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Remember the summer of 2008? It's okay, we don't either. Regardless, some are finding that summer hard to forget as it was Shark Attack Fest '08 or something; climate change and swimmer naivete meant record numbers of shark attacks were reported, and we even mapped all the most dangerous beaches for you.
Then 2009's jellyfish invasion happened, and 2010 had that whole Gulf Coast oil issue...but the sharks are back with a vengeance in 2011. Make no doubt about it. Here are the three latest shark attack hotspots:
· Zheltukhina Island, Russia
Who the heck goes swimming off Russia's east cost, near North Korea? Well, Russian vacationers...and sharks. In the last few days, two men have been attacked in separate incidents, the first losing his arms after doing hand-to-fin combat with the maneater, and the second suffering series bites all over his legs. Both survived, but that hasn't stopped Russian authorities from posting signs at the beach with tips for fighting back (like you can fight back with a determined shark).
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ... giant jellyfish! Actually, to be more specific, they're named "Nomura's jellyfish" and this season, ocean currents are pushing them from Chinese waters into the Sea of Japan, where they prove fatal for expensive fishing nets.
Although the creatures can be up to 6' long and weigh up to 450 pounds (of jelly?), they aren't the malicious, stinging sort. No, they're simply the ruining-a-Japanese-town's-livelihood sort, which is what occurs when the beasts rip through pricey nets and ruin major catches, sending villages that rely on the fishing trade into an economical depression.
Past invasions of the Nomura's jellyfish have occurred in 2005 and 2007, so it looks like it's becoming a regular thing, especially since researchers posit that "overfishing, pollution or rising ocean temperatures may have depleted the kinds of fish that prey on Nomura's jellyfish in the polyp stage." So, who wants to do some scuba diving in the Sea of Japan with us?
· Japanese fishermen brace for giant jellyfish [CNN]
· Killer Beaches: Jellyfish Hung Out To Dry, For Now [Jaunted]
· Killer Beaches Coverage [Jaunted]
Safari lovers take note: the Northern Territory in Australia might be your next big destination. The local government has approved a proposal to allow safari hunters to kill some of the biggest salt-water crocs around Darwin.
The growing population of crocs have made a huge mistake by snacking more often on people, so there's not too much opposition to the plan. Plus the revenue raised by the safari fees is meant to benefit local Aboriginal groups, so it's got some feel-good value too.
But don't book your trip just yet. First, the plan is open for comment and must then be approved at a national level too. Second, the suggestion is for just 25 crocs to be killed on safari over the next five years. That's not a low of beady eyes to go round.
Despite the fact that Florida has way more shark encounters in a given year, it's Australia that's on high alert now, after three non-fatal attacks in the past 48 hours. Those come just weeks after a man disappeared near Perth, on December 27, in what authorities say was a deadly attack by a white pointer, which is another name for a great white.
The three latest incidents are scattered elsewhere around the giant continent. The first happened near Fingal Head in northern New South Wales on Sunday, when a surfer was bitten on the thigh. That same day, in Binalong Bay in Tasmania, a 13-year-old girl was attacked and rescued by her cousin while a shark circled below.
A third assault was also in NSW, in the tidal Lake Illawarra. A swimmer fended off what's believed to be a bull shark by punching it in the nose. (Eye gouging, you'll recall, is also a good way to fight off fish.)
Luckily, the fear of shark attacks is much, much bigger than the actual chances you'll fall victim to one. (Thanks, Spielberg.) The Florida Museum of Natural History, which obsessively tracks such things, says just 71 "unprovoked attacks" occurred worldwide in 2007, 32 of which happened in Florida. How reassuring!
Knut had just been led into his outdoor enclosure by zoo keepers when a 37-year-old German leapt over a fence into a water-filled ditch to get a closer look. Before the polar bear could chomp his face off, workers whipped out a leg of beef and lured Knut back into his cage. (Zoos apparently have legs of beef just lying around!)
Why did the zoo-goer think a 440-pound bear would want to snuggle?
Police said that, before being let go, the man told them that he felt lonely and the bear appeared lonely, too.
[Photo of Knut in kinder days: Scoobay]
Not content to be known for terrifying and lovable bears, Germany is now in the midst of a boar-induced panic. The two-tusked pigs are running wild through Berlin, where they've lately gone from occasional oddity to backyard menace, with as many as 7,000 now roaming the city.
Berlin has appointed some Stadtjäger, or "urban hunters," to control the boar population, says The Wall Street Journal, but locals who've taken to the city's newest mascot don't appreciate them shooting down animals in the streets:
Part of Berlin's human population is siding with the boars against those who shoot them. Urban hunters have been beaten with sticks, called "murderers" and had their tires slashed. [One] had to call for police protection when a crowd of young partygoers, enraged after he shot a boar that had been wounded by a car, threatened to beat him up.
Some locals are even feeding the animals, thus luring even more into the city, where they're more difficult to hunt than they would be in the countryside around Berlin. Even with some success, says one urban hunter who figures at least 500 animals have been culled so far this year, the boars may never be eradicated:
There is no way that hunting can get rid of them all. Ultimately we must learn to share the city with the swine.
While you might think that the Qinling Wildlife Park in Xian being the biggest wildlife park in northwestern China is good enough reason to visit, we weren't intrigued until they decided to throw humans into the wolf cages.
Oh yeah, now we're talking. Three local men (one who apparently speaks fluent English) have been picked to spend 72 hours living in a treehouse in the wolf enclosure at the park.
The men will win around $700 if they write three diary entries, make six video clips and take eight photographs during their stay. And if they survive. Wait, what?!
Living amongst 36 "very wild" wolves in a flimsy wooden hut is not our idea of fun, but perhaps our sense of adventure travel is on vacation. What we really wish is that the English-speaking guy was a blogger so we could get some live feed out of the wolf zone. Then again, live feed is probably what the wolves are after, too.
Media mentions of Germany's famous Bruno the Bear--tragically shot back in 2006--seem to be increasing again, and we're thinking that Germany is starting a new angle on tourism: When beer is no longer enough to bring the tourists in, try bears instead.
The latest news is that a half-brother of Bruno has been sighted in Austria, near the German border. Unlike the late Bruno, this guy's not destroying sheep or strolling into villages to sit on the doorstep of the police station, but authorities are worried that locals and tourists will again freak out at the sight of him.
There's now a government-sponsored exhibition touring Bavaria on the subject of living with brown bears and authorities are hoping that this return of brown bears will become a peaceful coexistence. Or, we suspect, a great tourist-attracting money-spinner.
· Bruno's Half-Brother Spotted Close to German Border [Spiegel]
· A 750 Mile Taxi Ride for a Beer [Jaunted]
· Bruno the Bear coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: Stephen Dyrgas]
Sharks / Killer-Beaches-2008 / Dangerous Travel / Animals / When Animals Attack / Beaches / → All Tags
One of our Killer Beaches for two years running, New Smyrna Beach, Florida just counted its 18th shark victim of the year. The 26-year-old surfer was bitten twice on the left leg while sitting on his board, but escaped with "only" a dozen or so gashes that needed stitches.
Earlier this week, a shark nibbled on a swimmer off the coast of New Smyrna, though he too escaped with minor injuries. Still, the beach town is on track to match its annual record of 22 incidents, set in 2001--or what locals call "The Year of the Shark."
Four months to go!
The Montauk Monster is so over! An eight-year veteran of a sheriff's department in Texas says he recently spotted a chupacabra on the run in DeWitt County:
I've been patrolling these back roads for a long time, and I've never run across anything like this.
The deputy even had the sense to tape the mystery animal with his dash camera as it ran down a dirt path. It would be the second chupacabra in as many years for the county--though one captured in 2007 actually just turned out to be a coyote. At least it wasn't a viral marketing gimmick!
Jellyfish-Invasion-Map / Jellyfish / Killer Beaches / Dangerous Travel / Animals / When Animals Attack / → All Tags
The incidence of jellyfish events this past week has dropped ever so slightly, heightening our paranoia that the jellies are amassing before a final virulent strike in the last weeks of summer.
While there were no out-and-out invasions this week, two smaller incidents deserve note: A fisherman died of cardiac arrest after being stung in Barangay Tiling, Philippines while out swimming with his brother. And on Hilbre Island off the coast of England near Liverpool, a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old girl were rushed to the hospital after incidental stings when one of them went into anaphylactic shock.
But! Just weeks after suffering more than 60 jellyfish stings, a Canadian long-distance swimmer is back in the water to swim the distance from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick today. The seriously brave lady, Jen Alexander, is completing the 22-hour swim to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes, which she has had for 20 years--she'll even test her blood sugar en route. Go, Jen, go! Before they strike again!
Our Jellyfish Invasion Map helps you track this summer's trendiest menace.
· Jellyfish stings girls near Hilbre Island [Wirral Globe]
· Fisherman Dies from Jellyfish Sting [Inquirer]
· Marathon swimmer makes second attempt [Metronews.ca]
· Jellyfish Panic Continues Worldwide! [Jaunted]
· Bikini Travel: Bar Refaeli Braves Killer Jellyfish in France [Jaunted]
The super-scary, walks-on-land, razor-toothed snakehead fish--that's so frightening that even a dead one threw Lincolnshire, England into a panic in February--has once again washed up on American shores. And it's coming to get you, bedroom communities of Upstate New York!
In Wawayanda, just south of Catskill Park, officials have ordered that any snakeheads must be shot or otherwise killed on sight to keep them from infesting the Hudson downstream. (Once the ferocious fish invade an ecosystem, it's next to impossible to clear 'em out.) The state Department of Environmental Conservation is using designer pesticides to poison the baddies in local waters while residents are poaching them with .22s from golf carts. Seriously.
While the killing may seem like swatting flies with a cruise missile, you don't mess around with these terrors. To wit:
Gale A. Norton, United States secretary of the interior when snakeheads were discovered in Maryland in 2002, called them "something from a bad horror movie" before ordering a federal ban. Since then the fish have spawned not one but two bad horror movies, "Snakehead Terror" and "Frankenfish."