Monthly Archives: October 2010

Oh No-No, not the Aye-Aye now!

Aye-Aye (photo by Mark Carwardine)

Oh no, no no, it’s the Aye-Aye on the way out now!

Bet you’ve never heard of an Aye-Aye. It is the most unusual little fellow, living in Madagascar and is a type of lemur. Sadly, its days are numbered and it is rarely seen these days.

Deforestation and an unjustified fear of the little fellow has caused their demise.  Superstition surrounds the Aye-Aye’s elongated middle finger which it uses to probe into the bark of trees to extract  tasty grubs.

In fact, the Aye-Aye looks remarkably like ET (remember ‘ET phone home’?).  It has a cat’s body, a bat’s ears, a beaver’s teeth, a long bushy tail like that of a squirrel, a middle finger like a long dead twig and enormous, bright, beady eyes.

The Aye-Aye is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It sleeps during the day, but comes out after dark to move nimbly about the treetops in the forest canopies of Madagascar. It has a good head for heights. It also has a positive approach to sexual equality because the females wear the trousers in the Aye-Aye’s world, exerting dominance over males and having first pick of all the best sources of food.

Read about the Aye-Aye here http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/sites/animals/ayeaye and see the video clip of the Aye-Aye searching for grubs with its amazing ET finger!

Last weekend I saw a programme by Stephen Fry called Last Chance to See  http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee.

The animal featured was the Amazonian Manatee. 

It is a mammal and had the most amazing teeth. Because it is a vegetarian and eats 10% of its body weight in plant life every day, the plants have retaliated by adding a lot of silica to their structure. This silica wears down the Manatee’s teeth. However the Manatee have a self sufficient dental system. They have a conveyor belt of teeth. As teeth wear out they are replaced by new teeth which move in from the back of their jaw.  How handy! And wouldn’t it save a fortune in dental bills?

They are very large sea creatures – like a sea elephant – and very strange in appearance, so much so that they have been mistaken for mermaids.

Although the Amazon used to teem with them, they are sadly very rarely sighted these days.  They were over hunted, have drowned in fishing nets and have suffered from deforestation of the Amazon jungle and dam building.

They are gentle, slow moving creatures and the world will be a poorer place without them.  Fortunately, there are some very dedicated people working to save the manatee from extinction but they have their work cut out for them.  In the Stephen Fry episode that I saw, they were rehabilitating a manatee that had sustained a number of machete cuts.

Read about them on http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/sites/animals/manatees

Australia has their own Manatees – the Dugong or Sea Cow. In fact, the Dugong and the Manatee are the representatives of the living species of the order Sirenia. Strangely, the Dugong and the Manatee are related to the elephant.

The Dugong

The Dugong can be found in warm coastal waters from East Africa to Australia, including the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific.

Just like the Manatee, Dugongs make an easy target for coastal hunters, and they were long sought for their meat, oil, skin, bones, and teeth. The Dugong is a protected mammal from all but Aboriginals and unfortunately it is considered to be an Aboriginal rite of passage to kill one so the future for the Dugong does not look bright.

Dugongs are vegetarians. Dugongs graze on underwater grasses day and night, rooting for them like a vacuum cleaner with their bristled, sensitive snouts and chomping them with their rough lips.

I discovered an interesting blog by someone else on this matter http://bighappynothing.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/lets-hope-dugongs-wont-be-dugone-someday/

Read more about them on http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/dugong.

So many beautiful and fascinating animals, fish, birds and even insects, are on the verge of extinction. All that will one day be left will be cockroaches I suppose.

It’s all very well for us all to say that it’s sad but unfortunately, jungles and forests are being hacked down at unprecedented rates and there are such huge amounts that are paid for the parts of certain animals (read  https://roslynmotter.com/2010/06/23/one-hell-of-a-beauty to see what special contribution Elle MacPherson has made to the conservation of the rhino (I jest of course)) that there is not really much hope. In this case the forces of evil are stronger than the forces of good.

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Monkeying Around

I am so thrilled to have made the acquaintance via the computer with some  new and exotic creatures this week.  I’m sure you’ll love them too.

Yoda Bat from PNG

The first one is the Yoda Bat from PNG. A recent expedition of scientists to the jungles of PNG unearthed quite a few unusual creatures. Considering that Indonesia intends to raze millions of hectares of PNG jungle to grow palm oil and soy plantations as part of its Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate project it is wonderful that scientists are drawing attention to these rare species which will be destroyed if the jungle is burnt down.  Here is a picture of the charming creature. Hopefully it won’t meet the same fate as the monkey below.

If you’d like to see more of the creatures that were discovered in the PNG jungle recently go to http://www.conservation.org/fmg/pages/galleryplayer.aspx?galleryitemid=97

and

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8100118/scientists-find-200-new-species-in-png

And a friend has just alerted me to the blue faced snub nosed monkey of china which is unfortunately on the endangered list due to loss of habitat. They live in the mountains of south central China. They look like Yeti, don’t you think? So we have Yoda and Yeti this week!

blue faced snub nosed monkey of china

And how about this one –

Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey

The Tonkin Snub-Nosed monkey is one of the most endangered primate species in the world. They are a species of monkey that are native to Vietnam, and they have in the past 50 years lost about 90% of their lowland rainforest habitat, which means that their population has been reduced to about only 200 individuals. It is one of the smallest monkeys and it is thought that the numbers are dwindling so rapidly because often conservation efforts go towards the more well-known primate species, such as orang-utans. One of the greatest characteristics of the snub-nosed monkeys is that they really love to sing. The males and females of the species sing in pairs, in harmonies, to mark out their territories in the mating season.

If you’d like to see more unusual monkeys go to http://www.picsearch.com/pictures/animals/mammals%20sorted%20by%20order/primates/old%20world%20monkeys%202/snub-nosed%20monkey.html

And how about these baby Tenrecs –

Baby Tenrecs

In late June, the WCS Bronx Zoo welcomed two baby Lesser Hedgehog Tenrecs, which are natives of Madagascar. While they might look like hedgehogs, and even have hedgehog in their name, they are actually a totally different family of mammals. Tenrec species come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with some looking like hedgehogs, some like mice, and some even like otters! See http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/2010/08/a-handful-of-baby-tenrecs.html

And scientists have also found some new sea creatures recently.  http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/10/04/science/20101005-marinecensus.html Have a squizz to see the unusual sea creatures that have been recorded in the marine census.

AT LAST A COMPANY WITH ETHICS

This week I was overjoyed to read about a business with morals – one that places their ethics above money.

How refeshing! Basically the story is that Dreamworld refused to accept a booking from a gun company (Nioa) to host their Christmas party on Tiger Island which is owned by Dreamworld. Dreamworld was not impressed by the company’s website which proudly features photos of exotic animals being shot.  Of course Nioa is most indignant as all shooters would be! How dare Dreamworld stop them having their Christmas party surrounded by a few tigers that got away!

Luckily Dreamworld is standing firm and they have my vote of support. I will always have difficulty understanding how anyone can find it good fun to shoot a beautiful (or for that matter, ugly) creature just for fun. Amazing!

http://www.news.com.au/business/business-smarts/no-tiger-island-party-for-gun-company/comments-e6frfm9r-1225934977128

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