Mexican Long-Nosed Bat

In the spirit of Halloween passed, today’s endangered animal is the Mexican long-nosed bat or Leptonycteris nivalis. For starters, not much is known about the range of this species. The Mexican long-nosed bat is reported to be seen in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as Mexico and Guatemala. The reason the range is not specifically known is because scientists have not been able to pinpoint the migratory pattern of the species. Population size of roosts can range from zero to 10,000 individuals in a single year but it is suspected that the overall general population of the species is definitely declining. Fun fact: When you think of a flying creature, it’s usually a bird however, bats are the only mammals that can fly.

The Mexican Long-nosed bat is named exactly that for a reason. It’s muzzle is longer than the average, American bat species and it has what’s known as a noseleaf at the very tip of it’s muzzle. In order to explain the noseleaf’s function, we have to start with echolocation. Echolocation is a form of communication that certain animal species use to orient themselves with their surroundings. It’s a form of sonar which consists of the animal emitting calls out into their environment and receiving information back in the form of echos or sound waves. This enables the species to navigate their surroundings without actually “seeing” where they’re going. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “blind as a bat” that’s because bats have poor eyesight and rely heavily on echolocation. The noseleaf on the Mexican Long-nosed bat, focuses the echolocation calls emitted greatly enhancing their view of the world so to speak. Other distinguishing features of this species from other bats is its size — about 2.75 to 3.75 inches in total length with a 14 inch wingspan, and it has a 3 inch long tongue. The coloring of this bat varies between gray and sooty brown and they have long, fluffy fur.

As previously stated, the Mexican Long-nosed bat can range in roost size up to 10,000 individuals. When it’s time to eat, the bats will emerge after sunset and feed on flower species that open at night such as agave, cacti and century plants. This species not only drinks the nectar, it also consumes the pollen because the pollen is a high protein source and provides vitamins and minerals that keep these bat’s fur nice and shiny. The Mexican Long-nose bats are adept fliers and are able to hover and feed at the same time like hummingbirds because of that long tongue. This species will follow the flowering periods of agave. They start North, in the US states and then migrate South to Mexico in winter most of the time. Breeding season occurs between October and December in Mexico. A single offspring is usually born around April and May, will nurse for about a month and is able to fly by five weeks. Average life span of the Mexican Long-nosed bat is about 15-20 years.

In 1937, the Mexican Long-nosed bat species was discovered in a cave of the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park in Texas. Today, that’s primarily one of the only locations you can see this species as there is a protected sub-population in Emory Park of Big Bend National Park. The major threats to this species are human disturbance and destruction of their habitat as well as agave harvesting; the bats main food source. This is critical because an agave plant only flowers once then it dies and it takes 10 to 20 years to get to the flowering point. Another threat from humans stem from ranchers who have vampire bat problems. Yes, vampire bats are real however, the Mexican Long-nosed bat often gets confused with the vampire bat pests and ranchers tend to kill the many instead of the few. Conservation of this species is an ongoing process as researchers and scientists try to conduct surveys to understand the ecology better in order to put into place programs to keep the species from declining into critically endangered territory. If you ever find yourself entering a cave, be mindful of the potential disturbance and stress you can cause bat species. Best practices for viewing bats are waiting for them to come out versus going in to see them.

If you would like to learn more about bat conservation, feel free to visit Bat Conservation International (BatCon) for more information.

(Source: Texas Parks, Arkive)

Rafflesia

Today’s endangered species is focused on the biggest flower in the world: Rafflesia magnifica aka the meat flower. Now before you say, “I could have sworn I saw this flower in a botanical gardens!”, I assure you, you’re wrong. This particular species is only found in one location in the world. That’s right, if you don’t already live in the Phillipines, you’d have to hop on a plane and fly to the Mt. Candalaga mountain range in Compostela Valley to see the few of these that are left. Although this species is only found in such a small area, all species of Rafflesia are listed as vulnerable or endangered in some form or another.

What makes Rafflesia so unique is that they look like your average flower but have very distinctive differences. Rafflesia do not have stems, roots, or leaves. Your average flower has a system right? The roots pull nutrients and water from the Earth, up through their roots where it then gets turned into chlorophyll, glucose and other compounds a flower needs to grow strong and have vibrant colors. It also pulls energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Rafflesia don’t do any of that. Even though their coloring is brilliantly vibrant, it’s not due to the sun or nutrients from the Earth. Rafflesia are actually parasitic plants and the only way for them to grow is from leeching off one particular host. The only host that can create a Rafflesia flower is the Tetrastigma vine. The Rafflesia spreads its root like tentacle things under the tissue of the Tetrastigma vine and absorbs the sap until it matures. It literally starts out as a piece of tissue and is completely dependent on this grapevine relative in order to grow into a flower. The flower itself is characterized by its five-petalled formation, that can grow to be 5 inches or more in diameter, and also by it’s smell. Rafflesia do not smell like roses, let me tell you. They are called the meat flower for a reason. If you want to smell death, just walk up to a Rafflesia. They smell like rotting corpses.

Rafflesia magnifica are listed on the IUCN list as critically endangered. This particular species was discovered in 2005 and was listed as critically endangered in 2008. The major threat to the species is habitat loss to banana plantations. Scientists who went out to survey the area found a few clusters of Rafflesia magnifica but were only able to record males of the population. Not much has been recorded about their reproduction or life cycles because people can only recognize them when/if they bloom. Another threat to the species is ethnobotanical and illegal collecting. Ethnobotanical collecting is when humans collect plant species in order to study it’s uses to the local culture. Sadly, no conversation efforts have been put into place for this species. Maybe through spreading more awareness will the plight of this species come to light.

(Sources: Feat.ImgIUCN, WWF, Gaia)

Endangered Categories

I planned to write about another animal today but I realized I never made an initial post outlining the IUCN categories that animals are placed in based off their population size. Today, I am going to share these categories with you so going forward you can understand the threat level animals, and sometimes plants I talk about, are facing.

EX – Stands for extinct. This means that there is no trace or evidence of this species being alive anywhere in the world anymore. Either habitat loss, hunting, hybridization diluted the original DNA, or anything else you can possibly think of that caused this animal/plant to cease to exist. Think dinosaurs.

EW – Stands for extinct in the wild. This means that you will not see this species anywhere in its natural habitat assuming said habitat has not been destroyed. If you want to see the species alive somewhere, it’s probably in a zoo or wild life refuge that focuses on trying to breed the last individuals and grow their population in order to release them back in the wild. This also means they are working to restore the habitats as well because you can bring the population back but if they don’t have a thriving place to live, it won’t help them in the long run.

CR – Stands for critically endangered. This means the species is endangered of going extinct in the wild or extinct completely. Not all animals do well in captivity so sometimes they are at risk of skipping the EW step and going straight to the EX step. One of my very first posts was for the Northern White Rhino. There is only one individual in existence. His status is critically endangered because he still lives in a very, very protected wild.

EN – Stands for endangered. This means that the species population is declining rather quickly and at the rate it’s going, the species may have to be listed to CR. Lots of monitoring and surveys begin at this step in order to figure out why the population is rapidly declining and analyze what steps need to be taken to ensure the species doesn’t hit the red.

VU – Stands for vulnerable. This means the species numbers are doing okay but because of certain human activities or climate change, for example, the populations may become affected over time. Reproduction rates are monitored here to make sure offspring are being born and surviving. The risk of endangerment is evident but it hasn’t quite reached that point yet.

NT – Stands for near threatened. This is similar to vulnerable but it’s a projection of what could happen in the future if the rate of activities and habitat trends surrounding the species continues.

LC – Stands for least concern. This means the population is thriving, the habitat is thriving, there is no reason to focus on this species because it’s doing well enough on it’s own. Think deer or hey, humans.

There is also the DD category that’s not listed in the picture but that means not enough data has been collected in order to assess which category a species fits in.

I hope you find this post informative. I mainly focus on species that are EN and up. However, I haven’t actually talked about a species that’s completely extinct. Would that be something you all would be interested in? It won’t be dinosaurs I’m afraid but I can talk about some species that have recently gone extinct if that sounds cool. Let me know in the comments below!

Bactrian Camel

Today’s endangered species is brought to you by the family Camelidae. Fun fact. Camels were once native to North America before the age of humans. Unfortunately, humans hunted a lot and they ended up going extinct. Now before you say, “But I see camels in the zoo all the time!”, I know you do. That would be because camels were reintroduced domestically to the continent. Now, there are two types of camels; the Camelus ferus (Bactrian or two humped camel) and C. dromedarius (Dromedary or one humped camel). Bactrian camel is the species we are focusing on today. It should be also noted that I am talking about the wild Bactrian camel as opposed to its domestic counterparts which are listed under Camelus bactriarus.

The Bactrian camel hails from China and Mongolia. Historically, they spanned the all across both these countries but today they are mainly found in the Gobi and Taklimakan Deserts. Bactrian camels have evolved to be able to handle harsh desert conditions. They weigh anywhere between 650-1500 pounds (350-690 kg) and they are about 5.9-7.5 feet (180-230 cm) tall. Their heads rise above their shoulders allowing them to tower at almost 12 feet (365 cm) tall and their tails are 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) long. Bactrian camels have long, shaggy, beige colored fur in the winter and they shed it almost completely in the summer. They also have a double row of eyelashes and thick hairs in their ears to protect against sand. Their nostrils are slit-like and they are able to close them when sandstorms are really harsh. Their feet are different from what you might imagine a camel to have. Instead of hooves, they have big, flat padded soles that help them hold their weight and navigate rocky, desert terrain.

Bactrian camels are diurnal; which means they are most active during the day. They are also herbivores. Because they live in a desert climate, and vegetation can be scarce, they are one of the only land mammals adapted to eating thorns, dry shrubs and salty plants. Most animals avoid those. They are also to consume a mass quantities of water. In fact, they are only mammal in the world that can drink brackish, salty water and have no ill effects. They are able to consume up to 15 gallons (57 litres) of water in one sitting. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it is not water that is stored in their humps, its fat. They are able to go days without food or water living off their fat reserves however, they must replenish them whenever water is available. Bactrian camels are migratory creatures; travelling in herd sizes anywhere between 6 and 20. Females reach sexual maturity around 5 years of age and usually have their offspring in the winter or rainy season. Their lifespan is typically 40-50 years in the wold.

Bactrian camels have been listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered since 2007. There are less than 950 individuals left. There are a myriad of threats to this species. The major one is hunting. Bactrian camels are still consistently hunted for meat and sport. Another major threat is reduction in water available. The area in which they live has experienced extreme droughts which dry up the oasis’ they usually frequent and makes them extremely vulnerable to wolves. Hybridization is another threat to the Bactrian camel because their genetic diversity is slowly declining. Lastly, and this one is a real doozy, occurs from habitat loss. Bactrian are so evolved that they were able to survive nuclear tests over the last 75 years! That’s right people, they’re immune to radiation effects and yet, humans are trying to claim their habitat in order to mine. Boggles the mind, truly.

Conservation efforts are underway; slowly but surely. The Wild Camel Protection Foundation is a breeding program established in Mongolia hoping to increase numbers with the 15 individuals in the captive population. China has also established a protected area called The Great Gobi Natural Reserve but a second protected area is definitely needed. If you’re interested in donating to the conservation of the Bactrian camel, WWF has an adopt a bactrian plush program here.

(Sources: IUCN, EDGE)

Cuban Crocodile

Today’s endangered species comes from the Reptilia class (no relation to the song by The Strokes). It’s in the genus, Crocodylus which includes alligators and caiman. The Cuban crocodile has a very small distribution. Over time it’s been limited to two small swamps of Cuba; the Zapata Swamp and the Lanier Swamp on the Isla de Juventad (Isle of Youth). Both of these swamps are freshwater swamps. The Cuban crocodile goes by “Crocodile De Cuba” in French and “Cocodrilo De Cuba” in Spanish.

These crocodiles are medium sized in comparison to the native American crocodile. They average at about 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) long and weigh about 287 pounds (130 kilograms). Although they live in freshwater swamps, they are very much terrestrial creatures. Their feet do not have webbing which is indication of how much time they spend on land versus water and they have short, broad heads with bony ridges running between their eyes. They also have what’s known as “pearly” pattern on their back which are black and yellow spots and distinguish them from other crocodiles.

(As scary as he may look, how can anyone deny the existence of dinosaurs?!)

Diet of the Cuban crocodile mainly consists of hutias (resembles a cross between a beaver and a rat) and freshwater turtles. They have very broad back teeth that are strong enough crush turtle shells. Cuban crocodiles have also been historically known to prey on the giant sloth (remember last week’s post? Sadly, the giant sloth is extinct). Breeding season for the Cuban crocodile starts around May and June. Females will either dig a hole for their nest or build a mound nest for their eggs. Eggs size is around 20-40 in the wild.

The Cuban crocodile is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red list with less than 4,000 individuals left. The major threats to this reptiles include illegal hunting, habitat loss and hybridization. Hunters poach the Cuban crocodile to sale their meat to private restaurants who participate in the tourist industry. Habitat destruction is self explanatory given their restrictions to two tiny swamps. Hybridization refers to the Cuban crocodile mating with it’s American cousin, muddying the Cuban crocodile gene pool and lowering genetic diversity overall.

Conversation of this species is pretty much at a standstill. In 2008, when the species was listed as critical, a few conservation measures were put in place such as captive breeding programs and reintroduction but illegal hunting still continues as well as hybridization. Hopefully, some new monitoring legislation can be put into place that ultimately saves this beastie from extinction.

(Source: Arkive)

Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth

Today’s endangered species is brought to you by a video I stumbled upon browsing my Twitter feed last night. There are two main types of sloths; two-toed and three-toed. Within those two types, there are six species of sloth: maned sloth, pale-throated sloth, brown-throated sloth, Linnaues’s two-toed sloth, Hoffman’s two-toed sloth and the pygmy three-toed sloth. Of the six species, 4 of the populations are doing well but the maned sloth is listed as vulnerable and the pygmy three-toed sloth is critically endangered.

8900 years ago, pygmy three-toed sloths were found in the rainforests of Central America, specifically the Panama coast. Today however, the pygmy-three toed sloth is only found in red mangroves on one small island off the Panamanian coast called Isla Escudo or Escudo de Veraguas. During the Pleistocene period, or the Ice Age, there was a huge, diverse population of sloths with the pygmy three-toed being a lot larger than it is today. However, right around the Holene Epoch, or the age of man, population size began to decrease and habits became extremely isolated resulting in insular dwarfism. This occurs when a species is confined to a small area and depends on very limited resources.

The pygmy three-toed sloths are a greyish-tan color with black bands around their eyes. Males have an orange stripe down their back with a black line slashing vertically through it. They also have long hair that hangs around their face giving them the nick name “monk sloth” cause it looks like a hood. Their other distinct trait is that they have 3 toes versus the mainland sloths that only have two toes. They only weigh about 5-7 pounds in comparison to their cousins who weigh closer to 10 pounds or more. They spend most of their times in trees as they are pros at climbing. It’s very rare to see a pygmy three-toed sloth on the ground and if you do, they are doing their version of a crawl or going to the bathroom. They go go seven days without urinating or defecating. Pygmy three-toed sloths are also adept swimmers! In fact, the video I mentioned before showcased a pygmy three-toed sloth swimming to find his mate.

Speaking of mating, there are no lengths a sloth won’t go to to find his mate. A male is attracted to a female by the loud calls or vocalizations she makes. Sexual maturity for a sloth occurs around three years of age and offspring are born after about six months to a year. A female sloth has one offspring who clings to her underside throughout it’s first year. its It’s very rare for a sloth to bear twins. Pygmy three-toed sloths are herbivores. They feed on the leaves of the mangrove trees they live in.

The main threats to these little guys are deforestation. Since their habitat is already quite small, the destruction of the mangrove trees could lead to rapid extinction. There is a small population of natives that live on the island but secret hunting of the pygmy three-toed sloth for their meat is also a huge concern. And finally, the threat of turning the island into a tourist attraction would definitely mean the end for these beasties considering population count estimates are about 200 or less. This sadly means that genetic diversity is quite low.

The only main conservation effort that has been made is that Isla Escudo is listed as a protected wildlife refuge. However, it’s loosely enforced. Since about 2013, conservationists have been trying to come up with a comprehensive conservation plan that involves the natives as well as the scientific community to help prevent this species from going extinct. There are a few organizations you can donate to to help this cause. Click the names to find out more or to donate: The Sloth Conservation Foundation, The Zoological Society of London, The Amazon Aid Foundation.

As a bonus, here’s the video by BBC Earth that prompted this post:

(Source: EDGE, OurEndangeredWorld)

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Today’s endangered species comes from Chile. It’s called the Monkey Puzzle Tree. It’s also known as the Pehuén, monkey tail tree, Chilean pine and Pino Araucana. Comes from the Family Aracucariaceae (don’t ask me how to pronounce that one) which is species of evergreen conifers but it’s not actually the same as your average pine tree. The name came from the idea that it would be a real puzzle if a monkey tried to climb this tree but, fun fact, there are no monkeys in Chile anyway!

The monkey puzzle tree is a very ancient species. These trees were alive over 200 million years ago! That means they’ve been around since dinosaurs and scientists believe that these ancient animals used monkey puzzle trees as protection from other predators. Today they are located in the Chilean Coastal Range and Andes Mountains of Argentina because they thrive really well in volcanic soil.

The appearance of a monkey puzzle tree is quite fascinating or bizarre depending on the individual. They have a sort of pyramid shape as young saplings with spiky, stiff leaves that completely cover the branches. A lot of people like to say these trees look like reptiles because the leaves almost resemble plates of scales. When the tree is fully mature, it loses its lower branches and becomes very top heavy going from a pyramid shape to an umbrella shape. Monkey puzzle trees can grow to be 150 feet high and have a diameter of up to 7 feet.

A tree is either male or female. Male cones are known as pollen cones and female cones are known as seed cones. Pollination (the plant version of mating) occurs thanks to the wind transferring pollen to the seeds and that get naturally dispersed on the surrounding land. It takes 18 months for a cone to mature. It is not a good idea to stand under a monkey puzzle tree when it’s dropping cones because they are known to weigh up to 10 pounds! The seeds are referred to as piñones to the indigenous Pehuenche people of southern Chile and are one of their main food sources. They also use the trees as timber for boat structures, furniture and roofs; known as monkey puzzle wood.

Monkey puzzle trees were first introduced to Europe by Archibald Menzies. He was a British Navy surgeon and plant collector. In 1795, him and a few of his officers attended a dinner hosted by the governor of Chile and the dessert they were served had seeds on it from the monkey puzzle tree. Archibald saved some of the seeds and germinated them on his ship so by the time he got back to Britain, he had five monkey puzzle trees which were planted in the Royal Botanic Garden. This lead to the monkey puzzle tree becoming a huge phenomenon in the ornamental tree world and most seen today are juveniles.

While this tree is a hit in Europe and US, it’s sadly, declining in population in it’s natural habitat. Deforestation due to logging and burning to make room for more farm crops and cattle are the main reasons for population decline. Climate change is also affecting the trees because wildfires are becoming more and more intense and occurring with back to back frequency. Monkey puzzle trees are pretty resistant to fire considering they live close to volcanoes but sometimes the fires are just too hot to handle and they don’t stand a chance against fires deliberately set by humans. In 2014, Chile declared a national emergency because fires burned through acres of trees in 3 national parks. It sadly included small areas where this species is officially protected.

As far as conversation goes, most of the effort is targeting these forests as a whole versus one particular species. If you would like to learn more about the case study and what is being done, click here.

(Source: GlobalTrees, Owlcation, EdenProject)

California Condor

Today’s endangered species is one of the largest birds in the world; the California condor or Gymnogyps californianus. Gymnos is Greek for naked, because their heads are naked, gyps for vulture and californianus for their range which is California. However, 40,000 years ago, the California condor used to roam all over North America. By the way, condor comes from the Inca word cuntur which the Andean condors are named. Andean condors are California condor’s cousins and they are also critically endangered.

California condors are large. They are larger than a bald eagle. Body size is about 3.5 to 4.5 feet. Their wingspan is quite phenomenal. From wingtip to wingtip is a staggering 9 to 10 feet. Both male and female condors weigh in at about 18-31 pounds. You’d have to be quite strong to hold one of these beasties on your arm. When in flight, the California condor soars to dizzying heights of 15,000 feet where they glide. They can glide for hours without beating their wings and reach speed sup to 30-40 mph.

California condors are completely carnivorous. They’re actually scavengers which means they feast on the dead carcasses of large mammals like cattle, deer, pigs and even whales. They swallow the small bones of these animals in order to meet their calcium requirements. Like most vulture species, they are wary of humans so it’s pretty rare to see one snacking on roadkill. A lot of people believe they are able to smell death from far up above but they’re actually able to see way better than they can smell. They can consume as much as 5-7 percent of their body weight, sometimes more which allows them to go without eating for 2 to 3 days. At most, California condors can go a whole week without eating.

California condors usually nest in caves or natural cavities on cliffs and sometimes in trees such as the giant sequoias. Once a pair mates, they mate forever; they are very monogamous. The parents share nesting duties as well as bringing up offspring together. A condor pair only lays one egg at a time. It takes 2 months for it to hatch and then the young rely on their parents for a year or more after hatching. A California condor’s life span is about 60 years.

The number one cause of the California condor’s decline is humans and human activities. It all began when early Europeans settled in America (looking at you Columbus). They shot, poisoned, and generally disturbed the condors. They also vastly reduced their food supply of deer, elk and other large mammals. By 1985, the entire California condor population was reduced to just 27 individuals. It was decided to capture these individuals into captivity to try and save them from total extinction.

A controversial conservation breeding program was started in the 1980’s and today the population size is a little over 400 individuals (125 of them being wild; the rest in captivity). Lead poisoning continues to be the number one threat to the condor as well as habitat loss. It is completely illegal to kill a California condor and a bill was introduced in 2007 banning hunters from using lead based ammunition because the California condor feeds on some of the carcasses hunters bring down. It’s a very slow process, especially due to their reproduction rates and the oldest living condor has only made it to 40 years but slowly but surely, the numbers are rising.

Source: AllAboutBirds; WildlifeCA

 

Humans of…

Endangered Thursdays is normally dedicated to animals listed on the IUCN list all over the world to bring awareness to their plight. Today I’m switching it up and keeping it short.

As many people are aware, a huge hurricane named Harvey graced parts of Texas with its presence beginning last week. Houston in particular is now up to 50 inches of rain. That’s as tall, if not taller than the average human which means this city is underwater. Harvey has returned to land but this time in parts of Louisiana which is heartbreaking considering this is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, 12 years ago, that killed thousands of people.

At times like these, race, religion, gender, none of that matters. People from all walks of life are coming together to help their fellow man, woman, child and animal. From giant trucks that can drive through these floodwaters, to boat rescues, if an individual has it, they are using it to help. Homes and businesses that have not been flooded are opening their doors to take in as many people and pets as possible in order to ensure that people are not stuck out in this monstrous weather.

All over this country and all over the world people are donating from a little as a dollar to as much as a million dollars in order to help get hot meals, medical supplies and dry clothes to these people in their time of need.

What I want to point out today is that the people of Texas and Louisiana are not the only ones suffering at this moment. This hasn’t been televised as much as it should but the people of Southeast Asia are also being affected by catastrophic monsoons and landslides. Sierre Leone, in particular, suffered a massive landslide in their capital that killed thousands of people three weeks ago and it’s still going. This country has been asking for help from any country that can. Bangladesh, Nepal and large areas of India are also affected.

As the rain begins to wind down in Houston, we need to look towards our country’s allies and help them in their time of need as much as they have helped us in the past and continue to help us now. If you have a couple extra dollars to spare, consider donating to Unicef or Oxfam to help the victims of Southeast Asia. Even if it’s only a dollar, a little bit goes a long way.

Przewalski’s Horse

Today’s endangered animal looks hard to pronounce but it’s actually pretty simple. Przewalski is pronounced “shuh-VAL-skee”. Also known as the P-horse for short, or the Mongolian horse. Przewalski’s horse are the last true wild horses. All the “wild horses” you see in places like Australia and North American Great Plains are actually feral horses.The Mongolians refer to P-horses as “tahki” which means spirit. Spirits are generally worshiped so you don’t ride the P-horse, you don’t capture the P-horse and your certainly don’t kill the P-horse.

Przewalski’s horse looks like your average horse or even looks to be related to a donkey but their genetic makeup is quite a bit different. You see your average domestic horses have 64 chromosomes where the P-horse has 66 chromosomes. They are small and stocky compared to domestic horses ranging from 4.3 to 5 feet tall (1.3-1.5 meters) and weight about 550 to 800 pounds (250-360 kilograms). They are dun colored, which is a light gray tan with zebra like manes. Their bellies are paler than the rest of their body and they have dark lower legs.

Like zebra and donkeys, P-horse are monogastric herbivores. This means they have simple, single chambered stomachs. They digest through a process known as hind-gut fermentation and without going completely scientific on you, that basically means that their large intestine is where most of the fiber breakdown takes place where as humans, for example, the digestion takes place as soon as you put food in your mouth and by the time it reaches your intestines, it’s tiny particles. P-horses have a harem like social structure where you have the dominant, a harem of mares and and their offspring. Young stallions are not allowed to breed unless they can defeat the dominant so oftentimes you would see a group of young stallions together known as the “bachelor herd”. A P-horse life span is estimated to be about 36 years.

500,000 years ago, Przewalski’s horse roamed the continents of Europe and Asia. It is rumored that these horses have been around since the reign of Genghis Khan. The first recorded reference to this beautiful creature was in the year 900 by a Tibetan monk. After that, Genghis Khan recorded seeing them during his many conquests followed by a German writer in the 15th century who claimed to have seen one while he was in a Turkish prison. It wasn’t until 1878, when geographer and explorer Nikolai Przewalski was gifted a p-horse skull that they truly became discovered.

This was the beginning of an almost extinction. An animal exotic merchant got wind of this beastie and would hunt as man foals as possible. The problem became the hunters killing stallions while trying to take the foals which lead to the decrease in natural breeding. After World War II, the once thriving wild population was down to a staggering 32 individuals and by 1950 there were only 12 individuals left. Not only were hunters a problem but extremely harsh winters, agriculture and low genetic diversity was barreling this poor species straight into extinction.

Conservationists and zoologists, naturally, freaked. They began a studbook documenting the studs out of the 12 they were forced to capture who successfully brought offspring into the world. By 1965 the population rose to 134 individuals and by 1990 it was up to 1000 in captivity; a lot of it due to crossbreeding. It was decided that they would try to reintroduce the P-horse back into the wild.

Since the early 1990s, Przewalski’s horse has been upgraded from almost extinct to endangered. Population majority (the only wild herd) can be found in the steppes of Hustai National Park in Mongolia. Hunters are no longer a huge threat although there are still patrols of the protected areas. The largest threats to this species is animal hybridization. There are instances of the P-horse mating with domestic horses which dilutes the gene pool. There are also natural threats such as harsh winters, natural predation from wolf packs and disease. Conservationists are deeply researching reproduction habits and slowly keeping this animal from ever reaching almost extinction again.

(Source: Smithsonian1, Smithsonian2)