By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
It may sound surprising, but animal cruelty is only just becoming a federal crime. The PACT Act (“Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture”) passed unanimously in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and President Trump is expected to sign it. The soon-to-be law makes it a felony to do a number of sickening things to animals.
Each state already has felony animal cruelty laws, but PACT fills some gaps, covering crimes on federal property or perpetrators who traveled across state lines, Humane Society’s Tracie Letterman told me.
The move also is important for public health. Animal abuse is clearly linked to other violent crimes, such as domestic violence, assault, and sex crimes. The FBI now tracks animal abuse because it could be a warning of more violent acts.
Today we know all animals feel pain. It’s clear they think and feel, as well. As conservationist Carl Safina told Nat Geo:
Today in a minute
Flipper, indeed: How creative are bottlenose dolphins at finding food? They “punt” fish up in the air, then eat the stunned prey when they hit the water. Stephanie Garza, a University of Florida biologist, calls it “fish whacking,” Nat Geo’s Douglas Main reports.
Destroyed no more: Retired police K-9s in Texas used to be treated as “surplus” equipment, meaning they had to be auctioned off or even euthanized when they retired. Last week, Texans voted to change the law, letting the loyal dogs be adopted by the handlers or others, the Washington Post reports.
Where chimps and humans clash: Desperate chimpanzees in western Uganda raided a family’s crops, took jackfruit from their tree, and killed their two-year-old son. Losing their habitat to farmers, chimps have killed at least two other children in the area since 2014.
Why so many songbirds? An extra chromosome may have allowed songbirds to diversify, Scientific American reports. They make up roughly half of the 10,000 bird species.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Kelp at the end of the world. In Argentina's remote Thetis Bay, giant kelp forests harbor one of the most magnificent marine ecosystems on the planet. Climate change, writes Enric Sala, hasn’t made a permanent mark here—yet.
Are you one of our 125 million Instagram followers? (If not, follow us now.) +
Overheard at Nat Geo
Make way for ducklings. We search out wildlife from all over the world. Sometimes wildlife comes to us. Every year, a pair of mallard ducks visits National Geographic’s headquarters to lay eggs and hang out in our courtyard fountain. Sometimes, however, the ducklings hatch early, when the Washington winter is still occasionally frigid. We added a ramp to help the ducklings get out of the fountain, and one year, an editor brought a box and a heating pad to help the ducklings make it through, Natasha Daly writes. This spring, they shared space with goslings.
Want a newsletter every day?
Come back tomorrow for Whitney Johnson on the latest in photography. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, Debra Adams Simmons on history, and George Stone on travel.
One last glimpse
Long time, no see! A camera trap in southern Vietnam has captured a photo of the silver-backed chevrotain, a rabbit-sized species last seen in 1990. Also known as the Vietnamese mouse-deer, the fanged animal was spotted tiptoeing through the forest. “I was overjoyed,” An Nguyen of Global Wildlife Conservation told National Geographic.