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. 51 – The Hyacinth Macaw


Ringed hyacinth macaw on branch

Photographer: Douglas Janson 2008

Description
The largest of all the macaws, the ‘hyacinth’ is highly sought after by the illegal wild bird trade. Live birds can change hands for as much as $12,000. Headdresses, made from feathers, can fetch up to $2,650 on the open market, and loose feathers are freely available  from around $25 a lot.

Between the demands for pets, hunting for food and needless ornamentation, the hyacinth macaw and its beautiful, vibrant, glossy, cobalt-blue feathers are being dragged towards extinction.  There could not be a better time to enforce and educate, before we say goodbye to yet another much needed species.

Hyacinth macaws are usually found in pairs or in small groups of up to ten birds.  They are intelligent, affectionate, highly sociable and incredibly vociferous.  They are mostly active in the morning and in late afternoon.

They are large birds, growing up to forty inches in length with a wing span of over sixty inches.  They weigh in at about three and a half pounds.  The glossy feathers are a striking shade of blue.   They have bright yellow rings around the eyes and a visible stripe, of equally bright yellow skin, coming down either side from the lower part of the beak. They are, incidentally, the largest flying parrot species in the world.

The hyacinth’s beak is huge and powerful.  Hooked and black, it is designed to break open extremely hard shells.  It is also utilised as a third foot, for rasping and scaling branches. The toes are zygodactylous (meaning there are two in front and two behind).  The combination of these two attributes makes them excellent climbers.

Both sexes look remarkably alike, save the female tends to be slightly smaller.  They are monogamous and mate for life.

When the mating season comes round  (there seems to be a great many conflicting opinions as to the dates of this – so I will not speculate here),  nests are made in tree hollows and cliff faces; normally between four and fourteen metres above ground level.

Usually, two eggs are laid, but, historically, only one ever fledges.  Incubation lasts up to twenty-eight days.  Most of the mother’s time will be spent with her eggs whilst her mate undertakes the duty of feeding her.  Once hatched, the youngsters will stay with their parents for a further six months.  They will not be mature enough to breed themselves until they reach seven years of age.

Habitat
Areas abundant in nut-bearing trees and shrubs.  Seasonal floodplain forests, tropical forests and adjacent savannah, deciduous woodland, palm groves, palm savannah and palm swamps.
Where
South America: southern Brazil, eastern Bolivia and north-eastern Paraguay.
What they eat
Nuts, fruit and vegetation. (They are especially fond of palm nuts) The hard acuri palm nut is eaten, but only after it has passed through the digestive system of cattle.
Threats
Massive illegal wild bird trade and local hunting. Brazil’s Native Indian Kayapo tribe hunt them for food and feathers. There is also an online market for genuine  headdresses of the Kayapo tribe ($2,450 USD is the price on one of those I found) – no surprises there!  As with most endangered species, they have suffered loss of habitat.  In their case, due to hydroelectric dams, cattle-ranching and agriculture. The toco toucan is known to prey upon the eggs of the hyacinth macaw, taking more than half the total eggs predated. Other known natural predators are skunks, coatis and crows.
Status: Endangered
The hyacinth macaw  (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)  is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. It is also listed on CITES Appendix I. Only six thousand or so hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) are known to still exist in the wild. The hyacinth macaw is protected by law in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, and has been since the 1960s and 1970s. However, the illegal trade continues.  The laws are not properly enforced and the profit margins are high.  In the 1980s, at least ten thousand birds were thought to have been taken from the wild.

Related links
PACIFIC GUARDIANS – Niue launches coins on endangered animal species

 

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty”
Albert Einstein