Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bactrian Camel

The Bactrian Camel

Bactrian Camels, or Camelus bactrianus, are two-humped camels that are native to Northern China and Mongolia. In 2002, these animals were placed on the endangered species list as, even though there are a total of roughly 1.4 million of these camels alive today, only an estimated 950 of these creatures live in the wild. They are listed as a critically endangered species.

They can be as big as 7 feet tall at the tip of the humps, and some of these camels can weigh as much as 1,800 pounds. They have thick, brown fur that changes with the seasons to provide adequate protection depending on the weather. They can live to be up to 50 years old.

These camels were domesticated a very long time ago, which may explain why wild camels' DNA differs somewhat considerably compared to the DNA of domesticated Bactrian Camels.

To learn more specific details about the life and habits of the Bactrian Camel, check out Planet Earth's episode, "Deserts."

As mentioned before, Bactrian Camels have been massively domesticated. Check out your local zoo - see if they have any Bactrian Camels, and if they do, check to see what they are doing to help those camels' wild cousins. Many zoos allow people to "adopt" animals, and that money goes towards that specific endangered species and the efforts to preserve them.

Thanks for listening!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Florida Panther

Hello -

First off, I would like to say that I'm sorry for not updating in so long. I will try to update more frequently in the future, and again - I'm sorry.

It has currently come to my attention (through care2.com) that efforts are being made to safe the Florida Panthers (as well as many other animals.) I thought that I would let you know some facts about Florida Panthers as well as some ways to help save their species.

The Florida Panther is Florida's state animal (unsurprisingly) and it is a member of the Puma concolor family. (The Puma family has roughly 30 subspecies, which include cougars, mountain lions, and panthers.) They are currently listed as a critically endangered species, as there are only about 80 to 100 of them left. (I'm not exactly sure how many are left. One source said 80-100, one said less than 100, and another said 30-50.)

Male Florida Panthers are roughly 23 to 27 inches tall at the shoulders, while females are generally smaller. The males also weigh around 130 pounds and are about 7 feet long, while the females are considerably smaller at around 70 to 75 pounds and are about 6 feet long. These lovely creatures live to be around 10 to 15 years old and their scientific name is Puma concolor coryi.

Florida Panthers generally give birth to 1 to 4 kittens per litter, and these kittens often do not survive. The main threat to the Florida Panther's survival is the lack of habitat for them, though. As humans develop the land where these animals previously lived, this leaves a much smaller area for them to roam. (According to one website, "a population of 240 panthers would require 8,000 to 12,000 square miles of habitat and sufficient genetic diversity in order to avoid inbreeding as a result of small population size.) Since Florida is so widely developed, it has been hard to find a piece of land that is big enough to support a groth of population for this species. Some more natural reasons for their endangerment are diseases, territorial disputes, and inbreeding. (According to one source, the Florida Panther has successfully bred with some cougars from Texas that were introduced, which has helped slightly with the inbreeding problem.) Florida Panthers also have run ins with automobiles that result in death.

To hear some of the noises that Florida Panthers make, go to this website. http://myfwc.com/panther/handbook/natural/vocal.html
On the left side of the page, there is a green box labled "Sounds." You'll need realplayer to be able to listen to them, but if you do have realplayer, I suggest that you do!

Some ways to help:

1. You can "adopt" a Florida Panther! Go to the following webiste to learn about how to adopt a Florida Panther and how adopting them WILL help them
2. You can also "adopt" Florida Panthers through Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. (In Tampa, Florida.) You can also go see Florida Panthers up close and personal at the Lowry Park Zoo.
3. You can sign the following petition asking Florida's governor to designate a specific habitat for the Florida Panthers.
4. You can send a letter to Ken Salazar asking him to designate specific land habitats for the Florida Panther. http://action.sierraclub.org/panther

These are just a few ways that you can help this beautiful species.
Thank you for reading and again, I'm so sorry for not updating sooner.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wolfhaven - A Wolf Sanctuary in Washington State


Wolfhaven - the perfect place to go to learn about wolves in the United States and how they have gone on and off of the Endangered Species list. Wolfhaven is home to roughly 60 animals; this includes mostly Gray Wolves, some Mexican Gray Wolves, some Red Wolves, some Coyotes, and some Wolf-Dog Hybrids.

The only way to view the wolves at Wolfhaven is to take one of their tours, which are given on the hour every hour. You will take a tour in a sectioned off area of Wolfhaven which has multiple enclosures that hold two animals in each. Obviously, all 60 of their animals are not on display on these tours. Roughly 16 animals ARE on display, meaning that I would guess that they have 8 visible enclosures.

All tours have a "tour guide" of sorts who tells you all sorts of interesting facts about the wolves in the enclosures. This information can range from a specific wolves' background and life, to the history of a certain kind of wolf. The tour guide has maps to demonstrate where wolf habitat in the wild was and is. The tour guide also carries a collar like the ones that are put onto wolves that are released into the wild.

One of the great things about Wolfhaven is that it is very easy to help their cause; to adopt a single wolf of your choice, it costs only $25 dollars, give or take shipping prices. After adopting a wolf you will receive a picture of you wolf and a certificate saying that you adopted said wolf.

Adopting a wolf is a super easy way to help Wolfhaven's cause, and I encourage all of you to help Wolfhaven and other similar organizations. Adopting a wolf FOR someone would also be a great way of donating to the cause; it would also be a great present! :)

Visit wolfhaven.org to learn more about their wolves and how Wolfhaven works in general.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gorillas and Guerillas

Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) live in two separate populations in Northeastern Africa, one in a group of national parks including Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This park is nearly as big as Yellowstone at two million acres, and this oldest national park in Africa (founded in 1925) is home to everything to okapis to birds that spend their summers in Siberia, as well as the gorillas and two other types of great ape. The other population lives in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, which some people say could be a separate species entirely. If this is the case, the highly endangered Virunga gorillas are in even more danger.
Although they are protected under international and national law and also under the orders of Laurent Nkunda, the military leader who controls many of the people in the park, the gorillas are still threatened. Much of the Hutu and Tutsi dissidents who fought in Rwanda in the last decade have now shifted their fighting to take place in the park and around it, displacing thousands if not millions of people and forcing them to treat the environment in ways that are not historically fitting to their culture. Since they are so poor, they seek employment in any way they can; because 98% of the people in the area rely on coal for heat, cooking, and water purification, this is the main industry.

However, when the people have employment, minimal as it is this has an even worse impact on the inhabitants of the park, including the gorillas, than the conflict alone would have. Because the most efficient coal comes from old growth forest found only in the park, and as a result there is significant logging in the oldest part of the park, and the fast-growing trees planted and maintained by the U.N. are not used nearly as much. The corrupt park workers who allow the loggers to come in are the ones making the huge profit, while the laborers, often youth or women who have no other work, are paid about the equivalent of a dollar for each 150-lb. bag of charcoal that they carry out of the park.

While the few brave park rangers who remain try to raid as many of the trucks transporting the charcoal or stop the laborers, but the trucks are often heavily guarded by the guerillas and rangers can’t fine people who are living day to day with no money to spare. As a result, most of the time the charcoal smugglers go by with a warning—or a few shots fired at the rangers. The habitat destruction and pollution that inevitably come with the intrusion of people into animals’ land is only part of the problem, though. Last year almost an entire family of gorillas was murdered—shot with a machine gun and left to rot—while the infants were left clinging to their mothers’ bodies. Why? At first there were no leads but the man who was the manager of the park is now the prime suspect after records were found by the man in charge of the gorillas in Virunga showing that the manager had been making thousands of dollars a year from the charcoal trade—profiting from the destruction of the park. The mad who uncovered the ruse was framed for the gorilla murders, but he has since gotten off.

Hopefully, more gorillas will not be murdered. But ending the destruction of habitat will not be so easy. All told, the only way to really get the charcoal trade to stop is to get the internally-displaced peoples back to their homes, and the only way to do that is to end the conflict. The only way to do that? That will be harder to figure out even then figuring out who killed the gorillas.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Orca Whales - The Ones Native to the Nothern Coast of North America

The Orca Whale and Why Some of Them Are Dying

Polychlorinated Biphenals (PCBs) were used as insulators in electrical equipment. They were extremely useful to society and were commonly used in paint, pesticides, and used alongside other chemicals until they were banned in the U.S. in the late 1970s. What had seemed like the miracle compound was exposed to be a highly toxic chemical that affects all animals negatively, damaging neurological development and the reproductive and immune systems in all individuals affected, particularly those on top of the food chain. Because of the dangers of this chemical, further action should be taken regarding PCBs if we want to save Puget Sound’s orca whales. The depletion of the orca whale population in Washington’s waters is caused by noise pollution from vessels and low salmon runs as well, but both of these are more easily managed than the problems with PCBs.
Since orcas, like humans and harbor seals, consume other animals that, in turn, consume others, the process of bioaccumulation intensifies the PCBs in their systems. The few molecules of PCBs that affect the tiny organisms in the marine ecosystem build up in the small fish that eat many of them. Then, the ocean-going adult salmon eat several small fish, and orcas eat numerous salmon, and as a result the whale’s bodies contain far greater concentrations of this chemical in their bodies than do the animals that are directly affected. In a study on beluga whales in Canada’s St. Lawrence estuary, it was found that PCBs in their systems caused symptoms like susceptibility to disease, tumors, and skeletal deformities. Northwest orcas are known to have between four and five times as strong a concentration as the belugas. Severe destruction of the reproductive system can result in death of mothers and starvation of their young who can no longer be fed, and damaged immune systems create widespread disease; a single persistent virus could wipe out large percentages of a given population.
Although PCBs were banned in the United States thirty years ago, they do not decompose and have stayed in sediments or in the blubber of the long-lived orcas for that period of time. Also, more of this chemical crosses the Pacific Ocean from Asian countries, where it has not yet been banned, every year. The scientific debate is whether to cover the PCBs in the sediments with clean soil and hope that it does not resurface or to remove the tainted deposits and risk releasing PCBs into the water. Because as long as the contamination remains in the ecosystem, it could affect the environment, the best course of action would be to remove the offending chemicals from the sediment near the plants where they were used and destroy them by burning at 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.
PCBs are one of the major causes of the endangerment of the orcas in Puget Sound. Since a good deal of the pollution comes from Asia and it is affecting American whales, Asian legislation would be helpful, but the chances of this occurring are slim in comparison to efforts that can be made in Washington. If the PCBs contained in the silts of Puget Sound near plants that have not actually used it since the 1970s were removed and permanently destroyed, this would help incredibly in saving these majestic animals that are so similar to humans. Since they can be a canary in the coalmine for us in relation to PCBs, when they start dying, we have to be on alert because humans are probably next. The orcas must be saved.

Kelsey, with input by Emma and Friend

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Sumatran Tiger

The Sumatran Tiger

The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is native to an Indonesian island called Sumatra. It is the smallest living tiger subspecies, reaching a maximum length of 9 feet, and has narrower stripes than the other kinds of tigers. The Sumatran Tiger also has webbing between its’ toes, enabling these tigers to swim very fast and well. Being able to swim extremely well also lets these tigers be able to capture prey inside the water. Sumatran Tigers generally eat wild boar, tapir, deer, and sometimes-smaller animals like fish.
In the wild there are roughly 400 of these tigers left, give or take a hundred, but only some of them live in protected areas. The others live in unprotected environments that are quickly being taken over by agriculture. Poachers are killing the tigers that have been spared from these problems. Some Sumatran Tigers also live in zoos, and these tigers are not included in the above numbers.
The Sumatran Tiger can breed at any time during the year and generally have a gestation period of about 95 to 110 days. They can have anywhere from 1 to 6 cubs at one time, but generally only have 2 or 3.
In the wild these tigers generally live to be roughly 15 years of age, and in captivity they live to be roughly 20.
These tigers have been classified as critically endangered.

To learn more about tigers and the efforts to help them, you can call 1-800-5TIGERS or go to the web address of www.savethetigerfund.org to go to the Tiger Information Center. Also, go to this website http://www.honoluluzoo.org/tiger.htm to learn about the Honolulu Zoo’s Sumatran Tigers. There are video clips and sound recordings on this website. Enjoy!


The North Chinese Leopard

The North Chinese Leopard

The North Chinese leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) lives just south of the Amur Leopard (see below) in northern China, but has a much larger population--somewhere around 2,500. Only 100 live in captivity to be used in captive breeding programs, but this is enough to maintain genetic diversity for at least two generations, and possibly three. An opportunity for a new influx of genetic material lies in individuals removed from the wild due to their actions in close proximity to humans endangering humans or livestock; if they are put in captivity rather than put down, they can help their species without hurting humans, economically or otherwise.

They have many apparent jaguar-like characteristics, such as large rosettes (spots) which on some occasions have a second dot inside. They have dark orange background fur, unlike all leopards, and are medium-large. Also, they have the longest coat of any leopard species. North Chinese Leopards eat rodents, deer, wild goats, wild pigs, and of course any livestock that it comes across could be considered prey.

Cubs are born in litters of two or three, but infant mortality is high, and usually one or two cubs die from each litter. They can fend for themselves around one year of age, but stay with their mother until they are eighteen months to two years old. one captive male, Cheung Chi, who lived at the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, sired fifteen cubs up to 1988, and now has more than forty descendants. This could pose a problem for genetic diversity in captivity, since 40% of all captive North Chinese leopards are related.