The dreadful news that a zoo keeper in the UK has died after being mauled by a captive tiger is tragic especially when you consider that the woman loved her animals and obviously cared deeply about them. It's always going to be a risk working with large predatory animals that can be unpredictable but these animals were never meant to live captive. They should be roaming free living as all animals should. So many are captive bred however but I think their wild instincts are still very strong and the fact that they can't follow those instincts can lead to frustration and bursts of explosive animal rage. If you realise that some tigers need a territory that could be hundreds of kilometres how can we honestly expect them to be happy held captive for our entertainment in comparably small spaces being fed what we decide to give them. Just as orcas have demonstrated a psychosis from being held captive that results in aggression towards their human handlers tigers do too. It makes me sad to hear about this poor girl who probably lived for her job with the animals in her care but it's also a wake up call that perhaps we need to rethink the way we keep top predators in captivity.
It's shocking that here in Australia there are no bans in place to prevent the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn at auction houses. We might be a small country in terms of contribution to the ghastly trade in ivory and horn but it all adds up to a crisis for these animals. A lot of people probably think it just goes on in Asia but a recent survey has revealed an unchecked trade going on right here in our own backyard. As these giants of the African bush fight for their existence we can all make a difference by saying NO to ivory products. Old ivory trinkets that may be very valuable should also be taken out of circulation and auction houses required by law to refuse to auction them. If they aren't available then they can't be traded. I wish there was some way all the items made of ivory could be collected and destroyed to help end the trade but failing that we can all do something to help elephants and rhinos just by being aware first.
Just as other countries such as the US have discovered the enormous benefits of top predators like the wolf some experts are supporting the idea of reintroducing dingoes into the Australian landscape. With feral cats and foxes threatening to wipe out so many of our small native animals dingoes may be our last chance to save them. As in Yellowstone without the wolf after they were systematically wiped out the whole environment changed, deer overpopulated and degraded the land and the river areas along with many other significant impacts that were destroying the beauty of the natural habitat. Since the reintroduction of the wolf Yellowstone has flourished which proves this amazing animal is necessary to a healthy environment. So it is with the dingo our only top predator. People need to rethink their attitudes to this animal instead of persecuting it, he could be the obvious key to our feral animal problem.
Sea lions are large animals and very powerful so it's hardly surprising that one could drag a small girl into the water. Whenever people choose to feed wild animals they do however take a risk that it will end badly even though it seems innocent enough. It doesn't take animals long to identify us with food and sometimes they are hungry and get frustrated. No matter how tempting it is to feed wild animals I personally think we probably aren't doing them any favours and we also put ourselves at risk if they are large and strong.
It's way beyond time that the circus as a form of entertainment is shut down so the news that Ringlings is about to have it's last performance is joy to me. There is no doubt that the animals are subjected to an unnatural and often cruel life all in the name of entertainment. None of the animals live the life they should with rigorous training methods enforced to make them perform for the crowds that must surely lead to frustration of their wild instincts. Even as a child I detested the circus in an instinctive way, unsure of why, but I knew it was wrong on some level I could not articulate. With other countries across the world starting to shut down animal based entertainment it's obvious change is underway and not before time. Animals have the right to live as they should in the wild not caged and performing for our benefit. I wonder though what happens to all the animals liberated from a life in the circus and hope that they get to live out their lives in peace.
Its amazing what animals are capable of. This video shows a protective Asian elephant running to the rescue of her care giver after a situation was set up to see her reaction when he was 'attacked'. It has been documented that some of the big brain animals such as lions elephants and of course wolves and probably others I don't know about have come to the aid of or intervened when they thought a human they are attached to or bonded with is in danger. The more I know about animals the more they amaze me and I realise we understand only a small part of what makes them tick.
Did you know that lion cubs are taken from their mothers at a very young age to be raised as to entertain tourists ? Yes and when they are too big or unmanageable they are then used as fodder for canned hunting. It's barbaric and cruel and one of the most graphic examples of animal exploitation I know of. Many tourists are probably unaware of the terrible fate of these lions but if they did would they still want to pet or walk with one ? I wouldn't and we shouldn't be fooled into thinking it's harmless because it isn't. Lions are facing a battle to survive against so many forces such as habitat loss and trophy hunting that as a species they could be extinct in our lifetime. Instead of continuing to exploit these magnificent creatures we should be doing everything we can do to help them survive in the wild where they belong. If you are going to Africa don't engage in these 'encounters' with lions or in fact any wild animal. Go on safari into their habitat because you will learn far more about them than walking with them or petting them in a captive situation where they never get the chance to be lions.
We really do live in an amazing age of technology that brings us news about all sorts of things going on in the world that we previously would have known nothing about. Not a huge fan of social media I still acknowledge the power of it to inform and galvanise people into action. The animals of the world have certainly known more attention with the sharing of stories around the world that highlight the plight of many species which in turn becomes concern and engagement that can help save them. Only today I read about the effort to get vet help to a critically endangered female Sumatran rhino named Puntang that desperately needed the right care to save her life. She was a rescued animal suffering from a huge abscess that threatened her life. There are only 100 of these ancient animals left so every one saved is significant. With online collaboration and teamwork a vet dentist from Thailand was flown in along with other experts in the field to assist in the delicate surgery to remove three of Puntangs teeth. She is making a great recovery thanks to on post that started it all from across the world a long way from where Puntang lives. Hats off to everyone involved.
A trillion plastic bags per year. That staggering number is what ends up in land fill and our oceans so imagine if we could do something about it. A chance discovery has led to hope that nature has provided an answer to this overwhelming problem in the form of a grub which is the larvae of the wax moth. This little creature has proven it is capable of eating through significant amounts of plastic which has given scientists unexpected hope that on a large scale our plastic waste might become a thing of the past. This amazing discovery was made by a scientist who was cleaning the caterpillars from the honeycomb of her bee hives. The wax moth lays its eggs in the honeycomb so that when they hatch they have food. She found that the grubs had eaten holes in the plastic bag she put them in and it turns out that more studies have revealed some astonishing facts about these little critters that could transform our plastic waste.
The mothering instincts are very strong in a lioness. At a game reserve in South Africa a single lioness is mothering 7 cubs after her sister died leaving 4 month old orphans late last year. It is not uncommon for lioness to birth at the same time which gives them the advantage of sharing mothering responsibilities. Feeding 7 hungry cubs is a huge task for one lioness but reports are good that all the cubs are thriving and happy. The lioness will be kept busy hunting to feed this many cubs as they grow and she also has to deal with threats from other lions particularly roaming males. Fiercely protective female lions without the protection of a pride face many dangers defending young ones so I hope she continues to thrive and that rangers in the reserve are looking out for her. I think she's amazing.
That giraffes are a declining species should be no surprise to anyone who is interested in wildlife. These statuesque animals are facing all the problems many of the other animals in Africa face, habitat loss and human predation. In more recent times shockingly the tails of giraffe have become a trophy item which really makes you wonder at the extent of human persecution, to kill such an amazing and huge animal just for it's tail is really tragic I think. These animals are perhaps not as studied as some of the other more well known species facing extinction such as big cats and rhino but just as worthy. In just 15 years populations of giraffe have dropped from 140,000 to just 80,000 and just 150 years ago there were millions of them. Let's not allow giraffes to go the same way of the rhino, big cats, elephants and the myriad of other animals across the globe disappearing because they can't compete with us to survive.
China is living up to it's commitments to end the ivory trade. The country announced it would end all trade in elephant ivory at the end of 2017 and towards that goal have just pledged to close 67 carving factories and shops that deal in ivory by this Friday. There is hope after all. As the worlds largest market for ivory that sees as many as 30,000 elephants killed every year they have a huge responsibility to do something constructive to end this awful slaughter of elephants as quickly as possible. It has been reported that wholesale prices of ivory have also dropped significantly as more people are responding to the anti ivory advertising and programs but what about the UK and Japan ? Apparently both countries have no such bans in place and I wonder why ? What is going on that the UK have done nothing. Surely every country in the world should be making a commitment to end the trade not just some.
More amazing news on another thought to be extinct animal comes this week and it's the New Guinea Mountain Dog. Camera traps have conclusive evidence of their existence showing many separate individuals from pups to adults. Not sighted in more than 50 years and considered extinct these wild dogs are thought to be related to the dingo and perhaps the link between domestic and wild dogs. Found in the New Guinea Highlands at elevations of 11,000 - 14,000 feet these dogs are living a long way from human habitation which may account for the survival. Such good news and I hope everything can be done to protect them.
Imagine discovering that an animal previously thought to be extinct is not. That's a possibility that is about to be explored in Far North Qld Australia after reported sightings of an animal thought to be the long extinct Tasmanian Tiger. The last animal died in a zoo in 1936 but excitement is mounting that there just could be a population still in existence after some very detailed and accurate descriptions of a sighting. That the demise of this unique animal was entirely down to the arrival of Europeans to this continent is a sad and increasingly repetitive story that continues to the current day. The unequal struggle of animals to survive in the face of human population. Wouldn't it be amazing if the sighting reported is in fact the Tasmanian Tiger and it could be. Only this week there are excited reports of sightings of the Night Parrot in Western Australia where they haven't been seen in 100 years. I hope this new sighting is just as positive.
Nature is truly extraordinary. In recent surveys of elephant populations data has shown that African elephants are undergoing change that is in direct response to the heavy poaching they have endured in the last several decades. The data shows that more and more baby elephants are being born without tusks which is a remarkable natural selection process. That these amazing animals are adapting and evolving without tusks because of human persecution is both astounding and terribly sad because elephants need their tusks for tearing bark from trees defending themselves and their young from predators such as lions and males use them in battle with other males. In Mozambique during the civil war when 90% of the elephant population was decimated it has been found that 30% of the female calves born to the mothers that survived that dreadful time during the 90's are tuskless. This trend is being seen in other areas of Africa where heavy poaching has had a huge impact on elephant populations. What does being tuskless mean for elephants ? Will they be safe from poaching if they have no tusks ? and how will it impact on their diet if they no longer have tusks to forage for certain foods ? will their diet also undergo change ? so many questions but not enough answers to end the trade in ivory end the senseless slaughter and let elephants be elephants with tusks.
It must be an incredibly exciting experience to see a creature listed as endangered or thought to actually be extinct. That is what happened though when a keen group of bird watchers in Western Australia stumbled across the elusive and thought to be extinct night parrot. Previously thought to only be present in two areas of Queensland Australia a group of 4 twitchers saw and photographed the gorgeous green and yellow parrot flying out of spinifex after hearing it's calls. It's been 100 years since they were seen there so this sighting is terribly significant. Thought to be extinct the discovery in 2013 of this critically endangered parrot in south west Qld was very exciting but to have firm evidence of the bird living in another state is wonderful news in a world where such events are very rare.
If we ever needed a reminder about how dire the situation is with rhinos the recent shocking attack on a captive rhino in a French zoo surely shows us. It was a new low in the ongoing rhino poaching crisis that Vince a 5 year old rhino was shot and his horns cruelly removed. It is hardly surprising to learn that a zoo in the Czech Republic has taken the drastic step of dehorning their rhino population to thwart would be poachers from doing the same thing there. Can it get any more tragic for rhino that even the captive ones are not safe from the greed that would tempt poachers to enter a zoo to kill an animal for profit. Perhaps the penalties for attacking a defenceless animal in such a callous way needs to be upgraded in line with the penalties given if a human being was the victim assuming every effort was made to catch the crimminals.
If you have ever been to a wildlife park or a zoo and wondered like I have whether it's ok to interact with the animals then this blog is worth reading. I've done the having my photo with a cheetah, and a petting of a tiger cub both at Australia Zoo. I want to believe that the zoo has the best interests of these animals at heart and that their conservation efforts really do help animals in the wild. After the last encounter with a tiger cub I started to feel uncomfortable about it even though it was a gift for my birthday. Wild animals almost certainly shouldn't be touched by the public for entertainment, even the ones in captivity. But it raises a lot of questions about what is ok. There are so many ways that animals are kept by humans mostly for our gratification we find acceptable or tell ourselves it is when the truth of it is that it's about some organisation making money. But how do you engage people to care about these animals unless they have the opportunity to see them up close. Honestly no animal in captivity belongs there anymore than we would want to be jailed so what is the difference ? Personally I am horrified by cub petting in Africa because I know those cubs are then sent off to feed the canned hunting industry when they are too old to be handled by the public. Is it ok to swim with dolphins and whale sharks ? probably not but they can swim away from us and avoid interaction if they want to but a captive animals doesn't get to choose. Perhaps we all need to think a bit more about what we engage in when encounters with wild animals are on offer. I know I will be.
Did you know that bees need shallow water to drink from ? I didn't. Try this handy tip to help hydrate the hardworking bees in your garden. Fill a shallow pie plate with stones or marbles then top with water. The stones give the bees a surface to land on so they can easily reach the water for a drink without drowning. How good is that and a simple way you can make a difference to these mostly underrated but crucial little insects we often take for granted.
As the owner of two cats and many others all down the years of my life I am often struck by the similarity of them to their wild cousins. I love that secret untamed part of their character. That they are so true to themselves and what they are without needing to ingratiate themselves unless they want something from us. And yet we adore them for it. Everything about them is on their terms and I for one respect and like that about them. But it is true that they also depend on us for their comfort and survival, we take on that responsibility when we bring them into our homes. The cat must be the most adaptable animal to share your life with so it's not surprising that so many do live with us. Only this week after a worrying time with one of ours which resulted in a major operation to remove a necrotic femur bone of his right hip I was reminded about our duty of care for the creatures we bring into our lives. He was comforted and worried over hand fed and watched for every little clue to his well being because he is an important member of the family. Wild cats have no such luxury it's survival of the fittest with instincts so finely tuned to carving out a place in the bush. When I watch my cat stalking a moth it's just like watching a leopard stalking an impala, the only difference is that the leopard has to and my cat is just exercising that inherent wild part of his nature that so fascinates me.
The feisty Scottish wildcat has been captured roaming through the snow by a camera trap in the Cairngorms. Elusive and undoubtedly one of the worlds most endangered animals this rugged little cat is pretty hard to track so it must be a thrill for a wildlife photographer to get a rare glimpse of an animal that may disappear from the wild parts of Scotland in only a few years. Domestic cats are one of the most critical threats to the survival of this small cat that has been the stuff of myth and legend for centuries. The pure gene pool has been diluted by breeding with domestic cats so that there are a large number of cats that look like Scottish wildcats but are in fact hybrids. Huge efforts are being made to save them but the future does look bleak with estimates of perhaps only several hundred still in the wild but it could be a lot less.
Thinking outside the box is helping to save the lives of leopards in Africa. Long revered and worn by native people such as Zulu leopard skin is a symbol of affluence. Fake fur is replacing the real thing in a bid to stop leopards from being hunted and killed for their spectacular skins. The fake fur seems to be just as desirable to the people so it's a win for the leopards that are facing all kinds of pressure to survive such as habitat loss and trophy hunting. Just as other big cats are disappearing so are the leopards so anything than can be done to stop the decline and senseless killing of these beautiful animals is good news.
It's not all bad news for elephants. Under the supervision of some incredible and dedicated people the elephants in Chad have rebounded from almost total annihilation because of ruthless poaching. In 2002 the Zakouma National Park was home to 4000 elephants but by 2010 there was only about 450 of them. A staggering and terrible decline that indicated that the remaining elephants would also be lost. It is a wonderful story of hope that with focus and determination to save wildlife it can be done even when all seems lost. Animals seem to have the most extraordinary capacity to survive if we just give them a chance and help them.