4

Sharks Protest Human Stereotypes

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Our correspondent, Maurice Mako, is off the coast of Australia attending the annual Sharkmania Festival. The festival is a celebration of all things shark. All types of sharks are welcome. Intermingling between sub-species is encouraged. However, there is a rule against eating or intimidating fellow attendees. Even if he takes the last shrimp canape that you had your eye on.

Maurice filed this report:

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As usual, the attendees are having a wonderful time. Much of the early part of the day is spent in seminars and roundtables with the evenings being reserved for socialization. Some of the more popular presentations have been:

Oral Hygiene: Just Because You Can Replace Your Teeth Doesn’t Mean You Should Abuse the Privilege

Following the Scent of Blood Doesn’t Always Lead to a Tasty Meal

Standardized Testing: Don’t Worry if Your Child Doesn’t Score Well on the Shark Intelligence Metric (SIM)

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However, there was one seminar that was full to overflowing and the topic of extensive conversation at the dinner tables. The Preservation of Shark Society presented the provocatively titled

Why are Humans So Ignorant About Sharks After All these Years?

The talk addressed three major topics:

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Sharks are bloodthirsty predators who seek out humans to kill them.

Totally untrue. There are more than 400 types of sharks. Do humans focus on that? No! All they want to talk about are the great whites and hammerheads. And do they ever talk about invading our space? No!

How many of them ever focus on the dwarf lantern shark? Only 21 cm long. Or how about the whale shark? Forty feet long and only eats plankton.

Besides, who would want to hunt down a human anyway? Most of them are fatty and full of unhealthy chemicals. Anyway, we’re seafood lovers.

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Sharks are stupid.

If we’re so stupid, why are they worried about us catching and killing them?

Shark brains are size-appropriate to the shark. Their favorite shark, the great white, has a brain that’s two feet long and extremely well-developed.

It’s true that shark brains mainly focus on smell, but that’s what important to us. It’s how we find food and keep from being food.

And which species spends a LOT of time in front of a box full of make-believe humans rather than enjoying their environment? Clue: not the sharks.

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Sharks have to keep moving to stay alive.

Nope. Most of us have cheek muscles we use to filter water into our mouths and over our gills. We are not as good as humans at being “couch potatoes.” (We don’t have couches or boxes of humans to watch.)

The humans may be confused by the “glamour sharks.” Their favorite great whites, the whale shark, and the mako sharks as well as a few others do have to move to pass water over their gills.

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Humans need to get to know us to love us!

And how to we do that? We make pictures to go into those boxes the people spend so much time with!

Our next project is to find out how to be as interesting as those fake people or kittens.

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pictures courtesy of Google Images

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17

Happy Easter Billy Bilby!

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We’d like to introduce you to a special animal, the Easter Bilby. He’s a celebrity in Australia although he may be less known by some of you. The Easter Bilby is busy this time of year, so we’re going to talk to a close friend.

Billy Bilby, welcome to Cheeseland. Thank you for taking the time to introduce us to the Easter Bilby.

No worries, I’m happy to be here and spread the word about the Easter Bilby. After all, we bilbies are having a problem with our population declining and want people to be aware that we even exist.

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On that note, can you tell us a little bit about bilbies?

We’re small, furry marsupials who live in the desert. Our bodies are about 55 cm/22 inches long and our tails about 29 cm/11.5 inches. We weigh about 2.5 kg/5.5 pounds. We have long noses (excellent sense of smell) and large ears (excellent sense of hearing and help keep us cool). The ladies are about half the size of the gents.

We have extremely soft fur that is mainly blue-grey with white tummies. Bilbies live in fancy burrows. We only come out and night and will eat anything.

Two fun facts about bilbies?

The word bilby is from the Aboriginal Yuwaalaraay language. (I wouldn’t try to pronounce it unless you belong to the group.)

We don’t drink water. We get all we need from what we eat.  (Like koalas)

So how did the Easter Bilby replace the Easter Rabbit in Australia?

Unfortunately, rabbits are not very popular in Australia. They were brought in by the Brits in the 19th century and reproduced until they had taken over the country. Rabbits drove some of the native animals and plants to extinction.

In the 1990’s, the humans decided that the rabbit had to go as the symbol of Easter. They wanted something native to replace it. Since we look something like a rabbit (ears only), we got the job. We’ve been around Australia for a very long time.

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And the tradition has stuck.

Yes, but we’ve lost the association with the anti-rabbit people. Now it’s more of a survival issue. You see, we’re endangered in some parts of Australia and vulnerable in others.

That’s awful. What happened?

The usual: loss of habitat, hunting. I am actually a Greater Bilby. There used to be Lesser Bilbies, but they died out about 70 years ago. (Unless the humans lost them.)

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Is the Easter Bilby tradition working?

It seems to be. There is much greater awareness of who we are and why we are important residents of Australia. In fact, The Commonwealth of Australian Endangered Species Program has chosen us as a mascot, so we’re becoming famous.

They have even started to introduce populations of us into places that haven’t seen bilbies in a very long time. Did you know that we once populated 70% of Australia? And that’s a big place!

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What does the Easter Bilby do?

Pretty much what the Easter Bunny does. Except he delivers chocolate bilbies instead of chocolate rabbits. And he runs rather than hops.

Do you think the idea of the Easter Bilby will spread?

Probably not. The rabbits pretty much have a lock on the market. But that’s OK. We only live in Australia and want to continue living here for a very long time. We have no plans to invade Britain.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

I’m happy to share.

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Trivia – In March 1968, 9-year-old Rose-Marie Dusting wrote “Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby.” She published it 11 years later.

Sales Pitch: Chocolate bilbies are produced by Pink Lady and Haigh’s Chocolates. (Cadbury pulled out of the market shortly before Easter.) The companies give a percentage of sales to conservation efforts. Pink Lady parent company, Fyna Foods manufactures chocolate bilbies as part of the Australian Bush Friends Easter chocolates. A percentage of the Bush Friends sales is also donated to the Save the Bilby Fund.

 

8

Why We Don’t See the Easter Bunny – Part 2

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Previously – Gunnar, a current descendant of the original Easter Bunny (a real bunny), has decided to see what was happening with Easter now that the family has outsourced most of it to the humans. So far, he is not happy. He is going to see the Easter Bunny at the mall for an explanation.

Gunnar arrived at the mall. He had never seen such a thing. The mall was huge. And full of humans. Rather scary for a small rabbit. He hopped past all the signs for Easter sales. They were on almost every window: clothing stores, technology stores, mattress stores, perfume shops. Do people really give each other mattresses for Easter?

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He finally found a sign for the Easter Bunny. He saw a large group of people lined up before a throne. On the throne was a creature in some kind of costume with large ears and fake whiskers. There was a sign next to him that said “Easter Bunny”.

“Oh my carrots, is that what the humans think the Easter Bunny looks like?” wondered Gunnar. “That’s not even a rabbit.” He got as close to the line as he could without being seen. He wanted to hear what the humans thought of the fake rabbit.

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“Mommy, is that the real Easter Bunny?”

“Of course he is.”

“Is he going to bring me a basket with toys?”

“Yes, dear. On Easter morning.”                                                                           

Gunnar moved along the line.

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“Mama, he looks kind of scary. I didn’t think he’d be so big.”

“That’s OK. He’s actually very friendly.”

“Do I tell him what I want for Easter?”

“I don’t think that’s the way it works. We’re here to have your picture taken with him. Grandma wants to show it to her friends.”

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Gunnar thought about it. People were standing in line to take pictures of their children with a big, scary fake rabbit. Humans were very strange.

Then he heard a grumbling at the front of the line. Hopping up he saw a sign, “The Easter Bunny will be taking a short break. His assistants are available if you have any questions about the photo packages. No personal checks.”

Gunnar went behind the screen to see if he could talk to the “Easter Bunny.” He heard voices from a small room. Gunnar was speechless. The man in the costume had taken off the head. He was unshaven and didn’t even look clean.

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Gunnar wrinkled his nose. The man didn’t smell clean either. And he reeked of cigarettes. Gunnar listened.

“Whoever designed this thing should have to wear it for a while. It’s hot,” smelly and I can’t even see out of the eyes.”

Gunnar wanted to tell the man why the costume smelled, but continued to listen.

“I need to go outside for a cigarette.”

“You know the rules. No leaving this room without the head.”

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“I can’t smoke with the head on.”

“That’s OK. The Easter Bunny doesn’t smoke. Besides, it’s time to go back out.”

“Great. The next kid that tries to rip off my head is going on the floor.”

“Eddie, you can’t do that. No hurting the children.”

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“Fine. But the next one that pees on me is going back to Mom.”

“That’s why we got you the plastic sheet to go under the blanket on your lap.”

“The talent agency never told me what a miserable job this is.”

Gunnar left without talking to the man. How could someone who didn’t like children pretend to be the Easter Bunny? And who would believe that disgusting man was really the Easter Bunny?

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As he was leaving the area, Gunnar noticed a sign, “Brunch with the Easter Bunny.” It had a picture of the same rabbit imposter who was on the throne. “What a disgusting idea,” Gunnar thought.

Depressed, Gunnar returned to the forest. He poured himself a large glass of carrot juice and thought for a while. His relatives had made a huge mistake. The humans had changed the idea of the Easter Bunny almost beyond recognition.

“I wonder who I call to give the humans responsibility for the rest of the Easter goodies.”

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15

Why We Don’t See the Easter Bunny

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At one time, the Easter Bunny roamed freely during the late winter and early spring. He handed out painted eggs and other springtime treats to animals and humans. It was a job taken on by one family and passed on through the generations.

As time went by, the process got combined with Easter. And the baskets began to get more complex. Chocolate eggs and jelly beans were added. Then marshmallow bunnies and chocolate bunnies. Finally, all types of candy went into the basket.

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The bunnies decided to outsource some of the activities to the humans. It was a difficult decision to make, but the process had gotten out of hand. The bunnies handed off everything except the boiled eggs, chocolate eggs, and jelly beans for the humans. They would continue to bring treats to the animals at the beginning of spring.

They also licensed the name “Easter Bunny” to the humans and allowed them to create a more generic representation of it. The bunnies had made the baskets as a gift of friendship and assumed the humans would continue the tradition.

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Gunnar Kani, the current representative of the original bunny family, wasn’t sure he liked the deal his relatives had made. He really didn’t like humans since he had learned that they kill and eat rabbits. Gunnar went on a research trip.

He saw a sign that said “Homemade Easter Baskets.” He went in and looked around. The baskets were woven willow and filled with hand-painted eggs and various types of homemade chocolates. Gunnar thought that maybe he was mistaken about the humans until he saw the price tags on the baskets.

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Gunnar went outside to think. The baskets were very nice and had obviously taken a lot of work. And humans had to pay for the ingredients. He left the shop satisfied that they were properly representing the spirit of the bunnies.

He went further along the road into town and found another shop that said “Easter Baskets for Sale.” Gunnar hopped in and looked around. These baskets were made out of some type of woven reed and were obviously mass-produced.

Gunnar sighed and looked into the baskets. The only eggs in the basket were plastic and filled with some kind of candy Gunnar had never seen before. There were chocolate eggs and various types of candy.

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He expected that these were unfinished baskets that were waiting for additional treats. Then a human came in and told the person behind the counter how nice the baskets were and bought three of them.

Gunnar was appalled. There was a picture of a rabbit on the sign and these people were selling inferior baskets! His family would have been embarrassed to give out something like that. He continued into town.

He found something called a mega-store. There were signs advertising all kinds of Easter sales. He found a lot of clothes with sale signs. He hopped past these racks. He didn’t understand why humans didn’t just grow fur like animals.

Next Gunnar found piles of factory-made candy for do-it-yourself baskets. That wasn’t too bad. He also found dyes for coloring eggs. Not what he would do, but humans lacked the bunnies’ skills and traditions.

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Then Gunnar saw something that made him stop in his tracks. They were pre-made baskets. They weren’t the lovely ones he had seen at the first shop. They weren’t even the rather pathetic ones he had seen at the second shop.

These baskets were made of plastic made to look like reeds. Inside was cheap “chocolate-type” candy. But the worst was on the top. It was some type of cheap toy. What did that have to do with Easter baskets? It wasn’t even related to spring!

Gunnar was getting a headache. He left the baskets and looked around the store. There were stuffed animals for Easter. Some of the rabbits were rather handsome. But then there were bears, dogs, and even a dinosaur.

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He found door hangings and other decorations. He found signs for the front yard. There were even lighted plastic eggs to hang from a tree outside. And a few he thought were rather clever.

At the back of the store he found computer games and toys being sold as Easter presents. Easter presents! What was going on?

Gunnar could barely find his way out of the store. He sat on a bench in a daze.

Next week – Gunnar goes to the mall to meet the “Easter Bunny”.

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All pictures courtesy of Google Images

Ed. Note – Twitchy Twilight, who was interviewed last week, is moving to a new site. He is currently unavailable. We will let you know when he is all settled.

22

Have You Hugged Your Stuffie* Today?

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*For some reason, stuffed animals are referred to as stuffies in many places online.

Snoops: Mom read us The Velveteen Rabbit. All about a stuffed rabbit who was loved very much by a little boy. The rabbit told the story. It was pretty good.

Kommando: Yeah. Except for the creepy horse.

Snoops: What creepy horse?

Kommando: The skin-horse. The boy had a dead horse in his bedroom.

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Snoops: Moving right along, it made us wonder what the stuffed animals around here were thinking.

Kommando: We were going to interview them, but they wouldn’t let us.

Snoops: That’s because you tried to eat the tail off the opossum. And you tried to chew on a few others.

Kommando: He has a long tail. It looks like a toy.

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Snoops: So we went to Lexi, our interpreter and dog-around-town.

Kommando: They wouldn’t talk to her either.

Snoops: Apparently dogs tear stuffies to shreds.

Kommando: So we did a survey. The results are below:

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Biggest Fears

  1. Not being adopted
  2. Being chewed up

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Likes

  1. Being cuddled
  2. Sleeping in bed
  3. Clean, fluffy fur

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Dislikes

  1. Drool
  2. Bodily fluids
  3. Washing machines/dryers

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Additional Comments

“If you are going to put us on a shelf, take us off once in a while and fluff our fur. Otherwise we get dusty and don’t feel clean.”

“We really like being hand washed and fluffed dry.”

“Don’t make us sleep on the floor. We get stepped on.”

“Don’t let dogs get near us. They chew on us, rip us up, and don’t have any respect for us.”

“Clean us right away if your child (or you) gets something nasty on us.”

“We don’t like to wear perfume or cologne.”

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“We don’t mind losing our looks if it’s from being loved.”

“Thank you to everyone who takes us home and loves us.”

Snoops: Those all make sense.

Kommando: I guess I should find the opossum and apologize.

 

 

 

28

2018 Animal Olympics – Week 2

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Riki T. Tavi here. Welcome to our summary of the second and final week of the 2018 Animal Olympics. Of course, the big surprise this week was the withdrawal of the highly favored reindeer team from the Sleigh Pull.

Rumors have swirled that members of the team failed a drug test. The truth is that the “failed” test was a pregnancy test. Roxy, the leader of the team, is going to have a calf in the spring. Animal Olympic rules prohibit participation of pregnant athletes due to the possibility of being kicked.

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The Dall Sheep had their appeal over the conditions of the ski slope rejected, so the standings are unchanged.

The week was full of surprises. Now on to our commentators.

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Harold Hare – Cross Country Tracking

The non-carnivore competition was a real disappointment. First, only four teams qualified for the race. Of course, the snowshoe hares were brilliant in finding the food we had distributed on the track. The beavers fell asleep and missed the race entirely. The squirrel team was fun to watch although their constant playing on the track was somewhat of a distraction.

Gold: Snowshoe Hares; Silver: Squirrels; Bronze: Mice.

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The carnivore competition was much more intense. Generally, the field is all mammals. The birds prefer to compete in the Raptor Grab. However, this year the arctic owls decided to enter the tracking hunt. With nests on the ground and their outstanding hunting skills, they were sure to be a threat.

The arctic foxes weren’t intimidated. They had inspected the field closely and were confident of their abilities. The wolverines had edged the wolves in the semi-finals to get the last spot in the finals.

It was a good fight. Unfortunately for the owls, one of their players got side-tracked by some non-competition prey and was eliminated for leaving the track.

Gold: Arctic Foxes; Silver: Wolverines; Bronze: Arctic Owls.

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Bruno Brown Bear – Ice Hockey

In recent years, the sport has been dominated by the bears. A combination of intelligence and strength has been the key. But this year there was a surprising new challenger. The dogs decided to enter a team of border collies.

The bear teams weren’t concerned. Who ever heard of dogs on ice? They concentrated on their usual threats, the otters and the seals. Both teams were fast, with plenty of experience moving chunks of ice.

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Fans were stunned when the border collies beat the black bears in the semi-finals. The dogs were fast learners and agile on the ice. The final four teams were the brown bears/grizzlies, seals, polar bears, and collies. The match-up between the brown bears and the seals wasn’t close, with the bears winning 6-0.

In the other game, it appears that the polar bears may have gotten a little over-confident. The collies took them to double-overtime and finally won, 2-1. So it was brown bears v. collies for the gold and silver, and seals v. polar bears for the bronze.

Gold: Brown Bears/Grizzlies; Silver: Border Collies; Bronze: Polar Bears.

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Arnie Kestrel – Raptor Grab

As usual, the Raptor Grab was an intense competition. The rules state that the contestants can only score with specially marked fish. However, there is nothing in the rules about taking another competitor’s fish before crossing the line.

A new member of the arctic owl team repeatedly brought back ineligible fish, leaving the team out of the finals. The bald eagles were eliminated when two of their team members lost fish in fights.

The finalists were the red-tailed hawks, the snowy owls, and the golden eagles.

Gold: Snowy Owls; Silver: Golden Eagles; Bronze: Red-Tailed Hawks.

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Rodney Reindeer – Sleigh Pull

As Riki said earlier, the favored reindeer team withdrew at the beginning of the week. As a result, we saw some different competitors joining the now-favored moose in the finals.

The sled dogs decided to field a team this year. Traditionally a strong competitor in the race, the dogs have been sitting out a suspension following that unfortunate incident in 2010. That team turned over the sleigh, but continued to run for a distance. The bears riding inside were dragged along with the sleigh. Once the bears and the dogs were released, there was a terrible fight.

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The final place was taken by the horse team. The horses fielded a good team, but their lack of experience at an elite level showed. It turned into a showdown between the moose and the sled dogs. The dogs had an emotional edge, trying to redeem their reputation. They edged the moose by less than a second.

Gold: Sled Dogs; Silver: Moose; Bronze: Horses.

It’s Riki again. I hope you enjoyed our coverage of the 2018 Animal Olympics. We hope to see you in 2022 when we’ll be covering the Winter Animal Olympics in Beijing.

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18

2018 Animal Olympics – Week 1

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Riki T. Tavi here. Welcome to our summary of the first week of the 2018 Animal Olympics. It’s been an exciting week here. We’ve had thrills and a few surprises. It’s been truly heartwarming to see the carnivores and non-carnivores competing against each other in peaceful surroundings. Now I’ll turn you over to our commentators.

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Margaret Malamute – Freestyle Skiing

Since no equipment is allowed in competition, this event has always been dominated by animals who could run down the hill the fastest. The last three winners were the Dall sheep team. However, this year the seals challenged the definition of “upright”. They argued that upright for them was on their bellies. After much consideration, the Olympic Committee agreed with their argument.

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So the finalists were the Dall Sheep, the reindeer and the seals. The favored sheep ran into a problem almost immediately when one of their runners hit a patch of ice and skidded off the trail. The seals were next. Being their first Olympics, the form was not great. But their speed made up for it. The reindeer were last. They were under pressure to beat the seals using traditional methods. It came down to the last runner, but in the end the reindeer triumphed.

Gold: Reindeer; Silver: Seals; Bronze: Sheep. The sheep plan a challenge based on the conditions of the slope.

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Edie Ermine – Freestyle Sledding

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the seals did not qualify for the finals. The likely explanation is that they spent extra time working on the skiing skills and not enough on the sledding. Regardless, the finalists were the ermine, the penguins, and (surprisingly) the polar bears. The polar bears entered the competition on a dare and were expected to finish at the bottom of the pack.

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The ermine went first, displaying their flawless beauty in the event. The scores were good, but not great. Definitely room for the other teams to score higher. The penguins, apparently sensing victory, were a little careless in their takeoffs and barely edged the ermine. The polar bears went last. Their form was unusual, to say the least. They sat on their butts and held their feet up. Since the only requirement is that competitors maintain the same position from top to bottom, it was an acceptable position. The bears were not attractive going down the hills, but it’s a speed contest.

Gold: Polar Bears; Silver: Penguins; Bronze: Ermine

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Penelope Penguin – Luge

The Luge didn’t really hold many surprises. This fan favorite is a test of speed not form. The sides of the track are expandable so all the animals use the same track.The finalists were the penguins, the polar bears, and the otters. All three teams are experienced, and all performed well. Some minors errors on the track made the difference.

Gold: Otters; Silver: Penguins; Bronze: Polar Bears

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Oscar Otter – Underwater Relay

The otters have been dominant in this event for many years. Swimming quickly around and through posts and rings seems second nature to them. The only real question here was who would get silver and bronze. The finalists were the otters, the penguins, and the seals. The penguins were faster than the seals, but the seals missed fewer obstacles. In a very close finish, the seals beat out the penguins for silver.

Gold: Otters; Silver: Seals; Bronze: Penguins

It’s Riki again. Hopefully, you’ve been watching the actual events online at cheeseland.anm/olympics. Please join us next week for our summary of the remaining events.

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All pictures courtesy of Google Images