Russian zoo sues ad agency for ‘traumatizing’ raccoon in racy photo shoot

The zoo is suing the firm for damage they say the shoot has done to the entire species. (Reuters)
Updated 17 March 2017

Russian zoo sues ad agency for ‘traumatizing’ raccoon in racy photo shoot

DUBAI: A zoo in Moscow is suing an advertising agency that used one of its animals in a racy photo shoot.
Tomas the raccoon returned to the zoo “traumatized” after posing with a naked woman during the shoot with Moscow-based studio Art-Msk last year, zoo representatives said.
The privately-run zoo called Animals Aren’t Toys is now suing the firm for Tomas’ experience and the damage they say the shoot has done to the entire species.
“The plaintiff considers it unacceptable to use a raccoon in video and photographs with a naked woman,” the zoo said in a suit.
“By photographing him with a naked woman, the defendant has caused damage to the raccoon population. Now everyone who sees this video or photographs will directly associate raccoons with erotica,” adds the document, which was filed in Moscow’s Nikolinsky district court on Tuesday.
Zoo staff said that Art-Msk hired Tomas for a photo shoot in August 2016 but did not reveal that he would be posing alongside a woman in the nude.
However, a backstage video of the shoot shows a blonde woman playing tug-of-war with the animal in bed, over what seems to be her lingerie.
“Tomas came back withdrawn, always slept in the corner, and snapped at people,” zoo spokesman Viktor Kiryukhin said, according to The Telegraph.
“Furthermore, we began to notice that he reached for women’s breasts. We think to perform several takes the film crew lured him onto the actress’ chest with treats. Now he thinks he can always expect a treat near women’s breasts.”
The head of Art-Msk’s video marketing department Valery Bogatov said the claim was “absurd” and added that the video was never meant to be erotic as it was intended to be shown on national television.
“The raccoon himself grabbed the actress’s bra and ran under the bed. Originally we asked for a trained animal, because raccoons are generally unmanageable. But we were given this — he was young and constantly ran away. After several takes he stole the underwear and chewed it,” he told Tabloid site Life News.
“When the zoo told us they would sue us, we told them we’d file our own suit for the cost of the bra,” Bogatov later told The Telegraph.
“I said it as a joke, because I thought they were joking too. Now it seems it is serious,” he said. “I’d like to make absolutely clear we never violated any animal rights,” he added.


Did Neanderthals bury their dead with flowers? Iraq cave yields new clues

The bones of a Neanderthal's left hand emerging from the sediment in Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq, is seen in an undated photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 February 2020

Did Neanderthals bury their dead with flowers? Iraq cave yields new clues

  • Remains of 10 Neanderthals - seven adults and three infants - were dug up there six decades ago, offering insight into the physical characteristics, behavior and diet of this species

WASHINGTON: A Neanderthal skeleton unearthed in an Iraqi cave already famous for fossils of these extinct cousins of our species is providing fresh evidence that they buried their dead — and intriguing clues that flowers may have been used in such rituals.
Scientists said on Tuesday they had discovered in Shanidar Cave in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq the well-preserved upper body skeleton of an adult Neanderthal who lived about 70,000 years ago. The individual — dubbed Shanidar Z — was perhaps in his or her 40s or 50s. The sex was undetermined.
The cave was a pivotal site for mid-20th century archaeology. Remains of 10 Neanderthals — seven adults and three infants — were dug up there six decades ago, offering insight into the physical characteristics, behavior and diet of this species.
Clusters of flower pollen were found at that time in soil samples associated with one of the skeletons, a discovery that prompted scientists involved in that research to propose that Neanderthals buried their dead and conducted funerary rites with flowers.
That hypothesis helped change the prevailing popular view at the time of Neanderthals as dimwitted and brutish, a notion increasingly discredited by new discoveries. Critics cast doubt, however, on the “flower burial,” arguing the pollen could have been modern contamination from people working and living in the cave or from burrowing rodents or insects.
But Shanidar Z’s bones, which appear to be the top half of a partial skeleton unearthed in 1960, were found in sediment containing ancient pollen and other mineralized plant remains, reviving the possibility of flower burials. The material is being examined to determine its age and the plants represented.
“So from initially being a skeptic based on many of the other published critiques of the flower-burial evidence, I am coming round to think this scenario is much more plausible and I am excited to see the full results of our new analyzes,” said University of Cambridge osteologist and paleoanthropologist Emma Pomeroy, lead author of the research published in the journal Antiquity.

COGNITIVE SOPHISTICATION
Scholars have argued for years about whether Neanderthals buried their dead with mortuary rituals much as our species does, part of the larger debate over their levels of cognitive sophistication.
“What is key here is the intentionality behind the burial. You might bury a body for purely practical reasons, in order to avoid attracting dangerous scavengers and/or to reduce the smell. But when this goes beyond practical elements it is important because that indicates more complex, symbolic and abstract thinking, compassion and care for the dead, and perhaps feelings of mourning and loss,” Pomeroy said.
Shanidar Z appears to have been deliberately placed in an intentionally dug depression cut into the subsoil and part of a cluster of four individuals.
“Whether the Neanderthal group of dead placed around 70,000 years ago in the cave were a few years, a few decades or centuries — or even millennia — apart, it seems clear that Shanidar was a special place, with bodies being placed just in one part of a large cave,” said University of Cambridge archaeologist and study co-author Graeme Barker.
Neanderthals — more robustly built than Homo sapiens and with larger brows — inhabited Eurasia from the Atlantic coast to the Ural Mountains from about 400,000 years ago until a bit after 40,000 years ago, disappearing after our species established itself in the region.
The two species interbred, with modern non-African human populations bearing residual Neanderthal DNA.
Shanidar Z was found to be reclining on his or her back, with the left arm tucked under the head and the right arm bent and sticking out to the side.