Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 107 – The Southern Pudú


Pudu

“Killing animals for sport, for pleasure, for adventure, for hides and furs is a phenomena which is at once disgusting and distressing. There is no justification in indulging is such acts of brutality.”
The Dalai Lama

SPudu outhern pudús are the smallest deer in existence. Their size, coupled with their endearing appearance, has made them targets for the illegal exotic pet market. Many have been taken from the wild as babies to satisfy the whims of uncaring and mindless consumers, oblivious to all but their own desires. Pudú are also snatched from the wild and shipped off to various zoos around the world, presumably to aid the survival of the species!

But their plight doesn’t end there. Specialist trained dogs are used to hunt them down. The pudús are then fed to the dogs as part of their diet. Dogs, incidentally, which also transmit diseases to the deer. And, in keeping with the age-old threats to most wildlife, the adorable pudús are poached for food and hunted for sport.

Pudu I think it goes without saying man has virtually destroyed their habitat, leaving them living in fragmented areas. When travelling between locations, they now come across roads built for settlements, ranches and plantations. They are not particularly good at negotiating these, especially with fast traffic, and road deaths are high among the pudú populations.

And, if all that were not enough, populations of red deer have been introduced to their home territory. Between the larger deer and the cattle from the ranches, the poor little pudús are now having to compete for food as well.

Pudu That’s an awful lot of problems for something little more than a foot high.

In fact, pudús normally reach a height of about fifteen inches and typically weigh twenty pounds, so they are something akin to the size of an average family dog. They have small eyes and ears and short tails. Adult coats are reddish-brown in colour with fawns’ coats bearing white spots, possibly for camouflage, until they reach maturity. Males sport short antlers which are shed annually. 

In the wild, southern pudús, also known as Chilean pudús, are nocturnal and crepuscular. They forage in the dense undergrowth and bamboo thickets seeking out fresh vegetation and fallen fruit, and balancing on their hind legs to reach fresh leaves on the trees.  Physically, they excel at sprinting and climbing. If pudús sense danger, they bark and run in a rapid zig-zag manner to elude or outrun any predators.

PuduPudús tend to live alone or in pairs, and very occasionally in groups of three.  Individuals come together during the rut which takes place in April and May. A gestation period of about seven months follows, after which a single fawn will be born. Fawns are tiny, weighing less than thirty ounces, and are on their feet almost immediately. Care of the young falls entirely to the mother. Pudús advance  quickly and are usually weaned by two months. Females will be mature at six months of age and males at eight to twelve months.

Southern pudu distribution Natural Habitat
Dense temperate forest or bamboo groves.
Where
Chile and Argentina
What they eat
Their varied diet includes leaves, shoots, fruit, bark, seeds and berries.
Threats
Poaching and illegal taking for zoos, private collections and the exotic pet trade. Pudú are killed for sport and food using specifically trained domestic hunting dogs. Habitat loss due to cattle ranching, logging and other human developments. Road accidents. Diseases transferred by domestic dogs. Competition for food from the introduced red deer.
The pudú’s natural predators include eagle owls, cougar, fox and small cats such as the kodkod.

Status: Vulnerable
The Chilean pudú  (Pudú puda) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (high risk of endangerment in the wild). It is also listed on Appendix I of CITES.  
Various conservation programmes exist with the emphasis being on monitoring the pudú  in protected areas and removing threats from the same, and establishing internationally accepted guidelines for the care of rescued and confiscated animals. [1]
Southern pudús  have been bred successfully in several zoos across the world and international captive breeding programmes have been developed for the species. Although, the only evidence I can find of any being returned to the wild are the few that exist in the Nahuel Huapi National Park in Argentina. Others appear to have been kept simply as exhibits in zoos. Any further information would be welcome. Please feel free to leave a comment.

The Zemanta related articles provided below are all centred on zoo births, as is the video. Whereas I feel ill-inclined to support these profit-making organisations by referring to them on this blog, the events themselves are joyous occasions from respected sources, so I have included  them here. Let’s just hope these little animals grow to live full and happy lives.

Related Articles

Domestic Dogs in Rural Communities around Protected Areas: Conservation Problem or Conflict Solution? 

Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 106 – The Kodkod


Kodkod

“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life;  he is merely a strand in it”
Chief Seattle

Kodkod Found primarily in Chile and thinly in bordering parts of Argentina, with others located on the islands of Chiloé and Guaitecas, this elusive and endearing little cat is the smallest felid in the New World, and with the smallest known distribution. Known also as the guiña or Chilean cat, and roughly the size of an average domestic cat, the extremely rare kodkod is very similar in appearance to Geoffroy’s cat.

The kodkods’ diminutive size may have spared them the horror of being hunted for their fur, but, as fate would have it, they tend to get caught in traps laid for foxes, Kodkod ultimately causing the same sad death. Occasionally their pelts have been seen in markets, but it is not a common occurrence. Farmers, however, have considered kodkods as pests in the past and thus killed them. This opinion was not entirely without foundation as kodkods have always had a penchant for chicken meat and are still known to occasionally prey on domestic stocks, the farmer’s livelihood.

Such persecution has been partially ameliorated with research and education, though some humans still remain a threat, as do the kodkods to the poultry, of course. The studies of Dr. Elke Schüttler show the kodkod does not feature heavily in Mapuche legend and it has been possible to ascertain that the people of the Araucaría region are coming to value ecotourism. Children in schools were also found to have a positive attitude towards the little cats. All of which bodes well for the few remaining kodkods.

Kodkod kittenBut, by far the biggest threat to the kodkods is the wanton destruction of their habitat and prey base. Due to logging, the over planting of pine plantations and human settlement, the kodkods are now confined to a narrow mainland coastal strip of mixed forest, with a few more populations on the nearby islands. Although, they are tolerant of altered habitats and can be found in secondary forest and shrub and near cultivated areas, as well as the forests they prefer. In particular they favour Valdivian and Araucaria forests, where there is a notable presence of bamboo in the understory.

Kodkods have bushy tails, small heads, relatively large, round ears, short legs and large feet and claws for climbing. They can measure up to a length of thirty inches from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. and weigh as much as six-and-a-half pounds.

Kodkod Creative CommonsTheir beautiful coats are yellowish-brown to greyish-brown on top and covered with dark spots. This affords incredible camouflage. The underside is pale and the tail is ringed. They have very distinctive facial markings around the nose and eyes. Melanistic kodkods are not unusual.

Largely arboreal, kodkods are also superb climbers. They are active both day and night but only expose themselves to open areas under cover of darkness. They spend their days well-hidden in dense vegetation and other parts of the forest offering heavy cover.

Kodkod 2Very little is known about the breeding habitats of the species. They are rarely seen and none are kept in captivity. Available information suggests there is a gestation period of up to seventy-eight days after which a litter of one to three cubs will be born. There is some suggestion kodkods may be polygamous. As with other cats, parental care will probably fall to the mother, who may also teach them to hunt. The cubs will reach maturity at about two years of age and can expect to live for roughly eleven years.

Kodkod is the Araucanian Indian name for this felid of which there are two subspecies: Leopardus guigna guigna, which can be found in Southern Chile and Argentina, and Leopardus guigna tigrillo, which inhabits the forests of Central Chile.

Distribution kodkodNatural Habitat
Moist temperate mixed forests.
Where
Argentina and Chile.  It can also found on the Isla de Chiloé and the Isla Grand Guaiteca  off the southern coast of Chile.
What they eat
Small mammals, especially rodents; reptiles, birds and insects.
Threats 
Habitat loss with much of their native habitat being cut down and replaced with pine plantations, agriculture and human settlement. Persecution; kodkods have occasionally been killed when seen raiding chicken coops. Humans and their dogs are the only known predators of kodkods. They are often caught in traps set for foxes.
Status: Vulnerable
The kodkod (Leopardus guiana) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (at high risk of endangerment in the wild). It is also included on Appendix II of CITES and protected by law in Chile and Argentina.
There are various conservation plans in action including involving local people in field projects and visiting local schools. There are currently no captive kodkods in zoos. 

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 91 – The Maned Wolf


Maned wolf by Tambako the Jaguar

Maned wolf by Tambako the Jaguar

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival”
Wendell Berry

Called a wolf and looking remarkably like a long-legged fox only adds to the mystique of this unique canid.  Invariably described as a ‘fox on stilts’, the maned wolf (genus Chrysocyon – the only species in this genus) is not closely related to either fox or wolf. Its closest extant relative is the bush dog (genus Speothos).  It is also very distantly related to a few others with bizarre names, such as the crab-eating fox and the short-eared dog.

Maned wolf walking with two pupsBut being one of a kind has not protected this species from the onslaught of encroaching agriculture and road building.  A great many maned wolves are killed on the roads every year. A problem which has been addressed with introduced speed limits and local awareness, but as usual, not everyone takes note and fatalities on the roads are still high.

The maned wolf has been greatly misjudged in the past.  Under the false label of chicken, cattle and sheep killer, it was once hunted mercilessly by farmers.  It is now known these shy, retiring creatures will not approach human settlements for any reason, and will run away in fear if they see humans approaching elsewhere.  Consequently, with the exception of a few very remote areas, the reputation of the maned wolf has altered in its favour.

Maned wolf pupLet’s not forget, of course, the now-to-be-expected threat of folk medicine.  The eyes of the maned wolf are purported to bring good fortune and as a result are made into amulets.  This is very local, not big business, and certainly not a serious threat to the species, but a change would be helpful.

The most remarkable feature of the maned wolf are the legs.  Extraordinarily long, they are thought to be an adaptation enabling the species to see its prey in the tall grass. The legs have a pacing gait which allows each side of the body to move together, helping it to travel quickly across large areas of its territory.

Maned wolf pup curled upManed wolves weigh up to seventy-five pounds, can reach over three feet at the shoulder and be as long as five and a half feet from head to tip of tail.  The ears are large, and can be rotated when listening for prey moving through the high grass. 

Maned wolves have reddish-brown fur with black legs, a black muzzle, white markings on the throat and a white tip on the tail.  They have a distinctive black ‘mane’ which, when erect, signals displays of aggression or potential threats, rather like a domestic dog’s hackles going up.

The species does not come together in packs, which is quite unusual in the canid world. They are mainly solitary animals and nocturnal hunters.  In order to flush out its prey, the maned wolf will tap its foot on the ground, pounce and kill.  It will kill the prey by biting the neck or back, or simply by shaking it to death.

Maned wolf carrying pupManed wolves are monogamous, coming together only during the breeding season.  There is  a gestation period of up to sixty-five days.   After which a litter of anything between one and six pups, each weighing about one pound, will be born.  Both eyes and ears are closed until the pups are nine days old.  The mother will provide regurgitated food when they reach four weeks.  By ten weeks, their black fur will change to red, and by fifteen weeks they will be fully weaned.  They will still be reliant upon their parents for provision of food for their first year, at the end of which they will be fully grown.  Originally, it was thought the female alone cared for the young. Now it is believed the male also takes part in this process.

Natural Habitat
Semi-open tall grasslands, wet grassland, woodlands and scrub forest.
Where
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.  Possibly Uruguay – but it is generally thought they have been extirpated.
What they eat
Fruits and vegetable matter, insects, small reptiles, birds and small mammals such as cuis, rabbits and viscachas.
Threats
Habitat reduction due to agricultural conversion (mainly to soy bean plantations) and road building.  Maned wolves are often killed on the roads, too.  Competition with, and the transmission of diseases from, domestic dogs has also played a part in their decline. “The maned wolf is particularly susceptible to infection by the giant kidney worm, a potentially fatal parasite that may also infect domestic dogs.” (Wikipedia)  Body parts are sometimes used in local folk medicine.  The species do not have any natural predators.
Status:  Near Threatened 
The Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Near Threatened (likely to become endangered in the near future).  The species is also listed under  CITES Appendix 11.  It is protected in Argentina as an endangered species and included on the list of threatened animals in Brazil.  It is also included in the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List.  Hunting is prohibited in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.  Law enforcement is lax.

There are thought to be little more than twenty thousand maned wolves left in the wild today.  Most of these are found in Brazil.

There are over four hundred maned wolves reportedly kept in captivity.  Less than one hundred of these are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.  Mane wolves breed don’t well in captivity and there is a high recorded mortality rate of pups. There are various other conservation plans in progress initiated by a wide variety of non-profit organisations.  One of which is the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – forest conversion plans have been put in place in the hope of restoring some of the maned wolf’s habitat.

Related Articles
Dying Wolf Given Stem Cells Stuns Vets With Recovery (2011)
The Maned Wolves of Caraca Natural Park
In Brazil, tracking the Big Five: maned wolf

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 37 – The Andean Cat


Andean cat

Source: The Andean Cat Alliance

Description
There are those who are eaten to the brink of extinction and those who are hunted for profit to the brink of extinction.  Then there is the rare Andian cat;  hunted and killed to the edge for religious ceremonies and beliefs.  Like the pampas cat, they are considered sacred and offered up accordingly. The Andean cat, whom I daresay far from appreciates this, is also considered to be one of the most endangered felids on the planet.  Despite this;  they are still killed, stuffed and skinned.

These animals occupy a very inhospitable environment.  They blend in well with the terrain, are not much bigger than a domestic cat and are sparsely distributed. Consequently, sightings have been as rare as the creature itself, and knowledge is limited.

Small, sturdy and furry, the coat is silver-grey with brown stripes and orange blotches. The pale underside is strewn with dark spots.  The tail is long, thick and fluffy with dark rings.  The Andean cat is possibly solitary, although adults have been recorded in pairs. Birth is thought to occur between October and April. Only two litters have ever been observed, both with two young.

Originally, the major prey species of the Andian cat was mountain chinchilla.  Then a huge demand arose for the fur of these sweet little animals.  This led to the chinchilla being almost hunted to extinction as well, and the Andian cat being deprived of its food base. Through necessity, mountain vizcacha became its major prey.  The Andean’s nocturnal habits are now thought to be related to this change and the feeding habits of mountain vizcachas.  This was a classic case of having to adapt rapidly or perish.

Habitat
Rocky, arid and semi-arid, and sparsely vegetated zones of the high Andes above the tree-line.
Where
The Andes mountains, through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
What they eat
Mountain viscachas and mountain chinchillas, when they can get them.
Threats
Hunting for traditional practises (stuffed cats and skins are used in religious ceremonies in the belief they will bring good fortune).  Loss of natural prey.  Hunting for food, and for traditional medicine in central Peru, and hunting for pelts.  They are also often killed in retaliation for loss of small livestock.  Destruction of habitat by extensive mining, resource extraction for fuel and cattle grazing.  Disease from domestic animals. 
Status: Endangered
The Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.   Only 2,500 are believed to be still alive, and there are no known Andean cats in captivity.   Significant efforts are being made by various non-profit making organisations to help protect and preserve this species, and laws in all four South American countries, where the Andean cat is present, have been passed  accordingly.   Each country now has protected areas where hunting is banned.

To update this post, I would like to add a link to another post about the Andean cat.  This is a wonderful article by Carmen Mandel. I can highly recommend taking a look, especially at the updated images and videos.  The Elusive Gato Andino

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures”
The Dalai Lama