An autumn nature hike is enriching and relaxing, but keep in mind… you’re not alone!
August and September are two of the most beautiful months to explore the great outdoors. The weather is perfect and nature during this time of year is awesome.
All is calm and serene with insects buzzing, a bird chirping here and there, and maybe a light breeze or the cheerful sounds of a bubbling stream. What could be more enjoyable?
Yet in this seemingly peaceful environment you must be attentive and prepared for any encounters with wildlife. The great outdoors is the home to many creatures, small and large, and you are traversing their native space. Animals are generally shy and reserved, preferring to go about their business and keep to themselves. But sometimes contact is unavoidable, and this includes running into poisonous (venomous) snakes.
Snakes are very remarkable animals. They have adapted to live on the land in the trees, grasslands, and desert areas and they are also found living in water, including the oceans. They eat meat so will prey on insects, birds, small animals and other reptiles, and sometimes even other snakes.
Being cold-blooded animals they are unable to regulate their own body temperatures, so they are most active when it’s warm and less active as it gets cold. Snakes like to come out when it’s sunny, but not scorching. Sensitive to temperatures exceeding 80 degrees, they are most likely to be seen early in the morning, in the evening, and during the nighttime when it’s warm.
Preventing snake bites
A nice thing to know is that snakes only bite if they are provoked or startled. Most snakes do not act aggressive toward humans without provocation and by simply leaving them alone, you should be okay. Despite a sinister reputation, snakes are almost always more scared of you than you are of them. If you spot a rattlesnake or other venomous snake, you should stop, watch it and let it leave before continuing on.
Avoiding snake bites is not difficult as long as you take precautions. Educate yourself about the types of snakes in your area before venturing out, and then stay aware of your surroundings. Wear the appropriate clothing for outdoor activities too, like long pants and hiking shoes. Although these may not stop every bite they can help deflect a bite.
Venomous snakes have modified salivary glands that they use to inject venom. During a bite the snake passes the venom into a duct into their fangs, and then into its prey. However they can regulate whether or not to release venom, and don’t necessarily inject venom with all bites. A bite without venom is known as a “dry Bite” and will occur between 25-50% of the time. This varies with different species; pit-viper bites will be dry about 25% of the time while coral snakes will be dry up to 50% of the time.
Only a small number of people experience snake bites. On average about 7,000 people in the United States report being bitten by venomous snakes each year. As reported by the Rapid City Journal, the curator of reptiles at Reptile Gardens south of Rapid City, snake expert Terry Phillip says that the No. 1 reason people in this country are bitten by venomous snakes is because they were “trying to catch, kill ‘em or tease ‘em.” Further, of those bitten by venomous snakes, 89 percent are men between the ages of 16 and 30 years.
Phillip further states that if bitten by a venomous snake, make wise choices. None of the common field treatment myths are effective, like the cut-and suck method, tourniquets, nor applying ice or alcohol. He says to remain calm and remove jewelry or anything that will restrict movement from the affected limb, and then seek medical emergency treatment immediately. If you get bit call your local poison control center, then the center will call a hospital in advance for treatment.
Poisonous (venomous) snakes in the United States
There are about 25 species of poisonous (venomous) snakes in North America, with at least one or more species found in each of the 50 states. The most notable venomous snakes in North America are comprised of two groups; the Pit Vipers which include Rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth, and Copperhead snakes, and the Coral Snakes.
The Rattlesnakes are probably the best known venomous snakes, and this pit viper is found all across the United States. They are so named for the “rattle” at the tip of their tail, which when sounding, strikes fear into the heart of the intruder. Their primary method of protection is their camouflage rather than the rattle, so you know they are riled if you hear it sizzling.
There are 32 recognized rattlesnake species in the genus Crotalus, all bearing a large pair of fangs. Though none of these snakes are considered aggressive, if threatened they are known to hold their ground. A few familiar species include:
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake C. atrox
The Western Diamondback, ranging from California to central Arkansas and south into Mexico, has gained much of its notoriety due to being featured in Western Movies.
- Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake C. adamanteus
The Eastern Diamondback is the largest of the rattlesnake species and is the heaviest, though not the longest, venomous species in the United States. It has large range from North Carolina to Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
- Sidewinder C. cerastes
The Sidewinder is a well known snake from the Midwest deserts where is slithers sideways across the sands leaving a zigzag pattern in its wake. It ranges from Utah and Nevada, then south through Arizona and California and into Mexico and down the Baja.
- Timber Rattlesnake C. horridus
The Timber Rattlesnake C. horridus is an abundant snake, and the most populous of rattlesnake in the northeastern United States. It ranges from the northeast south through Florida and into Minnesota and Texas. It is commonly found on wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops.
The Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix is also a pit viper with 5 recognized subspecies. It is widespread throughout the Eastern and Southeastern United States. It is responsible for most of the bites from venomous snakes, and although the bites are quite painful they rarely life threatening. Still a victim should still get medical attention.
The Coral Snakes comprise a large group of venomous snakes, and they are not restricted to just the Americas. However the New World has the largest number, with 65 recognized species in 3 genera. These snakes are extremely toxic. Their venom is a powerful neurotoxin that requires prompt snake bite treatment. A bite from one of these fellows will shut down your nervous system and stop your heart.
Coral snakes are identified by the colored bands ringing the entire length of their body and a blunt black snout. The bands alternate in red and black, with a thinner yellow in between. They can easily be confused with the harmless King Snake, as their body colors are similar looking, though the King Snake has a red snout. It is the arrangement and size of the colored bands that distinguish the two. A rhyme that can help distinguish them goes like this, “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow (Deadly Coral snake). Red touch black, friend of Jack (Harmless King snake).” Three species encountered in the United States include:
- Eastern Coral Snake Micrurus fulvius
The Eastern Coral Snake typically ranges from North Carolina through Florida and along Mississippi.
- Texas Coral Snake Micrurus tener
The Texas Coral Snake typically ranges in Texas, but is also found in Arkansas and Louisiana.
- Arizona coral Snake Micruroides euryxanthus
The Arizona coral Snake, also known as the Western Coral Snake, typically ranges in Arizona and south to Sinaloa in western Mexico
The Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus, also called the “water moccasin,” is another species of pit viper with a serious bite that can be fatal. Although this snake’s aggression is somewhat exaggerated, it is a fast fellow and an occasion male can be aggressive and cranky. It has a thick, heavy body that’s brownish or olive/gray in color and a flat topped head. It is known to stand it ground when annoyed and may gape repeatedly, exposing the cotton-looking lining of its mouth, thus its common name. It ranges across the east, Mideast and southeastern United States.
The beauties of autumn season are yours to fully enjoy when you are aware of the venomous snakes in your area and ready if one should cross your path. Fully prepared, your hiking experience will be fun and relaxing!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Some startling facts about tigers which will make you awestruck!
A little bit of fright, enough of a thrill, and the heights of imagination – all these work together during your Bengal Tiger sighting trip.
Voted as the world’s favorite animal, this tiger is the most varied cat on earth, and has many unique features and interesting compulsions. Less social, comfort loving and crepuscular, these wild carnivores have always been the center of attraction during all adventurous wildlife tours.
Let’s explore the twisting facts about this exclusive creature which will make you stunned.
- Night vision of the tiger is approximately six times better than humans,
- To mark their territories, they scratch trees and use their urine.
- Unlike other members of the cat family tigers are good swimmers and can go easily inside water for cooling themselves and in the pursuit of prey.
- A tiger’s brain may weigh over 300g which is believed to be the largest among carnivores after the polar bears.
- Just like human fingerprints, the stripes on each tiger are unique.
- For trapping their prey, tigers are often found imitating the sound of other animals. Bears constitute a major part of the tigers’ diet as very often their habitats overlap.
- There are very small numbers of tigers who develop a taste for human flesh.
- Tigers’ saliva contains antiseptic elements. That is why they lick their wounds to disinfect them.
- Tigresses become fertile for only four to five days in the entire year.
- Tigers can guess the gender, age and reproductive status of other tigers smelling their urine markings.
- Tigers do not normally roar at other animals. Actually they roar to communicate with far-off tigers. Therefore, a tiger in attacking moded might hiss and fluff instead of roaring.
- Unless a tiger feels threatened it does not attack humans as prey.
- Tigers are territorial and love to live solitary lives except when mating. Each tiger has a specific territory and the area of a male overlaps with many other females.
- Just like the young ones of the domestic cat, tigers are also completely blind for the first week of their life.
- It takes 30-40 days for a human to die of starvation whereas a tiger will die within two or three weeks.
- Tigers have a better memory than any other animals including humans. They have a hundred times better memory than dogs and dozens of times better memory than primates.
- Tigers can run at a speed of approximately 60km/h for short distances.
- Tigers are conscious about the rights of females and kids. That is why when several tigers assemble around a kill, they wait for the females and kids to eat first. Whereas, it is just the opposite in the case of lions.
A majestic creation of nature, India’s national animal the tiger, was brought to the verge of extinction due to the illegal human interference on their habitat. But the preventive steps taken by the Government of India, especially the Save Tiger Project has shown its colors. Today a total of 3200 tigers are found across the world out of which 1706 tigers are found in India with the highest density of tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park. To make India richer in the number of its tiger population, some popular national parks like Ranthambore, Corbett, Pench, Tadoba, Sundarban and Periyar also contributed significantly.
Anshul Srivastava is a wildlife enthusiast, who loves to wander around different wildlife destinations of India. At the same time, he has gotten a command over writing and thus, he pens down and shares his experience with the world.
Tracing the tracks of Snow Leopards in the alpine mountains.
Gorgeous and hushed as snowfall, the Snow Leopard is known all over the globe for its beauty and intangible behavior. The white-gray coat with black spots combines perfectly with the rocky mountains of Central and South Asia.
These wild cats love this kind of natural habitat. It offers them good cover to stay out of sight while hunting. Moreover, they are highly adapted to the harsh and arid climate of the mountains.
Some amazing facts about Snow Leopards:
- Like most wild cats, this magnificent mountain cat hunts at night. The most common creatures killed by these cats are wild goats, deer, pikas, markhor, game birds, rodents and hares.
- The Snow Leopard is scientifically dubbed as Uncia uncia.
- They are found at elevations as high as 9800 feet above sea level.
- These are the most mystical among wild cats. They have a stunning coat with black rosettes that helps them in disguise.
- These cats weigh from 30-55 kg, and the length of the tail measures from 80-135cm.
- They are considered excellent jumpers and bear a resemblance to leopards.
- Their paws are large and covered with fur, which protects them from getting injuries.
- The gestation period of a female is about 90 to 110 days.
- They can live up to 18 years, though some have been known to live up to 21 years.
Why Snow Leopards are endangered
This wild cat’s numbers are gradually declining, with its population in the wild estimated at around 6000. According to the International Union for the conservation of Nature and Natural resources they are listed as an endangered species.
There are a number of reasons why they are in danger, but humans are the biggest threat to Snow Leopards. They hunt them for fur, pelt and bones. Many people are found wearing coats and hats made from leopard skin, while on the other hand, the Chinese use their bones in medicines. Not only this, humans also cause immense damage to their habitats and food sources.
When there is no or limited prey left in the wild, they are forced to venture out of their designated habit into human settlements where they start killing and eating the farm animals of villagers, such as goats and sheep. In response the local people kill these straying cats to save their stock.
Cites, another respected organization, puts a lot of effort into discovering creatures that could be in trouble. It protects the endangered species and forbids trade of animal species or their body parts.
Saving them from extinction
The Snow Leopard was first listed as an endangered species in the year 1972 and since then its population has been on the decline. The very old and respected Snow Leopard Trust works exclusively to save the endangered cat and its home. Right now the trust focuses its attempts in countries like Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, China and Mongolia. It raises money through fundraising events, donations and by selling products online, and is maintained by the other organizations.
There are many organizations working together to make important contributions to the conservation of the endangered Snow Leopard. Conservation groups in many countries where these wild cats survive are working with the farmers to help improve the situation and minimize the problem of human-snow leopard conflicts. The herders and farmers have been taught how to protect their livestock areas against these creatures.
Where Snow Leopards Live
One can witness these top predators in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Bhutan. The likelihood of encountering one of these wild cats seems like a fancy dream. Spotting it in its high, overwhelming habitat will be a real reward for anyone.
On a tour to India, don’t miss out on visiting the famous Hemis National Park where snow leopards are found. Some of other renowned national parks are Khunjerab National park, Pakistan; Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal; Katun Nature Reserve, Russia and Sarychat- Ertah State Nature Reserve, Kyrgyzstan.
The existence of this elusive animal is significant as it signifies the health of the surroundings and the preservation of the snow leopard cannot be successful without the help and support of the local people. Make an effort to protect the wild cat, “Uncia uncia“, and its habitat. They need your love!
Contributing author Tanmay Sharma is a wildlife admirer and very passionate about wildlife tourism.
The instinctive bond of One-Horned Rhinos with Kaziranga National Park.
“The only way to save a rhinoceros is to save the environment in which it lives, because there’s a mutual dependency between it and millions of other species of both animals and plants.” – David Attenborough
Rhinoceros, commonly known as rhino, is a name used for the uneven-toed ungulate animal that belongs to the family of Rhinocerotidae. The largest of the rhino species is the one-horned rhino. A single glimpse of this majestic wild animal is enough to enthrall a nature aficionado. The exotic one-horned rhinos are the pride of India and were once present in the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent. However, the rhino population in the country has been depleted because of the continuous poaching.
Interesting Facts About One-Horned Rhinoceros
One-horned rhinos are herbivorous animals that have a thick skin on their body. There are a good number of one horned rhinos in India owing to extremely effective conservation efforts taken by the authorities. Greater one-horned rhinos are creatures who love solitude. They are principally grazers, with their diet almost completely consisting of grasses and leaves, fruits, tree branches, shrubs, and aquatic plants.
This animal has a great sense of hearing and a wonderful sense of smell. Hence, they can find their companions with no trouble. Rhinos go around in the search of food when the climate is a bit cooler and they avoid the heat of the afternoon. They submerge themselves in water when the temperature is high in order to avoid direct exposure to severe heat. The greater one-horned rhinos are expert swimmers and can feed underwater as well.
The one-horned rhinos at Kaziranga National Park are poached extensively for their horn as it is believed that their horn is useful in making medicine. They went to the brink of extinction because of these killings. To prevent them from disappearance, the government of India has employed many conservation projects. Several protected areas are taking essential steps to conserve this amazing wildlife species. Most prominent of them is Kaziranga National Park!
Kaziranga and One-Horned Rhinos
The legacy of India lies not just in its imposing monuments but also in its natural wonders. Kaziranga National Park is a protected area in India that has conserved the wonders and beauty of nature. This park is well known for its commendable and huge wildlife assortment and is a well-respected natural center for varied wildlife species in the country. It is situated on the bank of the huge Brahmaputra River in the districts of Nagaon and Golaghat, Assam. This intriguing protected area is also famous for the conservation of great number of one-horned rhinos. In the year 2012, the population of one horned rhinos in Kaziranga was expected to be 2,329. This park was set up in Assam to save the population of one-horned rhinos from harm.
Almost two-thirds of world’s rhino population resides in the immensely widespread areas of Kaziranga National Park. Mary Victoria Leiter Curzon, also known as Lady Curzon, visited this region in the year 1904 and she later pioneered the conservation work in this park. Kaziranga is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been thriving in the conservation of the animal species. This national park has become an essential element of Assam tourism in modern times, since a large number of wildlife buffs swarms it every year. One-horned rhinos enjoy an ultimate and ideal environment in this park, where there are enormous spans of greenery and glinting water bodies. Several wildlife safaris are carried out all through the tourist seasons to facilitate wildlife lovers in watching the one-horned rhinos up close. These safaris or guided tours are conducted with the help of jeeps or elephants.
Several confines have been positioned to guard this national park from being contaminated or causing any sort of annoyance to its exotic flora and fauna. Loads of wildlife aficionados broaden their support in a number of ways for improving conservation practices for the one-horned rhino and generating more employment prospects. As a result of such actions, the population of one-horned rhinos has improved to a substantial degree over the years. The significant factor that creates a center of attention for visitors the most is the vista of one-horned rhinos that can be seen in a large number of areas in this beautiful wildlife sanctuary.
More info about Kaziranga National Park
How to reach:
- BY ROAD: Kaziranga is located 217 kms east of Guwahati. There is around a 4 hour drive from Guwahati on NH-37, to reach the park. This park is well connected with the cities like Tezpur (80 kms), Jorhat (97 kms) and Dibrugarh (250 kms).
- BY AIR: The nearest airport from Kaziranga is Guwahati (217 kms).
- BY RAIL: Nearest Railhead is in Furkating (80 km) from where a tourist can take any mode of transportation to get to Kaziranga.
Best time to visit:
Kaziranga National Park is open for the wildlife admirers and nature lovers from 1st November to 30th April every year. It is rampaged by the floods during monsoon season. Overfilling of vacationers for the duration of December and January encumbers a private experience. Hence, the months of February and March are the best months to pay a visit to Kaziranga National Park.
Kaziranga is an ideal abode for one-horned rhinos. A visit to this arresting park crowns the minds of wildlife lovers with spellbinding sights of this mammoth creature that one can treasure for a lifetime.
Anshul Srivastava is a wildlife enthusiast, who loves to wander around different wildlife destinations of India. At the same time, he has got a command over writing and thus, he pens down and shares his experience with the world.
“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great things” …John Donne
Elephants! When these giant creatures roam in the wilds, they create a sensation that entrances the one who observes this marvelous scene. These mighty mammals are the largest land animals. They are members of the Elephantidae family of the Proboscidae order. There are basically two recognized species of elephants: The Asian Elephants and African Elephants.
These giant creatures have various unique features that make them distinctive from other wild beings.
A few of the unique features of elephants are:
- Usually female elephants live in herds. The veteran female elephant leads this herd, however, and the male elephants are generally solitary and shift from herd to herd. Each member in the female herd helps each other to find food and care for their young ones. These creatures do not lie down to sleep as their straight legs provide them an adequate amount of support. They can converse with their herd from far away by using sounds that are extremely low, too low for the human ear to recognize.
- Elephants can converse with each other by creating sounds known as "tummy rumbles."
- Elephants in general walk about 4 mph.
- Elephants know how to swim for lengthy distances.
- Elephants spend almost sixteen hours a day eating food.
- Elephants have the biggest brains of all the members of animal kingdom.
- A Fully-grown Indian Elephant can reach a height of more than 8 feet.
- Adult Indian elephants are about 10,000 plus pounds in weight.
- In general, one tusk of an elephant is shorter than the other. This happens because the elephant uses one of its tusks more often for things. It’s the same as for people, being either right or left-handers, the Elephants will also rely upon the tusk they use more frequently.
- Elephants are able to give birth every three to four years. The period of gestation is nearly two years.
- The Babies weigh around 250 pounds when they are born.
- The elephant herd makes a circle around a mother elephant when a baby elephant is born. They generate this circle to guard her from harm. A number of the elephants nudge the baby elephant to support as it’s standing up after birth.
- It is fairly amazing to know that the elephants can catch one anothers trumpeting sounds up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) away.
- Elephants can become suntanned; therefore they shield themselves with sand.
- Elephants get frightened of bees.
- This mammoth creature is the lone mammal, other than the Homo sapiens, to have a chin.
- 17. It is quite clear by their structure that elephants eat a lot. Moreover, they also drink nearly 50 gallons of water every day. These giants can go for around four days without water. It is remarkably fascinating to know that they can dig wells with the help of their tusks if needed.
- The trunk of an elephant can certainly be a lethal weapon. The trunk can pick up something weighing around 450 pounds, perhaps more. Remarkably, the trunk has nearly 150,000 muscles.
- These giants have no natural predators. However, lions at times will prey on weak or young elephants in the wild. The foremost threat to elephants is from human beings through poaching and alterations to their haunt.
- The potential for an elephant to travel a long distance makes them extremely handy in terms of jungle safari. They can walk for miles on their physically powerful feet. For this reason, elephants are extensively used for jungle safaris in India, especially in the national parks. An Elephant safari in a national park is a great way to experience the spellbinding traits of this giant creature.
These giant creatures have many startling, and often concealed, facts about them. A single sight of this mammoth creature is enough to spellbind all!
Contributing author Jessica Frei is a wildlife admirer and nature lover. She loves to explore the wildlife of different countries. She has visited many popular national parks
Love keeping pets? Then let’s all help save our pets now and for future generations!
Imagine waking up a few years from now to your child or grandchild asking you what a bunny, hamster, frog or parakeet is.
How could this happen? Well, they would still see them in pictures and read about them on a digital device. If they live in an area where there is a public zoo they may get to see them live through bars. But they can’t actually touch them, watch them up close, or keep and care for them.
If you love animals as much as I do, then that future is unimaginable. What kind of world would this be without wonderful and interesting pets? Yet today, and for the last decade or so, there have been multiple actions to create just such a scenario.
Amazingly enough it’s our love for our pets and animals that has become the fuel for such a bleak future. We can’t stand to see animals abused or abandoned, so we are easily swayed to fight for causes to protect them.
Yet we must be leery of legislation that would undermine our children’s future ability to keep pets. Promoting actions to protect animals is great, but we must also be diligent to save our pets from restrictive legislation. Fortunately there are many people keeping an eye on legislative efforts, identifying those that are excessive and irresponsible.
The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) is one such organization. USARK just posted an alert about a proposal that would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to allow a “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA requirements.”
They are concerned because “this rule would allow USFWS to add species as injurious (making importation, interstate commerce and interstate transportation illegal) without full due process afforded under the law. This affects reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, small mammals and a huge portion of the pet industry. Any species listed would disappear from the pet community.”
I too am concerned because this ruling would provide an over reaching authority to add any animal without people’s input and discussion, and it affects ALL types of pets. At Animal-World we believe that with the kinship and love that we feel for our pets comes the responsibility of knowing and providing what is best for them.
Public comments are needed from pet lovers right now, before February 21st. Let your voice be heard! See the Cat Ex Action Alert (Deadline 2/21/14). There you will find the USARK sample letter, which you can edit to fit you, along with instructions for where and how to send your opinion.
Spread this information to family, friends and neighbors, so we can all help save our pets today and into the future!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to scuba dive, the area known as the “coral triangle” is a part of our world that offers a panorama of beauty to sate every artist’s palette.
Animal Planet, a unit of Discovery Communications, plans to share a bird’s eye view of the incredible life swirling beneath the waves of our vast oceans. “WILD DEEP” will be presented as a six-part televised documentary with the first episode featuring “The Coral Triangle” debuting on Tuesday, January 22, at 9:00pm ET/PT.
In the Animal Planet WILD DEEP press release they say the documentary will showcase “the amazing wonders and epic beauty that exist in Earth’s seas and oceans.” Their first episode will start “with a deep dive into the waters of the Coral Triangle near Asia.” Subsequent episodes will involve “series dives into the waters surrounding Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas to showcase the dramatic, complex universes beneath their waves.”
The Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million square kilometers in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is a roughly shaped triangular region encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.
Each episode of the Animal Planet documentary should be a fascinating adventure, but the Coral Triangle region will definitely be a highlight.
The waters of this area are teeming with vast and extremely diverse life forms. Besides being known as the “coral triangle” it is also called the “Amazon of the seas”, reflecting the great Amazon Basin region which is re-known for the extraordinary beauty and diversity of its own inhabitants.
When we see ocean corals and fish above water, viewed in the full spectrum of light offered by aquariums, photos, or videos, we can see the incredible colors they possess.
Yet under water, the red spectrum of light becomes reduced the deeper you go, and the animals present a much more even palette. A soothing elegance of interconnected color is created beneath the waves. Though not necessarily flamboyant, this natural deep-water setting offers an awesome, yet curiously comforting scene.
The The Coral Triangle Center states that “a full 76 percent of known coral species are found here and 37 percent of reef fish species.” Now that’s a lot of critters! There are extensive mangrove forests in the region. Mangrove swamps grow along coastal regions and have massive root systems that are efficient at dissipating wave energy, so they protect the coastal areas from erosion, storm surges, and tsunamis. But they also provide valuable nursery areas for all sorts of aquatic animals.
The reef areas are also rich in life, with animals ranging from corals and fish to many types of invertebrates and algaes. They offer spawning and breeding grounds too, for whales and dolphins, sea turtles, and huge fisheries. According to the Coral Triangle Center, the life encountered in this region has “sustained sea faring island people for millennia.”
The Center says that today this incredible habitat “is recognized as the global centre of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation.” The diversity of these reef are the seeding stock for future coral reefs, and can help “ensure adaptation as our natural communities respond to climate change and other global trends.”
GMA News reports that the Coral Triangle region has been recognized “as an area of acute ecological importance and of great concern by many governments”. Countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands have come together to form ‘The Coral Triangle Initiative’. GMA reports that the Initiative’s purpose is to urgently spread “ideas about sustainable fishing practices” and to set up “marine reserves across the region to ensure pockets of this fragile ecosystem are protected and allowed to thrive.”
Animal-World provides pictures and information on a large selection of Coral Reef Animals and Saltwater fish, along with detailed information on the care necessary to keep them in a marine aquarium or reef tank.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Swarm of carnivorous piranha attacked hundreds of bathers!
Christmas was a very warm day along the Parana River near Rosario, Argentina. Hundreds of city dwellers were trying to escape the 100-degree weather in the cooler waters of a popular beach about 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires. But then, they began to notice bite marks on their hands and feet.
A swarm of carnivorous fish attacked hundreds of bathers, sending around 70 people to local clinics and emergency rooms for treatment.
The local Director of lifeguards, Federico Cornier, told reporters from BBC and other broadcasters in the area “it’s normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great… This is an exceptional event.”
Cornier said that the fish responsible for the attacks were “palometas”, a type of piranha with large sharp teeth. Dozens of people had their extremities attacked. Paramedic Alberto Manino, speaking with the Associated Press, said that some children he had treated had lost entire digits!
The term ‘palometa’ is a common name used for several types of fish. This includes the Piranha, but it is also used for a Caribbean gamefish Trachinotus goodie and a Western Atlantic fish, the Maracaibo Leatherjacket Oligoplites palometa.
The Piranhas belong to a sub-family called the Serrasalminae, or the ‘serrated salmon family’ consisting of around 60 species. The unmistakable trademark features of the Piranha are their triangular, razor sharp teeth. As described in Piranha: Story of the Piranha Fish from Predator to Prey, these teeth enable them to ‘slice off pieces of meat, fins or scales, literally taking apart their prey piece by piece.’
The palometa that attacked these bathers is most likely the Red Piranha Pygocentrus nattereri, also called the Red-bellied Piranha. This is a very widespread species, occurring in several river basins of South American. Although it typically grows between about 3 to 9 1/2 inches (8-24 cm) in length, one specimen was reported at a whooping 19 1/2 inches (50 cm).
Keeping the Red Piranha in the aquarium is truly a fascination. In the wild the Red Piranha lives in large schools. This type of school is not usually possible in an aquarium, but with the proper environment these fish will show some traits of their wild behavior. In nature the largest fish is the ‘alpha’ animal and in the aquarium it is the most aggressive and bold. The alpha fish will dominate the best spaces in the tank and will basically own the feeding ritual. All other members are subordinate and will take on the traits of servants. Any unwilling ‘servants’ will be quickly and aggressively put in their place by the alpha fish!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and animal species write-ups.
A Baby Hooded Seal
Recently more Harp and Hooded seals than usual have been found stranded along the East Coast of the United States as far south as the Carolinas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These stranded seals should have migrated much farther north by this time of year. A recent study indicates the problem is in part due to the decline in ice cover.
The Harp Seal Pagophilus groenlandicus, also known as the Saddleback Seal, lives in the north Atlantic Ocean and the Artic Ocean. Their scientific name translates to “ice-lover from Greenland,” and they really do love ice! Having a thick layer of blubber and efficient flippers which they can use as heat exchangers, they can efficiently regulate their temperature on ice and in extremely cold water. They have all-black eyes with grayish-silver bodies. Adult harp seals can weigh from 300-400 pounds.
The Hooded Seal Cystophora cristata is also found primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. What stands out on these seals is a bulge on the males heads which develops around four years of age. This bulge is actually an inflated air sac or “hood” above their noses and is used in mating rituals. Adult males can weigh up to 900 pounds! That’s a big seal!
In general, these seals reproduce in the spring on huge masses of ice. As spring turns to summer the seals begin to migrate North. It is believed that a seals sight is very helpful in helping it navigate, making vision one of their most important senses.
Increasing numbers of Hooded Seals are being found dead or unhealthy on beaches further south than where they should be. Usually around 25 to 35 stranded seals are found on the Northeast Coast, however this year a total of 55 stranded seals have been found in both the Northeast and Southeast coasts combined. According to biologist Ulrika Malone, the seals are found dehydrated, sunburned, and suffering from heat exhaustion and hair loss. The ones that are alive are taken into rehabilitation centers by wildlife officials. The seals are nursed back to health and then released back into the wild.
A recent study published in the PLOS ONE journal confirms the theory that receding ice levels are at least partially to blame for more seals being found stranded. Most of the stranded seals are young, with 62% of them being male. It is thought that the majority are males because of their tendency to wander further away once they head off by themselves. Genetic issues, such as inbreeding, were mostly excluded as reasons. It was found that the stranded seals were just as genetically diverse as seals which were not stranded.
Sea ice is a prominent part of seal life and reproduction. Every spring (March-April) the seals reproduce on the ice drifts. The mothers nurse the young for a short time before they are left on their own to start their journey north. In the past 30 years ice cover in April has declined about 8%, which is significant. Researchers believe this affects the seals because there isn’t enough space on the ice for all the new young seals. Some of the babies may then be forced into the water prematurely and become confused as to which direction they should go. They may follow large groups of fish moving south instead of north and completely lose their way.
If the amount of sea ice continues to decline, it could cause serious problems for many types of seals, especially the ones who use the ice masses to reproduce. In fact, Ringed Seals and Bearded Seals are already listed as threatened species due to this decline in ice cover.
Should we be concerned with ice cover decline? What do you think?
The Jaguar Panthera onca
The jaguar gets its name from an old Latin American word ‘yaguar’ which means ‘he who kills with one leap’. This refers to the fact that they kill their prey quickly, sometimes instantaneously with only one bite. They are at the top of the food chain, and are vulnerable only to Anacondas or Caimans when young. Jaguars are very large exotic cats. In fact, they are the largest cats that inhabit North, South, and Central America! They are the third largest cat species in the world, being smaller only than tigers and lions.
It is believed that jaguars will become endangered if conservation efforts are not undertaken soon. Right now, they are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List.
The Jaguar Panthera onca is one of several large cats belonging to the Panthera genus. Other commonly known cats in this genus are lions, tigers, and leopards. The Jaguar and the Leopard look very similar and it can be hard to tell apart. The Jaguar is the only one living in the Western hemisphere however. So if you run into a large spotted cat in North America, you can be sure it is a jaguar and not a leopard!
Jaguars can reach 350 pounds, 6.5 feet in length (excluding their tail), and 2.5 feet in height. Being great swimmers and loving water, these cats usually prefer humid environments, such as rainforests and swamplands. However they can also be found on grasslands and in drier forests. An Interesting Fact: Jaguars have very strong jaws! Even for large cats, these guys have quite the bite. This enables them to easily and effectively kill their prey. These powerful jaws are also useful in piercing the shells of reptiles, such as tortoises and alligators. They are carnivores and their diet consists of just about any animal they can get their jaws on. Larger prey is usually preferred if available, however. Jaguars are solitary creatures as adults and spend most of their time in territory they have staked out for themselves.
Concern for Jaguars is steadily increasing. Three main problems are the cause of declining Jaguar populations.
1. Their natural habitats are shrinking. This is mostly due to fragmentation of their environments. As deforestation happens more and more to create room for agriculture and homes, and more major highways are constructed, the jaguars’ homes are compromised. They are no longer able to travel over large areas or breed as effectively because their access to other jaguars are restricted. This also leads to not as much diversification in the gene pool. In the United States, most Jaguars are already gone. However, there is believed to be a breeding population in Southern Arizona. In 1995, Jaguars became protected under the Endangered Species Act in order to stop people from shooting them for their pelts.
2. Their supply of natural prey is shrinking. People hunt many of their prey animals, such as deer and pigs, which reduces their availability to the cats. The prey animals are also losing their habitats, for much the same reasons as the jaguars are.
3. Jaguars are being killed by people. The reasons vary, from farmers/ranchers killing them for preying on their livestock, to Jaguars being deliberately poached to sell their pelts for profit. But these deliberate acts of killing jaguars are contributing to their decline.
Some organizations have recognized a need to project large cats everywhere and have taken steps to set up programs to do just that. One such organization, Panthera, has set up a program called the Jaguar Corridor Initiative. The primary purpose of this Initiative is to provide “corridors” or protected areas through human developments to connect one wild area to another. These corridors can be through a variety of different areas. Agriculture plantations, ranches, and people’s personal properties can all act as corridors. So far, this program seems to be producing positive results. Jaguars are able to safely pass through developed areas to hunt, breed, and live.
Panthera has another program, the Pantanal Jaguar Project. This one primarily focuses on educating local farmers and ranchers who reside in the Pantanal flood lands to help them reduce conflicts between the Jaguars and the cattle. This theoretically helps reduce the rates at which the cats are killed. Panthera is working with many of the South and Central American governments to monitor Jaguar populations and take motions to conserve them. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve was opened in 1986 in Belize with the help of its government. This sanctuary helps protect around 200 Jaguars who live in the area.
Jaguars, like all large wild cats, are part of this world and help keep our ecosystems in check. There is great benefit in making sure they are protected and do not go extinct!
1. Kollus, Brad. “Corridor to the Future.” Cat Fancy March 2013: 28-29. Print.