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.
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.
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.

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 45 – The Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey

Peruvian Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey

Photo: Stephen D. Nash – Conservation International

This gorgeous little woolly monkey is so critically endangered, it has been removed from the World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012–2014, to make way for others, as there is very little hope left for it as a species.  This situation is deeply sad, and, yet again, man has a great deal to answer for.

The species was first described in 1812 by Alexander von Humboldt.  Humboldt never actually saw a live specimen.  His findings were based solely on some flat, trimmed skins he had found ten years earlier (the skins were being used as saddle covers by Peruvian muleteers at the time).  Apart from a few isolated sightings, nothing much else was seen of the monkey over the next century;  so it was thought to have become extinct.  Then, in 1974, it was rediscovered by a team of WWF funded scientists.  One was found being kept as a pet.  Scientists rejoiced and great media attention followed.

The Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey has a long, thick, woolly pelage  – perfect for cold winters in the high Andes.  Its coat is a rich, dark mahogany colour with a yellow band on the underside of the prehensile tail  (hence its name).  Their faces are hairless save a pale patch of fur on the muzzle.  Their powerful, prehensile tails are used as a fifth limb when swinging through the trees.  When stationary, their whole body can be supported by the tail whilst hanging upside down from the branches.  The inside of the tip of the tail is hairless for maximum grip.

Typically, these arboreal and diurnal primates live high in the forest canopy, and can leap distances of up to fifteen metres at a time to get there.  They live in mixed groups of five to eighteen and are thought to be polygamous.  Each group contains one dominant male. Females will mate with any male in the group.  If successful, gestation will last two hundred and twenty-three days.  Birth rates are low amongst the species, and babies are only born every two to three years.  Normally, only a single infant will be produced.

Unfortunately, yellow-tailed woolly monkeys are naturally curious and trusting – something which is not helping their cause at all.  They are attracted to the sound of gunfire.  If one of them is shot, the others stay looking on, like sitting ducks, increasing their vulnerability.  Mothers are shot and their infants prized away from their bodies and sold as pets.  The soft, silky, warm coat of the adult is still highly sought after, and the meat still prized.  Other parts are valued as trophies.  There is profit in every piece of the monkey.

Perhaps it’s time for these beautiful primates to review this passive attitude and head straight back up into the highest part of the canopy whenever they see a human being approaching.

Montane cloud forests; on steep gorges and ravines up to two to three thousand feet above sea level.
The Peruvian Andes
What they eat
As with all Atelids,  the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey is a frugivore, but will also feast on leaves, flowers (including buds, roots and stems) and insects.
Prior to the 1970s, the habitat of the Peruvian woolly monkey was inaccessible; protecting it from harm.  Since then, new roads have been built causing habitat fragmentation by way of commercial logging, land clearance for cattle farming and deforestation.  Subsistence hunting is still a threat to the species, within its restricted range.  Naturally low population densities along with slow development, a low reproductive rate, and a highly restricted and fragmented habitat, are hindering increase in numbers.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) is listed the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  Due to the plight of this species worsening, it has been removed from the The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012–2014, in order to highlight other species whose situation is also very bleak.
Russ Mittermeier, the primatologist heading Conservation International,  and the person responsible for the rediscovery of the species in 1974,  predicts it may not survive more than another two decades.
“I’m not entirely convinced that we can pull these guys back from the brink based on 250+ individuals alone, but the closer we get to 500, the better the chances are.”

“The Animals of the planet are in desperate peril. Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen.”
Alice Walker

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

Andean cat

Source: The Andean Cat Alliance

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.

Rocky, arid and semi-arid, and sparsely vegetated zones of the high Andes above the tree-line.
The Andes mountains, through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
What they eat
Mountain viscachas and mountain chinchillas, when they can get them.
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

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 25 – The Caquetá Tití Monkey

Caquetá Tití Monkey

Photograph by Thomas Defler | National Geographic.

A type of titi monkey was first spotted in 1960s, but political unrest pervaded in the southern Caquetá Province hampering any further attempts at exploration. It was not until 2008, following an expedition led by Thomas Defler [1], that the existence of the new species was confirmed – a bearded monkey, now known as the Caquetá titi – in the remote Amazon. It was promptly described.

These mysterious monkeys purr like domestic cats, and, oddly enough, are more or less the same size. They are stocky and strong, with powerful hind legs which allow them to leap incredible distances through the trees. Their coats are brown on top and reddish-chestnut underneath. They also sport a matching reddish-chestnut beard with a contrasting long, thick, pale-coloured tail. In my opinion – and, it is only my opinion – facially, they are not the prettiest of primates; but when it comes to friendship, love and care, they are phenomenally sweet.

As is typical of the titi monkeys, they mate for life. They have been observed atop of branches holding hands with their tails romantically intertwined. And, of course, they lovingly groom each other. They produce one baby a year, and although the mothers are responsible for nursing, the fathers tend to do all the other work. Clearly, a few lessons to be learned here!  Once the babies have been weaned, they will continue to stay within the family group until their second year, when they will go their own way in search of a mate. No member of the group is ever forced out and in times of danger they all stick together.

[1]Thomas Defler is a primatologist at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá

Dense tropical  low forests with broadleaved trees and shrubs,  surrounded by low swampy pastureland.
Southern Caquetá,  Colombia  (close to the borders of Peru and Ecuador).
What they eat
Principally;  fruit,  flowers,  leaves,  insects and small vertebrates
Agriculture is fragmenting their habitat at an alarming rate and confining them to certain areas by the use of barbed wire and grazed savannah.  This makes it very difficult,  and dangerous,   for them to move to new feeding grounds.  Often the land is used for cattle farming and drug cultivation.  What is left is degraded,  and the Caquetá titi  are left there to survive in small isolated groups.  This is an ongoing situation.  They are also,  sadly,  hunted for food.
Status:  Critically Endangered
The region is known for its guerilla activity,  making it sometimes difficult for conservationists to enter and observe,  so numbers have been difficult to ascertain.  It is believed that less than 250 Caquetá titi  still exist and that the species is now on the verge of extinction.   It is currently classified as Critically Endangered on the  IUCN Red List  because of  “a suspected population decline”.

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

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