Red Wolf

In the spirit of Game of Thrones returning, today’s endangered animal is the red wolf. The most well known wolf species is lupus or the gray wolf but the red wolf belongs to species rufus. Gray wolves are found throughout North America and Euraisia. They are not always gray in color. For example the Arctic gray wolf can be gray or white. Red wolves are endemic to to a small area of coastal North Carolina. You will not see a red wolf anywhere else in the world (legally).

Red wolves are mostly nocturnal. They are about 26 inches (.66 meters) tall. They weigh about 50-80 pounds (22-36 kilograms) and are about 4.5 to 5.5 (136–160 cm) feet long including their tail. Red wolves are monogamous creatures. A pair, once mated, is forever. Breeding season occurs in January or February and the female will bear 5-7 pups in April, May or June. The dens are usually hollowed tree trunks, along stream banks, or other abandoned animal’s homes.

These wolves are very solitary creatures. They usually hunt alone or in a very small group. Their diet is definitely carnivorous. They primarily eat rabbits, rodents and nutria which are like a sub species of a beaver. As their population increases, they’ve expanded their diet to include white tailed deer and raccoons.

The red wolf is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN list. There are about 250 red wolves left in existence with approximately 207 of them in captivity and 45 or so in the wild. There is only one killer of this species; humans. Looking at Cherokee mythology, the red wolf was known as wa’ya — the companion to Kanati, the hunter. Cherokee did not kill red wolves because they did not want to experience the wrath of the dead wolf’s pack mate. Clearly, Europeans did not abide by these sentiments and killed every wolf they saw. Between 1973 and 1980, four hundred candids were captured because the US Fish and Wildlife wanted to save the red wolf from extinction. Out of the 400, only 17 were pure red wolves. The remaining were coyotes or a hybrid species of wolf and coyote.

Today the fight continues. Even though there are laws in place protecting red wolves, they are still being shot by humans for one reason or another. Hopefully the wild population can recover.

Featured Image: Source

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

I’m going to mix it up again this week and talk about something that’s pretty gruesome.

Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? If not, you’re in for an enlightening ride.

When I first learned about it, I was told it was this big island of trash that was “larger than the state of of Texas” or “three times the size of the United Kingdom!” The sad truth is, no one will never really know the size because it’s constantly growing.

You see, our Mother Earth has oceanic gyres. Gyres are these large spirals of seawater that collide with the earth’s natural currents. The largest gyre is the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) which fills the space between Japan and California. The temperatures of the oceans are different depending on where you’re located. The closer you are the the equator the warmer the water is. Waters are always circulating so there comes a point where warm water from the South meets cooler water from the north and that’s how gyres are created. In the NPSG, when this happens, its called a convergence zone and is also a prime location for trash to collect. It is estimated that about 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean in a year.

The biggest problem with this is that most of this trash is made up of plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable. If anyone has ever told you that, they lied to your face. It slowly breaks down to tinier and tinier pieces but never fully disintegrates. Originally, I told you that it was referred to as an island of trash. This is where that misconception comes in. If it was only an island of trash, it would be really easy to clean up. We could all just go out and scoop the island up and call it a day. Since we’re dealing with micro plastics that makes things extremely difficult and will require decades upon decades of work.

We are affecting our ocean’s ecosystem big time. It affects all the wildlife that travels those waters. Here are a couple grueling examples of how:

  • Microplastics look like food to not only sea life but to birds who fish as well. They eat them and end up getting obstructed or they unknowingly feed them to your young who end up dying from starvation because they’re eating plastic not actual food
  • “Ghost fishing” which happens to a lot sea turtles, sea lions and whales where plastic nets are used for fishing and these animals get caught up in them and drown
  • Plastic bags and pop can rings look like jellyfish to turtles and other creatures who eat them but also their heads and sometimes their bodies can get stuck in the rings and they end up growing abnormally because they’re wrapped in plastic
  • Photodegradation, which is when the sun breaks down floating debris, ends up making the ocean more toxic because the colorants and chemicals are released into the waters. It also has a reversal effect where the plastics can absorb organic pollutants like BPA which has huge impact on the food chain.

I’m not trying to freak you out here but this is a pretty big deal. There are plenty of ocean crews out there who are dedicated to coming up with ocean cleanup projects every day. The best thing you, the individual can do, is make informed purchase decisions such as, buying BPA free, biodegradable, reusuable items, recycling any and all plastics or repurpose those plastics into a different type of use. Every little bit truly counts.

For more information feel free to Google it. You’ll find a ton of pages. My main source today was from here.

Dragon Tree

I decided to mix it up this week and talk about a plant that’s endangered. (Also in the spirit of Game of Thrones back in 10 days!!)

There is a such thing as a Dragon Tree; Latin name: Dracaena draco. Also known as Sangre de Drago. Originally listed as vulnerable but is now considered endangered, this tree is native to the Canary Islands, Madeira, Morocco and the Cape Verde Islands. If you ever thought asparagus looked like little trees, well, you were sort of right. This tree is in the family Asparagaceae!

It has an interesting background in Greek mythology as well. According to the Greek myth “The Eleventh Labour of Hercules: The Apples of the Hespérides” there was a hundred headed dragon named Ladon who was charged with guarding the Hespérides tree from people trying to poach it’s golden apples. Ladon was slain by Hercules as one of his twelve labours and it was said that the blood of Ladon soaked into the land and from it sprouted Dragon Trees.

Once upon a time these trees played an important ecological role. It is estimated that five hundred years ago, the fruit of the Dragon tree was a staple to a Dodo-like, flightless bird that is unfortunately now extinct. It was a sort of symbiotic relationship. The trees fed the birds and the birds stimulated germination of more trees from the seeds flowing through and out their digestive tract.

Nowadays, the main threat to these trees are rats, goats and rabbits that graze on the seedlings as well as deforestation. These trees grow extremely slow. It takes 8-11 years for a sapling to reach 2-3 feet. It also doesn’t help that the tree has many uses. The sap (dragon’s blood) was used in Ancient times for the mummification process but today it’s used medicinally to treat ailments such as diarrhea and fever. It’s also used as varnish and anti-oxidant for iron tools and as a dye.

Conservation efforts are slowly taking effect. For example, it’s against the law in Cape Verde to uproot or pick this tree in any way. There are also protected areas being established which include fencing the trees from livestock and other rodents.


The most trafficked animal on Earth.

The MOST TRAFFICKED animal on this planet.

How did we ever let an animal gain such a title??

Today’s animal is the pangolin.


(That baby is so freaking CUTE!)

Anyway, what looks like a reptile is actually a mammal! It’s often mistaken for an artichoke or a dragon when people see one for the first time.

Pangolins have been around for at least 80 million years. There are 8 species that still exist today. Chinese, Malayan, Indian and Palawan are the four Asian speices and the Tree pangolin, Giant ground pangolin, Cape pangolin and Long-tailed pangolin are the African species. These creatures are the only mammals in the world covered in scales. The scales are made of keratin which is found in our fingernails, bird talons and rhino horns. These scales make up 20% of a pangolin’s weight!

Depending on the species, you can find them on ground digging or in trees climbing around. The ground species are capable of digging holes big enough that a human can fit and stand up in! The name came to be thanks the the Malay which is the language of Malaysia and Indonesia and literally translates to “something that rolls up” because these critters can roll into near impenetrable balls when threatened.

Besides rolling into the hardest ball, they also emit a noxious smelling acid from glands near their butt. It’s actually quite similar to what a skunk does; another defense mechanism.

These animals are prehistoric. Originally scientists thought pangolins were in the same family as anteaters and armadillos — the Xenarthra family, but new evidence suggest that they are more closely related to the Carnivora family which is a very diverse order containing wolves, bears and hyenas. That’s pretty mind boggling considering they don’t have teeth and their diet consists of termites and ants.

Now back to what I said at the beginning. This animal is the most trafficked animal on Earth because their main predator is most obviously humans. Humans capture and smuggle pangolins into the black market for their scales and their meat. Their meat is considered a delicacy while their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are known for relieving palsy, stimulating lactation and draining pus. The cost for just a kilogram of their scales can be $3000 or more. Because they don’t have teeth and their defense mechanism is to roll into a ball, they are, unfortunately, very easy for poachers to catch. It is said that pangolin sales make up 20 percent of the entire wildlife black market which translates to roughly 10,000 pangolin deaths per year.

Because they are so heavily trafficked, no one knows how long they live. The guess is only about 20 years in the wild because the oldest pangolin recorded lived to be 19 in captivity. One of the setbacks for saving this creature is they just don’t do well in captivity. Since they eat about 70 million insects a year, zoos are just not able to handle that type of volume and the pangolins end up suffering from malnutrition along with stress.

This is one animal that definitely needs some crazy awareness. Most people don’t even know it exists and scientists have no idea how many are left in the wild. On January 2nd of this year the animals were listed on the IUCN which bans the commercial trading of all eight species and their parts. Now we just need the individual states to increase protection rules on these animals to help in the fight to save the pangolin before its too late.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an adopt the pangolin link but if you would like more in depth information, click here.

Blue Whale

The largest living mammal on this planet is endangered. The blue whale, rarely seen, roams from the oceans of the north pole to the oceans of the south pole and everywhere in between. Blue whales weigh a whopping 20 tons which is about 33 elephants combined. At birth, a baby blue weigh can be about 25 feet long and by the time they mature they are 100 feet long. They usually swim at a sedate 3-10 miles an hour but are known to swim up to 30 miles an hour when they feel threatened.

Because of it’s size, this beautiful mammal has some of the biggest organs on Earth. A fully matured blue whale’s tongue can weigh about as much as an elephant (6000 lbs) and their hearts are literally the size of your average Volkswagon Beetle automobile which weigh about 3000 pounds. The blue whale also has the loudest call on Earth; 188 decibels. This is louder than a jet engine plane and can be heard by all manner of marine species 1,000 miles away. Turn your volume up and check out this snippet below. Truly mind blowing.

Even though these gentle giants are at the top of the food chain, their diet consists of 4 tons of krill each day. Baby calves drink 100 gallons of milk a day from their mamas and can gain 200 pounds a day! During migration periods, blue whales can go without eating for 4 months because they build huge fat reserves.

Blue whales became endangered due to serious whaling in the early 21st century. It has been estimated that over 200,000 blue whales have been killed leaving the population at about 5000 individuals left. Although whaling has been drastically reduced, blue whales are still at the mercy of climate change and getting caught in fishing nets because their migration path sometimes lands them in fisheries.

The people over at WWF have been placing satellite chips in blue whales they encounter in efforts to track their migration paths in order to establish protected areas that large vessels and fisheries can avoid.

If you find this information helpful and decide you would like to donate in some way, you can adopt a whale here.

Black Footed Ferret

These faces! How can something so cute be endangered?? And yet, sadly, they are.

Meet the black-footed ferret; one of the most endangered animals in North America. They are also native to the Great Plains region of the continent when most ferret species are not. For once, it’s not entirely human fault that these little guys mortality rate is so high. You see, black footed ferrets main source of prey are prairie dogs. Not only that, black footed ferrets take over the prairie dog burrows after eating them. They aren’t nicknamed the masked bandits for nothing! No prairie dogs, no black footed ferrets.

Humans have been wiping out grassland habitats to farm but besides habitat loss, the main killer is apex predators and disease. Owls, coyotes, and eagles love to eat prairie dogs. Again, no prairie dogs, no black footed ferrets. The prairie dogs and ferrets are also susceptible to disease. Sylvatic plague is the main culprit. This disease is transmitted by fleas and can wipe out an entire prairie dog colony which in turns wipes out the black footed ferrets when they eat them.

Currently there are about 370 individuals in the wild. There are numerous efforts to save these little guys. The people over at WWF have been trying to get vaccines out to prairie dogs by dropping peanut butter treats into their burrows via drones. They also vaccinate any black footed ferret in captivity before releasing them back into the wild. Other organizations making serious conservation efforts include: the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Defenders of Wildlife, zoos and even Native American tribes; helping to replenish their habitat and population.

As always, if you’re interested in contributing to saving this species, you can adopt a black footed ferret here.


Meet the Orangutan. It’s listed as critically endangered due to, you guessed it, humans.

There are two species of Orangutan; The Bornean and Sumatran. The literal translation of orangutan is “man of the forest” because these species are keystone forest dwellers. One hundred years ago the population of orangutans was 230,000 individuals. Now there are only about 107,000 Borneans left and a staggering 7,500 Sumatrans.This sounds like a lot in comparison to other endangered species but over 100,000 individuals decimated in the span of 100 years is a big deal.

The number one reason for their rapid decline is, you guessed it, humans. Like I said before, orangutans are forest dwellers. They are living seed dispersal machines! Researchers have recorded upwards of 500 plant species in the orangutan’s diet. As humans invaded the forests and cut down trees for timber and agriculture operations, they push the orangutans to find other habitats. It’s estimated that roughly 300 million trees have been cut down or lost in forest fires (natural and deliberate) due to human activity. Another reason orangutan populations are so threatened is because humans, specifically in Indonesia, have decided that orangutans make great pets and poach them from the wild to sell.

Orangutans have a very low reproduction rate. It takes a while for an orangutan to reach sexual maturity and when they do they only bear one infant every 3-5 years. This means the more humans destroy the territory or steal them from their homes, the longer it will take to repopulate the species assuming we don’t wait too long and push them into extinction before then.

As usual, if you’re interested in more information you can check out WWF for a full page on the dangers and what they’re doing to help. If you want to contribute directly, they have an adopt an orangutan program here.


Today’s endangered animal is actually listed as vulnerable but conservationists are pleading that the cheetah be put on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list because their population is declining rapidly. There are only about 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild. Why is their population declining? If you guessed humans, you’d be correct.

Cheetahs have it a bit worse off than other animals because humans are essentially attacking them from all sides. Their range, which used to be all of Africa and Asia has been reduced to a handful of countries: Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique. In Iran, there are as few as 50 individuals. Humans drive the cheetahs away when they come and invade the land and turn it into agricultural crop.

But it gets worse.

Agricultural crop means lots of livestock. Cheetahs eat livestock. Humans don’t like cheetahs eating their livestock. Solution? Humans kill the cheetahs. So backwards right? They are also hunted for their skin and their meat. These big cats also have a hard time surviving in close quarters. It’s a challenge for conservationists to protect them because they need to roam. It’s in their genetic makeup. I mean they can run up to 70 mph so an enclosed circle will only drive them nuts. If you ever go to the zoo and see a cheetah pacing, this is why.

Conservationists hope that IUCN doesn’t wait too long to list the cheetah as endangered. If the cheetah is added to the list, it will open up funds. that are only available to endangered species to aid African governments in creating conservation programs. In the meantime, it is possible for you to help. Check out WWF’s Adopt a Cheetah program here.

As an aside, and to hopefully make you smile, I chose the cheetah today because of a meme that appeared in my Facebook memories. Enjoy the meme and, as always, spread awareness. Every little bit counts.

Sea Turtle


Today’s animal in our weekly In Danger segment is the sea turtle.

This animal is near and dear to my heart as it is my favorite animal and reminds me of my painted turtle that I rescued from living in a fishbowl. Sea turtles are over 100 million years old and today nearly all species of sea turtle, from coast to coast, are endangered. When you observe a sea turtle, it looks like they can come out of their shell. There was an old cartoon called Franklin where each night he would crawl out of his shell like he was shedding clothing. As cute as that cartoon was, that’s not how it works in real life. The shell is the turtle’s lifeline. Along the inner shell curve is the turtle’s spine. If a turtle breaks its shell, it’s dead.

The reasons sea turtles are endangered are entirely because of humans. It’s really sad but very true. Humans poach these little guys for their eggs, meat, skin and shells. Sea turtles are often caught in human fishing nets. Climate change has changed the ocean temperatures as well as the sand temperatures where sea turtles lay their eggs. Humans also seriously pollute the ocean. If you’ve never seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, look it up. Sea turtles often get caught in plastic pop or beer can rings or ingest plastic pieces because they look like food which leads to them getting sick and dying. One last thing, on this long list of depressing facts, humans touching sea turtles can make them sick. I found this out when I lived on the island of Maui for a few months. It’s actually illegal to touch a sea turtle but most people don’t know that or don’t care. The oils from human skin affect a sea turtle’s skin and cause these huge white pustules of fungus to grow on them. I’ve seen them first hand and they’re not pretty.

For the sake of this beautiful creature, please spread awareness or even donate to places like World Wildlife Fund to help bring sea turtles off the endangered list. You can even adopt a turtle! Check out WWF’s page for more information on sea turtles and other endangered species they are striving to help survive.

Tasmanian Devil

Growing up watching Looney Tunes did not do the Tasmanian Devil the justice it deserves. Being the size of a small dog, they’re actually sort of cute little Austrialian pups. …see for yourself. 😛 

The name for these guys may be a little deceiving, as scientists have found. They mainly live in the state of Tasmania and are extinct in their original homeland of Australia. Hunters were killing dingoes for their pelts and when they ran out of dingoes they turned to the next best thing. The claim was that they were a massive threat to livestock and so they needed to be dealt with accordingly. Some 50 years later researchers are finding that they, along with many humans, are victims of facial and skin tumors and cancers. As a result, many are being sent to zoos in order to help provide better care for them.

While they do rip and shread their prey, they are somewhat communal animals. Once mated they protect and fight for their female at all costs…and we all know how that goes! 😉

All in all, just some food for thought. I’m sure those farmers and hunters didn’t dream that what they were doing to a group of animals in the mid 1940’s would impact them so many years later. Unfortunately, it is still happening today with many other groups of animals for a variety of reasons. You’d like we’d have learned something by now.

If you’re interested in learning more the Parks and wildlife service have got you covered.