Proboscis Monkey

Today’s endangered animal comes straight from the coastal forests of Borneo. Sadly, pretty much all the animals in Borneo are Endangered, Critically Endangered or Extinct already. However, efforts are being made to save the surviving few.

I want to start by saying that if you Google the word proboscis it means the nose of a mammal, usually a long nose or it’s the mouth-like snout of an insect. So, seeing the picture of this monkey, you can imagine how it obtained it’s name. It’s scientific name is Nasalis lavatus. Proboscis monkeys don’t grow to be very tall. Only a little over 2 feet tall with males weighing up to about 50 pounds and females weighing less than that. You can find them in the arboreal coastal lowlands of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia where they are endemic.

monkey-681668_640You can distinguish adult proboscis monkeys from offspring because of their coloring. Adults have light brown or red fur with pale faces while their young are born with black fur and blue faces. The bulbous nose is only found on male proboscis monkeys. The main reason for such a large nose has to do with obtaining and attracting mates. Proboscis monkeys live in groups of harems where you have one male and between to to six females. They have specialized mating calls and it is speculated that the echo of these calls is amplified because of their noses. In the case of this species, size matters… a lot. Scientists have speculated that the size and length of the nose has a direct correlation with the size and length of the penis and the testes. The bigger the nose, the bigger the reproductive parts. The nose is always growing too. As males age, their noses become larger and longer.

Diet of proboscis monkeys mostly consists of leaves, seeds and unripe fruits. Offspring are born after a gestation period of six months. Like humans, proboscis monkeys only have one offspring at a time and will remain with mom and the rest of the harem for several years. If the offspring is male, once he reaches maturity, he goes off and joins bachelor groups. Proboscis monkeys primarily spend most of their time in trees but they will come down to land if food is scarce. Another feature of these monkeys is their swimming ability. There have been sightings of proboscis monkeys belly flopping into rivers to swim across in search of more food. What makes them such great swimmers are their partially webbed hands and feet! They are able to escape predators such as large lizards and crocodiles because they are such good, fast swimmers.proboscis-monkey-216215_640

The proboscis monkey has been listed as Endangered since the year 2000 with less than 1000 individuals remaining in the wild. The main causes of population decline are illegal hunting and capture and habitat destruction. The rainforest and mangroves trees have been cleared for the harvest of timber and implementation of oil palm plantations. This forces the proboscis monkeys to come to land more often and travel far distances for food making them easy prey for land animals such as jaguars. Hunting is also a problem because even though they are banned from being sold internationally, they are still sold within the area and some natives consider them a delicacy.

There are ongoing conservation efforts. One of which is a wildlife sanctuary but even that is a challenge for the proboscis monkeys especially since they do not do well in captivity. There are not any direct links to contribute to saving proboscis monkeys specifically but donating to any project that’s goal is to save rainforests is a start.

(Sources: Arkive, NatGeo, IUCN)



The other day I was browsing Facebook, as I usually do, and I came across an article titled “15 animals that are endangered of going extinct in the next 10 years” or something along those lines. Most of them I’ve seen before like polar bears, Sumatran tigers, rhinos, etc, and the vaquita. Then I saw a picture of one of these and immediately was like, “what is that! I have to talk about it”, thus commencing my internet search for this Endangered Thursday post.

The shoebill, also known as the whale headed stork, or Balaeniceps rex, is quite a fascinating creature. It’s blueish gray in color, has yellow eyes and stands about 5 feet tall. I’m 5 foot 7 inches myself and this bird can almost look me in the eye just standing there! The name is derived from the size and shape of it’s beak. It looks almost like an elf shoe or a clog with the hook on the end but definitely not as soft and fuzzy as one. Most people relate the look of this species to a stork, a pelican or a heron but it’s more like all those 3 combined and then some because this species is highly evolved.

If you’re wondering where this beastie resides, you’d have to travel to the wetlands and shoebill with eelswamps of Africa to see them. They are endemic to the areas of Southern Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. These areas are plentiful of what the shoebill loves to eat: lungfish. However they snack on other things as well. Shoebill have been known to eat other smaller fishes like catfish and tilapia, eels, frogs, monitor lizards, turtles and baby crocodiles. That’s right, BABY CROCODILES! The mandible on this bird is insanely strong and it can crush hard exoskeletons like cracking open a hazelnut. They are quite smart too. They are very good at standing still for extended periods of time. What they do is stand very still, like a statue, in the area of their prey and they almost blend in with the vegetation surrounding them — striking when the opportunity presents itself. They usually gulp up a mouthful of vegetation along with their prey so they’ll shake their heads to be rid of the vegetation (because vegetables are gross 😉 ) and then decapitate their prey while it’s in it’s mouth before final consumption.

Balaeniceps-rex_Claudia-Gray_ZSL_2Shoebills are very solitary animals. It’s very rare that you’ll see them in a group unless it’s mating season. They also do not migrate like regular birds unless the lungfish move then they’ll generally follow them. Breeding season occurs at the start of the dry season. When a shoebill mates, it’s monogamous but also the males and the females participate fully in the rearing process from building the nest to keeping the eggs incubated or cooled. Eggs hatch once a year because it takes a while for a shoebill to fledge. It takes 30 days for an egg to hatch and then 95 days for the the hatchling to fledge. During this time the parents feed the chicks regurgitated food multiple times a day. Once they fledge, it takes about another 30 days for them to be able to fly and once they fly they are independent of their parents. Shoebills live about 36 years in the wild.

Shoebills don’t really have any predators because they protect their habitats aggressively. Humans don’t bother them either. They’ll usually just have a staring contest. Shoebills are important to the ecosystem however because they keep the lungfish and some of the other swamp creatures populations in check. The natives borderline fear these birds but they bring money to the area through ecotourism.

Shoebills are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because they suspect there are only about 5,000-8,000 individuals remaining. This is one step above Endangered. They are protected by law in the countries they inhabit but habitat destruction is the number one cause for population decline. The swamps and wetlands they rely on to survive are being converted into agricultural land for farming and cattle grazing. There is also what’s known as the zoo trade. Shoebills in zoos are in high demand so the natives will capture the shoebirds and sell them for up to $20,0000 dollars to zoos. If shoebills breed in captivity, it’s highly likely that hatchlings will imprint on the zookeepers making it impossible to ever release them back in the wild when they’re adults. As of now there are no conservation plans to save the shoebill or conservancies taking donations but this is one bird that has eyes on it because nobody wants it to become endangered or even worse, extinct.

Check out the video below to see the shoebill catching its prey in action! Isn’t this one of the most prehistoric, robotic looking animals you’ve ever seen??

(Picture Sources: EDGE, Imgur)
(Sources: IUCN, Animal Diversity)


Born.. Twice?

Hello everyone and welcome to Endangered Thursdays. The animal I’m about to talk about isn’t endangered but its survival just trying to be born is quite interesting. This was shared to me a few weeks ago and by special request, I’m going to talk a bit about this crazy cool phenomenon today.

To the women out in the world, imagine if you could control exactly when you want to get pregnant. Well, for humans, we can’t. It’s usually hit or miss even if you plan it out. Kangaroos females, or does, however, have this ability. Mating season for kangaroos usually occurs in the rainy season when food is plentiful and temperatures are just right. When a doe is impregnated, she is able to control, to an extent, when the embryo attaches to the fetus. For example, if she still has a baby kangaroo, or joey, in her pouch, she’ll delay attachment until the joey is ready to be completely out of the pouch. Because does have so much control, they are pretty much able to breed offspring all year long.

Now, in case you don’t know what a marsupial is, I’m going to tell you. Marsupials are mammals that carry and develop offspring in their pouches. When the offspring comes out of the pouch, it’s fully developed with fur and everything. Inside the pouch is where the teats or nipples are that offspring suckle from while they grow strong. Majority of marsupial species are found in Australia such as kangaroos, koalas, wombats and wallabies. However, there is one species of marsupial you can find in America and that’s the opossum.

So now the doe has decided she wants to be pregnant and the embryo attaches to the fetus. From an external viewpoint, you can’t tell when a doe is pregnant. The only indication an embryo is on it’s way is when the doe starts licking the inside of her pouch and takes on a birthing position. The fetus comes out surrounded in it’s amniotic sac, not more than about an inch in size. Fetuses are born blind and they only have front legs with tiny claws which help them to break the amniotic sac and ready itself for it’s journey North.

Yes. I said journey North. You read that right. What happens next is truly extraordinary.

The fetus, blind, death and with only front legs begins to use those tiny legs to pull itself up to mama’s pouch. It’s born instinctively knowing to do this because if it doesn’t migrate to the pouch, it will die. Even though the fetus can’t see or hear anything, it is able to smell. The travelling process takes about 3 minutes though the video I will show you at the end makes it seem like it takes forever. Once it reaches the pouch, it climbs inside, finds one of the four nipples and attaches itself. Mama doe then cleans herself of all evidence of birth.

While the growing joey is in the pouch, mama will clean her pouch daily by licking herself. It’s almost a robotic process because does seem to be pretty oblivious to the fact that they’re growing a joey. Joeys first emerge from the pouch after cooking in there for 198 days. It’s still wobbly and not ready for the world so will usually crawl back inside the pouch. Does don’t seem to mind it all. They just change their stance to accommodate little joey climbing back inside. Joeys usually climb in head first and then do a little flip to get their feet pointed down and their head out of the pouch.

After about 235 days inside the pouch, it becomes pretty cramped in there and the joey climbs out for good. This is when does take interest in their offspring by helping them get used to their legs and preventing them from going back inside because it’s highly likely she’s producing again and if the joey climbs back in, it’ll kill the next in line offspring.

You have to see this! Check out the video below to see this incredible process in action:

Thank you Mischenko for bringing this to my attention and recommending I share it on the blog. 🙂

(Sources: KangarooWorlds, Answersingenesis)


Interesting looking creature isn’t it? Ladies and gentleman, today’s endangered animal is brought to you all the way from the areas of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and Uzbekistan. This is the saiga or saiga tatarica; if you wanted to get scientific. It’s about the size of a goat but more related to the antelope family. Very interesting face, I know. What makes this even more fascinating is the fact that saiga are ancient creatures. That’s right. They have been around since the Ice Age and roamed the earth with wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. I’m not kidding! Millions of years and this animal has withstood all kinds of time.

Saiga-AntelopeLike I said, saiga are about the size of a goat. Males are a little bit larger than females standing at about 2-3 feet tall (70ish cm) at their shoulders and they weigh about 60 to 90 pounds (28-40 kg). They are usually a cinnamon color but in the winter they’re coat gets very thick and turns very pale; almost white. Horns only appear on a saiga if he’s male and the rings at the base of it’s head are sometimes darker than the tip. The nose! We have to talk about the nose of course. A saiga’s nose is similar to that of an elephant’s trunk. It’s a bit of a large flap that hangs over their mouth and is said to filter dust particles in the summer and warm the cold air before it reaches the lungs in the winter.

There is a mouth under that nose. Unlike an elephant, it’s not as flexible or strong and baby saigacan’t pick up things or anything like that. Saigas are herbivores and eats grasses, herbs and shrubs in the Euraisan steppe (a grassland type of biome). Saiga are herding creatures creating groups up to 40-50 individuals. They live in a type of harem where you have a couple males who defend 30+ females. However, when migration season happens, herds of tens of thousands of saiga will come together and migrate together across vast lands. They have been sighted travelling up to 70 miles in one day! Mating season occurs in mid to late December. Calves are born around May. Usually saiga produce one offspring but there have been cases of twins and even triplets the older the females get. The lifespan of a saiga is usually about 6-10 years.

Saiga are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red list. There are only about 50,000 individuals left. That sounds like a lot I know. I thought so too when I first read about them. However, in the early 1990’s there were over 1.2 million saiga and they had a much larger range across Europe and Asia and even Alaska! The early nomadic people treasured the saiga and had sustainable hunting practices for their meat and hides as part of their culture. Now, saiga are poached upon for their horns because they supposedly have medicinal properties in the Chinese market. The problem with this is only the males have horns so it’s seriously hurting the population as the females cannot reproduce without males.

2015 was the hardest year ever for the saiga. A mysterious respiratory illness came about and spread through the saiga population wiping out 200,000 saiga in one go. It was quite devastating and luckily there hasn’t been a repeat in 2016 or 2017. So, as you can see, going from 1.2 million in the early 1990s to only 50,000 individuals in 2018 is a huge problem for a species with such history!

Since 1994 conservationists have been trying to save the saiga. You won’t see one in a zoo because they do not do well in captivity. There are various projects and programs aimed at bringing public awareness and education about the saiga. Organizations like WWF are working with governments in the saiga’s range to help reduce poaching. If you’re interested in reading more about the saiga or support the efforts by donating, click here. Also, check out the video below to see a live baby saiga:

(Sources: SaigaConservation, WWFPanda)
(Image Sources: Imgur, BBC, ConservationJournal)


Today for Endangered Thursdays, we’re going to expand a little bit and talk about a survival tactics used by mostly reptiles and amphibians in order to survive extremely cold weather conditions. This process is known as brumation. It’s a little bit similar to hibernation but different. Hibernation generally applies to mammals. Unlike reptiles and amphibians, mammals are warm blooded. This means they can regulate their own body temperature; i.e., when it’s hot, they can cool themselves off and when its cold they can warm themselves up. Hibernation occurs in either freezing cold weather or extremely hot weather. In extremely hot conditions, mammals usually dig burrows or relocate deep into caves where its cooler and will reemerge when outside temperatures decrease. Mammals who usually hibernate in the winter “stock up”, so to speak, their body fat by consuming lots of food leading up to the winter months. When they go into hibernation, they slow down their metabolic processes, sometimes up to 95%, preserve energy. The energy they are living off of comes from that storage of extra body fat that keeps them alive throughout the months of cold where they aren’t eating and are just in long state of dormancy.

Now, I had never heard of brumation before. I always just called what my turtle did in the cold months hibernation or torpor. Torpor, however, is a temporary dormancy that is short lived in comparison to brumation which lasts about as long as a  hibernation period. A lot of people have never seen this process before because most reptiles and amphibians seen in a zoo or sanctuary live in a climate controlled environment so they don’t necessarily have to hibernate or brumate. Brumation and torpor apply to reptiles and amphibians because they are cold blooded and so the process is a little different. An animal that is cold blooded cannot regulate it’s own body temperature. Instead, it matches it’s temperature to its surroundings. When reptiles and amphibians go into brumation, they slow their metabolic processes to a point where they almost cease to exist. Unlike mammals who live off their fat storage for energy, reptiles and amphibians can just go without eating for several months. It’s one long fast and let me tell you, when they come out of it, they are ravenous.

Sometimes brumation is also referred to as a state of suspended animation. This means the reptiles and amphibians truly look dead but they actually aren’t. For example, in Florida this year, the people as well as the animals experienced some record low temperatures. Iguanas who had no idea it was going to get so cold, were falling out of trees! People thought they were falling out of the trees because they were dying. One man who considered iguanas to be a delicacy started collecting the “dead” iguanas because he thought he was stocking up on meat for many months. He got a rude awakening when he put them in his heated car and the woke back up with a vengeance. Iguana zombie apocalypse anyone?

To best show you brumation fully, check out this video below showing alligators in a state of brumation at a wild life rescue preserve in North Carolina. Here they are sticking only their snouts out of the water so they can breathe while the rest of them is frozen beneath the surface of the swamp. It’s really quite cool.

Have you ever heard of brumation or torpor before? Let me know in the comments below!

Asiatic Lion

I was thinking of what endangered animal I could talk about today and since I have quite a few friends here from India, the animal I’m going to discuss today comes from western India’s Gir National Park. The Asiatic lion at one time roamed the entire continent of Asia and the Middle East. Today, the entire species lives in the Gir National Park where it’s protected.

When you think of where a lion comes from, your first thought is probably the zoo. Well, there are lions in the zoo but that’s not their natural habitat though it looks like it is. Your next thought is probably to think of the Lion King which means Africa. Well, you would be right except that what most people don’t realize is that there is another species of lion besides the common African lion. The scientific name for the Asiatic lion is Panthera leo persica. African lions are Panthera leo. These lions are also known as Asia Lion or Indian Lion. Asiatic lions look similar to their African cousins however they are smaller in physical size and appearance. Appearance wise, they have a very distinctive flap of skin that runs from their chest and across their stomach covering their underside. It ranges in color from a ruddy shade to a silver shade. Another striking difference is the males of the species have smaller, less fluffy manes than their African cousins so you can always see the ears of an Asiatic lion. Height wise, the male Asian lion is about the same height as a female African lioness — 3.6 feet high (110 cm).

Asian lions have prides just like African lions. Their prides are smaller though; only consisting of 2 or 3 females versus a dozen or more. They hunt in packs but they go for smaller prey such as deer, antelope, boar and chital. Sometimes the whole pride is not necessary to hunt and a female lion can take down prey alone. Mating season takes place all year round for the most part. A female lioness can bear up to 6 cubs in a litter. Baby Asian lion cubs open their eyes at 11 days old, walk at 15 days old and are running by a month old. Females become sexually mature at 4 years old and can live to be about 18 in the wild.

Like I said earlier, the entire population of Asiatic lions can only be found in the teak and deciduous forests ans savannas of the Gir National Park where they are federally protected. To date there are a little over 400 individuals and the population seems to be on the incline but the species is still listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red list. Major threats to this species include habitat fragmentation, poison, illegal poaching, inbreeding, drowning and possible bad weather. Habitat fragmentation is a little different than habitat destruction. There are 3 big temples, major roads and a railway that runs through one of the protected areas of the National Park. They attract a lot of pilgrims which could potentially increase human-animal interaction. Farmers in surrounding areas also put up electric fences or poisoned prey to capture the lions as they are a threat to livestock. Poaching still occurs unfortunately even though it’s illegal and since the population is so small, the gene pool is not very diverse. There are wells throughout the area that are not barricade properly so if a lion falls into one, they will drown. Lastly, conservationists are constantly monitoring the weather because one catastrophic wildfire or flood could wipe out the entire species to extinction.

Besides federally protecting the area, there are conservation programs in effect to bring up the population. There’s an initiative to get the 100+ wells barricaded to decrease the chance of lions falling in. There are also breeding programs across parts of India to help boost the population and diversify the genetic pool. Locals in the community are working with the government to patrol the area for poachers. They consider the lion not only the king of the jungle but a symbol of strength and power especially since it’s a religious icon in Hinduism; the goddess Durga rides a lion and the god Narasimha is half lion.

If you’re interested in donating to the cause of protecting this species as well as other endangered Indian animals, check out WWF India here.

Sources: (OurEndangeredWorld, WWFIndia, NatGeo, AnimalSpot)

Image Sources: (BBC, DiscoverWildlife, ChesterZoo)

Philippine Eagle

Today’s endangered species comes to us all the way from the Philippines. The Philippine eagle is the largest eagle in the world. Other names for this raptor includes “Monkey-eating eagle” and “Aguila Monera”. As it’s name suggests, it is endemic to the Philippines. Four specific islands to be exact: Luzon, Leyte Mindanao and Samar. The population used to be widespread across all of the islands but due to threats which will we get to later on, the population size decreased. Philippine eagles are found in dipterocarp trees in the rainforests of the Philippines. Dipterocarp trees are basically hardwood trees with winged seeds and are very dominant in lowland, tropical forests of Asia.

When you think of an eagle, most automatically imagine the looks of a bald eagle. Philippine eagles have slightly different colorings than a bald or golden eagle and because it’s the largest eagle in the world, it’s bigger. Both male and female Philippine eagles can grow to a height of about 3 feet (1 meter) with a wingspan of 7 feet (2 meters) with a weight of 14 pounds (6.5 kilograms) or more. The underbelly of a Philippine eagle is snowy white with their back being a chocolate brown as well as the feathers on their crown. The crown is one of the distinctive traits of that make the Philippine eagle different from other eagle species. It has a crown it can puff out, sort of like a peacock’s feathers, at will and from afar it looks like a mane. Another distinctive feature is it’s bright blue eyes. In fact, its the only bird of prey in the world to possess blue eyes. The beak is also a greyish-blue color and has a large arch to it.

The diet of this species is as it’s secondary name suggests. Philippine eagles mainly dine on monkeys, flying lemurs and other small primates. They will also eat rats, snakes, flying squirrels, bats, and even small deer. They hunt in pairs or alone. Pairs have been observed hunting where one serves as the decoy while the other captures prey. Philippine eagles are pretty monogamous. I say pretty because when they do mate, they will mate for life but if a mate dies, it’s not uncommon for the eagle to find another mate. Breeding season occurs in September. Mates will lay one egg every two years in a nest high up in the canopy of the jungle. Offspring rely on their parents for at least a year before going off on their own.  Philippine eagles can live up to 50 years.

Philippine eagles are listed on the IUCN red list as Critically Endangered. It is thought that there are less than 500 individuals left in the wild. The major threat to this species is habitat destruction. Due to logging and agricultural ventures, a lot of the forest that this species relies on has been decimated. Pesticides have also been on the rise and affects the diet of these birds and reduces their reproduction rate.  Poaching is also a major threat. Even though their are laws in place, people still claim to shoot the birds out of fear if not for sport.

There have been steps taken to save this species. It’s not only biologically important but it’s also essential for the Philippine heritage. It is the country’s national bird and has been represented in many aspects of the Philippine culture. It’s also an apex predator and keystone species for the ecosystem. There are a few programs as well as legislation have been instated to preserve the species habitat. There are a couple of eagles in captivity for reintroduction programs and there are monetary incentives to the natives to help keep the forest healthy.

If you would like to donate to help the Philippine eagle cause or gain more information, click the link here. All of the eagles have currently been adopted but you can still view all 33 of them and see their stories.

(Sources: OurEndangeredWorld, Philippine Eagle Foundation, Arkive)

(Image Source: Featured, Post)

Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

The species being discussed today hails all the way from Australia! I originally was going to write about a different animal but then I saw a Facebook video this morning about an animal sanctuary that featured some endemic, endangered animals like the Tasmanian devil and realized the wombat would be cooler to talk about. There are three main types of wombats. The common wombat, the northern hairy-nosed wombat and the southern hairy-nosed wombat. The common wombat occupies coastal areas while the northern and southern wombats prefer much a much drier habitat so are found inland. Northern hairy-nosed wombats are the biggest of the three species weighing in at about 32 kg (70 lbs) while the southern hairy-nosed wombat weighs the least amount; 26 kg (57 lbs). They have a bit of a stocky build with large paws and claws that allow them to build burrows that they stay in most of the time. When they walk, their bodies kind of sway from side to side because of their bulk but they are quite fast; averaging about 40 km/hr (about 24 mph) over short distances.

As I mentioned before, this species is endemic to Australia. This means you will not find it in the wild anywhere else in the world. Fossil records show that the species range used to be from south central New South Wales and central Queensland. It’s now restricted to Epping Forest National Park. Northern hairy-nosed wombats are 100% herbivores. Grass is their primary source of food so they burrow in areas of this forest where there is a year round supply. This species is very shy and nocturnal. They have extensive burrows usually starting at the base of native bauhina trees where they scent mark the entrances with dung or urine. The temperature of the burrows varies depending on the season. In summer, burrow temperatures can reach as high as 82ºF (28ºC) and in winter as low as 53ºF (12ºC). Breeding occurs in the summer months, or the wet season, which occurs from November to April. Females are sexually mature around 2.5 to 3 years and will carry offspring in their pouch for eight or nine months.

Northern hairy-nosed wombats have been endangered since 1982. At one time in the early 1920’s, it was thought the species was extinct but it was discovered again in the 1930’s. In 1982 when the species was declared endangered, a consensus showed there was only about 30 individuals left in the wild. By the 1960’s, a capture and release program was implemented to count the number of individuals and this showed that the number had increased to 63. However, the capture and release program was extremely stressful on the species so conservationists changed methods and would use tape to collect hair samples at burrows and run DNA tests instead. By 2000, the species count had grown to 113 and by 2010 it was up to 163. At last count in 2016, it was estimated that there are a total of 240 Northern hairy-nosed wombats in Epping Forest National Park.

Even though population numbers have been on the rise, the species is still listed as critically endangered. The major threat to this species is habitat destruction and disruption from cattle farming. There are also natural threats such as drought, wildfires and predation. Their genetic pool is also very low which makes them easily prone to diseases. Conservation efforts have been implemented for many years. There is a predator proof fence in Epping Forest National Park and continued monitoring and research of the wombats is ongoing. There are also fire management protocols as well as weed management. Because this small population is so critical, and one natural disaster can wipe out the entire population, conservationists have relocated a few individuals to Richard Underwood Natural Refuge where they monitor the population and manage predators hoping the Northern hairy-nosed wombat will thrive here as well.

(Sources: TheConservation, QueenslandGov’t)

(Image Sources: AustralianAnimalLearning, AusGeo, QldGov)

Painted Hunting Dog

Today’s endangered animal comes to you from southern Africa; specifically northern Botswana, western Zimbabwe, eastern Namibia and western Zambia. The species goes by many names: Painted Hunting dog, African wild dog or the Cape Hunting Dog.

The name Painted Hunting dog is derived from the splotchy markings on the dog’s coat. Each dog has its own unique markings that other pack members are able to identify. African wild dogs grow to be about 30 inches tall (which is a little over 2 feet), be about 30-56 inches long (2 feet-5 feet) and will weigh about 40 to 70 pounds as adults. Their preferred habitat is low grassy areas such as savannas, semi-desert areas or upland forests. African wild dogs are highly social individuals. Pack sizes can average about 10 to 40 or more individuals. Their primary prey are gazelles and antelopes such as the Impala, Greater Kudu and Thomson’s Gazelle. However, they have been known to take down larger prey such as wildebeest and African buffalo. If food is scarce, they’ll go for smaller prey such as hares, lizards and eggs but that’s a very small diet in comparison to what they normally eat. Painted hunting dogs can reach run speeds up to 45 mph.

Pack structure where reproduction is concerned involves the alpha male and alpha female producing offspring and the remaining individuals of the pack help to take care of the litter. It has been suggested that females of the pack become mature around 3 years of age. Litter size can very but African wild dogs are known to produce up to 16 pups in a pack per year. Most mammal species, when having a sick or disabled offspring or member, that member is usually left behind or killed. African wild dogs are one of the few mammal species who actually take care of their sick or disabled pups. Majority of the pack are usually males.

In 1990, African wild dogs were classified on the IUCN Red List as endangered and they have maintained that status since with the population consistently decreasing. There are thought to be only about 6600 or less individuals left in the wild. The major threat to African wild dogs are habitat loss and fragmentation. Humans have moved into their territory and have begun to overpopulate the area. This creates human-wildlife conflict and spread of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be spread between humans an animals). Rabies is one example of a zoonotic disease that can pass from animals to humans. Because humans are taking over, African wild dogs end up becoming in danger of predation from larger animals like Lions and hyenas who are picking them off while they’re trying to hunt their prey.

Conservation efforts have been ongoing as much as possible. There are strategies in place for a few areas in Africa. In some areas this involves capture and release where conservationists give the dogs rabies shots and then release them in order to lower the spread of disease. They also aim to keep the gene pool diverse by creating packs with orphaned pups. There are also outreach programs in place so that the general public can educate themselves and the general perception of the painted hunting dog can change for the better.

If this story moved you a little today, consider adopting an African Wild Dog here.

(Sources: WWF, IUCN, OurEndangeredWorld)

Albany Adder

Don’t freak out but snakes are important too! Today’s endangered species is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world; the Albany adder. The picture makes the snake look huge but most Albany adders are 12 inches or less in length. There is not too much about this species so this post is sadly, going to be a little short.

The Albany adder hails from South Africa. It’s actually endemic to a very specific area; more on that in a bit. Of the couple sources I read, there’s conflicting information on when the Albany adder was first discovered. Some say 1937 but others say the early 1990s but what they both agree on is that only about 12 individuals have been recorded in all that time with the last sighting being in 2007. The Albany adder almost looks like a mini dragon to me. It has these protruding tufts above its eyes that almost resemble horns, long fangs that they can fold against the roof of their mouth when they’re not using them and has a black and white scale pattern. The Albany adder is part of the viper family. This means it is most probably venomous and uses that venom to take down prey. Albany adders are viviparous. This means instead of laying eggs, they have live births.

In order for an animal to be classified as extinct, it has to not have been seen or recorded in 10 years. This year, the Albany adder was almost considered extinct until a field officer came across  not one, not two but four! Scientists were naturally ecstatic about this and shouted it to the heavens. But, remember I said the Albany adder is endemic to an area of South Africa. This area is on the classified need to know basis. That means only a handful of people know where this snake can be found in order to study it’s behavior, habitat, and other interactions. The reason they don’t want people to know more is because they’re afraid the snake will become a target for poachers. What poachers don’t know, they can’t utilize for profit. Like most venomous snakes, scientists sometimes take the risk of being bitten by one in order to diagnose the symptoms the venom causes and a cure for that snake’s bite. That hasn’t with the Albany adder (yet).

For now, the Albany adder is not officially listed on the IUCN Red list but it is considered to be critically endangered. However, because of this extraordinary find, scientists hope to learn more so they can present a case on why this species needs to be protected from extinction before it it goes extinct for real.

(Sources: Arkive, NatGeo, EarthTouch)

(Images: NatGeo1, NatGeo2)