The vulture with vertigo and other stories from the frontiers of the believable

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The vulture with vertigo. Bert the vulture, born and reared at Whipsnade, has finally learnt to fly. Abandoned by his parents while still an egg, Bert has been brought up by humans and seems to think he is one too. "He sees us walking around and he's quite content to do the same," said his handler, Andy Reeve. "He never got into the habit [of flying] and I think he's probably afraid of heights." Last week, after a long period of ground training, Bert was successfully launched from a hot air balloon for his first solo flight.

Caterpillar cocoons can damage your car. A new hazard to drivers has emerged in Poland where 50cm long cocoons bulging with thousands of caterpillars have been dropping from the trees on to windscreens of speeding cars. Conservationists have been pulling caterpillar nests out of the leaves because of the danger to traffic. A local official blamed the exceptionally cold winter which drastically reduced numbers of the butterflies' natural enemies.

Police seek upstanding criminals. Thieves in Melbourne, Australia, broke into a clinic and stole dozens of bottles of drugs. They may not have realised that it was an impotence clinic and the drugs are capable of inducing an erection that can last five days. A police spokesman told Reuters: "We are looking for someone who is very embarrassed or very tired."

Auntie was my other half's other other half. The Court of Cessation in Kuwait has annulled the marriage of a Kuwaiti to the niece of his first wife. Citing an incident of 1,400 years ago, when a Moslem leader whipped and ordered the divorce of a man who married his wife's niece, the court confirmed that such a marriage is prohibited under Islamic law. The Kuwait News Agency did not name the husband, nor say how many wives he had.

What's good for your stomach muscles 24 times a week? A cup of tea, according to the annual report of the Tea Council. The average Briton drinks 3.43 cups of tea a day, which accounts for 41.2 per cent of all drinks consumed. Ninety per cent is brewed with tea bags, and more of it comes from Kenya than anywhere else. Three out of four Britons drink tea every day of their lives.

Following a suicidal fashion: For the second time in a year, a man has committed suicide by climbing into a cage at Guatemala City Zoo. Last August, a man was killed by jaguars after jumping into their cage. A suicide note explained that he was a gun shop owner, distraught that he had shot one of his customers dead when showing her a gun. This week, there was another big-cat suicide. "This time it wasn't the jaguars, it was the tigers, who are much bigger," the zoo director explained. No suicide note was found, but police say the victim may have been drunk.

Elk distress call: Irish police are hunting vandals who used a hacksaw to cut the genitals off a bronze statue of an elk on high ground above the main road from Cork to Mallow.

Loose moose shops in Boston. A 7ft tall moose was seen wandering through a fashionable neighbourhood of Boston last week. "It's an upscale moose," a police spokesman explained. A cab driver was the first to spot the moose as it entered the city in the early hours of the morning. "I knew it was a moose," he said. "It was right there. It came running up the street from the parking lot and dashed across the street." He called the police, who took 10 minutes to respond because they didn't believe him. Three patrol cars and five officers then tried to apprehend the moose, but it "just walked over a bush and walked away". They hope it has gone back home. So does the cab driver. "My job is not to chase moose," he said.

The content is great, but nobody reads it. The Ministry of Agriculture recently announced the results of a study to evaluate the Codes of Good Agricultural Practice to Protect Water, Air and Soil. "I am delighted to say the Codes are rated very highly for content and style," said Tim Boswell, Minister for Rural Affairs. The study also revealed that only 46 per cent of farmers are aware of one or more of the codes, and only 18 per cent owned a copy of the Water Code, 7 per cent the Air Code and 5 per cent the Soil Code.

It could be a job for the Child Support Agency. An Egyptian father dragged his wife and eight daughters, aged one to 17, to the police station where he abandoned them in order to devote himself to the task of bringing up his long-awaited son. He also threatened to divorce the mother if she returned home with the daughters. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Small but perfectly formed. The Brazilian health ministry is distributing 5 million small condoms in an effort to increase Aids awareness among teenagers. Their diameter will be 49mm, compared with the standard 53mm.

Charity can be expensive in San Francisco. A Californian has been sentenced to 59 days in jail for handing out food to the homeless without a permit. Robert Norse Kahn, a member of an anti-hunger group called "Food Not Bombs" has become the first person convicted for feeding the hungry in over 1,000 arrests since 1988. His group has unsuccessfully applied for a permit 135 times.

The cost of living can be prohibitive. In San Diego, a man is suing the doctor who saved his life by ordering an emergency tracheotomy in 1993. Virgil Ray Noonkester alleges that the doctor disregarded his wish for no special measures to be taken to keep him alive, and believes that the doctor should now pay the medical costs for round-the-clock attendants now necessary to keep him alive.

In space, no one can hear you bid. The 18in high model that burst from John Hurt's chest in the 1979 film Alien failed to reach its reserve price when it came up for auction at Phillips last week. It had been expected to fetch pounds 20,000. Sigourney Weaver was not available for comment.

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