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Hole in Crab
Mass Transit
Balding Cure
Bionic Beak
A Sunny Neighborhood

Illustrations by J.D. King

Hole in Crab
Golf is hard enough, with water hazards and sand traps peppering the course, but on little Christmas Island, 1,600 miles northwest of Australia, players must avoid hundreds of four-and-a-half-inch red crabs migrating to and from the ocean during their breeding season. Local rules at the Christmas Island Golf Club, which happens to be smack-dab in the crabs’ migration path, stipulate that golfers must play around the crustaceans as if they were any other hazard. For example, says Christmas Island National Park manager Max Orchard, if a golfer is on the green and a crab knocks his or her ball into the hole, it’s considered “in.” Each year, starting around November, more than 150 million red crabs that inhabit the island’s rainforest make the journey to the ocean to mate, frequently crossing busy roads and walking through yards and houses on their way. Vehicles kill as many as 2 million of the crabs each year, although road closures and crab crossing signs have helped reduce the carnage. Once the crabs reach the ocean, the males dig burrows and return to the forest, while the females, each laden with up to 100,000 eggs, stay for 12 to 13 days and then spawn. (To see a video of the crabs, click here. —Shawn Query
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Mass Transit
As fuel prices soar to new highs, farmers in India are increasingly trading in their tractors for another type of transport: camels. The lanky, long-legged animals require little care and can survive hot, arid conditions. So instead of killing camels for their meat, bones, or hides, people in India are putting the humped animals to work. Farmers are using them for a variety of tasks, like plowing fields and producing milk—which they even use to make a traditionally popular ice cream called kulfi. There’s an environmental benefit as well: More camels working the farm means fewer fossil fuel–burning vehicles. At the same time, the camel’s champions are hoping that this recent interest will help bolster the camel population, which has dropped by more than half over the past decade largely due to a shortage of grazing land.—Susan Cosier 
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Balding Cure
Pierre, a 25-year-old African penguin, was starting to drop his feathers, and bald patches were appearing on his head. Worse, the patriarch began to lose his respected status in the colony, and the other penguins were shunning him. “He was losing the features penguins use to recognize species and sexual maturity,” says Pamela Schaller, a senior aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, where Pierre lives. Penguins can survive 15 years in the wild and about 20 in captivity. The extraordinary graybeard was also having a hard time staying warm when he went swimming. Schaller soon outfitted Pierre in a custom-made neoprene vest, so he could stay with his buds in the tank. Amazingly, Pierre’s feathers soon grew back, and he was able to shed the wetsuit after six weeks. Schaller speculates that all of Pierre’s calories were being spent trying to stay warm, so he didn’t have the extra oomph needed to grow feathers. The wetsuit took the stress off his body. “Pierre looks healthy and strong,” she says. He also regained his status in the colony.—Ted O’Callahan 
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Bionic Beak
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but for one bald eagle, it’s in the beak. Three years ago a female eagle was rescued with most of her beak shot off. She was taken to a bird recovery center, named Beauty, and kept alive by hand feeding. Two years later, when staffers realized Beauty would never grow a new beak, they considered euthanizing her. But Jane Fink Cantwell, who runs Birds of Prey Northwest, got permission to transfer Beauty to the Idaho raptor facility. In May a prosthetic nylon beak, made by Cantwell’s all-volunteer team, was attached in an hours-long procedure. This fall the team hopes to attach a more permanent beak. If all goes well, Beauty will be able to eat and drink, although she will never return to the wild. Instead, Cantwell says, she’ll be a “teaching ambassador,” instructing youths about “why raptors are a necessary part of our ecology.”—Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell  
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A Sunny Neighborhood
Residents of the Palamanui eco-community will have it all—as if a breezy spot in the hills near Kona, Hawaii, weren’t enough. The 725-acre residential complex, slated to open in 2010, will boast a health club, a university, even a forest preserve. On top of that, some Cornell University students are helping the  developers create cheaper, solar-powered electricity. The Big Island of Hawaii runs almost entirely on imported fossil fuels and, says Guy Lam, Palamanui’s development manager, has the highest energy costs in the United States. Cornell professor Max Zhang, who teaches a course called Future Energy Systems, assembled a team of 14 students to spend a year working on sustainable designs for Palamanui. One of their favorites is the simplest: houses cooled by shade and cross breezes.—Alexa Schirtzinger
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