Mammals

Patagonian mara, Patagonian hare Patagonian cavy

Dolichotis patagonum

Patagonian mara, Patagonian hare Patagonian cavy

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Family: Caviidae

Genus: Dolichotis

Species: Dolichotis patagonum

Description

The Patagonian mara is one of largest rodents in the world. This animal has distinctive long ears and long limbs. Front limbs are shorter, with four sharp claws that help the mara to dig burrows. The hind limbs are brown have 3 toes. Patagonian cavy’s rear limbs are brown with white undersides and hindquarters are marked with a white patch. The mara has a head. This animal has big black eyes with long, thick eyelashes. The body length is 69–75 cm. The tail is short and hairless with the length of 4-5 cm. It weighs 8-16 kilograms. The fur is thick and soft.

Behavior

The mara usually tends to live in family units where parents and their offspring live together. Pairs of mara stay together and have remained faithful to each other for life. Patagonian maras are diurnal. In one group might be 10-15 animals; they prefer to feed together during the day, while at night they hide in temporary separate hiding places. In the case of danger mara can warn to others to escape to various parties to avoid predators.

Habitat

The species is endemic to Central and Southern region of Argentina. The Maras are found in open grasslands, shrubland steppes and areas with barren soils.

Diet

This species is herbivore. The main part of diet constitutes the grass, and the bark, fallen leaves, fruits, berries. The main part of the liquid gets along with the food, and therefore this rodent can withstand long periods without water.

Reproduction

Dolichotis patagonum is monogamous species. Mating occurs from August through to January. During the birthing period, females will dig a communal burrow, which will become home to many offspring from different adult pairs. Following gestation of 90 to 100 days, the female will give birth to between one and three young, which are born well developed and with their eyes open. Males spend the majority of their time watching for predators. Mara lives up to 10 to 15 years.

Conservation Status

The Patagonian mara is listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Near Threatened species.

Siberian ibex

Capra sibirica

Siberian ibex

Scientific classification: 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Capra
Species: Capra sibirica 

Description

Body length of a mature male Siberian ibex can range from 130 to 165 cm, with a female maximum length averaging slightly longer than 135 cm. Height at the withers is 80 to 100 cm in males. Chest circumference ranges from 92 to 125 cm in males, and 74 to 89 cm in females. Ear and tail lengths are similar between sexes, with ear length from 14 to 16 cm and tail length from 10 to 18 cm. Mass is 80 to 100 kg in males and 30 to 40 kg in females.The coat colouration varies widely across this ibex’s range. The general colour of the pelage is a light tan, with the undersides lighter. In winter, mature males become much darker, with varying patches of white on the neck and back.
Both sexes have a dark beard beneath the chin, although it is much less pronounced in females.
Both sexes carry horns, and while in females they are small and slightly arched towards the rear, in males they grow into massive arcs which curl over the back and may even loop back on themselves. A male’s horns also have several large knobs on their frontal surface.

Range and Habitat

Most Siberian ibexes are seen in central and northern Asia, Afghanistan, western and northern China, north-western India, south-eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, eastern Uzbekistan, Mongolia, northern Pakistan, and south-central Russia.

C. sibirica inhabits rocky mountain zones, especially those containing steep slopes. The elevation inhabited by C. sibirica can range greatly due to seasonal weather conditions. There is also a large elevation difference between the mountain ranges they occupy. They inhabit mountain ranges from 500 m to over 5000 m above sea level.


Behavior

Siberian ibexes are generally found in herds. Herd sizes are often directly related to population size. The sex ratio of herds differs throughout the year. Females, yearlings, and young males commonly make up herds. Adult males can be found in small herds together. Adult males have also been known to live in solitude when not in rut. Larger herds, consisting of up to 40 individuals, can contain animals of all different ages and both sexes.

Diet

Its diet consists of alpine grasses and herbs, and it feeds in early morning and evenings.

Reproduction

Ibex live in small groups that vary considerably in size, sometimes forming herds of over 100 animals, but more typically averaging 6-30 animals, depending on the region. Diurnal, they spend the day in alternating periods of activity and rest.
Females gestate for 170-180 days and usually give birth to one, sometimes two, kids in the spring. The animals reach sexual maturity at 24 months for females and 18 months for males, although usually only older males mate. Siberian ibex can live up to 16-17 years.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as least concern.

Armenian Mouflon

Ovis orientalis gmelini

Armenian Mouflon

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Caprinae

Genus: Ovis

Species: Gmelini

Binomial name: Ovis ammon gmelini

Description 

Mouflon have red-brown, short-haired coats with dark back-stripes and light-colored saddle patches. The males are horned; some females are horned while others are polled. The horns of mature rams are curved in almost one full revolution (up to 85 cm). Mouflon have shoulder heights of about 0.9 meters and body weights of 50 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).

Range and Habitat

The range encompasses the Urts Ridge, Vayots Dzor Ridge, Bagrushat and Zangezur ridges.

Arid mountain grasslands with juniter and almond scrublands, subalpine and alpine meadows. Prefer open spaces alternating with rocky outcrops and canyons at 1000-3000 m above sea level. In Armenia mouflons reside constantly, don’t move away in winter and in the hot season are replenished by males immigrating from Nakhichevan.

Behavior

The senses are well developed as the sheep are dependent on early detection of, and flight from, approaching predators, particularly leopard, wolf and jackal. Mouflon have an average life span of between eight and ten years for males and ten to twelve years for females.

Diet

Mouflon tend to feed early in the morning and in the evening, resting during the day under an overhanging bush or rock, where they are well hidden. Mouflon are gregarious and form non-territorial herds grazing on grasses, unless food is scarce when they will turn to browsing leaves and fruits.

Reproduction

The rutting season lasts from late November to early December. Females usually give birth to a single lamb after a gestation period of five to six months. They are born in mid-May to early June. They reach sexual maturity at about two to three years.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the Armenian Red Book.

Fallow Deer

Dama dama

Fallow Deer

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Cervidae

Subfamily: Cervinae

Genus: Dama

Species: D. dama

Description 

The body mass of free-ranging adult males is from 46 to 80 kg with an average of 67 kg, and the mass of adult females is from 30 to 50 kg with an average of 44 kg. The head and body length is 1.3 to 1.75 meters, tail length is 150 to 230 mm, and the shoulder height of males is generally 0.9 to 1.0 meters with the females slightly smaller. The forelegs of Dama dama are usually shorter than the hind legs; as a result, the line of the back is elevated posteriorly. Palmate, multi-point antlers, usually found only in males, also distinguish Dama dama from all other deer. They range in length from 50 to 70 cm. The antlers are usually shed annually in April and the new ones are regrown and free of velvet by August, until the fifth or sixth year. Females are generally without antlers. Dama dama have the most variable pelage coloration (white, menil, common, and black) of any species of deer. Typically, the pelage is darker on the dorsal surface of the body and lighter on the ventral surface, chest, and lower legs. Their summer coat is pale brown, smooth, and thin while their winter coat is dark brown and rougher with a heavy undercoat.

Range and Habitat

Fallow deer have been widely introduced to 38 countries in North and South America, the Leeward Islands, Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. They live in a variety of climates ranging from cool-humid to warm-dry areas. The habitat they prefer usually is a combination of vegetation types. They prefer old, deciduous, broad-leaf forests of varying densities interspersed with grassy areas, but they are also found in mixed forests, broad-leaf forests, subalpine vegetation, grasslands, woodlands, low mountains, scrublands, and savanna.

Behavior

Fallow deer are active mainly nocturnally and exhibit peak activity periods during dusk and dawn. They lead a shy and withdrawn existence in the forests. In general, deer are more alert in open areas or in smaller groups; females are usually more alert than males, especially when their fawn are present. Depending on reproductive status and diet quality, fallow deer spend most of their time feeding, resting, and moving. Dama dama lift their legs higher than any other species when they trot. They jump with all four feet in the air and carry their tails erect when fleeing.

Diet

Fallow deer forage on a variety of vegetation, usually grasses, mast, and browse. Other items in their diet may include herbs, dwarf shrubs, leaves, buds, shoots, and bark. Their diets are adaptable and depend on season and availability. Their peak feeding periods are usually at dusk and dawn but they may also forage at intervals throughout the day.

Reproduction

Fallow deer have a breeding season of approximately 135 days, generally between the months of September and January in the Northern Hemisphere. The highest percent of fertilization occurs in late October. Males are capable of breeding at the age of 17 months but do not generally breed until the age of four years unless they live in heavily hunted populations. Females generally conceive for the first time around 16 months of age. The length of the estrous cycle for females is approximately 24 to 26 days. Females are polyestrous and may cycle up to seven times in one breeding season, but they usually conceive during their first cycle. Dama dama usually give birth to one fawn after a gestation period of 33 to 35 weeks. The majority of fawns in the Northern Hemisphere are born in early June. Their weight at birth is generally 2 to 4 kg. Full size is attained between 4 to 6 years in females and 5 to 9 years in males. The mother begins weaning the fawn when it is around 20 days old but weaning continues until the fawn is around 7 months old. After 3 to 4 weeks the mother and fawn rejoin a herd of females and their young. After approximately one year, the young are independent.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Least Concern.

Barbary Sheep

Ammotragus lervia

Barbary Sheep

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammal

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Caprinae

Genus: Ammotragus

Species: A. lervia

Description 

Ammotragus lervia is a relatively large sheep. The main pelage of the Barbary sheep is brown; however, the chin, throat, chest, and insides of the front limbs are covered with long, white hair. This white hair is called the ventral mane and appears as if the sheep had a beard. Sexual dimorphism is evident. Males can be up to 145 kg, while females are much smaller, the largest are up to 65 kg. Both males and females have horns that curve outward, backward, and point inward toward the neck. Females’ horns are smaller, but have the same shape.

Range and Habitat

Barbary sheep, also called auodads, originated in the hills of the Sahara and have inhabited all the major mountains of North Africa. In the late 1800s, Barbary sheep were introduced into Europe, including Germany and Italy.

Ammotragus lervia is endemic to the mountains of Northern Africa. It has also survived in the mountains and canyons of the dry southwestern United States. Barbary sheep live in the desert mountains from sea level up to the edge of the snows. Barbary sheep are also well adapted to a dry climate. They are able to survive long periods of time without fresh water intake by using metabolic water.

Behavior

Barbary sheep have a very distinct threat posture used in intraspecific conflicts. They direct their horns toward the animal with which they are in conflict. Aggressive behavior is also shown by two other acts. One is the head-on charge, when two males charge into each other making contact with their horns. The other type of aggressive behavior is more similar to wrestling. The males butt their heads or hook their horns and then twist and make gouging movements. Females have been seen to fight, but they rarely perform the head-on charge. Unlike many of their relatives, Barbary sheep do not kick

Diet

Barbary sheep are herbivorous, feeding on a variety of vegetation such as grass, forbs, and shrubs. Seasonal variation plays a role in determining their diet. In the winter, grass makes up the majority of food intake, while shrubs are the more common food the rest of the year.

Reproduction

Breeding usually occurs from September through November, but the timing can vary. Gestation lasts about 160 days, so most lambs are born between March and May. However, births have been seen as late as November. Most births produce a single offspring, but twins are born one out of every six or seven births.

The timing of sexual maturity varies among males. Sperm were found in one male at eleven months; however, this is probably not the norm. Females are considered sexually mature at 19 months; however, females as young as 8 months of age have produced offspring.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Vulnerable.

Bezoar Ibex

Capra aegagrus aegagrus

Bezoar Ibex

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Caprinae

Genus: Capra

Species: C. aegagrus

Subspecies: C. a. aegagrus

Description 

Shoulder height 76-94 cm (male). Weight 45-90 kg. Females are smaller. The bezoar is a handsome animal, its blackish-brown markings contrasting with the lighter body color. Summer coat is reddish-brown, turning brownish-gray in winter, with old males ashy-gray. Underparts and back of legs are white. The dark blackish-brown areas include the face, throat, chest, dorsal stripe, shoulder stripes, flank stripes, front of legs, and tail. The chin beard is long and black and, in old males, as wide as the chin. Callouses develop on the knees and sometimes on the chest. Males have large, laterally compressed, scimitar-shaped horns. The front edge is sharp, forming a keel for some distance, above which are bold, sharp-edged, widely separated knobs. Females grow short, slender horns and do not have beard. They are tawny-brown at all seasons, with a dark stripe from eye to muzzle.

Range and Habitat

The areal includes Sevan Mountain range, the western slopes of Geghama Plateau (Khosrov Forest), the mountain ranges of Garni, Urdz, Vardenis, Bargushat, Meghri and Noravanq Canyon. Some isolated groups have been maintained in Mount Khustup, Vorotan Canyon, in the upper part od Arpa Valley. The type has completely disappered in Pambak mountain range and Mount Aragats.

The typical habitats are rocky mountains with hardly accessible cliffs and sparse forests. An essential requirement is presence of dense scrubs, rocky massifs and shelters.

Behavior

Sedentary, living its life in a small area. Favors steep, rocky terrain, whether in forests or arid regions. May be diurnal or nocturnal, depending on predator and human activity, but older males tend to sleep in hiding places (often caves) by day and feed at night. Both grazes and browses, often climbing trees to feed. Has been seen in trees 6 m above the ground, and on limbs extending out over sheer cliffs. Drinks water regularly when available, usually very early or late, or even after dark. Some observers believe it can exist indefinitely without drinking free water. Extremely surefooted and agile. All senses are acute.

Diet

The diet of Bezoar goat consists of particularly the shoots and fruits of bush species, leaves of trees and herbaceous species. They generally preferred rock vegetation for feeding.

Reproduction

The coupling is taken place by the end of November and at the beginning of December. The gestation period averages 170 days. Does (females) usually give birth to one kid. Kids can follow the mother goat almost immediately after birth. Kids are weaned after 6 months. Female goats reach sexual maturity at 1.5–2.5 years, males at 3.5–4 years. The lifespan of a goat can be from 12 to 22 years.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Vulnerable.

Onager

Equus hemionus kulan

Onager

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Equidae

Genus: Equus

Subgenus: Asinus

Species: E. hemionus

 

Description 

Onagers have a pale sandy-red colored coat with a light brown dorsal stripe. The dorsal stripe has two surrounding white strips that blend into the lighter colored hind quarters. In addition to the dorsal stripe, onagers also have a shoulder stripe. The flanks, back and underside of onagers are white. In the winter, the coat grows longer and turns grayer and the white parts become more defined. Males and females differ only slightly outwardly, with males being only slightly larger. Males stand 1.5 meters at the shoulder and are about 2 meters in length, weighing about 250 kilograms.

Range and Habitat

Onagers are found from Mongolia to Saudi Arabia and as far north as southern Russia and Kazakhstan. Some also inhabit northwestern India and Tibet. They have been reintroduced in Mongolia and Iran. Onager inhabits flat steppe, semi-desert or desert and is always found within 30 km of a source of water.

Behavior

Equus hemionus onager usually lives in herds, with the exception of older stallions, who can be found living alone. Mares live with their foals in herds made up entirely of other females and young. In E. hemionus, average herds contain between 10 and 20 animals, with one male and many females. However, in some ecological conditions, pressure from predators causes small single male groups to come together.

Equus hemionus is able to reach top speeds of about 70 km/hour, and can run at a sustained speed of 50 km/hour. It is likely that onagers are similar in their ability to attain such speeds.

Diet

Onagers are herbivores that feed on the scarce plant life in the desert. Foods of these animals include grasses, bushes, herbs and foliage. Onagers receive most of their water from their food, but must remain close to a site of open water. Grazing time for onager sis usually during the cooler part of the day such as morning and evening.

Reproduction

Breeding is seasonal, the gestation period in this species is 11 months, and most births occur from April to September. Females with young tend to form groups of up to five females. Males have been observed holding harems of females, but in other studies they defend territories that attract females. It is likely that differences in behavior and social structure are the result of changes in climate, vegetation cover, predation and hunting. In Mongolia alone, the wild ass seems to adopt harem type social groups in the southwest and territorial based social groups in the south and southeast. However, further research is needed to properly understand the dynamics underlying the social behavior of this species.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Endangered.

Highland Pony

Equus ferus caballus

Highland Pony

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Subclass: Theria

Infraclass: Eutheria

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Equidae

Genus: Equus

Species: E. ferus

Subspecies: E. f. caballus

 

Description 

The height of a Highland pony is between 13 hands to 14.2 hands. The head is well-carried and alert with a kindly eye, broad muzzle and deep jowl. Reasonable length of neck going from the withers with a good sloping shoulder and well-placed forearm is desired. Ponies are to have a well-balanced and compact body with deep chest, well-sprung ribs, powerful quarters with a well-developed thigh, strong gaskin and clean flat hocks. Desired traits also include: flat hard bone, broad knees, short cannon bones, oblique pasterns and well-shaped broad dark hooves.

Range and Habitat

The Highland Pony is one of the three native breeds of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, the others are the Shetland pony and the Eriskay pony. Over many centuries the breed has adapted to the variable and often severe climatic and environmental conditions of Scotland.

Behavior

The Highland is sensitive and intelligent. The Highland pony or garron – a Gaelic word – was traditionally a crofter’s (small farmer’s) horse which could do all the work on the crofts in the highlands of Scotland.

Diet

They are herbivores, and feed predominantly on tough, fibrous food, such as grasses and sedges. When in need, they will also eat other vegetable matter, such as leaves, fruits, or bark, but are normally grazers, not browsers. Unlike ruminants, with their complex stomachs, equines break down cellulose in the “hindgut” or caecum, a part of the colon.

Conservation Status

Not included in the IUCN Red List.

Sika Deer

Cervus nippon

Sika Deer

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Cervidae

Subfamily: Cervinae

Genus: Cervus

Species: C. nippon

Description 

The size of sika deer varies greatly depending of the subspecies. The head-body length ranges from 105 to 170 cm, the shoulder height- 65 to 110 cm, the tail length from 10 to 20 cm, and the body-weight from 25 to 120 kg and more. Also the colour of the coat is variable, from blackish to yellowish-brown, and mottled with more or less clearly visible white spots arranged in seven or eight rows on the upper sides of the back.

Range and Habitat

Sika deer are found in the temperate and subtropical forests of eastern Asia, preferring areas with dense understory, and where snowfall does not exceed 10–20 cm. They tend to forage in patchy clearings of forests. Introduced populations are found in areas with similar habitats to their native ranges, including Western and Central Europe, Eastern United States, and New Zealand.

Behavior

The sika deer can be active throughout the day. Seasonal migration is known to occur in mountainous areas, such as Japan, with winter ranges being up to 700 metres lower in elevation than summer ranges. Lifestyles vary between individuals, with some occurring alone while others are found in single-sex groups. Large herds will gather in autumn and winter. The sika deer is a highly vocal species, with over 10 individual sounds, ranging from soft whistles to loud screams. Sika males are territorial and keep harems of females during the rut, which peaks from early September through October, but may last well into the winter months.

Diet

A sika deer’s diet can include any of the following: marsh grasses, fallen leaves, trees, brushy vegetation, herbs, fungi, bamboo, ground ferns, poison ivy, soy beans, and corn depending on environmental conditions. In other words, these animals are highly adaptable and can be either grazers or browsers in response to the situation at hand.

Reproduction

Both sexes reach reproductive maturity at 16-18 months. Sika deer breed in the fall (September and October), and births of single offspring occur in May and June after a gestation period of approximately 30 weeks. The newborn young weighs about 4.5-7.0 kg and is nursed from 1 of its mother’s 4 mammae for up to 10 months on an increasingly fatty milk (contains approximately 13% fat at the inception of the lactation period and 30% fat at its conclusion). The birth of calves usually takes place in forested areas or open fields, but small outlying patches of cover may be used in some cases. Female sika deer care for their young for up to a year after birth.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Least Concern.

Przewalski’s Horse

Equus Ferus przewalskii

Przewalski’s Horse

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Equidae

Genus: Equus

Subgenus: E. (Equus)

Species: E. ferus

Subspecies: E. f. przewalskii

 

Description 

Przewalski’s horses weigh about 200 to 340 kilograms and stand 122 to 142 centimeters tall. This wild horse is stocky with short legs and a short neck, looking very pony-like. Its head is massive with a long face and a powerful jaw. The upper and lower incisors are used for cutting vegetation, while its many hypsodont cheek teeth are used for grinding. With eyes set far back in the skull, it is able to view a wide field, making the only blind spot directly behind its head. The ears are fairly long and erect, but can be moved for the localization of sounds.

A stiff, erect blackish mane runs down the back. The legs are slender. The tail hairs are of graduated lengths. In the summer its pelage is short and smooth. Back and sides are reddish-brown. The coloration turns to a yellowish white on its belly. In the winter its pelage becomes longer and lighter in color.

Range and Habitat

Przewalski’s wild horse is found in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. This wild horse inhabits grassy deserts and plains in Western Mongolia, but it has been reported to have lived at elevations of up to eight thousand feet.

Behavior

In the wild, Przewalski’s horses live in small, permanent family groups consisting of one adult stallion, one to three mares, and their common offspring. Offspring stay in the family group until they are no longer dependent, usually at 2 or 3 years old. Bachelor stallions, and sometimes old stallions, join bachelor groups. Family groups can join together to form a herd that move together.

Diet

Przewalski’s wild horse is an herbivore, eating grass, plants and fruit. It sometimes eats bark, leaves and buds. It is fed hay, grain and alfalfa in the zoos.

Reproduction

Its gestation period is from eleven to twelve months, and it gives birth to one foal during April or May. An hour after birth, the foal is able to stand and walk. It begins to graze within a few weeks, but is not weaned for eight to thirteen months. Mating and birth occurs in the same season, since females come into heat seven to eight days after giving birth.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Endangered.

Bactrian camel

Camelus bactrianus

Bactrian camel

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Camelidae

Genus: Camelus

Species: Camelus bactrianus

 

Description

The most noticeable features of Bactrian Camels are their two humps. At the hump, average height is 213 cm (2.13 meters). From head to tail, they measure 260 to 400 cm and weigh 300 to 690 kg.  A thick, shaggy, dark brown to beige coat covers the camel during cold weather and is shed when the temperature rises. Longer hair hangs from the neck and gives the appearance of a beard. Bushy eyebrows, a double row of eyelashes, ears lined with hair and the ability to close nostrils and lips tightly serve as protection from harsh, blowing winds and sand. Their tough, even-toed feet help them to cross the rocky deserts of Asia and travel well through snow or sand.

Bactrians rarely sweat, helping them conserve fluids for long periods of time. In winter, plants may yield enough moisture to sustain a camel without water for several weeks.

Like Arabian camels, Bactrians’ nostrils close to keep sand at bay, and their bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes protect their eyes. Big, flat footpads help them navigate the rough rocky terrain and shifting desert sands without sinking under their own massive bulk or the weight of heavy packs.

The only truly wild camels that still exist are Bactrian camels. These herds survive in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China but number less than 1,000.

These camels may live up to 50 years.

 

Diet

Camels are herbivores. They are able to eat plants that are dry, prickly, salty, and/or bitter, but prefer any kind of vegetation. When other nutrient sources are not available, these camels may feed on bones, other animals’ skin, or different kinds of flesh. In more extreme conditions, they may eat rope, sandals, and even tents. Their ability to feed on a wide range of foods allows them to live in areas with sparse vegetation.

With tough mouths that can withstand sharp objects such as thorns, the digestion process begins. The first time food is swallowed it is not fully chewed. The partly masticated food (called cud) goes into the stomach and later is brought back up for further chewing.

Camels can go for several days without water. When water is available, they drink only to replace what is missing from their body. This amount can vary from nothing to 135 liters. A very thirsty animal can drink this amount in only 13 minutes. The camel also has the ability to quench its thirst with salty or brackish water. In the winter months, plants alone provide water.

A common misconception is that the camel’s humps are for water storage. In reality, the humps contain a large amount of fat and are use for nourishment when food is scarce. This feature gives the camel the capability to go many days without eating. Each hump can hold up to 36 kg of fat. The hump decreases in size and become flabby as its contents are metabolized. Depletion of the hump is directly linked to the time between eating and the amount of energy expended. Thus, the size of the hump serves as an indication of the camel’s health, food supply and general well-being.

Habitat and Range

The camels are migratory, and their habitat ranges from rocky mountain massifs to flat arid desert, stony planes and sand dunes. Conditions are extremely harsh – vegetation is sparse, water sources are limited and temperatures are extreme, ranging from as low as -40°C in winter to 40°C in summer. The camels’ distribution is linked to the availability of water, with large groups congregating near rivers after rain or at the foot of the mountains, where water can be obtained from springs in the summer months, and in the form of snow during the winter.

They live not in shifting Sahara sands but in Central and East Asia’s rocky deserts. They are found along rivers in the Siberian steppe during winter but disperse into the desert when snows melt in spring. Bactrian camels have developed special adaptations to allow them to survive in such a brutal environment. One is a thick, shaggy coat that protects them in winter and falls away as seasons change and temperatures rise.

The species has suffered a drastic reduction in its range. It now occurs only in three separated habitats in northwest China (Lake Lob, Taklimikan desert and the ranges of Arjin Shan) and one in the Trans-Altai Gobi desert of southwest Mongolia. The largest population lives in the Gashun Gobi (Lop Nur) Desert in Xinjiang Province, China, which was for 45 years used as a test site for nuclear weapons.

Behavior

Domestic camels travel in caravans across the desert. An adult male acts as leader for a small group that may consist of six to twenty others. Group size is largely dependent on the amount of food available and larger groups will sometimes congregate around water.  Constant speed must be maintained at all times while moving. To help ensure this tempo the camels move by pacing. Pacing consists of two legs on the same side of the body moving at once, creating a rolling motion. This shifts the weight from side to side; a passenger may find this movement very uncomfortable. Camels also have the capability to run and can do so at ten to twenty miles per hour.

Reproduction

Mating season occurs in the fall. Males during this time are often violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. The age of sexual maturity varies, but is usually reached at three to five years. Gestation lasts thirteen months, with most young being born from March through April. One or occasionally two calves are produced. Females can give birth to a new calf every other year. The baby calf is precocial, having the ability to stand at birth and walk only a few hours after. The young calf stays with its mother for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity. Wild camels sometimes breed with domesticated or feral camels as well.

Economic Importance

Close to 3,500 years ago people first tamed wild camels and domesticated them; now almost all are domestic. The original purpose of domestication was probably to use their size and strength. Camels carry packages long distances to market and are used as a form of transportation. By the age of one year, the camel can take voice cammands from their owner. Humans also use many of the camel’s by-products, especially camel meat and milk. Fat from the humps is melted down and serves in cooking. Dung provides fuel for heating. Loose hair is used for making clothes, blankets, carpets, and tents. The tanned hide is used to make shoes, sandals, and other leather products. In some countries, camels are an indication of wealth.

Conservation Status

Bactrian camels are classified as Critically Endangered (CR A3de+4ade) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bactrian camels were thought to be extinct in the wild until an expedition found some wild of them in the Gobi desert in 1957. These wild groups are in the severe danger of going extinct and little is known about them. There are approximately 600 individuals surviving in China and 350 in Mongolia. In contrast, there are over 2 million domestic Bactrian camels currently living in Central Asia. Compared to domestic camels, wild camels have smaller humps, smaller feet, shorter hair and a more slender body shape.

Population size is decreasing. The Mongolian population has almost halved in the last twenty years and there is every indication that the situation is just as serious for the Chinese populations.

The species is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or the Bonn Convention). The governments of China and Mongolia have agreed to cooperate in order to protect the species and its fragile desert ecosystem. Assisted by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF), the two governments have adopted an ecosystem-based management program which aims to protect the biodiversity of the Great Gobi Desert. Two reserves have been created – the ‘Great Gobi Reserve A’ in Mongolia in 1982, and the Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Reserve in China in 2000. These reserves provide a safe habitat for a wide range of endangered desert animals and plants, as well as the wild camels. The WCPF also aims to increase the population of the species through captive breeding. In 2003 it established a sanctuary in Zakhyn-Us, Mongolia, which has some of the last non-hybridised herds of Bactrian camels. Initial breeding attempts have been successful, with several calves having been born since the programme’s inception.

Education programs are urgently needed to raise public awareness of the potential negative effects of cross-breeding between the wild camels and their domestic relatives. Protected area laws need to be enforced to prevent encroachment and illegal mining in the reserves. Individuals from the Mongolian reserve frequently migrate across the border to China, where they are either killed by hunters or from eating vegetation poisoned by potassium cyanide (a by-product from the illegal gold mining that occurs here). The WCPF have therefore proposed the establishment of a second reserve in China to protect these animals.

Threats

The species has suffered greatly at the hands of humans. It has lost habitat to mining and industrial development, and has been forced to compete with introduced livestock  for food and water. Farmers hunt the camel for this reason, and many individuals are lost every year when the camels migrate out of protected areas and onto land set aside for grazing. Domestic Bactrian camels are amongst the animals introduced to these areas. They graze alongside reserves containing their wild relatives, and there is much concern that interbreeding and subsequent hybridization will lead to the loss of the genetically distinct wild camel.

Short Facts

Camels were first domesticated 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.  Most domestic camels today are dromedaries living in Africa.  Domestic Bactrians live in Central Asia.  Camels can carry hundreds of pounds of cargo up to 30 miles a day.

Unlike many other animals, camels move both legs on one side of the body at the same time.

A camel’s poop is so dry you can use it immediately to start a fire.

Camels have a reputation for spitting but they don’t, it would be a waste of water. What they are actually doing is vomiting on you.

It is believed that Aristotle was the first person to call the two-humped camel “Bactrian”. The name probably comes from a large area in Central Asia.

Wild Bactrian camels are the only land mammals that can drink salt water to satisfy their thirst.

The temperature in deserts where these camels inhabit rises to about 38° C in the summer and falls to as low as -29° C in the winter. Bactrian camels adapt to both the extremes of climatic conditions.

Though they prefer to walk, these camels are excellent runners. They can run at a speed of 10-20 mph.

Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus amphibius

Hippopotamus

Scientific classification 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Hippopotamidae
Genus: Hippopotamus
Species: Hippopotamus amphibius

Description

The name hippopotamus means “river horse”. The hippopotamus is an extremely large creature with a round body, short legs, and a big, broad head. Its head and body measures 2.8 to 4.2 m; its tail, 35 to 50 cm and it can weigh 2,268 to 3,629 kg. It is brownish gray on top and has a light pink color underneath. The hippopotamus has its ears, nose, and eyes positioned on the top of its head so it can remain submerged and still keep track of what is going on around it. The hippopotamus spends most of the day in the water and secretes a pink, oily substance that acts as a sunscreen. When it submerges it closed its nostrils and its ears so water won’t get in. The hippopotamus is very buoyant and has no trouble getting around underwater. A hippopotamus can stay underwater for about 15 minutes and spends up to 16 hours a day in water. It can live up to 40 years.

Geographic Range and Habitat

The hippopotamus lives in West, Central, East and South Africa, but the only large populations are in the Nile river valley of East Africa. They live with other animals in Africa such as lions, hyenas, crocodiles, leopards, fish, and other small water dwelling organisms.  The niche that hippos occupy include a source of freshwater during the day, and grassland to graze in at night.

Their habit consists of a water region (usually the Nile River) where they spend most of their day to escape the heat, and grassland nearby where they forge for grasses at night.  Grasslands are abundant in Africa and makes up 1/3 of their land. Temperatures are extremely hot so they have several adaptations in order to survive the heat.

Behavior

Hippopotamuses live in groups of 15 or more animals. These groups are primarily females and their young headed up by a dominant male. There may also be some inferior males in these groups. The hippopotamus is territorial and once it establishes its territory it will attempt to chase off any intruders. When a hippopotamus opens its mouth very wide it may be trying to scare a potential rival away by showing off its canine teeth. These teeth can be nearly 51cm long. During a fight, male hippopotamuses will ram each other with their mouths open using their heads as sledgehammers, which brings their canines into play, and using their lower jaw to throw water at each other.

Diet

The hippopotamus is herbivorous. They come out of the water at night to graze and can eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation in one night. Hippopotamuses will often travel up to six miles from their watering hole to find something to eat.

Breeding

Males reach sexual maturity between 6 and 14 years of age and breed with several females in their territory.  Females can breed at 7-15 years and usually reproduce every two years. They are capable of breeding year round, but they mostly breed seasonally during dry times in February and August.  Reproduction takes place in the water. The female hippo goes through three days of estrus (heat) where she is most fertile and mates with a male hippopotamus.

Most calves are born in the water, but some can be born on land. They are typically born during the rainy months 8 months (240 days) after conception and weigh 27-50 kilograms.  The calves nurse underwater for the first 6-8 months and are seen riding on their mothers’ backs during the day.  Mothers are very protective of their calves, which stay by the mother’s side for 5-8 years.

Conservation Status

Although the hippo is not yet endangered, its habitat has been greatly reduced over the last 200 years. Once common to all of Africa, hippos are now abundant only in East Africa. Poachers sometimes hunt hippos for their large, soft ivory tusks, which are easier to carve than elephant tusks. Humans have moved into hippo habitat, using the fresh water where hippos live for farming needs. A new threat to hippos these days is hunters who kill them for their meat, which has become a popular food item.

Short Facts

  • Hippos are the third-largest living land mammal, after elephants and the white rhino.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the closest relative to the hippo is the whale.
  • A common hippo’s hide alone can weigh half a ton.
  • A baby hippo can begin to eat grass at 3 weeks, however the mother hippo will continue to nurse until the young hippo is one year old.
  • Despite the hippos’ cute appearance, they are among the most dangerous and aggressive of all mammals.
  • Hippos can run up to 30 kilometers per hour on land.
  • Hippos can store two days’ worth of grass in their stomachs and can go up to three weeks without eating, if needed.
  • In African rivers, hippos look like floating islands, with birds fishing from their backs. Turtles and even baby crocodiles have been seen sunning themselves on hippos.
  • Hippos are one of the noisiest animals in Africa: some hippo vocalizations have been measured at 115 decibels, about the same volume as being 16 meters away from the speakers at a rock concert
Squirrel monkey

Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis

Squirrel monkey

Scientific Classification

Squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order:  Primates

Family: Cebidae

Genus: Saimiri

Species: Saimiri boliviensis

Description

S.boliviensis males have black bodies, while the females body is grey.  They have long and hairy tail, flat nail and pointed claws. The Squirrel Monkey is thought to be one of the most intelligent species of primate and is known to have the largest brain to body mass ratio of all the monkey species in the world. Squirrel monkeys have incredibly good eyesight and colour vision which means that they are able to spot fruits amongst the dense vegetation with ease.

Behavior

Squirrel monkeys are incredibly sociable animals that move noisily in the trees in large troops that commonly consist of  40 or 50 animalsg, but can contain up to 500 individuals. They communicate with each other using a range of different noises. Squirrel monkeys are excellent at climbing and leap between branches to travel  through the forest. Their long tail provides them with excellent balance and aided by their nimble hands and feet, allows Squirrel monkeys to cover vast areas of the jungle.

Habitat

Squirrel monkeys live in the tropical forests of Central and South America in the canopy layer. It is found in Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

Diet

Squirrel monkeys are omnivores, eating fruits and insects. They also eat seeds, leaves, flowers, buds, nuts, and eggs.

Reproduction

At the start of the breeding season, they begin to fight aggressively for their right to mate. Shortly after giving birth, the female will chase away the male who plays no part in raising the single infant and leaves to join his all-male group. By the time the infant is two months old, it begins to explore more without it’s mother and is almost completely independent by 10 months old.

Conservation Status

Although this subspecies of Squirrel  monkeys is not considered threatened, the population is  decreasing mainly because of deforestation and other human negative impacts.   Is listed in the IUCN Red list as Least Concern. 

Ring-tailed lemur

Lemur catta

Ring-tailed lemur

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Lemuridae

Genus: Lemur

Species: Lemur catta

 

Description

Body length of the Ring tailed lemurs is about 40 cm, not including the tail length (60 cm). The body is grey in color, bellies are white and so is the face with triangular spots of dark around the eyes and a black nose. The tail has 13 black and white rings, which gives them their common name.

Range and Habitat

The Ring-tailed Lemur is found in the dry forests and bush of southern and southwestern Madagascar.

Behavior

They occur in social groups of up to 25 individuals in the group. However, unlike many other species, the females are dominant and control the group that includes other females, males and young.

This species of Lemur spends up to 40% of his time on the ground, more than any other species and the rest of the time it dwells in trees.

Diet

Lemurs eat fruit, leaves, flowers, herbs and other parts of plants and small insects.

Reproduction

Females give birth to one baby or twins, following a pregnancy that lasts 134-138 days. The young babies stay close to the mother’s body for the first two weeks and then can be seen along their backs. They begin to take their first steps after four weeks and will increase their independence slowly, but they’ll be completely mature at about 5-6 months.

Females remain in the social group in which they are born, but males leave the group when they reach puberty, around age three years (in captivity it is earlier – about 18 months). In their natural habitat, courtship and mating begins in mid-April and the babies are born in August and September.

Life span

Their life span is 20-25 years.

Conservation Status

In addition to being listed as Endangered in 2014 by the IUCN   the ring-tailed,  lemur has been listed since 1977 by CITES under Appendix I.

Ruffed Lemur

Varecia variegata

Ruffed Lemur

Scientific classification 

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Lemuridae

Genus: Varecia

Species: V. variegate

 

Description 

Black and white ruffed lemurs are among the largest of the true lemurs, with a head and body length of 51 to 60 cm and tail length of 56 to 65. Weights range from 3.2 to 4.5 kg. Females are larger than males. Lemurs have long, soft fur and are famous for variation of color and pattern. In fact, many consider ruffed lemurs to be the most beautiful species in its family. At least five different coat patterns are found among these lemurs, including one in which an orangish-red color replaces almost all of the white coloration. The coat is long and soft, and color pattern may vary on different sides of the body. In Ruffed Lemur, the coat is mostly black with large white areas on the head, back and limbs.

Range and Habitat

Ruffed lemurs, are found in the eastern rain forest of Madagascar. Two subspecies are recognized: V. v. variegata and V. v. rubra. The Antainambalana River geographically separates the two subspecies; V. v. rubra is found north of the river, and V. v. variegata is found south. The latter subspecies is also found on the island of Nosy Mangabe.

Ruffed lemurs are tree dwellers and are the most arboreal of the true lemurs. They inhabit the wet evergreen forest on the eastern coast of Madagascar

Behavior 

Ruffed lemurs live in groups ranging from 2 to 5 individuals. These groups apparently represent mated pairs and their offspring. However, in some areas of Madagascar, groups of up to 16 individuals may be formed, although these break down into smaller subgroups during the cool wet season. Females seem to form the stable core of these larger groups. Females defend a group’s territory more often than males.

Ruffed lemurs spend most of the day feeding, traveling, and resting high up in the forest canopy. They are the most active in the morning and late afternoon.

Diet

Varecia variegata is the most frugivorous of the living lemurs, but it also feeds on leaves, seeds and nectar according to the season. They have also been known to eat soil at times.

Reproduction

Mating appears to occur in June and July. The estrous cycle of female ruffed lemurs lasts approximately 30 days with the estrous period averaging 6.25 days. Gestation is markedly shorter than in other lemurs, typically lasting between 90 and 102 days. Females are capable of having up to 6 offspring from a single pregnancy, but usually only 2 or 3 offspring are born at a time. In fact, over one-half of births are twins. Weaning occurs at approximately 135 days of age, and infants are close to adult size by the time they reach 6 months. Females are able to conceive at 20 months, but the average age of first reproduction is 3.4 years. Mothers build nests for their newborns, usually in the fork of a tree. Infants are allowed to leave the nest at 3 weeks and are as mobile as their parents by the time they are 7 weeks old.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Critically Endangered.

Japanese Macaque

Macaca fuscata

Japanese Macaque

Scientific classification

Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Genus: Macaca

Species: M. fuscata

 

Description 

Japanese macaques range in color from shades of brown and gray to yellowish brown. They have a colorful face and posterior end that are pinkish red in color. Their fur is very thick, which, because they do not hibernate, helps them stay warm during harsh winters. They have a short stumpy tail. Japanese macaques express sexual dimorphism; males are generally taller and more massive than females. Males average 11.3 kg in weight and 57 cm in height. Females average 8.4 kg in weight and 52.3 cm in height. The skull of provisioned Japanese macaques averages 134.4 mm in length for males and 118.1 mm for females. The skull of non-provisioned individuals are slightly reduced, averaging 129.5 mm in males and 115.8 mm in females.

Range and Habitat

Japanese macaques, inhabit subtropical or subalpine deciduous, broadleaf, and evergreen forests. They are found on three southern main islands of Japan: Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, as well as a few smaller islands. Japanese macaques also survive well outside of their natural range, as with one introduced population in Laredo, Texas.

Japanese macaques inhabit subtropical and subalpine forests. Japanese macaques tend to spend winter months at lower elevations. Although they have been spotted at elevations as high as 3180 m, during winter months they usually do not exceed elevations of 1800 m.

Behavior

Japanese macaques are both arboreal and terrestrial, and they are mostly quadrupedal when on the ground. Females spend more time in trees whereas males spend more time on the ground. They are also diurnal. Japanese macaques live in troops with a female-bonded social structure. Females do not leave their natal group, whereas males leave the troop as they mature.

Diet

Japanese macaques are generalist omnivores, and their diets change seasonally. During the summer, especially June and between September and November, they mostly eat fruits. They also eat seeds, although seeds account for less than 20% of their food intake during these months. During April and May and from December to March, Japanese macaques eat mostly flowers and some nectar. During the winter months, a large part of their diet consists of fibrous mature leafs. They also consume young leafs, which are easier to digest, from April to June. Japanese macaques also opportunistically eat fungi.

Reproduction

Female Japanese macaques reach sexual maturity around 3.5 years of age, while males reach sexual maturity around 4.5 years. Although males as young as 1.5 years of age have been observed mounting females, they do not successfully copulate until they are older. Breeding usually occurs between March and September. Gestation lasts an average of 171.7 days. When females are ready to give birth, they usually leave the troop and find a safe and private place. Japanese macaques generally have 1 offspring during a breeding season. Twins are rare and occur once in every 488 births. At birth, males weigh on average 539.7 g and females 548.8 g. Weaning may occur as early as 6 to 8 months in some Japanese macaques. In some special cases, however, mothers may continue to nurse their offspring for up to 2.5 years if they have no other intervening births. Female Japanese macaques can produce a perfectly viable infant up to 25 years of age, although this is usual.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Least Concern.

Rhesus Macaque

Macaca mulatta

Rhesus Macaque

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Orde: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Gebys:Macaca

Species: Macaca mulatta

Description

With an expressive face and active lifestyle, the rhesus macaque is a charismatic species. Its coat is pale brown above and fades on the underside, but the naked face and rump are bright red in adults. It has large cheek pouches which it uses to store food when foraging. Audebert, who named the rhesus macaque, did so after the Greek King of Thrace, Rhesos, but emphasized that it had no special relevance. Since, the name rhesus has been extended to the hereditary blood antigen ‘Rh-factor’ which was discovered on the red blood cells of rhesus macaques and was also found to be present in humans.

Habitat and Range 

Still widespread across southern Asia, the rhesus macaque has nevertheless become locally extinct in some of its former range. It has been introduced into Florida, USA as well as to Cayo Santiago Island near Puerto Rico, and is kept in captivity in large numbers worldwide due to its common use in research. This species has even been a participant in space travel.

The rhesus macaque occupies an enormous range of habitats and climates, ranging from snow-covered mountains through dense forests to semi-desert and urban areas.

Behavior 

The rhesus macaque has a multimale-multifemale social system. This species can be said as having a promiscuous mating system, females have a tendency to mate with extra group males. Females remain in their natal group with the onset of maturity, but males will disperse shortly before adolescence, although some males do stay in their natal group for a few years into adulthood. Males tend to migrate with their maternal half brothers or with peers. There is a hierarchical system amongst group members based upon the matriline. Social grooming is used to strengthen bonds between females. Groups can split into smaller groups when their population is expanding. There is intergroup dominance, meaning that one group of rhesus macaques may be dominant to another group of rhesus macaques for such things as food resources. Males and females are both aggressive during intergroup encounters.

Diet 

The dietary habits of rhesus monkeys can vary greatly depending upon where they live. Macaca mulatta is omnivorous, and often eat roots, herbs, fruits, insects, crops, and small animals. The diet can also vary with the season. For example, rhesus that live in the mountain forests of northern Pakistan feed primarily on clovers during the summer, but during winter when snow covers the ground they are forced to switch to foods with lower nutritional values and higher fiber contents, such as pine needles and oak leaves. These monkeys seem to choose their environments carefully with respect to food resources. Even when they are forced to switch to lower quality food sources during the winter months they do not exhibit higher mortality rates, although they may lose a considerable percentage of their body weight.

Reproduction 

Females reach puberty around age three while males are sexually mature by age four. The ovarian cycle lasts for 28 days and is characterized by the darkening of the skin surrounding the anogenital region accompanied by menstruation. Estrus lasts for eight to 12 days, with the day of ovulation occurring at the midpoint of the estrus period. Females have increased sexual activity during ovulation, exhibiting the highest number of copulations seen during the ovarian cycle. Females reproduce from three until about 20 years of age. Males reach puberty between three and 3.5 years of age but do not reach adult body size until about eight years old. Though males are capable of reproducing by age four, they are not reproductively successful until after age eight, or when they reach adult size. During this time between becoming sexually mature and when they begin to mate, young rhesus macaques are learning the social skills, including fighting ability, that will influence their success throughout their lives. Both males and females reach sexual maturity sooner in captivity. There is marked birth seasonality in rhesus macaques, with the majority of mating occurring in October through December and births coinciding with the end of the rainy season, or during the period of highest food abundance. At Cayo Santiago, the mating season is much longer and begins in July and lasts until December. High-ranking males have more opportunities to mate with females than low-ranking males, but do not always sire a disproportionate number of infants. Lower-ranking males may have similar reproductive success compared to high-ranking males because they are new immigrants and are more attractive to females because of this. From one breeding season to the next, females will drastically reduce the amount of mating they do with familiar males and over a period of three years, they try not to mate with any familiar males given the opportunity to mate with unfamiliar males. During the breeding season, females enter into consortships with one or more males. An individual female will spend longer amounts of time in contact with, grooming, and mating with these males. Males and female rhesus macaques are promiscuous breeders, mating multiple times with multiple mates. Both males and females initiate these consort relationships and competition for access to mates is related to the high levels of aggression seen in rhesus macaque groups during this time of year. Gestation lasts 164 days in rhesus macaques and the interbirth interval is between 12 and 24 months. If a female does not have a successful pregnancy or her infant dies in the first year of life, she is more likely to give birth the following season than a female who successfully rears an infant.

Economic Importance

Macaca mulatta is a popular zoo animal because of its innate curiosity and active lifestyle. These monkeys are also used extensively for research. They are especially useful in biological, medicinal, and psychological research. Macaca mulatta is most often used in psychological research when the emphasis is on perception, learning, or behavior.

In India, rhesus monkeys do significant damage to crops and gardens in many areas. Because they are viewed as sacred animals by Hindus, often little is done to stop them from stealing crops. As is true of most nonhuman primates, there is a high risk that they could carry diseases which affect humans.

Conservation Status

This species is listed on CITES Appendix II. It is also listed in Schedule III in the Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act, 1974 and in Schedule I, Part I in the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (amended up to 2002), on Category II of the Chinese Wildlife Protection Act (1989), and is protected with all other primates in the Nepalese National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973. Protection status varies widely throughout the species range.
Rhesus macaques reside in a large number of protected areas throughout their range.

Threats

Whilst the rhesus macaque is threatened in the wild, a large captive population is maintained around the world for use in biological, psychological and medicinal research, especially for studies into perception, learning and behaviour. In the wild, the rhesus macaque is a generalist with great adaptability, allowing it to make the most of changes in land use. In India they are known for crop-raiding but their status as sacred animals in the Hindu religion prevents persecution by humans. Interspecies breeding is known to occur but appears to have no effect on the offspring’s fertility, as other interspecies crosses usually do.

Short Facts

-Rhesus macaques like to enter the water and are agile swimmers.

-In India where love of animals is part of the religion, these monkeys have very successfully adapted to man’s civilization.

Mandrill

Mandrillus sphinx

Mandrill

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Genus: Mandrillus

Species:  M. sphinx

Description 

Mandrills reach a height of about 80 cm. The species is characterized by a large head, a compact body with long, powerful limbs, and a stubby tail, which is held upright. The wide rotating range of the clavicles enables climbing trees, the quadrupedal walk, and the functioning of the arms. Both sexes have paired mammary glands in the chest region. These animals are reported to have average weights of 11.5 for females, and 25 kg for males. Males are significantly larger than females and may weigh up to 54 kg. The pelage is an olive green with paler underparts. It has a brilliantly colored blue to purple naked rump. A mandrill’s face has a red stripe down the middle of the muzzle and around the nostrils, while the sides of the muzzle are ridged lengthwise and colored blue. Mandrills have red fur patches above the eyes and a yellow beard. These colorings are duller in females and juveniles than in adult males.

Range and Habitat

Mandrills are found in southwestern Cameroon, western Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and southwestern Congo. Mandrills are found in tropical rain forest habitats, montane and thick secondary forests, and thick bush. Although they are adapted to live in the ground, mandrills seek shelter in the trees during the night.

Behavior

Mandrill groups can range in size from a few head up to 50 individuals. Mandrills live on the ground by day and sleep in trees at night. Their bright coloring is a key feature in social behavior. When excited, the blue color of the pad on their buttocks intensifies, their chest turns blue, and red dots may appear on the wrists and ankles. The flashing of the bright rump, which originated as a signal of receptiveness in estrous females, has also been interpreted as an act of submissiveness in both sexes.

Diet

Mandrills have a highly varied diet including fruit, seeds, fungi, roots, insects, snails, worms, frogs, lizards, and sometimes snakes and even small vertebrates. Generally, mandrill males scrounge for food on the ground while females and their young sit in midlevel trees.

Reproduction

Breeding is not seasonal but rather occurs about every two years, depending on the available food supply. Mating is believed to occur between July and October, while birthing occurs between December and April. Females give birth to their first young anywhere between 4 and 8 years of age. Gestation lasts for about 6 months after which females give birth to a single young. he bulk of the care for infants in such species is provided by the mother. Mothers give their young protection, grooming, and nourishment.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Vulnerable.

Hamadryas Baboon

Hamadryas Baboon

Hamadryas Baboon

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Genus: Papio

Species: P. hamadryas

 

Description 

These monkeys are highly sexually dimorphic in size and pelage characters. Adult males weigh around 21.5 kg and females around 9.4 kg. Male pelage is basically grayish-brown in color, with the ventrum colored like the back or darker. Hairs on the cheeks are lighter. The long back hairs are wavey. Females are a plain olive-brown color. The skin may be very colorful in some animals. In both males and females, the skin surrounding the ischial callosities is pink or bright red. Males have skin of a similar color on their muzzle and face, whereas females possess a muted, grayish-brown face. The tail is long, and curved, with a graceful arch at the base. The natal pelage is black, although this is lost by approximately six months of age, when it is replaced by an olive-brown coat like that of the adult female.

Range and Habitat

Papio hamadryas is found on the African continent in the area of the southern Red Sea, in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea. Hamadryas baboons are found in subdesert, steppe, alpine grass meadows, plains, and shortgrass savannahs. Their distribution is limited by the availability of watering holes and appropriate sleeping rocks or cliffs. In parts of Ethiopia, they are found in agricultural areas and are considered crop pests.

Behavior

Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in open savannah, open woodland and hills across Africa. Their diets are omnivorous, but mostly herbivorous, yet they eat insects and occasionally prey on fish, shellfish, hares, birds, vervet monkeys, and small antelopes. They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They can raid human dwellings, and in South Africa, they have been known to prey on sheep and goats.

Diet

Papio hamadryas is omnivorous. They have been known to eat a variety of foods, including, but not limited to: fruits, tree gums, insects, eggs, acacia seeds, acacia flowers, grass seeds, grass, rhizomes, corms, roots tubers, small vertebrates. Because of the aridity of their habitat, these baboons must subsist on whatever edible items they can find.

Reproduction

Females characteristically have an estrous cycle of 31 to 35 days in length. Gestation lasts about 172 days, after which the female gives birth to a single offspring. The neonate, weighing from 600 to 900 g, has a black coat, making it readily identifiable from older infants. Infants are completely dependent upon their mother for the first few months, until they begin to eat solid food and are able to walk on their own. Puberty occurs between the ages of 4 and 6 years in males, and around the age of 4 years in females.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Least Concern.

Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

Meerkat

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora      

Family: Herpestidae

Genus: Suricata

Species: Slender-tailed meerkat    

Description

Meerkats are small burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social, living in colonies consisting of  up to 30 meerkats in a group.  To look out for predators, one or more meerkats stand sentry, to warn others of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark or whistle, and other members of the group will run and hide.

Habitat

Meerkats are widespread in the western parts of southern Africa, including western and southern Namibia, south-western Botswana.

Diet

Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat other animals like  lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small birds and fungi. Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions. Main predators of meerkats are eagles, jackals and sometimes snakes.

Reproduction

Meerkats become sexually mature at about two years of age and can have one to four pups in a litter. The babies, called pups, are born weighing 25 to 36 grams. In addition to being small, pups are also blind, deaf and almost hairless. The whole family, including the father, pitches in to help raise the new additions. Meerkats have exceptional sense of smell, they are able to discriminate the odour of their kin from the odour of their non-kin.

Conservation Status

Meerkats are listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “Least Concern”. They are present in several large and well-managed protected areas, including those in Southern Africa.

Jaguar

Panthera onca

Jaguar

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Panthera

Species: P. onca

Description 

Jaguars are the largest cats in the Americas and the only representative of the genus Panthera. Height at the shoulder may be up to 75 cm. Body length is 150 to 180 cm long with a tail of 70 to 90 cm. Jaguars weigh between 68 and 136 kilograms. Jaguars are powerfully built, with large, square jaws and prominent cheeks. Jaguars have lean bodies and muscular limbs. They are built for power, not speed, although they can run briefly. Base coat colors range from pale yellow to reddish brown, with black, rosette-shaped spots on the neck, body, and limbs. The belly is off white. Black, or melanistic, jaguars are fairly common and are the result of a single, dominant allele. These jaguars have a base coat color of black with black spots that are usually dimly visible against the black background.

Range and Habitat

Jaguars have a large distribution, they are found from southern Arizona and New Mexico south toward northern Argentina and northeastern Brazil.

Jaguars prefer dense, tropical moist lowland forests that offer plenty of cover, although they are also found in scrubland, reed thickets, coastal forests, swamps, and thickets. Jaguars are excellent swimmers and are generally found in habitats near water, such as rivers, slow moving streams, lagoons, watercourses, and swamps.

Behavior

Panthera onca is a solitary animal. Male and female interaction only occurs during mating and the male leaves directly afterwards, leaving the female to raise her young alone. Jaguars are known to be able to survive within a circular territory of three miles in diameter. If food is scarce they will often need to roam over an area of 200 square miles in search of food. Jaguars are rapid runners, but tire quickly, and can climb trees well. They are also proficient swimmers and prefer areas with plenty of fresh water.

Diet

Jaguars are strictly carnivores. They eat a wide variety of prey, over 85 species have been reported in the diet of jaguars. Preferred prey are large animals, such as peccaries, tapirs, and deer. They also prey on caimans, turtles, snakes, porcupines, capybaras, fish, large birds, and many other animals.

Reproduction

The jaguar reaches sexual maturity at 3 years of age. It engages in non-seasonal mating in the tropical regions while in the extremes of the range the mating season is during early autumn. A mother gives birth to 1-4 cubs annually. Gestation lasts from 93-110 days. The cubs are blind at birth and do not leave the den for two weeks. They learn how to hunt after six months and stay with their mother for up to two years. The lifespan of the jaguar is 22 years.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Near Threatened.

Jungle Cat

Felis chaus

Jungle Cat

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Felis

Species: F. chaus

Description 

The jungle cat (Felis chaus) is a large, slender wild cat, with long legs and long, close-set, rounded ears which have characteristic small black tufts of hair on the tips. It has a long, slim face with a white muzzle and distinctive white markings above and below the eyes, as well as dark spots in front of the eyes, near the nose. Jungle cats range in size from 70 to 120 cm long and 35 to 38 cm tall. They weigh from 4 to 16 kg. Adult males are larger and heavier than adult females. The reddish, sandy-brown or tawny-grey coat of the jungle cat is usually plain, without any spots or patterns. However, the ends of the black guard hairs give this species a somewhat speckled appearance along its back. The jungle cat may also have several stripes on its legs. The throat is pale cream, with occasional dark or light stripes, and the stomach is lighter then the rest of the body. There are a number of narrow black rings near the tip of the tail. Young jungle cats are patterned with stripes and spotted markings from birth, which remain until they are sexually mature. The adult jungle cat may sometimes retain some of these markings, usually as spots or dark stripes on the forelimbs and hind limbs.

Range and Habitat

Jungle cats have a wide ranging distribution that extends from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the Volga River delta, east through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Kazakhstan. Jungle cats prefer habitats near water with dense vegetative cover but can be found in a variety of habitats including deserts (where they are found near oases or along riverbeds), grasslands, shrubby woodlands and dry deciduous forests, as well as cleared areas in moist forests.

Behavior

Except for breeding season, jungle cats live solitary lives. They are most active at night, but are not strictly nocturnal. They are more often seen at dusk and travel approximately 5 to 6 km per night. They typically rest in dense cover during the day but often sunbathe on cold winter days. Unlike most cat species, jungle cats have an affinity for water and are proficient swimmers that will dive into water to catch fish with their mouths.

Diet

Jungle cats primarily prey on animals that weigh less than 1 kg and commonly consume rodents, lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, hare, fish, insects, livestock, and even fruit during the winter. Rodents are its primary prey item, however, which provides up to 70% of its daily energy intake. Although they specialize on small prey, jungle cats have been known to kill wild pigs and chital fawns.

Reproduction

Jungle cats breed twice a year and produce litters of 3 to 6 kittens. Breeding season varies regionally and gestation lasts between 63 and 66 days. Kittens are quite large at birth (136 g) and gain weight at a rate of about 22 g per day. Kittens nurse until they are about 90 days old, but begin to eat solid food around day 49. They are not completely weaned until 15 weeks old. Jungle cats are independent by 8 to 9 months of age and reach sexual maturity at 11 to 18 months of age. Jungle cats live in families consisting of mother, father, and offspring while cubs are being reared.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Least Concern.

Asiatic Black Bear

Ursus thibetanus

Asiatic Black Bear

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus: Ursus

Species: Ursus thibetanus

 

Description

The Asiatic Black Bear, also known as Ursus thibetanus, consists of several subspecies including the Tibetan Black Bear, the Himalayan Black Bear, and Japanese Black Bear.  The Himalayan Black Bear, or the Moon Bear, is a medium sized, sharp-clawed, black-colored bear. These have a distinct white or cream “V” marking on the chest, for which it is referred to as moon bear in some areas.

The size differs between males and females. Males typically weigh 110 to 150 kg, while females weigh 65 to 90 kg. The head and body measure 120 to 180 cm in length, while the tail is an additional 6.5 to 10.6 cm. The head is large and rounded, and the eyes are small. The ears are large and are set farther apart than on an American Black Bear. The body is heavy, the legs are thick and strong, and the paws are broad, standing in a plantigrade stance. The tail is short and is barely visible under a long, coarse coat.

Habitat and Range

The Asiatic Black Bear generally inhabits upper subtropical and lower moist temperate zones. They are found in East Asia and South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma, southern Siberia, Russia, northeastern China, Taiwan and Japan. In India, Asiatic Black Bears are found occupying Himalayan foothills, at a height of less than 3,750 m.

Behavior

Asiatic Black Bears are primarily nocturnal feeders and sleep in a tree hole or in a cave during the daytime, but they do sometimes forage diurnally. During the autumn, their nocturnal activity increases. They shift their ranges in early autumn in order to obtain native broadleaved food species (mast crops) at lower elevations. They are powerful swimmers, and their short (5.08 cm) claws make them adept tree climbers. They are plantigrade, and typically walk on four feet, but when they fight, they stand up on their two hind feet and slap their enemy with their forepaws. Asiatic Black Bears usually avoid man and only attack when they are wounded or trying to protect their young, but unprovoked attacks have been documented many times throughout history.

Not all Asiatic Black Bears hibernate, though many do. They store fat during the late summer to use during the winter months of hibernation. Some may sleep the entire winter period, while others may only hibernate for the worst periods of winter weather. Asiatic Black Bears behave as other bears during hibernation; they do not excrete urea or solid fecal material, instead converting the waste material to proteins. During periods of hibernation, the heartbeat drops from 40 to 70 beats per minute to 8 to 12 beats per minute, and the metabolic rate decreases by 50%. The body temperature decreases by only 3 to 7 degrees Centigrade. Due to the fact that the body temperature of U. thibetanus, as well as many other bears, does not substantially drop and the bear can be easily awakened, some ecophysiologists do not consider the bear’s period of inactivity to be true hibernation. Others argue that it is true hibernation, due to the fact that the pulse rate drops by 50%.

Exceptional sight, hearing, and smell are characteristics of the Himalayan Black Bear. No studies are available as to the exact form of communication between Asiatic Black Bears though. However, extensive research has been conducted on other members of the family, Ursidae, that have senses similar to those of the Asiatic Black Bear. Using evidence from these studies, it can be inferred that Asiatic Black Bears communicate vocally and use their heightened sense of hearing to aid in listening to these vocalizations. For example, when bear cubs are separated from their mothers, they make crying calls. Low guttural noises can be indications of a bear being apprehensive, and clicking the teeth together is an indication of aggressiveness.

Bears often communicate visually with each other by the way in which they move or behave in the presence of other bears; for example, the behavior of a bear can convey either dominant or subordinate status to another. To indicate subordinate status, a bear moves away, or sits or lies down. To convey dominance, a bear walks or runs towards a rival.

Bears use their acute sense of smell in order to communicate with other members of their species; they do so by urinating, defecating, and by rubbing against trees to leave their scent for other bears to detect.

Diet

Indian Black Bears are omnivorous. Their diet depends upon the season as well as the availability of food. The fall season is the time for having acorns, chestnuts, walnuts, and other fatty food. In spring season, they survive on a diet of bamboo, raspberry, hydrangea, and other plants, along with rodent’s caches of acorns. Summer season is perfect for having raspberries, cherries, grasses and ants. Asiatic Black Bears are also known to attack livestock at times.

Asiatic Black Bears most often feed diurnally. However, their nocturnal activity increases through autumn. This occurs because the bears must increase their food intake in order to store body fat for insulation and caloric needs for use during harsh winters and hibernation. Asiatic Black Bears seem to be able to shift their circadian rhythm in order to obtain desired foods; for example, when raiding crops, they are more likely to do so at night in order to avoid contact with humans. Asiatic Black Bears posses an acute sense of smell that lets them locate grubs and other insects up to 3 feet (approximately 1 meter) below the ground. When food production and availability is poor, Asiatic Black Bears have been known to strip the bark off of trees in order to supplement their deficient diet with nutrients. Their normal diet consists of fruits, roots and tubers, as well as small invertebrates and vertebrates, and carrion. However, cases in which they eat buffalo by breaking the neck have been documented. They also eat other prey they find that tigers have killed.

Asiatic Black Bears have been known to eat any available food source, including the livestock and produce of farms. Their proclivity for domestic animals and crops has made humans target them, and Asiatic Black Bears are often killed while trying to feed.

Breeding

The breeding season of Black Bears is from mid June to mid August and birth occurs in mid January. Sows generally have their first litter at the age of three years.  Sows usually give birth in caves or hollow trees in winter or early spring after a gestation period of 200–240 days.  Cubs weigh 13 ounces at birth, and will begin walking at four days of age, and open their eyes three days later. Litters can consist of 1–4 cubs, with 2 being the average. Cubs have a slow growth rate, reaching only 2.5 kg by May.  Black Bear cubs will nurse for 104–130 weeks, and become independent at 24–36 months. There is usually a 2–3 year interval period before females produce subsequent litters.  The average lifespan in the wild is 25 years, while the oldest Asian Black Bear in captivity died at the age of 44.

Conservation Status

The Himalayan Black Bear is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. One of the major reasons that have contributed to the declining population of Black Bears is rampant deforestation and habitat loss. Asiatic Black Bears also face threat from farmers, who kill them in order to protect their livestock.

Threats

Encroachment of human population, forest fires and the timber industries, have all reduce the bears’ habitat. There is also a high mortality rate among the newborn. And even though hunting of the Himalayan Black Bear has been forbidden since 1977, there is still a large problem with poaching.

Diversity of habitats and food is important in providing alternative foods when one food source fails. As a result of deforestation and other human activities, however, the diversity of habitats is being destroyed. Even in the protected areas, there is not enough variety to fully support the Asiatic Black Bears. As a result, each population of Asiatic Black Bears is becoming increasingly isolated.

Population studies in 2001 in Japan found that different populations of Asiatic Black Bears were becoming genetically isolated from each other. Even between the two closest populations, there was a low but significant amount of genetic differentiation. In the individual populations, genetic diversity was decreasing. Since each population was changing and evolving separately, genetic isolation between the populations is a problem that needs to be addressed, and conservation efforts must be initiated.

Short Facts

·      Asiatic Black Bears are notoriously aggressive towards humans and there are numerous records of human attacks and killings. This is mainly due to the fact that they are more likely to come into contact with humans, and they will often attack if surprised.  For that reason, the species was described as “the most bizarre of the ursine species.”

·      These bears are sometimes called moon bears because of the characteristic white crescent marking on their chest.  Every moon bear’s chest markings are different in colour and shape, ranging from pale yellow to deep orange-gold, from deep Vs to delicate crescents. Some are even speckled!

·      Himalayan Black Bears love water and like nothing more than swimming and splashing around!

·      It’s no myth – bears really do love honey and are believed to be able to smell it from up to 5 kilometres away!

Syrian Brown Bear

Ursus arctos syriacus

Syrian Brown Bear

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus: Ursus

Species: U. arctos

Subspecies: Ursus arctos syriacus

Description

Syrian brown bear fur color is usually very light brown and straw colored.  The fur in the winter is longer with a gray-brown base and is often a different shade then the rest of the body, seen in some individuals as a dark stripe running across the back. Individuals from the middle and Western Caucasus, whose ranges overlap those of Eurasian brown bears, are darker in color, and larger in size, leading some naturalists to propose that they are in fact hybrid populations of Eurasian and Syrian brown bears. It is thought that these mixed bears originated during the Holocene when Syrian bears migrated Northward and interbred with the larger Northern bears. These populations have skulls measuring 37–40 cm in length, and their fur color is reddish brown with no mixture of black and brown tones.


Habitat and Range

Generally found in the mountainous areas throughout its home range, the Syrian Brown Bears seem to den and hibernate in caves and tree hollows of the birch forests, which are found at higher elevations than pine and other trees. Outside of hibernation these bears tend to forage for food in grasslands, meadows, forests and have been known to enter mountain villages to feed on grains and nuts

Behavior 

The brown bear is primarily solitary animals, although they may gather in large numbers at major food sources and form social hierarchies based on age and size.  They may be active at any time, but primarily forage in the morning and at dusk, and rest during the day.

In the summer, the brown bear may put on substantial reserves of fat (up to 180 kilograms or 400 pounds of fat in larger populations), on which it relies to make it through winter, when it becomes very lethargic. Although they are not full hibernators, and can be woken easily, both sexes like to den in a protected spot such as a cave, crevice, or hollow log during the winter months.

Diet 

The species primarily feeds on vegetable matter, including roots and berries, as well as fungi. Fish are a primary source of meat, and it will also kill small mammals on land. Larger mammals, such as deer, are taken only occasionally. Adult brown bears can match wolf packs and large felines, often driving them off their kills. As a seed disperser and predator, it plays an important role in the ecosystem.

Reproduction 

The mating season takes place from late May through early July. Being serially monogamous, brown bears will remain with the same mate from several days to a couple of weeks. Females are become capable of reproduction between the age of 5 and 7 years, while males will usually not mate until a few years later when they are large and strong enough to successfully compete with other males for mating rights. Like other brown bear species, the males of this group will challenge each other for the right to mate. Once mated, the female will bear a litter of cubs (average litter number is between one and four) which she will care for until they grow large enough to strike out on their own. The mother also assumes the duties of training them to hunt, forage and scavenge.

Human Induced Threats

The Syrian brown bear population is declining due to habitat loss, and poaching. They are a popular target for big game hunters in Armenia and the entire Caucasus. In addition, their fur is a valuable commodity that is sold for large sums of money to mount as a trophy in sport hunting.  Decline in prey for the bears is also a contributing factor for the decline of bears in Armenia and neighboring countries. 

Forestry, highway construction, residential developments and other human activities cause a serious threat to bears by increasing the isolation of populations of bears into small pockets.   This is sometimes called the downgrading of existing wild brown bear habitat and over time will decrease the ability of wild areas to support the current brown bear population in the wild.  For these reasons, the Syrian brown bear is in the Red Data Book of Armenia.

The Syrian Brown Bear in history and culture

Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. To this day, they play a prominent role in the arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies. 

Syrian Brown Bears are the bears of the Scripture. In the Bible, King David recalls that as a boy, he protected his father’s flock of sheep from marauding bears. It also is said in the biblical story of Elisha that two female Syrian Brown Bear were sent by God to maul pagan youths that had insulted Elisha.

Various written accounts and artifacts indicate that Syrian bears once ranged throughout the Middle East, as far south as the Sinai Peninsula. The range of the Syrian Brown Bears shrank as they since antiquity were killed as pests and threats to human safety, and their habitat was reduced through cutting of trees and subsequent desertification. Syrian bears were also often taken to Europe for zoos or street shows because of their attractive golden coat.

Short facts

The Syrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus), is the smallest of the many subspecies of brown bears and is native to Eurasia. Today, the Syrian Brown Bear still ranges from Turkey to Iran, including the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, but is generally believed to be extinct in its namesake country of Syria, as well as neighboring Lebanon. High woodlands offer these animals ready access to caves to den and ample hunting grounds. While prey can be scarce in their habitat, Syrian brown bears have learned to become foragers and scavengers.

In general, brown bears as a group are among the largest type of bears, second only to polar bears.  These light gray-brown bears can weigh as little as three hundred and fifty pounds fully grown.  Various larger subspecies include the Eurasian brown bear, Grizzly bear, Kodiak bear, Alaskan brown bear, Russian brown bear, Asiatic brown bear, and the Himalayan snow bear. The global distribution of brown bears can be found in North America, Europe, and northern Asia, with the largest populations in Russia.

Leopard

Panthera pardus

Leopard

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class:   Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Panthera

Species: P. pardus

 

Description 

The Leopard is a big, powerfully built cat with a very elegant shape. The body is long with comparatively short, stout legs and a long tail. The head-body length is up to 171 cm, tail length is up to 100 cm and the height at the shoulder is 50-70 cm. It weighs 30-80 kg. The head is rather small, with a convex profile. The ears are rounded, black at the backside and with a conspicuous median white spot. The tail has a black tip and no terminal tuft. The coat is dense, soft and rather short and marked with numerous black spots in the form of “rosettes” on a buff or yellowish-tawny ground colour. The Rosettes in most individuals are without central spots. The under parts and inner side of limbs are white and less densely spotted.

Range and Habitat

The leopard has an exceptionally large range, occurring throughout Africa and Asia. It occurs across most of sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller populations in North Africa. Its range extends east to the Arabian Peninsula and throughout southwest Asia to India, China and the Russian Far East, and it is also found on the islands of Java and Sri Lanka.

Leopards inhabit a variety of terrain. They are most populous in mesic woodlands, grassland savannas, and forests. They also occupy mountainous, scrub, and desert habitats.

Behavior

Leopards are shy, cunning and very dangerous, especially when wounded. Leopards are very good tree climbers and can pull large prey up a tree to protect it from other predators or scavengers in the vicinity. They return later to feed again. Leopards still occur outside conservation areas.

Diet

Leopards generally prey upon mid-sized ungulates, which includes small antelopes, gazelles, deer, pigs, primates and domestic livestock. They are opportunistic carnivores and eat birds, reptiles, rodents, arthropods, and carrion when available. Leopards prefer prey that weigh between 10 and 40 kg. They are also known to scavenge from cheetahs, solitary hyenas, and smaller carnivores as well. They are known to cache food and may continue hunting despite having multiple carcasses already cached.

Reproduction

The reproductive season is year-round but peaks during the rainy season in May. In China and southern Siberia, leopards mainly breed in January and February. Females are in estrus for 7 days and have a 46 day long cycle. Gestation last 96 days and females usually give birth once every 15 to 24 months. Typically, females stop reproducing around 8.5 years old. Leopard cubs weigh less than 1 kg at birth, and their eyes remain closed for the first week. Mothers leave their cubs in the protection of dense bush, rock clefts, or hollow tree trunks for up to 36 hours while hunting and feeding. Cubs learn to walk at 2 weeks of age and regularly leave the den at 6 to 8 weeks old, around which time they begin to eat solid food. Mothers share less than a third of their food with their cubs. Cubs are completely weaned by 3 months old and independent at just under 20 months old. Often, siblings maintain contact during the early years of independence.

Conservation Status

Listed as “Near Threatened” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Interior Alaskan wolf

Canis lupus pambasileus

Interior Alaskan wolf

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Canis

Species: C. lupus

Subspecies: Interior Alaskan wolf

 

Description

The color of Yukon Wolves range from nearly pure white to jet black. About half are a mix of grey and white, with tan coloring on the ears and shoulders.

They are very large wolves, measuring up to two meters from nose to tail-tip (the height of a tall man). About a quarter of that length is the wolf’s tail. They are at present the largest wolves in North America and possible the world. Their weight is roughly 30-50 kilograms, with females averaging about seven kilograms less than males. A few males reach 65 kilograms.

Range and Habitat

They are distributed throughout the interior of Alaska and the Yukon, except the tundra region of the arctic coast.

Diet

Mainly large prey, such as caribou, moose, deer, elk, bison, and muskoxen. Also hares, foxes, beaver, muskrat, and smaller rodents, as well as birds, fish, and eggs.

Behavior

Wolves can travel 40 kilometres in a day, loping along at about eight kilometres an hour. If they’re in a hurry, they can hit speeds over 60 kilometres an hour. No matter how fast they are, though, the animals they hunt are usually faster—and larger. Although single wolves have been known to bring down prey as large as a moose, hunting in groups of two or greater is more effective.

Reproduction

Females rarely breed before two years of age, although they’re capable of breeding as yearlings. Normally the older females reproduce and breeding typically occurs in February. Litters vary in numbers, but typically four to six pups are born in mid-May.

Conservation Status

Not listed in the IUCN Red List.

Grey Wolf

Canis lupus

Grey Wolf

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Subfamily: Caninae

Genus: Canis

Species: Canis lupus

 

Description

The Gray Wolf is the largest species of approximately 41 species of “canis”. The species of Gray Wolves is divided into 39 subspecies. Depending on their geographical location their sizes differ. In general southern populations are smaller than northern ones. Males achieve a body length from 100 centimeter to 130 centimeter and weight between 30 to 80 kg whereas the length of females differs from 87 up to 117 centimeter and their weight from 23 to 55 kilogram. The height from paws to shoulders is between 60 to 90 centimeter.

Not only the size, also the coloration of their coat differs depending on their geographical habitat. The color varies from pure white in Arctic regions, to white mixed with gray, brown, cinnamon and black or almost pure black.

A dense underfur makes Gray Wolves able to cope with low temperatures.

The average life-expectation is 5 or 6 years, but theoretically they can live up to 15 years.

Gray wolves can be seen as separated from red wolves (Canis rufus), which are smaller, have a slimmer snout and longer ears, and from coyotes (Canis latres), which also are smaller and their snout and feet are more petite.

Habitat and Range

Originally, the Grey Wolf was the world’s most widely distributed mammal. The populations were spread over the northern hemisphere up to 20° South. They occupy a wide variety of habitats, from arctic tundra to forest, prairie, and arid landscapes. 

Behavior

Wolves are quite social animals. They live in packs out of 2 to over 30 individuals. One pack consists of an alpha pair and its offspring. Sometimes there are unrelated wolves that immigrate to a pack.

There is a strong hierarchy within a pack. On the top is a leader, usually the alpha male, that is dominant over all other pack members. It is followed by the alpha female. When the alpha men is injured or can’t hold its dominance, a beta male takes over its rule. In that case the former alpha man normally leaves the pack. According to its place in hierarchy it is determined which wolf mates and when it eats. Various postures like rolling over to show the stomach, crouching and facial expressions express the different rules. Often only the alpha pair gets pups, but all other members of the pack care for the little ones.

Each year the pack has a nomadic and a stationary period. In summer and spring, when the pups are born and reared, the pack stays at the same place. In autumn and winter they travel over long distances up to 200 kilometers a day with an average velocity of 8 kilometer per hour. Normally these movements take place at night.

A further way besides body language to communicate is vocalization like howling. On the one hand that is the way they communicate with pack members over long distances while they are hunting, on the other hand they also communicate with other packs about the boundaries of territories. Scent marks are used by the alpha man.

Wolves are highly territorial animals. A lone wolf is easily attacked by wolfs of an other pack or coyotes. If they found foreign pups, packs probably kill them.

 

Diet

Wolves are carnivores. They hunt on their own, sometimes steal food of other predators or eat from carcasses. They find their prey by scent. Their prey differs according to which animals are available in their habitat. A lone wolf hunts small mammals, which are a vital part of its diet. Larger animals such as moose or reindeer are mainly attacked in pack. Gray wolves hunt predominately weak and old animals with the result that they can control the populations of their prey. They utilize the whole carcass and even eat parts of the bones. Up to 9 kilogram meat is eaten by a single wolf  at one meal.

Reproduction

Breeding time is between January and April. In northern regions the breeding time starts later than in southern areas. Mated pairs normally stay together for life. Just if one partner dies, it may be replaced. Once a year in breeding time female wolves come into estrus that lasts 5 to 14 days. After mating the female digs a den in which it rears its pups. Entrances of dens often fall down first and then heighten again to avoid flooding. Sometimes dens are also found in cliffs, under fallen-trees or in caves. After 60 up to 63 days, 5 to 14 blind and deaf pups are born in the den and remain there for several weeks without leaving. After 10 days the pups open their eyes although they are still unable to walk. But during the next 5 up to 10 days they learn to stand and vocalize. The mother stays with them the first 3 weeks almost all the time and the little wolves are fed regurgitated food by all pack members. 8 to 10 weeks after their birth wolves leave the den for the first time. Now they learn how to play, to fight and to hunt. In order to survive in winter they have to develop and learn fast. Females are mature within the age of 2, whereas males not until three years after their birth. Between the age of 1 and 3 young males are often dispersed from their natal pack.   

Conservation Status

The Gray Wolf has become extinct in much of Western Europe, in Mexico and much of the USA. Their original worldwide range has been reduced by about one-third for instance by habitat destruction, environmental change or persecution by humans. Since about 1970 several protection  and reintroduction programs helped to save stabilize wolf populations. At a global level the species does not meet any of the criteria for the threatened categories and is assigned as “Least Concern”. However, in some regions of the world, several wolf populations are seriously vulnerable as in North  America.

A wolf as a wild dog

Often it is said that the wolf is the wild friend of our dog at home. Even if dogs and wolves share several similar biological traits and belong to the same family they differ in many ways. The biggest difference is that dogs developed to faithful companions of human beings whereas wolves are still wild animals and rearing them is quite difficult. Wolves don’t adapt to humans as dogs do.

In general dogs and wolves don’t mate, but it is possible that they get vital pups together. The chance that that happens in nature is quite small! But wolf-dog hybrids exist and also so called Coywolves, a mixture between Gray Wolves and Coyotes.

A fascinating animal

Wolves have always been an important part in human mythology and folklore. For many people they are a symbol of wilderness and spirit. Although they have often the reputation of being big and bad, they are also often seen as good animals that are ancestors of human beings (Turks, Mongols) or are linked with the sun (some Eurasian cultures) and gods (Ancient Greek: Apollo).

In the founding story of Rome the founders Remus and Romulus are raised up by the Capitoline Wolf. In northern European and some Native American cultures wolves are associated with witchcraft or even death.

Humans hunt and poison wolves. On the one hand they started to hunt them because of their fur. On the other hand they wanted to destroy the populations because of livestock depredation and fear. Even if there are occurrences that wolves have attacked human beings or even killed them, they normally aren’t aggressive against people. Conflicts arise when wolves don’t have enough habitats, in  which humans disturb them through their activities. Often livestock depredation is over stated: Wolves normally prefer their wild prey.

Short Facts

  • Gray wolves can achieve a speed up to 70 km/h.
  • Searching for food wolves sometimes travel more than 100 km away from the territory of their pack.
  • Besides Little Red Cap there is no any report that a healthy wolf has ever eaten a human.
  • Wolves play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling natural prey populations and removing weak individuals. 
Caucasian Lynx

Lynx lynx dinniki

Caucasian Lynx

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Lynx

Species: L. lynx dinniki

Description

Caucasian lynx are carnivores. Their size ranges from 8-17 kg (even 32 kg), body length is 82 to 109 cm. The body is short, legs are long and straight. The tail is short (20-31 cm), with a solid black tip. Characteristic features of Eurasian lynx are black tufts at the tips of the ears and a prominently flared facial ruff. The coat is varied in grey, rusty, or yellow fur. There are three main coat patterns: spotted, striped, and solid. The paws are large and fur-covered, which helps them to navigate in deep snow.

Range and Habitat

Caucasian lynx are one of the most widely distributed cat species. Their range extended throughout Europe, Central and Northern Asia. In Armenia Caucasian lynx live in Ararat, Tavush, Lori, Kotayq, Syunik and Gegharquniq regions. They live in forests and rocky areas.

Behavior

They are most active during early morning and the evening. When they are not active, they spend their time resting under the cover of thick brush, tall grasses, or in trees. They are mainly terrestrial but are adept at climbing and swimming.

Diet

Like other members of the family Felidae, Caucasian lynx are strict carnivores, consuming only meat. Main diet consists of rabbit, has been known to red deer, fallow deer, mouflon and ducks.

Reproduction

Caucasian lynx mating season takes place from February to April of each year. Gestation lasts 67 to 74 days, with females giving birth in May. Breeding interval varies, depending on success of previous season. Females without a litter will breed every year, females with a litter will breed about every 3 years. Typically 2 to 3 cubs comprise a litter, although litter size can range from 1 to 5 kittens. Newborn cubs weigh 300 to 350g and are dependent on their mother for food and protection. They are weaned at 4 months and become independent at around 10 months. Females become sexually mature at 2 years of age and can remain so up to 14 years of age, whereas males mature at 3 years of age and can reproduce up to age 17. They live up to 25 years in captivity.

Conservation status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Least Concern.

Eurasian Lynx

Lynx lynx

Eurasian Lynx

Scientific classification 

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Lynx

Species: Lynx lynx

 

Description

The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the four lynx species, measure between 80 to 129 centimeters and height about 70 centimeters at the shoulder.  It is recognized by its short body, long legs and large feet. A round head with triangular ears that have a black tuft at the tip and the tail is short black-tipped which measures 15 to 25 centimeters.

All lynxes belong to the spotted cats. However, pelt colour is very variable within and between different parts of the distribution range. The coat is greyish with different tints (rusty, yellowish, or reddish) at the back and flanks, but light at the belly. There are four major coat patterns: Large spots, small spots, rosettes, and unspotted. During winter, its variably patterned coat is long and dense and large fur-covered paws help it move through deep snow.

They have sexual dimorphism with the males being larger (weigh on average 21.6 kg) than females (at 18.1 kg).

Habitat and Geographic Range

The Eurasian lynx is one of the widest ranging cats and is found in the forests of western Europe, Russia and central Asia. They are associated primarily with forested areas which have good ungulate populations, depending on their locality, this may include forest-steppe, boreal forest, and montain forest.

Lynx are probably found throughout the northern slopes of the Himalayas, and have been reported both from thick scrub woodland and barren, rocky areas above the treeline.

They tend to be less common where wolves are abundant, and wolves have been reported to attack and even eat lynx.

Diet

The lynx is a strict carnivore (consuming one or two kg of meat every day) the main preys are large ungulate species, different ones depends of their range, including red deer, reindeer and argali. Lynx are capable of killing prey 3-4 times their own size. Lynx activity peaks in the evening and morning hours, with resting mainly around mid-day and midnight. When ungulates are scarce, lynx take small prey as lagomorphs.

The main method of hunting is stalking, sneaking and jumping on prey, although they are also ambush predators when conditions are suitable.

Breeding

The mating season for Eurasian lynx lasts from January to April. The female typically comes into oestrus only once during this period, lasting from four to seven days. Gestation lasts from 67 to 74 days, and results in the birth of from one to four kittens. These ones are located in hollow logs, at the base of old trees, in rocky areas, or dense vegetation.

Kittens average 250-430 grams at birth. Their eyes open around two weeks of age, and they begin to walk between 24-30 days. The young typically remain with their mother until they are around ten months of age.

Female eurasian lynx reach sexual maturity at 20-24 months for females and approximately 30 months for males. And the last reproduction is at 14 years old to the females and 16-17 years to the males.

Behavior

Home range size varies widely, but averaged 248 km² for males and 133 km² for females. Densities are typically 1-3 adults per 100 km². It lives solitarily as an adult. They patrol regularly throughout all parts of their hunting range, using scent marks to indicate their presence to other individuals. As with other cats, the scent marks may consist of feces, urine, or scrape marks, with the former often being left in prominent locations along the boundary of the hunting territory.

The longevity in the wild is up to 17 years while in captivity is up to 24 years.

Threats

While China and Russia had annual commercial exports of thousands of skins in the 1970s and 1980s, this trade has ended in recent years. However, illegal skin trade remains the leading threat to the species, together with habitat loss and prey base depletion.

Lynx are vulnerable to destruction of their ungulate prey base. Under harsh winter conditions, they may not be able to subsist successfully on smaller prey. Hunting pressure may also play a role in lynx population declines.  The taking of domestic stock has also brought them into direct conflict with farmers and ranchers, who kill them as pests.

Conservation Status

The lynx is included on CITES Appendix II and protected under the Bern Convention (Appendix III). And is a protected species by IUCN considered as least concern.

The lynx reached its lowest number between 1930 and 1950 as a consequence of human activities.

Short Facts

·      The feet of lynx normally not mark in the footprint.

·      Eurasian lynx can travel up to 20 km during one night.

·      Is native in Armenia

·      In Norse mythology, Freyja, the goddess of love and beauty

is often depicted riding a lynx.

African Lion

Panthera leo

African Lion

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Panthera

Species: Panthera leo

 

Description

Known as “King of the Animals” the lion is usually characterized as fearsome, courageous and majestic. As one of the largest cats, an adult healthy male has a head-body length between 1.7 – 2.5 meters, the average height at the shoulder is 1.20 meters and the weight is between 150-240kg. While an adult healthy female has a head-body length between 1.6 – 1.9 meters, the average height at the shoulder is 1.10 meters and the weight is between 122-182 kg.

They have a short tawny coat. While the color may vary locally from pale to dark, the under parts are generally lighter. Absent at birth, the tuft develops around 5 months and half age and is readily identifiable at 7 months, this feature is unique in the cats family, it is located in the tip of the tail and is dark brown or black.

The lions and the lioness are morphologically different (sexual dimorphism), the main difference is a mane of hair in the males and this is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the species. It makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent intimidation display. The presence, absence, color and size of the mane is associated with genetic precondition, sexual maturity, climate and testosterone production, usually darker and fuller mane, the healthier is the lion.

Range and Habitat 

Optimal habitat appears to be open woodlands, and thick bush, scrub and grass complexes, where sufficient cover is provided for hunting and denning. The lion has a broad habitat tolerance, absent only from tropical rainforest and the interior of the Sahara desert. Although lions drink regularly when water is available, they are capable of obtaining their moisture requirements from prey and even plants, and thus can survive in very arid environments.

The Lion formerly ranged from northern Africa through southwest Asia (where it disappeared from most countries within the last 150 years), west into Europe, where it apparently became extinct almost 2,000 years ago, and east into India. Today, the only remainder of this once widespread population is a single isolated population of the Asiatic Lion P. leo persica in the 1,400 km² Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Lions are extinct in North Africa, having perhaps survived in the High Atlas Mountains up to the 1940s. Nowadays the lions are found in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Extent of occurrence is estimated at over 4.5 million km², 22% of historical range.

Behavior

Lions are predatory carnivores that manifest two types of social organization. Some are residents, living in groups, called prides. The pride usually consists of five or six related females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or two males (known as a coalition if more than one). The number of adult males in a coalition is usually two, but may increase to four and decrease again over time. Male cubs are excluded from their maternal pride when they reach maturity.

Females demonstrate several cooperative behaviors unique among the felids. Pride members often give birth in synchrony, and the young are reared communally, with cubs suckling freely from lactating females. Groups of females do most of the hunting, and males, for the short time that they are living together with females, concentrate their energy on defending their tenure.

Despite maternal defense, infanticide is common when males take over a new pride: most females with dependent offspring lose their cubs within a month of a takeover, and those that are pregnant lose their cubs shortly after giving birth.

Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming, and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.

The mane appears to serve several functions: increased protection during intraspecific fighting, a signpost of gender distinguishable at distance (possibly linked to the lion’s historic colonization of open plains), and an indicator of individual fitness. Sexual selection of mates by lionesses favors males with the densest, darkest mane.

Diet 

Individual differences in prey selection and killing techniques are often discernible for different prides in the same area, indicating a strong role for learning in the lion’s hunting behavior.

They hunt usually medium- to large-sized ungulates (including antelopes, zebra and wildebeest) but Lions will take almost any animal, from rodents to a rhino. They also scavenge, displacing other predators (such as the Spotted Hyaena) from their kills. Groups of female lions, typically hunt together, perform most of the hunting, usually at night to avoid detection.

Reproduction 

While the females are able to mate at 24 months the males only begins at 30 months, successful first reproduction generally happens only when pride membership is established. The gestation period lasts of around 110 days, and the size of the litter is between 1-6 cubs. Males generally leave their natal pride at between 2-4 years, but young males may be forced out much earlier by a pride takeover, e.g. 13-20 months. Most young females are incorporated into their natal prides, for the females that disperse the median age is 2.5 years.

Female reproductive performance starts to decline at 11 years and virtually ceases at 15, 16 year-old males can still produce viable sperm, but reproduction probably completely ceases after pride tenure is lost (8-10 years).

Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes that disappear with maturity, although some lions retain faint spots.

Conservation Status

The species Listed in the IUCN Red List and evaluated as Vulnerable.

Siberian tiger

Panthera tigris altaica

Siberian tiger

Scientific classification 

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Suborder: Feliformia

Family: Felidae

Subfamily: Pantherinae

Genus: Panthera

Species: Panthera tigris

Subspecies: Panthera tigris altaica

 

Description

The Siberian or Amur Tiger is considered to be the largest tiger with the most light colored fur within between all tiger subspecies, with a weight between 180 to 300kg with a length till 3,3m. The tigers are the only feline with stripes and the fur has a yellow to light orange color, additional its drawn through with brown to dark black stripes. The belly and the limbs are white, on the back part of the ears often appears a white spot too.

Tigers are very powerful animals. They have a short and strong neck, broad forepaws and long claws. In order to scrape meat away from bones the tongue is covered with hard papillae.

Range and habitat

The Siberian or Amur Tiger occurs primarily in Russia, with about 360 animals, in China a small population that depends on the movements of the tigers in the border with Russia and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the existence is uncertain.

The tiger is a terrestrial animal but in opposition to others cats, water for tigers is not a barrier and it can even often be observed that this cat lay down in the water to cool down on  hot days.

Diet

Every day a tiger needs approximately 8 kilogram meat. The main prey is large mammals as antelopes, hog deer, wild pig, etc. But when these are not available they complete their diet with small mammals like rabbits. Tigers prefer to hunt at night using more their hearing and sight than olfactory to discover their prey. While hunting tigers are silent and creep up on their victim staying deep on the ground and hiding in high grass. When they are close enough they achieve high speed in the small distance, throw the prey out of balance with their mass and kill them with a bite in the neck. Often not all meat is eaten at once, but it is usually dragged and covered, so that it can be revisited over several days.

Reproduction

Tigers are solitary animals and usually the territory of a male overlaps the territory for several females. Only for mating they associate and sometimes males compete for a single female. Every 9 to 10 weeks a female tiger comes to estrus, during seven days,  and after gestation period of around 100 days, with a litter of two or three cubs that born blind and deaf in a den. The mother stays near to its cubs most of the time and after 1 to 2 weeks the little tigers open their eyes and ears. After 2 months the baby tigers follow their mother outside and after 6 months they take part in hunting. The young tigers stay with their mother up to an age of 18 month to 3 years in order to learn to attack and kill the prey. Males do not care about their offspring. Around the age of 4 years tigers are getting mature.

Lifespan

In the wild a tiger lives normally between 8 and 10 years, but actually they can reach an age of more than 20 years. In captivity a lifespan up to 18 years is quite usual going till up 26 years old. Reasons for the shorter life of wild tigers are hunting and persecution by humans and the danger of getting wounded by their large prey.

Especially young tigers, which disperse from their mother’s range are often attacked and eaten by other male tigers.

Communication

Tigers communicate by scent and visual signals as well as vocalization. Scent markings are made with a liquid that is mixed with urine and sprayed on trees, grass or rocks. After discovering a scent mark a tiger often shows a special facial expression called “flehmen”. The tongue hangs out of the mouth and the nose is wrinkled.

Roars, grunts and hisses serve as vocalization. They express the intent of the animal and shows for example dominance or submission.

Conservation Status

The Siberian Tiger is included on the Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Till 2007 the Siberian Tiger was considered by IUCN as critically endangered changing to endangered due to an increasing population in Russia, from 20-30 in 1930 to approximate 360 now. This was just possible because of an intensive conservation effort making this population stable. The main threat posed to these tigers is the low genetic variation that creates problems like higher cubs mortality.

Tigers and humans

Normally tigers do not hunt humans and avoid contact to them. Records of Siberian tigers attacking or killing people are very rare in particularly in comparison to reports about “man-eating” Bengal tigers. But in rare cases some Siberian tigers have been become “man-eaters”. In many of these cases it turned out that these tigers were previously injured by poachers who tried to kill or catch the animal.

Since the nineties of the last century the survival of the Siberian tiger has become a major concern of many conservation organizations worldwide. Also the governments of Russia and China joint the global efforts to protect the last examples of this once widely spread tigers sub-species on their territories. Thus in August 2010, China and Russia agreed to enhance conservation and cooperation in protected areas in a transboundary area for Siberian tigers. China has undertaken a series of public awareness campaigns including celebration of the first Global Tiger Day in July 2010, and International Forum on Tiger Conservation and Tiger Culture and China 2010 Hunchun Amur Tiger Culture Festival in August 2010

Though in recent years many conservation efforts have been focused on the Siberian Tiger the biggest threat for these cats is still poaching. The real reason behind this is profit: Broken into body parts which are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, the value of a dead tiger can reach more than $50,000.

Short Facts

  • During the hunting only 1 out of 10 to 20 attacks result in a successful hunt.
  • The pattern and distribution of the stripes are unique for each tiger.
  • Tigers are excellent swimmers and water doesn’t usually act as a barrier to their movement. They can easily cross rivers as wide as 6-8 km.
  • The Tungusic people considered the Siberian tiger a near-deity and often referred to it as “Grandfather” or “Old man”.
  • The most elite unit of the Chinese Imperial Army in the Manchu Qing Dynasty was called “Hu Shen Ying”, literally “The Tiger God Battalion”.
Indian elephant

Elephas maximus indicus

Indian elephant

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidea

Family: Elephantidae

Genus: Elephas

Species: Elephas maximus

Subspecies: Elephas maximus indicus

 

Description

The Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant, and native to mainland Asia.

Head and body length is 550 to 640 cm and shoulder height is 250 to 300 cm. The skin is thick and dry, and the few hairs are stiff. Skin color varies from grey to brown. In contrast to African elephants, Asian elephants have ears that are much smaller, the back is not as sloping, the head rather than the shoulders is the highest part of the body, the trunk has a single finger-like projection rather than two, and the hind foot has 4 nails rather than 3. The elephant’s teeth are unique. They have a limited number of very large teeth that move forward in the mouth as the animal ages; as the front teeth are worn away with use they are replaced from behind. If an elephant lives long enough to have used up all of its teeth it then starves to death. In males, a pair of incisors is elongated (growing 17 cm per year throughout the animal’s life) into tusks.

Unlike African Elephant females, Asian females do not bear tusks.  Elephants are endowed with versatile trunks, which have over 100,000 muscles units that make it extremely dexterous. This incredible dexterity enables an elephant to pick up very small items and use their trunks for a wide variety of functions. The trunk has no bones or cartilage except for a tiny bit of cartilage at the tip of the trunk which separates the nostrils; each nostril is lined with a membrane. There is a single finger at the tip of the Asian Elephant’s trunk whereas the African Elephant has two fingers. Elephants do not use their trunks like a straw to drink through, but rather they suck water into the trunk and squirt it into their mouths. Females are usually smaller than males and can be easily distinguished by the two mammary glands located on the chest.

Habitat and Range

Indian elephants are native to mainland Asia: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malay Peninsula, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and China. They inhabit grasslands, dry deciduous, moist deciduous, evergreen and semi-evergreen forests.

Wild elephant populations need vast areas over which to range. However, migratory routes, many which have been cut off by human settlements, are resulting in small and isolated herds. Asian elephants are randomly nomadic in accordance with the season. Historically, they travel on a set course over longer periods that may take them as much as ten years to complete before arriving back at any one point. However, these travel patterns have been greatly reduced as fast-growing human populations now confine most elephants to National Parks because of habitat destruction and settlement encroachment.

They are found in a wide variety of forest types, but they tend to avoid large forests of closed canopies. Their distribution is limited by the need for water (about 100 liters) every day.

Behavior

Asian elephants are quite social. Cows form stable herds of about 20 or more of their female relatives. These matriarchal groups are led by the oldest female, who coordinates the herd’s movements in search of food and water. Herds may temporarily break up into smaller subgroups, which maintain contact through low frequency long-distance vocalizations. Males are sometimes found with these herds, especially when a female is in estrus. Generally only the dominant male mates with the females. Males may travel alone or in temporary male groups. This species does not appear to be territorial. In the past these animals migrated seasonally, but human activities such as agriculture have now made this virtually impossible. Like other large mammals, elephants are more tolerant of cold than of excessive heat. They spend the hottest part of the day in the shade, and dissipate heat through their ears, which they flap at different speeds according to how hot they are. In addition, at full charge, an elephant can run over 48 km/hr.

Elephants communicate by a loud trumpeting noise that is used to gather a herd. Another noise is a hollow resonant sound made by tapping the trunk “backhanded” on a hard surface, the tip of which is turned upward, while snorting; this signals alarm. Beating the ground violently with the trunk is signaling anger or displeasure. Elephants have a large repertoire of growls, roars, grunts, trumpeting, and snort for warnings, greetings, distress, and signaling.

Diet

Elephants eat a wide variety of species of vegetation. They prefer grasses, but they also consume bark, roots, leaves, and stems of trees, vines, and shrubs. Most of an adult’s activities involve moving toward and eating food. They eat in the morning, evening, and night but rest during the hottest part of the day. An average day’s intake is 150 kg of vegetation, of which only about 44% is actually digested (with the aid of symbiotic gut bacteria). Elephants eat long grasses by plucking a “handful” with their trunk and putting the bundle in their mouth. To eat short grasses, they kick up a pile of dirt with their feet and sweep the grass into their mouth, again with the end of their trunk. Shrubs are eaten by breaking off twigs with the trunk and inserting them into the mouth. To eat the bark off larger branches, they hold the branch with their trunk and rotate it while scraping off the bark with their teeth – similar to the way people eat corn on the cob. Elephants also drink at least once a day (140 liters of water may be consumed in just one day) and so are never very far from a water supply.

Breeding

Elephants are slow and difficult to breed with an average of only 4 offspring during a lifetime of 60 years.

An adult male will join the herd for mating season after dueling with others for mating rights. These mating conflicts can sometimes lead to death from seriously inflicted wounds. The mating bull will drive all other herd males away and will remain with the cow (female elephant) for about three weeks. The male genetalia are housed internally.

Cows are in estrus only 2 to 4 days during their cycle that lasts about 4 months and under ideal habitat conditions, females reach sexual maturity at about the age of 10. If conditions are difficult sexual maturity may be delayed several years.

The gestation period is 22 months and one or sometimes two calves are born. When the birth is taking place, the other herd cows will form a circle around the mother, presumably for protection. If the baby is born in an area where there are large carnivores, the mother will blow dust over the newborn in order to dry it and keep the scent of birth from being carried in the air. A newborn calf weighs 200 pounds and stands about three feet tall at the shoulder. One of the first things a calf smells is the dung of the mother that is dropped shortly after the calf born; this associates her scent to her baby. The calf can stand two hours after birth and it will begin to suckle. The young are weaned at about 2 years old. Their rate of growth, the age at which they reach puberty, their life span, and their gerontic (last phase of life) progression is similar to that of man. Elephants live to be about 70 years old.

Calves have milk tusks that are 2 inches long and are shed by the time they are 2 years old. Males will then being to grow permanent tusks.

Interestingly, it is often asked if African and Asian elephants can interbreed. Because the species live in separate areas of the world this would not naturally happen. However, in captivity it is possible and did happen at the Chester Zoo in England in 1979. The resulting offspring lived only 10 days. This has been the only recorded case of the two species breeding. It is unlikely that any offspring would survive because of the physiological differences between them.

As a result of the isolation of wild elephant populations, the gene pool has become depleted with the result being inbreeding. Breeding success in captivity is poor; however, there have been recent advances in the use of artificial insemination resulting in successful elephant births. Unfortunately the cost is very high and unaffordable to most elephant owners.

History 

In India, elephants have been an integral part of cultural history, dating as far back as the Vedic Period (1500B.C. to 600B.C.) References are made in these early times to their domesticity and tameness. Elephants eventually gained a higher status than the horse, which was an extremely important animal in Indian culture. The elephant became the carrier (vahana) of Indra, the King of the Gods. They were also prominent in the stories of Buddha with elephant festivals and processions being commonplace. By 231B.C. the elephant had become the emblem of Buddhism and they appeared as prominent features in artistic carvings. Elephant possession and use as a royal mount was firmly established and along with this they became an asset of war.

War elephants in India were used from the 1st millennium B.C. to the early 19th century. A staggering number of elephants have died fighting wars during India’s history. It was not until the introduction of muskets in mid-1700, that elephants were no longer needed to fight in the front lines of battle. However, their importance for use was not diminished because they could still transport soldiers, ammunition and supplies over extremely rough terrain where men could not go alone.

War elephants in India were used from the 1st millennium B.C. to the early 19th century. A staggering number of elephants have died fighting wars during India’s history. It was not until the introduction of muskets in mid-1700, that elephants were no longer needed to fight in the front lines of battle. However, their importance for use was not diminished because they could still transport soldiers, ammunition and supplies over extremely rough terrain where men could not go alone.

All elephants in private ownership in India were put into active military service to defend their borders against the Japanese who had invaded Burma and Southeast Asia during WWII. It was not until the introduction of the 4-wheel drive vehicle that the role of the elephant in India’s commissariat ended.

Today in India elephants are still used as status symbols in some temples, in circuses, and by the forest and tourism department of the government. It stands as a symbol of eternal India.

Conservation Status

Asian Elephants are on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and are considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Asian Elephants have a long history of being hunted by people, originally for food, later for domestic stock and ivory. Poaching for ivory continues to devastate wild populations. They also suffer due to habitat loss caused by agriculture and deforestation. Centuries ago they disappeared from southwestern Asia and most of China. Currently there are only an estimated 28,000 to 42,000 wild Asian Elephants remaining. Asian Elephants are kept as domestic animals and can be successfully bred in captivity to a limited extent.

Threats

When a potential predator such as a lion or tiger threatens a calf, the adults form a defensive circle with the calf in the middle. Adult elephants are probably not susceptible to predation by any species other than humans.

Loss of significant extents of elephant range and suitable habitat continues; their free movement is impeded by reservoirs, hydroelectric projects and associated canals, irrigation dams, numerous pockets of cultivation and plantations, highways, railway lines, mining and industrial development.

Elephant conservation in northern West Bengal has been set back due to high-levels of human–elephant conflict and elephant mortality owing to railway accidents.  Every day, 20 trains run on this track at high speeds. Elephants that pass through from one forest patch to another dash against the trains and die.

In Bangladesh, forested areas that served as prime elephant habitat have undergone drastic reduction, which had a severe impact on the wild elephant population. Habitat loss and fragmentation is attributed to the increasing human population and its need for fuel wood and timber. Illegal timber extraction plays a significant role in deforestation and habitat degradation. As a result of the shrinking habitat, elephants have become more and more prone to coming into direct conflict with humans.

 

Short Facts

·      Asian Elephants live for about 70 years

 

·      Elephants are the largest mammals in the world that live on land.

 

·      An elephant can smell water 3 miles away.

 

·      An elephant could carry up to 2 gallons of water in its trunk.

 

·      Elephants have the largest brains in the animal kingdom.

 

·      An elephant’s trunk contains more than 50,000 muscles.

 

·      Elephants spend about 16 hours a day eating

Egyptian fruit bat

Rousettus aegyptiacus

Egyptian fruit bat

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class:   Mammalia

Order: Chiroptera

Family: Pteropodidae

Subfamily: Pteropodinae

Genus: Rousettus

Species: R. aegyptiacus
Description

The Egyptian fruit bat is small compared to some of its megachiropterid relatives. Its wingspan averages 60 cm, and body length around 17 cm. Its weight is typically around 160 g. Males are larger than the females and can be easily distinguished by their large scrotal sack. This bat is typically light brown in color, with darker brown wings. It has large, pointed ears, dark eyes. Its fur is very soft, and the wings feel like pantyhose.

Range and habitat

Egyptian fruit bats are found in southern, western, and eastern Africa, Egypt and Arabian peninsula. They live where there are fruit and flowers, in a variety of habitats from lowlands to mountains.

Behavior

They don’t use echolocation for hunting like bats that eat insects. Instead, they use rudimentary echolocation for navigation through darkness. They are nocturnal (active at night).

Diet

Egyptian fruit bats especially enjoy consuming fruit juice and flower nectar. They will fly great distances to find ripe fruit in season–such as ripe figs–and they assist with plant pollination as they gather nectar.

Reproduction

Female Egyptian fruit bats generally give birth to one offspring at a time, although twins occur occasionally. Females typically give birth to only a single baby each year after a gestation period of around 115–120 days. The young are carried by the female until they are able to hang from the roost on their own, then they are left in the roost while the mother forages for food. Offspring typically stay with the same colony as the parents for their entire lives.  Maturity is reached at about nine months of age.

Conservation status

· IUCN status:  Least Concern
There numbers are declining due to loss of habitat from a combination of agricultural development and the effects of political instability in the area. They may also be hunted for food or folk remedies.
· Predators: snakes, raptors, mustelids, cats.