Category Archives: Mammals

Christmas Camel (Dromedary)


Yes it does seem like an odd title for a post – “hot” and “dry” and “sandy” are words that tend to come to [my] mind when thinking of camels; whereas “cold” and “frosty” and “snowy” are words that tend to come to [my] mind when thinking about Christmas… however there is logic!

Think of the school nativity play you played a role in (no matter how small) as a child – no room at the inn, Mary and Joseph in the stable, the birth of baby Jesus, and of course the visitors: the shepherds and their sheep, and the three wise men who rode in on their camels!

As Jesus was born in Bethlehem (a town south of Jerusalem), and lived in Nazareth (a city in north Jerusalem) – the camels the wise men rode in on were likely have been dromedary camels as they came from the East (and it took them about two years to get there, so they wouldn’t have actually visited Jesus in the stable).

Camels are even-toed insulated, with a hump or humps. Each hump is a mound of fat – stored up so that the animal does can go travel great distance without stopping to refuel! When the store has been used up the hump(s) will flop and become limp, until the animal has refuelled; the hump(s) will then return to their upright position

The dromedary or Arabian camel (scientifice name: Camelus dromedarius) is the one-humped camel; the smallest of the three remaining camel species. This species is found in the Middle-East and the Horn of Africa; likely the species the wise men travelled on. (The other camel species being the Bactrian.)

Standing between 1.7-2.0m tall and weighing 300-600kg the dromedary has a diet consisting of a range of desert vegetation; including thorny plants, dwarf shrubs, herbs, desert grasses, vines, and trees. They will graze for 8-12 hours each day.

A male camel is known as “bull”, a female is a “cow”, and the young as “a calf” or “calves”. After a 12-15 month gestation period the female will give birth in solitude, usually to a single calf, however on occasion may give birth to twins. The mother will then care for the young for up to two years.

Unfortunately, the dromedary has not naturally existed in the wild for a long time; thought to be around 2000 years. However there are feral camels of this species found, particularly in Australia (where they were introduced around 1840). But with breeding programmes around the world in animal collections, this species is still strong in number [for the time being].


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Rare Species: Vaquita


The Vaquita is the rarest marine mammal in the world; a little porpoise, that wasn’t discovered until 1958. Now, almost 60 years on and they are on the brink of extinction. They are often caught in nets in marine protected areas, within Mexico’s Gulf of California, and drown as a result. Sadly, more than half of the population has been lost in the last three years.

The Vaquita is pale grey along its’ sides, dark grey on the dorsal surface (on top), and light grey/ white ventral surface (along the bottom). They have dark rings around the eyes and lips, and a dark thin line from the lips to the pectoral (front, side) fins. Newborns are darker in colour, with pale grey along the dorsal surface and head.

Since the freshwater River Dolphin species, the Baiji, went extinct in 2006 the Vaquita has taken the title of the world’s most endangered cetacean. As of 2016, there is suspected to be less than 30 left in the wild; a drastic drop in numbers since 1997 when there were approximately 600 in the wild.

The poaching of the endangered Totoaba fish, for its’ swim bladder – a Chinese delicacy, using gill-nets (fixed fishing nets) is the main cause of the Vaquita’s declining numbers. Vaquita’s get caught in gill-nets, and drown, as they cannot get free to get to the surface for air.

Gill-nets, though usually put in place for a single species, do not discriminate – many different species get caught, and often die. Whales, dolphins and porpoises all get trapped – some get away with injuries, whilst most die.

Dr. Anna Hall, of the Porpoise Conservation Society, said, There is nothing else we need to worry about other than gill-nets. If we remove the gill-nets, we will likely save the Vaquita.”


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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International Rabbit Day: 24 September 2017


Happy International Rabbit Day

Initially classified as Rodents but, in the early 20th Century, re-classified as Lagomorphs; rabbits in the wild exist on every continent except Asia and Antarctica, and domestically world-wide.

A male rabbit is known as a Buck and a female is known as a Doe. Baby rabbits are often mistakenly thought to be known as Bunnies, but a young rabbit is actually known as a Kit or a Kitten.

For more information about rabbits, check out another of my posts, Bunny Basics – http://alisanswers.com/index.php/2014/03/28/bunny-basics/ 

International Day of the Seal (22.03.17)


International Day of the Seal is a day to raise awareness of the cruel practise of seal hunting – it was declared a universal day by congress in 1982.

This day has, however, become an international day to recognise the plight of seals worldwide – not just those endangered from hunting, but those endangered by other causes too.

Harp seals are hunted in Canada in the largest marine mammal hunt in the world! This hunt is supposed to be of adult seals only (once all the white fluff is gone); however this is, unfortunately, not the reality – too often seal pups are killed, for their fluffy white pelt. This is a sport. There is no necessity for this brutality – there is a ban on selling the pelts, the seals are not hunted for meat, it is not a cull to control population… Around the world, many other seal species are also hunted for sport.

Other issue many seal species face include being hunted for meat/ blubber, being caught in fishing nets, pollution, destruction of habitat, and lack of food (often due to human greed).

In my opinion; we need to step up and start caring for animals – we are responsible for what we do to our planet, and the species we share it with. More and more species are becoming endangered and extinct; we need to change attitudes and protect animals.


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Rare Species: Ili Pika


For over two decades this little lagomorph was winning at the “hide” part of the game “hide and seek”! Until it was finally spotted again in 2014, after being thought to be [practically] extinct.

The Ili Pika (scientific name: Ochotona iliensis) is an eight-inch long rabbit and hare relative, and is one of the world’s most endangered animals. The census carried out in 2014 showed that less than 1,000 individuals of this tiny animal is believed to be left in the wild. That more endangered than the Giant Panda. Unfortunately, little more is known about this species – thought to be diurnal with some nocturnal activity.

First discovered by Li Weidong in 1983, this man has watched as the species he discovered has declined in number over the years, becoming endangered – with no one working to protect this species, or their habitat, their numbers may well keep decreasing. It was named after where Li first spotted the Pika, on the far west side of China’s Xinjiang province; the Ili Prefecture. They live in holes in the rocks, high up in the mountains – at heights of between 2,800-4,100 metres.

The cause of the reduction in the habitat of this little furry creature is unknown; however contributing factors may include the increasing population of people moving further into the habitat of the Pika, due to climate change – the reduction of snow at lower altitudes,  and causing a reduction in grazing areas. Whatever the cause, there is no conservation system in place currently; however the rediscovery of this species has boosted them into the media since 2014, raising awareness.

 


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Rare Species: Hirola


The hirola (Beatragus hunteri) is also known as “Hunter’s Antelope” or “Hunter’s Hartebeest”,  and even “four-eyed antelope”.

The hirola is the only surviving species of the  Beatragus genus; a genus of antelope which there used to contain  many different species. If the hirola becomes extinct, it would mean not only the loss of a species, but also of the entire Beatragus genus of antelope. Due to this, the hirola is often referred to as a ‘living fossil’.

The species is so rare, that it is classed as critically endangered on the Endangered Species List. The next step down, is extinct in the wild and after that it’s completely extinct.

The hirola is a medium sized antelope, weighing (approximately) between 68-115 kg. They are a sandy brown colour, with a paler underside. The species has well developed horns in both genders; which are tall and ridged.  As hirola get older their  horns accumulate more ridges, and their coat darkens to a slate grey. The hirola have what’s referred to a white ‘spectacles’ – white rings around the eyes , joined by a line across the head. The white facial markings also surround scent glands under the eyes, which is why the hirola is often called the “four-eyed antelope”.

Adult hirola

Lifespan in the wild is unknown, however the average captive lifespan is ten years. The hirola is now thought to be restricted in distribution to the south-eastern coast of Kenya, south of the Somalian border.

It is estimated that the population size is between 600 and 2,000 individuals in the wild; however the actual number is thought to be closer to 600.
The main threats to the survival of the hirola today include disease, poaching, predation, competition with domestic livestock, habitat loss,  and drought. The species has been legally protected from hunting in Kenya since 1971 and in Somalia since 1977; unfortunately the enforcement of this law is poor and poaching is still a large threat.
In my opinion, we as a species (humans) need to protect what animals that still survive on the earth, before following generations are left with none. The number of animal species on the planet has declined majorly over generations; largely due to our selfishness.

All images are open source, Google images, or my own.


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Want To Know More? Polar Bear


During this (supposedly) snowy season, I thought I’d do a post in relation to an animal that deals with frosty  conditions a lot chillier than we do! So here is some information you may not have known… about Polar bears!

Scientific name, Ursus maritimus, translates to ‘sea bear’. Polar bears are the world’s largest land-based carnivores; however most of their lives are spent around ice and (in) water. They’re at particular risk from their Arctic, icy habitat melting; without the ice there is nowhere for the bears.

Polar bears are listed as Threatened on the endangered species list; with a population of 22,000-31,000 in the wild.

Polar Bear

Polar bears live in five places across the world: Alaska (USA), Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. Polar bears do not live in Antarctica, but Penguins do. Have you ever heard the joke: (Q) Why don’t Polar Bears eat penguins? (A) Because they can’t get the wrapper off (referring to the chocolate biscuit)! – Well know you know the real reason; they live nowhere near each other!

Adult Polar bears can measure over 6ft in length, and weigh over 800lbs. They are usually between 1.8-2m in height, with females being larger. The large size and weight is what makes this species the largest living carnivores on land! They live on average, approximately, 18 years – however in captivity have been known to live 30+ years.

These bears have thick, water resistant, insulating, white fur – however their skin underneath is black. The black skin helps to absorb and retain heat, to keep the animal warm. They have small ears and tail, and large, powerful paws equipped with razor-sharp claws. They have webbing in between their toes, to help them swim. Polare bears are amazing swimmers, and have even been spotted 100km away from shore!

Their nose has an incredible sense of smell, and these animals can smell prey from 15km away – and through the ice! Their prey; mainly seals. Polar bears have been known to resort to cannibalism if desperate enough.

Polar bears do not hibernate; however females will live in a den, burrowed under the snow, to gestate and give birth. During this time, the female will live off her fat reserves, and will not emerge again until the cubs are old enough. Polar bears typically give birth to two cubs; although they can have anywhere from one-three cubs at a time. Cubs stay with their mother for two years, learning from her, before venturing out on their own.

Young, Adult Polar Bear

All images are open source, Google images.


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National Shamu Day – 26 September 2016


The performing Orca’s at Sea World are all given the stage name Shamu. The first Shamu was a female Orca (Killer Whale) captured in October, 1965; appearing in the San Diego Sea World. She died in August, 1971 – after a mere 6 years in captivity. Captured by and for Griffin’s Seattle Public Aquarium, she was named Shamu and was to live with three other Orca’s captured from the wild. However, she didn’t get on with the other Orca’s and, as such, was sold to Sea World in December, 1965.

"Shamu" - open source image
“Shamu” – open source image

Orca’s are the largest species of dolphin (despite being known as Killer Whale’s). Like all dolphins, Orca’s form strong bonds within their pod (group of Orca’s), which is usually made up of family members. They become distressed when separated as they are very social.

I feel that the point of posting this today is not to celebrate the Shamu show, or the use of Orca’s for entertainment by Sea World and other companies (over the years); but rather to raise awareness of the conditions this wild species is subjected to due to human selfishness.

We (humans) have taken this wild mammal out of the sea, away from family/ pod, and destroyed any hope of a normal life for the animal – and we have done this over and over again.  We have then bred captive Orca’s; resulting in still-born or very short-lived calves for the first several attempts. All of this was done at the expense of the species, with no consideration for them or the family/ pod left behind; for our own selfish gain. And we’re still doing it; still exploiting this wild species for our own benefit. I believe this needs to stop.

Shamu: Tilikum - open source image
“Shamu” – open source image

Spare a thought today for these poor animals in less than satisfactory, captive conditions; unable to perform natural behaviour and suffering poor health (such as bent dorsal fin) due to these conditions – as this is what they are experiencing right now as you read this. Also spare a thought for the pods which lost a member when humans took Orca’s from the wild originally; Orca’s (as with other dolphins) have been know to grieve for the loss or separation of group/ family members.

Aside from the Orca’s themselves; think of the number of unnecessary injuries and deaths of trainers and other people caused by these wild animals in captivity, and the families that suffered the loss.

These majestic creatures belong in the ocean; not a tiny pool doing tricks.

Wild Orca Pod - open source image
Wild Orca Pod – open source image

To see my previous Shamu post from earlier in the year, which specifically focuses on the Orca named Tilikum (one of the Shamu Orca’s at Sea World), please click here .

Shamu: Tilikum


I have started a series of posts covering the basics of an A-Z of cat breeds; however, I am taking time out to write this post to cover quite a sad and angering (in my opinion) topic.

Please click on the turquoise words/ phrases for links to videos, images and definitions. The links are external sources, and not my own material. 

You may have seen various posts recently reporting that one of the Orca’s that bears the show name Shamu and performs at SeaWorld, has gotten ill recently and it’s looking like it’s close to the end for him. Tilikum is one of several Orca’s that perform as Shamu; he is the same Shamu that has killed several people, including several of his trainers.

If you have seen the film documentary Blackfish then you will know a lot of what this post is saying; if not, I would highly recommend it – for your own education if nothing more – but be prepared to be moved (grab the tissues if you are prone to tears when watching emotional films).

Tilikum was separated from his pod (group of Orca’s) and from his mother at two years of age, by some men in boats. He was taken from the wild, the water, his mother, his pod; in November of 1983 off the coast of Iceland. Orca’s are the largest species of dolphin (despite being known as Killer Whale’s), and like all dolphins are very familial – forming strong bonds within the pod, which is usually made up of family members. They get distressed when separated and are very social. Tilikum was robbed of this at two years old; not to mention the distress this will have caused his mother and the rest of his pod.

He was housed in a small pool in an Icelandic zoo for close to one year, awaiting a transfer to a marine park. This pool was so small that poor Tilikum could only float at the surface and swim in circles. Orca’s migrate vast distances throughout their lives, and travel hundreds of miles daily – having the whole ocean to explore! At only two years old Tilikum was robbed of not just his pod and socialisation; but also his space, freedom, and ability to perform natural behaviours.

Finally, Tilikum was transferred to a 35 ft deep (50 x 100 ft) pool at Sealand of the Pacific Park, Canada. He spent his time in this time pool, as an attraction in the Park. Sealand ‘trained’ Tilikum by withholding food (negative, punishment technique), and was often bullied by two adult female Orca’s also in captivity at Sealand – housed with Tilikum (who was bottom of the social hierarchy). Due to the aggressive behaviour from the older females, Tilikum was moved into the smaller, medical pool for his own safety.

In 1991 came the first death. Tilikum, along with the two females, drowned a part-time Sealand trainer. Twenty-one year old, Keltie Byrne, was a marine biology student. She slipped into the pool and the animals never let her leave. Dragging her away from the life-ring thrown to her, and keeping her submerged. Apparently, unbeknown to the staff, both females were pregnant at the time. The behaviour was protective in their conditions, and (as with other pregnant mammals) their hormones will have been changing with the pregnancies. The stress of captivity had led to the first human death by Tilikum. Never-the-less this was a great tragedy. Sealand closed shortly after and put Tilikum up for sale.
Nothing was done about Tilikum or his behaviour.

In 1992 Tilikum was purchased by, and transferred to SeaWorld. SeaWorld had purchased the largest, captive bull Orca for their breeding programme. Over 50% of the world’s captive Orca’s are fathered by Tilikum.

In the years that followed, at SeaWorld, Tilikum developed became more aggressive and there were more aggressive incidents involving people. He developed stereotypical behaviours in captivity, including gnawing the concrete sides and metal gates of his enclosure – wearing his teeth down.

In 1999 there was another death; Daniel P. Dukes. He had broken in to SeaWorld, eluded security, and ended up in Tilikums’ pool. Reports said that he drowned in the pool; however the body, when recovered and examined, was covered in teeth marks and showed that Daniel had sustained injuries from Tilikum (including missing some body parts). There was significant damage that it was not determined if he had drowned, and Tilikum had attacked the body afterwards; or if Tilikum had killed him. No drugs or alcohol were reported in Daniel’s system by the coroner. He is commonly considered the second death caused by Tilikum. Daniel P. Dukes was found in the morning, on the back of Tilikum, as he swam around his pool at the surface. Unfortunately, the true cause of his death is still unknown – or at least, still not public knowledge.
Nothing was done about Tilikum or his behaviour.

As if this wasn’t enough, in 2010  Dawn Brancheau was pulled, by Tilikum, either by her pony-tail or arm – there is discrepancy between eyewitness accounts – leading to investigations into the history of other Orca attacks – and dragged her into the pool. Tilikum proceeded to ‘play’ with her, throwing and thrashing her around, until she died. Dawn suffered many injuries from Tilikum, before he killed her. In August 2010, SeaWorld was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for three safety violations, two directly related to Dawn’s death.
Tilikum was isolated in a tiny pool for a year, before being returned to performing in 2011.

Now, March 2016, poor Tilikum is fighting a bacterial lung infection. He is dying from this disease. This animal has suffered at the hand of mankind since age two, he is now thirty-five years old. The collapsed dorsal fin is extremely rare in wild Orca’s; it is a sign of stress, poor health and nutrition. His aggression went ignored, despite the deaths he was linked to. An aggressive dog will be neutered, a dog that bites will be euthanised – Tilikum was aggressive due to human intervention in his life, and his captivity. Tilikum was bought for breeding – and (whether possible or not) would not be neutered to reduce aggression as he then could not be used in SeaWrold’s breeding programme. He was not released back into the wild; after too long in captivity, he may not have survived if he was released back. He was not euthanised after causing the deaths of multiple people. He was not provided with a private, captive, suitable environment – away from tourists. He was given no help, no alternative.

He is a stunning, graceful animal who has suffered a cruel life. His aggression has not been addressed, save for the poor decision of isolating this social animal for a whole year, before bringing him back into performing.

It is looking like a tragic end to a tragic life, for Tilikum.

Shamu: Tilikum - open source image
Shamu: Tilikum – open source image