Thank You!


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor book coverI would like to take a quick break from blogging about wildlife and the environment for this post and thank my fellow blogger, Kevin Cooper (The Brit), for his review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor. I am always really thrilled and flattered when someone who follows my blog actually buys my book as well, but even more so when they take the time to say what they think about it. Thank you Kev, you’ve lightened my day.

Kev’s own website, Kev’s Stuff, can be found here.  Kev is an author and song-writer in his own right and shares much of his work on his fun blog. Drop by and say hello. I am sure he would appreciate it.

This is what Kev had to say about Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

“This is a very clever story. Amelia’s imagination and use of animals to tell a story is amazing. I loved the story from start to finish and would recommend it as a must read on any child’s kindle. Children will be mesmerized by this story as they follow how Mungai and Goa deceive the other animals into working for them and giving up their beloved forest. I don’t want to say too much that would give away the story. This is the kind of story teachers could have a ball with in their classrooms, bringing out all kinds of topics about wildlife and forestation in an interactive and exciting way. That’s my vision for it.”

Kev’s review can also be found here on Amazon

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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.

Other Related Articles


Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 93 – The Jaguar


Jaguar sleeping in a tree

“Only when the last tree is cut, only when the last river is polluted, only when the last fish is caught, will they realize that you can’t eat money”
Native American proverb

With destruction levels of South America’s rainforests set to hit an all time high, these wild and beautiful big cats are being forced to move closer to human settlements.  This is not their choice, they simply have nowhere else to go.  Their habitat is being lost at an Young jaguar in the undergrowthalarming rate, and with it most of their wild prey species.  Many of the ungulates eaten by the jaguar are also hunted by humans.  Over-hunted, in fact.  Farmers, who will shoot jaguars on sight, view them as pests, and as a threat to both themselves and their livestock. This, of course, is not without foundation; but when you deprive an animal of its own natural prey, there is a great possibility it will look elsewhere in order sate its appetite.  The human population is growing as fast as the forests are disappearing, making it difficult for the jaguar to avoid contact with man, therefore increasing the potential for slaughter.  As a result the jaguar has become extremely vulnerable;  and he is not the one carrying a gun.

Another threat to the jaguar is hunting for pelts.  Although there was a huge decline in the 1970s, due to CITES involvement and protest campaigns, the wearing of fur has once again become popular.  The age-old demand for paws, teeth and other body parts also continues unabated.

Jaguar melanistic - black colour morphThe jaguar is the largest cat of the Americas, and the only living member of the genus Panthera found in the New World.  After the tiger and the lion, the jaguar is also the third largest cat on the planet. Noted for its power and agility, this iconic animal can weigh anything between one and three hundred pounds, stand three feet at the shoulder and reach as much as six feet in length.

These wild and graceful creatures have large, broad heads housing exceptionally powerful, short jaws.  One bite is enough to kill its prey.  Cats can tear their food and crush it, but are unable to chew.  Food is swallowed whole and, when in the stomach, the digestive juices break it down.

Pantanal Jaguar - Panthera onca palustrisThe base coat of the jaguar varies from yellow to reddish-brown with a white underside.  The spots on the head, neck and legs are usually solid, whereas on the back they appear as rosettes with spots in the middle.  The pattern of each coat is different and allows for identification of individuals.  It also provides perfect camouflage in the undergrowth.  When comparing leopard and jaguar, the leopard does not have spots in the centre of the rosettes.  This is an easy way to tell the difference at a glance.

jaguar melanistic Melanistic variants commonly occur in jaguars due to a dominant gene mutation.  They were once often referred to as “black panthers”.  This is, of course, now politically incorrect and they are instead known colloquially as “black jaguars”.  They are not, however, strictly black.  All the distinct markings of the jaguar are there underneath, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin.  It is quite possible to see these markings with the naked eye. Melanistic cubs can be born to non-melanistic parents and vice versa.

Jaguar in tree ready to pounceThis enigmatic and elusive cat spends its time either resting in the trees or hunting down its prey.  It hunts on both land and in water, and is a skilled swimmer.  It is capable of moving through the water with astonishing speed and stealth, often pouncing on its prey unannounced.  The prey is stalked in silence on huge padded paws, and after one agile leap, rapidly disposed of with a single powerful bite to the neck, suffocating the creature almost instantly.  In fact, the name Jaguar is said to come from the Native American word “yaguar” which interprets as “he who kills with one leap”.  A solitary creatures, the jaguar will defend its territory fiercely if other males attempt to encroach. This is when those huge canines come into action.

Like the tiger, lion and leopard (all genus Panthera) this large felid has the ability to roar, due to the unusual square shape of the vocal chords and the thick pad of elastic tissue towards the front.  Cats of the genus Panthera are the only cats which actually can roar.

Jaguar and melanistic cubs born in captivityJaguars only come together to mate.  Normally, they are solitary. There is no specific breeding season for the species.  It is the mother that takes care of the cubs – the father moves on.  As with tigers, there is always the risk of the father killing and eating the cubs. With perhaps this in mind, the mother soon sees him off after the birth if he lingers.  Following a gestation period of up to one hundred and ten days, typically, one to three cubs will be born, each weighing one and a half to two pounds.  The cubs will be born blind and remain so for the first two weeks of their lives.  They will be weaned at three months but will stay in the den, relying upon their mother for food, until they are about six months old. At this age, they will be ready to accompany their mother on small hunts.  They will stay with her until they reach maturity and can establish a territory of their own.  During this time the cubs will have perfected the art of finding food and shelter, and defending themselves. Females are mature at about three years of age and males four years of age.

Natural Habitat
Jaguars have a vast array of habitats including rainforest, deciduous forest, seasonally flooded swamp, grassland and mountain scrub.  They are almost always found living near water.  Where habitat is concerned, there are certain criteria essential to maintaining healthy populations:  dense cover, plentiful prey and a good supply of water.
Where
Remote regions of South and Central America, largely in the moist  Amazon Basin.
What they eat
Jaguars are obligate carnivores with a preference for large ungulates.  But, they will eat almost anything, including sloth, reptiles, amphibians, fish and monkeys.  In all,  jaguars are said to prey on over eighty-five species.   
Threats
Extensive and aggressive deforestation, persecution, human conflict, hunting for pelts, and hunting for paws and teeth for mythological reasons. “Those who excelled in hunting and warfare often adorned themselves with jaguar pelts, teeth, or claws and were regarded as possessing feline souls” (Saunders 1998).  Although hunting for pelts has declined dramatically over the last thirty years, demand is rising again in the markets, and claws are still seen as having the same mythical properties.
Status: Near Threatened
The jaguar (Panthera onca) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Near Threatened (likely to become endangered in the near future).  It is also listed on  CITES Appendix I.  The jaguar is fully protected at national level across most of its range, with hunting either prohibited or restricted.
Various groups are involved in  Jaguar Conservation.  Recovery programs are in place,  and there  is an active  Jaguar Species Survival Plan.  Yet the species is still declining!  

Related Articles
A LOOK AT CITES’ PROCEDURES AND EFFECTIVITY I
Brazil says Amazon deforestation rose 28% in a year
Amazon deforestation increased by one-third in past year
Red Yaguareté – Population Monitoring Program of Jaguars In Argentina
Seeking alternative livestock management…


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor – 50% of All Proceeds to the Wildlife Conservation Society


Mungai cover - wide

Deforestation is at the worst it has ever been.
More species than ever are disappearing from the planet
and the animals are crying out for our help.

50% of all sale proceeds of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor, from 13th December until 13th January, will be donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society – my Christmas gift to the animals.

The holidays are almost upon us – What better time to gift someone a copy!

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor offers the ideal way to spread awareness of the intentional devastation wreaked on the forest environments by unscrupulous members of society;  those propelled through life by callousness and greed. Those who are so impervious to the effects of deforestation on all who inhabit the earth, only the united strength of the global community can stop their activities.

New cover size 24.09.13

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is a children’s book best suited to ages 9 to 90. Told through the eyes of animals, it tells of conspiracies hatched to aid the wilful destruction of the rainforests, and the resulting unlikely friendships forged between the various species of the widespread animal kingdom. It’s a story filled with action, adventure, humour, deceit, friendship, tolerance and environmental awareness.

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor has received twenty two wonderful four and five star reviews.

amazon.com     $3.25
amazon.co.uk   £2.04
Paperback   $8.96

Here are some of the things readers are saying:

“Curzon’s “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” is worthy of being a classic. It is fable, novel, allegory — all in one. “Mungai” is written with intellectual depth: complicated themes and symbols abound in the story…” (Christine Corretti – USA)

“Great, great, great book! Excellent lesson, and almost a vicious-circle type ending, which I find to be uncommon in most books”  (The Halulkos)

“This unique book is a delightful read for all ages that could become a classic and be adapted to a school’s curriculum. The dialogues are witty and entertaining, and the characters are intriguing and well-developed. A provoking and engaging read” (Mina M)

“Amelia E. Curzon has done us all a huge favour, by shining a spotlight on, and enlightening us to, the damage done to our society by these unconscionable and despicable human beings. Her insight into this behaviour and relaying this message, through the depiction of animals is truly remarkable” (Jane Whiteoak – USA)

“What follows is an entertaining round of scheming, duplicity and jostling for position within the group whilst they get up to no good in the no go area of the jungle. A bit like people in politics really, with a similar underlying message” (Murphy Reviews – Zimbabwe)

“I didn’t see the ending coming, that was a surprise……..I think I’d read this again, like most of the endearing children’s classics – that are also made for adults to enjoy” (Mr. “Max” Reviews – USA)

“This ought to be a staple in family homes, schools, and libraries across the globe” (Paul- USA)

Two excerpts from Chapters Twenty-Eight and Six.

The first is where the good animals are in pursuit of one of the escaped villains.

The second is the first meeting between the animal villains and the ‘two-legs’.

Excerpt One
Taken from Chapter Twenty Eight – The Aftermath

Whilst the other apes were trying to swing after him at the same speed, Gerald had an unfortunate accident.

He collided with a rather large, and not very friendly beast that, like Mungai, was of dubious origin. The beast had been asleep in the branches at the time, and was non too pleased by this unwanted intrusion into his dreams. He reared up on his hind legs, delicately balancing himself on the thinnest of branches, and lunged for Gerald.

“He looks like a monkey-meat lover,” thought Gerald, but he was frozen to the spot and could only think of his imminent death, followed by a prestigious military funeral, he hoped, for his few remains.The unidentifiable creature grabbed Gerald by the feet, and swung him round and round above his head, and then hurled him skywards towards the canopy roof, where he became stuck between two branches. He was so far up, the others lost sight of him.

On his own, with no-one to help him, he thought immediately of his ‘military training’ and decided to bring in the ‘vacate the high location’ manoeuvre. This manoeuvre was something only to be used in emergency situations, which he quite rightly deemed this was. He did not have much time, so he started straight away tearing off branches and bits of other vegetation, and weaving them together securely. He kept doing this until he had a large piece, three times his own size. He took one corner in each claw, and let himself fall backwards, down from the top. It was a very crowded tree. The growth from top to bottom was extremely dense. It cannot be said he sailed down from above, more bounced than anything. He bounced and he bounced and he bounced. From one branch to the other…sideways, backwards and forwards. Hanging upside down, he could not see where he was going.  Much to his surprise, he found the jungle floor. It was not a soft landing.

Excerpt Two
Taken from Chapter Six – Mungai’s Furtive Arrangements

The next day Mungai took Goa on a journey. They left the jungle and moved into the forest, and kept going until they arrived at a huge over-ground burrow hidden amongst some trees.

“What ith thith?” asked Goa.

“This,” answered Mungai proudly. “Is a paper mill.”

“What doeth it do?” She asked again.

“It takes the logs, grinds them up, mixes them with water and turns them into pulp. It presses the pulp into sheets and they become paper for the two-legs to use.” Mungai seemed very well-informed. Goa couldn’t grasp it at all.

“Well, well, well,” came a voice from behind them. “Mungai! Loose again! I thought you was gone for good this time, mate.”

”Mungai turned round to greet the voice. Realising it was a two-leg, Goa shot underneath the building in fear.

“Hello, Joe,” said Mungai. “Thought I’d come and see how you’re doing.”

He noticed the pleasant smell of honey and exotic fruits as Mungai got closer to him. Joe liked honey. He was a small scruffy two-leg of indeterminate age. He spoke badly and slouched a lot. His clothes did not fit him properly, nor did he look very clean. Goa was not impressed, and wondered if Joe had inspired Mungai’s description of the two-leg he had pretended to see in the forest. She hissed again, but was ignored by both of them.

“Come inside out of the sun,” invited Joe.

He knew whatever Mungai had planned would probably be against the laws made by the two-legs, and most certainly dangerous to any other creatures involved. He also knew, whatever it was, he would profit well out of it as he had done so many times in the past.

amazon.com     $3.25        amazon.co.uk    £2.04       Paperback   $9.95

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor banner

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 89 – The Mountain Bongo


Bongo calf

“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
Pythagoras

With their soft eyes, astonishingly beautiful coats and those magnificent horns, these highly sociable forest antelopes are a stunning vision.  Bongos, in general, are fairly plentiful across west Africa.  But, the critically endangered sub-species, isaaci, is only found in the mountains of central Kenya.  As you would expect, deforestation and hunting (including so-called ‘trophy hunting‘) have played a major part in its decline.  The numbers kept in captivity, now outweigh the numbers left in the wild by almost seven to one.

Male bongo Mount KenyaThe mountain bongo may look a lot like its cousin, the western bongo, but, in fact, it is heavier, taller and more richly coloured.  Adult mountain bongos stand at over four feet at the shoulder, and can be as much as an astonishing ten and a half feet in length.  Males can weigh up to almost nine hundred pounds, and females, just over five hundred pounds.

Mountain bongos, or eastern bongos as they are sometimes called, have beautiful coats of deep-chestnut with vertical white stripes.  Their muzzles are black with a white band across the nose and under the eyes, and their legs are dark in colour with patches of white.  Further white markings occur on the chest.  Like the okapi, the disruptive colouration of their coats helps to camouflage them in the forest.

Bongo with hornsAnother notable feature of the bongo are the heavy, but elegant, spiral horns.  Both male and female sport these, with the female’s being slightly smaller and paler.  These horns can be used to break branches allowing their long prehensile tongues to strip the same with ease.

Unfortunately, these spectacular horns have been a contributing factor in their downfall.  It is always wonderful how nature equips different species with these various adaptations for their survival.  But, wonderful turns to tragic when man comes along and ends that chance of survival because he sees that which belongs to another as his, and his right to possess; to satisfy his unquenchable greed and lust for death.

Bongos are outgoing and non-territorial, but they are also shy and wary.  They live in mixed herds of up to fifty individuals, though smaller herds are more likely.  They forage mostly under cover of the dense forest, but can be tempted out into clearings and swamps if the pickings look good enough.  Although mostly nocturnal, they are occasionally active during the day.

Distressed bongos bleat and mothers have a special low mooing call for their calves. Otherwise their vocalisations are fairly limited.

The peak breeding season for bongo antelope occurs between October and January. Following a gestation period of nine and a half Baby bongo at Taronga Zoo 2012months, a single calf will be born.  Females give birth in dense undergrowth where they can hide their babies from predators.  The mother will leave the calf alone for the first week, returning only to let the calf suckle.  By the time it is two weeks old, it will be racing round and ready to join the nursery herd.  Bongo calves are fast developers and will have the first signs of horns at three to four months of age. They are weaned at six months and fully mature at two years.

Natural Habitat
Dense montane forests and bamboo thickets.
Where
The central Kenyan highlands – restricted to Aberdare’s Conservation Area, the Mau Forest and Mount Kenya National Park.
What they eat
Leaves, shrubs, pith and bark of fallen dead trees, grasses and fruits.
Threats
Habitat loss due to illegal logging and charcoal production, poaching with snares and dogs, and diseases such as rinderpest.  The mountain bongo  are poached for their pelts and horns, and bushmeat to feed the ever-growing population.  Natural predators include leopard and spotted hyena.  Pythons have been known to eat calves. Bongo, in general, are considered a prize target for big-game trophy hunters, which in the past has devastated local populations of mountain bongo. 

Status: Critically Endangered
The mountain bongo, or eastern bongo, (Tragelaphus eurycerus ssp. isaaci), is listed on the  IUCN Antelope Specialist Group  as Critically Endangered.  It is thought there are now no more than one hundred of the species left in the wild, possibly as few as seventy-five.  In 2012, six hundred and seventy-seven were recorded as kept in captivity around the globe.  All captive bongo stem from the wild population captured from the Aberdere Mountains area in the 1970s.

Eastern Bongo calves  at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy -“In 2000, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the USA (AZA) upgraded the bongo to a  Species Survival Plan  participant and in 2006 named the Bongo Restoration to Mount Kenya Project to its list of the Top Ten Wildlife Conservation Success Stories of the year.  However, in 2013, it seems, these successes have been negated with reports of possibly only 100 mountain bongos left in the wild due to logging and poaching.” (Wikipedia)  Although zoos are not the best option for wildlife, it seems, in this case,  they may well be the saving of the mountain bongo.  With so few left in the wild, the species might otherwise be lost to us.

Related Articles
Bongo Surveillance Project   A village is rewarded with solar power to say ‘thank you’ for hosting the mountain bongo.
UAE’s bid to save the Eastern Bongo from extinction
EASTERN BONGO (TRAGELAPHUS EURYCERUS ISAACI) CAPTIVE POPULATION AND CONSERVATION

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 88 – The Red Panda


Two young red pandas in a tree

Photographer: Aconcagua

“The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge;  for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future”
Marya Mannes

Native to the Himalayan foothills, and arguably one of the most heart-melting little bears on the planet, the red panda has seen a big rise in popularity lately, and ‘awwws’ and ‘ahhhs’ galore follow wherever it is seen. But, just like its namesake, the giant panda, man is robbing the red panda of its basic needs in the wild – food and shelter. Throughout most of the red pandas range, theRed panda sleeping in a tree by Aconcagua trees it nests in and the bamboo it eats have disappeared. With over ninety per cent of its diet made up of something which is now in very short supply, hunger now looms.

The red panda’s striking red fur has made it a much sought after clothing item in some parts of China and Myanmar. And, red panda fur hats are still very popular in Bhutan. The killing of red pandas is highly illegal across its range, but the poaching continues, often unchecked.

But… at least what is left of the population can sleep easy in their nests tonight – the International Fur Trade Federation doesn’t do red panda any more!! Lucky red pandas!! Red panda

To veer slightly off topic for a moment – anything else, of course, is fair game to these self-serving, greedy and ruthless fur traders, who somehow seem to be missing the point.
To quote from the International Fur Trade Federation website:  

“Wild fur is only taken from abundant species”
“Over 85% of fur sold today is farmed”
“The legitimate fur trade does not trade in endangered species”
These are not principles. These are hoodwinking statements attempting to justify their egregious activities.  Surprisingly, they have the full approval of the IUCN.

Advocating, and profiting from, the breeding of animals solely for the purpose of killing them for their coats, or snatching animals from the wild simply because there are more than enough to go round, and then wallowing in the ill-claimed  glory of  avoiding using endangered species, does not make this barbaric trade any more acceptable. It simply serves to illustrate  how wide a range of species are targeted,  and how there is such a total lack of any form of moral compass involved.

baby red panda sleeping in treeBut, back to the red panda itself.  Also known as the lesser panda or red cat-bear, these little bears are not much bigger than the average domestic cat.  They have rust-coloured fur on top with black legs and undersides, long bushy ringed-tails and cream-coloured markings on the face, and cream to white ears.  Their fur is thick and covers their entire bodies including the soles of their feet.  In winter they wrap their long, fluffy tails around themselves maintain heat.  They have a low metabolic rate to further ensure their survival in extreme temperatures.  A red panda can lose up to fifteen per cent of its body weight during the winter months.

Red pandas have semi-retractable claws and a thumb-like wrist projection for gripping bamboo. Their wrap-round tails also act as a balancing tool when moving through the trees.  And, sweetly, red pandas dip their paws into water to drink.

Red pandas spend most of their waking time looking for and eating bamboo.  They nibble away at it one leaf at a time.  They have flattened teeth and well-developed chewing muscles.  They are excellent tree climbers, and are most active during the day.  If called upon to defend itself, the red panda will stand upright on its hind legs and show its sharp, ready to strike claws.

Red Panda mother and baby huggingRed pandas are shy and solitary except when mating.  Females (sows or she-bears) birth once a year. They build nests in hollow tree trunks or small caves.  There is a gestation period of about one hundred and thirty-five days followed by the birth of one to four cubs.  Baby red pandas weigh an average of one hundred and ten grams when born.  They have fluffy cream and grey fur and their eyes and ears tightly closed.  They remain in their protective nests for roughly ninety days.  Only their mothers care for them.  Male red pandas (boars or he-bears) take little or no interest in the babies.  At six months old, the babies are weaned from their mother. Red panda friends Young red pandas grow relatively slowly, reaching adult size after one year.  They reach full maturity at eighteen months.  This pattern of growth results in an inability to recover efficiently from the devastating declines in population.  There is also a fairly high infant mortality rate.

Contrary to popular belief, the red panda is not closely related to the giant panda.  They are very distant cousins, sharing only the panda name and a penchant for bamboo.  Nor is the red panda related to the raccoon, with which it shares a ringed tail. Red pandas are considered members of their own unique family—the Ailuridae

The red panda is the state animal of the Indian state of Sikkim.

Natural Habitat
Subtropical and temperate bamboo forests at sites above four thousand feet.
Where
Bhutan, China, Myanmar, India and Nepal.
What they eat
Almost all of their diet consists of bamboo shoots and leaves, but, they will also eat fruit, grasses, acorns, roots, bird eggs and some insects.
Threats
Habitat destruction is the greatest threat across the red panda’s range.  In India, this threat is particularly significant.  Loss of habitat has been caused by the medicinal plant trade, grazing, logging, livestock competition and agricultural cropping. In Nepal ,in the Dhorpatan Hunting reserve (the only area in Nepal where licensed hunting is allowed) deforestation has occurred, red pandas are caught using snares, overgrazing of domestic cattle has impacted ringal bamboo growth, and herders and their dogs are damaging the population further. In China and Myanmar, the threat of poaching looms large. Pelts are commonly found in local markets.  In Bhutan, the pelts of the red panda are made into caps and hats.
Status: Endangered
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (high risk of endangerment in the wild). The red panda is also listed under CITES Appendix 1  and Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life Protection Act 1972.   The exact numbers of red pandas left in the wild are not known, but, are said to be declining rapidly. Red pandas have been kept and bred successfully in captivity across the world. Management programs have been created in North America, Japan, Europe, Australia, and China.


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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