Results tagged “mammals” from

The Endangered Snow Leopard

Snow-Leopard.jpgIn the deep dark chasm,
Upon the sides of the walls,
Motion with lightning's shape and speed,
And before it the swift deer falls. 

Its color blended ever light,
Gray white and shades of dun,
Streamlined shape and hunter's eye,
And incredible speed to run. 

Against a snowy background,
Imposing yet serene,
The fearsome leopard of the snow,
Can hardly yet be seen. 

-Katrianna Sarkar

Snow leopards are endangered from causes such as the trade in its pelt and global warming. The fur is made into coats and hats, and their bones and other body parts are also used in traditional medicine. Tigers are supposed to be used in the practice of traditional medicine, but they are already so rare (their populations have lessened from this too) that the more common snow leopard is substituted. 

Their numbers are hard to estimate, due to the fact that snow leopards live in rugged, remote terrain. This makes conservation more difficult, so an interesting device was employed. With as few snow leopards as there are, you can tell the individual leopards by their spots.  As a result, pictures taken by a remote camera are compared to those in a photo library. In that way, they can estimate how many there are.

As elusive as snow leopards are, we still know quite a bit about them:

Wild sheep and goats are the snow leopard's main food, as well as an occasional buck or rabbit.

A snow leopard can leap thirty feet.

Snow leopards have enormous, furry tails. They use them for balance, but if they get cold they can wrap their tail around themselves.

Snow leopard cubs have blue eyes. When they get older, snow leopard eyes get grayer.

Let's hope we can save them. We should start conserving energy by using solar power and stop buying coats made from snow leopard, or, for that matter, any other kind of fur.

Fascinating Facts About Red Pandas

red panda.jpgWhen most people see the word "panda," they think of the big, furry, black-and-white Giant Panda. But the lesser-known Red Panda, three times smaller, is also in danger. Today classified as vulnerable, its status could quickly change to endangered.
The red panda is a living fossil. It has no close surviving relatives, and most resembles raccoons and skunks, not giant pandas. Living in temperate (neither tropical nor arctic) mountain forests from Nepal to China, they spend most of their time in trees. They are both nocturnal and crepuscular, meaning that they come out in the early morning and evening. The red panda is also called the cat-bear, lesser panda, and fire fox. The browser "Mozilla Firefox" was named after them.

Their diet is two-thirds bamboo, but they also eat acorns, flowers, berries, lichen, mushrooms, roots and grasses and occasionally insects, fish, eggs, and chicks. Like giant pandas, they have a bone that acts like a thumb, helping them hold the bamboo. However, because bamboo is low in calories, they spend most of their time eating and sleeping. They drink by dipping one paw into water and then licking it!

The red panda is threatened due to many factors. Deforestation reduces their habitat and grazing livestock can trample their bamboo. In China, they are poached for their fur, which is considered good luck by newlyweds and used in traditional ceremonies. Although the practice of capturing red pandas for zoos has ended, they are sometimes sold to private collectors and are occasionally kept as pets in Nepal and India. Even without interference in the wild, the red panda has a low birth rate and high death rate.

However, red pandas are officially protected throughout their range and hunting them is illegal. Parks protect them in every country they live in and some villages are involved in conservation, as well. Although some originally trapped wild red pandas, many zoos have developed successful captive breeding programs. If we protect them now, the red panda will flourish in the wild.

Tasmanian Devils

Taz.jpgThe Tasmanian devil is a bearlike marsupial native to Australia. It is the size of a small dog. Young are called joeys, imps or pups. They were killed until the 1990s because they were seen as a threat to sheep and other livestock. Occasionally a pack of tasmanian devils would eat a weak sheep. So, in 1923 alone, 900,000 devils were killed.

At Lake Nitchie, a 7000-year-old human skeleton was found wearing a devil's-tooth necklace. This was mistakenly interpreted to mean that Aboriginal Australians killed off the Tasmanian devil in mainland Australia. But there is no evidence that the Aboriginal Australians ate any carnivorous animal, so it is unlikely that hunting caused the extinction. 

Their closest relative is the thylacine, which looks like a dog. It is now extinct. The thylacine, like the Tasmanian devil, was accused of hunting livestock and a bounty was given out by the government for each thylacine killed. No attempts were made to save even the last wild thylacine. They were only protected 59 days before the last captive thylacine died. 

Even though populations of Tasmanian devils in the wild are slowly growing again, unfortunately a disease has been among them and they are having to quarantine most healthy specimens. Despite their name, Tasmanian devils can be very cute (like the one above), and we want to save them. (They are not normally considered "nice," but they are only following their instincts.) So now it's time to watch some Taz cartoons!

Mustelid Crossword

crossword final.jpg

crossword clues FINAL FINAL.jpgFor help solving the puzzle, see Wikipedia's article.

Warning! The answers are below.

crossword answers.jpg

Black-footed Ferrets

blfofe.jpgBefore 1851, no one had heard of a black-footed ferret. That was the year in which John James Audubon and John Bachman wrote a book together titled The Quadrupeds of North America. This was the first work to mention the species, but it was still more than twenty-five years before their existence was proven. (Audubon, who sometimes killed fifty birds of one species to produce one painting, only got to see one ferret while working on his book, which was not enough evidence to prove that the black-footed ferret was a new species.)

Although they lived throughout the Great Plains, the ferret population has been falling ever since we first knew about them. One reason for this is that the ferrets are so dependent on prairie dogs, a species of ground squirrel. Not only are these rodents their staple food, the ferrets also cannot dig their own burrows and are squatters in prairie dog towns. When settlers moved west, many became farmers. They plowed under the prairie dog towns and hunted or poisoned many of the animals. Both the prairie dogs and the ferrets grew increasingly fewer.

Then, in 1981, a Wyoming dog named Shep found a ferret. Eventually, the animal was identified and its colony -- of about 130 animals -- found. However, this population quickly plummeted due to canine distemper and sylvatic plague. In 1986, the remaining 18 animals had to be removed from the colony. The ferret was extinct in the wild.

At this time, there were only fifty captive black-footed ferrets in the world. After years of captive breeding, the first place to reestablish a small colony was Wyoming in 1991. Now, there are fifteen established fesnyngs (or businesses: the name for a group of ferrets) in the wild, in eight US states as well as Mexico and Canada.

There are, however, still threats to their survival. Their close relationship with prairie dogs does not aid their recovery. Prairie dogs are often viewed as pests because they prevent farmers from growing crops in certain areas by rooting up the plants around their burrows. Their tunnels also make the ground less stable and more prone to collapse if animals are turned out to graze.

Because of these things, many people dislike prairie dogs. Even today they are hunted, both commercially and privately. To eradicate colonies, they are poisoned, which indirectly affects many other species. Two of the popular poisons, Rozol and the recently approved Kaput-D, contain chemicals that thin the prairie dogs' blood until they bleed to death. Not only is this horrible for the prairie dogs, any animal that eats them will encounter the same fate. Black-footed ferrets, swift foxes, American badgers, ferruginous hawks, and golden and bald eagles all prey on prairie dogs. An infected animal is easy to catch because it becomes unable to move quickly or control its motions, so many of these predators are suffering secondary poisoning. Additionally, mountain plovers and burrowing owls live and nest in prairie dog burrows and can also become infected.

Another threat to ferrets is disease, particularly sylvatic plague. Luckily, the animals can be immunized against the disease, and all ferrets born in captivity are required to be given two shots of the medicine. Although prairie dogs are also susceptible to this, it has been found more difficult to protect all of the wild colonies from the bacteria. One widespread method was to spray each burrow with flea-killing pesticides, but scientists realized that this was probably too expensive and hard to do and maintain. There had to be an easier way to accomplish this. Finally, they developed a medicine that could be mixed in with food left for the prairie dogs to eat. This also proved more efficient than the pesticides. Additionally, these studies will benefit other species susceptible to the sylvatic plague, both wild rodents and some pets.

There are now more than 1,500 ferrets throughout the established colonies, so the species has been upgraded from extinct in the wild to endangered. Although the number is low, it is still a success considering how few animals lived at one point. Black-footed ferrets are considered the most endangered mammal in North America, but the numbers are still rising to the extent that they may become relatively common over time. The current ambition is to establish ten breeding populations in the wild. When this is met, the ferret can be listed as threatened, instead of endangered. When this happens, the ferret will have returned.


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