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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

The peregrine falcon is a raptor, or bird of prey. Adults have blue-gray wings, dark brown backs, a buff colored underside with brown spots, and white faces with a black tear stripe on their cheeks. They have a hooked beaks and strong talons. Their name comes from the Latin word peregrinus, which means “to wander.” They are commonly referred to as the Duck Hawk. Peregrine falcons are the fastest flying birds in the world – they are able to dive at 200 miles per hour.

Fast Facts

Length: 15-21 inches (wingspan of 3.5 feet).
Weight: About 2 lbs.; females are slightly larger than males.
Lifespan: 7-15 years; some can live as long as 20 years.

Diet

Peregrine falcons eat other birds such as songbirds and ducks,
as well as bats. They catch their prey in mid-air.

Population

There are an estimated 1,650 breeding pairs in the United States and Canada.

Range

This bird is one of the most widely distributed species in the world. It is found on every continent except Antarctica. It can survive in a wide variety of habitats including urban cities, the tropics, deserts and the tundra. Some migrate long distances from their wintering areas to their summer nesting areas.

Behavior

Peregrine Falcons have adapted to living in many cities and make use of tall buildings that provide suitable ledges for nesting and depend on the large populations of pigeons and starlings in cities for food. They dive and catch their prey in mid-air. Peregrines have few natural predators.

Peregrine falcons mate for life and breed in the same territory each year. The male courts the female for about one month, using aerial displays. They make a nest, or scrape, on ledges and in small caves located high on a cliff. Some peregrine falcons will use man-made structures such as bridges and skyscrapers to nest.

Reproduction
Mating season: Late March through May.
Gestation: 29-32 days for egg incubation.
Clutch size: 3-4 eggs.
Both the male and female incubate the eggs for about one month. The chicks start to fly in about 42 days, but are still dependent on their parents to learn how to hunt. Peregrine falcons are very territorial during breeding season and will vigorously defend their nests.

Threats

Historically, the use of DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) as a pesticide resulted in a rapid decline in the population. DDT and DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) cause eggshell thinning, resulting in the eggshell breaking while being incubated. Today, DDE is still found in some areas and DDT is used in some countries where the peregrine falcon winters. Great-horned owls and golden eagles will occasionally kill young peregrine falcons.

Reasons For Hope

Since the ban on DDT in the 1970’s, peregrine falcon populations have recovered significantly, and are even showing signs of recovery in areas in which they haven’t been spotted in some years, such as northern NJ.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): Once listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the Arctic peregrine falcon and the American peregrine falcon have made a good recovery and have been removed from the endangered species list, the American peregrine falcon in 1999 and the Arctic peregrine falcon in 1994.
  • CITES: Peregrine Falcons are protected under Appendix I of CITES.
  • Peregrine falcons are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

 

 

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African Wild Dog

African Wild Dog

African wild dogs are the size of medium domestic dogs. Their Latin name, Lycaon pictus, means “painted wolf-like animal.” Their coats are mottled in shades of brown, black and beige. They have large, rounded ears and dark brown circles around their eyes. The dogs differ from wolves and other dogs in that they have four toes instead of five.

Fast Facts

Size: African wild dogs typically measure around 30 inches high, and around 40 inches long, with a tail of 12-18 inches in length.
Weight: African wild dogs weigh from 37 to 80 pounds.
Lifespan: Up to 10 years.

Diet

African wild dogs hunt antelope, zebras, wildebeest, springboks, gazelles and impala.

Population

Between 2,000 and 5,000 African wild dogs remain in the wild, mostly in game preserves or national parks.

Range

African wild dogs are found primarily in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Savannas, grasslands and open woodlands are the preferred habitats of African wild dogs

Behavior

African wild dogs live and hunt in groups called packs. Packs typically include an alpha (dominant) male and female, their offspring and other related members. Historically, more than 100 dogs gathered in packs during spring migrations, but today the average pack of African wild dogs contains approximately 10 members. Unlike other canine species, packs of wild dogs frequently contain more male members than female members.

Like most members of the dog family, it is a cursorial hunter, meaning that it pursues its prey in a long, open chase. Nearly 80% of all hunts end in a kill.Lions, the top predator, achieve only 30%.

Reproduction
Normally only the alpha male and female reproduce, while other members of the pack help care for the young. Pups are born every year, usually from March through June. A litter may contain as many as 16 pups, although infant mortality is high.

Threats

African wild dogs face a number of serious threats, including habitat loss, human persecution (hunting and poisoning), disease spread from domestic animals and isolated populations.

Defenders at Work

Defenders of Wildlife is working to pass legislation that would help conserve 15 species of great cats and rare canines that exist outside the U.S., including the African wild dog.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): The African wild dog is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
  • IUCN Red List: The African wild dog is listed as endangered.
 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Animal in Africa

 

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Giant Armadillo

Giant Armadillo

STATUS:

Endangered.

DESCRIPTION:

The necks and backs of giant armadillos are covered in flexible “armor” consisting of 14 to 17 moveable bands of horn and bone. Their heads are protected by a similar oval shield. Small, closely set plates of armor cover their tales. Giant armadillos are dark brown except for their heads, tails and the lower edges of their shells, which are nearly white. Giant armadillos have sparse hairs scattered between their plates. Their forefeet have large powerful claws. They are very agile and sometimes balance themselves on their hind legs and tails, with their forefeet off the ground.

SIZE:

The head and body of giant armadillos measure 30- to 40- inches long, and their tails reach about 20 inches. Armadillos can reach 130 pounds, but most weigh between 40 and 70 pounds.

LIFESPAN:

Giant armadillos can live 12 to 15 years.

RANGE:

Giant armadillos are found in South America, east of the Andes, from northwestern Venezuela to northeastern Argentina.

HABITAT:

Giant armadillos live in burrows near water in grassland, brushland, woodland and forest habitats.

FOOD:

The diet of giant armadillos consists of termites, insects, spiders, worms, larvae, snakes and carrion.

BEHAVIOR:

Giant armadillos are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are active at night and sleep during the day. They are powerful and quick diggers. Giant armadillos dig the burrows they travel through and live in. They also dig to find food and to escape predators.

OFFSPRING:

After a gestation period of four months, females give birth to one or two young. Newborns have leathery skin and weigh up to four pounds at birth.

THREATS:

Giant armadillos are threatened by overhunting and the loss of habitat because of human settlement and agricultural development.

PROTECTION:

Endangered Species Act, CITES* Appendix I.

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if it does not harm their survival.

Source: Nowak, Ronald M. Walkers Mammals of the World: Volume I, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Animal in South America

 

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Frog

Frog

Frogs are amphibians, which comes from the Greek language and means “both lives.” Most frogs are born in water as tadpoles and gradually change into frogs although some frogs, known as direct developers, are born as full frogs. This allows them to be born and live far away from water, such as on mountaintops.

Diet

A frog mainly lives on insects and small animals like earthworms, minnows, and spiders.

Population

There are approximately 4740 species of frogs around the entire world. There are about 90 species of frogs in the United States. Unfortunately about 120 amphibian species, including frogs, toads and salamanders, have disappeared since 1980. Historically one species of amphibian disappears every 250 years.

Range

Frogs can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. However, the highest concentration of frogs is found in warmer tropical climes.

Behavior

Frogs are known as indicator species and can give scientists valuable insight into how an ecosystem is functioning. Because they are predators and prey many animals are affected by them so frogs are a good indication of the health of the ecosystem.

Climate Change and Other Threats

One of the most pressing threats to frogs today is the chytrid fungus, a deadly skin fungus that has moved across the globe causing amphibian declines in Australia, South America, North America, Central America, New Zealand, Europe, and Africa killing frogs by the millions. The chytrid fungus is responsible for over 100 frog and other amphibian species extinctions since the 1970’s. Chytrid fungus has been detected on at least 285 species of amphibians (including frogs) from 36 countries.

Climate change is also having an impact on frogs that live on mountain tops. They are being hit hard since they are dependant on moist leaf litter found in cloud forests as a suitable place to lay their eggs. As temperatures increase further up mountain sides, clouds are being pushed further away and leaves are drying out leaving less suitable habitat for frogs to lay their eggs. As frogs migrate further up the mountain they are faced with the inevitable problem that once they reach the top, unlike birds, they can go no further.

Frogs are also facing many threats from many different environmental factors: pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades are all contributing to the rapid rise of frog extinctions since 1980.

Reasons For Hope

Chytrid fungus has been recognized as one of the largest threats to amphibian populations around the world. In 2009 a group of organizations came together to respond to the crisis. Defenders of Wildlife (Washington DC), Africam Safari Park (Mexico), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Colorado), the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Washington DC), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama), Zoo New England (Massachusetts) and Houston Zoo (Texas) have launched the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

There are yet undiscovered species of frogs in the world. A new species of flying frog was discovered in the Himalayan Mountains in 2008.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act: Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), five species of frogs are currently listed as endangered and three as threatened.
  • IUCN Red List: Nearly one-third (32 %) of the world’s amphibian species are known to be threatened or extinct. At least 42 % of all species are declining in population, indicating that the number of threatened species can be expected to rise in the future
 

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Fisher

Fisher

The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a member of the weasel family, similar to the marten.

Fast Facts

Length: 3 feet (including 15 inch tail).
Weight: 12 lbs (males); 8 lbs (females).
Lifespan: About 7 years.
A fisher has a long, slim body with short legs, rounded ears, and a bushy tail. Fishers are larger and darker than martens and have thick fur. Fishers are agile and swift and are also excellent climbers.

Diet

Fishers eat snowshoe hares, rabbits, rodents and birds, and are one of the few specialized predators of porcupines. Fishers are effective hunters, but are also known to eat insects, nuts, and berries when prey is not available. Despite their name, they do not hunt fish

Fishers are also known to eat insects, nuts, and berries when prey is not available.

Population

Fishers are common in the Northeast and Midwest, but rare in the Northern Rockies and Northwest, where they are one of the rarest carnivores.

Range

The fisher is found only in North America. Historically, it ranged the northern forests of Canada and the United States as well as forests in the Appalachian, Rocky and Pacific Coast Mountains. Today, fishers are found only in parts of their historic range. In the U.S., they exist in portions of the Appalachian Mountains from New England south to Tennessee; northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan’s upper peninsula; northern Idaho and western Montana; and three small West Coast populations in southwestern Oregon, northwestern California, and the southern Sierra Nevada. Reintroductions have led to their reoccupation of former habitats in Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nova Scotia, Vermont, West Virginia, Maine, Manitoba, Minnesota, New York, Ontario and Tennessee.

Behavior

Fishers prefer large areas of dense mature coniferous or mixed forest and are solitary animals. They are mainly nocturnal, but may be active during the day. They travel many miles along ridges in search of prey, seeking shelter in hollow trees, logs, rock crevices, and dens of other animals.

Reproduction
Mating Season:
April.
Gestation: Egg implantation is delayed till February or March of the next year, following which is a 30-day gestation period.
Litter Size: 1-4 kits.
The kits remain with their mother until the fall.

Climate Change and Other Threats

Over-harvesting for pelts and loss of forest habitat due to logging and road building has significantly reduced and fragmented the fisher’s range.

Climate change could increase the frequency of fires throughout the fisher’s range, removing the older, cavity-bearing trees they need for denning.

Defenders at Work

In both the Northern Rockies and their West Coast range, Defenders is working to secure adequate federal protections for fishers and their habitats, actively influencing policies and decisions affecting them—such as trapping in Montana, or logging on private lands in California—and preparing for changes to fisher habitat caused by climate change.

Reasons For Hope

Defenders of Wildlife, with the Tennessee-based Extirpated Species Foundation and the Wildlife Resources Agency, reintroduced the fisher to the Catoosa Wildlife Area in eastern Tennessee in October of 2001 and October 2002

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): West coast fisher populations are candidates for protection under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The northern Rocky Mountain fisher populations are now under consideration for ESA protections as well, and a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected in 2011.
  • Fisher populations on the west coast and in the northern Rockies are considered a sensitive species by the U.S. Forest Service.
 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Animal in North America

 

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Elephant

Elephant

Elephants are the largest land-dwelling mammals on earth. They are brown to dark gray in color and have long, coarse hairs sparsely covering their bodies. They have very thick skin that keeps them cool. Elephant trunks serve as another limb. A fusion of the nose and upper lip, the trunk may contain more than 40,000 muscles that help the elephant use it to gather food and water. They also have large ears and thick tree-trunk-like legs to support their great weight.

Fast Facts

Height: 5-14 ft at shoulders (males); females of all subspecies are smaller than males.
Length: Up to 30 ft trunk to tail.
Weight: 6,000-15,000 lbs (males).
Lifespan Up to 70 years.

There are two distinct species of elephants: the African elephant (genus: Loxodonta) and the Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). There are a number of differences between the two species – overall size, ear size, tusks and shape of the back and forehead among others.

Of these two species, African elephants are divided into two subspecies (savannah and forest), while the Asian elephant is divided into four subspecies (Sri Lankan, Indian, Sumatran and Borneo). Asian elephants have been very important to Asian culture for thousands of years – they have been domesticated and are used for religious festivals, transportation and to move heavy objects.

Diet

Staples: Grasses, leaves, bamboo, bark, roots.
Elephants are also known to eat crops like banana and sugarcane which are grown by farmers. Adult elephants eat 300-400 lbs of food per day.

Population

At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants.

Range

African savannah elephants are found in savannah zones in 37 countries south of the Sahara Desert. African forest elephants inhabit the dense rain forests of west and central Africa. The Asian elephant is found in India, Sri Lanka, China and much of Southeast Asia.

Behavior

Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd. The herd is led by the oldest and often largest female in the herd, called a matriarch. Herds consist of 8-100 individuals depending on terrain and family size. When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. Males leave the family unit between the ages of 12-15 and may lead solitary lives or live temporarily with other males.

Elephants are extremely intelligent animals and have memories that span many years. It is this memory that serves matriarchs well during dry seasons when they need to guide their herds, sometimes for tens of miles, to watering holes that they remember from the past. They also display signs of grief, joy, anger and play.

Recent discoveries have shown that elephants can communicate over long distances by producing a sub-sonic rumble that can travel over the ground faster than sound through air. Other elephants receive the messages through the sensitive skin on their feet and trunks. It is believed that this is how potential mates and social groups communicate.

Reproduction
Mating Season: Mostly during the rainy season.
Gestation: 22 months.
Litter size: 1 calf (twins rare).
Calves weigh between 200-250 lbs at birth. At birth, a calf’s trunk has no muscle tone, therefore it will suckle through its mouth. It takes several months for a calf to gain full control of its trunk.

Climate Change and Other Threats

Habitat loss is one of the key threats facing elephants. Many climate change projections indicate that key portions of elephants’ habitat will become significantly hotter and drier, resulting in poorer foraging conditions and threatening calf survival. Increasing conflict with human populations taking over more and more elephant habitat and poaching for ivory are additional threats that are placing the elephant’s future at risk.

Defenders of Wildlife is working through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to maintain a ban on the sale of ivory as well as on regulations that govern worldwide elephant protection.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): The African elephant is listed as threatened. The Asian elephant is listed as endangered.
  • IUCN Red List: The African elephant is listed as near threatened. The Asian elephant is listed as endangered.
  • CITES: Elephants are listed in CITES Appendix I, except in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia where the African elephant is listed as an Appendix II species.
  • African elephants are also protected by the African Elephant Conservation Act, whose purpose is to perpetuate healthy populations of African elephants.
 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Animal in North America

 

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Dolphin

Dolphin

Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals and are part of the family of toothed whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. They are found worldwide, mostly in shallow seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating fish and squid. Dolphin coloration varies, but they are generally gray in color with darker backs than the rest of their bodies.

Fast Facts

Size: The familiar bottlenose dolphin is around 8 feet (2.5m) long and weighs between 440-660 lbs (200-300kg).
Because the forty species of dolphins are so diverse, they range in size. The smallest of the dolphin species, Maui’s Dolphin, is around 4 feet (1.2m) long and weighs around 90 lbs (40 kg). The largest dolphin species is the orca, or killer whale. Male orcas grow to about 25 feet in length and weigh about 19,000 pounds.

Lifespan: Most dolphins live long lives. The bottlenose dolphin can live over 40 years, and the orca can live to be 70 or 80!

Diet

Dolphins consume a variety of prey including fish, squid and crustaceans.

Population

It is difficult to estimate population numbers since there are many different species spanning a large geographic area.

Range

Most species live in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans throughout the world. Five species live in the world’s rivers

Behavior

Dolphins are well known for their agility and playful behavior, making them a favorite of wildlife watchers. Many species will leap out of the water, spy-hop (rise vertically out of the water to view their surroundings) and follow ships, often synchronizing their movements with one another. Scientists believe that dolphins conserve energy by swimming alongside ships, a practice known as bow-riding.

Dolphins live in social groups of five to several hundred. They use echolocation to find prey and often hunt together by surrounding a school of fish, trapping them and taking turns swimming through the school and catching fish. Dolphins will also follow seabirds, other whales and fishing boats to feed opportunistically on the fish they scare up or discard.

Reproduction
Mating Season: Throughout the year, though in some areas there is a peak in spring and fall.
Gestation: 9-17 months depending on the species. When it is time to give birth, the female will distance herself from the pod, often going near the surface of the water.
Number of offspring: Usually one calf; twins are rare.
As soon as the calf is born, the mother must quickly take it to the surface so it can take its first breath. The calf will nurse from 11 months to 2 years, and after it is done nursing it will still stay with its mother until it is between 3 and 8 years old.

Climate Change and Other Threats

As the seas and oceans warm, dolphins are being seen more frequently in colder waters outside their historic ranges. Due to the rapidly rising oceans temperatures, the dolphin’s primary food sources are seeking deeper cooler waters. Scientists are concerned that the dolphins will have difficulty adapting as quickly as necessary to find new feeding grounds to sustain their populations. Some dolphins that live in areas where rivers and oceans meet, known as brackish waters, are also losing habitat as ocean levels are rising due to global warming.

Dolphins also face a number of other threats including marine pollution, habitat degradation, harvesting, low frequency sonar, entanglement in fishing gear, boat traffic.

Reasons For Hope

Dolphins are one of the most iconic species of the marine world. With their playful nature and high intelligence dolphins have captivated the hearts of people of all ages from all over the world. Due to their popularity, many countries are researching and monitoring dolphins to ensure their survival. In April 2009 biologists working in Bangladesh found a thriving population of 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins, which were thought to be critically endangered, off the coast as part of a monitoring project started in 2004.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): The Chinese River dolphin, the Indus River dolphin, and the orca/killer whale are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
  • CITES: All species of dolphin are protected under CITES. The snubfin dolphin, amazon River dolphin, Indo-pacific humpbacked dolphin and the Atlantic humpbacked dolphin are listed in Appendix I; all other dolphins are listed in Appendix II.
  • Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
 

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