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Category Archives: Animal in Africa

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf

The wolf is the largest member of the canine family. Gray wolves range in color from grizzled gray or black to all-white. As the ancestor of the domestic dog, the gray wolf resembles German shepherds or malamutes. Wolves are making a comeback in the Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Southwestern United States.

Fast Facts

Height: 26-32 inches (.7-.8m) at the shoulder.
Length: 4.5-6.5 feet (1.4-2m) from nose to tip of tail.
Weight: 55-130 lbs (25-59 kg); Males are typically heavier and taller than the females.
Lifespan: 7-8 years in the wild, but some have lived 10 years or more.

Diet

Wolves eat ungulates, or large hoofed mammals, like elk, deer, moose and caribou. Wolves are also known to eat beaver, rabbits and other small prey. Wolves are also scavengers and often eat animals that have died due to other causes like starvation and disease.

Population

There are an estimated 7,000 to 11,200 wolves in Alaska and more than 5,000 in the lower 48 states. Around the world there are an estimated 200,000 in 57 countries, compared to up to 2 million in earlier times.

Range

Wolves were once common throughout all of North America but were killed in most areas of the United States by the mid 1930s. Today their range has been reduced to Canada and the following portions of the United States: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Mexican wolves are found in New Mexico and Arizona.

Thanks to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most favored places to see and hear wolves in the native habitat

Behavior

Wolves live, travel and hunt in packs of 4-7 animals on average. Packs include the mother and father wolves, called the alphas, their pups and several other subordinate or young animals. The alpha female and male are the pack leaders that track and hunt prey, choose den sites and establish the pack’s territory. Wolves develop close relationships and strong social bonds. They often demonstrate deep affection for their family and may even sacrifice themselves to protect the family unit.

Wolves have a complex communication system ranging from barks and whines to growls and howls. While they don’t howl at the moon, they do howl more when it’s lighter at night, which occurs more often when the moon is full.

Reproduction

Mating Season: January or February.
Gestation: 63 days.
Litter size: 4-7 pups.
Pups are born blind and defenseless. The pack cares for the pups until they mature at about 10 months of age.

Threats

The most common cause of death for wolves is conflict with people over livestock losses. While wolf predation on livestock is fairly uncommon, wolves that do prey on them are often killed to protect the livestock.These methods include fencing livestock, lighting, alarm systems and removing dead or dying livestock that may attract carnivores like wolves.

Another serious threat is human encroachment into wolf territory, which leads to habitat loss for wolves and their prey species.

Overall, the greatest threat to wolves is people’s fear and misunderstanding about the species. Many fairy tales and myths tend to misrepresent wolves as villainous, dangerous creatures.

Reasons For Hope

Defenders and many other conservation organizations have been working tirelessly on wolf conservation in North America from aerial hunting in Alaska to restoration efforts in the lower 48 States. Wolves are an integral part of an ecosystem as a top tier predator and Defenders will continue to make sure this iconic symbol of America always has a place here.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): wolves throughout the Lower 48 United States are listed as endangered except in Minnesota where they are listed as threatened. In Alaska, wolves are not listed under the ESA.
  • In Wyoming and portions of the Southwest wolves are designated as non-essential experimental populations, which isolates geographically-described groups from other existing populations and offers broader management regulations.
 

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Whale

Whale

Whales belong to the order cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. Whales are divided into two suborders: baleen and toothed whales. Baleen whales have a comb-like fringe, called a baleen, on the upper jaw, which is used to filter plankton, as well as small fish and crustaceans. They are the largest species of whale. Toothed whales have teeth and prey on fish, squid, other whales and marine mammals. They sense their surrounding environment through echolocation.

Fast Facts

Length: Varies; up to 110 feet long.
Weight: Varies; up to 150 tons.
Lifespan: Generally 20-40 years, but can live up to 80 years; varies with each species.

Like all mammals, whales breathe air into lungs, are warm-blooded, feed their young milk and have some (although very little) hair. Their bodies resemble the streamlined form of a fish, while the forelimbs or flippers are paddle-shaped. The tail fins, or flukes, enable whales to propel themselves through the water. Most species of whale have a fin on their backs known as a dorsal fin.

Beneath the skin lies a layer of fat called blubber. It serves as an energy reservoir and also as insulation. Whales breathe through blowholes, located on the top of the head so the animal can remain submerged. Baleen whales have two blowholes,while toothed whales have one.

Diet

The diet of whales depends on their species; it can range from microscopic plankton to large marine mammals.

Population

Varies with each species.

Range

Whales live in all of the world’s oceans, though their specific range varies by species.

Behavior

Many whales, especially baleen whales, tend to migrate long distances from their cold-water feeding grounds to warm-water breeding grounds each year. They travel alone or in groups, or pods, on their annual migrations. Toothed whales often hunt in groups, migrate together and share young-rearing duties.

Most whales are quite active in the water. They jump high, or breach, out of the water and land back in the water. They also thrust their tails out of the water and slap the water’s surface, which is believed to be a warning of danger nearby. Whales also communicate with each other using lyrical sounds. These sounds are extremely loud depending on the species and can be heard for many miles.

Because of their environment (and unlike many animals) and because they need to breathe air by coming to the water’s surface, whales are conscious breathers, meaning they decide when to breathe. All mammals sleep, including whales, but they cannot afford to fall into an unconscious state for too long, since they need to be conscious to break the surface in order to breathe

Reproduction
Mating season: Varies depending on the species.
Gestation: 9-15 months, depending on the species.
Number of offspring: 1 calf.
Nursing time is long (more than one year for many species), which is associated with a strong bond between mother and young. This strategy of reproduction spawns few offspring, but provides each with a high probability of survival in the wild.

Climate Change and Other Threats

Global warming’s effects will be felt by most marine creatures, and whales are certainly not excluded. Sea level rise and changes in sea temperature will leave whales quite vulnerable, and they may not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive. Arctic and antarctic whale habitat faces a particular threat from climate change. Whale food sources will also face challenges, such as a decline in krill population, which is the main food source for many large whale species.

 

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Snakes

Snakes

Snakes (suborder Serpentes) are elongated, limbless, flexible reptiles. There are about 2,900 species of snakes. Of these, 375 are venomous.

Fast Facts

Size: Snake size varies to extremes by species. At up to 30 feet long, the reticulated python is the longest snake. At a minuscule 4 inches, the Barbados thread snake is the smallest.
Weight: The green anaconda isn’t the longest snake, but it is the heaviest – they can grow up to 550 pounds!
Lifespan: In captivity, some species will live as long as 50 years. Snake lifespan in the wild is more difficult to determine.

Diet

Snakes consume a variety of items including termites, rodents, birds, frogs, small deer and other reptiles. Snakes eat their prey whole and are able to consume prey three times larger than the diameter of their head because their lower jaw can separate from the upper jaw. To keep prey from escaping, snakes have rear-facing teeth that hold their prey in their mouths.

Venomous snakes inject their prey with venom, while constrictors squeeze their prey. They do not need to hunt everyday. Anacondas and pythons can survive for up to a year without food after feeding. Snakes hunt mostly at night.

Range

Snakes are found throughout the world except Antarctica, Iceland, Ireland, Greenland and New Zealand. Most snakes are found in tropical regions. Snakes are found in many habitats including in the water, forests, deserts and prairies.

Behavior

Often observed flicking its tongue, snakes use their forked tongue to smell the air. Snakes are ectotherms, meaning they must regulate their body temperature externally by sunning themselves or retreating to cool, shaded areas. Snakes hibernate during the winter. Snakes must shed their skin three to six times per year.

Reproduction
Most snake species lay eggs, but some species give birth to live young. Snakes lay their eggs in a warm location. With the exception of some python species, eggs and young are not cared for by the male or female.

Threats

Roads and habitat destruction are two of the main threats faced by snake species.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): Four species of snake are classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act; ten are classifed as threatened, seven are a candidate for listing, and over forty species are listed as a species of concern.
  • IUCN Red List: Six snake species are currently listed as critically endangered, twenty-seven as endangered, forty as vulnerable, and twenty-four as near threatened. Two are listed a extinct.

 

 

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Shark

Shark

Sharks (superorder Selachimorpha) belong to a family of fish that have skeletons made of cartilage, a tissue more flexible and lighter than bone.

Fast Facts

Size: The spined pygmy shark, a deep-sea shark, is one of the smallest at only about 7-8 inches, while the whale shark is the largest shark, and fish, at about 50 feet in length.

Lifespan: Although lifespan varies by shark species, most sharks are long-lived and generally tend to live for 20-30 years. Species like the spiny dogfish and the whale shark are believed to live for over 100 years!

Shark bodies are rounded and tapering at the ends. They breathe through a series of five to seven gill slits located on either side of their bodies.

All sharks have multiple rows of teeth, and while they lose teeth on a regular basis, new teeth continue to grow in and replace those they lose.

Shark ‘skin’ is made up of a series of scales that act as an outer skeleton for easy movement and for saving energy in the water. The upper side of a shark is generally dark to blend in with the water from above and their undersides are white or lighter colored, blends in with the lighter surface of the sea from below. This helps to camouflage them from predators and prey.

Sharks also have a very acute sense of smell that allows them to detect blood in the water from miles away.

Diet

Shark diet depends on the species, but most species of shark eat things like fish, crustaceans, mollusks, plankton, krill, marine mammals and other sharks.

Population

It is difficult to estimate population numbers since there are many different species spanning a large geographic area. However, overall shark numbers are on the decline due to the many threats they face in the wild.

Range

Sharks have adapted to living in a wide range of aquatic habitats at various temperatures. While some species inhabit shallow, coastal regions, others live in deep waters, ocean floors and the open ocean. Some species, like the bull shark, are even known to swim in both salt and fresh waters and deltas.

Behavior

Most sharks are especially active in the evening and night when they hunt. Some sharks migrate over great distances to both feed and breed. This can take them over entire ocean basins. While some shark species are solitary, others display social behavior at various levels. Hammerhead sharks, for instance, school during mating season around seamounts and islands.

Some shark species like the great white shark attack and surprise their prey, usually seals and sea lions, from below. Species that dwell on the ocean floor have developed the ability to bottom-feed. Others attack schooling fish in a feeding frenzy, while large sharks like the whale and basking sharks filter feed by swimming through the ocean with their mouths open wide and filtering large quantities of plankton and krill.

Reproduction
Mating Season: Various times depending on the species.
Gestation: 2 months to 2 years depending on the species. Some species lay eggs, some have young covered by a thin membrane, and others give birth to live young.
Number of offspring: Depending on the species, could be 1-2 pups or more than 100 eggs or pups.
Soon after birth, sharks pups swim away to fend for themselves. They are born with fully-fledged sets of teeth and are able to take care of themselves.

Every year, sharks are killed in various fisheries, either intentionally for their fins and meat or accidentally as bycatch. Shark finning to provide for delicacies like shark fin soup is one of the biggest threats facing sharks. They are usually ‘finned’ alive and the body is thrown back into the water where the shark either bleeds to death or drowns. With bycatch, they generally become accidentally entangled in fishing lines or nets put out in the ocean to catch other species of fish, and when fishermen haul in their catch, the dead or dying sharks are thrown back into the water.

Like other marine life, sharks are increasingly threatened by climate changes that are altering ocean circulation, sea surface temperatures, and even the chemistry and salinity of the ocean. Sharks associated with coral reefs, for instance, are susceptible to the loss of those diverse and productive ecosystems as bleaching and disease kill off coral. From Alaska to the Adriatic Sea, sightings and captures indicate that numerous shark species are showing up outside of their normal ranges, which could be an indication that climate-induced food web changes are taking a toll.

Legal Status/Protection

  • Legislation is currently being introduced in California to ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins.
  • IUCN Red List: Over 200 species of shark are listed on the Red List, with statuses ranging from critically endangered to near threatened. Many shark species are listed as data deficient, meaning more research is needed to discover their current population.
  • CITES: The great white shark, whale shark, and basking shark are listed under Appendix II.
  • At the March 2010 CITES meeting, shark species threatened by overfishing – particularly for their fins – including hammerhead sharks, whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, and spiny dogfish sharks – were proposed for trade restrictions by the U.S. and several other nations. Unfortunately, Japan and China successfully lobbied against restricting trade in sharks. Japanese boats often catch sharks just for their valuable fins, which are used in China and some other Asian countries to make shark fin soup.
  • Sharks are also protected under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
 

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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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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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