Friday, September 30, 2011

Duikers - Resourceful Antelopes

Duikers, small antelopes native to Sub-Saharan Africa, don’t have an easy life.

Most of the 19 duiker species are quite small, weighing as little as eight pounds fully grown. They also happen to live in close proximity to some of the animal kingdom’s fiercest predators and are hunted by lions, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, pythons, eagles, and even feral dogs. To make things more difficult, duikers don’t travel in the safety of a herd, instead living solitary lives in the underbrush of African rainforests.

Despite all of this adversity, duikers manage to survive because they are extremely resourceful. Like most ungulates, duikers prefer to feed on a variety of shoots, grasses and fruits and will follow groups of monkeys to feed on what they drop from trees. However, when food is scarce duikers will resort to eating eggs, carrion and even hunting small lizards and birds.
Most species of duikers are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. However, if human activity begins to occur in a duiker’s territory it will often quickly become nocturnal to avoid hunters. In the event that a duiker is spotted by a hunter or predator it will usually dart into a thicket and freeze rather than run. The duiker’s short front legs and narrow snout allow it to traverse thicker underbrush than most animals, and this technique often allows it to escape or go undetected.

Though some species are still quite common, this extremely shy little antelope is in decline throughout Africa. Loss of habitat and overhunting have led to some of the rarer species becoming endangered.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Maned Wolf - Like No Other Canine

The maned wolf looks like the tallest fox you’ve ever seen, but it’s not a fox at all. In fact, despite being called a wolf, it’s not closely related to the canids we call wolves either. It is thought that the maned wolf split off from its ancestors millions of years ago and developed its distinct size, shape, behavior (and even smell!) to suit its habitat. The maned wolf is so distinct it is actually the only species in its genus!
Photo: Sage Ross
Maned wolves are the tallest wild canines in the world and can be well over three feet tall at the shoulders. They are reddish-orange in color and are named for the erectile manes on their backs which are raised when they are alarmed.
Maned wolf pup
The maned wolf inhabits the open forests, grasslands and savannah of South America. Unlike true wolves, maned wolves do not form packs; they are usually extremely solitary animals that only socialize for mating purposes.

Maned wolves are true omnivores. Though they do hunt small mammals, birds and fish, over 50% of their diet is made up of fruits, vegetables and sugar cane. Maned wolves do not have any natural predators of their own and mainly face threats from feral dogs, automobile strikes and habitat loss.

Maned wolves usually mate for life and together defend a large territory of up to twelve square miles. Despite sharing the same territory, monogamous maned wolf pairs rarely interact with one another directly outside of the mating season. Instead, they use urine to mark hunting paths or buried prey. The urine’s distinct smell, which has been likened to hops or even cannabis, has earned this animal the nickname “skunk wolf”.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lion Cub Rescue

Some photos taken at a wildlife preserve in Kenya have appeared online recently and I wanted to share them with you. Photographer Jean-Francois Largot managed to capture a daring rescue of a lion cub by his mother.
The cub had slipped and slid down an almost vertical cliff. Upon hearing the cub’s cries several of the pride’s lionesses considered a rescue attempt, but decided that the slope was too steep.
Ultimately, it was only the cub’s mother that decided to risk the treacherous drop to save her son.

After a perilous climb back to the top with the cub in her mouth, all is right with this lioness’s pride once again. 

Story via The Daily Mail.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Today's TV Star - The Blacktip Reef Shark

If you caught today’s episode of The Martha Stewart Show, and we hope you did, you may have noticed one particular plush shark used in the stuffed animal craft segment had signature black fins; the blacktip reef shark
The real blacktip reef shark is a relatively small shark common to the shallow, warm waters near coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Although they mimic their larger cousins in appearance, blacktip reef sharks are rarely more than five feet long and are quite timid around humans.
Easily identified by the black tips on their fins, these sharks feed on a large variety of small fish and squid that make their homes in and around reefs. However, due to their small size, blacktip reef sharks are sometimes preyed upon by larger bony fishes such as groupers.

Because these sharks live in shallow waters close to shore, interactions with humans are frequent. Divers are encouraged to swim fully submerged rather than wading through the water when blacktip reef sharks are present. The sharks will almost always flee in the presence of a diver, but can mistake a wading swimmer’s leg for a meal.
Though not endangered, the blacktip reef shark is considered nearly threatened. They have extremely low reproductive rates, and are overfished in some areas. In addition, their fearsome appearance and modest size make them a popular addition to large aquariums.

Today on Martha Stewart – The Jungle Store’s Plush Sharks!

We’re very excited to announce that this morning a selection of the Jungle Store’s plush sharks will be featured live on The Martha Stewart Show!

Today’s show will feature a selection of Martha’s summer finds; new recipes and craft projects that inspired her over the summer. For the craft segment, Martha and designer Kelly Behun will be transforming a school of the Jungle Store’s plush sharks into a delightful chair and throw pillow!

The show is scheduled to air live at 10:00am EST this morning, so be sure to check your local listings or Martha’s website so you can tune in!

If you’re interested in picking up any of the sharks you see on the program for your own craft project, be sure to visit the Jungle Store’s selection!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Fossa - Not a Feline

Native to the island of Madagascar, the fossa somewhat resembles a cougar in appearance. And although this carnivore does have a lot of cat-like qualities, it is actually most closely related to the mongoose family.
Photo: Ran Kirlian
Fossas have a body length of around thirty inches and usually weigh less than 20lbs. They can be found throughout Madagascar’s remaining forest tracts using their excellent hearing and eyesight to hunt lemurs and other small mammals and birds. They are extremely quick and agile animals and are excellent climbers.
Photo: Chad Teer
Fossas are quite solitary animals that mainly live and hunt alone except during the mating season, when hunting parties may be formed. Females give birth to litters of up to six young in underground dens where the baby fossas will stay for the first four months of their lives. Fossas can live for up to twenty years, but like many animals in Madagascar, they are threatened by habitat loss.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Continuing our theme of animals you wouldn’t normally expect to find in trees is the tree kangaroo. Closely related to terrestrial kangaroos and wallabies, these marsupials have evolved with unique features to adapt to life far above the forest floor.
Photo: Timmy Toucan
There a 14 species of tree kangaroos all living in the rainforests of New Guinea or northeastern Australia. Though color and appearance can vary by species, most are less than four feet long (including tail) and weigh less than 30lbs.

Compared to land-based kangaroos tree kangaroos have proportionally smaller legs, stronger forelimbs and heavier tails, making them somewhat clumsy on the ground. However, once up in the trees they are very agile. For climbing, they wrap their strong forelimbs around tree branches and propel themselves upwards with powerful leaps. Descending is even quicker, as tree kangaroos can jump out of trees from heights of up to 60 feet without injury. 
Tree kangaroos are omnivores that feed on a variety of leaves, fruit, grain and occasionally eggs and small birds. Habitat loss and hunting has led to nearly all species of tree kangaroos being classified as vulnerable or endangered.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tree-Climbing Goats!

Goats are fascinating animals. Some faint, they provide an important source of cheese and milk throughout much of the world, and they are excellent tree climbers; at least in Morocco.
Yes, the picture above is real. In some parts of Morocco food sources for grazing animals are scarce. Ever resourceful, goats have taken to climbing the region’s argan trees to eat the olive-like fruit that grows in them. Farmers and rancher don’t just allow this practice, they encourage it. The fruit of the argan tree contains a nut that goats can’t digest, so they spit it onto the ground. The nuts can be ground up into argan oil, an important component of cosmetics and cooking oils.
Argan oil is the most expensive oil in the world, going for over $300 per liter. The feeding habits of these goats have made it much easier to harvest argan nuts and provide an important cash crop for people in this region.

The recent demand and high price of argan oil has led many farmers to purchase even more goats. This increased goat population is having a negative effect on the rare argan tree, and overfeeding has caused the tree to become endangered.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Golden Eagle - Apex Predator

The golden eagle is the largest bird of prey in North America, and with a range that includes most of the northern hemisphere, the most widespread eagle on earth.
Photo: Jason Hickey
With a wingspan of over seven feet and weighing up to 15lbs, an adult golden eagle will not be mistaken for a smaller hawk or falcon. Golden eagles live in areas of open country such as desert and sparse forests. They usually build a nest of sticks on a cliff ledge or occasionally in a tree. This nest will be the home for a mated pair of golden eagles for life and they will enlarge and repair the nest as necessary.

The vast majority of the golden eagle’s diet consists of small to medium-sized mammals such as hares, marmots and young deer. Other major food sources include birds such as pheasants, grouse, falcons and hawks, as well as any available carrion.
Due to their massive size, healthy adult golden eagles have no natural predators of their own. They have been known to get mobbed by groups of smaller hawks and falcons when they invade a nesting area though. A healthy golden eagle can live for 30 years in the wild.
By far the greatest threat to golden eagles comes from habitat loss. Once thriving golden eagle populations in Europe are now severely restricted, and though still common in much of North America and Asia, populations continue to decline in areas with an increasing human presence.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amazing Animal Hand Art

I’ve decided to take a break today from sharing animal facts with you guys to show you some amazing animal hand art I ran across on Illusion King. The detail of this artwork is incredible! In fact, I’d feel bad about washing my hands if I had any of these painted on me; enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Tiny Pygmy Jerboa

Last week we had a blog featuring the pygmy marmoset, recognized as the world’s smallest monkey. As small as those marmosets are, they positively dwarf the Baluchistan pygmy jerboa, one of the tiniest mammals in the world.
With a body length of just over four centimeters and weighing just over three grams, the pygmy jerboa is tied with the bumblebee bat as the smallest mammal in the world.

The Baluchistan pygmy jerboa is only found in the deserts of Pakistan, though it is suspected that it may live in Afghanistan as well.

Illustration of larger Egyptian jerboas.
Very little is known about this rare rodent in the wild other than it is nocturnal, herbivorous and uses its long legs to hop across the desert. It is likely that the jerboa developed this means of movement over time as an efficient way to cover lots of ground in an open habitat (free of trees and other obstructions) while avoiding snakes and lizards, its primary predators.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lemmings Deserve some Respect

Lemmings have a long-standing reputation as unintelligent animals. Video games and urban legends are based around these arctic rodents mindlessly jumping off cliffs and drowning for no apparent reason during migration.
These myths primarily stem from a 1958 nature documentary called White Wilderness. In the film, a migrating mass of lemmings are shown leaping to their deaths into the Arctic Ocean. In reality, these lemmings were actually pushed over a cliff by a rotating platform off-camera to create drama. Most experts agree that the species of lemming shown in this scene doesn’t even migrate at all.

The only lemmings that regularly migrate are Scandinavian species, and they only do so when absolutely necessary. The reason for these migrations has to do available food supplies for the population, which can run low quickly. The Norway lemming reaches sexual maturity at one month old and can produce a litter of six to eight young every three weeks year round if weather is good. This can lead to a larger lemming population than the area can support.
When the area can no longer support a population, some species of Scandinavian lemmings will scatter in all directions in search of food and shelter. These mass migrations may cause the death of many lemmings from falls or drowning in bodies of water that are too large to swim across. This behavior has lead to the myth that lemmings are suicidal, when in fact they are merely searching for habitat and trying to survive.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's a Monster! A Gila Monster

With a name like the Gila monster, this is one lizard you would expect to be fearsome, and in some respects you would be right. For one, the Gila monster is the largest land lizard in the United States and can reach lengths of up to two feet. It’s also one of only a handful of venomous lizards in the world.
Although the Gila monster might look and sound scary, it’s really not all that dangerous. Named for the Gila River basin in Arizona where they were first discovered, these lizards spend the majority of their lives underground in abandoned mammal burrows. They only emerge sporadically to feed and can survive on as little as five meals per year. The Gila monster mainly eats eggs and small mammals, secreting venom through its teeth while chewing to stun its prey.
Despite their venom and large size, Gila monsters pose almost no threat to humans. On the rare occasions that they are above ground they are extremely slow-moving. Bites can be painful, but rarely occur unprovoked. Gila monster venom is powerful, but is produced in much smaller amounts than snake venom; it is rarely fatal to humans.

Their fearsome size and venomous reputation has led to many Gila monsters being unnecessarily killed. This, combined with loss of habitat due to urban sprawl has led to the Gila monster becoming a species on the cusp of being endangered.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Great Horned Owl

As the leaves start to change and autumn begins to arrive in North America, one of the most common and haunting woodland sounds is the mating call of the great horned owl.
Photo: Arthur Morris
Though they can be heard as year-round residents throughout North and South America, great horned owls begin calling to potential mates as early as October in North America. The mating call is slightly quicker than the usual “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo” call heard at other times and is often done as a duet, with the higher-pitched female’s call overlapping that of her mate’s.

Because they are nocturnal, great horned owls are heard much more often than they are seen. They are quite intimidating birds in both size and appearance, with five foot wingspans and large, yellow eyes.
Great horned owls are fearsome hunters that prey on a large variety of animals including rabbits, birds, other owls and even reptiles as large as small alligators! With spectacular binocular vision and superb hearing that can pinpoint the location of sounds, great horned owls are perfectly adapted to hunting at night. Their massive talons have over three times more crushing strength than a human’s hand, allowing them to take prey much larger than themselves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The World's Smallest Monkeys

At only about six inches long and weighing four ounces, pygmy marmosets (also called Finger Monkeys) are the smallest true monkeys in the world.
Baby pygmy marmosets. Photo: FactZoo.

Native to mature evergreen forests in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, pygmy marmosets are usually found in areas near streams or floodplains. Although they are primarily tree-dwellers, pygmy marmosets rarely venture higher than 65 feet into the upper part of the forest canopy.

Pygmy marmosets feed primarily on tree sap and gum. They have sharp incisors and claw-like fingernails to dig into tree bark and access untapped sources of food. Other food sources include butterflies, moths, beetles and ants.
Photo: Pablo YĆ©pez
Pygmy marmosets are extremely social animals that feed and sleep together. Communal roosts consisting of tangles of vines and branches in trees function as sleeping sites. These marmosets spend their daylight hours feeding together in the mornings, midday’s and evenings with bouts of play, rest and grooming in between.

Despite their small size and undeniable cuteness, pygmy marmosets do not make good pets, as they do bite and throw feces. The species is currently not endangered, but as with all rainforest animals they do face threats from habitat loss.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anoles - The Chameleons that Aren't

The anole is a lizard that can climb walls like a gecko and change colors like a chameleon, but it isn’t closely related to either.
Green anole with dewlap extended.
Found throughout the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, anoles represent a family of lizards in the Iguana suborder. There are over 300 known species of these lizards, several of which have been introduced to non-native areas. The most well-known species, the Carolina anole, has been driven out of much of its native range due to competition from the introduced brown anole.
Brown anole
Anoles can be found living in trees and shrubs from ground level up to twenty feet high in warm climates. Their diet of insects makes them ideal natural pest controllers, and at less than seven inches long, anoles are not dangerous or aggressive towards humans.

Most anoles are green or brown in color and can change their pigmentation based upon mood. For example, the Carolina anole, usually bright green, can change to a dark brown color if distressed. Males have large dewlaps on their throats which they can inflate for courtship purposes.  Most anoles live 4-8 years in the wild and up to 14 years if raised in captivity.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Surfing with Sharks

Some pictures taken in San Diego last weekend may be a little bit shocking for those with a fear of sharks. They show surfers waiting to catch a wave just a few feet away from what scientists agree is a 12 foot great white.
Lifeguards at the beach originally dismissed the sighting as a duck-diving surfer, but as these photographs were studied more closely it became apparent that it was a shark after all.
While great white sharks can certainly be dangerous to humans, fatalities from shark attacks are extremely rare and great whites do not purposefully hunt humans for food.
Since 1670 there have only been 43 fatal shark attacks in the United States. Surfers and swimmers are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning or win the lottery than be attacked by a great white shark.

All photos via.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

World Record Steer

The Ankole-Watusi, a breed of cattle native to Africa, is not particularly large for a cow. Usually weighing no more than 1,600lbs, many cattle breeds can grow larger and heavier. What makes Watusi cattle distinctive are their large, usually upswept horns that are used for self defense. And although many breeds of cattle have horns, none have ever topped those of a Watusi steer named Lurch in terms of sheer mass.
Photo: Rocky Ridge Refuge
Lurch was adopted at 5 weeks old in 1995 by Janice Wolf, founder of the wonderful Rocky Ridge Animal Refuge in Arkansas. By the time he had reached three years of age Lurch had already broken the Guinness World Record for largest horn circumference, but he wasn’t done growing. Before his passing in 2010 Lurch’s horns had exceeded 38 inches in circumference and measured nearly eight feet tip to tip. It is estimated that each horn weighed over 100lbs.
Photo: Rocky Ridge Refuge
To find out more about Lurch and the Rocky Ridge Refuge where he spent his life you can visit their website.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Backyard Nature - The Whitetail Deer

By far the most common large animal in North America is the whitetail deer. Now a regular sight in all but five U.S. states, the whitetail was surprisingly once much less numerous. Due to overhunting and deforestation, whitetail deer only numbered about 300,000 in the 1930s. Since then, large-scale conservation efforts and strict hunting regulations have seen whitetail populations soar to a current estimate of 30 million in the United States alone.
Part of the reason for the whitetail’s success has to do with its adaptability. These deer are capable of eating a wide variety of grasses, legumes, fruits and vegetables; even some that are poisonous to other animals. Though once confined mainly to forested areas, loss of habitat due to agriculture and urban sprawl has forced the whitetail to adapt to life in more open areas, even moving into the territory of its close cousin the mule deer in its eastern range.

Another reason whitetails thrive is because they have few natural predators. Large carnivores such as gray wolves and mountain lions have been forced into extinction in the eastern United States, and the remaining coyotes, bobcats and lynxes are too small to prey on adult deer. The only current means of whitetail population control is their popularity as a game animal.
Of course, the massive increases in both whitetail deer and human populations over the last 80 years have made interactions between the two species quite common. Deer are frequently spotted in suburban areas, and are all-too-often involved in vehicle collisions. According to the CDC, there were 247,000 deer-vehicle collisions in the United States in the year 2000 alone, resulting in over one billion dollars in property damage.
Fall marks the beginning of the mating season for whitetail deer, and is traditionally the time of year when they are most often spotted crossing roadways, often around dusk. Especially in autumn, motorists are urged to pay attention to deer crossing signs, use their high beams whenever possible and keep a sharp eye out on the road for these beautiful animals.