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Monday 29 April 2013 The Fox Squirrel - The Largest Tree Squirrel of North America

Fox squirrelThe Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest squirrel among all the tree squirrel species found in North America. It is also known as the Raccoon Squirrel, Stump-eared Squirrel, Monkey Faced Squirrel, and Red Squirrel. Although there is a difference in their size and coloration, people mistake this squirrel for the Eastern Grey Squirrel in areas where both the species coexist.

The fox squirrels are found almost everywhere in Eastern America, excluding Colorado, Texas, west of Dakotas, New England, and the southern parts of Canada. They have also been introduced to Southern and Northern California. They have a very versatile choice in terms of their selection for habitat. They are seen in forest patches spreading to 400,000 sq. m. They are also often found near urban developments where there are plenty of trees. They habitat best in areas where oak, walnut, pine, and hickory trees are found in abundance, since they produce food-like nuts which are stored for the winter.

The total length of an Eastern Fox Squirrel measures 17.71 to 27.55 inches (45 - 70 cm) with its tail measuring 7.87 to 13 inches (20-33 cm). Its weight also varies with its size. It can weigh anywhere from 1.1 lbs to 2.2 lbs (500 - 1000 grams). The animals in the eastern parts are bigger. There are three variations in its color according to the geographic conditions in which it is found to exist. In the southern parts, it is found with only black color coat while in eastern regions, it is dark brown or black with stripes on its face and its tail and in rest of the areas, it is found with a brownish yellow or a grayish brown coat. The fox squirrels have very sharp claws, flexors of forearms, and very well-developed extensors which help them in climbing. They have exceptionally good vision and their smelling and hearing senses are also well-developed. For communication with other squirrels, they make markings along with a specific scent.

Tree seeds are the first choice of Eastern fox squirrels when it comes to food. They also feed on fruits, buds, insects, food grains, small snakes, lizards, and birds eggs. Fox squirrels are considered as diurnal and non-territorial animals. Unlike other squirrels, although most of their time is spent on the ground, they are still swift climbers. They construct their house called 'dreys' according to the season.

These fox squirrels have two breeding seasons, in June and in December. The young ones have no fur at birth and are blind and helpless. After three months of their birth, they become independent and in one year, they reach their sexual maturity. In wild, they live only for seven months on an average while in captivity they are known to live up to 18 years.

Predators of eastern fox squirrels include humans, bob cats, hawks, snakes, and owls. Their agility is helpful to them to escape from their predators. They emit specific alarm calls to alert other squirrels when they are threatened. The increasing over-hunting and deforestation practices have put many species of this squirrel in danger. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Friday 26 April 2013 White-headed Capuchin - The Movie Star and Service Primate

White-headed capuchinThe White-headed Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), also known as the White-faced Capuchin and sometimes as the White-throated Capuchin, is a New World Monkey from South America and Central America, with a range that includes Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and parts of Columbia. They are a very versatile and adaptable species, which is considered a least-concern in the IUCN red list. They are able to adapt to their changing environment and have an omnivorous diet. They are usually around 8-9 pounds (3.9-4.2kg) and are usually 12 to 19.6 in (33-50) cm in length, with a prehensile tail that is an additional 15-21 in. (40-55cm) in length. The White-headed Capuchin's diet consists of an omnivorous mix of fruits and insects, and sometimes small birds, seeds, and small mammals. They are arboreal, but it will go to the ground more often than other relative New World Monkeys.

They usually live in groups of 5-30 individuals which have multiple males; however there is a hierarchy which starts with the Alpha Male, followed by the Alpha Female, and so on. As a social species they practice grooming, where the lower ranked members groom the higher ranked members and so on. Females of the species will form coalitions and stay with each other closely, when a new male or group of males attempts to take control and oust the other males they usually stay to themselves and cut off interacting with the males to keep themselves and the infants safe, however sometimes they will join with the males against intruding males. Interactions between troops seem to normally be aggressive and antagonistic in nature, however violence is usually a last resort. They will interact with other species of New World Monkey that are closely related, such as the various subspecies and even Geoffroy's Spider Monkey - and in rare instances going so far as travelling with and grooming them. On the flip side, there are violent fights between the two species as well as this sympatric behavior. They may also interact with howlers, however it is limited and mostly when young of both species play.

There are three subspecies of White-headed Capuchin, which are all closely related and will willingly interact socially (whether this is with aggression or not is dependent on the situation).

  • Cebus capucinus capucinus lives in Columbia and Ecuador, and is restricted to the western bank of the Rio Cauca River.

  • Cebus capucinus limitaneus lives in Honduras and possibly in the Mayan Mountains in Belize, although this remains unconfirmed.

  • Cebus capucinus imitator lives in Panama and covers areas of Costa Rica and also in the islands of Coiba.

  • Cebus capucinus curtus lives on Gorgona Island.

The White-headed Capuchin and its subspecies are all in the genus Cebus and Subfamily Cebinae, of which all Capuchin monkeys are members and many are endangered. Cebinae belongs to the Family Cebidae, which includes the squirrel monkeys. Cebidae belongs to the Parvorder Platyrrhini, which are all New World Monkeys, and this belongs to the Infraorder Simiiformes, of which we are members. This belongs to the Suborder Haplorrhini, which belongs to the order Primates. Primates belong to the Superorder Euarchontoglires which is comprised of Glires, being rodents and lagomorphs, and Euarchonta, being shrews, flying lemurs, and primates. Euarchontoglires belong to the Infraclass Eutheria, placental mammals, which belong to the Subclass Theria, which is all mammals except the monotremes. Finally this belongs to the Class of Mammals, of which all mammals are of course members.

They are able to use tools to help with food gathering, and are very skilled at adaptation and problem solving. They are, because of this, considered one of the highest in intelligence among other species in the new world and they have been studied for many years, and their intelligence is only ranked below the spider monkey in New World monkeys. If threatened by snakes they will pick up sticks and use them to beat the snake, and drive it away, or even to rescue an infant. In one example of tool use while captive (they usually use tools for food or for or in defense) a White-headed Capuchin actually picked up and threw a Squirrel Monkey at a human. In addition to tools they also rib certain plants on themselves and their fur in order to prevent parasites and deter insects, additionally they also use ants and millipedes, which release an irritating chemical normally, to further enhance this characteristic. It is because of their high intelligence and ability to learn and be trained that they have become service animals for humans that are disabled, such as paraplegics who cannot use their legs and quadriplegics who cannot use their arms or legs. They have a long history of being in the media as well, such Katie who played Marcel in the television series Friends.

Interesting Facts:

In addition to Friends, a White-headed Capuchin was featured in the film Outbreak.

Picture of the white-headed capuchin by Michelle Reback, licensed under GFDL You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Thursday 25 April 2013 Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo

Wild Asiatic Water BuffaloThe Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is an endangered species. True wild populations still live in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Thailand, while their domesticated counterparts are very widespread. They are large animals, standing 1.5 to 1.9 meters in height at the shoulder. Wild male water buffaloes can become 3 meters in length and weigh up to 1200 kilos, while their domesticated counterparts can weigh 250 to 550 kilograms. They can become 25 years of age in the wild.

The Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo is a social animal, with groups of 10 to 20 individuals, but also groups of 100 individuals have been observed.

Their diet mainly consists of grasses, herbs, aquatic plants, leaves and agricultural crops, The only predator in the wild is the tiger, but their main threats are habitat destruction and genetic pollution (breeding with their domesticated counterparts).

Interesting fact: Wild bulls are known to invade a domesticated herd, kill the domesticated bull (which is a lot smaller), and breed with the receptive females. The resulting offspring are less docile and too large to fit a farmer's equipment. Occasionally, the wild bull not only kills the domesticated bull, but also take over and drive off the owners, keeping the herd for himself.

Picture by yathin, licensed under Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 license. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Wednesday 24 April 2013 The Western Red Colobus Monkey, Acrobats of West Africa

Western red colubusThe Western Red Colobus Monkey (Procolobus badius) can be seen leaping from branch to branch high above the forest canopy. Members of the old world monkeys, the long strong tail helps them balance in the tall trees. They are incredibly beautiful animals. Their backs are covered with a dark grey, almost silver, fur and orange colored front with a white chest. The males and females are relatively similar in size weighing 8.2 kilograms, 18 pounds, and body length of 57 centimeters, almost 23 inches. The incredibly long tail nearly doubles their total length.

Their rainforest habitats have been restricted to small local areas found in the western parts of Africa such as Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and other West African countries. The Red Colobus are very social and live in groups of male and female numbering 20 to 90 animals. Sometimes one may witness all male groups of 40 animals. This is because females leave the group in search of another while males stay with their birth group. The group chooses not to mark or defend a territory.

Western Red Colobus generally dine on young leaves, fungi and unripe fruit to provide their nutrition needs. They generally choose not to dine on ripe fruit since it causes gas and stomach upset. A diurnal animal, they spend the day feeding in the treetops where small young leaves are abundant.

This beautiful animal has become endangered and listed on the Endangered Species list when populations rapidly declined in 2000. The population dropped to half during the last three generations from a number of causes. They are natural prey of chimpanzees for one. The main causes are, however, relate to habitat loss and hunting for bush meat. In fact, habitat loss has forced the Western Red Colobus to sometimes leave their treetop home in search of food. They may even be found in grassy areas.

What is so amazing about the Western Red Colobus is the capability to leap far distances among the tops of the trees. It is almost like flying. Their name Colobus, in fact, means cut short to indicate the thumb missing on the forehand. The missing thumb helps this animal leap onto branches without getting hands caught in the smaller branches and are true acrobats of the tropical rainforest.

Picture of the western red colobus monkey by Atamari, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Tuesday 23 April 2013 Red deer - Nature's Red Giant

Red deerThe Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) is one of the largest deer species in the world. Its remarkable size is amazing when you consider that most of its habitat encompasses many of Europe and Asia's coldest regions. This makes it interesting to study the Red Deer's habitat, its diet and its physical attributes.

The Red Deer's massive size is due in large part to its larger-than-normal physical attributes.
These attributes vary according to the gender of the animal. Stags are usually 175 to 230 cm (69 to 91 in) long and weigh anywhere from 160 to 240 kg (350 to 530 lb). Hinds tend to be 160 to 210 cm (63 to 83 in) long and weigh 120 to 170 kg (260 to 370 lb). Their tails are also unusually long. They tend to be 12 to 19 cm (4.7 to 7.5) in length.

Furthermore, it has one of the largest varieties of habitats in the world. The Red Deer is native to Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus Mountains and the Atlas Mountains in Africa. It also lives in Australia, New Zealand, South America because it was introduced into those areas by well-meaning humans. This wide geographic distribution has created unique habitats for the Red Deer. These habitats include woodland areas, forests and grasslands. This variety of habitats has created several sub-species of the Red Deer that are acclimated to the climates of these regions.

Its diet includes a variety of seasonal plants and grasses. Red Deer like to eat seasonal grasses, lichen, mosses and leaves off trees. If these foods are not available, Red Deer will also eat acorns, fruits and nuts that have fallen from trees. Stags will occasionally look for salt licks and other mineral deposits to keep their antlers in top condition.

They have several predators that keep healthier populations in check. The main predators of most Red Deer species are humans and domestic dogs. This is true because hunters in Europe, Asia and Africa enjoy hunting the Red Deer for sport and for food. The Red Deer also has to contend with wild wolves that tend to hunt for older or sicker animals. These predators have kept wild Red Deer populations in check throughout most of the world.

The Red Deer is also a semi-endangered species. This is because many sub-species of Red Deer are considered to be endangered species. This is the case because excessive hunting and habitat destruction have driven off many sub-species of Red Deer who live in Asia and Africa into untenable living areas.

Stags use this distinctive "roar" that is used to defend its territory and mates from possible invasion by other males.

Picture of the red deer by Bill Ebbesen, 26. september 2009 in Jægersborg Dyrehave in Denmark, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Monday 22 April 2013 The Western Gray Squirrel - Nature's Barking Treehugger

Western gray squirrelThe Western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) can be regularly seen climbing trees, foraging for nuts, and leaping about forests and other woodland areas in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. A small population of gray squirrels has also been found in the state of Nevada. The California Gray Squirrel is a popular nickname for these little furry friends, since there are so many of them throughout the area.

One trademark of the Western gray squirrel is their behavior of barking at potential predators or unwanted guests in their territory, since they are very shy, much more shy than the Eastern fox squirrel or the Eastern gray squirrel. This sound can be very loud and accompanied by quick repeated tail movements. Many animals and people will actually hear a Western gray squirrel long before they see it.

Western gray squirrels can become quite large compared to other types of squirrels. They can reach a length of 24 inches (60 centimeters) long including the tail, which contributes to half of its overall length. These squirrels usually weigh between approximately 12 and 32 ounces (350 and 950 grams). Part of what contributes to their weight is their large bushy tail.

These squirrels aren’t found in just any tree, choosing to live in oak and pine trees. They will occasionally live in valleys and foothills, but are most often in forested, deeply wooded areas. These squirrels will live inside the hollow parts of the tree or create their own home atop a tree out of moss, twigs, and other plant materials.

Western gray squirrels forage for food a large part of their day. Whatever food is not consumed is either hidden near their nesting spot or taken to their home itself. A daily squirrel diet includes nuts, acorns, pinecone seeds, bark, and berries. They have a wonderful memory of where they previously buried food, helping them keep a steady diet. Their strong sense of smell also helps them find any food they tucked away.

Oregon state has the Western gray squirrel on their list of sensitive species, since their number is continuing to fall in population. Washington classifies these squirrels as threatened in their state. Overall on a national level the U.S. Endangered Species Act does not include the Western gray squirrel, although if their numbers continue to decrease they may soon end up on the list.

Western gray squirrels are declining in numbers not only because of natural predators like snakes, owls, eagles, bobcats and mountain lions, but also because they are classified as game animals for humans to hunt. Other people that do not like squirrels around their property will put out traps that are not always humane and kill many squirrels off. All of these predators, both natural and man made, are a danger for squirrels.

Picture of the Western Gray Squirrel by BlueCanoe, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Friday 19 April 2013 Walia Ibex - Endangered Mountain Climber

Walia ibexThe Walia ibex (Capra walie) is a species of wild goat that is found exclusively in the mountains of northern Ethiopia. It is also known as the abyssinian ibex. Nearly all of the remaining endangered population resides along 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) in the Simien Mountains National Park. These mountains are characterized by huge gullies and gorges, where the very agile Walia ibex are able to inhabit even the most slippery, remote rocky cliffs and survive on very sparse vegetation.

It is the striking coloration and magnificent arching horns that distinguish the Walie ibex from other species of ibex. They have a beautiful chocolate-brown to chestnut-brown coat that is greyish-brown around the muzzle and a lighter gray around the eyes and along the legs. Their bellies and inside legs are white and the mature males sport black beards. There are also contrasting black and white marking patterns along the legs. Adults males generally weigh 80-125 kg (180-280 lb) and have very large horns that arch backwards in lengths up to 110 cm (43.3 in). Females also have horns, but are smaller and thinner than males with paler color markings.

Walia ibex actively move and feed only during the early mornings and late evenings. During the middle of the day, they are very lethargic and hide under dense brush to avoid the intense sun and predators. They are herbivores with diets consisting of bushes, lichens, grass, herbs, shrubs and creepers. It is not unusual to see them standing up on their hind legs to reach the tender, new leaves of bushes and shrubs. They live in herds consisting of five to twenty animals, but the older males tend to be more solitary except during mating seasons. Most of the herds consist of females and their offspring. They reach sexual maturity at one year of age. The only known predator for the adults is the hyena, but the young are also often hunted by a variety of fox and cat species.

Due to rapid population declines, the Walia ibex is classified as a critically endangered species. In 1963, only 150-200 of these animals were surviving. Mainly through the protection they have received after the establishment of the Simien Mountains National Park around 1969, their populations have increased to around 500 individuals. However, habitat loss and poaching still pose major threats to their survival. Important grazing areas have been lost to human settlement, livestock raising and cultivation. Additionally, illegal poaching by local people for the meat, hides and horns of the ibex continues to be an ongoing problem.

Picture of the Walia ibex by Paulo Philippidis, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Thursday 18 April 2013 East Caucasian Tur - The Lyre-Horned Goat

East caucasian turThe East Caucasian tur (Capra cylindricornis) is a type of goat that dwells in the eastern Caucasus Mountain range. It grows to be approximately one meter (39 inches) in height and weighs approximately 60 kilograms (130 pounds). They are quite large in stature but have relatively narrow torsos along with short legs and are typically dark chestnut in color during the winter with a lighter chestnut coat during the warmer, summer months. The males of the species have horns that are similar to a lyre in shape and generally stretch for about 90 centimeters or 35 inches. The females have horns as well although they are usually less than half the size of the male horns, about 30 centimeters (12 inches).

The East Caucasian tur generally lives in the terrain between 800 meters and 4,000 meters above sea level. They consume primarily leaves and grasses with their predators typically being lynxes or wolves. The females generally live within herds that consist of about 10 goats but the males are typically solitary.

The breeding of the species occurs between late November and early January with the births of the young occurring during May and June. The gestation period is quite short, typically about 150 days. The young are quite agile and are able to traverse over the steep crags within only a day or two. They suckle for between two and four months but begin to eat grasses after about one month.

During the warmer months, the animal feeds in intervals during the night, later afternoon, and morning periods. The warmest hours during the day are typically spent with the tur resting in a sheltered location. In the winter, the herds of East Caucasian turs remain in open fields during the day, occasionally resting and grazing. They can travel for long distances throughout the day, typically between 15 and 20 kilometers or 9.3 and 12 miles.

The East Caucasian tur migrates seasonally particularly during May and October. The distance of the migration typically is about 1500 to 2000 meters. The adult male East Caucasian tur typically lives at higher altitudes than the females and the young. They generally travel downwards during mating season. The breeding season typically brings about a rise in male competition for breeding females.

The East Caucasian tur is currently listed as a vulnerable species (VU) although they are, as yet, not an endangered species. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Wednesday 17 April 2013 The Crab-Eating Raccoon - Sleek South American Playboy

Crab-eating raccoonThe Crab-Eating Raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) is smoother and lighter than its northern cousins. The males of this species are polygynous, which means they mate with several females from July to September of each year. The females, however, will not allow another male to mate with them after they have become pregnant. This leaves the males free to seek out other partners for the rest of the season. North American raccoons mate from January to June when the weather is rather cold. Their options for partners are somewhat more limited in this environment. So, Procyron cancrivorus is not only more attractive than Procyon lotor; he also gets a more exciting lifestyle in much better weather. This is why the Crab-Eating Raccoon could be nicknamed the sleek South American playboy of the raccoon world.

Crab-Eating Raccoons inhabit central and south America. They prefer to live near bodies of water in parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Costa Rica. Procyon cancrivorus does seem to prefer marshy and swampy inland rivers. The Crab-Eating Raccoon can make use of just about any habitat, though, as long as there are adequate opportunities to find food, water, and shelter.

Interestingly, the Crab-Eating Raccoon usually seems to prefer to eat fruit. Of course, like all raccoons, these animals will eat anything they can find: nuts, insects, amphibians, fish, and of course, crabs. They do have great hearing and excellent nighttime vision, even though they are colorblind. One thing that sets Procyon cancrivorus from other carnivores is its ability to use the sense of touch to find food. It can recognize prey by using its tactile senses—a very valuable asset for a nocturnal animal. Because they tend to prefer to live near water, they have probably been observed eating crustaceans, which led to them being given their common name.

Crab-Eating Raccoons weigh between 3 and 7 kg (about 6-15 pounds). They are usually 54 to 65 centimeters in length (approximately 21-26 inches), including the tail. The tail comprises nearly half of the animal's total length. These anmimals can fall prey to any larger carnivore. Sometimes even owls and alligators will kill them for food. Humans may hunt them for their fur. The species is not threatened or endangered at this point, though it has received some attention from international associations. One famous orphaned crab-eating raccoon named Bandit resides at the Karanambu ranch in Guyana.

Picture of the crab-eating raccoon by Steven G. Johnson, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Monday 15 April 2013 Long-tailed pangolin - Claws Tougher than Concrete

Long-tailed pangolinThe Long-tailed pangolin (Manis tetradactyla) is a fascinating creature, looking a bit like a walking pinecone. These species are usually found in the trees of dense rainforests, from Uganda to Senegal and Angola. Their scales are dark brown or pale olive green and are distinct. They range in size from 30 to 40cm (11.8 - 15.7 inches) in length and two to three kgs (4.4 to 6.6 lbs) in weight. Their very long tails are 60 to 70cm (23.6 - 27.6 inches) in length. This species of pangolin has a life expectancy of 13 years in captivity. It is unknown how long they can live in the wild.

The diet of the Long-tailed pangolin consists mostly of ants and termites. They make use of their long and sticky tongues to capture their prey, and they have no teeth. These animals find their food using their amazing sense of smell, which can sense termites and ants from hundreds of feet away. If the Long-tailed pangolin is attacked by a predator, it will curl into a small, tight ball, make a hissing sound, shake its scales and emit a distinct, foul-smelling liquid. They can even roll away from a dangerous situation if they need to.

They are generally solitary animals, spending daylight hours sleeping or climbing in trees, searching for food. In fact, they rarely come in contact with the ground at all, although they are good swimmers. They spend their nights in the hollows of trees.

In general, Long-tailed pangolins are born between November and March. Gestation takes about 120 to 150 days. The birth weight of baby pangolins ranges from 3-18 ounces (85.4-512.5 grams) and usually only one baby is born at a time. Young pangolins mature in two years.

Some of the natural enemies of the Long-tailed pangolin include leopards, hyenas and pythons. Human beings are also thought of as a predator. While not much is known about the exact number of Long-tailed pangolins in existence, the number of pangolins is declining in general. They are hunted for meat by many African tribes, their skin is used for boots and their scales are thought to have medicinal and ceremonial value. The destruction of the rainforest is another reason that their numbers declining, but their status is not of a large concern to conservationists at this time. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Friday 12 April 2013 Slow Loris - Soft with a Poisonous Bite

Slow lorisThe Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang), is a critically endangered species in the Loris family. It is one of the Strepsirhini primates, and is found in parts of Southeast Asia. Its fur coat is thick and soft. The eyes are large, round and inquisitive. This friendly looking animal has a soft, welcoming appearance, but it actually dangerous due to its poisonous bite.

This species is quite small, weighing in at between 21 and 24 oz. (599 - 685 g). Its length is also small, measuring between 10 to 15 inches (27 - 38 cm). They are covered completely in fur, including their tail, which is short enough to be hidden in the coat. This extremely thick fur is a light brown color, with a darker stripe that extends from the top of the head to the tip of the short tail. Its face is highly expressive. A nocturnal animal, the eyes of the Slow Loris are large and round, lending it a look of inquisitiveness. The eyes and face are further highlighted by dark brown rings that surround each eye and a thick, white stripe that runs between the eyes.

This genus of Loris can be found in tropical rainforests. They are attracted to the thick foliage, sometimes found in bamboo groves, that will also be home to much of their preferred diet. Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula and Thailand are all home to this particular species. However, their numbers are diminished and they can be difficult to find. Being superb climbers, they make their homes in tall trees. During the day they curl into tight balls, tucking their heads between their thighs. When disturbed or startled, they will make a buzzing or hissing noise. The name of this species becomes clear when observing movements, as it moves very slowly. The steps are deliberate, and the Loris will typically maintain three points of contact with the tree branch as it moves. However, the Slow Loris is not limited to these types of movements. When the Loris is catching prey or escaping predators, it can move very quickly.

Tiny, extremely sharp teeth allow the Slow Loris to enjoy its diet of lizards, bird eggs, insects, tree sap, and nectar. In addition to these smaller meals, the Loris will also capture and dine on small birds and other small mammals. This species has glands on its inner elbow that secrete a poisonous toxin. This toxin is used as both a weapon and a form of protection. The toxin can be sucked into the Slow Loris' mouth, giving it the poisonous bite. It can also be smeared over the bodies of its offspring, protecting them from predators.

Predators of the Slow Loris include pythons and hawk eagles. Fortunately the Slow Loris can effectively protect itself from most predators by using its own toxin as a shield. By curling into a tight ball, the Loris can actually excrete the toxin onto its back, effectively protecting itself from most predators. It also has the ability to simply release its hold on the tree branch and fall to safety. However, the Slow Loris has not been able to find a protection from its greatest threat: mankind. Expanding urban areas are destroying their habitats, and their appearance makes them highly attractive additions to the exotic pet market. Their soft fur and inquisitive appearance make them highly desirable pets for some people, even though they are wild animals and are never recommended as such. Exotic pet traffickers will remove or cut their sharp teeth, protecting potential owners from their bite. Once this is done, the Slow Loris can never be returned to the wild.

Picture of the slow loris with babies on her back by Helena Snyder, licensed under GFDL You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Thursday 11 April 2013 Rhesus Monkey - More Human than We Care to Admit

Rhesus monkeyThe rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) was just another obscure mammal to most people until the horrific results of experiments done by Harry Harlow were televised. Harlow removed newborn monkeys from their mothers and raised them in isolation to see how if this would impair their psychological functions. It certainly did. Harlow’s experiments would also make people question the usefulness of animals in experiments.

Perhaps the reason why the general public was so disturbed by Harlow's experiments was because of the strong similarities between a human’s face and the monkey’s face. Rhesus monkeys have mostly hairless faces, except for the tops of their heads and around their mouths. Baby rhesus monkeys have completely hairless pale pink faces. Although their noses are shaped differently, rhesus monkeys are capable of producing many human-like facial gestures, including frowning and smiling.

In the Wild

Far from laboratories, rhesus monkeys are normally found in South and Central Asia. They are adaptable to many environments, from Indian temples to Chinese forests. Other countries they are found in include Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malaysia. They can also survive in cities, grasslands, swamplands and mountains with elevations up to 8,200 feet (2,500 meters.) Some were introduced to the swampy Lowland country in South Carolina and to the forests of Puerto Rico. These colonies still survive.

They live in troops made up of both males and females. Although troops of 200 monkeys have been documented, the average troop size is about 20. Males are the troop’s main protectors and routinely boss females around, but the females are the ones that decide when and where the troop goes. The oldest females learn where the best sources of food can be found. Rhesus monkeys eat a varied diet of fruits, tree bark, insects, and the tender shoots of plants. They also enjoy raiding crops of human vegetables and grains, which makes them pests in some areas.

General Description

Rhesus monkeys, sometimes called rhesus macaques, are covered in thick brownish-grey fur, except for their faces. Their pinkish-red ears protrude from the fur. They have short tails. Males are larger than females. Males grow up to 21 inches (53 cm) long and tip the scales at 17 pounds (7.7 kg.) Females only grow to 19 inches (47 cm) and weigh an average of 12 pounds (5.3 kg.) Both males and females can store food in pouches which are similar to a hamster’s cheek pouches but not quite so dramatic.

Although rhesus monkeys live up to 30 years in zoos, they usually die in the wild by the time they are 5. Their main predators include man, dogs, weasels, crocodiles, large snakes, birds or prey and the increasingly rare Bengal and Amur tigers. Monkeys living near the ocean can be killed by sharks. Monkeys love swimming and even the presence of sharks does not deter them from taking to the water.

Picture of the rhesus monkey by Einar Fredriksen, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Monday 08 April 2013 Hector's Dolphin, a Diminishing Species

Hector's dolphinHector's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) is a small dolphin species native to New Zealand. Males weigh an average of 40-60 kg (88-132 lbs.) and tend to be between 1.2 and 1.6 meters in length (4-5.25 feet) upon reaching maturity, and the females are only slightly larger. Named for Sir James Hector, the species was first identified and catalogued in 1869. Key features that distinguish it from other dolphins include a distinctly rounded, black dorsal fin and a black crescent-shaped marking between the eyes and blow hole. The animal's short snout, tail, and flippers are also dark in color, its body gray, and the belly is a whitish color.

If you look closely at its sides, a white, almost flame-like pattern can be observed. Hector's dolphins prefer the shallows and are found in the coastal waters of both the North and South islands of New Zealand. The Polynesian Maori, people indigenous to New Zealand, watch the movements of these beautiful sea mammals to gauge the weather. Because of their smaller size, Hector's dolphins eat mainly small, surface schooling fish, although they sometimes dip down lower in the ocean to feed on larger midwater fish and some smaller squid, and its natural predators include several shark species indigenous to New Zealand as well as orca. Like so many of nature's treasures, these animals are currently endangered. Commercial fishing and environmental disturbance due to the tourist traffic and trade have lowered their population down to approximately 7,400 animals left in the wild. Females do not reach full sexual maturity until 7-9 years of age, and with each single-birth gestational period lasting an entire year (with two to three years in between pregnancies), it is difficult for the population to sustain itself, let alone to increase.

In 1988, the first marine protected area for Hector's dolphins was designated at Banks Peninsula, off of the east coast of the South Island. Since then, a worldwide campaign for awareness and conservation has been launched, and in 2008 the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries began regulating and banning gill netting in and around known dolphin enclaves. That same year, five new marine mammal sanctuaries were designated, and further restrictions were imposed on local mining and seismic acoustic surveying, industries that also disturb and destroy dolphin habitats.

Picture of the Hector's dolphin by James Shook, licensed under the 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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Wednesday 03 April 2013 The White Cockatoo - Smart, affectionate and almost gone

White cockatooThe White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) is indigenous to several islands of Indonesia. It is also called the Umbrella Cockatoo because it has a large crest which resembles an umbrella. It is 10 centimeters (4 inches) long and is opened when the bird is surprised. It has white outer feathers, black or brown eyes and a dark gray beak, but when it flies it flashes lemon yellow feathers that are under its wings and tail.

White Cockatoos make good pets because they are affectionate and bond with humans. They like to cuddle with their owners. Because they are highly intelligent, they are often used in animal acts and magic shows. They can imitate human speech but are not the best speakers among parrots.

Because of their popularity as a pet they are exploited to an unsustainable level and are considered Vulnerable VU by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The number of these birds that live in the wild is reducing rapidly.

White Cockatoos are approximately 46 centimeters (1.51 feet) long and require large primary forests for nesting and roosting. These forests include mangroves, coconut and other plantations as well as agricultural land which show that they can live in several different types of habitats. Usually they like small groups in the tree tops. They weigh from 500 to 630 grams (1.1 to 1.39 pounds) and their wingspan is 25 to 31 centimeters (9.84 to 12.2 inches) on average.

The hen lays two eggs that hatch in 30 days. Both parents will feed the chicks until they reach three months old. Reproduction starts at five years and they usually live up to 20 years but, in some cases, up to 80 years. They mate for life and can show very depressed behavior if they are separated from their mate.

In the wild they eat fruits such as durian, langsat, papaya and rambutan as well as seeds and nuts. Also, crickets, skinks and maize in agricultural areas are part of their diet. They can do considerable damage to a maize crop. Some birds of prey may catch a White Cockatoo and, very rarely, large snakes and lizards.

These birds are very intelligent and use tools such as a small branch to scratch their back or beat on a tree to establish their territory. They are great mimics in captivity and require a lot of attention. They play with toys, are in constant motion doing gymnastics and demand the attention of the people in the room. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Tuesday 02 April 2013 Barasingha - the graceful deer

BarasinghaThe Barasingha (cervus duvaucelii) is a beautiful deer that makes its home in Nepal and India, however it is mainly found now in northern India. In this part of India it is known as dolhorina, while in the United States it is called swamp deer.They have beautiful racks of antlers which are known as tines. The tines usually average 12 to 14 tine, but over twenty have been reported. One thing that is different about these deer is that the female only goes into heat once a year, having one foal, although twins have been known to be born as well. . These animals have a life span of 25 years. In the wild they live in herds of around sixty. A herd contains nearly two times as many females as males. The males, or stags weigh between 170 to 180 kg,or between 370 to 400 pounds and stand 132 cm or 52 inches tall at the shoulder. The coloration of these deer is quite beautiful. They have a yellow to brown coat that is often colored by the mud they like to roll around in order to cool off when it's hot. They also appear shaggy, due to long coarse hairs on the outside of their coat. The velvet the males get on their antlers is rubbed off on trees and also thrashing through tall grass as part of the mating ritual.

This species is highly endangered and they are listed as vulnerable. One predator that contributes to them being endangered is humans. Some hunters compare the taste of their meat to veal. Also tigers and leopards will attack and kill the barasingha. Another reason for the loss of these beautiful animals is attributed to loss of their habitat due to cultivation by man, mainly of eucalyptus and tree plantations. At one point in India it was thought the population of these lovely deer was reduced to only sixty four or sixty five. Thanks to conversation measures, their numbers have increased to between 450 to 600 in India. Some have been brought to the U.S and due to their hardy natures, conservation measures have been successful. Although their preferred habitats are boggy wetlands they have done well in conservation programs in Texas and Oklahoma. Thanks to conservation being undertaken in the U.S. and India, these animals have a good chance at being brought back in larger numbers and no longer being endangered. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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