Questions that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this, your section,
and be answered by other readers. Please address your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.
Apart from lemmings and humans are there any other creatures that commit suicide?
Lemmings do not commit suicide. It is now, I think, fairly well established that this is a myth. A BBC television show hosted by Danny Baker confirmed something I have heard elsewhere: a pioneer naturalist film-maker, trying to make a boring shoot more interesting, drove a population of lemmings over a cliff and filmed them. The film was incorporated into a cinema newsfilm and so became popular myth. Lemmings have no natural inclination to run over cliffs and this is not normally observed behaviour. They do make mass migrations when populations exceed food supplies.
I understand that in some species the female dies on giving birth and males may die after mating – implying that mating for such species could be construed as suicide. But all of this speculation is subject to our interpretation of animal free-will and self-awareness.
D Gold’s inquiry brings to mind an interesting encounter I had a few years ago on the banks of the River Wye. A farmer was tethering the legs of a ewe whose lamb had recently fallen into the river and drowned. He explained to me that if he did not secure the ewe she would, in her grief, throw herself into the river. He appeared to be a sensible young man and I had no reason to doubt his words.
A friend in Bahrain returned home one afternoon to find that a feral cat had given birth to a litter of kittens under the stairs leading to the flat roof of her single-storey house. Because the feral cats of Bahrain are so numerous and in such a pitiful condition she thought it kinder to dispose of most of the litter. This she did, whilst the mother was away, leaving just two. She was beside herself with the loss of most of her litter. She threw herself from the parapet of the house three times in rapid succession. Then, having failed in her presumed objective of ending her despair, she removed the two remaining kittens and disappeared.
awaiting your answers
Is there an organization that recycles computers and/or small electrical goods?
Does anyone know how the Chinese custom of foot-binding originated?
What problems are Western tobacco companies causing in Third World countries?
Potters Bar, England
If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities, New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK, or to your local NI office (see inside front cover for addresses).
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS SECTION ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF NI.
1 Deterrent from a Mafia initiative extremely grave (4,4)
6 UN began to be involved in shut out of Africans (5)
10 Pity about the code (7)
11 The original American Dream in tatters (7)
12,13 A number of hogs find mother soon to cross the Yangtze (5,6,3)
14 Feedback is right, but odd one about the start of the play (8)
16 Den is a dreadful liar (4)
20 Commercial computer technology is mine (4)
21 It sprouts in West Africa; special locale at a forest opening (4,4)
24 Katanga, Zaire’s possession of clear enclave (4,5)
25 Gaul experiencing problems with the last leaving camp (5)
27 Article in the constitution of secret societies exposes Pacific people (7)
28 Family title derived when I left ex-Dutch Guiana and headed east (7)
29 Fibre is put in salad without publicity (5)
30 Mahdi, or a poor amateur? (5,3)
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology backing for missing head of island (5)
3 Egyptologist partner about to tire badly (8)
4 Run wild in charge of farm (8)
5 Negotiate a fair bargain to start with in civil war here (6)
6 Heard, he did, and understood (6)
7 Bronze position standard is mediocre (5-4)
8 Doctor raised under operating system up at old city (5)
9 Re-tap Rio potential to establish capital (8)
15 Professor is digesting the last letter to sign about deserts (4,5)
17 Those who flee from Manchu, for example, are coming back in. He predicts about-face (8)
18 Arranged together? (8)
19 Orang, A OK! Funny animal (8)
22 Setback part of a clear single-mindedness of this country? (6)
23 It eradicates the lead - at least on paper (6)
24 People who involved ghost-writing (5)
26 Los Angeles has internal provision of capital (5)
1 The end-product of the Manhattan Project (4,4)
6 Natives of East-Central Africa (5)
10 Deep regret (7)
11 A portmanteau word generalizing North American natives (7)
12,13 20-year-long plan to provide hydro-electric resources on the Yangtze (5,6,3)
14 An immediate impression (8)
16 Animal hideout (4)
20 Mine shaft usually sunk horizontally into a hillside (4)
21 Produced by tropical plant important for caffeine and flavouring (4,4)
24 Newly autonomous Palestinian homeland (4,5)
25 One of Stalin’s work camps (5)
27 Inhabitants of the Friendly Islands, capital Nuku’alofa (7)
28 Hereditary or common title (7)
29 Plant, used in rope-making, whose name derives from a port on the Yucatan (5)
30 Short-wave enthusiast? (5,3)
2 Troubled island, part of the Lesser Sunda group (5)
3 Nineteenth-century French Egyptologist, famous for his work involving the Sphinx (8)
4 Spread too much (8)
5 Scene of West African civil war in the 1960s (6)
6 Paid attention to (6)
7 Of poor quality, low-grade (5-4)
8 Biblical city destroyed by fire and brimstone (5)
9 Administrative capital of South Africa (8)
15 Deserts as depicted on maps of world climate (4,4)
17 The displaced peoples of conflict (8)
18 Calm and collected (8)
19 Unofficial court of law (8)
22 Nation originally formed after the death of Solomon - its first ruler was Jeroboam (6)
23 Implement used to correct mistakes in drawing or writing (6)
24 Germanic barbarians who sacked Rome in 410 AD (5)
26 The world’s highest capital city (if fully autonomous) (5)
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