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Pigs Have the Smarts to Play Video Games and Use Joysticks, Study Shows

Elias Marat

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For those of us who belong to the millennial or “zoomer” generations – basically anyone from teens to those in their early 40s – it’s safe to assume that we’ve had at least some experience with videogames, whether it was jumping on turtles in the original Super Mario Bros, grinding rails in Tony Hawk Pro Skater, capping zombies in Resident Evil, or dancing with mates in Fortnite.

Indeed, there’s a certain joy and sense of satisfaction we get after clearing a particularly tough level, opponent, or obstacle –  which, in some cases, can make us feel pretty smart.

However, as it turns out, even a pig can play video games – and may actually enjoy them. (Although we can assume that pigs may wince at the sight of Angry Birds inflicting wanton destruction on the bad piggies and their fortresses.)

We’ve long known that swine are quite intelligent creatures. But as BBC reports, a scientific study has found that pigs do possess the mental capacity to play video games, and just a bit of training can equip them with the skills to do so.

In the new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology by researchers from Purdue University and Comparitive Cognition Project, four hogs – Ebony, Hamlet, Ivory and Omelette – were trained to manipulate an arcade-style joystick to steer an on-screen cursor into walls with only their snouts.

Each time the pigs beat a “level,” they were then given a snack as a reward.

The paper notes that prior studies had already discovered that pigs “could solve multiple choice problems.” However, the discovery that the pigs understood the connection between the stick and the game “is no small feat” – especially because pigs are far-sighted and don’t have hands or thumbs.

Impressively, the pigs were even happy to play the game even when the food reward dispenser broke – largely because they enjoyed the social contact and encouraging words from the researchers.

The competency of the gaming pigs varied, with one pig proving to be a much keener gamer than the others.

While we can’t expect that the pigs will be able to beat the epic “A Quiet Exit” mission in Metal Gear Solid V or the infamous train scene in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the fact remains that pigs can play video games.

The findings weren’t a surprise to Kate Daniels of Willow Farms in Worcestershire, who told BBC: “I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone that works with pigs”.

“They’re not playing Minecraft – but that they can manipulate a situation to get a reward is no surprise at all,” she added.

“Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, and pigs look you right in the eye,” she noted, paraphrasing a Winston Churchill quote. “When you look a pig right in the eye, you can tell there’s intelligence there.”

Indeed, past studies have shown that pigs are intelligent enough to use mirrors to locate hidden food in an enclosure and can even be taught like dogs to “come” and “sit” using verbal commands.

“This sort of study is important because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them,” lead author and Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science director Candace Croney said.

“We therefore have an ethical obligation to understand how pigs acquire information, and what they are capable of learning and remembering, because it ultimately has implications for how they perceive their interactions with us and their environments,” she added.

Animals

Idaho Senate Approves Bill to Kill 90 Percent of State’s Wolves in “Brutal War”

Elias Marat

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Idaho’s legislature is swiftly moving forward with a bill that critics say would sanction a “brutal war” on wolves whereby up to 90 percent of the current wolf population would be killed in a bid to protect the interests of the state’s ranchers.

On Wednesday, the Idaho senate passed the measure by a 26-7 vote. The bill will now move forward to the House chamber, reports Associated Press.

Since teetering at the brink of endangerment years ago, wolf populations were removed from the state endangered species list in 2011. Since then, they have thrived despite Idaho allowing hundreds to be killed by hunters, trappers and state measures to control their numbers. Over the past two years, the wolf population has held steady at about 1,500.

According to federal guidelines, wolf recovery numbers require about 150 wolves in the state.

Republican supporters of the bill said during senate debates that the wolf population has grown entirely out of control, endangering the numbers of deer and elk available to hunters and harming the state economy.

“We’re supposed to have 15 packs, 150 wolves. We’re up to 1,553, was the last count, 1,556, something like that. They’re destroying ranchers. They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill,” said Republican state Sen. Mark Harris. 

However, critics have blasted the move as rash and potentially damaging to the state’s wildlife.

The Idaho Senate’s sudden move to pass this bill in the eleventh hour incentivizes the cruel deaths of more than 1,000 wolves across the state,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“This brutal war on wolves must be stopped, and we urge the House to deny this bill,” Zaccardi added.

Maggie Howell, the head of the Wolf Conservation Center, also described the move as the latest in a hostile and extreme campaign against wolves that fails to take into account the creatures’ value to the local ecology.

“Beyond the wanton cruelty and devastation the passage of this bill would bring to wolves, this legislation poses a threat to wolves nationwide,” she told the New York Times. “With the Trump administration’s decision to transfer wolf management authority from the federal government to the states, Idaho’s policies can influence expectations about wildlife management beyond its borders.”

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Animals

As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists

Elias Marat

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The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.

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Animals

Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever

Elias Marat

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Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.

Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.

In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.

At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.

“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.

“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”

The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.

Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.

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