ALL POSTS IN [Pets and Animals]

Wildlife adventurer Jessica Pociask curls up with a Harp Seal pup on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

With her passion for wildlife adventures, from jungle trekking in Uganda to see mountain gorillas or curling up with lemurs in Madagascar, Jessica Pociask is our type of traveler.

As the owner of WANT Expeditions — Wildlife and Nature Travel, a conservation-oriented, expedition-style adventure travel company — Jessica leads tours to see the most amazing natural phenomena on Earth.  Jessica has been to over 70 countries, leading expeditions all over the world, and has visited all 7 continents. She has studied climate change in Antarctica, and she was one of 50 women chosen from the US and Mexico for the Women’s Leadership and International Sustainable Development award by the National Wildlife Federation.

Jessica “photo bombs” a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

A biologist by trade, Jessica recently spoke on a panel with distinguished conservationists and biologists regarding the impact of tourism on conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival.

And where is Jessica currently? Oh, just leading a tour in Ecuador to see the first new carnivore species found in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years — the olinguito.

Traveling Type: How did you get your start leading wildlife and nature tours?

Jessica Pociask: It’s a long, convoluted story that probably started when I made my first insect collection somewhere around the age of 7. Over the next 20 years, fueled by stories in my grandfather’s collection of National Geographic magazines, I was inspired with the idea of being an explorer and adventurer. I took my first trip abroad when I was 16, and I once traveled with an orchestra through Europe. From there on, I was smitten with traveling, so I began working for various conservation organizations and outdoor outfitters and started traveling abroad independently. READ MORE

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Most tourists visit Paris because there are so many amazing things to do and see like the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles and Sacre Coeur Basilica. But if you’re a friend of felines, then you may want to stop by Le Café des Chats.

Customers can grab a simple breakfast — freshly squeezed orange juice and scrambled eggs with mushrooms — and admire the 12 cats that are usually wandering through the café, perched on their cat condos, or watching passersby from the front window. With more than 11 million cat owners in France, this new cat café might be a new trend.

According to BBC travel, the café’s owner, Margaux Gandelon, took her cue from the 150 cat cafes that have become extremely popular in Japan. Margaux has worked with animal welfare and the health department to ensure proper standards for both the cats and the customers.

Don’t worry — there’s much more to see and do in the City of Light if cats aren’t your thing. Get inspired by our photos of the amazing tourist attractions you can’t leave Paris without seeing. And don’t stop there; enter to win an amazing trip for 2 to Paris. Your perfect Paris getaway awaits!


Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Two Sumatran tiger cubs were born at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, on Monday evening.  Not only are these cubs the cutest new zoo babies around, but they are also a huge conservation success for the zoo, since Sumatran tigers are critically endangered – there are only 400-500 left in the wild.

Don’t run to the National Zoo just yet to see the lil’ cubs. The zoo is giving the first-time mother – 4-year-old Sumatran tiger Damai — time to bond and care for her little ones, so the cubs will most likely not be on exhibit until the fall.

In the meantime, you can watch the newborn tigers grow (they haven’t even opened their eyes yet) on the zoo’s live webcams. And their dad, 12-year-old Sumatran tiger Kavi is holding down the den as usual at the Great Cats exhibit.

“It’s taken more than 2 years of perseverance getting to know Damai and Kavi and letting them get to know each other so that we could reach this celebratory moment,” Great Cats curator Craig Saffoe said in a release.

“All I can do is smile because the team has realized our goal of producing critically endangered tiger cubs. Damai came to us as a young tiger herself, so it’s really special to see her become a great mom.”

In addition to these rare cubs, there are only 65 Sumatran tigers living in accredited zoos in North America.

Check out more photos and videos of the tiger cubs here. And take a look at our roundups of adorable animal newborns: zoo babies, aqua babies, safari babies and snow babies.

 

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Chincoteague Pony Swim

Photo: Getty Images

Come early and bring your patience. That’s the word on the 88th annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. Every July, on the last Wednesday of the month, the small island of Chincoteague sees its population of 3,500 people swell to more than 40,000, as visitors from all over the country — and as far away as Canada and Europe — flock to the island off Virginia’s coast, to witness an event of epic pony proportions: more than 120 wild ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel, between Chincoteague and Assateague islands.

The actual swim takes all of 5 to 10 minutes. And it’s worth every minute of waiting to see the oldest continuous wild pony roundup east of the Colorado River.

“This is an event of historical proportions,” says Denise Bowden, spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the ponies, often called the Chincoteague herd, on the Virginia side of Assateague Island.

Historical … or historic … one thing’s clear: This is the biggest event on Chincoteague Island’s annual calendar.

Chincoteague Island’s fire department has held the event nearly every year since 1924, culminating in the Salt Water Cowboys — about 145 cowboys from Virginia and neighboring states including Maryland and North Carolina — rounding up the feral fellas and females for a parade down Main Street, to the carnival grounds, where an auction of the ponies takes place Thursday morning. (Some ponies are bought under “buy back” terms; the bidder donates the money to the fire department and allows the pony to be released back onto Assateague Island.)

Now the patience part: Chincoteague Island will be packed. And while the pony swim will be held sometime between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., crowds will start gathering well in advance. “Come early,” says Bowden. It’s not uncommon, she adds, for visitors to gather at the heart of the action — the Pony Swim Lane and Memorial Park — as early as 5 or 6 a.m.

The long wait time — plus the actual event’s start time, dependent on inclement weather conditions — spells greater exposure to the elements — lots of sun, maybe rain. “Make yourself as comfortable as possible,” says Bowden. Bring your sunscreen, hat and umbrella. Plus, a pair of old tennis shoes (no flip-flops or high-heels) — you’ll need them while standing in the marshy, muddy field. But the pay-off will be something to behold: Just beyond a fence, a herd of wild ponies — only 20 to 30 feet away.

For parking, Bowden advises heading to Chincoteague High School’s parking lot: A shuttle on the grounds takes visitors to the Pony Swim Lane. Find shuttle information here.

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All skill levels can enjoy horseback riding trips.

Enjoy America’s best national park beaches.

Caribbean-bound? Explore the island of Vieques by horseback.

photo courtesy of Viceroy Riviera Maya

Sparky could use a Spring Fling, too. Now that the weather is warming up, it’s the perfect time to take your BFF on the road. Need some inspiration? Here are pet-friendly vacation ideas that will put a spring in your pet’s step.

For the ultimate petcation, treat your pet to a luxury retreat at the chic Viceroy Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen. The resort’s PetVacay program offers pets the same pampered indulgence that their owners enjoy. At arrival, your pet will receive a Mayan blessing by a real shaman from the local village to release any worries he brought with him on the trip over (and a doggie treat will help ease those travel woes, too).  The hotel also provides your pet with his own personal “palapa” so he can lounge in shady comfort during his stay. This thatched-roof doggie home is also conveniently portable so he can travel in style with you throughout the resort, from poolside to bar-side. Plus, the resort’s chefs will prepare your canine companion will his favorite foods. Sounds like doggie heaven, right?

You don’t have to leave the country to enjoy pet-friendly beach bliss. Pack your pooch and head to Doris Day’s iconic 1928 Cypress Inn, “just a bone’s toss” from California’s leash-free Carmel Beach. This retro Hollywood inn caters to canines along with 22 other Carmel-by-the-Sea hotels, making this one pet-loving beach town.

Cypress Inn was one of California’s first hotels to welcome pets in the mid-1980s, well before the pet-friendly hotel trend took off. Since then it has opened its doors to all creatures, including parrots and even pot-bellied pigs. April marks the debut of the inn’s new Culinary Canine Menu, served daily during Yappy Hour. While you mingle with fellow animal lovers, your 4-legged friend can indulge in Muttloaf, Chowhound Chicken and, yes, even Muttinis.

Looking for a cityscape for you and your pet? Dallas’ Hotel Palomar takes pet-friendly to a new level. It’s not all about the dogs here: the hotel accepts any number of pets, without size or weight restrictions, and at no extra charge. So, yes, that means you can bring your pet monkey or pet ferret. Some of their fetching amenities include pet sitting, grooming and walking. If you’re looking for a quieter travel companion, Hotel Palomar shares the (guppy) love by offering a complimentary goldfish to keep you company during your stay. And you don’t have to worry about feeding the fish – the staff will take care of that!

 

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VisitScotland

How do you get a pony in a sweater? CNN asks this question we’re all thinking after Scotland’s “ponies in sweaters” marketing campaign hit the web last week.

The owner of these pony sensations, Joe Tonkinson, explained to CNN, “It was just a case of putting one foot in, put the other foot in … and button it up.” Who would have thought it was that simple? Tonkinson went to say that the ponies were extremely calm during the sweater outfitting.  Apparently, these ponies don’t mind the model life.

In this brilliant marketing move, Visit Scotland combined 2 of its biggest exports – Shetland wool sweaters and Shetland ponies — to promote its Year of Natural Scotland.

And, these pony ambassadors, Fivla and Vitamin, certainly have brought new interest to Scotland. Who could resist short-legged shaggy ponies in winter woolies?

With its castles, countryside, haunted places, the whisky trail and now, shaggy Shetlands in sweaters, Scotland is piquing our interest.

What about you – any plans to see Scotland this year?

Today’s Daily Escape is from King Salmon, Alaska. Learn more »

Photograph by Kathleen Turner

By Katie Hards

Photo By Frank Murray

An upright piano is not the typical instrument of choice among street musicians, but that hasn’t stopped piano player Dotan Negrin from following his dream to play “Piano Across America.“ In 2011, the clever musician put wheels on his bulky instrument, left his home base in Long Island, New York, and traveled over 23,000 miles across the country with his spunky Chihuahua mutt, Brando.  Out of the 44 cities he stopped in to play a few tunes, Dotan says that New Orleans and Athens, Georgia were his favorites; although he couldn’t get enough of the great people he met in Jackson, Wyoming. On his journey, Dotan even ended up playing his piano inside a redwood tree in Redwoods, California. READ MORE

Shark Shoot

This Sunday at 9|8c, Hollywood photographer Mike Muller and his crew get up close  and personal with some of the world’s most frightening creatures. The guys travel to the Beqa Lagoon in Fiji, where 8 different shark species roam the waters. Mike sets out to photograph them all, even the elusive tiger shark, nicknamed the “wastebasket of the sea”  because of its reputation for eating anything … and everything.

Watch what happens when Mike’s crew attempts to take their Hollywood studio more of 60 feet beneath the water’s surface … lighting equipment and all. Mike’s tech team must find a way to pump 3,600 watts of electricity through long cables into the depths of the ocean, risking their lives for the perfect shot. Meanwhile, throngs of hungry sharks are ready for their close-up, having come to feast on the enormous (and bloody) chum bucket that “Shark Whisperer” Brandon Paige brings to the ocean floor. 

Check out some of Mike’s incredible photos from the trip, and be sure to tune in Sunday, Dec. 18, at 9|8c.

Turtles took over the runway at JFK airport today, causing a number of flight delays. According to Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico, 150 turtles came out of Jamaica Bay to lay their eggs on the sandy beach across the runway. Airport staff rounded up the turtles to relocate them to a safer spot.

JetBlue airlines tweeted about the turtle invasion earlier this morning, saying: “JFK is experiencing delays as the airport clears turtles off the runway.” This is not the first turtle takeover. In July 2009, a runway was shut down after 78 turtles crawled onto the tarmac. Ground crews returned the unexpected airport guests to the water.

Apparently, it’s the season for turtle spawning. It’s summer, and what better way to commune with nature and wildlife than a fun camping trip. Check out Travel Channel’s camping critters, essential camping gear, camping tips and more. Take a road trip! We’ll tell you how to travel the roads for a fun getaway — just stay off the runway. And we have best beach suggestions, and you don’t even have to cross dangerous airport traffic.  Just enjoy your summer and plan ahead with help from TravelChannel.com.

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