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Did you know that there are less than 1000 Bactrian Camels left in the wild? The number is currently estimated to be around 500-600. This is a startling number, considering how popular these two-humped ungulates are in zoos and circuses across the world, not to mention thousands of Bactrian camel herds which have been bred domestically over the years living in large herds (app 2million).

The wild Bactrian Camel is currently found only in Northwest China and in Southwest Mongolia (Gobi Desert).In order to survive the harsh conditions of their main habitat the Bactrian Camel features a double set of eyelashes, a hair lined inner ear and thin nostrils to protect against dust and sandstorms. After the harsh winters they can quickly shed their thick shaggy coats to adjust effectively to the changing seasons.

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Batrian Camel shedding lumps of fur for the warmer weather.

Food and water are not always readily available and the Camel has a great coping mechanism for this as well , being able to last sometimes for months on end without water. They do this by converting the fat stored in their two large humps into water when resources are scarce. It also helps that they can feed on dry and sometimes thorny plants that most herbivores avoid as well as drink salt water when fresh food and water are hard to find.

The Bactrian Camels demise is entirely down to human interference. The main reasons for their endangerment being: Habitat loss due to industrial development, and increasing human population forcing the mixing of wild populations and domestic herds. While they are masters of survival in their harsh habitats the battle against humans and extinction is proving one battle they may not win unless conservation efforts see a huge turn around in the future.

For more information on the conservation of the wonderful Bactrian Camel check out :

http://www.wildcamels.com/

http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=8

“Rats with wings”

“Vermin”

“Dirty”

Just some of the words I have heard people use to label feral pigeons. Well it is time to set the record straight. The chances of you or anyone catching something from a pigeon are extremely rare; you should be more worried about your pet dog or cat as they are a much higher risk. Is your pet a vermin? I didn’t think so. Give the poor guys a break they have lived along side humans throughout history and in the case of the Passenger Pigeon, they have already watched as humans killed of an entire species of Pigeon. The Pigeon has served as a messenger, food, entertainment and even a religious symbol in our history so in my opinion they deserve a lot more recognition then just a common pest.

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Large flock of Pigeons in the Dam Square Amsterdam (Authors Own)

Ok so they manage to get their poop all over your car, or all over the buildings where they roost, but even Pigeon poop has come in useful in the past as a highly valued fertilizer. Nowadays Pigeon breeders are still known to collect all that left over excrement and throw it on their gardens. Some people would argue that this is extremely harmful however this is often and exaggeration. Most animal faeces can carry a number of zoonotic diseases and health risks and there are always preventative measures to take. The same care is required of any caged bird when it comes to their droppings as is required of Pigeons. When dealing with large quantities wear a face mask and gloves in a well ventilated area.

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A thirsty Pigeon

As you may already have gathered, I love Pigeons. There have been countless behavioural studies carried out on Pigeons to help discover the secret to their amazing ability to navigate over long distances and while this skill alone is pretty impressive, it does not stop there. Did you know that it has been argued that Pigeons also possess “self recognition”? As humans we take that for granted, however in none human animals it is not a common observation. The method scientists use to explore this trait in animals is called “The Mirror Test” and only a few have been recorded to have passed including Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Bottle nosed Dolphins and Elephants. While Pigeons are still on the “questionable” list it is an incredible mark on their intelligence to be considered alongside Magpies who also succeed during studies.

To conclude:

  1. A Pigeon is very unlikely to succeed in killing you.
  2. You are more likely to catch something cuddling your beloved pet then you are from a Pigeon.
  3. We are just as guilty of overpopulation then they are.
  4. They are super smart and useful in a communications blackout.
  5. Pigeons are just awesome :)

Ps: Don’t forget to like the facebook page ! http://www.facebook.com/pawsforamo Thank you !

Photo by Milca Gabb

Photo by Milca Gabb

The Burmese Python, native to South-East Asia, has established a healthy breeding population where they are not welcome, in Florida. This is thanks to the exotic pet trade which led to several of these giant constrictors escaping or being released into the wild over the course of the 20th century. It is now estimated that between 30,000 and 150,000 Burmese Pythons call the Everglades National Park their home meaning all sorts of trouble for the native inhabitants.

Photo by Milca Gabb

Photo by Milca Gabb

While Burmese Python populations continue to grow in Florida, declines have been recorded in potential prey species such as racoons, rabbits and opossums, a clear indication that this invasive species means trouble. They also eat birds, fish, amphibians, other reptiles and the older and larger Burms have been known to feast on deer. In response to identifying the Burmese Python as an invasive species it is now illegal to release exotic animals into the wild in the State of Florida and special hunting permits can be obtained to hunt listed invasive species and sell them for their skin and meat.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have recently initiated a new “plan” to control the number of Burmese Pythons: The Python Challenge. After registering, paying a $25 entrance fee and completing a 30 minute online training session anyone over the age of 18 can participate. Over 1000 people have signed up and are now equipped with a special hunting permit which allows them to hunt Burmese Pythons between the 12th January and the 12th February and submit their catch to be measured as part of the competition. The FWC figured this would make a great dent in Python numbers and increase awareness of the problem. So how are they doing so far?

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Photo by Milca Gabb

One week in and so far 21 Burmese Pythons have been killed. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the problem, never mind the probability that the majority of people doing the killing are just “regular Joes” out for a bit of fun. It is not hard to imagine that most of the Pythons killed will not go, for lack of a better word, “peacefully”. While I am all for species control and conservation, and recognise the seriousness of the problem in Florida, in my opinion, this was a terrible idea. As well as raising awareness to the problem of invasive species in Florida, this campaign is also increasing the popularity for hunting. Will all 1,000 + of these participants adhere to the rules and only kill Burmese Pythons in the requested way? I doubt it. The Python Challenge provides a lovely disguise for avid hunters to bag themselves some additional animals in the strict “no hunting zone” that is the Everglades.

The FWC need to sit down and come up with some better ideas, as it would appear that this one is already proving itself as a failure.

(Nearly 2 months since my last post SORRY , I am going to blame it on Christmas ;-) )

Authors Own : Arnhem Zoo

Authors Own : Arnhem Zoo

South Africa is very well known for its Rhinoceros populations and it is no wonder given it is home to over ¾ of the worlds Rhinoceros. The five main species alive today are the White, Black, Javan, Sumatran and Indian Rhinoceros, with 3 of these 5 on the critically endangered list. As if the outlook wasn’t bad enough, poaching in South Africa is on a scary rise, putting the pressure on the already fragile White and Black species of rhinoceros.

2008: 83
2009: 112
2010: 333
2011: 448
2012: 668

The figures above represent the number of Rhino’s killed in South Africa over the last 5 years. In the short space of time between 2010 and 2012 the number of killings doubled. Frightening to think what 2013 could bring if poaching is not dealt with once and for all.

Authors Own : Blijdorp Zoo

Authors Own : Blijdorp Zoo

So why are so many Rhinos being killed every year? These strong and beautiful animals are being killed simply for their horns, which are in high demand in Asia (mainly China and Vietnam) for use in “medicine”. They believe they have great healing powers and most recently has become a popular hangover remedy in Vietnam. A Rhino horn consists mainly of keratin which has no medicinal value and is found in human hair, skin and nails. In other words, there is no reason for so much killing, you could eat some hair and it would be much the same effect as a Rhino horn.

 

Unfortunately it is difficult to educate when people are so bent on cultural traditions and the demand will be there for Rhino horns for some time, so the problem of poaching will ever increase alongside demand. How can we stop this? ? Provide better education for people living along side Rhinos and areas with a demand for Rhino horns, better security against poachers in high risk areas, stricter laws on the trading of Rhino horns and other body parts. These are all areas which need to be looked at, however for all this money will always be an issue.

2013s figure could easily hit 1000 if killing continue to increase like they have over the last couple of years , scary when you put it like that isn’t it ?

Authors Own: Chester Zoo

Authors Own: Chester Zoo

…. Just not for the Turkey.

Did you know that every year in America up to 40 million Turkeys are slaughtered for the celebrations? Never mind the huge influx in poultry deaths, but what about all the cruelty surrounds the mass production of Turkeys. The same cruelty, unfortunately is common in any type of mass animal breeding production however given the time of year, my focus is currently on Turkeys. Right from the day they are born Turkeys bred for meat in battery farms are exposed to a world of stress and pain, for what short, rushed lives they have. Some of the following content will be a little disturbing to some, especially the video, so viewer discretion is advised.

Turkeys as you might imagine them

In order to prevent aggressive behaviour between the groups of Turkeys in intensive farming utilities, the tops of their beaks and toes are often cut off (without anesthetic) in order to prevent major injuries. This practice can cause infection in the beaks and discomfort thus leading to the Turkeys refusing to eat. They can also refuse food due to the stress of close living and general factory life. In this case the Turkeys are often force fed using a pipe, in a similar fashion to the Fois gras Geese highlighted in a previous article. This all seems pretty “Dark Ages” but unfortunately it is very 2012.

The Turkey you see on wildlife documentaries or on Thanksgiving posters are nowhere near the Turkey on your plate, due to genetic engineering. Turkeys have been bred out to grow twice as fast, twice as fat and have huge breasts in order to satisfy customer needs and demands. This abnormal growth can be very harmful and lead to a number of health issues including heart trouble, lung collapse and deformed legs due to the carrying of extra weight.

Factory farmed Turkeys [Image 1: Vegans peace home]

Butterball is a name which is pretty familiar to Americans around this time of year. They are one of America’s largest producers of Turkeys, and repeatedly being uncovered as one of the cruelest producers of turkey. Animal welfare organisations time and time again have exposed cases of abuse towards the animals kept on intense Turkey farms and a video was this year released by Mercy for Animals outlining some of the disgusting practices happening on Butterball farms today. The video shows keepers, kicking and injuring the already stressed out animals and one farmer even admits that the wounds these Turkeys carry are often infested with maggots. Imagine, a live animal being feasted on by maggots?

I would rather not, but it is happening every day , and I cannot highlight enough how important it is for you to be careful in choosing where you get your meat from, or better still, try a veggie option.

Image rights : Image One was taken from http://www.veganpeace.com/animal_cruelty/turkey.htm , no copyright infringements intended.

(Sorry for the MASSIVE delay between posts, got a new job, big changes, no time :p )

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So the badgers are safe for another year. With the lack of research and evidence to support such an operation it is a relief to see they are going to give it a bit more thought. Fingers crossed they see sense by 2013!

If only the good news could continue, but this time, it is the Grey Seals in Canada that are taking the hit. In October, the Senate Committee in Fisheries announced they would endorse a four year plan for the culling of thousands (if not over a 100,000) Grey Seals in the Golf of St Lawrence in a bid to increase Cod stock. The fishing industry wants something done about the depletion in cod stocks and under the pressure, the seal cull, is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, “bright idea”. Getting to be a bit of a running theme this year, numbers in one species fall or money is threatened, cull down the unfortunate species that is being blamed.

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There is off course, as with the proposed badger cull in the UK, little evidence to support that a cut in seal numbers will lead to an increase in Cod numbers so how they can merit spending millions of dollars in the murder of the shy and un-deserving Grey seal, is a subject which angers me deeply. Am I alone on this? I would hardly think so. In fact better fishery management and sustainable fishing measurements in the first place would have prevented this and evidence would sway more towards over fishing then the seals being the main cause of a fall in Cod stocks.

As well as over fishing, the changes in the climates and the pollution of the earth’s waters would also play a big part in the drop in Cod numbers. With the use of common sense one cannot simply say that to cull a large number of the seal population in the Golf would boost the Cod stock and make for happy fishing once again. The Fisheries department and politicians need to take a serious look into the situation and carry out appropriate research before taking any action. In the UK, farmers called for answers to the TB situation and under pressure the badger cull solution was thrown out. This is turning out to be a very similar case and hopefully things will be researched properly in order to prevent the outrage and confusion that occurred in the summer with the badger cull proposal.

Early days on this, but hopefully there will be more information soon ( positive information). I will try and do a better job of keeping you all updated this time ;)

Well this little guy hardly needs much of an introduction being a very popular feature in many zoo’s across the world. Unfortunately the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red list. This means that we need to take extra care in conserving the Red Panda in its small pockets of damp high-altitude forests in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and southern China or it may be joining the “critically endangered” list all too soon.

The Red Panda is a very good climber using its specially adapted feet with rotatable ankles to control downward climbs. They have very strong claws which they use to grasp branches and leaves when feeding. Bamboo makes up the most part of their diet however they occasionally eat eggs, berries or fruit depending on the availability of their main food during foraging. Mostly nocturnal, they forage by night and sleep by day, spending the majority of their time in the trees.

Their main form of communication is by means of body language however they are usually a solitary animal, rarely interacting with other Red Pandas apart from during mating and when caring for young. Even though they are born very small, females have a considerably long gestation period of up to 135 days and usually only have one or two at a time. This also presents limitations in captive breeding programmes and makes the management of their habitat all the more important as they are fragile reproducers.

The main threats to Red Panda populations in the wild are: habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and inbreeding depression. While human populations increase, Red Panda populations decrease as the humans claim more and more of their habitats for their own. This unfortunately is not restricted to the Red Pandas but uncountable different species worldwide suffer a similar threat and many unique habitats are suffering under the pressure. Road construction, commercial logging, localized logging and clearing for farm lands, being just some of the culprits in the fragmentation of habitats.

Poaching does not present as serious a threat to the Red Panda as habitat loss; however it is still a big problem mainly in China. They are hunted mainly for their fur and their beautiful tails. Outside China they are usually only killed by accident, caught up in traps meant for other animals and shot occasionally because the opportunity was there, rather than being deliberately hunted for.

Research and Habitat protection are vital for the survival of this species. They are known to be shy and due to their nocturnal behaviour observation and data collection can be difficult, so it is important that population studies are fronted in order to get a clearer picture of this secretive animal’s lifestyle. The more known about the Red Panda, the easier it becomes to protect. There are several protected areas covering some of the Red Pandas habitats across their home countries, however not near enough if they are to thrive in the long term and get the management and protection they need.

If you want to know more you can visit the Red Panda Network webpage. They are an organisation that focuses on education, research and conservation. All of which are important in the protection of a species.