Penguins are flightless sea birds. They can be many different colors from the chest up. Most species have black backs and white fronts. Penguins are able to control their body temperature on land by facing either their black back or white front to the sun. This coloration also camouflages them in the water. They have a thick layer of blubber that helps keep them warm.
There are 17 penguin species, varying greatly in size. The largest is the emperor penguin at 4 feet tall and about 65 to 90 pounds. The smallest is the little penguin, also known as the blue or fairy penguin, which weighs 2 pounds.
Penguins can live up to 15 to 20 years in the wild. They are found on every continent in the southern hemisphere, from the Antarctic to the Galapagos Islands.
Penguins are carnivores and mostly eat krill, a tiny shrimp-like animal, and other fish. Their sharp, spine-like teeth allow them to catch fish up to 10 inches long, which they swallow head first.
With compact, streamlined bodies, penguins can swim an average of 2.5 to 5 miles per hour – using their wings as paddles – with some species swimming as fast as 7.5 miles per hour. They also "toboggan," laying on their belly and pushing themselves along the ice with their flippers and feet. Most penguin species spend several hours a day preening and waterproofing their feathers with an oil produced from a gland located above their tail feathers. Feathers are important to keep penguins warm and to keep cold water from touching their skin.
Most penguin species gather in colonies in areas free from land predators during nesting. Many penguins build a nest of rocks, sticks or grass where one or two eggs are laid. Because penguins only eat in the ocean, they must fast while mating, incubating eggs and guarding chicks. The male and female usually take turns tending to the eggs and raising the chicks while the other mate returns to the ocean to eat. Adult feathers replace a chick’s down at about two to four months. Once the chick has adult feathers, it is ready to swim and hunt on its own.
Penguins are superbly adapted to an aquatic life. Their wings have become flippers, useless for flight in the air. In the water, however, penguins are astonishingly agile. Within the smooth plumage a layer of air is preserved, ensuring buoyancy. The air layer also helps insulate the birds in cold waters. On land, penguins use their tails and wings to maintain balance for their upright stance.
All penguins have a white underside and a dark (mostly black) upperside. This is for camouflage. A predator looking up from below (such as an orca or a leopard seal) has difficulty distinguishing between a white penguin belly and the reflective water surface. The dark plumage on their backs camouflages them from above.
The small penguins do not usually dive deep; they catch their prey near the surface in dives that normally last only one or two minutes. Larger penguins can dive deep in case of need. Dives of the large Emperor Penguin have been recorded which reach a depth of 1,870 feet and last up to 20 minutes.
Penguins either waddle on their feet or slide on their bellies across the snow, a movement called "tobogganing", which allows them to conserve energy and move relatively fast at the same time.
Penguins have an excellent sense of hearing. Their eyes are adapted for underwater vision, and are their primary means of locating prey and avoiding predators; in air, conversely, they are nearsighted. Their sense of smell has not been researched so far.
They are able to drink salt water safely because their supraorbital gland filters excess salt from the bloodstream. The salt is excreted in a concentrated fluid from the nasal passages.
Penguins have no external genitalia.
THREATS TO PENGUINS
Penguins living more than 60 degrees south of the equator are protected from hunting by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. Penguins are currently threatened by human activity. Threats include oil spills, human exploitation for guano and food, entanglement in fishing gear, human encroachment, over-fishing of food sources and introduced predators such as dogs. The Galapagos penguin is the only species listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Penguins are victims of the animal entertainment industry. While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. Some zoos and aquariums do rescue some animals and work to save endangered species, but most animals in zoos were either captured from the wild or bred in captivity for the purpose of public display, not species protection. The vast majority of captive-bred animals will never be returned to the wild. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals who may be unqualified to care for them.
Lionfish (also called turkeyfish, dragonfish, tigerfish, butterfly cod and scorpionfish) are venomous spiky fish that inhabit warm waters of the western and central Pacific Ocean. Lionfish are predatory fish, hunting small fish. Their venom is used for self-defense and can kill large animals. Lionfish are known for their beautiful colored bodies, covered with zebra-like stripes of red, orange, white, brown or black color, depending on the species.
Lionfish live in coastal waters around rocky crevices, as well as coral reefs with an abundance of smaller fish. There are at least 12 different species of lionfish including the Andover lionfish, Spot-fin lionfish, Red Sea lionfish, Japanese/Luna lionfish, Devil firefish, Frill-fin turkeyfish, Clear-fin lionfish, Soldier lionfish, Hawaiian turkeyfish, Red lionfish, African/Mombasa lionfish and Indian Ocean shortfin lionfish.
The range of the lionfish covers a very large area from western Australia and Malaysia east to French Polynesia and the United Kingdom's Pitcairn Islands, north to southern Japan and southern Korea and south to Lord Howe Island off the east coast of Australia and the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand. In between, the species is found throughout Micronesia.
Lionfish prey on a large variety of small fish and crustaceans. Lionfish are active hunters who ambush their prey by using their outstretched, fan-like pectoral fins to slowly pursue and corner them. The large mouths of lionfish allows them to swallow prey whole. The stomachs of lionfish have the ability to expand up to 30 times their size, allowing lionfish to eat animals larger than themselves. When food sources are scarce, lionfish will even eat other lionfish.
Lionfish have teeth. They are small and are located not only on the upper and lower jaws, but also in a small patch on the roof of their mouths. Their extra teeth aid in grasping prey caught by quick predatory strikes.
Lionfish move about by slowly undulating the soft rays of the dorsal and anal fins. During the day, they sometimes retreat to ledges and crevices among the rocks and corals.
Lionfish are mostly solitary fish, but some live in groups. Lionfish communities usually house one male lionfish and a few female lionfish that he mates with. Male lionfish are very territorial.
A female lionfish can releases up to two million eggs each year – or about 10,000 to 30,000 eggs every four days. The eggs are then fertilized by male lionfish. Lionfish couples hide after mating so their eggs can float away before being seen by predators that eat lionfish eggs. Lionfish eggs hatch in 2 days. A baby lionfish is very small and is called a fry. Baby lionfish remain near the surface of the water until they grow larger. When they are about an inch long they join the reef community. Lionfish reach adult size when they are about 2 years old.
Lionfish have few predators due to their large size and intimidating appearance. Spikes protruding from lionfish contain venom. Lionfish have over 19 spines, 13 along the backside of their bodies. Their spines are not used to hunt; only self-defense.
Lionfish live up to 15 years in the wild.
THREATS TO LIONFISH
Lionfish are not currently listed as threatened or endangered in their native range. However, the increase in pollution in coral reefs may negatively affect the lionfish's primary food sources (crustaceans and fish). If lionfish are unable to adapt to declines in their prey species, their numbers may decrease.
Lionfish are victims of the pet trade. The lionfish is a very popular aquarium fish, condemned to a life in a small tank for the amusement of humans.
Lionfish are also an invasive species due to the pet industry, flourishing unnaturally in U.S. Southeast and Caribbean coastal waters. This invasive species has the potential to harm reef ecosystems because it is a top predator that competes for food and space with overfished native animals. Scientists fear that lionfish will also kill off helpful species such as algae-eating parrotfish, allowing seaweed to overtake the reefs.
Cuttlefish are small to medium sized mollusc inhabiting ocean waters throughout the world. Cuttlefish are cephalopods, not fish. Cephalopods include the squid, octopus and nautilus. Like their squid and octopus relatives, cuttlefish have large, elongated bodies and tentacles surrounding their mouths. Cuttlefish are considered one of the ocean’s most intelligent invertebrates.
There are 120 known species of cuttlefish found across the globe, from warm and tropical shallows to cold depths of the deep seas. They are known for the flashing colors displayed on their bodies during fighting and mating.
Cuttlefish have 3 hearts and green-blue blood. They possess 8 arms and 2 long tentacles used for feeding. Cuttlefish are color blind and taste with their suckers. They have W shaped eyelids to help them see in front and behind at the same time.
Cuttlefish are amazing masters of disguise. They rely on their incredible camouflage abilities to avoid predators. Cuttlefish change color almost instantly to match their surroundings, and mimic the shape and texture of objects around them while arranging their arms to match the shape of the objects.
Like squid and octopuses, cuttlefish have sacks that eject ink to aid in escaping predators. Their ink can also be mixed with mucus to create a smaller, denser cloud about the same shape and size as their own bodies to act as a decoy cuttlefish – confusing attackers. Their color-changing abilities can also be used to hypnotize potential prey with pulsating lights and color shows.
Cuttlefish are carnivorous animals, primarily preying on small crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Cuttlefish also eat fish. They use their camouflaging abilities for sneak attacks and catch prey with sucker-pads on the ends of their tentacles – bringing the animal into their sharp beaks.
During cuttlefish mating rituals, male cuttlefish change their body colors to attract female cuttlefish. Some males even make themselves look like female cuttlefish to fool dominant males and then steal their females. Females place multiple sperm packets from different males into their mouth cavities. When ready to lay her eggs, she decides which male's sperm to use. Male cuttlefish try to get the females to use their own sperm by shooting a jet stream of water into the female's mouth to remove the sperm of other males. Once the female has found a safe location to lay her eggs, she reaches into her mouth cavity and takes out the sperm packets of her choice to fertilize the eggs she lays. Female cuttlefish lay about 200 eggs and some die soon afterwards.
Since cuttlefish are relatively small in size, they have numerous marine predators that hunt them. Sharks, large fish and even other cuttlefish are the most common predators of cuttlefish.
THREATS TO CUTTLEFISH
Ocean acidification caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a serious threat to all cuttlefish. Studies have shown that under high pCO2 concentrations, cuttlefishes actually lay down a denser cuttlebone which is likely to negatively affect buoyancy regulation.
Cuttlefish are also victims of the commercial fishing industry, intensively fished to the sustainable limit and beyond. Females may also be used as lures in traps during the spawning season. Cuttlefish are also frequently caught as bycatch.
Pollution, plastic and changes in climate also threaten cuttlefish.
Crane are large, long-beaked birds found all over the planet. There are 15 species of crane. Despite their similar appearance to other long-necked birds like storks and herons, cranes are not related genetically to these birds.
Cranes inhabit every continent except the Antarctic and South America. They prefer temperate wetlands and swamps in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
The smallest species of crane is the Demoiselle crane. The tallest species of crane is the Sarus crane. The heaviest species of crane is the Red-crowned crane.
Despite being such large birds, cranes are quite agile fliers. Unlike herons, cranes outstretch their necks when flying to help control their large bodies during flight.
Cranes are omnivorous birds, feeding on both plants and animals. They are also opportunistic feeders, feeding on whatever they can find in their habitat. Preferring to be near water, cranes usually feed on aquatic organisms such as fish, amphibians and insects, while also eating a variety of plants including seeds, berries, tree bark and grains.
Cranes are very social animals that form large communities called flocks. They communicate with each other via a variety of sounds and body language. Alarm calls inform other birds in the community that a threat is near.
Some species of crane live in a single territory, while others that live in temperature climates migrate seasonally. Migratory crane species travel up to 10,000 miles during migration. Cranes also travel up to 500 miles each day searching for food.
Cranes are monogamous, mating for life. Mating rituals consist of a complicated dance of fast movements of the feet, jumps, bowing and stretching. Nests are constructed in marshy habitats. Female cranes lay two eggs that hatch in about 30 days. Both crane parents care for the babies for up to 10 months. It takes 2 to 4 months for chicks to grow plumage like their parents. Cranes reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 to 5 years.
Being large animals, cranes have few natural predators. Wildcats, large birds of prey and foxes are common predators of crane babies.
The average lifespan of cranes in the wild is from 20 to 30 years old.
THREATS TO CRANES
All crane species populations have declined dramatically due to habitat loss, pollution and the illicit pet trade industry. 15 crane species are now either vulnerable in the wild or critically endangered. The Whooping crane, Florida Sandhill crane, Siberian crane and Mississippi Sandhill crane are among the endangered crane species.
Caterpillar are the babies (larvae) of butterflies and moths. There are more than 20,000 different species of caterpillars found around the planet.
The fascinating cycle of caterpillars transforming into butterflies and moths is called complete metamorphosis. The cycle has four stages: egg, larva (the caterpillar stage), pupa (the chrysalis stage), and adult (the butterfly or moth stage).
Butterflies and moths lay their eggs on plant leaves. When caterpillars are first born from the eggs, they are called larva. Larva eat continuously to grow. As caterpillars grow, their skin becomes too tight so they shed, or molt. They molt four or five times. After molting several times, a caterpillar may look very different than when first born – becoming fuzzy and featuring different colors, spines, bristles and tufts (called pencils). Different species of caterpillars vary in size, color and appearance to intimidate their predators to keep from being eaten. When caterpillars are two to four weeks old they begin making a chrysalis, or cocoon. Their cocoons hang from a stick or tree. While inside the cocoon their bodies transform into butterflies or moths – growing antennae, developing wings, and their mouthparts are transformed. They then emerge from the cocoon as a butterfly or moth. They cannot fly right away since their wings are small and wet. When their wings dry, and their muscles are exercised, they fly off the host plant and begin their new lives as butterflies or moths.
Caterpillars have three body parts, like all insects: a head, thorax and an abdomen. Their hard, outer covering is called an exoskeleton. Caterpillars have six pairs of eyes that cannot see images but do detect light intensity. They use their antennae and tiny hairs, called setae, to sense touch. Caterpillars do not breathe through their mouths, but instead breath through holes on the sides of their bodies called spiracles.
Caterpillars have eight pairs of legs. The first three pairs of legs are jointed with hooks and become the butterfly’s legs. Butterflies use just four of these six legs because two are in the front and against their bodies.
Some species of caterpillar, often those that live in tropical rain forests, are poisonous. Some of these species are no longer poisonous when they transform into a butterfly or moth.
Caterpillars, like butterflies and moths, are usually herbivorous animals, but the diets of caterpillars are very different from moths and butterflies. Caterpillars eat mostly plants, leaves, and flowering plants. Some species of caterpillar are carnivorous and eat insects. Butterflies and moths, on the other hand, feed on the nectar of flowers with their long tongues.
The main predators of caterpillars are birds and large insects. They are also preyed upon by small mammals and reptiles.
THREATS TO CATERPILLARS
The biggest threat to caterpillars, butterflies and moths is habitat destruction. Many species are now critically imperiled.
Residential, commercial and animal agricultural development threaten caterpillars, moths and butterflies. Butterflies and moths usually need very specific host plants to lay their eggs on for the caterpillars to eat once they hatch. So, it is in the larval stage that habitat destruction causes the most threat as adult butterflies and moths can often survive on a variety of different nectar sources.
The loss of breeding habitat and overwintering habitat throughout much of the world is creating a decline in butterfly, moth and caterpillar populations. Pesticides are also having a detrimental effect.
Changes in climate also threatens butterflies and moths, changing the migration and breeding range of many species.
Anteater is a common name for the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua (meaning "worm tongue") that eat ants and termites. The individual species have other names in English and other languages. Together with the sloths, they are within the order Pilosa. The name "anteater" is also applied to the unrelated aardvark, numbat, echidnas, pangolins and some members of the Oecobiidae.
Species include the giant anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla, about 5 feet 11 inches long including the tail; the silky anteater Cyclopes didactylus, about 14 inches long; the southern tamandua or collared anteater Tamandua tetradactyla, about 3 feet 11 inches long; and the northern tamandua Tamandua Mexicana of similar size.
All anteaters have elongated snouts equipped with a thin tongue that can be extended to a length greater than the length of the head. Their tube-shaped mouths have lips but no teeth. They use their large, curved foreclaws to tear open ant and termite mounds and for defense, while their dense and long fur protects them from attacks from the insects.
All species except the giant anteater have a long prehensile tail.
Anteaters are mostly solitary mammals prepared to defend their territories. They do not normally enter a territory of another anteater of the same sex, but males often enter the territory of associated females. When a territorial dispute occurs, they vocalize, swat, and can sometimes sit on or even ride the back of their opponents.
Anteaters have poor sight but an excellent sense of smell, and most species depend on the latter for foraging, feeding, and defense. Their hearing is thought to be good.
Anteaters, like other xenarthrans, have among the lowest body temperatures of any mammal, and can tolerate greater fluctuations in body temperature than most mammals. Its daily energy intake from food is only slightly greater than its energy need for daily activities, and anteaters probably coordinate their body temperatures so they keep cool during periods of rest, and heat up during foraging.
Adult males are slightly larger and more muscular than females, and have wider heads and necks. Fertilization occurs by contact transfer without intromission, similar to some lizards. Mating usually results in a single offspring; twins are possible but rare. The large foreclaws prevent mothers from grasping their newborns and they therefore have to carry the offspring until they are self-sufficient.
Anteaters are specialized to feed on small insects. Each anteater species has its own insect preferences: small species are specialized on arboreal insects living on small branches, while large species can penetrate the hard covering of the nests of terrestrial insects. To avoid the jaws, sting, and other defenses of the invertebrates, anteaters have adopted the feeding strategy of licking up large numbers of ants and termites as quickly as possible — an anteater normally spends about a minute at a nest before moving on to another — and a giant anteater has to visit up to 200 nests to consume the thousands of insects it needs to satisfy its caloric requirements.
The anteater's tongue is covered with thousands of tiny hooks called filiform papillae which are used to hold the insects together with large amounts of saliva. Swallowing and the movement of the tongue are aided by side-to-side movements of the jaws. The tongue is attached to the sternum and moves very quickly, flicking 150 times per minute. The anteater's stomach, similar to a bird's gizzard, has hardened folds and uses strong contractions to grind the insects; a digestive process assisted by small amounts of ingested sand and dirt.
Silky anteaters and northern tamanduas live as far north as southeastern Mexico, while giant anteaters can be found as far north as Central America. Southern tamanduas range south to Uruguay and the ranges of all species except the northern tamandua overlap in eastern Brazil.
Anteater habitats includes dry tropical forests, rainforests, grasslands, and savannas. The silky anteater is specialized to an arboreal environment, but the more opportunistic tamanduas find their food both on the ground and in trees, typically in dry forests near streams and lakes. The almost entirely terrestrial giant anteater lives in savannas. The two anteaters of the genus Tamandua, the southern and the northern tamanduas, are much smaller than the giant anteater, and differ essentially from it in their habits, being mainly arboreal. They inhabit the dense primeval forests of South and Central America. The usual color is yellowish-white, with a broad black lateral band, covering nearly the whole of the side of the body. The silky anteater is a native of the hottest parts of South and Central America, and about the size of a cat, of a general yellowish color, and exclusively arboreal in its habits.
THREATS TO ANTEATERS
Like most animals, the primary threat to anteaters is the destruction of their habitat. Human development has taken an alarming toll on the environment. Impact from land use practices such as agricultural conversion, deforestation, and urban sprawl continue to degrade and fragment remaining pockets of habitat and accelerate biodiversity loss.
Pesticides and other forms of pollution are also of serious concern, as well as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The main threats to the giant anteater is habitat loss by agricultural encroachment and fires. The giant anteater is classified as Near Threatened by IUCN.
Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the family Mustelidae which also includes the otters, polecats, weasels and wolverines. The 11 species of badger are grouped in three subfamilies: Melinae (9 Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae (the honey badger or ratel) and Taxideinae (the American badger).
Badgers have rather short, fat bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret badger's tail can be 18 to 20 inches long. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, gray bodies with a light-colored stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light colored underbellies. They grow to around 35 inches in length including their tail.
The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. The stink badgers are smaller still, and the ferret badgers are the smallest of all. They weigh around 20 to 24 lb on average, with some Eurasian badgers weighing in at around 40 lb.
The badgers lower jaw is articulated to the badgers upper jaw, meaning it is almost impossible to dislocate the badger's jaw. This enables the badger to maintain its hold on prey with great ease, but limits the badgers jaw movement to hinging opening and shutting or sliding from side to side.
Badgers are found in much of North America, Ireland, Great Britain and most of Europe as far as southern Scandinavia. They live as far east as Japan and China. The Javan ferret-badger lives in Indonesia, and the Bornean ferret-badger lives in Malaysia. The honey badger is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Desert, southern Levant, Turkmenistan and India.
The behavior of badgers differs by family, but all shelter underground, living in burrows called setts, which may be very extensive. Some are solitary, moving from home to home, while others are known to form clans called cetes. Cete size is variable from two to fifteen.
Badgers are nocturnal. They can run or gallop at 16 to 19 mph for short periods of time.
In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral. American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion.
The diet of the Eurasian badger consists largely of earthworms, insects, grubs and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds. They also eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds...as well as roots and fruit.
The honey badger of Africa consumes honey, porcupines and even venomous snakes; they will climb trees to gain access to honey from bees' nests.
American badgers are fossorial carnivores – they catch a significant proportion of their food underground, by digging. They can tunnel after ground-dwelling rodents at amazing speeds. Badgers have been known to become intoxicated with alcohol after eating rotting fruit.
THREATS TO BADGERS
Badgers are sometimes kept as "pets". Like all wild animals, badgers are not suitable as companion animals and suffer from the stress of captivity. Badgers can be fierce animals and will protect themselves and their young at all costs. They are capable of fighting off dogs and other much larger animals. The complex physical, psychological and social needs of wild animals can never be met when they are kept as pets. Living in constant frustration, these wild animals can inflict serious and catastrophic injuries. They can also spread diseases that are deadly to humans.
Badgers are commercially trapped for their pelts by the inhumane fur industry. Their hair is used to make shaving brushes and clothing. Virtually all commercial badger hair comes from mainland China.
Thousands of badgers are inhumanely killed each year by the cruel activity of baiting. Baiting involves digging into a sett to locate the badgers and then pitting them against dogs. Lamping is another method that baiters use to acquire badgers for fighting. A bright light is used to dazzle and spotlight badgers out feeding at night. They are then shot or attacked by dogs.
Many badgers are killed by humans in the mistaken belief that this will stop cattle from being infected with bovine tuberculosis. Badgers are cruelly baited with dogs and dug out of their setts. Others are trapped, poisoned or shot.
Many badgers are loosing their setts and vital feeding areas due to human development.
Although rarely eaten today in the United States or the United Kingdom, the consumption of badger meat is still widespread in Russia.
The tang is a small to medium sized fish inhabiting warm, coastal waters of the tropics. Well known for their vibrant colors, they are close cousins of surgeon fish and unicorn fish. There are at least 80 species of tang found in the waters of the southern hemisphere.
Tangs can adjust the intensity of their colors. When they are stressed, tang colors darken to communicate danger to other fish. Some tangs change colors at night. Other tangs, when faced with danger, can make themselves semi-transparent.
Tang live in shallow coral reefs. They prefer habitats with an abundance of food sources and places to hide from predators. The tang has a razor-sharp scalpel at the base of their tails used in self defense. When threatened, tangs will hide in coral or rocks and anchor themselves with their scalpels. They also use their scalpels against predators when needed. Some tangs will play dead by lying on their sides and remaining motionless until the predator has gone.
Tangs are omnivores but prefer a mostly vegetarian diet. Tang eat algae and other plants found in coral reefs. They also feed on larger food particles in plankton. Tang are vital in reducing algae levels on coral. Without the assistance of tang, algae could quickly overgrow and suffocate coral reefs – home to about one quarter of all ocean species. Tang often feed on the algae on sea turtle shells. Some tang species will eat small fish and invertebrates.
Tangs usually breed year round in tropical areas. A male tang will secure a temporary breeding territory for a pair, or group, of female tangs. Males may establish dominance by showing their bright colors and fighting aggressively. Female tangs release about 40,000 eggs into the water. Male tangs then fertilize the eggs. After spawning, parent tangs swim off and do not care for their offspring. Baby tangs, called fry, hatch in under a week. It can take up to 12 months for a tang to reach sexual maturity.
Due to their small size, tangs have numerous natural predators including larger fish, sharks, eels, crustaceans and large invertebrates.
Tangs can live over 30 years in the wild.
THREATS TO TANGS
Tangs are one of the most popular fish species to be inhumanely kept in tanks and aquariums for human amusement. Ripped from their natural environment, often using cyanide that kills coral and other animals, they are shipped for thousands of miles in tiny plastic bags. Even if they survive the cyanide, many tangs do not survive the extremely stressful journey. Captive tangs suffer from confinement, stress, lack of proper nutrition, parasites and competition with other captive fish. Most die premature deaths. No aquarium can replicate the tangs’s natural environment. These animals belong in coral reefs, not in tiny glass tanks.
Python is the common name for a group of non-venomous constricting snakes, specifically the family Pythonidae. Other sources consider this group a subfamily of the Boas (Pythoninae). Pythons are more related to boas than to any other snake-family. There is also a genus within Pythonidae which carries the name Python (Daudin, 1803). Pythons are distinguishable from boas in that they have teeth on the premaxilla, a small bone at the very front and center of the upper jaw. Most boas produce live young, while pythons produce eggs. Some species of sandboas (Ericinae) are also called python.
Pythons are found in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Africa. Most pythons live in the dense underbrush of rugged tropical rainforest regions. They are excellent climbers; some species, like the green tree python, are arboreal. Like all snakes, they are also capable swimmers.
Pythons range in size from 15 to 20 feet in length. They are among the longest species of snake in the world. The reticulated python holds the record for longest snake at 32 feet, 9.5 inches. Some species exhibit vestigial bones of the pelvis and rear legs, which are externally apparent in the form of a pair of anal spurs on each side of the cloaca. These spurs are larger in males than females, and are used by the male to stimulate the female during copulation. Some pythons display vivid patterns on their scales, while others are a nondescript brown. They usually reflect appropriate camouflage for their native habitat.
Pythons are constrictors, and feed on birds and mammals, killing them by squeezing them to death. They coil themselves up around their prey, tighten, but merely squeeze hard enough to stop the prey's breathing and/or blood circulation. Large pythons will usually eat something about the size of a house cat, but larger food items are not unknown. They swallow their prey whole, and take several days or even weeks to fully digest it.
Despite their intimidating size and muscular power, they are generally not dangerous to humans. While a large adult python could kill a human being (most likely by strangling rather than actual crushing), humans are outside the normal size range for prey. Reports of python attacks on humans are extremely rare. Despite this, pythons have been aggressively hunted, driving some species (like the Indian python) to the brink of extinction.
Most pythons have heat-sensing organs in their lips. These enable them to detect objects that are hotter than the surrounding environment. Pythons that do not have heat-sensing organs identify their prey by smell. Pythons are ambush predators: they typically stay in a camouflaged position and then suddenly strike at passing prey. Females protecting their eggs can be aggressive.
Pythons lay eggs which they arrange in a pile. They coil around the pile until all eggs have hatched. Since pythons cannot regulate their internal body temperature, they cannot incubate their eggs per se; instead, they raise the temperature of their eggs by small movements of their body - essentially, they "shiver".
THREATS TO PYTHONS
Collection for the exotic pet trade threatens pythons. Every year, a variety of sources provides millions of animals to the exotic pet trade. Animals are captured from their native habitat and transported to various countries to be sold as “pets”. Others are surplus animals from zoos or their offspring. Backyard breeders also supply exotic animals. The sellers of these animals often disregard state or local laws regulating private possession of exotics, and the dangers, difficulties, physical and physiological needs of the animals they peddle. The suffering of the animals in the hands of unqualified and hapless buyers appears to be of no concern in the lucrative exotic pet trade. Reptiles pose safety risks to humans. Many incidents have been reported of escapes, strangulations, and bites from pet reptiles across the country.
Pythons are also victims of the animal entertainment industry. The use of wild animals as “entertainers” removes animals from their natural habitat; depriving them of the ability to freely engage in instinctual behaviors. Both children and adults are desensitized to animal mistreatment by the animal entertainment industry. Even under the best of circumstances, captivity is cruel for wild animals. Confined to tiny areas and gawked at by crowds, animals in exhibits and acts endure constant stress. They may suffer from temperature extremes and irregular feeding and watering. Without exercise, they become listless, their immune systems are weakened, and they become prone to sickness; many resort to self-mutilation in reaction to stress or boredom. Mental illness is rampant among confined animals. Torn from their families and deprived of all dignity, every part of their lives is controlled by their captors. While zoos may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals.
Starfish, or sea stars, are star-shaped echinoderms belonging to the class Asteroidea. About 1,500 species of starfish occur on the seabed in all the world's oceans, from the tropics to frigid polar waters.
Starfish are marine invertebrates. They typically have a central disc and five arms, though some species have more. The aboral, or upper, surface may be smooth, granular or spiny, and is covered with overlapping plates. Many species are brightly colored in various shades of red or orange, while others are blue, grey or brown.
Starfish have tube feet operated by a hydraulic system and a mouth at the center of the oral, or lower, surface. They are opportunistic feeders, and are mostly predators on bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Several species have specialized feeding behaviors.
Starfish have complex life cycles and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most can regenerate damaged parts or lost arms and they can shed arms as a means of defense. Some starfish can even regenerate their whole body from a single arm, or even from fragments of an arm. Regrowth can take several months or years. A separated limb lives off stored nutrients until it regrows a disc and mouth and is able to feed again.
Echinoderms, including starfish, maintain a delicate internal electrolyte balance that is in equilibrium with sea water. This means that it is only possible for them to live in a marine environment and they are not found in any freshwater habitats. Starfish species inhabit all of the world's oceans. Habitats include tropical coral reefs, rocky shores, tidal pools, mud, sand, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and the deep-sea floor. The lifespan of a starfish varies considerably between species, generally being longer in larger forms.
Most species of starfish are gonochorous, there being separate male and female individuals. Some species are simultaneous hermaphrodites, producing eggs and sperm at the same time. Other starfish are sequential hermaphrodites. Individuals of species like Asterina gibbosa start life as males before changing sex into females as they grow older. In some species such as Nepanthia belcheri, a large female can split in half and the resulting offspring are males. When these grow large enough they change back into females.
Starfish fertilization is generally external. In most species, the buoyant eggs and sperm are simply released into the water (free spawning) and the resulting embryos and larvae live as part of the plankton. In others, the eggs may be stuck to the undersides of rocks. Some starfish brood their eggs in pouches or by "sitting" on them. Brooding is especially common in polar and deep-sea species that live in environments unfavorable for larval development, and in smaller species that produce just a few eggs.
In the tropics, a plentiful supply of phytoplankton is continuously available for starfish larvae to feed on. Spawning takes place at any time of year, each species having its own characteristic breeding season. In temperate regions, the spring and summer brings an increase in food supplies. The first individual of a species to spawn may release a pheromone that serves to attract other starfish. In some species, a male and female may come together and form a pair. Starfish may use environmental signals to coordinate the time of spawning (day length to indicate the correct time of the year, dawn or dusk to indicate the correct time of day), and chemical signals to indicate their readiness to breed.
Most species of starfish are generalist predators, eating microalgae, sponges, bivalves, snails and other small animals. Some species are detritivores, eating decomposing organic material and fecal matter.
Starfish occupy several significant ecological roles. Starfish are keystone species in their respective marine communities. Their relatively large sizes, diverse diets and ability to adapt to different environments makes them ecologically important.
The feeding activity of the omnivorous starfish Oreaster reticulatus on sandy and seagrass bottoms in the Virgin Islands appears to regulate the diversity, distribution and abundance of microorganisms. These starfish engulf piles of sediment removing the surface films and algae adhering to the particles. Organisms that dislike this disturbance are replaced by others better able to rapidly recolonize "clean" sediment. In addition, foraging by these migratory starfish creates diverse patches of organic matter, which may play a role in the distribution and abundance of organisms such as fish, crabs and sea urchins that feed on the sediment.
THREATS TO STARFISH
Several species of starfish sometimes suffer from a wasting condition caused by bacteria. Starfish are vulnerable to high temperatures. Starfish and other echinoderms are sensitive to marine pollution. The common starfish is considered to be a bioindicator for marine ecosystems.
Starfish are inhumanely taken from their habitat and sold to tourists as souvenirs, ornaments, curios or for display in aquariums. In particular, Oreaster reticulatus, with its easily accessed habitat and conspicuous coloration, is widely collected in the Caribbean. In the early to mid 20th century, this species was common along the coasts of the West Indies, but collection and trade have severely reduced its numbers. In the State of Florida, O. reticulatus is listed as endangered and its collection is illegal. Nevertheless, it is still sold throughout its range and beyond. A similar situation exists in the Indo-Pacific for species such as Protoreaster nodosus.
The coyote, also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada. It occurs as far north as Alaska and all but the northernmost portions of Canada. There are currently 19 recognized subspecies, with 16 in Canada, Mexico and the United States, and 3 in Central America. Unlike its cousin the gray wolf, which is Eurasian in origin, evolutionary theory suggests the coyote evolved in North America during the Pleistocene epoch 1.81 million years ago alongside the Dire Wolf. Unlike the wolf, the coyote's range has expanded in the wake of human civilization, and coyotes readily reproduce in metropolitan areas.
The color of the coyote's pelt varies from grayish brown to yellowish gray on the upper parts, while the throat and belly tend to have a buff or white color. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are reddish brown. The back has tawny-colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area. The black-tipped tail has a scent gland located on its base. The ears are proportionately large in relation to the head, while the feet are relatively small in relation to the rest of the body. Coyotes typically grow to up to 30–34 inches in length, not counting a tail of 12–16 inches, stand about 23–26 inches at the shoulder and, on average, weigh from 15–46 lb. Northern coyotes are typically larger than southern subspecies, with the largest coyotes on record weighing 74¾ pounds and measuring over five feet in total length. Coyotes shed once a year, beginning in May with light hair loss, ending in July after heavy shedding.
Female coyotes go into heat once a year, and remain in heat for 2–5 days between late January and late March, during which mating occurs. Once the female chooses a partner, the mated pair may remain temporarily monogamous for a number of years. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 19 pups; the average is 6. These large litters act against the high juvenile mortality rate, with approximately 50–70% of pups not surviving to adulthood. The pups are initially blind and limp-eared. Coyote growth rate is faster than that of wolves. The eyes open and ears become erect after 10 days. Around 21–28 days after birth, the young begin to emerge from the den, and by 35 days they are fully weaned. Both parents feed the weaned pups with regurgitated food. Male pups will disperse from their dens between months 6 and 9, while females usually remain with the parents and form the basis of the pack. The pups attain full growth between 9 and 12 months. Sexual maturity is reached by 12 months.
The calls a coyote makes are high-pitched and variously described as howls, yips, yelps, and barks. These calls may be a long rising and falling note (a howl) or a series of short notes (yips). The calls are most often heard at dusk or night, but may sometimes be heard in the day or in the middle of the day. Although the calls are made throughout the year, they are most common during the spring mating season and in the fall when the pups leave their families to establish new territories. When a coyote calls his pack together, he howls at one high note. When the pack is together, he howls higher and higher, and then they yip and yelp and also do a yi-yi sound, very shrill, with the howl.
Coyotes are opportunistic, versatile carnivores with a 90% mammalian diet, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice - though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javelina, and livestock, as well as large insects and other large invertebrates. The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground. Though they will consume large amounts of carrion, they tend to prefer fresh meat. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months.
Part of the coyote's success as a species is its dietary adaptability. As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets. Urban populations of coyotes have been known to actively hunt cats, and to leap shorter fences to take small dogs. However, this behavior is often reported when normal urban prey, such as brown rats, black rats and rabbits, have become scarce.
Coyotes shift their hunting techniques in accordance with their prey. When hunting small animals such as mice, they slowly stalk through the grass, and use their acute sense of smell to track down the prey. When the prey is located, the coyotes stiffen and pounce on the prey in a cat-like manner. Coyotes will commonly work in teams when hunting large ungulates such as deer, which is more common in winter (when large prey is likely weakened) and in larger-bodied Northern coyotes. Coyotes may take turns in baiting and pursuing the deer to exhaustion, or they may drive it towards a hidden member of the pack. Coyotes are persistent hunters, with successful attacks sometimes lasting as long as 21 hours; even unsuccessful ones can continue more than 8 hours before the coyotes give up. Packs of coyotes can bring down prey as large as adult elk.
Despite being extensively hunted, the coyote is one of the few medium-to-large-sized animals that has enlarged its range since human encroachment began. It originally ranged primarily in the western half of North America, but it has adapted readily to the changes caused by human presence and, since the early 19th century, has been steadily and dramatically extending its range. Sightings now commonly occur in a majority of the United States and Canada. Coyotes inhabit nearly every contiguous U.S. state and Alaska. Coyotes have moved into most of the areas of North America formerly occupied by wolves, and are often observed foraging in suburban garbage bins. Coyotes thrive in suburban settings and even some urban ones. Urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas.
THREATS TO COYOTES
Destruction and fragmentation of habitat has resulted in dramatic conflicts with carnivores such as coyotes.
The killing of wild carnivores has long been common practice in North America, as they are often viewed as a threat to humans and domestic animals...rather than an important part of the ecosystem. They are also killed to protect corporate-owned lands, and to boost “game” stocks for hunters. Trophy hunting and trapping take a massive toll on carnivores across the continent.
“Damage control programs” result in the killing of million of animals by the U.S government each year. Government agencies and private interests employ a disturbing array of lethal methods to kill an alarming number of carnivores including: leghold traps, neck snares, poisoning, clubbing, trapping, gunning from helicopters, hounding, baiting, shooting, and killing pups in their dens.
These techniques are inhumane and do not address the root causes of conflicts; nor do they provide long-lasting solutions.
Howler monkeys are one of the largest species of monkeys inhabiting the forests and savannas of South America. Being the loudest animals in the world, they are known for their distinctive calls that can be heard miles away. There are 9 different species of howler monkey. Howler monkeys inhabit the central parts of South America in Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay.
Howler monkeys are New World monkeys. Unlike Old World monkeys, New World monkey possess wide, side-opening nostrils and do not have pads on their rumps. They also have prehensile tails, or tails that can grip. Howler monkeys are diurnal; they are active during the day and sleep at night.
Howler monkeys possess large necks and jaws that enable them to make their loud vocalizations. They have long tails that help them to grasp branches and move through the forest canopies. Despite being large monkeys, howler monkeys weigh very little allowing them to move through the forest with great agility. Their light weight also allows howler monkeys to hang from branches by their tails.
Howler monkeys have beards and long, thick hair. Male howler monkeys and female howler monkeys have a very different appearance. Female howler monkeys have yellow to olive brown fur. Male howler monkeys have black fur. Male howler monkeys are larger than female howler monkeys.
Howler monkeys move in troops of up to 18 howler monkeys. The leader of a howler monkey troop is usually an elder male. Troop members spend much of their time grooming each other and sleeping. Howler monkeys are believed to be one of the least active monkeys.
Howler monkeys can project their voices for miles. Howler monkeys usually howl during the mornings and evenings to alert neighboring troops of their presence. Howling sessions involve the entire troop of howler monkeys. Howler monkey calls sound like a loud roar or whooping bark. After one troop of howler monkeys calls, another troop answers. Despite being territorial, howler monkeys rarely engage in conflict and sometimes even share an overlapping territory.
Howler monkeys feed mostly on eat leaves, but will sometimes eat fruit, seeds, flowers, buds and moss. Howler monkeys get most of their water from the food they eat.
Howler monkeys prefer not to jump from tree to tree, rather they use their hands, feet, or tails to hold on to one tree as they reach to the next tree. They will link together hand-to-tail between trees to create a bridge for young howler monkeys to walk across.
Howler monkey females usually have one baby each year. When howler monkey babies are born they are a light golden brown so they can hide in their mother’s fur. Girl baby howler monkeys maintain the light brown color fur. Boy baby howler monkey fur darkens to black in about three years.
Howler monkeys live to be around 20 years old. Being large animals, howler monkeys have few predators with the exception of harpy eagles and humans.
THREATS TO HOWLER MONKEYS
Howler monkeys are threatened with habitat loss from clear cutting and logging by the animal agriculture industry. Their populations are in decline, especially in the Argentinean provinces of Salta, Formosa, Misiones and Corrientes. The Yucatán Black howler monkey is endangered. Howler monkeys are also targeted for bushmeat.
A fox is a member of any of 27 species of small omnivorous canids. The animal most commonly called a fox in the Western world is the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), although different species of foxes can be found on almost every continent. With most species roughly the size of a domestic cat, foxes are smaller than other members of the family Canidae, such as wolves, jackals, and domestic dogs.
Recognizable characteristics also include pointed muzzles and bushy tails. Other physical characteristics vary according to their habitat. For example, the Desert Fox has large ears and short fur, whereas the Arctic Fox has small ears and thick, insulating fur. Unlike many canids, foxes are not pack animals.
Foxes are solitary, opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey (especially rodents). Using a pouncing technique practiced from an early age, they are usually able to kill their prey quickly. Foxes also gather a wide variety of other foods ranging from grasshoppers to fruit and berries. Foxes are nearly always extremely wary of humans, and are not kept as pets. However, foxes are to be readily found in cities and domestic gardens.
Foxes do not come together in chorus like wolves or coyotes do. Fox families, however, keep in contact with a wide array of different sounds. These sounds grade into one another and span five octaves; each fox has its own characteristically individual voice. Fox noises can be divided, with a few exceptions, into two different groups: contact sounds and interaction sounds. The former is used by foxes communicating over long distances, the latter in close quarters.
"Wow-wow-wow": The most well-known vulpine noise is a sort of barking that spans three to five syllables. Conversations made up of these noises often occur between widely spaced foxes. As their distance decreases, the sound becomes quieter. A cub is greeted with the quietest version of this sound.
The alarm bark: This monosyllabic sound is made by an adult to warn cubs of danger. From far away it sounds like a sharp bark, but at closer range it resembles a muffled cough, like a football rattle or a stick along a picket fence.
Gekkering: This is a stuttering, throaty noise made at aggressive encounters. It is most frequently heard in the courting season, or when kits are at play.
The vixen's wail: This is a long, drawn-out, monosyllabic, and rather eerie wail most commonly made during the breeding season; it is widely thought that it is made by a vixen in heat summoning dog-foxes. Contrary to common belief, however, it is also made by the males, evidently serving some other purpose as well. This noise fits into neither the contact nor the interaction group.
THREATS TO FOXES
Foxes are at risk from habitat loss, inhumane trapping, hunting and vehicle deaths. Fox penning is an indefensible and barbaric blood sport in which dozens of dogs compete in a fenced-in area to chase - and sometimes rip apart - foxes and coyotes taken from the wild.
Foxes are senselessly tortured and killed to satisfy the dictates of fashion. Wild-caught fox fur is obtained by setting traps or snares. Once an animal is caught, it may remain in the trap or snare for several days starving or slowly strangling. Farm-raised fox fur comes from animals kept in tiny, filthy cages, deprived of adequate protection from the elements. As a result, animals develop stereotypical behavior, including pacing, head bobbing and self-mutilation. On fur farms, foxes are electrocuted by placing a metal clamp on the snout and forcing a rod into the anus, and then connecting the metal to a power source. Some animals are forced into bags or boxes and gassed with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
The green or common iguana is a species of large, docile lizards native to the tree tops of Central American, South American and Caribbean rainforests. They are omnivorous reptiles bearing the scientific name Iguana iguana. One of the largest lizards in the Americas, they measure from three to six and a half feet in length and weigh in at eight to seventeen pounds. Other members of the iguana family include the Fiji Island banded iguana, the Galapagos Island marine iguana and the desert iguana. These lizards vary in size, appearance and endangered status.
Iguanas prefer the high forest canopy in order to take in the sunlight without ever having to go down to the ground where they are vulnerable to predators. Being poikilothermic, iguanas must take in sunlight in order to regulate their body temperature. Although they prefer forest environments, iguanas can adapt to more open areas. No matter what type of region they inhabit, iguanas prefer to be near water. They are excellent swimmers and dive beneath the surface to escape from predators.
The green iguana has natural camouflage from predators with its scale pattern of green, brown and yellow. They back into the lush foliage of the forest and remain perfectly still until the predator has passed on. They are capable of changing color slightly, but not nearly as well as other lizards such as chameleons. Iguanas will position themselves on branches that hang out over the water so that they may drop in and escape using their swimming skills if threatened. An iguana can survive a leap onto solid ground from heights up to forty feet.
They may look awkward and clumsy, but iguanas are actually quite fast and agile on land when they must be. They have powerful jaws lined with razor sharp teeth and whip-like, muscular tails that are about twice the length of their own bodies. If caught by a predator, iguanas can use their tails as weapons or detach them and grow another without permanent damage.
Iguanas have exceptional eyesight which aids in avoiding predators and seeking out prey. They detect even the slightest movement in the canopy from long distances. They use visual cues to communicate with others of their species. They do this through a series of rapid eye movements easily picked up by other iguanas thanks to their superb eyesight.
Their stout bodies are covered with soft, leathery scales, and they have a row of spines that extend from the back of their heads all the way to the tip of their tails, descending in size as they go down. Iguanas also have a dorsal crest that is larger in males (up to 3 inches high), and a dewlap underneath their chin (also larger in males). Male iguanas are larger than females of the species. Males have broad jowls and a bulge behind the cloacal vent that contains their reproductive organs.
Juvenile iguanas tend to be a much brighter green than adults, and can be difficult to sex until they develop. One way to determine sex is through femoral pore secretions that are at their highest during breeding months in males. Scientists have found a connection between the size of the femoral pores and the likelihood of males to perform mating displays. Dominant males perform more often and have larger pores, leading scientists to believe there is a relationship between social dominance and secretions.
Green iguanas are social animals. They bask in the sun and forage for food together among the treetops. Males are more aggressive and territorial than females, and battles over the best basking spots, territories and females are common. Juvenile males do not compete for these resources, but must always be on alert around mature males in their group.
Mating season for the green iguana only lasts a few weeks and usually occurs in fall which is the first half of the dry season. This is the only time of year that iguanas spend their time on the ground. Males become more aggressive during mating season and display themselves to females for selection. Mating displays include pushups, head bobbing, and dewlap extensions. Females congregate in the territories of larger males and seem to make their mate choices based on phenotype. During mating, the male positions his cloaca over that of the female by biting into her flesh to hold her in place. The male then deposits his sperm.
Female iguanas carry their eggs for two months and lay them during the second half of the dry season. They build nests in the sandy soil far apart from one another. Hatching occurs early in the rainy season, usually in early May. Females will lay eggs each season whether they have been fertilized or not. Batches of eggs are referred to as a clutch. Clutches usually consist of twelve to thirty eggs, of which only a third will survive. After ninety days of incubation, the baby iguanas hatch. Juveniles disperse rapidly after hatching and are very vulnerable to predators. They will reach sexual maturity when they are about sixteen months old.
Although classified as omnivores, most wild iguanas prefer a strongly herbivorous diet. They are especially fond of ripe fruit and leafy green vegetation. They get most of their water from these plants, but also obtain water from rain and condensation that accumulates in the canopy. Green iguanas enjoy the occasional insect in their diet, and juvenile lizards survive primarily on insects until they are old enough to visit foraging sites for fruit and vegetation.
The green iguana has a lifespan of fifteen to twenty years in the wild.
THREATS TO IGUANAS
The green iguana status on the Endangered Species List is considered threatened. This likely has a lot to do with human interference. Iguanas are killed for their meat and eggs or sold to zoos and private reptile collectors.
Iguanas are also threatened by the pet trade. Iguanas do not thrive in captivity. In fact, they usually die within the first year of being kept as a pet. Captivity is cruel for wild animals. Animals are captured from their native habitat and transported to various countries to be sold as “pets”. Backyard breeders also supply exotic animals. The sellers of these animals often disregard the dangers, difficulties, physical and physiological needs of the animals they peddle. The suffering of the animals in the hands of unqualified and hapless buyers appears to be of no concern in the lucrative exotic pet trade.
The octopus is a cephalopod of the order Octopoda that inhabits many diverse regions of the ocean, especially coral reefs. The term may also refer to only those creatures in the genus Octopus. In the larger sense, there are 289 different octopus species, which is over one-third the total number of cephalopod species.
Octopuses are characterized by their eight arms (not tentacles), usually bearing suction cups. Unlike most other cephalopods, the majority of octopuses have almost entirely soft bodies with no internal skeleton. They have neither a protective outer shell, nor an internal shell or bones, like cuttlefish or squids. A beak, similar in shape to a parrot's beak, is their only hard part. This enables them to squeeze through very narrow slits between underwater rocks, which is very helpful when they are fleeing from morays or other predatory fish. The octopuses in the less familiar Cirrata suborder, however, have two fins and an internal shell...generally lessening their ability to squeeze into small spaces.
Octopuses have a relatively short life span, and some species live for as little as six months. Larger species, such as the North Pacific giant octopus, may live for up to five years under suitable circumstances. However, reproduction is a cause of death: males can only live for a few months after mating, and females die shortly after their eggs hatch, for they neglect to eat during the (roughly) one month period spent taking care of their unhatched eggs.
Octopuses have three hearts. Two pump blood through each of the two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body. Octopus blood contains the copper-rich protein hemocyanin for transporting oxygen. Less efficient than the iron-rich hemoglobin of vertebrates, the hemocyanin is dissolved in the plasma instead of being bound in red blood cells and gives the blood a blue color. Octopuses draw water into their mantle cavity where it passes through its gills.
Three defensive mechanisms are typical of octopuses: ink sacs, camouflage and autotomising limbs. Most octopuses can eject a thick blackish ink in a large cloud to aid in escaping from predators. They also have specialized skin cells, called chromatophores, for both color changing and light reflection and refraction. They use this ability to blend into the environment to hide, communicate with or warn other octopuses. The very poisonous Blue-ringed octopus becomes bright yellow with blue rings when it is provoked. When under attack, some octopuses can autotomise their limbs, in a similar manner to skinks and other lizards. The crawling arm serves as a distraction to would-be predators; this ability is also used in mating. A few species, such as the Mimic octopus, have a fourth defense mechanism. They can combine their highly flexible bodies with their color changing ability to accurately mimic other, more dangerous animals such as lionfish and eels.
When octopuses reproduce, males use a specialized arm called a hectocotylus to insert spermatophores (packets of sperm) into the female's mantle cavity. The hectocotylus is usually the third right arm. In some species, the female octopus can keep the sperm alive inside her for weeks until her eggs are mature. After they have been fertilized, the female lays roughly 200,000 eggs (this figure dramatically varies between families, genera, species and also individuals). The female hangs these eggs in strings from the ceiling of her lair, or individually attached to the substratum depending on the species. After the eggs hatch, the young larval octopuses must spend a period of time drifting in clouds of plankton, where they feed on copepods, larval crabs and larval seastars until they are ready to sink down to the bottom of the ocean, where the cycle repeats itself. In some deeper dwelling species, the young do not go through this period. This is a dangerous time for the octopuses; as they become part of the plankton cloud they are vulnerable to many plankton eaters.
Octopuses are highly intelligent. Maze and problem-solving experiments show that they have both short and long term memory. An octopus has a highly complex nervous system, only part of which is localized in its brain. Two-thirds of an octopus's neurons are found in the nerve cords of its arms, which have a remarkable amount of autonomy. Octopus arms show a wide variety of complex reflex actions arising on at least three different levels of the nervous system. Some octopuses, such as the mimic octopus, will move their arms in ways that emulate the movements of other sea creatures. Octopuses can be readily trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. They are able to open jars after learning from observation. Octopuses have also been observed in what may be described as play; repeatedly releasing bottles or toys into a circular current in their aquariums and then catching them. Octopuses often break out of their aquariums and sometimes into others in search of food. They have even boarded fishing ships and opened holds to eat crabs.
Octopuses have keen eyesight. Although their slit-shaped pupils might be expected to afflict them with astigmatism, it appears that this is not a problem in the light levels in which an octopus typically hunts. Surprisingly, they do not appear to have color vision, although they can distinguish the polarization of light. Attached to the brain are two special organs, called statocysts, that allow the octopus to sense the orientation of its body relative to horizontal. An autonomic response keeps the octopus's eyes oriented so that the pupil slit is always horizontal. Octopuses also have an excellent sense of touch. The octopus's suckers are equipped with chemoreceptors so that the octopus can taste what it is touching. The arms contain tension sensors so that the octopus knows whether its arms are stretched out.
Octopuses move about by crawling or swimming. Their main means of slow travel is crawling, with some swimming. Their only means of fast travel is swimming. Their fastest movements only occur when provoked by hunger or if in danger. They crawl by walking on their arms, usually on many at once, on solid surfaces, while supported in water. They swim by expelling a jet of water from a contractile mantle, and aiming it via a muscular siphon.
THREATS TO OCTOPUSES
The octopus faces such threats as polluted water, as well as diminishing resources due to environmental exploitation.
Octopuses are threatened by the exotic pet trade. They are difficult to keep in captivity. They often escape even from supposedly secure tanks, due to their problem-solving skills, mobility and lack of rigid structure. Every year, a variety of sources provides millions of animals to the exotic pet trade. Animals are captured from their native habitat and transported to various countries to be sold as “pets”. Others are surplus animals from zoos or their offspring. Backyard breeders also supply exotic animals. The sellers of these animals often disregard state or local laws regulating private possession of exotics, and the dangers, difficulties, physical and physiological needs of the animals they peddle. The suffering of the animals in the hands of unqualified and hapless buyers appears to be of no concern in the lucrative exotic pet trade.
Octopuses are also victims of the animal entertainment industry. The use of these wild animals as entertainment in aquariums removes them from their natural habitat; depriving them of the ability to freely engage in instinctual behaviors. Both children and adults are desensitized to animal mistreatment by the animal entertainment industry. Even under the best of circumstances, captivity is cruel for wild animals. Confined to tiny enclosures and gawked at by crowds, animals in exhibits and acts endure constant stress. Without exercise, they become listless, their immune systems are weakened, and they become prone to sickness; many resort to self-mutilation in reaction to stress or boredom. Mental illness is rampant among confined animals. Torn from their families and deprived of all dignity, every part of their lives is controlled by their captors. While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals.
Komodo dragons are monitors, any of various dragonlike, mostly tropical lizards. A monitor lizard has a heavy body, long head and neck, long tail that comes to a whiplike end, and strong legs with sharp claws. Its slender, forked tongue is protrusible. Monitors range in size from the 8 inch short-tailed species of West Australia to 10 feet, 300 lb.
Some monitor species spend their lives in trees, and others inhabit lakes and rivers; they can be found on the oceanic islands and continents of the Eastern Hemisphere in all types of warm habitats, from tropical forest to desert. Komodo dragons, the giant among living lizards, live on the small Indonesian island of Komodo.
Monitors feed on various kinds of animal matter, including eggs, rats, frogs, and decaying meat. The larger species will attack small deer and pigs. They often tear the prey with claws and teeth, but generally swallow it whole or in large chunks. Monitors lay from 7 to 35 leathery eggs, usually in holes in the ground or in trees.
Reptiles are of the order Squamata, which also includes the snake. Lizards form the suborder Sauria, and there are over 3,000 lizard species distributed throughout the world (except for the polar regions), with the greatest number found in warm climates. Lizards typically have four legs with five toes on each foot, although a few, such as the worm lizard and the so-called glass snake, are limbless, retaining only internal vestiges of legs. Lizards are also distinguished from snakes by having ear openings, movable eyelids, and less flexible jaws. As in snakes, there is a chemosensory organ opening in the roof of the mouth. The tongue, which may be short and wide, slender and forked, or highly extendible, conveys particles from the environment to this organ. The skin of the lizard is scaly and in most species is molted in irregular patches. Members of several lizard families, notably the chameleons, undergo color changes under the influence of environmental and emotional stimuli.
Many lizards are arboreal, and many terrestrial species are well adapted for climbing. They are often fast runners, some achieving speeds of over 15 mph. Some are adapted for burrowing. Most can swim and a few lead a semiaquatic existence, among them the single marine species, an iguana of the Galapagos Islands. Gliding forms, the flying dragons, are found in the forests of South East Asia. The gila monster and the related beaded lizard of the North American deserts are the only known poisonous lizards; despite folklore, the bite of the gecko is not poisonous. Members of most species are carnivorous, feeding especially on insects, but some are herbivorous or omnivorous.
The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard in the world, growing to an average length of 10 feet. In the wild large adults tend to weigh around 154 pounds. Captive specimens often weigh more. The largest verified specimen was 10 feet 3 inches long and weighed 365 pounds, including undigested food. The Papua monitor, Varanus salvadorii, may surpass the Komodo in length but it is slimmer and weighs less.
Fertilization is internal in lizards; males have paired copulatory organs, characteristic of the order. In most species females lay eggs, which they bury in the ground, but in some the eggs are incubated in the oviducts and hatched as they are laid. In both types the young have a special temporary tooth for rupturing the shell. In a few species there is true viviparity, or live birth, with the young nourished by a simple placenta.
Mating for Komodo dragons occurs between May and August, with the eggs laid in September. The female lays her eggs in the ground or in tree hollows, lending them some protection. Clutches usually contain an average of 20 eggs, and have an incubation period of 7 months. However, after the hatchlings are born, they are generally defenseless and many do not survive. Young Komodo dragons generally spend their first few years living in trees where they have a greater chance of survival. Komodo dragons take around five years to mature.
Sightings of the Komodo dragon were first reported to Europeans in 1910. Widespread knowledge came after 1912, in which Peter Ouwens, the director of the Zoological Museum at Bogor, Java, published a paper on the topic. In 1980 the Komodo National Park was founded to help protect their population.
Komodo dragons are carnivorous. Although they seem to like carrion, studies show that they also hunt live prey with a stealthy approach followed by a sudden short charge, during which they can run briefly at speeds up to 13 mph. Komodo dragons have not traditionally been considered venomous, but the serrations along their teeth are an ideal niche for over 50 strains of bacteria. If the initial bite does not kill the prey, and it escapes, the deadly infections caused by the bacteria living in the dragon's teeth kill the prey within a week. Then the Komodo dragon descends upon its victim, tracking by smell to feed upon its dead flesh. The dragon also has large claws that are used when they are younger to climb trees, but when they are older these are used mainly as weapons.
The Komodo dragon's prey is wide ranging, and includes wild pigs, goats, deer, and water buffaloes. In the wild they have also been observed to eat other smaller dragons. Occasionally they have been known to eat humans and human corpses. Over a dozen human deaths have been attributed to dragon bites in the last century, though there are reports of survivors of the resulting septicemia. Not many live to tell their story of how they escaped the Komodo dragon.
THREATS TO KOMODO DRAGONS
The Komodo dragon is a vulnerable species and is on the IUCN Red List. There are approximately 4,000 to 5,000 living Komodo dragons in the wild. Their populations are restricted to the islands of Gili Motang (100), Gili Dasami (100), Rinca (1,300), Komodo (1,700), and Flores (perhaps 2,000). However, there are concerns that there may presently be only 350 breeding females. To address these concerns, the Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 to protect Komodo dragon populations on islands including Komodo, Rinca, and Padar. Later, the Wae Wuul and Wolo Tado Reserves were opened on Flores to aid with Komodo dragon conservation.
Volcanic activity, earthquakes, loss of habitat, fire, loss of prey due to poaching, tourism and illegal poaching of the dragons themselves have all contributed to the vulnerable status of the Komodo dragon. Under Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), commercial trade of skins or specimens is illegal.
Jellyfish are one of the oldest animals on Earth. They appeared before dinosaurs, between 500 and 700 million years ago. Jellyfish are found in every ocean, and even in some freshwater ponds and lakes. Most jellyfish prefer warm water, but some inhabit subarctic areas. There are hundreds of different types of jellyfish. They can be found at different depths, from the water's surface to the bottom of the ocean.
Despite their name, jellyfish are not fish – they are plankton. Jellyfish are invertebrates; animals without skeletons. About 95% of their bodies are water. Jellyfish range in size from as small as a pinhead, to as long as two blue whales. They have a bell or umbrella shaped body and tentacles. Jellyfish can be vividly colored or transparent.
Jellyfish not only do not have bones, they have no brains, heads or hearts. Some species have very simple, eye-like organs called ocelli that are able to detect light.
Jellyfish are well known for their ability to sting. It is the main defense of some jellyfish, along with their often transparent bodies that makes it easy for them to hide. Jellyfish tentacles are armed with thousands of cells that house coiled, stinging threads. When another animal gets tangled in the tentacles, the venomous threads uncoil like spring-loaded harpoons. Even dead jellyfish are able to sting, and a jellyfish tentacle can still sting if it is separated from the jellyfish’s body. Jellyfish kill more people than sharks each year.
Most jellyfish are passive carnivores, feeding on plankton, fish eggs, small fish, crustaceans and other jellyfish. They use their stinging cells to catch their prey. Jellyfish have short tubes hanging from their bodies that act like mouths and digestive systems. In some species of jellyfish, the tube is surrounded by frilly pieces that look similar to curly ribbons.
Jellyfish are not the best swimmers. They rely on currents to get around. Sometimes currents gather hundreds or thousands of jellyfish into one area. These gatherings are called swarms. When jellyfish food sources are abundant, and environmental conditions are optimal, jellyfish reproduction can dramatically increase. This phenomenon is referred to as a bloom. Changing ocean conditions, including increased temperatures and low concentrations of oxygen, are creating a lot of jellyfish blooms around the world.
Jellyfish reproduce asexually or sexually. Most jellyfish are either male or female, but some jellyfish are hermaphrodites – both male and female. Some species shoot eggs from their mouths that are fertilized outside the body. Other jellyfish species carry their eggs in their mouths until the jellyfish babies form.
Jellyfish usually have two basic life stages. Jellyfish are called polyps in their first stage, growing by making buds similar to plants. Polyps stay attached to rocks on the bottom of the water. Polyps bud off into little jellyfish known as ephyra. Within a few weeks ephyra grow into medusa, or adult jellyfish.
Jellyfish have several predators, including sea turtles, sharks, swordfish, tuna, one type of Pacific salmon and other jellyfish.
Jellyfish can live over 30 years in the wild, depending on the species.
THREATS TO JELLYFISH
While some species of jellyfish are endangered, environmental stressors including changes in climate, pollution, overharvesting of fish, and dams have actually led to the proliferation of most jellyfish. Jellyfish populations are increasing around the world as jellyfish predators are disappearing. Increased temperatures and low concentrations of oxygen often facilitate jellyfish blooms.
Spider monkeys are New World monkeys of the family Atelidae, subfamily Atelinae. Found in tropical forests from southern Mexico to Brazil, spider monkeys belong to the genus Ateles; the closely related woolly spider monkeys are in the genus Brachyteles.
As they require large tracts of undisturbed forest and specialize on ripe fruits, spider monkeys may be considered an indicator species. The monkeys are threatened by habitat destruction through continued growth in South American agriculture. Disproportionately long, spindly limbs inspired the spider monkey's common name. Their deftly prehensile tails have highly flexible hairless tips.
Spider monkeys have hook-like, narrow and thumbless hands; the fingers are elongate and recurved. The hair is coarse, ranging in color from a ruddy gold to brown and black; the hands and feet are usually black. Heads are small with hairless faces. An unusually long labia in females may be mistaken for a penis; it is used to attract the males. A female will urinate and that scent will stay on her labia with the scent attracting the males.
Forming loose groups of 15-25 individuals, spider monkeys are highly agile; they are said to be second only to the gibbons in this respect. During the day, spider monkey groups break up into smaller subgroups of 2-8 individuals. This social structure ('fission-fusion') is found in only one other primate, the chimpanzee. The size of subgroups and the degree to which they will avoid each other during the day is determined by food competition and the risk of predation. Also less common in primates, females rather than males disperse at puberty to join new groups. Males tend to stick together for their whole life. Hence males in a group are more likely to be related and have closer bonds than females. The strongest social bonds are formed between females and young offspring.
Spider monkeys are diurnal (active during the day) and spend the night in carefully selected sleeping trees. Groups are thought to be directed by a lead female who is responsible for planning an efficient route for the day's feeding activities. Grooming is not as important to social interaction, due perhaps to a lack of thumbs.
Spider monkeys mate year round. The female monkey chooses a male from her group with whom to mate. Both male and female spider monkeys sniff their mates to check their readiness for copulation. This process is known as “anogenital sniffing.” On average, only one offspring at a time is produced from each female. The gestation period for spider monkeys ranges from 226 to 232 days. For the first four months of life, baby spider monkeys cling to their mother's belly. Soon after, they climb to her back, eventually developing enough independence to travel on their own. Male spider monkeys have nothing to do with the raising of offspring.
At 107 grams, the spider monkey brain is twice the size of a howler monkey's of equivalent body size. This is thought to be a result of the spider monkeys' complex social system as well as their diet, which consists primarily of ripe fruit from a wide variety (over 150 species) of plants. The slow rate of development in spider monkeys may also play a role, females giving birth once every 3-4 years. Spider monkeys may live for 20 years or more.
THREATS TO SPIDER MONKEYS
Spider monkeys are widely hunted by local human populations; they are also threatened by habitat destruction due to logging and land clearing. Spider monkeys are susceptible to malaria and are used in laboratory studies of the disease. The population trend for spider monkeys is decreasing; the IUCN Red List lists one species as vulnerable, four species as endangered and two species as critically endangered.
PET SPIDER MONKEYS
Thousands of primates are peddled as "pets" each year, including monkeys, apes and lemurs. Highly intelligent and social animals, they suffer terribly in the inhumane pet trade.
These wild animals are bred in captivity and taken from their mothers within hours or days of birth, or stolen from their mother in the wild who is often killed in the process. Sold like toys by unethical businesses and backyard breeders, profit is put above the welfare of the animals.
Unprepared guardians purchase the animals, often with little knowledge on primate care. Adorable baby monkeys quickly grow into aggressive and territorial adults. Guardians often resort to drastic measures to control the animals, such as inhumane tooth removal. Eventually they are abandoned, given to roadside zoos or sold to another unprepared family where the cycle begins again. They end up living their lives in tiny cages, isolated, lonely, deprived of their wild nature and social interaction with their own kind.
The complex physical, psychological and social needs of primates can never be met when they are kept as pets. Living in constant frustration, these wild animals can inflict serious and catastrophic injuries. They can also spread diseases that are deadly to humans, including viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. It is common for monkeys to carry tuberculosis, hepatitis and simian herpes B.
Even the smallest of monkeys are incredibly strong and become unpredictable when they reach sexual maturity. Hundreds of people have been injured by attacks from primates, sometimes causing permanent disability and disfigurement.
SPIDER MONKEYS USED IN RESEARCH
Every year thousands of monkeys are imprisoned in laboratories, where they are abused, neglected and killed in invasive and painful experiments. They are either bred in government or commercial facilities or laboratories, or captured from the wild. Those born in laboratories are torn from their mothers usually within three days of birth. Those from the wild are often taken from their mothers, who are sometimes killed. They are crammed into tiny crates with little to no food or water and taken to filthy holding centers, followed by long and terrifying trips in the cargo holds of passenger airlines. Following the traumatic separation from their families and/or homes, monkeys in laboratories are usually confined to small, barren cages. They barely have enough room to sit, stand, lie down or turn around.
90 percent of primates in laboratories exhibit abnormal behaviors caused by the physical abuse, psychological stress, social isolation and barren confinement that they are forced to endure. Many go insane, rocking back and forth, pacing endlessly in the cages, and engaging in repetitive motions and acts of self-mutilation.
Their fundamental needs and desires are disregarded and they are subjected to painful and traumatic procedures. Most animal experiments are not relevant to human health and do not contribute meaningfully to medical advances. Human clinical and epidemiological studies, human tissue and cell-based research methods, cadavers, sophisticated high-fidelity human patient simulators and computational models are more reliable, more precise, less expensive and more humane than animal experiments.
SPIDER MONKEYS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
The use of monkeys as “entertainers” removes animals from their natural habitat; depriving them of the ability to freely engage in instinctual behaviors. Both children and adults are desensitized to animal mistreatment by the animal entertainment industry. Whether they're at a zoo, on a film set, or under a circus tent, monkeys used as entertainment are forced to perform unnatural and painful tasks through abusive training methods.
Animals used in film, television, advertising or as sports mascots are ripped away from their mothers as infants. They are forced to spend most of their lives in small cages. They often live alone, resulting in severe psychological anxiety. “Performing” is stressful, confusing and often torturous. Training methods may involve beating the animals, causing them to be constantly anxious and fearful. When the animals become too large to handle, they are often dumped at shoddy roadside zoos and other substandard facilities, where they spend the rest of their lives in small, barren cages—many in solitary confinement. “Retirement” from entertainment is a long life of misery for these highly intelligent and sensitive animals. The American Humane Association’s (AHA) “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval is extremely misleading. AHA does not monitor living conditions of animals off set, during pre-production training, or during the premature separation of infants from their mothers.
Circus animals are forced to travel in box cars or trucks for months at a time with no regard for temperature, exercise or normal interaction with their own kind. These animals do not willingly stand on their heads, jump through rings of fire, or ride bicycles. They don’t perform these tricks because they want to and they don’t do any of these meaningless acts in their natural habitat. They do not perform because they are positively reinforced. Instead, they are trained with varying levels of punishment, neglect and deprivation.
Even under the best of circumstances, captivity is cruel for wild animals. Confined to tiny areas and gawked at by crowds, animals in exhibits and acts endure constant stress. They may suffer from temperature extremes and irregular feeding and watering. Without exercise, they become listless, their immune systems are weakened, and they become prone to sickness; many resort to self-mutilation in reaction to stress or boredom. Mental illness is rampant among confined animals. Torn from their families and deprived of all dignity, every part of their lives is controlled by their captors.
While zoos may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals who may be unqualified to care for them.
The brown bear (known as the grizzly in the Lower 48 states) is a large predator distinguished from black bears by a distinctive hump on the shoulders, a dished profile to the face, and long claws about the length of a human finger. Coloration is usually darkish brown but can vary from very light cream to black. The long guard hairs on their back and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a "grizzled" appearance, hence the name "grizzly."
Brown bears vary greatly in size. Adult males can weigh from 300 to 850 pounds while females weigh in between 200 and 450 pounds. The largest brown bears are found along the coast of Alaska and British Columbia, and islands such as Kodiak and Admiralty Islands. Here, because of a consistent diet of high protein salmon, males average over 700 pounds and females average about 450 pounds. European brown bears and brown bears from the interior of North America average about two-thirds the size of these large coastal brown bears. Despite this large size, brown bears are extremely agile and fast, reaching speeds of 35 to 40 mph.
Brown bears are found in a variety of habitats, from dense forests, to subalpine meadows and arctic tundra. The brown bear is thought to have adapted to the life of a plains or steppe animal and was once common on the Great Plains of North America. Human encroachment has forced the remaining brown bear populations to select rugged mountains and remote forests that are undisturbed by humans.
Brown bears are found in North America, eastern and western Europe, northern Asia and in Japan. In North America, brown bears are found in western Canada, Alaska, and in the states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Brown bears have the widest distribution of any bear species and occupy a wide range of habitats. Historically, they could be found from Alaska to Mexico, California to Ohio.
In the Lower 48 states there are 800 - 1,020 brown bears surviving. Of these, about 350 live in northwestern Montana, 350-400 live in or around Yellowstone National Park, about 30 in the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho/northeast Washington, about 30 live in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem in northern Idaho/western Montana, and perhaps 20 live in the North Cascades of upper Washington State. In Alaska, there are about 30,000.
Females reach sexual maturity at 4 to 7 years old and breed in early May through mid-July. Bears experience "delayed implantation" so that the fertilized egg does not begin to develop until November, enabling the young to be born in January or February while the mothers are hibernating in a den. Cubs are about 1 - 1½ pounds when born and litter sizes range from 1 - 3, but two is most common. Cubs will remain with their mothers for at least 2 - 4 years, and females won’t breed again while in the company of their young. Thus, the breeding interval is three or more years between successive litters.
Brown bears are omnivores and will eat both vegetation and animals. Grasses, sedges, roots, berries, insects, fish, carrion and small and large mammals are all part of a bear's diet. In some areas they have become significant predators of large hoofed mammals such as moose, caribou and elk. In other areas a large, consistent supply of food like salmon have led to behavioral changes that allow large congregations of brown bears to share an abundant resource. The diet of brown bears varies depending on what foods are available in that particular season or habitat.
Bears live solitary lives except during breeding, cub rearing, and in those areas with a super-abundant food supply such as salmon streams. Brown bears hibernate during the winter for 5-8 months, depending on the location, and usually dig their dens on north-facing slopes to ensure good snow cover. Brown bears need to eat a lot in the summer and fall in order to build up sufficient fat reserves for surviving the denning period. This is particularly true for pregnant females who give birth to one-pound cubs and then nurse them to about 20 pounds before emerging from the den in April - May...all the time without eating or drinking. These bears will defend their territories, and mothers are known for their ferocity in defending their cubs. Brown bears can live up to 30 years in the wild, though 20 - 25 is normal.
THREATS TO BROWN BEARS
Most of the threats to the survival of brown bears are associated with degradation of habitat due to development, logging, road-building and energy and mineral exploration. Habitat destruction in valley bottoms and riparian areas is particularly harmful to grizzlies because they use these as "corridors" to travel from one area to another.
Another major threat to the brown bear is human-caused mortality. Some brown bears are killed by hunters who mistake them for black bears, a legal game species. Other bears become habituated to humans because of what biologists call "attractants," which include garbage, pet foods, livestock carcasses, and improper camping practices. This can eventually lead to conflicts between people and bears - not only in populated areas of the grizzly's range, but also in back-country recreation sites and removal of the bear.
Illegal killing (poaching) of bears remains another factor leading to their decline.
Brown bears are also victims of the animal entertainment industry. They are found on display at zoos, denied their wild nature, strong family bonds and natural social interactions. Like all captive wildlife, they face constant stress and are denied their wild nature and social structures. The needs and desires of humans comes before the needs of the animals in the animal entertainment industry.
A falcon is any of several species of bird of the genus Falco, such as the peregrine falcon, which are raptors or birds of prey. These birds have thin, pointed wings which allow them to dive at extremely high speeds. Peregrine falcons, the fastest birds on earth, are said to have reached speeds of up to 200 mph. Other falcons include the gyrfalcon, Lanner falcon, and the Merlin. Some small insectivorous falcons with long, narrow wings are called hobbies, and some which hover as they hunt for small rodents are called kestrels. The falcons are part of the family Falconidae, which also includes the caracaras, laughing falcon, forest falcons, and falconets.
Peregrine falcons live mostly along mountain ranges, river valleys, and coastlines, and increasingly in cities. They are widespread throughout the entire world and are found on all continents except Antarctica. Peregrines in mild-winter regions are usually permanent residents, and some birds, especially adult males, will remain on the breeding territory. However, the Arctic subspecies migrate; tundrius birds from Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland migrate to Central and South America, and all calidus birds from northern Eurasia move further south or to coasts in winter.
Peregrine falcons feed almost exclusively on birds, such as doves, waterfowl and songbirds, but occasionally they hunt small mammals, including bats, rats, voles and rabbits. Insects and reptiles make up a relatively small proportion of their diet. On the other hand, a growing number of city-dwelling falcons find that feral pigeons and common starlings provide plenty of food.
Peregrine falcons breed at approximately two to three years of age. They mate for life and return to the same nesting spot annually. Their courtship includes a mix of aerial acrobatics, precise spirals, and steep dives. Females lay an average of three to four eggs. Scrapes are normally made on cliff edges or, increasingly more so, on tall buildings or bridges. They occasionally nest in tree hollows or in the disused nest of other large birds. The laying date varies according to locality, but is generally from February to March. The females incubate the eggs for twenty-nine to thirty-two days at which point the eggs hatch. Thirty-five to forty-two days after hatching, the chicks will fledge, but they tend to remain dependent on their parents for a further two months. The tercel, or male, provides most of the food for himself, the female, and the chicks; the falcon, or female, stays and watches the young.
Because of their high metabolic rates, peregrine falcons must consume more food in proportion to their size than most animals. To be efficient flyers, the digestive system of birds has to be both as light as possible and as efficient as possible. The need to keep weight as low as possible also means that, except perhaps prior to migration, there is a limit to the amount of fat the peregrine falcon can store. The respiratory system is also unique; the peregrine falcon maintains a one-way flow of air so that it can breathe while flying. The peregrine falcon also has cones in its nostrils to help regulate breathing at high speeds. Its circulatory system also needs to be exceptionally strong, because flying takes lots of oxygen. A bird's heart beats much faster than the human heart does, approximately 600-900 beats per minute.
The average life span of a peregrine falcon is approximately eight to ten years, although some have been recorded to live until slightly more than twenty years of age.
The Gyr falcon (Falco rusticolus) is a large bird of prey. This species breeds on Arctic coasts and islands of North America, Europe and Asia. It is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season, or in winter. Its male is sometimes called a Gyrkin and is smaller than the female.
The Gyr falcon is a bird of tundra and mountains, with cliffs or a few patches of trees. It lays 2-6 eggs on a cliff ledge nest. This is the largest falcon, with a wingspan similar to the common buzzard. The female is larger than the male.
This species is like a large peregrine falcon in general structure, but broader-winged and longer-tailed than the peregrine. It usually hunts by horizontal pursuit, rather than the peregrine's stoop from a height, and takes bird and small mammal prey such as ptarmigans and lemmings. Plumage is very variable in this species, although typically adults have slate-gray back and wings, and young birds are browner. Sexes are similar. Greenland gyr Falcons have white plumage, flecked with gray on the back and wings. Other geographical forms are varying intensities of gray in coloration: the Icelandic form is the palest, and Eurasian forms are considerably darker.
The Lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus) is a large bird of prey that breeds in Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia. It is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season. The scientific or Latin name biarmicus comes from the fact that the Lanner has a sharp raised point located on its beak's edge about half the distance from the end of the beak to the corner of the mouth. Thus it is doubly armed with two cutting weapons on its beak. Nearly all falcons have this same type of beak structure.
It is a bird of open country and savannah. It lays 3-4 eggs on a cliff ledge nest, or occasionally in an old stick nest in a tree. Lanner falcon is a large falcon. It is like a large peregrine falcon in general structure. It usually hunts by horizontal pursuit, rather than the peregrine's stoop from a height, and takes mainly bird prey in flight.
European Lanner falcons have slate gray or brown-gray upper-parts, but the African birds are a paler blue gray above. The breast is streaked, but the belly is whitish, unlike Saker falcon. Sexes are similar, but the browner young birds resemble Saker. However, they never show the all-dark thighs of the larger species. Bred in captivity for falconry, their numbers are in something of a decline in Europe, though they remain relatively common in parts of Africa.
The name kestrel is given to several different members of the falcon genus, Falco. Kestrels are most easily distinguished by their typical hunting behavior which is to hover over open country and swoop down on prey, usually small mammals, lizards or large insects. Other falcons are more adapted to active hunting on the wing. Kestrels require a slight headwind in order to hover, hence a local name of windhover for common kestrel.
Their ability to spot prey is enhanced by being able to see ultra-violet which is strongly reflected by vole urine. Plumage typically differs between male and female, and (as is usual with monogamous raptors) the female is slightly larger than the male. This allows a pair to fill different feeding niches over their home range.
Kestrels are bold and have adapted well to human encroachment, nesting in buildings and hunting by major roads. Kestrels do not build their own nests, but use nests built by other species.
THREATS TO FALCONS
The peregrine falcon became endangered because of the overuse of pesticides during the 1950s and 1960s. Pesticide build-up interfered with reproduction, thinning eggshells and severely restricting the ability of birds to reproduce. The DDT buildup in the falcon's fat tissues would result in less calcium in the eggshells, leading to flimsier, more fragile eggs. In several parts of the world, this species was wiped out by pesticides. Eggs and chicks are often targeted by thieves and collectors.
Wildlife services around the world organized peregrine falcon recovery teams to breed them in captivity. The birds were fed through a chute so they could not see the human trainers. Then, when they were old enough, the box was opened. This allowed the bird to test its wings. As the bird got stronger, the food was reduced because the bird could hunt its own food. This procedure is called hacking. To release a captive-bred falcon, the bird was placed in a special box at the top of a tower or cliff ledge. Worldwide recovery efforts have been remarkably successful.
In the United States, the banning of DDT eventually allowed released birds to breed successfully. The peregrine falcon was removed from the U.S. Threatened and Endangered Species list on August 25, 1999. In 2003, some states began issuing limited numbers of falconry permits for peregrines due to the success of the recovery program. In the UK, there has been a good recovery of populations since the 1960s.