Wild About Yew

"One cannot go contrary to nature. Nature is stronger than the strongest man. It is to our own interest to be on good terms with her." -- Pablo Picasso

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vampire Bats

Vampire bats are bats that feed on blood (hematophagy). There are only three bat species that feed on blood: The Common Vampire Bat (Desmodus rotundus), the Hairy-legged Vampire Bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the White-winged Vampire Bat (Diaemus youngi). All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Contrary to popular belief, these bats rarely bite people because they apparently dislike human blood.

The three species are quite different from each other, and are therefore placed within different genera (no other species are currently classified in any of the three genera concerned). But they are related. In older literature, the three genera are placed within a family, Desmodontidae, but this is now regarded as unhelpful, as it hides the similarities the vampire bats have with other members of the American leaf-nosed bat family, Phyllostomidae. They are therefore now grouped as a subfamily, the Desmodontinae within the Phyllostomidae. The fact that the three known species of vampire bat all seem more similar to one another than any of them is to any other species suggests that sanguivory (feeding on blood) only evolved once, and that all three species share a common ancestor.

Unlike fruit-eating bats, the vampire bats have a short, conical muzzle without a nose leaf. Instead they have naked pads with U-shaped grooves at the tip. The common vampire bat also has specialised infrared sensors on its nose .A nucleus has been found in the brain of vampire bats that has a similar position and has similar histology to the infrared nucleus of infrared sensitive snakes.

They have small ears and a short tail membrane. Their front teeth are specialised for cutting and their back teeth are much smaller than in other bats. Their digestive systems are also specialised for their liquid diet. The saliva of vampire bats contains a substance, draculin, which prevents the victim's blood from clotting. They, therefore, lap blood rather than suck it as most people imagine.

They come out to feed only when it is fully dark. Like fruit-eating bats, and unlike insectivorous and fish-eating bats, they only emit low-energy sound pulses. The Common Vampire Bat feeds mostly on the blood of mammals, whereas the Hairy-legged Vampire Bat, and the White-winged Vampire Bat feed on the blood of birds. Once the common vampire bat locates a host, usually a sleeping mammal, they land and approach it on the ground. A recent study found that common vampire bats can, in addition to walking, run at speeds of up to 1.2 meters per second. They possibly locate a suitable place to bite using their infrared sensors.

The feeding pattern of the vampire bat adds a layer of complexity to its anatomy. Because they often do not find host organisms for many hours and may have to fly a long distance to do so, vampire bats usually feed in enormous quantities. This influx of proteins may make the bat too heavy to fly. Accordingly, the bat's urinary system accommodates this by releasing dilute urine consisting of a lot of water and fewer solutes. However, when the bat is resting, a new problem is faced. The large amounts of protein create excess urea and must be disposed of. The urinary system of the vampire bat then uses various hormones to make concentrated urine -- consisting of more urea and less water.

Vampire bats tend to live in almost completely dark places, such as caves, old wells, hollow trees, and buildings. Colonies can range from a single individual to thousands. They often roost with other species of bat. They will almost always have only one offspring per breeding season. Each colony will typically contain only one reproducing male, with around twenty females and their offspring. They need blood at least once every few days to survive. If they can't get blood, they'll approach another vampire bat whilst roosting, asking for a blood 'transfusion'. The blood is exchanged mouth-to-mouth in a motion that looks very much like kissing. Vampire bats can live up to 9 years in the wild and up to 19 in captivity.

Vampire bats are common carriers of the deadly rabies virus which, aside from its danger to humans, is responsible for the deaths of many thousands of farm animals each year in tropical and sub-tropical America. However they do have some benefits, in a study which appeared in the January 10, 2003 issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, a genetically engineered drug called desmoteplase based on the saliva of Desmodus rotundus was shown to improve stroke patients.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Animal Trivia

Trivia about Animals
Bear Photo Copyright of owner
(159 facts)

A 1,200-pound horse eats about seven times it's own weight each year.

A bird requires more food in proportion to its size than a baby or a cat.
A capon is a castrated rooster.

A chameleon can move its eyes in two directions at the same time.

A chameleon's tongue is twice the length of its body.

A chimpanzee can learn to recognize itself in a mirror, but monkeys can't.

A Cornish game hen is really a young chicken, usually 5 to 6 weeks of age, that weighs no more than 2 pounds.

A cow gives nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.

A father Emperor penguin withstands the Antarctic cold for 60 days or more to protect his eggs, which he keeps on his feet, covered with a feathered flap. During this entire time he doesn't eat a thing. Most father penguins lose about 25 pounds while they wait for their babies to hatch. Afterward, they feed the chicks a special liquid from their throats. When the mother penguins return to care for the young, the fathers go to sea to eat and rest.

A father sea catfish keeps the eggs of his young in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. He will not eat until his young are born, which may take several weeks.

A female mackerel lays about 500,000 eggs at one time.

A Holstein's spots are like a fingerprint or snowflake. No two cows have exactly the same pattern of spots.

A leech is a worm that feeds on blood. It will pierce its victim's skin, fill itself with three to four times its own body weight in blood, and will not feed again for months. Leeches were once used by doctors to drain "bad blood" from sick patients.

A newborn kangaroo is about 1 inch in length.

A normal cow's stomach has four compartments: the rumen, the recticulum (storage area), the omasum (where water is absorbed), and the abomasum ( the only compartment with digestive juices).

A polecat is not a cat. It is a nocturnal European weasel.

A quarter of the horses in the US died of a vast virus epidemic in 1872.

A rat can last longer without water than a camel can.

A single little brown bat can catch 1,200 mosquitoes-sized insects in just one hour.

A woodpecker can peck twenty times a second.

A zebra is white with black stripes.

After mating, the male Surinam Toad affixes the female's eggs to her back, where her spongy flesh will swell and envelope them. When the froglets hatch, they leave behind holes in their mother's flesh that they will remain sheltered in until large enough to fend for themselves.

All clams start out as males; some decide to become females at some point in their lives.

All pet hamsters are descended from a single female wild golden hamster found with a litter of 12 young in Syria in 1930.

An adult lion's roar can be heard up to five miles away, and warns off intruders or reunites scattered members of the pride.

An albatross can sleep while it flies. It apparently dozes while cruising at 25 mph.

An electric eel can produce a shock of up to 650 volts.

An iguana can stay under water for 28 minutes.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Ancient Egyptians believed that "Bast" was the mother of all cats on Earth. They also believed that cats were sacred animals.

Animal gestation periods: the shortest is the American opossum, which bears its young 12 to 13 days after conception; the longest is the Asiatic elephant, taking 608 days, or just over 20 months.

At the end of the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life", an ultrasonic whistle, audible only to dogs, was recorded by Paul McCartney for his Shetland sheepdog.

Beaver teeth are so sharp that Native Americans once used them as knife blades.

Bird eggs come in a wide variety of sizes. The largest egg from a living bird belongs to the ostrich. It is more than 2,000 times larger than the smallest bird egg, which is produced by the hummingbird. Ostrich eggs are about 7.1 inches long, 5.5 inches wide and typically weigh 2.7 pounds. Hummingbird eggs are half an inch long, a third of an inch wide and weigh half a gram, or less than a fifth of an ounce.

Brown eggs come from hens with red feathers and red ear lobes; white eggs come from hens with white feathers and white ear lobes. Shell color is determined by the breed of hen and has no effect on its quality, nutrients or flavor.

By feeding hens certain dyes they can be made to lay eggs with varicolored yolks.

Camel milk does not curdle.

Camels have three eyelids to protect themselves from blowing sand.

Carnivorous animals will not eat another animal that has been hit by a lightning strike.

Cat scratch disease, a benign but sometimes painful disease of short duration, is caused by a bacillus. Despite its name, the disease can be transmitted by many kinds of scratches besides those of cats.

Catfish have 100,000 taste buds.

Catnip can affect lions and tigers as well as house cats. It excites them because it contains a chemical that resembles an excretion of the dominant female's urine.

Certain frogs can be frozen solid then thawed and continue living.

Chameleons can move their eyes in two different directions at the same time.

Chameleons can reel in food from a distance as far away as more than two and a half times their body lengths.

Cheetahs make a chirping sound that is much like a bird's chirp or a dog's yelp. The sound is so an intense, it can be heard a mile away.

Cojo, the 1st gorilla born in captivity, was born at the Columbus Zoo, in Ohio, in 1956 and weighed 3 1/4 pounds.

Despite its reputation for being finicky, the average cat consumes about 127,750 calories a year, nearly 28 times its own weight in food and the same amount again in liquids. In case you were wondering, cats cannot survive on a vegetarian diet.

Developed in Egypt about 5,000 years ago, the greyhound breed was known before the ninth century in England, where it was bred by aristocrats to hunt such small game as hares.

Dolphins sleep at night just below the surface of the water. They frequently rise to the surface for air.

Domesticated turkeys (farm raised) cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour. Wild turkeys are also fast on the ground, running at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

Dragonflies are one of the fastest insects, flying 50 to 60 mph.

During World War II, the very first bomb dropped on Berlin by the Allies killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.

Elephant tusks grow throughout an elephant's life and can weigh more than 200 pounds. Among Asian elephants, only the males have tusks. Both sexes of African elephants have tusks.

Elephants can communicate using sounds that are below the human hearing range: between 14 and 35 hertz.

Every year, $1.5 billion is spent on pet food. This is four times the amount spent on baby food.

Felix the Cat is the first cartoon character to ever have been made into a balloon for a parade.

Female chickens, or hens, need about 24 to 26 hours to produce one egg. Thirty minutes later they start the process all over again. In addition to the half-hour rests, some hens rest every three to five days and others rest every 10 days.

George Washington's favorite horse was named Lexington. Napoleon's favorite was Marengo. U.S. Grant had three favorite horses: Egypt, Cincinnati, and Jeff Davis.

German Shepherds bite humans more than any other breed of dog.

Goldfish lose their color if they are kept in dim light or are placed in a body of running water, such as a stream.

Hippos have killed more than 400 people in Africa - more than any other wild animal.

Howler monkeys are the noisiest land animals. Their calls can be heard over 2 miles away.

Human tapeworms can grow up to 22.9m.

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds - so tiny that one of their enemies is an insect, the praying mantis.

In its entire lifetime, the average worker bee produces 1/12th teaspoon of honey.

Infant beavers are called kittens.

It takes 35 to 65 minks to produce the average mink coat. The numbers for other types of fur coats are: beaver - 15; fox - 15 to 25; ermine - 150; chinchilla - 60 to 100.

It takes a lobster approximately seven years to grow to be one pound.

It takes forty minutes to hard boil an ostrich egg.

Korea's poshintang - dog meat soup - is a popular item on summertime menus, despite outcry from other nations. The soup is believed to cure summer heat ailments, improve male virility, and improve women's complexions.

Large kangaroos cover more than 30 feet with each jump.

Lassie was played by several male dogs, despite the female name, because male collies were thought to look better on camera. The main "actor" was named Pal.

Lassie, the TV collie, first appeared in a 1930s short novel titled Lassie Come-Home written by Eric Mowbray Knight. The dog in the novel was based on Knight's real life collie, Toots.

Lions are the only truly social cat species, and usually every female in a pride, ranging from 5 to 30 individuals, is closely related.

Lovebirds are small parakeets who live in pairs. Male and female lovebirds look alike, but most other male birds have brighter colors than the females.

Macaroni, Gentoo, Chinstrap and Emperor are types of penguins.

Mockingbirds can imitate any sound from a squeaking door to a cat meowing.

Molerats are the only eusocial vertebrates known to man. This means that these mammals live in colonies similar to those of ants and termites, with a single fertile queen giving birth to nonreproductive workers and soldiers. Molerats are also famous for their incredibly powerful jaws, the muscles of which constitute 25% of their body mass. Baby molerats are raised on a diet of their older sibling's fecal pellets, emitting a special cry when hungry to summon a worker.

Moles are able to tunnel through 300 feet of earth in a day.

Of all known forms of animals life ever to inhabit the Earth, only about 10 percent still exist today.

On average, pigs live for about 15 years.

Owls have eyeballs that are tubular in shape, because of this, they cannot move their eyes.

Parrots, most famous of all talking birds, rarely acquire a vocabulary of more than twenty words, however Tymhoney Greys and African Greys have been know to carry vocabularies in excess of 100 words.

Pet parrots can eat virtually any common "people-food" except for chocolate and avocados. Both of these are highly toxic to the parrot and can be fatal.

Pigs, walruses and light-colored horses can be sunburned.

Prairie dogs are not dogs. A prairie dog is a kind of rodent.

Rats are omnivorous, eating nearly any type of food, including dead and dying members of their own species.

Rats can't throw-up.

Sharks apparently are the only animals that never get sick. As far as is known, they are immune to every known disease including cancer.

Snails produce a colorless, sticky discharge that forms a protective carpet under them as they travel along. The discharge is so effective that they can crawl along the edge of a razor without cutting themselves.

Snakes are immune to their own poison.

Some baby giraffes are more than six feet tall at birth.

Swans are the only birds with penises.

Tapeworms range in size from about 0.04 inch to more than 50 feet in length.

The "caduceus" the classical medical symbol of two serpents wrapped around a staff - comes from an ancient Greek legend in which snakes revealed the practice of medicine to human beings.

The 1st buffalo ever born in captivity was born at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo in 1884.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was formed in 1866.

The anaconda, one of the world's largest snakes, gives birth to its young instead of laying eggs.

The average adult male ostrich, the world's largest living bird, weighs up to 345 pounds.

The biggest members of the cat family are Siberian and Bengal tigers, which can reach over 600 pounds.

The blood of mammals is red, the blood of insects is yellow, and the blood of lobsters is blue.

The bloodhound is the only animal whose evidence is admissible in an American court.

The blue whale is the loudest animal on Earth. The call of the blue whale reaches levels up to 188 decibels. This extraordinarily loud whistle can be heard for hundreds of miles underwater. The second-loudest animal on Earth is the Howler Monkey.

The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers.

The calories burned daily by the sled dogs running in Alaska's annual Iditarod race average 10,000. The 1,149-mile race commemorates the 1925 "Race for Life" when 20 volunteer mushers relayed medicine from Anchorage to Nome to battle a children's diphtheria epidemic.

The Canary Islands were not named for a bird called a canary. They were named after a breed of large dogs. The Latin name was Canariae insulae - "Island of Dogs."

The cat lover is an ailurophile, while a cat hater is an ailurophobe.

The catgut formerly used as strings in tennis rackets and musical instruments does not come from cats. Catgut actually comes from sheep, hogs, and horses.

The chameleon has several cell layers beneath its transparent skin. These layers are the source of the chameleon's color change. Some of the layers contain pigments, while others just reflect light to create new colors. Several factors contribute to the color change. A popular misconception is that chameleons change color to match their environment. This isn't true. Light, temperature, and emotional state commonly bring about a chameleon's change in color. The chameleon will most often change between green, brown and gray, which coincidently, often matches the background colors of their habitat.

The cheetah is the only cat in the world that can't retract its claws.

The Chinese, during the reign of Kublai Khan, used lions on hunting expeditions. They trained the big cats to pursue and drag down massive animals - from wild bulls to bears - and to stay with the kill until the hunter arrived.

The elephant, as a symbol of the US Republican Party, was originated by cartoonist Thomas Nast and first presented in 1874.

The English Romantic poet Lord Byron was so devastated upon the death of his beloved Newfoundland, whose name was Boatswain, that he had inscribed upon the dog's gravestone the following: "Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices."

The expression "three dog night" originated with the Eskimos and means a very cold night - so cold that you have to bed down with three dogs to keep warm.

The fastest bird is the Spine-tailed swift, clocked at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour.

The fastest -moving land snail, the common garden snail, has a speed of 0.0313 mph.

The first house rats recorded in America appeared in Boston in 1775.

The giant squid is the largest creature without a backbone. It weighs up to 2.5 tons and grows up to 55 feet long. Each eye is a foot or more in diameter.

The harmless Whale Shark, holds the title of largest fish, with the record being a 59 footer captured in Thailand in 1919.

The hummingbird is the only bird that can hover and fly straight up, down, or backward!

The hummingbird, the loon, the swift, the kingfisher, and the grebe are all birds that cannot walk.

The Kiwi, national bird of New Zealand, can't fly. It lives in a hole in the ground, is almost blind, and lays only one egg each year. Despite this, it has survived for more than 70 million years.

The largest animal ever seen alive was a 113.5 foot, 170-ton female blue whale.

The largest bird egg in the world today is that of the ostrich. Ostrich eggs are from 6 to 8 inches long. Because of their size and the thickness of their shells, they take 40 minutes to hard-boil.

The largest Great White Shark ever caught measured 37 feet and weighed 24,000 pounds. It was found in a herring weir in New Brunswick in 1930.

The largest pig on record was a Poland-China hog named Big Bill, who weighed 2,552 lbs.

The last member of the famous Bonaparte family, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, died in 1945, of injuries sustained from tripping over his dog's leash.

The male penguin incubates the single egg laid by his mate. During the two month period he does not eat, and will lose up to 40% of his body weight.

The most frequently seen birds at feeders across North America last winter were the Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch and American goldfinch, along with downy woodpeckers, blue jays, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house sparrows, northern cardinals and european starlings.

The mouse is the most common mammal in the US.

The name of the dog from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" is Max.

The name of the dog on the Cracker Jack box is Bingo.

The only dog to ever appear in a Shakespearean play was Crab in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible is the cat.

The Pacific Giant Octopus, the largest octopus in the world, grows from the size of pea to a 150 pound behemoth potentially 30 feet across in only two years, its entire life-span.

The penalty for killing a cat, 4,000 years ago in Egypt, was death.

The phrase "raining cats and dogs" originated in 17th Century England. During heavy downpours of rain, many of these poor animals unfortunately drowned and their bodies would be seen floating in the rain torrents that raced through the streets. The situation gave the appearance that it had literally rained "cats and dogs" and led to the current expression.

The pigmy shrew - a relative of the mole - is the smallest mammal in North America. It weighs 1/14 ounce - less than a dime.

The poison-arrow frog has enough poison to kill about 2,200 people.

The poisonous copperhead snake smells like fresh cut cucumbers.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History houses the world's largest shell collection, some 15 million specimens. A smaller museum in Sanibel, Florida owns a mere 2 million shells and claims to be the worlds only museum devoted solely to mollusks.

The term "dog days" has nothing to do with dogs. It dates back to Roman times, when it was believed that Sirius, the Dog Star, added its heat to that of the sun from July3 to August 11, creating exceptionally high temperatures. The Romans called the period dies caniculares, or "days of the dog."

The turbot fish lays approximately 14 million eggs during its lifetime.

The turkey was named for what was wrongly thought to be its country of origin.

The underside of a horse's hoof is called a frog. The frog peels off several times a year with new growth.

The viscera of Japanese abalone can harbor a poisonous substance which causes a burning, stinging, prickling and itching over the entire body. It does not manifest itself until exposure to sunlight - if eaten outdoors in sunlight, symptoms occur quickly and suddenly.

The world record frog jump is 33 feet 5.5 inches over the course of 3 consecutive leaps, achieved in May 1977 by a South African sharp-nosed frog called Santjie.

The world's largest mammal, the blue whale, weighs 50 tons at birth. Fully grown, it weighs as much as 150 tons.

The world's largest rodent is the Capybara. An Amazon water hog that looks like a guinea pig, it can weigh more than 100 pounds.

The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand, weighing less than a penny.

There are around 2,600 different species of frogs. They live on every continent except Antarctica.

There are more than 100 million dogs and cats in the United States. Americans spend more than 5.4 billion dollars on their pets each year.

There is no single cat called the panther. The name is commonly applied to the leopard, but it is also used to refer to the puma and the jaguar. A black panther is really a black leopard.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and evidence indicates that they have been around for over 10 million years.

Unlike most fish, electric eels cannot get enough oxygen from water. Approximately every five minutes, they must surface to breathe, or they will drown. Unlike most fish, they can swim both backwards and forwards.

When a female horse and male donkey mate, the offspring is called a mule, but when a male horse and female donkey mate, the offspring is called a hinny.

When the Black Death swept across England one theory was that cats caused the plague. Thousands were slaughtered. Ironically, those that kept their cats were less affected, because they kept their houses clear of the real culprits, rats.
More Trivia From corsinet.com

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Unknown and Rare!

Birdlife International
Ivory-billed Woodpecker found in Arkansas~Click for Full Story

Two rare pine species found in northern mountainous province
10:27' 06/10/2005 (GMT+7)
Article Copyright of VietNamNet Bridge

Two rare pine species with scientific names of Tsuga chinensis (Franch.) Pritz. ex Diels and Pseudotsuga sinensis Dode have been found in Thai Phin Tung commune in Dong Van district of northern mountainous Ha Giang province.

These pine species, which have been listed as the most endangered plants in Vietnam and the world’s Red Books, were discovered by Vietnamese and foreign biologists on mountains 1,300-1,700m above sea level.

They said Thai Phin Tung commune is home to eight rare plant species, including seven pine species - equal to 21 percent of the country’s total.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Vietnam is one of the 10 “hottest” places in the world in preserving these pine species.

Rare species found in Himalayan Mountains
by: 2006-04-09 10:15:33
Full Story China Daily
Copyright© China Tibet Information Center

Scientists from Conservation International (CI), a US-based non-governmental conservation organization, and Disney found a vast array of exotic wildlife including plant and animal species previously unknown to science during a two-month expedition to little-known regions in the shadow of Mount Qomolangma.

The discoveries and observations, announced on Friday at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, included: a giant hornet so deadly, the locals call it the "Yak Killer," a beetle that buries birds and small rodents in subterranean crypts to feed its offspring, an endangered jumping mouse, and several new species of amphibians and insects.

The scientific journey into the mountains of Southwest China and Nepal also researched cultural beliefs related to the legend of the Yeti, a creature whose traditional role as "protector of the sacred" has been integral to conservation in the region.

Even though they faced rugged terrain and frigid temperatures not normally associated with new discoveries, the team of international and local scientists documented a significant number of new, rare and endangered species.

"The scientific journey during which we found so many new species in such a harsh environment, as well as documented several rare and endangered species, is good news for the two countries," said Dr Leeanne Alonso, the lead scientist of the expedition and vice-president of CI's Rapid Assessment Programme (RAP). "Local efforts by Tibetan communities through their 'Sacred Lands' are helping prevent these plants and animals from going extinct and demonstrate that cultural values can play an important role in conservation."

Highlights of the new species discovered by the team of biologists, botanists and other technical experts include:

A wingless grasshopper (Kingdonella) that can withstand extremely low temperatures and communicates by "gnashing" its teeth. The male in this group rides on the back of the female for quite a long time, often days, to prevent other males from mating with her.

The confirmation of a new beetle species (Nicrophorus investigator) that specializes in burying small bird and rodent carcasses into a subterranean crypt to feed their offspring.

A new sub-species of a small mammal known as the Qinghai vole (Microtus fuscus), which was also a new record for Sichuan Province.

Up to three new species of frogs, eight new species of insects, and 10 new species of ants.

Several potentially new species of plants.

Among the highlights of the rare and endangered species the team came across were the endangered Sichuan jumping mouse (Eozapus setchuanus); a katydid (Tettigonia chinensis) which has been seen only once since it was described in 1933; and two ancient plant species, including one that is an important source for cancer drugs (Taxus wallichiana). Adding an additional element of danger, the team was also forced to dodge the Giant Asian Hornet (Vespa mandarinia), which local villages have named the 'Yak Killer' for its deadly sting.

A select team from the mission also had the thrill of observing the world's only fully habituated troop of golden monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana), which is the region's largest living primate and China's No 2 flagship species after the giant panda.

The full results from the expedition will be shared with numerous entities, such as the Chinese Government, environmental organizations and scientists to develop conservation strategies to protect the unique species of the region.

During the two-month expedition, the team explored six different sites in the Mountains of Southwest China and Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspots.

The two biodiversity hotspots are among 34 regions worldwide where 75 per cent of the planet's most-threatened mammals, birds, and amphibians survive within habitat covering just 2.3 per cent of the Earth's surface. Fully 50 per cent of the Earth's vascular plants and 42 per cent of terrestrial vertebrates exist only in these 34 hotspots. Hotspots face extreme threats and have already lost at least 70 per cent of their original vegetation.

"Being part of the Mission Himalayas team has given us all a renewed sense of hope for conservation efforts in this region of the world," said expedition scientific team member Dr Anne Savage, senior conservation biologist at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

"Having seen how the 'Sacred Lands' project has integrated cultural needs and conservation priorities, resulting in the discovery of new species, and how golden monkeys which were severely threatened by poaching and habitat destruction are now thriving, it is clear that local communities, conservation organizations, and governmental agencies can work together to effect change and ensure the survival of species and habitat.

"The yeti isn't the only one who can protect the forest we all can!" said Savage.

The mountains of Southwest China and Nepal are facing great challenges from rapid social and economic development. In the former, road construction, which is causing habitat loss, is also bringing more tourists to the area, which in turn has created a market for wildlife products.

Joining CI, Disney, and Discovery were a number of local partners including the Sichuan Academy of Forestry, Chengdu Institute of Biology, Sichuan Provincial Forestry Bureau and The Mountain Institute in Nepal.

The Mission Himalayas expedition builds upon a decade-long relationship between CI and Disney to support biodiversity conservation. During that time, Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and the Walt Disney Company Foundation have contributed to several CI initiatives including a Global Amphibian Assessment, the protection of Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains and a conservation project in Botswana.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New Fish

23 October, 2003, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
By Julianna Kettlewell
BBC News Online staff

Ocean census discovers new fish

More than 600 new species of fish have been discovered by a major ocean census and thousands more may be lurking undetected.
A new species of scorpionfish was discovered

Some 300 scientists from 53 countries are creating a record of all known marine life, in a project reminiscent of an aquatic Domesday Book.

The 10-year Census of Marine Life project will form an open database of raw material available to everyone.

It will pinpoint endangered animals and suggest how to protect them.

Pole to pole

So far, 15,304 species of fish have been logged. Between 2,000 and 3,000 more are expected to join the list before the census ends in 2010 - and many will be previously unknown species.

We are at the start of a great adventure, like going to the moon.
Jesse Ausubel, census Program Director

Apart from cataloguing species diversity, distribution and abundance, the census will explain how ocean life changes over time and in the face of human activity.

Extending from pole to pole and covering virtually every ocean, the Census of Marine Life (CoML) is easily the most ambitious and costly project of its kind.

Much of the $1bn bill will be footed by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation - a philanthropic non-profit organisation - and individual governments.

The unknown ocean

The census is divided into seven parts. As well as Pacific shorelines and the North Atlantic sea floor, scientists are examining the Gulf of Maine, hydrothermal vents, coastal salmon runs, the world wide habits of large fish and mammals, and animals of the abyss.

The first census report just published outlines how the understanding of these seven topics has advanced since the initiative began three years ago.

One "hot pot" of discovery has been the deep waters off Angola. Researchers exploring the abyssal sediments found an environment with more species per area than any other known aquatic environment on Earth.

New species of grenadiers found in the western Mediterranean

About 500 of the species collected are thought to be new to science. Experts hope that the research will improve understanding of the relationship between deep-sea species diversity and the richness of food in the water column.

The report also highlights the habits of young salmon during the sea dwelling stage of their lives, challenging conventional ideas about their survival.

"Most of the attention on salmon has been in rivers," Mike Vecchione, a scientist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, told BBC News Online.

"But the census has found that most deaths of young salmon occur in the open ocean. This information may be key to maintaining their populations."

Long journey

This is not the first survey into marine life. Numerous catalogues of aquatic creatures are available to the public, but the Census of Marine Life claims to be a league apart.

"Most other marine surveys concentrate on commercially important species or charismatic animals like sharks or whales, but we are casting our net far wider," said Jesse Ausubel, Program Director of CoML.

Over the next seven years, the census hopes to bring the number of marine species on the database to well over 210,000.

They also plan to establish pharmaceutical uses for some of the new species discovered.

Less than 14 kilometres off the Florida Keys, scientists recently discovered a new species - perhaps even a new genus - of sponge, which has been nicknamed the "Rasta sponge". Chemical compounds found in the sponge may help treat cancerous tumours.

But those involved in the census acknowledge they are still at the beginning of a very long voyage.

"Some 95% of the ocean is still unexplored biologically. We don't know what that figure will be in 2010, but we hope it will be much smaller," Mr Ausubel said.

"We hope we will have visited and sampled all the major domains of the ocean.

"We are at the start of a great adventure, like going to the Moon," he added. "But we know more about the surface of the Moon."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Asian Elephant

Asian Elephant
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Conservation status: Endangered

The Asian Elephant, sometimes known as the Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus) is one of the two or three living species of elephant, and the only living species of the genus Elephas. It is smaller than its African relatives, and the easiest way to distinguish the two is the smaller ears of the Asian Elephant. Asian elephants tend to grow to around two to four meters (7-12 feet) in height and 3,000-5,000 kilograms (6,500-11,000 pounds) in weight.

Asian Elephants have other differences from their African relatives, including a more arched back than the African, one semi-prehensile "finger" at the tip of their trunk as opposed to two, 4 nails on each hind foot instead of three, and 19 pairs of ribs instead of 21. Also, unlike female African Elephants, female Asian Elephants lack tusks. The forehead has two hemispherical bulges unlike the flat front of the African. Some males may also lack tusks and they are termed as makhnas. The population in Sri Lanka has a greater number of makhnas.

This animal is widely domesticated, and has been used in forestry in Southeast Asia for centuries and also for use in ceremonial purposes. Historical sources point out they were sometimes used during the harvest season primarily for milling. Wild elephants attract tourist money to the areas where they can most readily be seen, but damage crops and may enter villages to raid gardens.


Elephant herds in the wild follow well defined seasonal migration routes. These are made around the monsoon seasons, often between the wet and dry zones, and it is the task of the eldest to remember and follow the traditional migration routes. When human farms are found in these old routes there is often considerable damage made to crops and it is common for elephants to be killed in the ensuing conflicts.

They live on average for 70-80 years, although they may live to 100 years. They eat 10% of their body weight each day, which is for adults between 170 - 200 kilos of food per day. They need 80 - 200 litres of water a day and use more for bathing. They sometimes scrape soil for minerals.

Female behaviour

Female elephants live in small groups. They have a matriarchal society and the group is led by the oldest female. The herd consists of relatives. An individual reaches sexual maturity at 9-15 years. The gestation period is 18-22 months and they give birth to 1 calf and rarely twins. The calf weighs about 220 lb, (100 kg) and they are suckled for up to 2-3 years. Females stay on with the herd, but males are chased away.

Male behaviour

Bull elephants are usually solitary and they fight over females during the breeding season. Younger bulls may form small groups. Males reach sexual maturity during their 15th year, after which they annualy enter "musth". This is a period where the testosterone level is high (up to 60 times greater) and they become extremely aggressive. Secretions containing pheromones occur during this period, from the temporal glands on the forehead.

Danger of elephants

An animal of this size is potentially dangerous. Care should be taken when walking or driving at night or in the late evening in areas where wild elephants roam. Particularly, potential meetings with unpredictable adult males, or females with nearby young, are best avoided. Among the most dangerous are the rogue elephants which have been separated from the rest of the wild herd and tend to be hyper aggressive. When chased by an elephant it is often best to run zig zag as elephants can reach top speeds of up to 50 km/h in a straight line but find it difficult to make sudden turns.

In History and Religion

The elephant plays an important part in the culture of the subcontinent and beyond featuring prominently in Jataka tales and the Panchatantra. It is also quite venerated and the "blessings" of a temple elephant is sought by Hindus as Lord Ganesha's head is made up of an elephant. It has been used in majestic processions in Kerala where the pachyderms are adorned with festive outfits. They were used by almost all armies in India as war elephants, terrifying opponents unused to the massive beast..

In Western Literature

The Asian elephant figures prominently in The Jungle Book and other writings of Rudyard Kipling, a British writer born in India.


Elephas maximus is the only surviving species in the Elephas genus; Elephas recki, an even larger species, is extinct.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Conservation Status - Lower Risk

The meerkat or suricate, is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family. It inhabits all parts of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob" or "gang".

Meerkat is an English loan word from the Dutch meaning lake cat. However, the name has been superseded in Dutch by stokstaartje ("little stick-tail"), and the word only kept its original meaning in Afrikaans and English.

The meerkat is a small diurnal herpestid whose weight averages approximately 731 grams for males and 720 grams for females. Its long and slender body and limbs give it a body length of between 25 and 35 cm and an added tail length of 17-25 cm. Its tail, which is not bushy like all other mongoose species, is long and thin and tapering to a pointed tip which is black or reddish coloured. The meerkat will use its tail to balance when standing vertical. Its face also tapers coming to a point at the nose, which is brown. The meerkat's eyes always have black patches surrounding them. The meerkat has small, black, crescent shaped ears that have the ability to close when digging to prevent sand entering.

Meerkats have strong, 2 cm long, curved claws used for digging for prey and altering their underground burrows, they have four toes on each foot and long, slender limbs. The colour of the coat is usually fawn peppered with gray, tan, or brown with a silver tint. They have short, parallel stripes across their backs; these extend from the base of the tail to the shoulders and are unique to each animal. The underside of the meerkat has no markings but instead a patch on their belly which is only sparsely covered in hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area on its belly to absorb heat when it stands on its rear legs, which is usually done first thing in the morning to warm up after cold desert nights.

The meerkat's diet is mainly insectivorous, but they will also consume lizards, snakes, spiders, plants, eggs and small mammals. Like all mongoose species, the meerkat has developed an immunity to many venoms. This allows them to eat scorpions (including the sting) and some snakes without fear of illness, poison or death. They have no fat stores so if they don't forage for food every day they will die.


Meerkats become sexually mature at about one year of age and have, on average, three young per litter. The wild meerkat will have up to three litters a year. Meerkats are iteroparous and can reproduce any time of the year but most births occur in the warmer seasons. Reports show that there is no precopulatory display; the male will fight with the female until she submits to him and copulation will begin. Gestation lasts approximately eleven weeks and the young are born within the underground burrow and are altricial. The young's ears will open at about 10 days of age, and eyes at 10-14 days, they are weaned between 49 and 63 days. They will not come above ground until at least three weeks of age and will stay with babysitters near the burrow, it will be another week or so until they join the adults on a foraging party. Usually, the alpha pair reserve the right to mate and will normally kill any young not their own to ensure that their offspring has the best chance of survival. They may also exile or kill the mothers of the offending offspring.


Meerkats are burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social, living in colonies of up to forty. Animals from within the same group will often groom each other to strengthen social bonds. The alpha pair will often scent mark subordinates of the group to express their authority, and such actions are usually followed by the subordinates licking the faces of and grooming the alphas. These actions are also usually practiced when members of the group are reunited after a short period apart. Most meerkats within the same group are all siblings and offspring of the alpha pair.

Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behaviour within their colonies; one or more meerkats will stand sentry (lookout) while other members are foraging or playing in order to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry will give a warning bark, and all other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes the meerkats will have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat will be the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground, if there is no threat, the sentry meerkat will stop barking and the others will be safe to emerge. Meerkats will also babysit any young that may be in the group, females that have never produced offspring of their own will often lactate to feed the alpha pairs young while the dominant female is away with the rest of the group. They will also protect the young from any threat, often endangering their own lives to do so. On warning of a danger, the babysitter will either take the young underground to safety and be prepared to defend them if the danger is able to follow, or collect all young together and lie on top of them if retreating underground is not possible.

Meerkats have been known to engage in social activities, including what appear to be wrestling matches and foot races.

Despite their normally-altruistic behaviour, meerkats have contradicted this by killing young members of their societies. Subordinate meerkats have been seen killing the offspring of more senior members in order to advance their own offsprings' positions.

Meerkat calls have recently been noted to carry an element of meaning, with specific calls alerting to the approach of snakes, birds of prey, or other predators. How these calls evolved is not clear. They are a demonstration that meaning is not solely the domain of human language, although the calls of the meerkat do not constitute a form of language.

More than one field researcher has reported witnessing meerkats in some sort of singing ceremony they compared with yodelling.

More Links to Meerkats
All About Meerkats
Meerkat Links

Friday, April 21, 2006

The capybara

The capybara
Conservation Status - Lower Risk

The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is a semi-aquatic herbivorous animal, the largest of living rodents. It is endemic to most of the tropical and temperate parts of South America east of the Andes, and has been introduced to north-central Florida and possibly other subtropical regions in the United States. It is the only living member of the family Hydrochoeridae.

The animal is also called capivara in Portuguese, and carpincho or chigüiro in Spanish. The name originally derives from the Guarani word kapiÿva, meaning roughly "master of the grasses".

Description and habits

Full-grown capybaras reach between 105 and 135 cm (40-55 in) in length, and weigh 35 to 65 kg (75-140 lbs) and are similar to giant guinea-pigs in appearance. Capybaras are excellent swimmers, and have partially webbed feet. They mate in the water, use the water to hide from predators, and can stay submerged for several minutes. It is even possible for capybaras to sleep underwater, which they accomplish by leaving their noses exposed to the air.

Capybaras are herd animals. The males of the species have a gland on their noses which exudes a liquid pheromone. In the mating season, they will rub this gland on the surrounding foliage to attract females. They spend most of their time on the banks of rivers, feeding in the mornings and evenings. The diet consists of vegetation such as river plants and bark.

Economic and ecological aspects Hunting

In the regions along the Paraná river in Southern Brazil, Northern Argentina, and Uruguay, capybaras are occasionally hunted for food and for their leather. The flesh is described as tasting like pork and has a similar whitish appearance.

Venezuelan farmers who once considered the animal a pest now make a valuable addition to their incomes by selling capybara meat (approximately 400 metric tons annually). The rodents are rounded up in February so that they can be slaughtered and sold just before the onset of Lent, when the meat is in high demand.

The popularity of capybara meat in Venezuela is attributed to a 16th century theological decision by the Roman Catholic Church. Responding to queries by Venezuelan Catholics, the Church declared the capybara meat to be equivalent to fish meat, and thus allowed its consumption during Lent [1]. The decision may have been taken on the basis of incomplete or inaccurate descriptions of the capybara available to the Church authorities in Rome; but it was never reversed, and to this day the capybara is the only warm-blooded animal with that status. (This story should be treated with caution, however, since similar claims have been circulated concerning other semi-aquatic mammals, such as beavers and muskrats[2].)
Capybara, the largest living rodent, in an English zoo

Capybaras as farm animals

Recently some farmers have started breeding capybaras for their meat. Capybara farms are more common in Venezuela, where capybara meat is a popular dish; but some are found in other countries, usually catering to specialty restaurants (such as the churrascarias in Brazil). The animals are prolific and relatively easy to raise.

Capybaras as pets

Capybaras are often kept for "decorative" purposes in public parks, farms, and tourist resorts which have access to suitable water bodies. The animals are usually allowed to roam freely; they adapt easily to human presence, and allow themselves to be petted and hand-fed.

However, in Southeast Brazil (states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais) this custom has run into trouble recently, after capybaras were found to be a reservoir for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The disease can be transmitted to humans by the star tick (Amblyomma cajennense), a common parasite of many animals — including capybaras and humans. Responding to pressure from health authorities and public opinion, many public places in those states have eliminated the capybaras they once kept.