Monday, 30 April 2012
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Sunday, 22 April 2012
With the exception of the underside, it is covered in extremely hard scales. When threatened, it usually will roll up into a ball to protect the vulnerable belly. The scales on the tail can also be used as blades to slash at attackers.
The Ground Pangolin can grow to a length of about 1 metre, with the tail typically between 30 and 50 cm. It has a disproportionately small head, powerful hindlegs, and small forelegs. Walking is done almost entirely on the backlegs with the heavy dragging tail acting as a counterweight.
Like other pangolin species, it is largely nocturnal, although it is also entirely terrestrial and usually found in savanna or open woodland, generally feeding on termites or ants. It is well adapted to this, with a very long (up to 50 cm) sticky tongue which is stored inside a pocket in the mouth until needed. Although it is capable of digging its own burrow, it prefers to occupy disused holes dug by a Warthog or an Aardvark or to lie in dense vegetation, making it even more difficult to observe.
This animal was named for the Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck.
The physical appearance of pangolins is marked by large, hardened, plate-like scales. The scales, which are soft on newborn pangolins but harden as the animal matures, are made of keratin, the same material of which human fingernails and tetrapod claws are made. The pangolin is often compared to a walking pine cone or globe artichoke. It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as armour and its face tucked under its tail. The scales are razor-sharp, providing extra defence. The front claws are so long they are unsuited for walking, so the animal walks with its fore paws curled over to protect them. Pangolins can also emit a noxious-smelling acid from glands near the anus, similar to the spray of a skunk. They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into termite and ant mounds, as well as climbing.
Gestation is 120–150 days. Females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time. Weight at birth is 80–450 g (3–18 ounces). The young cling to the mother's tail as she moves about. Weaning takes place at around three months of age, and pangolins become sexually mature at two years.
Pangolins are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa, and are one of the more popular types of bush meat. They are also in great demand in China because their meat is considered a delicacy and some Chinese believe pangolin scales reduce swelling, promote blood circulation and help breast-feeding women produce milk. In November 2010, pangolins were added to the Zoological Society of London's list of genetically distinct and endangered mammals.
Pangolin populations have suffered from illegal trafficking. In May 2007, for example, 31 pangolins were found aboard an abandoned vessel off the coast of China. The boat contained some 5,000 endangered animals.
Monday, 9 April 2012
Statistics show that the hippopotamus is responsible for more human deaths per year in Africa than all of the other large mammals put together. In fact on the list of deadly African creatures the hippo ranks fourth, behind mosquitoes, bees and crocodiles. All of these top four creatures have something in common – frequent contact with humans. The first three on the list deserve their ranking – disease and allergy are the reasons for the mosquitoes and bees being up at the top and the crocodile’s surprise attacks combined with the fact that humans are easy prey give them their high ranking. Hippo on the other hand are largely peaceful grazers who spend their days lazing around in the water – Human stupidity is the reason for their high ranking, much more so than the actual danger that a hippo can pose to a human.
Hippos occur widely in the larger watercourses and dams around Africa, and so do human settlements so some interaction is inevitable. The stupidity aspect come with not understanding the behaviour of a hippo. At night hippos come out of the water to feed, returning at sunrise. At sunrise many people head to the water to wash so the people and the hippo meet at the waters edge. Hippo will generally run straight through a person to get into the safety of the water, not as an aggressive manoeuvre, but out of fear. The hippo feels threatened by humans so moves straight into the safety of the water, usually along a well defined path. People make the mistake of using the same paths to go to the water, hence the contact between the two. If people stayed off the hippo paths in the early morning they would be a lot safer, but they don’t…
When a hippo is in the water it feels safe and will not come out to bother people on the edges of the waterways as long as they do not get in the water as well. People do still get in the water – to swim , bathe and fish. The hippo can then perceive this as a thread and may attack to defend itself. Simple rule here would be ‘Don't get in the water with a hippo” but this rule is often broken.
Could it be that people do not know there is a hippo in the water where they are? Perhaps so, but the hippo are kind enough to give a series of warnings before they attack. The warnings include vocalization, yawning and scent marking. If these warnings are ignored then it is down to human stupidity if anything goes wrong.
The selection of videos here show that the warning displays from hippos are hard to miss!
The final video was used for the opening sequence of the Discovery Channel’s series “Dual Survival” episode entitled “Hippo Island”