Offbeat: Mittu has a way with words

A bilingual parrot has learned to speak Urdu and English while growing up with a Muslim family in Bradford.

Express August 13, 2011

Mittu has a way with words

A bilingual parrot has learned to speak Urdu and English while growing up with a Muslim family in Bradford.

The African grey called Mittu can say a range of phrases in both languages including the traditional Muslim greeting ‘asalaam alaykum’ and ‘who’s a pretty boy?’ in English.

Clever Mittu first picked up Urdu whilst living with another Muslim family but continued his lingustic adventure with current owner Ghaffar Ahmed who adopted him into the family home in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Apart from impressing guests with a perfect welcome, the two-year old bird can mimic the bark of a dog and can even let people know if they’ve forgotten to close the fridge door.

“He says a few words including ‘asalaam alaykum’, ‘bismillah’, which means ‘in the name of Allah’ and ‘shabaash’ — which means ‘well done’,” explained Mr Ahmed, a married father of three.

“He also barks like a dog and makes the noise of the refrigerator alarm, so he likes making all sorts of noises really.”

“My in-laws live in Bradford and a family who they know were looking to re-home the parrot as he was becoming too much of a handful. They wanted him to go to a home that spoke the same language, so we said we’d have him on board and ever since then he has become part of the family.”

African grey parrots are known for their intelligence and have been known to successfully complete problem solving tasks at the level of dolphins, chimpanzees, and even a toddler.


Jonathan, 178, is world’s oldest tortoise

Jonathan the tortoise — who still lives on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena where the picture was taken — is said to be at least 178-years-old.

The photograph was taken around the year 1900 and shows Jonathan with a Boer War prisoner, reports the Daily Telegraph.

It was discovered as part of a collection of Boer War images taken by a man named LA Innes who had a studio in the British territory’s capital Jamestown.

The pictures were recently sold at an auction for £4,000 (Rs558,373). Further investigation revealed the tortoise in the picture was Jonathan who was still alive.

The tortoise was already about 70 at the time the black and white picture was taken. His life has spanned eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II.

Jonathan lives on St Helena, along with five other tortoises David, Speedy, Emma, Fredricka and Myrtle, in a plantation.

Despite his old age, locals say he still has the energy to regularly mate with the three younger females.

A spokesman for the island’s tourist board said: “Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived on St Helena Island in 1882.

“He was already mature when he arrived and was at least 50-years-old. Therefore his minimum age is 178-years-old.

“Jonathan is still very active despite his age and adores attention, he is a real poser. He seems to be sightless in one eye, but does not let that slow him down.”


Epic swim abandoned

A 61-year-old woman has been forced to abandon her attempt to swim through shark-infested waters from Cuba to Florida.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad had hoped to be the first to complete the 60-hour swim without the protection of a shark cage.

But she was forced to give up on the record bid after 29 hours, CNN reported.

“I am not sad, It was absolutely the right call,” she told CNN, which had a producer on a boat accompanying her on the 103 mile swim.

Ms Nyad failed in her first attempt to complete the crossing from Cuba in 1978, when she was 28.

She set off from Havana on Sunday with the aim of reaching Key West in the Florida Keys on Wednesday.

But the swimmer was struggling with shoulder pain, ocean swells and asthma before she was brought on board a vessel.

It took more than a year of negotiations to get both countries, former Cold War enemies, to allow the epic swim to take place.

It was a huge operation, with support boats carrying medical assistants, nutritionists and a shark protection team.


Acrobat walks on Cloud 9

A Chinese high wire artist walked into the record books — by crossing a wire between two hot air balloons 100 feet off the ground.

Saimaiti Aishan encountered some problems in crossing between the two balloons, sitting down halfway across when he had problems with his balancing pole.

But he completed the 15 metre walk, in Xinning County, southern China’s Hunan Province, to achieve his fourth Guinness World Record.

However, he failed in another record attempt — walking between the hot balloons at a height of 100 meters — due to strong winds.

Dawa Zi, also known as high-wire, is a traditional acrobatic performance of the Uygur nationality, in Xinjiang Province.

As a seventh-generation Dawa Zi, Aishan already had three Guinness World Records — for the longest headstand on a high wire, walking backwards on a high wire and walking on the steepest high wire.

His next target is to walk along a high wire between two flying helicopters.


It must be a seahorse!

A horse had to be rescued by lifeboat crews after swimming more than half-a-mile out at sea. The spooked animal threw off his female rider while going for a walk along the beach at Sandwich, in Kent.

It then ran into the sea and was chased by his owner who eventually had to give up because he kept swimming further out into the English Channel. But after going for its almighty swim, the horse named Shallimah was rescued by Walmer Inshore Lifeboat volunteers. Walmer lifeboat helmsman Andrew Howland said: “This was one of the most unusual and most satisfying rescues I’ve carried out whilst a lifeboat crew member.”

Shallimah’s owner had called 999 and reported she and her horse had got into trouble and needed help from the RLNI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution). When the lifeboat reached distressed Shallimah, he was starting to tire so the crew attached a line to his bridle and coaxed it back to shore and was reunited with his owner.

Robert Smith, 23, of Canterbury, who witnessed the drama, said:  “It could have been so much worse. The horse was obviously a bit scared but he looked a lot better when he got out of the water.”


Just hanging out

Little Dolly the hamster won’t give up her grip easy and just loves to swing on the ‘high-wire’ at home.

No height is too perilous for this cute rodent who loves to spin around the rope.

Her antics certainly thrilled photographer Mirko Waltermann, who took the pictures at his home in Hamm, Germany. While setting up the photo shoot Dolly was so eager to start the shoot that she began running around her cage in anticipation.

Bringing the energy to the camera, Dolly made sure she pulled off her routine to perfection by spinning around the rope with high speed stunts. We even think that she might have a chance at snaring a lead role in the next Alvin and the Chipmunks film.

Mirko is a specialist in high-key lighting and says he enjoys photographing anything from fashion to animals.



A horse lover was left with a wheel emergency on her hands — after her pony Smila got trapped inside a huge tractor tyre.

Marlene Schmidt, 30, from Limmer, Germany, believes the horse had been trying to graze on fresh grass under the tyre when she slipped and fell head first into it.

The unfortunate animal was left trapped inside the tyre with one of her hind legs poking out and her head pushed into the ground.

Firefighters had to use hydraulic cutting equipment — normally used to rescue people from the wreckage of car crashes — to eventually free the terrified pony.

Fortunately, Smila was unhurt in the incident, apart from a few dents to her pride.

Ms Schmidt said: “She’s very playful and often gets into scrapes.

But I am just happy that nothing worse happened.”


Wooed by a giant carrot

A Chinese man persuaded 48 friends to dress as giant carrots in a bizarre but successful bid to win his girlfriend’s hand in marriage.

Pang Kun’s pals donned costumes to dance in a shopping mall in Qingdao, Shandong Province, to attract girlfriend Xhao Xinyu’s attention.

Meanwhile Pang, who had slipped away from Zhao pretending he needed the toilet, began speaking on a microphone.

“Six months ago, I met you. I still remember your shyness on our first date, my longing for the next date and my excitement when I first held your hand at the cinema,” he began.

A surprised Zhao recognised Pang’s voice but couldn’t see him and tried to call him on his mobile phone.

Suddenly, one of the carrots walked up to her and removed his costume, revealing that it was Pang, who knelt down and proposed.

As passers-by chanted “marry him! marry him!”, Zhao nodded shyly and the couple celebrated with a kiss.

Yuan Mei, a friend of Pang, said Zhao had planned the project with his friends for three weeks.

He had chosen carrots because orange was Zhao’s favourite colour.

“He spent around 100,000 Yuan (Rs1,349,234), including costumes, actors and equipment,” he said. “They rehearsed the dance for two full days.”


Man lets ‘deadly’ snakes bite daughter

A snake handler has been slammed in Australia after he let ‘deadly’ snakes bite his 10-year-old daughter to prove they had been de-venomised. Raymond Hoser, 49, allowed a taipan and a death adder to bite his daughter during a demonstration at a Melbourne shopping centre, the Manningham Leader reports.

Mr Hoser, a director of reptile education company Snakebusters, said a video of the incident, which left his daughter with bleeding puncture wounds in her forearm, proved she had never been at risk.

“She was only bleeding and if they’d been venomous she’d have been dead in two minutes,” Mr Hoser said. “If I’m confident to do that to her, it shows you I have never used a snake with venom.”

Mr Hoser was fined £7,650 for breaches of his Commercial Wildlife Demonstrator Licence.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.


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