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.

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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. 

Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 104 – Darwin’s Fox


Darwin's Fox

Photographer: Kevin Schafer

“Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul”
Pythagoras

Darwin's fox Darwin’s fox is considered an “umbrella species”, and by protecting the primary temperate forests it inhabits, the entire ecosystem can be preserved by this one little fox. But, despite such importance, it is now critically endangered. Large scale deforestation, agriculture, firewood production, wildfires, overgrazing and human settlement have all shamelessly played their part. As have uncontrolled, non-sustainable commercial logging and local poaching (though it is not entirely clear why they are being poached).

Once running along the entire coastline of southern Chile, there is little original habitat left for the foxes. The southern half and coastal ranges of the Island still have large expanses of pristine primeval forest, but for the rest; exotic timber plantations stand where vast, verdant forests once grew, and Darwin’s foxes have found themselves displaced and hungry.

Darwin's fox in Ahuenco, Chiloe Island, Chile  But, there is another even greater threat to this small animal. One that is completely preventable. It seems visitors are not welcomed in the park with their dogs. But this does not stop them being there. Once inside the protected area, these same visitors irresponsibly allow their dogs to roam free. There is an abundance of domesticated dogs in Southern Chile, many of which use the park with their owners; and the park rangers have dogs, too. In fact, dogs are now considered a huge problem within the confines of these supposedly safe areas. They have chased, attacked and killed the foxes in such numbers they have become a recognised menace. Thousands of incidents have been documented including one of a dog attacking a vixen whilst feeding her cubs.

Darwin's Fox A bad perception by, and of, humans doesn’t help either. They are killed by farmers who, convinced their poultry is at risk, view them as a threat. The little foxes in turn, having learned not to fear man, stroll around in plain sight, making themselves easy to pick off. This is because they have become accustomed to visiting humans. The foxes often sleep under the parked cars as well. Sadly, most humans do not think to look before driving away, and there have been reported deaths amongst the fox population as a result. This naïve disposition, displayed by the foxes when interacting with humans, is seen as non-adaptive behaviour.

Darwin's fox  Their most protected environment is on the mainland in Nahuelbuta National Park. But only ten per cent of them live there. The other ninety per cent live on Chiloé Island (possibly the only long-term safe area for growing the population). But in winter, the foxes tend to leave the security of the location and move to more hospitable areas where they are at high risk from the loggers, the poachers and the local dogs. The dogs which not only kill them, but also expose them to parasites and viral diseases.

Known in Spanish as zorro de Darwin, zorro de Chiloé or zorro chilote, Darwin’s foxes have long bodies, short legs and long bushy tails. They have small muzzles Darwin's fox and wide, round heads and can weigh up to six-and-a-half pounds. The head and body length is about twenty-one inches with an added tail length of nine inches. It is, in fact, the smallest of all fox species. It has a thick coat of greyish-black with rust-like colouring on the legs and around the ears, and a dark grey tail. Sometimes a white band can be seen across the chest. The underside is usually pale.

These delightful creatures are crepuscular. They usually hunt alone, but have been known to share carcasses. They are normally solitary animals, only coming together to breed. It is thought they may be monogamous, but little is really known of the species.

Credit - Yamil HusseinThe breeding season starts in October and pups have been seen emerging from the den in December, so the gestation period could be about eight weeks. A litter of two to three pups are normally born who will be weaned around February. The pups are born altricial. Both parents take part in the care of them. The new family will stay together for an unlimited period of time and previous offspring may share the parents range as well. Adults foxes tend to breed annually and individuals and can live up to seven years.

The scientist Charles Darwin first discovered this endemic species in 1834, while he was on the Beagle survey expedition, and is quoted as saying: “He allowed me to walk behind him and actually kill him with my geological hammer”.  What an obliging little fox!

Natural Habitat
Coastal sand dunes mixed with dense, evergreen forest, preferring secondary forest to old-growth forest in areas typical to temperate rainforest vegetation.
Where
Chile
What they eat
A variety of food including birds, reptiles and small mammals, and insects, fruits, and seeds, depending on the season.
Threats
Habitat destruction, disease, attacks from unleashed dogs and persecution by farmers. Some are known to have been kept illegally as pets on Chiloé Island.
Status: Critically Endangered
Darwin’s fox (Lycalopex fulvipes) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. It is also listed on CITES Appendix II and has been protected, not very well, by Chilean law since 1929. There are thought to be little over two hundred and fifty individuals left in the wild. There are no known Darwin’s foxes in zoos or breeding programmes.
Camera traps used in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and the Alerce Costero National Park in southern Chile have shown the presence of Darwin’s fox. This important discovery means there is now a third location for the foxes, where previously only two were known: Nahuelbuta National Park and Chiloé National Park.

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 84 – The Long-tailed Chinchilla


Long-tailed chinchilla (CR) Chinchilla lanigera

Today is Worldwide Fur Free Friday

When celebrating Worldwide Fur Free Friday, I felt I could not possibly ignore the plight of the long-tailed chinchilla. This little animal has become critically endangered because of man’s actions; a sordid story which can only serve to illustrate, once more, how man’s narcissism and greed has allowed him to put himself before the needs, and, even the most basic rights of, innocent, defenceless beings.

Today there are multitudes of chinchillas kept in captivity, either for the pet trade, for research (specifically the auditory system), or for the fur trade. And, all three are prospering. The fur trade, undoubtedly, being the most despicable of these.

Chinchilla coat for sale on eBay- Farm Raised Genuine (Empress Breeders Cooperative) Chinchilla LanigeraAll wild chinchilla species are listed in  Appendix 1 of CITES.  But, since these captive animals are considered domesticated, they are not protected by CITES provisions (a fact pointed out with tedious regularity by those selling furs on eBay). Furriers and farmers can, therefore, keep breeding, butchering and promoting the wearing of chinchilla as much as they wish. Many, with more money than conscience and compassion, can’t wait to adorn themselves in the poor creatures’ fur; so there is a very willing market waiting in the wings. A market which would far rather wear the chinchilla’s coat as a status symbol or fashion statement than see the rightful owner wearing it as a natural layer (or, one hundred and fifty rightful owners to be precise – that’s how many tiny chinchillas it takes to make a full-length coat). A coat can cost anything between ten thousand and one hundred thousand dollars, so it’s highly profitable.

Apart from depriving these little creatures of a normal life, what desperately needs to be remembered is that there is no easy, pain-free way to skin an animal alive! They are not shearing sheep here!

To quote the obviously caring Natalie Imbruglia, “There is no kind way to rip the skin off animals’ backs. Anyone who wears any fur chinchilla - adultshares the blame for the torture and gruesome deaths of millions of animals each year.”

But, these particular animals have not all been taken from the wild. At least not directly. They are farmed from stock stolen from their natural habitat, mostly in times past. The international trade in chinchilla fur began in the 16th century. However, the chinchillas we see today are almost all descended from chinchillas taken from Chile in the 1800s and early 1900s. This was the cause of depletion, and, sadly, despite efforts, this depletion was so severe, the species has been unable to recover. In two centuries, of vanity and greed, over twenty-one million chinchillas have been taken from their homes; over seven million of these were exported between 1828 and 1916. At one stage they were being shipped from Chile at a rate five hundred thousand per annum. The devastation to the species was unimaginable.

Very young chinchillaIn 1918, the government of Chile, (along with those of Peru and Bolivia) declared the trapping of animals and exportation of pelts illegal; ­ but, it was all too little, too late. Needless to say, this activity did not cease then, and has still not ceased today. Poaching in Chile persists. But, possibly due to much smaller populations now, they are not being taken in such large numbers.

Originally, chinchilla populations flourished within their range.  Now, it is the trade in the animals which thrives, as their pelts continue to be found amongst the most valuable in the world. As a result, these endearing little rodents are now facing extinction in the wild.

Chinchillas are small, just slightly larger than ground squirrels. They have strong legs and can leap around in a very agile manner. They have bushy tails, and soft, silky dense fur. As many as sixty hairs grow from one follicle. The fur was designed by nature to insulate the species against the cold of the barren mountain regions it inhabits.Baby chinchilla Lanigera

Chinchillas sit upright on their hind legs to eat, grasping their food in their front paws. They are social animals living in colonies of up to one hundred individuals (you can see by this how easy it must have been to capture them in large numbers). These colonies are properly referred to as herds, so named by the first fur farmers who treated them as livestock. And, just to add to that trivia; a female is called a velvet or sow, and a male is called either a bull or a boar.

Chinchillas are crepuscular and nocturnal, though they have been seen in broad daylight foraging for food. They sleep or rest in rock crevices and holes. They are expected to live up to ten years in the wild, but, can live to as much as twenty years in captivity.

Breeding takes place during May and November. The female will give birth to two litters a year.   The average gestation period lasts one hundred and eleven days,  after which, a litter of between one to three babies (known as kits) will be born. Kits are precocial at birth (fully furred and with eyes open) and weigh about thirty-five grams. They are usually weaned by sixty days.

From beasts we scorn as soulless,
In forest, field and den,
The cry goes up to witness
The soullessness of men.

M. Frida Hartley
(Animal Rights Activist)

Habitat
Barren, arid, rocky or sandy mountainous areas.
Where
Chile
What they eat
Plant leaves (mostly of the cactus family), fruits, seeds, and small insects.
Threats
Human activities; mainly poaching, followed by grazing of livestock, mining and firewood extraction. Their natural predators include birds of prey, skunks, cats, snakes and dogs.
Status: Critically Endangered
The long-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.
The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists all chinchilla species in Appendix 1, making international trade in the animals or their skins illegal among participating nations. Frighteningly, there are only 10,000 individuals thought to be left in the wild. There have been attempts to reintroduce chinchillas to the wild, but these have been markedly unsuccessful.
A great deal more could be done to monitor hunting in the remote mountain ranges of the Andes. However, this has proven to be a difficult place to patrol leaving the chinchillas vulnerable.

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