Merry Christmas Everyone and Happy New Year


The Peaceable Kingdom and the Leopard of Serenity by Edward Hicks

The Peaceable Kingdom and the Leopard of Serenity by Edward Hicks

A very, very Merry Christmas to all my amazing and dear friends, followers, and those who dropped by just to take a look.  May peace and joy fill your hearts this Christmas.


My heartfelt thanks to all of you for making this year such a memorable one for me, and I hope you all have a most wonderful coming New Year filled with all the good things you could wish for  ~  Amelia

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 83 – The Malayan Tiger


Malayan Tiger at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Photographer: Greg Hume

“As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Regrettably, the magnificent tiger has been exploited for body parts and skins for centuries, and the Malayan tiger is no exception. Much is done in many countries to try and save tigers from extinction.  In Thailand, the home of the Malayan tiger, there are 20,000 forest rangers employed to protect all wildlife, but this is becoming an increasingly dangerous occupation.  In September Malayan Tiger in water2013, two rangers were fired upon by five poachers they had tracked to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Thailand.  On their way, the poachers had poisoned various animals, which the rangers suspected had been left behind as tiger bait (although, it is known they were hunting for various species). Four of the rangers were shot  in the incident, and two later died.  To add to the tragedy of the deaths of the rangers, when shots were exchanged, shockingly, the hunters were seen to be armed with AK-47 and carbine automatic rifles.  This does not imply poaching for subsistence food.  Instead, it smites heavily of terrorist activity.

Sadly, these incidents have become commonplace across Asia.  In the past four years, forty-two forest rangers have been killed on duty in Thailand alone.  These poorly paid, hard-working, dedicated rangers could do with a lot more support from the rest of the world as well as their own people.

A large part of the market for body parts and skins is created by the demand of middle class Asian consumers, in particular the fast-growing middle classes of China  (many of whom think elephants shed their tusks naturally), and it is not slowing down.  The demand for young animals as pets and exhibits has also become huge.  But, more often, it is terrorism which benefits most from these killings and live trade.  The trade in illegal wildlife, dead or alive, is now worth an estimated nineteen billion dollars a year.

Under such adverse circumstances, it seems only matter of time before the beautiful Malayan tiger, like so many other species, is lost to this world forever.

Slightly smaller than their Indian counterparts, female Malayan tigers can reach an average of seven feet ten inches in length, and Malayan Tiger and cubmales as much as eight feet six inches. They can stand at anything between two and four feet high at the shoulder and weigh between one hundred and four pounds and two hundred and eighty-four pounds.

The tiger’s orange, black and white striped coat is designed as camouflage in the forest or long grass.  It has huge front paws with five retractable claws on each.  It has incredibly powerful jaws housing large canines with which it is able to grab its prey and suffocate it.  In fact, in favourable circumstances it would have a more than fair chance of defending itself against its human predators.

Not always successful in every attack, one in twenty seems to be the kill rate, tigers can eat up to eighty pounds of meat in one feeding session.  The rest they will cover and come back to later, having already marked their territory with deep claw marks on trees.

Malayan tiger - Three-month-old Malayan tiger triplets at San Diego ZooThere is no specific breeding season for tigers.  It is an all-year-round event which is followed by a gestation period of roughly fourteen weeks.  Females birth in deep grass hollows or caves. Normally, a litter will consist of three cubs weighing about three pounds each.  They will stay with their mother for the first eighteen months to two years of their lives, in which time they will be taught all they need to equip them for a life of independence.

Habitat
Tropical forests, grasslands, and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.
Where
The southern tip of Thailand and the Malaysian Peninsular.
What they eat
Deer, wild boar, sun bears and occasional livestock.
Threats
Habitat destruction due to logging operations and development of roads for the same, and conversion of forests to agriculture or commercial plantations.   Poaching for skins and Traditional Chinese medicine, and human conflict.  An ever-diminishing prey base.
Status: Endangered
The Malayan Tiger  (Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also listed on  CITES: Appendix I.  Only five hundred or so Malayan tigers are still thought to exist in the wild.  Many are kept in captivity around the world. In the wild, most live outside protected areas.
Various agencies are addressing the issue of the Malayan tiger.  The World Wide Fund for Nature, for example, has initiated programs focusing on raising awareness, education and the reduction of human conflict.

Related Articles
How to Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade from Funding Terrorist Groups
Two forest rangers killed in gun battle with tiger hunters 
Scientists: to save the Malayan tiger, save its prey
Thousands come together for the Malayan Tiger!
Little Rock Zoo: 5-year-old tiger gives birth to 4 cubs

Related posts by me
Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)
Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 82 – Pennant’s Red Colobus


Pennant's Red Colobus

Image courtesy: The Drill Project

“I cannot see how there can be any real and full recognition of Kinship as long as men continue either to cheat or to eat their fellow beings.”
Henry Salt (1851-1939)

On a small, highly biodiverse island in the Gulf of Guinea, there lives a species of monkey which, surprisingly, is not dying out through loss of habitat.   Incredibly, this unfortunate monkey is instead being eaten into extinction.  And, not as a subsistence food either.  The poor cannot afford to eat monkey-meat on the island of Bioko. This Pennant's Red Colobusis strictly the privilege of the more well-to-do.  Oil money has taken care of that, and red colobus is now considered a luxury item on the menu.   As more have developed a penchant for the meat, the price has shot up, trade in the island’s market of Malabo is burgeoning, demand is high, and the red colobus are rapidly declining in numbers. The usual arguments about  the indigenous peoples being hungry and depending on a species for food, are meaningless here.   The  local populace are eating this animal because they want to.

Red colobus weigh in at anything up to twenty-two pounds. They can grow to as much as two feet tall with a slightly longer, non-prehensile tail length of two feet four inches. Typical of its species, Pennant’s red colobus has a small head, a long back and the characteristic red colobus round belly.  Its limbs are long and spindly ending in thumbless, elongated, hook-like fingers.  Its coat comes in various shades of brown and red on the back, with a light underside and orange and black down the sides of the limbs. It has a black fur on its head, which is usually parted down the centre.

The mouth contains specialist molars for softening or breaking up leaves and fruit.  It also has a multi-chambered stomach for fermentation of ingested food.

Pennant's red colobus Red colobus are arboreal, slow and noisy.  When not simply leaping across the branches, they move through them by bending the thinner, more flexible ones and using them as catapults.  They live in groups of twelve to eighty comprising of both male and female individuals, with females outnumbering the males twofold. Females tend to remain with the same group throughout their lives, whilst males move between troops.  They communicate between each other and other troops using a series of barks and squawks.

There is little or no information available about the reproductive habits of Pennant’s Red Colobus (Procolobus pennantii),  so I think it may be fair to assume it will be much the same as say, the Zanzibar red colobus (Procolobus kirkii) which is as follows.
There is no specific breeding season and they mate throughout the year, but the inter-birth interval can be up to three years or more.  The gestation period lasts between five and six months, after which only one baby will be born.  The babies are born altricial. (Please remember, this part is only an assumption)

Habitat
Primary and secondary rain forest, and swamp forestsPennant's red colobus
Where

Equatorial Guinea (the island of Bioko).  Two other sub-species exist in the Niger Delta (Procolobus pennantii epieni) and the Republic of the Congo (Procolobus pennantii bouvieri).
What they eat
Fresh leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds.
Threats
The main threat to Pennant’s Red Colobus is commercial hunting for the bushmeat market. Habitat loss has also played a part as has limited range and small numbers.
Status: Endangered
Pennant’s Red Colobus  (Procolobus pennantii ssp. pennantii) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered. It is also listed as one of the  “World’s 25 most endangered primates”.   Almost half the entire red colobus population has been lost to uncontrolled bushmeat hunting over the past two decades.

There are no red colobus monkeys kept in any recognised public zoos or other known approved places operating captive breeding programs.  Though it has been tried, it was found red colobus did not do well in captivity.  

National laws forbid hunting of primates in protected areas, but these laws are not enforced.  

The Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program  had this to say:   “The continuing BBPP presence in the marketplace is also a constant reminder to both buyers and sellers that trafficking in primate carcasses is illegal.”

This may well be a constant reminder, but it doesn’t seem to be much of an ongoing deterrent.  With the price of red colobus meat exceeding all expectations in some quarters, it could be some time before an end is brought to this despicable trade.

Related Articles
Moneys slaughtered for meat market on Bioko
Filming in the Caldera de Luba
Winking out in the Niger Delta

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 81 – The Eastern Lowland (Grauer’s) Gorilla


Grauer's Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of humanity”
George Bernard Shaw

During the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the people were not the only ones to suffer.  Populations of gorillas were depleted dramatically.  This highly biodiverse country is among the poorest in the world and this species was, and still is, greatly exploited as a food source.  Mothers have been slain and babies sold on the black market, and parts of the animals have been traded for medicinal usage.  The species can currently be found in an area where refugees, poachers and militia still abound.Kijivu, a captive lowland gorilla, feeds her one-day-old infant, at a zoo in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday. Kijivu gave birth to the baby Photo Michal Dolezal

The Eastern lowland gorilla, also known as Grauer’s gorilla, is the largest of all the gorilla species and one of the five great apes; in the company of orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and man.  It is one of two sub-species of eastern gorilla found in Africa.  The other is the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The eastern lowland gorilla is far more numerous than the mountain gorilla, but none-the-less, still endangered.

Having heavy bodies, large hands equipped with opposable thumbs, short muzzles and dark-grey to black coats, this species is well-adapted to jungle life.  The backs of the male gorillas, upon reaching maturity, will change to a silvery-white colour, giving rise to the name ‘silverback’.  Faces are hairless, as are hands, ears and feet.  As the animals reaches maturity, the chest will lose hair, too.

Fully grown male Eastern lowland gorillas can weigh up to four hundred pounds and reach a height of five and a half feet when upright.  There is one documented case of a silverback reaching five feet eleven inches – but this is rare.

Gorillas are diurnal and do most of their foraging early morning and late in the day.  The rest of their time is spent sleeping, playing and socially grooming.  Gorillas build, sleep and birth in nests in the trees.  They live in groups of thirty-five to fifty individuals, with the most dominant silverback at the head of the group.

Silverback screamingGorillas, like other primates, have various means of communicating with each other and intruders.  In the case of unwanted callers, males defend their territory, females and babies with a combination of sheer bulk and flamboyant displays of charging and chest beating.  Barks, hoots, roars and screams complete this intimidating package.  Visual gestures, body language and facial expressions are also forms of communication.

Gorillas are polygynous.  There is no set breeding season and the dominant silverback will father most of the offspring.  After a gestation period of about eight and a half months, one  infant will be born (very occasionally two).  Infants weigh roughly four and a half pounds.  Newborns can crawl after nine weeks and walk at eight to nine months. They will nurse for three years or more, remaining in the mother’s nest.  Full maturity comes at about twelve years of age.  Females give birth only once every three or four years.  Unfortunately, there is a very high infant mortality rate.  This greatly affects the Eastern lowland gorilla’s ability to replenish its numbers.

Habitat
Montane, transitional and lowland tropical forests.
Where
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
What they eat
Plants, leaves, stems and bark, fruits and seeds.  They also occasionally consume ants and termites.
Threats
Loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, degradation of habitat from illegal logging, illegal mining and road building for the same, and charcoal production.  Poaching for bushmeat and medicine, and the capture and trade of baby gorillas has had a detrimental affect on the population, due to the slow reproductive rates of this already diminishing species.   Disease; epidemics such as ebola and diseases passed on by humans are also a large threat.
Status: Endangered
The Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.
The IUCN has come together with various other well-known international organisations to stave off the extinction of this wonderful primate (see related articles below).  Here is what the IUCN have to say:
“Today, the remaining Grauer’s Gorilla populations are small and localised and occur in regions of intense illegal mining activity and insecurity,” said Stuart Nixon of Fauna & Flora International. “Until we can complete the much-needed surveys, our best guess is that between 2,000 and 10,000 gorillas remain in 14 isolated populations. Without a dedicated effort, the next 10 years will be marked by continuing local extinctions of this forgotten gorilla” (see related articles below).
Other organisations, such as WildLife Direct (also see related articles below), have their own worthy conservation programs for the gorillas.

Baby Eastern lowland gorilla resued from poachers - Virunga Gorilla Park 2011 by LuAnne CaddRelated Articles
Pride: a secret weapon in protecting primates 
Grauer’s Gorilla caught in the crossfire of conflict (IUCN) 
WildLife Direct-  Keeping our gorillas safe and healthy!
Rarest gorillas lose half their habitat in 20 years
Gorillas in the Mist…
Human virus linked to mountain gorilla deaths

Sir David Attenborough launches crowdfunding campaign to save mountain gorillas

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 80 – The Malayan Sun Bear


Sun Bear in captivity at the Columbus Zoo, Powell Ohio - Ryan E. Poplin

“It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of anything else”
Maimonides

What is it about bears!  You would think they would be revered on account of their size alone.  And, in the case of this bear, its name.  After all, Inti or Apu-punchau, the Inca Sun God was worshipped by so many for so long.  But, these bears have not been afforded the same courtesy.  Instead these poor creatures are persecuted beyond belief.  Just like their cousins, the Asiatic black bears, they are trapped and incarcerated for their fur, bile and gall bladders.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is claiming their body parts and the paws of the bear are sold as a delicacy in restaurants.  Their habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate and, on top of all that, the ill-informed seem to think bear cubs make good pets (after killing the mother, that is).  All-in-all, a sad indictment of man’s behaviour toward animals.

Although considered a large animal, Malayan sun bears are the smallest of all bear species, with, incidentally, the largest canines. Reaching a maximum length (males) of almost four and a half feet, they can weigh up to one hundred and forty-four pounds. Males tend to be a lot larger than females.

Sun bear in tree. Photographer credit - UcumariMalayan sun bears (or honey bears as they are sometimes known) have short, smooth, water-repellent, dark-brown to black fur, with an orangey/yellow bow-shaped mark on their chests.  The same colour of fur surrounds the muzzle and the eyes.  The skin around the neck is loose, allowing the bear to twist and bite its attacker when necessary. They have strong paws with hairless soles and long curved claws.  Their snouts are flexible and they have extraordinarily long tongues – an adaptation for gathering termites from the nests and mounds.  Sun bears have very poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell, which helps them to detect food.  They are good climbers and can often be found resting in trees. 

Despite being the smallest of the species, sun bears can be quite aggressive, and there have been recorded unprovoked attacks.  Sun bears have been observed living together whilst raising cubs, but, usually they are solitary and the mother and cubs are the only ones to stay together. 

Living in a tropical climate, with an all-year-round supply of food, the need to hibernate does not arise.

Baby sun bear Wellington ZooThere is no specific breeding season.  The gestation period following mating is roughly ninety-six days.  One to three tiny, altricial (furless, eyes closed and  dependent upon the parent) cubs will be born.  The cubs will continue to nurse for about eighteen months. Cubs remain with their mothers until  fully grown and are able to fend for themselves.  Female bears use holes inside large, old hollow trees to birth the babies.

Habitat
Tropical evergreen rainforest including swamps and limestone/karst hills, and lower montane forest.
Where
Bangladesh, Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.
What they eat
Fruit (especially figs) and berries, insects, small vertebrates, eggs, honey and termites. They use their very long tongues to access the mounds and nests of termites, the hives of bees and tree holes with insects.
Threats
In most countries:  Habitat loss due to plantation development, unsustainable logging practices, illegal logging both within and outside protected areas.  Commercial poaching of bears for the wildlife trade is a huge threat.  Other reasons for killing bears include: Crop damage, capture of cubs for pets (the mother being killed in the process) and commercial hunting.
On the islands of Sumatra and Borneo:  Large-scale conversion of forest to oil palm plantations.
In Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam:  Sun bears are commonly poached for their gall bladders and paws; the former is used as a Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the latter as an expensive delicacy.
In China and Viet Nam:  Bile is milked from commercially farmed bears;  however, although sun bears can be found on these farms, the majority of bears used in this practise are Asiatic black bears.  Bears are routinely removed from the wild to replenish stock on these small farms.
The Malayan sun bear has few natural predators.
Status: Vulnerable
The Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild).  It has been listed on CITES Appendix I since 1979.
Killing bears is illegal in all range countries.  However, little enforcement of these laws occurs.  It has to be said, the areas which need patrolling are vast, making this an overwhelming task for rangers.  But, given exploitation for body parts is expected to continue, these bears will be gone if something effective is not done soon. .
In Thailand alone, it is estimated that commercial poaching of sun bears has reduced their numbers by 50% over the last twenty years.


Related Articles

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre – Hope at Last For Borneo
Baby bear found strapped to pole in northern Ontario
This article is not about sun bears, it is about a baby bear tormented by children in Canada.  It happened in 2012.  What is noteworthy is the appalling stance the comments took towards the bears, and the unacceptable  ‘kids will be kids’  attitude conveyed by those who clearly thought this behaviour was acceptable.  No wonder so many abuse animals if this is the sort of message children are receiving in a supposedly civilised western country. Though, I very much doubt this article reflects the good Canadian people in general.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 79 – The Ka’apor Capuchin Monkey


Capuchin monkey

“If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature”
Ronald Wright

Endemic to Brazil, the Ka’apor Capuchin (Cebus kaapori) is a recently discovered member of the Cebidae family of monkeys. Targeted by hunters and having suffered from devastating habitat loss, the species has become one of the most threatened primates in the largest rainforest on Earth; living in a region with the highest level of deforestation and habitat degradation in the entire Brazilian Amazon. There are now very few Ka’apors left in the wild.

Capuchins Capuchin monkeys are among the most recognisable types of monkey on the planet.  These irrepressible and highly intelligent little primates have been trapped and captured for centuries, and used for man’s entertainment and amusement by organ grinders and exotic pet seekers.  Consequently, there are more Capuchin monkeys in captivity in the world than any other species.  For most, this means a life of isolation, anguish and gloom, and often they do not live long.  But, some are lucky, and happy Capuchins are known to be very talkative, incurably curious, highly intelligent and extremely mischievous.  Ka’apor Capuchins are also hunted mercilessly for bush-meat.

The Ka’apor species lacks the tuft of hair on its head which most others Capuchins have.  They have semi-prehensile tails, short fingers and opposable thumbs.  They also possess perfectly adapted large, square premolars with dense enamel to aid nut-cracking. Brown-tufted Capuchins have been observed using tools for this purpose.  Having developed an anvil system, they were able to crack open hard-shelled nuts using large rocks.  Aside from man and the apes, the Capuchins are the only other primates known to do this.

Adult coats of the Ka’apor are grey to reddish-brown on the back and outer limbs.  Heads and shoulders are creamy-white to silver-grey, withKa'apor capuchin a black triangular cap on the head, and faces are bare and pink in colour, as are the ears.  Hands and feet are blackish.  The species is sexually dimorphic and weighs an average of six and a half pounds. Adult Capuchins stand almost eighteen inches tall and have a tail which is roughly twenty inches long.

Ka’apor Capuchin monkeys are both arboreal and quadrupedal.  They can be found in the lower mid-canopy and the understorey, which they move through in on all fours using their semi-prehensile tails whilst feeding.

Communication within the species is wide and varied.  Capuchins use a whole range of vocal, olfactory and visual communications within their troops.  Social grooming is used as a form of bonding. Ka’apor capuchin monkey

Ka’apors are polygamous and occur in groups of up to fifteen individuals.  The breeding season ranges from October to February, followed by an average gestation period of one hundred and sixty days.  Females usually give birth to one baby, rarely twins, and will only birth every two to four seasons.  Infants cling to the mother’s back for the first three months.  By six months, they are becoming more independent and taking solids, and will soon be fully weaned.

The Ka’apor Capuchin was only recently elevated to species status.  It had been formerly classified as a sub-species of the wedge-capped Capuchin.

The Ka’apor Capuchin monkey is named after the Urubu-Ka’apor Indians, who live in the region where the monkey was first discovered.

The Ka’apor Capuchin, as with other species of Capuchin, is widely used in laboratory research.

Habitat
Lowland Amazonian high forest
Where
The Brazilian states of Pará and Maranhão.
What they eat
Fruits, seeds and arthropods, frogs, nestlings and even small mammals;  supplemented by stems, flowers and leaves.
Threats
Habitat loss due to logging, forest clearance for cattle ranching, and industrial agriculture, and extensive hunting for food.  The Guajá, or Awá, Indians in Maranhão, who hunt all primate species within their reserve (and, whose land and lives have also been destroyed by illegal logging) are known to keep orphaned Capuchin and other primates as pets.  These small monkeys are also collected for the international illegal pet trade.
Status: Endangered
The Ka’apor capuchin (Cebus kaapori) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1 and listed on The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012-2014.  Ka’apors are located in the protected area of the Gurupi Biological Reserve in the State of Maranhão , which was created in 1988.  More than half of the reserve’s forest has since been lost due to selective logging. This was particularly prejudicial to the species as trees which provided the fruit Ka’apors favoured, and which made up most of their diet, were lost.   The IUCN has documented  a drastic decline in numbers of at least 80% over the past three generations. 

Related Articles
Scientists identify the world’s most irreplaceable protected areas
The Amazon: The World’s Largest Rainforest
Going to Pot
Researchers unravel ways Capuchin monkeys select effective tools
UGA Research Monkeys Will Be Retired
Monkeys returned to owner after attack

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 78 – The Togian Islands Babirusa


Babirusa wallowing in mud

“The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different”
Hippocrates

With those outlandish tusks, these wonderful creatures were always destined to be the inspiration for all sorts of fabulous legends. There is no other mammal known to man who sports this headgear.  Left alone with few natural predators, elusive and shy, the islanders have been in awe of the babirusa for centuries.  In native legend, they are said to use their tusks to hang upside down from trees in the night and sleep.  Some say they hook their tusks over low branches to support their heads whilst they sleep, while others say the males hang in the trees to spy on the females!

Babirusa tusksIndonesian people make demonic masks based on the bizarre appearance of this unique curly tusked pig.  The Balinese Hindu-era Court of Justice pavilion and the “floating pavilion” of Klungkung palace ruins are famous for the painted babirusa raksasa  (grotesques) on the ceilings – the paintings depicting scenes of the horrors awaiting the profoundly immoral and wicked after death.

They are only hunted locally for meat by non-Muslim communities.  Muslim villagers do not hunt them because of their distant pig connection.  “Pigs are haram – considered unclean, forbidden to eat or touch, and best avoided entirely”.   Actually, the hippopotamus connection is much stronger, but, nevertheless, the babirusa is still a pig.

Bearing all this in mind, and the fact that they have such a lush forest home to forage in, albeit fast disappearing, you would think these shy and retiring creatures would have quite a decent chance of flourishing.  But, no!  They are very much under threat. Extensive illegal logging is destroying these ancient animals and their ancient forest home.  Hunting is rife and they are in demand as zoo exhibits.

Togian babirusas are much larger than their cousins, the better-known north Sulawesi babirusa.  They have a well-developed tail-tuft, and the upper canines of the male are relatively “short, slender, rotated forwards, and always converge”.   Babirusas can reach up to over three and a half feet in length and can weigh up to two hundred and twenty pounds.  Males tend to be larger than females. They have grey to brown skin, sparsely covered with briskly hair, and long, thin legs.  Their snouts are also thin and they have small ears. Tusks come in fours.

Babirusa groupThe tusks can grow up to one foot in length, with the upper canines growing through the upper lip and arching towards the eyes.  These tusks grow continuously throughout the animal’s lifetime.  If they are not worn down or snapped off they can pierce the skull.  The upper tusks of females are of normal size, but, they can be absent altogether.  Male babirusa sharpen their lower tusks on trees, but not so the upper curved ones.  This may be one of the reasons these become so long and curly; they are simply left to grow.  With the tusks sited as they are, barbirusa are unable to root under the dirt for food.  Instead they use their hooves to dig for insects and their larva.

Babirusas have a superb senses of smell and hearing, both of which are gainfully employed to find food and avoid predators. They are also excellent swimmers and very fleet of foot.  They can run as fast as the deer.

And, they absolutely love wallowing in the mud.  Not only does this cool them off, and its fun, but it rids the babirusas of the parasites and insects which live on their skin.

Babirusa piglet born Tampa's Lowry ZooThe breeding season ranges from January to August, after which there is a gestation period of one hundred and fifty-eight days. Normally, two piglets will be birthed.  The little ones will not be weaned until they are six or eight months old, but their diet will have been enriched with solids, starting ten days after birth.

Once thought to be a sub-species of the Babirusa (Babirusa), the Togian Islands Babirusa (Babyrousa togeanensis) is now recognised as a separate species.  Of all four species of Babyrousa, Babyrousa togeanensis is the only one listed as endangered.  The other three species are all considered vulnerable  –  at the moment!

The name “babirusa” means “pig deer”, referring to the resemblance between the tusks and the antlers of the deer.

The average lifespan of babirusas can be as little as ten years in the wild and as much as twenty-four years in captivity.

Although they physically resemble pigs, fossil records show them to be in the hippopotamus family.  However, as only one fossil has ever been found, there is still some debate about this.

Habitat
Tropical rainforest on riverbanks and ponds, where there is a plentiful supply of aquatic plants.  They can also be found in secondary forest, freshwater swamps and beaches.
Where
Indonesia:  The Togian Archipelago, between the northern and eastern Sulawesi peninsulas.
What they eat
Leaves, roots, fruit, invertebrates and small vertebrates.
Threats
Habitat loss through forest clearance and forest fires.  Human disruption and hunting by local villagers.  Hunting for food only occurs in non-Muslim communities.
In 1998 almost 70% of the forest was damaged by fire on Malenge Island.  No barbirusa carcasses were found and the species have been seen returning to these areas since, but the fire affected their food supply.

Status: Endangered
The Togian Islands Babirusa (Babyrousa togeanensis), is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It has also been included on Cites Appendix 1 since 1982.  Under Indonesian law, all species of babirusa have been fully protected since 1931. However, hunting remains a significant threat.  The Tongian Islands were designated a Marine National Park in 2004.


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