* MCT photo. Bewick swans were supposed to mate for life, but now there is evidence that is not true for one pair.
* MCT photo. Bewick swans were supposed to mate for life, but now there is evidence that is not true for one pair.
Welcome to the third in a new series of Animal Tales from the Bermuda SPCA, which have kindly been sponsored by our good friends at Noah's Ark.

Proving the experts wrong

Swans mate for life, or so we've always been led to believe. Well, a pair of adult swans recently disproved that theory.

A large flock of Bewick swans annually winter at the Slimbridge wildfowl sanctuary in western England, where they are carefully documented and observed. With the coming of spring they fly en masse to northern Russia, where they breed and raise their young.

At the start of last winter a male swan, which staff had named Sarindi, returned to Slimbridge with a new mate, raising concern that his previous partner of four years might have perished. A couple of weeks later however the female, Saruni, also returned, and she too had a new mate.

Though the former partners currently share the same lake space, they have yet to acknowledge each other's presence - how very human!

One theory is that they split up because they failed to breed.

Their 'divorce' or separation is apparently only the second such one recorded amongst swans at Slimbridge in forty years.

Not your usual behaviour

On the same theme (perhaps it has something to do with global warming), wildlife experts in southern Africa have been taken aback recently at the behaviour of a number of well-documented animal species, which they thought they knew well!

Take the almost suicidal act of a zebra seen putting its head inside the wide-open jaws of a huge hippopotamus.

Apparently the hippo was affording the zebra access to some partially eaten veggies stuck between its teeth, and in return the zebra was performing a teeth-cleaning service!

Then there were the warthogs who sauntered up to a flock of large, southern ground hornbills, and promptly flopped onto their sides to allow the birds to groom them of ticks and other insects, including sensitive areas such as their ears.

Whilst warthogs do allow certain other species to groom them (notably mongooses), their interaction with the hornbills had never been documented before.

Flying into the record books

Measured in level flight, the well-named swift has officially been recognized as the world's fastest bird. Other species - notably the peregrine falcon - can fly much faster than the swift in a dive, but none can match it under its own power.

The birds usually reach their top speeds (over 110kph) during bouts of mating, known as "screaming parties"; the term is derived from the vocalizations of the birds.

Scientists however believe that the white-throated needletail (a relative of the common swift) probably flies even faster - up to 170kph - but they have yet to accurately measure the bird in level flight.

Supporting the SPCA

If you have empathy and compassion for Bermuda's abused, neglected, abandoned or surrendered animals, then there are lots of ways in which you can show your support - and in these difficult economic times the SPCA needs that support more than ever.

The simplest way of expressing your support is to become a member and you can now register over the internet on the Society's website at www.spca.bm. There are various categories of membership open to both local and overseas residents. You might also want to give consideration to making a donation or leaving a bequest in your will.

If you have the time, you could also volunteer to exercise and walk the dogs in the kennels, which are awaiting adoption, or you could help to socialize the numerous cats that are similarly awaiting adoption.

Another option is to assist at fundraising events, such as Paws To The Park, or the annual Cat Shows or dog shows, or in an administrative capacity perhaps, at the charity's shelter on Valley Road, Paget.

The Society's 'wish list'

There are lots of ways you can help the Bermuda SPCA besides the ways listed above. Here is their current 'wish list' of items in short supply: bath towels, 8" x 11" photocopy paper, bleach, Bounty paper towels, cat litter, climbing trees for cats, Tide HE (high efficiency) and detergent. Every little bit helps.