Weird World Roundup: pandas, Russian patriarchs’ bling and lots of snakes

A roundup of some of the week's strangest stories

By Michael May

It’s a weird, weird world, and every Saturday we bring you a few of the strangest stories we’ve come across this week. In this edition: British pandas with headaches, Russian patriarchs who’ve got mad bling-bling and snakes in a village.

Pandas not in the mood

Tian Tian (R), a female giant panda, looks into the enclosure of male panda Yang Guang from her new enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. (Reuters/David Moir)

 The press release reads: “Close, but no cigar.” At the Edinburgh Zoo, scientists were hoping they’d see some hot Panda action this week. Several months ago, the zoo received two pandas from China to house for the next decade. Zoo officials are hoping to breed the endangered species, but pandas are only fertile a couple of days a year during March (which might have something to do with why they’re endangered.)

According to The Guardian, zoo staffers did everything they could to set the mood. They turned off the panda cam that broadcasts the animals’ every move to the world. They locked the doors. They opened the “love tunnel” that separates the enormous creatures’ enclosures. They put a quarter in the vibrating bed. (OK, that last one is made up.)

But although there were signs of attraction — some amorous cries and nuzzling — the creatures failed to get busy. Not all hope is lost, however. Zoo director Iain Valentine said the couple might have only been a little skittish. “We are hugely encouraged by how much the natural sparks flew between the two animals, as, like humans, not all male and female pandas are attracted to each other,” he told The Guardian. “Both were keen to mate, but their inexperience showed.”

Russian patriarch with a $30,000 watch?

The Russian Orthodox Church has done well under President-elect Vladimir Putin, with the government returning much of the church property that was confiscated during the Soviet era. But recently the church has been criticized for being too beholden to Putin, especially after church patriarchs called for draconian punishments for the young female members of the punk rock group Pussy Riot after they performed an anti-Putin song in a cathedral.

And now comes Watchgate.

A photo released by the church’s official press agency  showed Patriarch Kirill (essentially the Russian pope) sitting at a polished wooden table. There’s nothing shown on the Patriarch’s wrist, but a reflection bouncing off the polished wood exposes the unmistakable golden halo of a fancy-shmancy wristwatch. Observers have identified it as a Breguet, which costs around $30,000.

The photo of Patriarch Kirill shows the watch in a reflection.

The watch has been a source of controversy since the patriarch wore it on a trip to Ukraine. The church’s press agency, here quoted in the official state news agency RIA Novosti, issued a correction, saying the watch was airbrushed out by a church employee acting on her own. The church insists it’s an ordinary wristwatch, although the patriarch admits to receiving a Breguet as a gift, but claims he’s kept it in a box.

Snakes in a village!!

You might think they’d be used to snakes in Namibia’s Tubuses settlement. After all, the town is regularly visited by pythons, puff adders, whip snakes and mambas.

But, villagers tell the Namibian newspaper, this year is different. The snakes are bigger. The snakes are scarier. The snakes are entering people’s homes to fight with the TV. (No, not making it up this time).

It was a particularly wet rainy season, which tends to flush rodents out of the jungle, with the snakes in hot pursuit. Still, that hasn’t stopped rumors from flying.

One villager claims he saw a helicopter dropping giant snakes near the village.

The owner of the nearby Swakopmund Snake Park, Stuart Hebbert, said he would be surprised if someone was launching a sneak snake attack on the village.

“The story of the helicopter is improbable. Helicopters are very expensive, and it would be much easier to transport snakes by car. And why would someone drop snakes from a helicopter?” he asked.

That is an excellent point.

  • dlp

    We should have more news like this. Makes you laugh instead of cry.