Cóndor Huasi (House of the Cóndor)

I recently posted about the California condor, as Carmen mentions here, and was delighted to see her own wonderful post on her blog, highlighting the endangered Andean condor. Do take a look, especially at the video clips of these graceful birds soaring so high in the Andes. And listen, if you have time, to the beautiful, haunting music accompanying them.

Halloween altered tryout 2

Have a really spooky Halloween everyone.

It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.

Tonight we are
the king and queen,
For oh tonight
it’s Halloween!

Jack Prelutsky

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 67 – The California Condor

California condors from mother nature network

“There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Native American tribes see the condor as a symbol of power.  Known to them as the Thunderbird, they believe it creates thunder in the sky by beating its enormous ten foot wings.

In flight, the majestic wings can be seen in all their splendour.  When airborne, the distinctive white patch underneath each wing is highly visible, distinguishing it from other vultures.  These great birds soar as high as fifteen thousand feet across the skies, catching thermals on the way up, rising as the ground below gets hotter.  They can stay up for hours watching, searching for food and other needs.

California condors are vultures.  Like all vultures, they are carrion feeders, not predators. As such, they are a very important part of the ecosystem, acting as  ‘nature’s cleaners’ by recycling dead organic waste.  They pick up all sorts of animal debris that would otherwise be left to rot where it fell.  They come equipped with a very tough immune system which protects then against any harmful bacteria found on decaying animals. They have incredibly keen eyesight, but a poor sense of smell, which is perhaps quite fortunate considering their feeding habits.  Their baldness is one of their many assets.  It allows them to bury into the carcasses they feed on without too much mess.  Meal over, they clean their heads and necks by rubbing them on grass or against rocks or branches.

Condors can travel up to one hundred and fifty miles a day, with a maximum flight speed of fifty-five mph.  These magnificent birds have a wing span of just under ten feet.  Their feathers are essentially black with white patches under the wings.  Their bald heads are white to reddish-purple.  They can reach a height of fifty inches, weigh up to twenty-five pounds and can live up to as much as eighty years, although sixty is more common.

The mating season for the California condor is winter to spring, followed by an incubation period of about fifty-four days.  One chick will hatch, which will receive the parents full attention.  The chick will learn to fly at the age of six months, but may stay with its parents for the next two years.  It will not gain full adult plumage until five or six years of age.

Rocky, forested regions permeated with caves, gorges and ledges for nesting.  Open grassland for hunting.
By reintroduction:  Mexico and the United States of America
What they eat
Carrion:  Condors will tuck into most carcasses they find, but prefer the larger ones, such as deer, cattle and sheep.
Lead poisoning, habitat loss, illegal shootings and human intolerance.
Status: Critically Endangered
The California condor is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  It is also under the protection of  CITES Appendix I

By 1982, only twenty-two individuals existed.   The species became extinct in the wild in 1987, when the last free-flying condors were taken into captivity to save the species via a breeding program.  At this point, only nine birds remained on the planet.  The captive breeding program was successful, and, in 1991, action was taken to start releasing the birds back into the wild.  By the spring of 2013, there were over four hundred and thirty California condors in existence, either in captivity or free-flying.
The problem of lead poisoning from  ammunition  has been addressed in California. Where, since 2007, only lead-free ammunition is permitted when hunting.  However, you will see from the link below, the LA Times reports a rise in lead poisoning of condors.  Effective or not, no such laws have been passed elsewhere yet, making the problem widespread.

Some interesting links you may like:
LA Times: Record 21 California condors treated at L.A. Zoo for lead poisoning
Hi Mountain Look Out
Kern County Look to Prevent More Condor Deaths

There “used to be” Rhinos

Fight for Rhinos

Just back from Kenya. What an amazing experience-getting to see, hear and live the culture I’ve heard so much about! I’ve learned new things, made new friends, and of course was “over the moon” seeing all the magnificent wildlife I love so much.

My prized memory was at Ol Pejeta; seeing a black rhino in the distance. After a bit, he came galloping out of the bush at us. He stood there for minute or so as if sizing us up, then turned and ran back. It was incredible.

DSCF2388There were a few rhino in the Lake Nakuru area as well. But, having been to Samburu, Amboseli, and Masaai Mara, the one disturbing theme was “There used to be rhinos here.” There are now none in Samburu or Amboseli, and rare spottings in the Mara.

With poaching stats at almost 800 for this year alone, it’s no wonder they’re so…

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 66 – The Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey

Baby Yunnan

“It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it”
Edward Abbey

Since the only Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys kept in zoos have all been within China’s borders, this primate was virtually unknown to the rest of the world until the 1990s.  And, like so many other species, it had been ruthlessly hunted for meat, fur and the pet trade. Now, to a certain extent, it is protected.  A  lot of support has been drummed up for the species in China, but when it comes to a choice between conservation and feeding a family, the snub-nosed monkey still gets the short straw.

The Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti), also known as the black snub-nosed monkey, lives at high altitudes and in extreme temperatures, which can fall below freezing for several months of the year.  To cope with this inhospitable climate, it has a long, soft, dense coat.  Adult coats are mainly black with white on the front and flanks, whereas babies are born all white and change colour as they grow older. Unusually, they all have deep pink human-like lips.  But, it’s their noses which are probably their most distinguishing feature.  There are no nasal bones and the nostrils are turned up, sometimes giving them quite a bizarre appearance.

Due to the remoteness of their habitat and their elusive nature, little is known about the breeding habits in the wild. Like other primates, the snub-nosed monkey births at night, making observation difficult. One study showed mating occurred all year round but peaked in August, and births peaked from February to April with one baby being born at a time.

Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys live in large groups which are made up of lots of smaller family groups;  consisting of one adult male, three to five females and their various offspring.  The whole group travel and rest together.

High-altitude coniferous and evergreen broadleaf forests.  The highest altitude recorded being four thousand seven hundred meters. Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys rarely seem willing to descend below an altitude of three thousand meters, even in extreme weather conditions.
China’s Yunnan Province and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
What they eat
Although folivorous, lichens are now an important part of their diet.
Habitat loss, inbreeding and poaching.  Despite laws being in place, illegal logging and hunting still persist.  There is a very low birth rate for Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys, who will birth only once every three years.  Add that to the infant mortality rate of 50% and the future doesn’t look so hopeful.  Then there are the ‘accidents’.  The little monkey is often trapped in snares intended for other species, such as musk deer. 
Status: Endangered
The Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is listed on the  IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also protected under CITES Appendix I.  The Chinese authorities, along with Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, launched the Yunnan Golden Monkey Program, thereby putting some considerable  effort into saving this species.  A national logging ban was brought in on all old-growth forests in China in 1998.   And, hunting of this primate was banned  (with almost all hunting guns confiscated) in 1975, following prolonged targeting for food, fur and pets, which brought the species close to extinction.  Most of these monkeys now live in protected areas.
Due to these concentrated and long-term conservation efforts, individuals have now increased in numbers to almost three thousand, across both locations. That is an increase of  50% on 1990’s numbers.
China does have a captive breeding program, which also seems moderately successful. The species is still not found in any other zoos outside China.
With their penchant for lichen, the monkeys have become an important part of the ecosystem of the ancient forests they inhabit, and their loss would have an adverse effect on such locations.


Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 65 – The Red Wolf

Red wolf

Source: Fact Zoo

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologised epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself”
Farley Mowat

After being virtually wiped out at the arrival of the 1960s, following man’s unyielding and misguided purge against them  (or intensive predator control programs as they preferred to call them),  the red wolf was finally declared endangered in 1967.  In 1980, it was declared extinct in the wild.  At the time of the latter declaration, only seventeen pure red wolves survived,  all of which had been captured and taken into captivity.  They subsequently became part of the red wolf recovery program.  Fourteen of these wolves were to become the founders of today’s population.

In 1987 the species was reintroduced into the wilds of North Carolina by the USFWS.  The red wolf is now firmly re-established there, the only place it can be found, and is making a slow, but steady comeback.  But, the species still remains critically endangered;  with less than one hundred surviving in the wild and some two hundred still in kept captivity, as part of the survival plan.

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of only two species of wolf in North America, and the first wolf species to be reintroduced in the United States.  The other species is the grey wolf (Canis lupus).  The red wolf is not a subspecies of the grey wolf, as is often thought.

Red wolves are larger than coyotes , but smaller than grey wolves.  They have noticeably long legs, large feet and fairly substantial ears. Their coats are brown to grey with black along the back and reddish tinges behind the ears, neck and legs. They moult annually.

The weigh in at between fifty to eighty pounds, can attain a length of up to five and a half feet, and reach over two and a half feet at the shoulder.  Males tend to be larger than females. They may live up to the age of eight years in the wild, but tend to survive much longer in captivity, sometimes up to as much as fifteen years.

Red wolves live in family groups (packs) which consist of a breeding adult pair (the alpha male and female) and their various offspring. There are typically five to eight animals in a pack. They hunt alone, or in small packs, and are primarily nocturnal. Communication is by scent marking, howling and body gestures.

Red wolves are monogamous.  The breeding season takes place between January and March.  There follows a gestation period of sixty-three days, after which the female will give birth to an average of three to six pups  (this figure may be much low as one or as high as twelve).  Pups are born blind and will open their eyes after ten days.  The mother will keep the newborns in the birth den for the first couple of weeks before moving them to a succession of other dens, and later presenting them to the rest of the pack.  Fathers and other female members of the pack all help with the care of the pups.

Mixed forests, wetlands and agricultural lands.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on the north-eastern coast of North Carolina.
What they eat
Raccoon, rabbit, various rodents, nutria, insects and white-tailed deer.
Habitat loss, road accidents, disease, human conflict, , illegal slaughter and interbreeding with coyotes.  An additional threat looming on the horizon is that of climate change.  The red wolf’s low-lying coastal habitat is slowly sinking, at the same time sea level is rising.  It is predicted, within the next one hundred years up to one-third of the red wolf’s current habitat could be submerged.
Status: Critically Endangered

The red wolf (Canis rufus) once ranged throughout eastern North America, but is now listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1.  It is thought only one hundred to one hundred and twenty individuals exist in the wild (eight fatalities were recorded in 2013), with a further two hundred in the Species Survival Plan, a captive breeding program in place in various locations across the United States.  All extant red wolves are descended from just fourteen founders. Without the captive breeding programmes in place, the red wolf would not have survived as a species.

Further details on the status of the red wolf can be found here:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Field Trip Earth

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 64 – The Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian monk seals playingDescription
Known to the native Hawaiians as ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or  “dog that runs in rough water”, the Hawaiian monk seal is close to the edge of extinction.  Not because of hunting, as one might expect, but because of man’s inability to be more vigilant about his interpretation of garbage disposal.  The lackadaisical fishing industry is causing horrendous damage to the colonies of the monk seal, and other species,  by this lack of due care.

Hawaiian monk seals are the second most endangered pinnipeds in the world after Mediterranean monk seals.  They are the only two remaining monk seal species.  The species was isolated from its closest relatives over fifteen million years ago.  Such evolutionary lineage has led to it now being considered a  “living fossil”.

Both male and female have grey backs with lighter undersides;  newborns are always black.  Although, often red and green tinged fur can be seen.  This is caused by clinging algae .  The backs, especially in males, may darken with age.  Their bodies are perfectly adapted to life in the water.  They are beautifully streamlined and come equipped with flipper-like limbs for movability.  The front flippers have five digits and are slightly smaller than the back ones.  These are used for steering.  The back flippers are the main instruments of propulsion.  Males of the species can weigh in at up to six hundred pounds, with females weighing slightly less, and they can grow up to length of seven and a half feet.  They can also live up to thirty years of age, but this is uncommon.

Whereas seals, in general, favour cold waters, Hawaiian monk seals  (like Mediterranean monk seals)  inhabit a much warmer environment.  They cope with this by remaining inactive during the heat of the day and selecting shady rest spots to occupy, preferably in wet sand.  

Regrettably, this friendly and playful species has not learned to fear man and can be easily approached, and therefore disturbed.  Lack of flight response may well have been their downfall in past times.  They were hunted mercilessly during the nineteenth century.  No doubt, when confronted by hunters, they would not have tried to flee.  They would, presumably, have been totally unaware of the danger.

They are generally solitary creatures, with only mothers and pups making regular physical contact.  At sea they feed and mate, and on land they ‘haul-out’ to breed, rear their young, moult and rest.  They seem to prefer sandy beaches offering shallow protected waters. Unfortunately, this exposes them further to human contact.

Monk seals are promiscuous and mate underwater.  The unusually long breeding season occurs between December and mid-August. Gestation lasts up to one year.  Following this, one pup will be born, weighing approximately thirty-five pounds and reaching almost three feet in length. The pup will nurse for up to forty days, during which time it will receive short swimming lessons from its mother.  Infant pups are not able to swim when born and need to stay on dry land until they build their skills and strength for the rigours of the ocean.  Whilst nursing, the mother will not eat, living off her reserves, and can lose up to two hundred pounds in weight.  When weaned, the mother will simply abandon the pup and return to the ocean to hunt.

Warm subtropical waters, waters surrounding atolls, sandy island beaches, reefs, shallow lagoons and submerged banks.
Throughout the Hawaiian Island chain.
What they eat
Hawaiian monk seals are primarily benthic foragers, feasting on variety of fish  (including eels and flatfish) , celaphods  (such as squid and octopus) and  several types of crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, and lobster).
In the Northwestern Islands;  food limitation, marine debris  (discarded net and line fragments)  and sharks  (tiger and Galapagos)  –  the young are especially vulnerable to these natural predators.
On the main island;  recreational fishing hooks and gillnets, disease transmitted by domestic pets and livestock, human disturbance of mother and pups on beaches.  Erosion of beaches for haul-out and pupping.
Another problem which may effect the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal is that of ‘mobbing’  by mature males  (aggressive ganging together of males attempting to mate with both mature and immature females).   This behaviour has accounted for a significant number of injuries and  deaths in young seals.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Hawaiian monk seal  (Monachus schauinslandi)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  The species is also protected under Appendix I of CITES.  Current population figures are thought to be one thousand individuals,  with an estimated decline of 4% per year.  Various conservation efforts are in place, including those of the NOAA Fisheries and partners who have implemented their own recovery plan for the Hawaiian monk seal.  The Captive Care and Release Research Project of the NOAA  aims to aid the recovery of the species.  Public education campaigns are active in raising awareness about conserving the species and habitat. Groups are continuing to help rescue and rehabilitate animals, and direct efforts have been made to disentangle seals from nets and clean up haul-out sites.  As a result of these endeavours, a truly shocking 492 metric tons of marine debris has been removed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands since 1996.  Injuries and deaths, from digestion of debris and entanglement in nets, have been dramatically reduced. Various restrictions, aiding the monk seal,  now apply to the fishing of lobster and shrimp in the Hawaiian Islands.  The Western Pacific Council (WPC) does enforce these restrictions.  And yet more good news,  The Marine Mammal Center  in Sausalito, CA, has opened  a $3.2 million dollar hospital and rehabilitation centre for the seals, .

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans”
Jacques Cousteau

Related Articles:
Hawaiian Monk Seal’s Extraordinary Life Illustrates Conservation Challenges

110 Wolves Have Been Killed After Day 8 Of Hunting Season

Exposing the Big Game


By Chuck Quirmbach

The Department of Natural Resources says that as of Wednesday morning, 110 wolves have been killed in the wolf hunting and trapping season.

The season just started last week. Last year, 117 wolves were killed during the entire two month season. DNR official Tom Hauge says the faster pace of this year’s harvest remains a bit of a mystery.

“We really don’t have any good ideas as to why that is,” says Hauge. “But the trappers are out in large numbers this year and are having some good success.”

Most of the 110 wolves killed this year, were first caught in traps. Two people concerned about the possibility of using dogs to hunt wolves testified before the DNR Board today. Dogs are banned from the wolf hunt until December 2.

A wolf-hunting zone in far northeastern…

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