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I'm trying to develop an argument about Russian-English translations of figurative language. I've been looking at cases where people talk about capturing an animal versus capturing someone's attention. Here are two example sentences in English, found online.

When Ruth Harkness, a New York fashion designer, became the first foreigner to capture a live panda eight years later, she named it Su Lin, meaning “a little bit of something cute”.

Last week, Hungarian artist Dandolf captured the world's attention when he released an appallingly cute (and strangely hard) puzzle, featuring a hidden panda.

I know that пленить is mostly used in the figurative sense and using it to mean capture is deemed obsolete in many dictionaries. But захватить doesn't seem to be used with reference to animate objects besides prisoners and hostages. I've also found a couple of examples where пленить is used to mean capture an animal.

В далекой Африке фермеры пленили российскую краснокнижную птицу скопу, окольцованную в 2013 году в Дарвиновском государственном биосферном заповеднике, который находится на границе Вологодской и Ярославской областей.

My questions are: (1) can пленить still be used to mean to physically capture an animal, (2) can захватать be used to mean to physically capture an animal, (3) is one of these better than the other, (4) is there some other word that's even better, and (5) does the following translation sound okay or weird:

На прошлой неделе, венгерский художник Dandolf пленил внимание всего мира, когда он выпустил ужасающе мила (и странно трудная) головоломка, показывая скрытую панду.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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(1) can пленить still be used to mean to physically capture an animal -- No

(2) can захватать be used to mean to physically capture an animal (I guess you really mean захватить) -- No

(3) is one of these better than the other -- Neither one is good when speaking of animals

(4) is there some other word that's even better -- Certainly, поймать

(5) does the following translation sound okay or weird -- Absolutely awful

Should be something like this:

На прошлой неделе венгерский художник Дандольф привлёк внимание всего мира, выпустив потрясающе увлекательнуюнеобычайно трудную) головоломку со спрятанной пандой.

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The word "пленить" could be used in meaning "to capture" in figurative language, but it have to be very figurative language. Your examples look like normal, neutral speech. As for me, this word looks outdated, and it is used rarely now. The best use of it, I think, is in telling a love story, something like

Её красота пленила его.

When speaking about people, it is better to use "похищать" (to kidnap) or (on the war) "взять (брать) в плен" (first example I found on a news site):

Вместе с тем он обращает внимание на то, что ИГИЛ брало в плен и христиан и мусульман — шиитов и суннитов.

"Поймать" is for "capture an animal", and "завладеть" or "привлечь" is for attention. Your first example I would change to the following:

В далекой Африке фермеры поймали российскую краснокнижную птицу скопу, окольцованную в 2013 году в Дарвиновском государственном биосферном заповеднике, который находится на границе Вологодской и Ярославской областей.

(Also I would use "занесенный в Красную Книгу" instead of "краснокнижный")
If you want to speak about capturing a lot of animals during the long time, you can say "отловить" about animals and "выловить" about fish:

Сбежавших из зоопарка животных удалось отловить только через неделю. В прошлом году браконьеры выловили 500 тонн рыбы.

Your second example looks weird (and has a lot of errors). I would say:

На прошлой неделе венгерский художник Dandolf привлёк внимание всего мира, когда выпустил очаровательную (и неожиданно трудную) головоломку, изображающую скрытую панду.

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  • Thank you for the thorough, awesome, very helpful response!
    – tristein
    Jan 6 '16 at 0:03
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It is possible to use "пленить" when speaking of people (though it's more typical to say "взять в плен" or "захватить"), but that word is almost never applied to animals (poetic texts might be a rare exception). So, in your example ("пленили скопу") it sounds unnatural (too human). When it comes to animals, they say "поймать", "выловить" or "отловить" (formal); "похитить" in case of illegal action.

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