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Heroes and villains

Prince Philip | Pope Francis | A cactus

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Prince Philip, who unwittingly saved the world’s rarest marsupial from extinction. In 1962, the Duke of Edinburgh successfully lobbied for an area of Australian bushland to be designated a wildlife sanctuary. Unbeknown to anyone, the bush contained a number of Gilbert’s potoroo, a tiny “rat-kangaroo” written off as extinct for a century. The potoroos were rediscovered in 1994, and conservation efforts are thought to have now boosted their numbers to more than 100.


Pope Francis, who has criticised couples who have pets instead of children. Pet keeping, he said, is “a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us”. It’s a bit rich, says Claire Carusillo in Gawker, coming from a lifelong bachelor who over the years has been happily photographed with dogs, a koala, a tiger and a lamb. 

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The cholla cactus, a Californian plant with glass-like needles. One of their number pierced David Attenborough’s hand – even though he was wearing Kevlar gloves – while the 95-year-old was filming the forthcoming BBC series The Green Planet. Equally villainous is the series’ executive producer Michael Gunton, who said: “One of the joys of going on location is thinking up horrible things to get David to do.”