The Wolong reserve is at the heart of China's effort to use captive breeding and artificial insemination to save the giant panda, which is revered as an unofficial national mascot. Plans for the facility's reconstruction have not been decided, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, an 8-year-old panda evacuated from Wolong gave birth to a set of twins on Monday at her new home in Bifengxia, state broadcaster CCTV reported. News footage showed a staffer holding a newborn panda, hairless and squirming, in an incubator.

Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in Sichuan. An additional 180 have been bred in captivity, many of them at Wolong, and scores have been loaned or given to zoos abroad, with the revenues helping fund conservation programs.

Posted by sue at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2008

Bird found, likes to clean owners teeth!

(Please don't do this, it is NOT healthy for your bird ~sue)

Melbourne, July 17 (ANI): Meet Rainbow, a lorikeet parrot from Sydney, who loves to clean its owners teeth.

It was the parrots teeth-cleaning talent that reunited him with its owners after he went missing from his home on Sydney’’s northern beaches, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The Manly Daily newspaper had reported that the bird had been found in Belrose Park.

Michelle Needham, of Brookvale, was among those to step forward to claim the lost lorikeet.

”I know it is Rainbow,” she said.

“I know his little face and the way his feathers stick out at the front.”

“(And) if you open your mouth, he will stick his head in and clean your teeth,” she added.

Meanwhile, the bird had already shown his fondness for cleaning teeth while in the care of the finder’’s family.

It is VERY dangerous to let a bird get anywhere near your mouth, much less teeth. The bacteria in our mouths are dangerous to our birds and can make them very sick, possibly kill them. Please do not let your bird clean your teeth, and do not share the same food that has been in your mouth with them.
Maggie Wright-

Posted by sue at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2008

Cat Saves Man from Fire!

A man owes his life to a pet cat that woke him this morning to alert him to a blaze that was engulfing his Mt Lawley home.

The man, believed to be in his 50s, was taken to hospital after escaping the blaze that caused $200,000 damage to the house on Third Avenue.

Two dogs who were also in the house required resuscitation at the scene.

The cat escaped the fire unscathed and fled the scene as fire-fighters broke down the door of the home to help save the man.

A spokesman for FESA said it appeared the cat had run across the sleeping man and scratched him to wake him up.

Read the full story

Posted by sue at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2008

Remembering Alex...

Letters To Alex

Thank you to the members of the Remembering Alex group for your submissions.
Would you like to submit a letter to Alex? Please visit the site here.

Posted by sue at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2008

Pandas Saved from the Quake in China.

From Reuters:

Posted by sue at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2008

Intelligent Macaw on today...Video later!

Thursday there will be a TV interview about my book dealing with intelligent bird speech. My macaw, Arielle, and I will be appearing on Thursday, July 10, 2008 on WTSP, Channel 10 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL). The program is between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and is called Studio 10. So that is 10, 10 @ 10. Interested parties might check the station's web site for a streamed archived version.


Michael Dalton
Author of
Another Kind of Mind: A Talking Bird Masters English

Posted by sue at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2008

Bird Show!

Rosie is one of 10 birds from around the world in the show, performed free for zoo visitors up to three times daily from Wednesday to Sunday. About 30 birds have been trained to be part of the presentation, but only some are used.


The show, which continues through Sept. 1, is put on by Natural Encounters, a company that has trained staff at DisneyWorld for similar animal shows. The Philadelphia Zoo and Texas State Aquarium previously hosted the bird show.

The Free Flight Bird Show highlights unusual kinds of birds, from raptors to parrots, combining their natural behaviors with a conservation message.

The birds are trained by using positive re-inforcement such as food treats, and none have had their wings clipped.

Please read full story.

Posted by sue at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2008

Meet Griffin

In this video, we are introduced to Griffin, Dr. Pepperburgs next Parrot. It's very interesting, but much to large to embed it here!
Please do watch it here.

Posted by sue at 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2008

Felony trial ordered for cat abuse

~This is very harsh to read. Be Warned~

A homeless man is facing trial for allegedly soaking live cats in gasoline and torching them in the Rancho Cucamonga area.
Timothy Kooyman was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on four felony counts of animal abuse and starting a fire. He will be arraigned July 15.

Investigators testifying at the 24-year-old man's preliminary hearing say Kooyman killed one of the cats by dousing it with gasoline and using a lighter to set it on fire while it was still alive.

The flaming cat then ran into a vacant lot and started a brush blaze.

Six hours after the May 13 brush fire, San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Wendy Saucedo arrested Kooyman. She testified Kooyman had a storage bin in his car with two mutilated, but alive, cats inside.

The cats had broken legs and their tails were cut off.

Posted by sue at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2008

Endangered dolphin sold in market

(Sent to me via E-Mail w/no reference)

A Gangetic dolphin, which got entangled in a fisherman’s net, was sold at a local market in Behrampore on Tuesday. This in complete violation of the Wildlife Protection Act since the Gangetic dolphin is an endangered species.

During fishing in Bhagirathi river, Naresh Haldar found the dolphin in his haul. Instead of releasing it back into the water, Haldar took it to the local Gorabazar market. Locals alleged that the police did not take timely action against Haldar.

“When the policemen arrived at the market, the dolphin was still alive. They did not do anything and even failed to arrest the fisherman. The dolphin may have survived had the police intervened on time,” a local said.

Later, forest department officials also reached the spot. A case has been registered against Haldar, who is absconding. The dolphin’s body has been sent for the postmortem.

Posted by sue at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2008

Alex the Grey Memorial Issue

Hello Everyone!

Just letting you know that the Alex Memorial issue is now available! It is 40 pages, mostly on Alex and with articles written by those who worked with him, as well as those who really admired him. You can take a trial subscription to Nature’s Corner Magazine or you can purchase the Alex issue as a single copy at the links below:

Sneak Peak here: http://www.naturescornermagazine.com/nat%20corner_sample.pdf
Subscribe here: http://www.naturescornermagazine.com/subscribe.html

Posted by sue at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2008

Fisherman and rescuer dolphin die together

Central Philippines: After a fierce battle with last week's storm in central Philippines, a dolphin and a shipwrecked fisherman eventually died as they reached the shore of Bacolod City, in central Philippines, a local government's report said.

"They were still breathing, but they eventually died," said the report which quoted fisherman Roberto Caratao as saying.
Full Story

Posted by sue at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)