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We are a group of animal enthusiasts and we hope that reader will gain an increased appreciation of the need for more conservation measures in order to protect the beautiful creatures that inhabit this planet. Our philosophy is that the more we learn about animals, the more we respect them and take better care of them. That is why we update this blog with new animals, We encourage you to syndicate our content by adding "animal of the day" to your own blog! (read more)

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Monday 22 December 2014 Steppe Polecat - Wild Relative of the Domesticated Ferret

Steppe polecatThe steppe polecat (Mustela eversmannii), also called the masked polecat, Eversmann’s polecat or the Siberian polecat, strongly resembles a pet ferret (Mustela putorious fero.) Although biologists think the European polecat (Mustela putorious) is the direct ancestor of the domesticated ferret because the two species can interbreed, some biologists think that the steppe polecat may also be an ancestor to the pet ferret. Unlike domesticated ferrets, steppe polecats do not come in a variety of coat colors and are hostile to people.

Steppe polecats are found from Eastern Europe to China. Although not listed as threatened or endangered, steppe polecats primarily prey on large rodents like ground squirrels, marmots, water voles and pika. If the habitat for their prey is destroyed, then the steppe polecat will lose a major food supply. Steppe polecats have been observed eating lizards, frogs, willow grouse and grey partridges. Natural predators include birds of prey, jackals, stray dogs and foxes. Humans also prey on them, trapping steppe polecats for their fur and accidentally kill polecats trying to cross roads.

Physical Description

Steppe polecats grow larger than domesticated ferrets. They average 2 feet (60 cm) in length. Males are larger and heavier than females. One male in the wild grew to 31.5 inches (80 cm), but this is considered unusual. Males tip the scales at 72.31 ounces (2,050 grams) while females only average 47.61 ounces (1,350 grams.)

Steppe polecats possess long weasel-like bodies, short legs and a triangular head. Their bodies are chestnut-brown with a dark dorsal stripe going down the spine to the tail and black feet. Their heads, undersides of the chest and belly are white, but there are dark brown markings over the eyes which make it appear as if the steppe polecat was wearing a bandit’s mask. Their lips and sometimes the tips of their noses are pink. Their winter coat is much thicker and slightly longer than their summer coats.

Life Cycle and Behavior

Steppe polecats prefer to live in grasslands, bases of mountains and arid deserts, but can also make homes in cultivated fields and pastures. They are most active at dusk and dawn. Each steppe polecat has several burrows in its territory. It prefers to commandeer the burrows of ground squirrels rather than dig its own. Each polecat lives by itself. Females keep permanent territories while males have territories overlapping females. The sexes only get together for mating in March and April.

After a gestation of 36 to 43 days, females give birth to one to eighteen kits or baby polecats. They are born blind, deaf and hairless. They stay in their mother’s burrow for two to three months, then come up and begin to learn to hunt. They can take down an adult ground squirrel by the time they are three months old. They soon leave their mother and fend for themselves. Although they can breed sooner, the kits do not become physically mature until they are two years old. It is unknown how old steppe polecats can live in the wild. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Thursday 27 November 2014 Greater Mouse Deer - Gives Peek at What Extinct Animals Were Like

Greater mouse deerThe greater mouse deer (Tragulus napu) is not a true deer, although it has some deer-like characteristics. Also called the Malay tapu (tapu is the local name for the animal) this curious and cute creature is classified as an ungulate. Ungulates are any creatures with hooves. Deer are also classified as ungulates. But unlike deer, female greater mouse deer are larger than males. They also do not have a specific rutting season. The greater mouse deer breeds any time.

Although not considered endangered, the greater mouse’s natural habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Although extinct in Singapore, it can still be found in the dwindling forests of Borneo, Sumatra, Thailand, the Indonesian islands and the Malaysian Islands. They eat leaves, bugs, shrubs, twigs and grasses, although the latter is rarely found in thick tropical forests. This is the same diet that many now-extinct mammals such as the earliest known horse ate. Today’s mouse deer strongly resemble the fossils of eohippus.

General Description

In profile, this species has a body shaped like a furry brown pear laying on its side with four slim legs. Some people describe the greater mouse deer as a "stretched out guinea pig." The neck is very short, the rump very wide in comparison to the small, narrow head. They have much smaller ears in comparison to true deer. A black stripe connects the black-rimmed ears across the large eyes to the small black nose.

Although tiny for an ungulate, it is the largest mouse deer species in the world. Males stand 12 inches (30 cm) from the bottom of the hoof to the tops of their shoulders. Females can grow as large as 14 inches (35 cm.) Their bodies are longer than they are tall. Males are 2.3 feet (70 cm) long, while females can grow as long as 2.5 feet (75 cm.) Males can weigh about 11 pounds (5 kilograms) while females can tip the scales at 17.6 pounds (8 kilograms.)

Behavior

Not much is known about the behavior of wild greater mouse deer, since these are incredibly shy nocturnal animals. Unlike deer, they live solitary lives instead of moving in herds. They only come together to mate. Instead of antlers, male greater mouse deer have tusks. Gestation is 152 – 155 days long. Females can mate within a few days of giving birth to their single babies. Meanwhile, babies can stand within a half-hour of being born and can run with their mothers from predators like birds of prey, humans, feral dogs and monitor lizards.

Although solitary, greater mouse deer constantly communicate to others of their kind through scent-marking. Along with urine and feces, they rub their chins on branches or rock outcroppings. A gland in their chin produces a scent distinctive to other mouse deer. They also can communicate by sound. When scared, greater mouse deer rapidly drum their hooves on the ground. They can be tamed, but ideally should live in the wild. With luck, they can live up to 14 years old.

Picture of the greater mouse deer by Brian Gratwicke, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Tuesday 04 November 2014 The Japanese Macaque - Hot Springs-Loving Similian

Japanese macaqueThe Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), which is also known as the snow monkey, is famous throughout the world for its love of soaking in hot springs on cold winter days. This very human-like behavior has endeared them to those who have seen images of the little monkeys, their fur covered in snow, peeping out from the steaming water.

Japanese macaques have a naked, red to pinkish face. Its fur ranges in color from brown to gray, and it has a short, approximately three-inch tail. In the winter, the macaques that live in the colder regions grow a thick winter coat. On average, Japanese macaques weigh approximately 18 to 24 pounds (11 kg to 8 kg) and are about 20 to 22 inches (522 to 570 mm) in length. Male Japanese macaques are typically slightly larger than females.

The Japanese macaque can be found on three of Japan's four main islands. The only island they do not live on is the northernmost, Hokkaido. The Japanese macaque lives in a wide range of habitats, from lowlands to mountains to by the ocean. Populations can be found on Shimokita Peninsula on Honshu Island, the Nagano Mountains, by the ocean on Oshima Island, and on the southern island of Yaku-Shima. It is the only monkey that lives as far north of the equator as it does.

These monkeys are omnivores. Their diet typically consists of fruit, leaves and insects. They have also been known to consume crabs, fish and eggs. In northern areas, where the winters can be harsh, the Japanese macaque will feed on bark. Some macaques will wash their food in salt water to both clean and flavor it.

The Japanese macaque are highly sociable animals. They live in troops that are typically made up of about 30 to 40 monkeys, though larger groups have been known to exist. Though these troops do have a dominant male, other male monkeys are allowed to stay in the troops. Female macaques also have a pecking order, with offspring of high-ranking females typically enjoying a high rank in the troop, as well.

The macaque’s now famous habit of soaking in hot springs was first noted in 1963 when one monkey in the Nagano Mountain region ventured into the springs to retrieve an item. Soon, other monkeys followed suit. Nowadays, it is a common practice for the troops in this region to soak in the hot springs. Macaque babies in this region have also been seen creating and playing with snowballs.

Predators of the Japanese macaque include dogs, mountain hawk eagles and humans. Unfortunately, the Japanese macaque is not a shy animal and troops have been known to raid crops on farms and snatch food from children and others. Though they enjoy a protected status, they are occasionally killed by humans angered by their behavior. Loss of habitat has also led to a decline in the Japanese macaque’s population. The Japanese macaque is listed on CITES’s Appendix II, meaning that its trade is monitored and its conservation status is listed as of Least Concern by IUCN. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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