Cockatoos Destroy Australia's Broadband Network

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Slow or fickle internet is the headache felt around the world. But Australians have a particularly bad case of broadband blues, thanks in part to its wild birds. As Reuters reports, cockatoos—a type of parrot with a distinctive feather crest—are chewing up power and fiber cables, and causing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of damage.

Australia’s internet is notoriously slow. (It's currently ranked 50th in the world by speed, according to a recent report.) This prompted officials to launch a $36 to $38 billion broadband network plan, which will quite literally bring the nation up to speed. It’s slated for completion in 2021, but construction delays and budget overspills will likely prolong the process, according to Bloomberg.

The project has received plenty of public criticism due to its cost and sluggish download speeds, among other issues. Now, officials (and engineers) face yet another obstacle: cockatoos. Native to Australia, the birds typically dine on fruit, nuts, wood, and bark. But they’ve taken to chowing down on cables, which are strung from nearly 2000 fixed wireless towers around Australia.

“Cockatoos have developed their penchant for cables to maintain their hard, sharp beaks that incessantly grow and must be constantly worn down to remain in top working condition,” explained Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) in a recent blog post. (The NBN is the body responsible for improving the country's broadband infrastructure.)

Meanwhile, Gisela Kaplan, a professor in animal behavior at the University of New England, told Reuters that the color or position of the cables might have enticed the birds. Typically, she says, they prefer pecking at wood or bark.

So far, cables on eight towers in Australia have been destroyed, with as many as 200 cables suffering damages. (Many of these towers are located in southeast Australia, where grain is grown.) These cables are spares, which are strung for future capacity needs. Unlike the active cables, they aren’t protected by plastic casing, which makes them vulnerable to bird nibbles. Technicians also can't tell if they’re damaged until they arrive on site for maintenance or upgrades.

The birds’ insatiable chewing habits have led to costly repair bills. Replacements for frayed power and fiber cables cost up to $7650 U.S. each—and so far, the cockatoos have rendered around $61,500 worth of equipment useless according to the NBN.

“You wouldn’t think it was possible, but these birds are unstoppable when in a swarm,” said project manager Chedryian Bresland, according to NBN. “I guess that’s Australia for you; if the spiders and snakes don’t get you, the cockies will.”

To prevent future damages, NBN officials plan to install inexpensive protective casing on cable ends. Hopefully, the birds won’t find them as delicious as steel-braid wires.

[h/t Reuters]

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Do Dogs Get Headaches?

Even without raging benders, dogs might still get headaches.
Even without raging benders, dogs might still get headaches.
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Like babies, dogs can be hard to read in the medical ailment department. Are they listless because they’re tired, or because they’re sick? What’s behind their whining? And can they suffer that most human of debilitating conditions, the headache?

Gizmodo polled several veterinarians and animal behavior specialists to find out, and the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Although a dog can’t express discomfort in a specific way, particularly if it doesn’t involve limping, animal experts know that canines that have diagnosed brain tumors or encephalitis can also be observed to have a high heart rate, a sign of physical pain. According to Tim Bentley, an associate professor of veterinary neurology and neurosurgery at Purdue Veterinary Medicine, administering painkillers will bring a dog’s heart rate down. If signs of physical distress also decrease, a headache was likely involved.

Unfortunately, not all dogs may offer overt signals they’re feeling some brain pain. According to Adam Boyko, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs instinctively try to mask pain to avoid showing weakness.

Ultimately, dogs have many of the same central neural pathways as humans, which can likely go awry in some of the same ways. But the kind of persistent headaches owing to head colds or hangovers are probably rare in dogs. And while it goes without saying, they definitely don't need any of your Advil.

[h/t Gizmodo]