Red pandas

My local zoo just received two red pandas.  The zoo is undergoing a facelift – better and larger spaces for the animals with a more natural environment.  They also are getting a few new animals and sending some away to other zoos.

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These red pandas are a welcome addition. They certainly are cute, and so many people including children as young as three excitedly asked zookeepers questions.

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Red pandas are endangered with less than ten thousand in the wild.  Their natural home is in the Himalayans, and deforestation is the main culprit for their low population numbers.

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They seem to be closer in relation to a raccoon rather than a giant panda!

IMG_2409Their fur is a beautiful color and fluffy which sadly make them a popular hunting target in the wild.

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They spend their days in the treetops, and are most active at night.

IMG_2410Zoos are involved in conservation of the species.  The Knoxville Zoo in the US is considered the premier place in North America for red panda conservation.

IMG_2408All photos taken by me at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY.

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99% female

You may have seen Australia’s high temperatures in the news, reaching 117 degrees F this past week.  Obviously, this is harmful for agriculture long term, and will worsen drought and the fire season.  It also spells trouble for wildlife.  Bats have basically boiled to death, falling from trees.  Bats help control insect populations.

The Great Barrier Reef is also suffering, with coral bleaching.  Sea turtles are showing evidence of the climate change strain…scientists were surprised to discover 99% of this year’s hatchlings were female.   This gender bias is due to the high temperatures.

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(Photo of a turtle in my hometown)

Clearly, if this is a long term trend, and it looks like it will be, populations of sea turtles will become endangered.  Other animals like crocodiles and certain lizards also have gender determined based on temperature.

According to NBC News:

There are also some “practical” intervention methods scientists can take to help relieve the gender bias, such as putting up shade tents around breeding sites or spraying artificial rain to cool sand temperatures, O’Gorman said.

Holleley said that while short-term intervention could help populations, it could also have unintended outcomes and potentially make the population more vulnerable if those intervention methods were suddenly taken away because of funding or changes in administrations.

“You’re kind of in a Catch-22, do you intervene and potentially have an adverse outcome as an unintended consequence,” she said, “or do you let the population be and see what happens — it’s very difficult.”

Adapting behavior due to poachers

An article in Newsweek caught my eye this week:

Elephants in East Africa are adapting their behavior to survive the greatest threat to their existence: poachers.

A study published in the peer-reviewed Ecological Indicators journal this week suggests that elephants are aware of the danger of poaching gangs and have begun moving at night to avoid them.

The research, carried out by the Kenya-based charity Save the Elephants and the University of Twente in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, used GPS tracking and mortality data collected in northern Kenya between 2002 and 2012.

It is interesting to note that elephants can see well in the dark, but moving at night still has plenty of danger.  Lions, for example, are nocturnal and are happy to pick off baby elephants for a meal.  Obviously, the elephants weighed their options and would rather risk lions than bullets and machetes.

The GPS tracking may save elephant lives.  Anti-poaching ranger teams can now follow the elephants’ movement and protect them better against their worst enemy.

 

 

 

 

Donating to zoos

My local zoo gladly takes donations to help elephants and other animals.  Obviously, monetary donations are accepted, but it is nice to donate items where you can see the animals actually use them.

The zoo elephants enjoy “foraging” for pasta, unsweetened cereals, oats, and unsalted pretzels.  They also like spices and perfumes.  And, if you have large cardboard tubes you want to recycle, they make enjoyable elephant playthings to manipulate and destroy.

Other animals also need supplies – for example, my zoo was thrilled to accept blankets for their primates.

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So, if you are cleaning out your cupboards, house, or garage, ask your zoo if they need anything!

 

 

 

 

More elephants rescued from sea

Last month, an elephant made international headlines for being stranded out to sea and having the Sri Lankan navy rescue it.

This week, two more Sri Lankan wild elephants were at risk of drowning.  From The Guardian:

The navy said the pair of wild elephants were brought ashore on Sunday after a mammoth effort involving navy divers, ropes and a flotilla of boats to tow them back to shallow waters.

Photos showed the elephants in distress, barely keeping their trunks above water in the deep seas about half a mile off the coast of Sri Lanka.

“Having safely guided the two elephants to the shore, they were subsequently released to the Foul Point jungle [in Trincomalee district],” the navy said in a statement. “They were extremely lucky to have been spotted by a patrol craft, which called in several other boats to help with the rescue.”

The two incidents occurring within weeks of each other may seem odd.  Not only that, but a pod of stranded whales had to be rescued in May by the Sri Lankan navy.

The Sri Lankan lagoon waters this year are very shallow, so elephants are crossing them, not always recognizing the danger that lies in the ocean ahead.  The cyclone season was early, and brought the worst rain since the 1970s.  The animals are having trouble adjusting to the extremes in weather, just like us humans.

The value of elephant memories

Interesting recent research shows that elephants memories are very complex.  Older elephants pass down memories and associations to other generations.

For example, researchers now know that elephants can distinguish different human groups by their clothing and voice.  Evidence shows that elephants recognize and fear tribal hunters’ clothing colors, smells, and voice tones but have little interest in farming tribal groups, seeing them as harmless.

The matriarch teaches young elephants what and who to be wary of even when the young elephant has yet to experience it for himself.

From The Guardian:

The idea of elephants as information networks should matter to conservationists, because in this view of the world every elephant killed by humans is a network user or editor lost. With the extinction of elephants, we would also see the extinction of a network of elephant experiences – where the waterholes are; who to befriend and who to avoid; where the grasses come late or early; where the mud holes are plentiful and where the crocodiles are not; why it’s a good idea to avoid men in red garments; when the moon lights the night each month; where dead friends and ancestors let out their last tortured gasps. This is network chatter. It is network traffic. It has value. We are told that elephants matter because they are spectacularly intelligent and charismatic and because they are ecosystem engineers and umbrella species, protecting the wildlife of the region. But, what if they were also worth conserving for the information architecture that their societies utilise?

Seoul Zoo Baby Elephant

Hui-mang, which means “Hope”, is a lucky little one.  The baby elephant fell into water and her mother and grandmother rushed in to rescue her.  The video is from a zoo surveillance camera, and shows another family member in the background pacing with concern.

This video is yet more proof of the social nature of elephants, the importance of familial relationships, and their intelligence.

It is also a good visual of why humans have long felt a kinship with the animals.

Video: YouTube, photcube