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Grand Theft Otter: River otter in Vancouver park steals fish — and hearts

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A river otter on the loose in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is still playing coy and slaying koi.

The elusive creature has been feasting on the prized koi fish in the garden’s pond for several days and has continuously evaded attempts at capture. Park staff have said they are “devastated” by the loss of the beautiful fish.

Overnight Wednesday, it apparently sneaked into one of the traps set up by the Vancouver Park Board, ate the meat used as bait and then slipped away.

And on Thursday morning, another half-eaten decorative carp was discovered, bringing the body count to approximately seven.

Staff quickly disposed of the evidence Thursday morning while curious onlookers gathered outside the park gate to sneak a peek at the hairy otter.

The park remains closed to visitors and the media, but passersby said they were fascinated by the exploits of the cagey carnivore.

Otter has fans, detractors

Several people approached the gate Thursday and peered inside.

Leo Kiu said he heard about the otter from the media but he also works in the area and enjoys visiting the garden.

“I mean, it’s natural for otter to find their food in the city, but also I enjoy the animals here, the koi and the turtles and other animals,” Kiu said.

Several people took turns trying to peer into the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and catch a glimpse of the otter. (CBC)

Italian student Max Bottega has been in Vancouver since August and has never seen an otter before. He describes himself as “definitely team otter.”

“I thought it was pretty badass and so I came to check it out,” Bottega said. “It’s kind of a swimming rat, yeah?”

Nine-year-old R.J. Fore said his family has koi fish at home, and the otter’s predation on the garden’s fish makes him sad.

“They’re cool fish,” R.J. said. “I love koi fish. They’re my favourite type of fish.”

R.J. Fore, 9, says he’s saddened that the otter is feasting on the decorative fish. He says koi are his favourite fish. (CBC)

Our brains love these stories

So why has this story captivated so many in Vancouver?

University of Victoria neuroscientist Olav Krigolson says there are likely two factors at play.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, reason is people like cute, fuzzy creatures like otters.

The second is that it’s simply unusual and that triggers something in our brains.

“Different things trigger a little release of dopamine within our brain,” Krigolson said. “That’s something that captures our attention and makes it rewarding to us.”

The park board, however, is not finding this story rewarding.

Late Thursday afternoon it announced that it has hired a wildlife relocation expert to capture the critter and send it to a new home in the Fraser Valley.

“That will provide it with the best habitat for a long and healthy life,” the board said in a statement.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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