American arrested for stealing 299 stuffed birds

Here’s a new low in the annals of crime. An American man has been arrested in England for stealing 299 stuffed birds from the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, England.

The unnamed 22 year-old has been arrested in connection with a break in at the museum back in June. The birds that were stolen were all rare and would have fetched a fair amount on the black market, showing that the unnamed suspect knew what he was doing. Most of the stuffed birds have now been recovered.

The Natural History Museum at Tring is famous for its collection of more than 750,000 preserved birds, 95% of all the world’s species. If you’re not in the neighborhood, you can still check out their species of the day, a feature running throughout 2010 in celebration of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. Today’s species is the Welwitschia mirabilis, a plant that can live for up to 1,500 years despite living in the harsh Namib Desert.

This seems to be a mixed year for museums. Hundreds of historic treasures have gone missing in Pennsylvania and the Met had to fork over some stolen Egyptian artifacts.

On the bright side, museum attendance is up as people try to save money by visiting sights close to home. Hopefully none of these folks are stuffing dead critters into their coats.

[Photo courtesy Sarah Hartwell]

Send your stuffed animal to Paris with Furry Toys Tours

Sure, we at Gadling talk a lot about travel – but travel for yourself, your loved ones, and your friends. What about sending your stuffed animal on a trip? Tour company Furry Toys Tours is aiming to change that, offering special Paris tour packages just for the special furry loved ones in your life. When you consider a recent survey by British company Travelodge reported on MSNBC that shows up to 35% of adults still sleep with a stuffed animal or “lovie,” well, this may be a potential gift for more people than you think.

In theory, this sounds like a great holiday gift – a “Flat Stanley” type adventure for your precious stuffed animal. The company was founded after being inspired by Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 movie “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain“. In the movie, Amélie secretly steals her father’s garden dwarf and sends it travelling the world (thanks to her friend who works as an airline steward). Shortly after the dwarf’s disappearance, the father starts receiving mysterious pictures of it in various locations around the world.

The company website suggests the tour as a way to “reward your cuddly toy, or play a trick (but also offer a wonderful gift) to your kid, partner or friend.” Perhaps for someone who doesn’t own a special toy this might sound like a good idea. But as a writer who also has a furry friend – we’d be livid if someone who purported to be a “loved one” removed our bear without our consent, particularly to send them on a multi-day European jaunt. So … um, perhaps you should ask before doing this.

Your furry friend will enjoy an extensive Parisian tour with optional four-day extension packages, and enjoy photos taken in front of sites including La Tour Eiffel, Les Champs Elysées, L’Arc de Triomphe, La Cathédrale Nôtre Dame and more.
Packages include 30+ photos for Paris Essentials Tours, printed to 9x13cm, glossy, with a white border taken on a 10m pixels digital camera, and will also be saved on CD for further editing. The website promises that photos will also include pictures taken during your cuddly toy’s daily life in Paris, aside from sight visits (relaxing at home, recreational activities) as well as daily e-mails and pictures to keep you updated on your furry toy’s journey. Furries will also be posting on the Paris Furry Toys Tours Facebook Page daily (go social media!). Your friend will also bring back a little Parisian souvenir and the official and personalized Furry toys Tours traveling certificate edited on premium paper.

Friends will begin their tour on the Monday following their arrival and will be returned via a secured and insured parcel. Basic tours cost 100.00 with extra extension tours starting at 50.00, and additional furry friends are allowed to accompany the journey for a reduced fee of 50% off.

What do you think, readers? Is this a holiday gift you’llbe purchasing for you or your children anytime soon? While the trip sounds fun and well-organized, we’re not sure we want to part with our furry friend for that long – or risk the wrath of a loved one if we “borrow” theirs.

We do, however, love this disclaimer: “We carry a fully non-discriminative policy and can accommodate for all kinds of furry friends, no matter their age, species, race, colour, gender, nationality, condition, as well as religious beliefs and practices.”

75,000 teddy bears left behind in hotels every year

This has got to be the saddest statistic I’ve heard in a long time.

Just think of it–seventy-five thousand teddy bears wondering why they got left behind. Seventy-five thousand distraught owners. Seventy-five thousand hotel owners frantically calling Teddy Bear Protection Services to get the bears emotional support.

It gets worse.

The figure is only for bears lost and returned last year at one hotel chain–Travelodge. Granted it’s one of the biggest budget chains in Europe with 380 hotels and 6.5 million guests last year, but think what the statistics must be globally. While Travelodge has made heroic efforts to reunite teddies with their families, it’s obvious the UN needs to gets involved.

Faced with this problem Travelodge did a bit of research and surveyed 6,000 people about their teddies. They made the surprising discovery that teddies are popular with adults too. A third of adults go to bed with a stuffed animal, and 25 percent of men take teddies on business trips with them. Respondents said it’s comforting to go to bed with a teddy, and psychologists say having a cuddly friend from home helps people feel comfortable in a strange place.

It’s heartening to see teddies enjoying travel. Some bears even have their own blogs, like Travel Schlepp, who is currently in Taiwan and offers some good advice on what to pack when going to Asia this season. BBC travel correspondent Misery Bear tells of the dangers of visiting the beach.

Just remember, teddy friends, to check your bed before checking out. You don’t want to leave your best friend behind.

Cute teddy photo courtesy user Mike R via Wikimedia Commons.

SkyMall Monday: Spa Teddy Bear

I stay pretty active when I’m not holed up in the SkyMall Monday headquarters testing products. If I’m not wrestling tigers, dog sledding or setting an orphanage on fire saving orphans from a burning building, I’m nursing my aching muscles. Living an active life leaves me sore and in need of comfort. But, sadly, I live alone in the SkyMall Monday headquarters and there’s no one to help nurse me back to health. Sure, I could go to a spa and pay someone for a massage, but that would require leaving my home and interacting with human beings. That just sounds taxing. No, I need something that will soothe me physically and spiritually while catering to my debilitating social anxiety disorder.

Thankfully, SkyMall understands that even us agoraphobic social pariahs need muscle relief. They know that we need warm hugs from soulless creatures who won’t feed our insecurities. They know that we need a plush toy that will be there when the rest of the world has turned their backs on us and labeled us “weird” or “not allowed near schools.” They know that we need a stuffed animal that we can put in the microwave and then rub on our naked bodies. They know that we need the Spa Teddy Bear.Look, not all of us have friends or lovers who will rub our bodies and release the stress of a hard workout or cathartic cry. Some of us need to turn to the only things that truly understand us: plush toys. Even those people who have been shunned by normal society and have sought solace in the inanimate love that dare not speak its name deserve to find muscle relief and reduction in swelling. The Spa Teddy Bear is there when the everyone else is not.

Perhaps you’re one of those people who think that stuffed animals are just for kids and have no business providing comfort to adults with sore muscles. That’s just intolerant. People like you make me sick. But, I’ll indulge your close-mindedness and let the SkyMall product description explain to you just how normal it is to find comfort in the warm embrace of a plush toy:

When everyone else leaves you cold, you will always have Hot Teddy, also known as Buddy D. Bear to give you an endless supply of cuddles. Just warm him up in the microwave and then get ready for some good hugging. Or if you are nursing a fever, chill him in the freezer and he will give you a cool, soothing hug.

You may have a wife, but can she fit in the microwave? I didn’t think so. And for you ladies whose flows may be heavier than others, Buddy D. Bear “can even ease away monthly cramps.” I bet your boyfriend can’t do that. And when that boyfriend is sleeping with your younger, less menstruating sister, “Hot Teddy makes a great bedtime cuddle bear.

So, rather than try to cram that mail-order Russian bride into the freezer, why not let the Spa Teddy Bear do all that hard work for you? Whether he’s fresh from the microwave or chilled after “at least four hours” in the freezer, he’ll always smell like clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus. Your mail-order Russian bride will just smell like herring and packing tape.

And, if you and Buddy D. Bear decide to take things to the next level, his outer cover is washable. But before you consummate your love, be sure to let him cool. That microwave can make things hotter than you’re ready to handle.

So, stop judging those of us who are alone and instead help us treat those third-degree burns on our privates. You might just help us build our first real inter-personal relationship.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

What’s the Deal with Albanian Teddy Bears?

When researching an upcoming trip to Eastern Europe, I ran across an interesting thread in Lonely Planet’s travel forum, Thorn Tree, called “Albanian teddy bears.” It reads:

“Anyone know why Albanians hang teddy bears from the rooves [sic] of their houses? It seems to be all over the place!”

There were only two responses to the message, none of which had the answer. Both, however, shared conflicting personal experiences. “I was in Albania in May and didn’t see any teddy bears,” one response read. Another replied, “I was there also in May and June and teddies were all over the place and in every town or village i went to, although more in towns.”

So what’s the deal? I figured I’d throw the question out to Gadling readers since they’re so freakishly good at pinpointing the location of even the remotest destinations in our Where on Earth? feature. Surely someone out there knows the answer to one of life’s great mysteries: The Albanian Teddy Bear. And don’t call me Surely.

Update: That was quick! In the comments, Gadling reader AT found this nugget of information: “These things are called “dordolec” (pronounced “dordolets”) and are apparently to ward off the evil eye. There have been quite a number of anthropological studies of the evil eye, but none of those I have seen mention this custom, and I was curious to know whether it, like religion, had been suppressed by the Hoxha regime, and if there is anything similar in neighbouring countries.” A subsequnt Google search for “dordolec + evil eye” confirms this theory. Thanks, AT!