Tag Archives: Endangered Species

Elephants in the Mist

In the video above, about two dozen elephants move quickly and silently through the forests in MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa on their way into Kruger National Park in January 2013 (Video by Mike L).

On a misty morning in January 2013, our group climbed into a Land Rover for a game drive through MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa.   January is one of the rainiest months in this area of South Africa.  That morning, we were lucky that it was only sporadically sprinkling.  Birds were calling, but it was otherwise very quiet except for the rumble of the Land Rover’s engine.  We never knew what we’d see.  There was a surprise around every bend in the road. That morning we’d already seen a pride of lions lounging by a creek bed after a night of feasting (We’d seen some of the feasting, too).

We rumbled along, feeling raindrops, scanning through the trees and in the clearings.   Then we saw an elephant.   Soon more appeared.  About two dozen elephants of all sizes were moving very quickly in a line in the morning’s mist.  The herd made no sound. A few elephants grabbed small leafy limbs to eat as they passed through the forest.  It was an awe-inspiring sight. We watched them for about ten minutes until they disappeared into Kruger National Park.

Moses, our guide, explained that the elephants could walk so silently because their circular feet are spongy with cushion pads, which also distribute the elephant’s weight.

When I was a child racing around with other children, I used to hear adults say, “You sound like a herd of elephants.”  Of course, the adults meant that we were thunderingly loud, because that’s what they expected such huge animals would sound like.

Moses also explained how the size of the tusks vary a lot.  However, no elephant, whether she or he has  short or long tusks, is safe from the poachers, who even trespass into protected areas.

I knew elephants were endangered, but I had no idea how much slaughter was happening until I got home and start seeing so many stories about massive poaching, partly due to a loophole permitting artisans, mostly in Asia, to carve ivory for trinkets. Many are religious objects.  These so-called religious objects are definitely unholy. DO NOT BUY IVORY, EVEN IF YOU ARE TOLD THAT IT’S LEGAL. THOSE WHO BUY IVORY ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEATH AND POSSIBLE EXTINCTION OF ELEPHANTS.

We saw this herd of elephants as it traveled out of MalaMala Game Reserve into neighboring Kruger National Park, South Africa, in January 2013.

We saw this herd of elephants as it traveled out of MalaMala Game Reserve into neighboring Kruger National Park, South Africa, in January 2013.

On a misty morning in January 2013, a herd of elephants in MalaMala Game Reserve moves quickly as it heads into Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants are highly endangered and are being slaughtered for their tusks.

On a misty morning in January 2013, a herd of elephants in MalaMala Game Reserve moves quickly as it heads into Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants are highly endangered and are being slaughtered for their tusks.

About Elephants.

New York Times Article (3-17-13) Slaughter of the African Elephants.

The Social Behavior of Female Elephants (The Meanest Girls at the Watering Hole)

Smithsonian Magazine Articles and Videos about Elephants.

National Geographic: A Voice for Elephants.

National Geographic: Battle for the Elephants.

New York Times Article: No Species is Safe from Burgeoning Wildlife Trade.

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March 17, 2013 · 2:08 pm

The Rhinoceros, Critically Endangered

This morning I was stunned to read that 57 rhinos had been killed by poachers in South Africa in January 2013. Nearly all of the rhinos were killed in protected areas, too. I knew that poaching was a terrible problem, but I had no idea that it was this serious. At this rate, the rhinoceros will soon go extinct in the wild. It will be very difficult to keep the species alive in zoos.

We visited South Africa in January 2013 near the region where all of these rhinos were killed. We were lucky to see a rhino the very first day we were there, and now I am so saddened thinking about how this amazing animal may really die out, because of human greed and stupidity. We saw a male rhino spraying, as in the video above, as he moved here and there marking his territory. Soon there may be no rhinos in this territory. (The video was uploaded by “smshapiro” on YouTube.

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn't ready to call it a night.  He still had work to do.  Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion.  The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn’t ready to call it a night. He still had work to do. Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion. The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Rhinos are one of the Big Five that people look for on safari. How long before you never see them?  The Big Five Game list was coined by hunters in ranking the danger of hunting these animals on foot. At least hunting has been switched to sightings of these magnificent animals, although there are still big game hunts in some areas. (The Big Five are Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo.)

The rhino is killed for its horn, because many people in Asia think the horn has medical properties, but it doesn’t. The horn is composed of keratin, which is similar to fingernails. Why don’t these idiots just chew on their own fingernails. It’ll be just as useful to their health.

Our guide told us that sometimes conservationists remove the horn so that the rhino is spared, because all that the poachers want is the horn. The horn acquires its pointed shape because the rhino sharpens it, otherwise it would be a big lump. I hope the rhinos sharpen their horns on more poachers. Even though I don’t literally believe in curses, people who use rhino horn as medicine should know it is cursed. It’s definitely very bad karma to kill a rhino and to buy rhino horn.

The game reserve we visited doesn’t list rhino sightings, because it doesn’t want to give a heads up to poachers. According to the Associated Press, “A record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous year. Demand is growing in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia where rhino horn is believed to have medical benefits despite evidence to the contrary. The horn is made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.”

Elephants are facing similar slaughter for their ivory. Don’t buy ivory, even if the seller claims it is from pre-ban ivory or is supposedly otherwise approved. Buying ivory just encourages the death of more elephants. More bad karma.

57 rhinos killed in South Africa so far this year; 18 suspected poachers arrested

Beautiful Photograph of a Baby Rhino.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road.  It's good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look.  It's not safe being around many humans.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  It's being slaughtered for its horn, and it's also losing its habitat.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road. It’s good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look. It’s not safe being around many humans. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. It’s being slaughtered for its horn, and it’s also losing its habitat.

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Bringing Home the Buffalo

A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.  In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us -- thankfully!

A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us — thankfully!

On  a recent trip to Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, my  husband and I were lucky to see lions in two prides.   The lions in each pride were eating a Cape Buffalo that they had killed. (Yes, it’s the Circle of Life, but I didn’t like that part…) Mala Mala adjoins Kruger National Park, which is almost five million acres, about the size of the state of Connecticut.

It was unnerving at first to be so close to these large predators that could easily attack and kill a human. In our first sighting, we rode in an open Land Rover, bumping and rocking down a hill onto a sandy river bed, pushing our way through tall grass and vegetation.  A female lion emerged from the grass.  We drove past  her into a clearing by the Sand River, where the rest of the pride was eating the buffalo.  We parked about fifteen feet away. We were assured that the lions and other wildlife see the vehicle with its passengers as one nonthreatening entity and don’t seem to mind our presence as long as we are seated in the vehicle. (I was never tempted to leave it!)  I felt my pulse quicken, though, whenever a lion would look over at us and rise up. A few made brief eye contact, which my own cats do when they want something.  Fortunately, the lions never walked closer to our vehicle than ten feet.  I got nervous for a moment when the lions growled at one another over their meal. For the most part, the lions took no heed of us.

I’m so grateful for this amazing experience.  Click on the photos to get a better look.

Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank.  Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg.  She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she'd killed the day before, our guide said.  She had three cubs.

Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank. Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg. She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she’d killed the day before, our guide said. She had three cubs.

The cats behaved in many ways like my own house cats.  The way they played, rested and sat was so similar.  After they ate, some of them sprawled on their backs, looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world.  The lion cubs were so adorable.  But I never forgot for a second that these big cats could be deadly.  Even my own well-fed cat Malcolm brought down a bird that had flown into our chimney.  He leaped nine feet into the air and batted it down.  I was able to rescue the bird, though, and released it unharmed.

Where I live in the Midwest, we have have almost no large predators, such as mountain lions.  Occasionally, you hear of a mountain lion sighting. Most of them have been killed off years ago.  Grizzly bears roamed my area 200 years ago.  We do have smaller cats, such as bobcats.  Last year, while I was walking in my neighborhood, I saw a bobcat sitting in the grass of a large mowed area near some woods.  She stared at me as I walked past. That was a little freaky! Bobcats can kill a deer.  Later, I saw the bobcat trotting across the street into the yard of the president of the homeowner’s association. (The bobcat knew to go right to the leader of the human pack.)  The president told me that the bobcat’s cubs were in a tree overhanging her back deck.

Lions and other big cats are magnificent creatures, but because of the danger they present and because their fur is coveted, they have been severely hunted, and their numbers have really dropped in the last century.  Lions are considered a vulnerable species, and I hope they can be protected and their numbers in the wild increased. Game reserves, such as Mala Mala and the vast Kruger National Park in South Africa, are working to protect this magnificent animal. At the bottom of this post is a news article about lions in South Africa.

Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.

Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.

MalaMala Game Reserve Blog

About Lions

Smithsonian Magazine: The Most Ferocious Man-eating Lions

Fears for South African Lions

By Jean Liou | AFP – Wed, Jan 16, 2013

Link to News Article

“Lions may be the well-reputed kings of the savannah, but South Africa’s lucrative trophy-hunting industry means the regal cats are more likely to know the inside of a paddock ringed with an electric fence than the country’s sweeping plains.

To the dismay of animal rights activists and environmentalists, growing numbers of the predators are being farmed for hunting, with more than half of South Africa’s roughly 8,000 lions now in captivity.

“The principle that you breed wild animals for economic exploitation is an international norm. It takes place everywhere in the world,” said Pieter Potgieter, chair of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association.

But “the problem is with the lions because the image has been created in the minds of people that the lion is the king of the animals. Walt Disney with his Lion King and all these things, they have created that image,” he added.

The big cats are bred in pens then leased to zoos or game farms, where they are kept in cages or used as pets to attract tourists.

When they mature, some of them are released into the wild. The release usually happens just days before trophy hunters shoot them.

Breeders treat lions just like any other farm animals before leaving them to the mercy of trophy hunters.

“In principle, a lion is no more or less than any other animal species,” Potgieter said.

An estimated 3,000 or so lions live wild in South Africa, compared to more than 5,000 held in paddocks.

In the rolling savannah plains in the country’s centre is Bona Bona Game Lodge, situated near the corn-farming town of Wolmaransstad.

A few hundred metres from the lodge, which is also a popular wedding venue, are large cages with nine placid lions and three Bengal tigers. It housed three times that number of lions before an annual auction in June.

The lions are fed weekly, each Sunday morning — an exercise visitors pay an entrance fee of 80 rand (6.8 euros, $9) to watch. Animal lovers pay 300 rand to play with cubs or give them a feeding bottle at most zoos.

“Cubs are rented out by the captive lion breeders to eco-tourism resorts to be petted by tourists, who are assured that such cubs will be set free,” said Chris Mercer of the animal rights group Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

But a fuming Mercer says: “Tourists should know that these cubs will not be returned to the wild. They will, instead, be returned to the breeders… as semi-tame targets for the lucrative canned hunting industry.”

“These cubs are farm-bred, held in confined spaces until they are old enough to be hunted,” he adds.

Paul Hart, who runs Drakenstein Lion Park in the southern Cape region, said it was the “process of removing cubs from their mothers at birth specifically so that they can be used as play things and to increase the speed of breeding that is inherently cruel, not to mention the methods employed to ensure the cubs are docile with tourists.”

Critics say some lions are also specially bred for their bones, which are sent to Asia to end up in potions, but farmers deny that claim.

Amateur trophy hunters — most of whom come from the US — each year kill about 500 captive-bred lions in South Africa.

Hunters are ready to part with $22,000 per male lion, in addition to just about as much for other logistical and taxidermy costs. A lioness however comes in much cheaper at $4,000.

The trophy-hunting practices also raise controversy.

In the Northwest province with the most lion-breeding farms, the cats are often released, hungry, just four days before a hunt.

Unleashing them into unfamiliar turf means they are unlikely to escape their pursuers.

But farmers justify the practice.

“Whether you kill a cow, a sheep or a pig, or you kill a lion, it’s exactly the same thing. It’s an animal,” Potgieter argues.

A recent study by the Duke University in North Carolina has shown that two thirds of the African lion population have vanished over the past 50 years, to around 35,000 from nearly 100,000.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service also recently announced it would launch a review on whether to list African lions as endangered species.

Such a listing would prevent US hunters from bringing lion trophies from Africa back to the United States.” Story by Jean Liou.

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More Deviltry

In the wild, Tasmanian Devils are nocturnal, but they don't mind a little rest and relaxation in the sun.

In the wild, Tasmanian Devils are nocturnal hunters and scavengers. However, they don't mind a little rest and relaxation in the sun, especially after an exhausting tussle over some wallaby chops.

My friends and I fell in love with Tasmanian Devils, irascible carnivorous marsupials that live in the wild only on the island of Tasmania, an Australian state south of the mainland of Australia. 

I'm petting the nice Tasmanian Devil. "Nice devil, nice devil....."

I'm petting the nice Tasmanian Devil. "Nice devil, nice devil....." Though they have a reputation for fighting, they aren't aggressive toward humans if handled correctly.

In the wild, Tasmanian Devils usually are only active at night, when they hunt or seek out carrion.  They can be very nasty-tempered and make a huge noisy fuss when they eat.   You can see why I find them so adorable!  They have their own personalities and are inquisitive.  (Their main inquiry probably is “When is feeding time?”)  Their keepers and the scientists who study them become very fond of the little devils.

A devil gets peeved when a young man's hand got too close to the devil's head.  We both had to count our fingers after that close encounter.  The keeper has raised this devil from joeyhood, and he's used to people, but a devil is a devil, after all!

A devil gets peeved when a young man's hand got too close to the devil's head. We both had to count our fingers after that close encounter. The keeper raised this devil from joeyhood, so the devil is used to people, but a devil is a devil, after all!

If you want to see Tasmanian Devils, you’ll need to visit a wildlife park or zoo in Australia.   There, the devils are happy to greet you during the day.  At some parks, you can even pet a devil.  Just be careful that you don’t reach too close to its head.  We saw devils and many other unique-to-Australia animals at East Coast Natureworld near Bicheno and Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park near Taranna, both in Tasmania.

The only other place outside of Australia where devils can be seen is the Copenhagen Zoo, where they were a gift to Denmark, because Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark,  is from Tasmania.

Many Australian zoos and parks, particularly in Tasmania, are breeding the devils in special quarantined areas so they won’t contract Devil Facial Tumor Disease, an infectious cancer that affects many wild devils.  So far, the disease is incurable.  Scientists estimate that half or more of the devil population has disappeared in the past dozen years because of the disease.

Tasmanian Devils often eat roadkill, such as wallabies, but can also become roadkill themselves.  They travel widely in search of food.

Tasmanian Devils often eat roadkill, such as wallabies, but can also become roadkill themselves. They travel widely in search of food.

Tasmanian Devils play an important role in the Tasmanian environment, plus they are so cute.  You can read more about devils in my previous post, I’m a Friend of the Tasmanian Devil.   That post includes a Discovery Channel video and links to more information.  Below are some videos from our visit to a wildlife park to see the devils.

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Filed under Animals, Australia, Biology, Conservation, Environment, Humor, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Random, Science, Travel

It’s Not Easy Being Green

I saw this toad by the side of the road.  I used to see toads all of the time when I was a child, but now it's rare to see them.

Yes, I admit it. I was very excited when I saw this toad by the side of the road last week. When I was a child, I saw toads and frogs all of the time during the summer, but now it's rare to see them even though I'm outside almost as often.

 

This is the Year of the Frog.  Although it’s late in the year, it’s not too late to raise awareness about the serious problems facing amphibians.  Scientists believe that one-third to one-half of the earth’s 6,000 amphibian species, which have thrived for 360 million years, are in danger of extinction.

Habitat destruction is one serious threat, but the most immediate cause is a parasitic fungus called amphibian chytrid, a disease deadly to hundreds of amphibian species.  It is quickly spreading, currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild. The World Conservation Union called it the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates.

Amphibians are an essential part of the ecosystem as both predator and prey. We can’t lose them.

To learn more go to Save the Frog.

Here’s a New York Times article about infected frogs in the United States.    An effort to save frogs is described in this New York Times article: To Stem Widespread Extinction, Scientists Airlift Frogs in Carry-On Bags.

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