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World of Animals Issue 48 2017

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Learn all about the plight of Britain’s favourite punk rodent
Meet the creatures that live
on the edge of an eruption
12 amazing
animal battles
Meet the red-eyed tree frog and 19 other jungle creatures
The beauty before
butterlies and moths
Travel across the globe Find out how pets
in search of bears
can help reduce stress
Get involved in
badger recording
Issue 48
Digital edition
When you picture a
rainforest, what image
comes to mind? Is it a
lush green jungle with a
jaguar peering out from
behind the foliage, or a
pair of brightly coloured
macaws lying overhead?
We often associate a rainforest with the
Amazon, but this tropical habitat is found
all over the globe. From tigers in Southeast
Asia to gorillas in Africa, this month we
go beyond the Amazon to meet some
unexpected jungle icons.
But we’re not only exploring tropical
habitats. This issue we take a look at the
animals that thrive where others wouldn’t as
we learn all about the wildlife of a volcano.
We also journey around the world to
discover the best destinations for spotting
bears, from the grizzly to the polar.
Closer to home, ind out all about the
peregrine falcon and learn how to build a
hedgehog house for your favourite garden
friend. If you want to go really wild, why not
join the hunt for the lost species on page 80!
Zara Gaspar
Editor’s picks
Bees may be tiny insects but
they never cease to amaze me.
Did you know that a bee can
fly around the world powered
only by 28 grams (one ounce)
of honey? Find out more
unbelievable facts about these
honey makers on page 48.
Living fossils
I was fascinated to learn
that there are animals living
today that bear a remarkable
resemblance to their ancestors
that lived millions of years ago.
So many species have evolved
and changed completely, but
not this hardy lot on page 70.
© Thinkstock; NaturePL; Alamy
Meet the team…
Lauren Debono-Elliot
Charlie Ginger
Victoria Williams
Production Editor
Staff Writer
Animals have the ability to reduce
stress and improve happiness.
Reading about pet therapy on
page 56 was heart-warming.
If you go down to the woods today
you’re sure of a big surprise. Or
you could just go to page 60 to
see the bears of the world.
I thought I knew most of the
interesting hedgehog facts, but
it turns out there’s more to them
than spines and sleeping.
Follow us at…
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Welcome to Issue 48
06 Amazing animals
12 Secrets of
the rainforest
Meet the red-eyed tree frog
and 19 other jungle creatures
22 All about peregrines
Meet the fastest lying
animal on Earth
30 Crazy caterpillars
Take a look at the beauty
before butterlies and moths
36 A sense of porpoise
The marine mammal
with a sixth sense
42 Fight club
12 amazing animal battles
48 Bee-lieve it
21 things you never
knew about bees
50 Conserving the
giant armadillo
The ight to save the largest
living species of armadillo
55 Interview with a
badger advisor
We speak to Melanie Craig
about watching these
mammals in action
56 Pet therapy
Find out how our pets are
far more than just human
Throughout World of Animals you will see
symbols like the ones listed below. These
are from the IUCN Red List of Threatened
Species, the most comprehensive inventory
of the global conservation status of animal
species in the world. Here’s what they mean:
60 Explore the Earth:
Bear Country
Journey around the globe
in search of bears
68 Volunteering
at the zoo
Our staff writer spends a
day at ZSL London Zoo to
learn the ropes
70 Living fossils
Meet the species that bear a
remarkable resemblance to
creatures that lived millions of
years ago
72 Endangered:
Bali myna
Why this stunning Indonesian
bird needs our help
74 Wildlife of
a volcano
Meet the creatures that
live life on the edge
80 Most wanted
Go on the hunt to ind the
lost species of the world
82 Hedgehogs
The cute punk rodent facing
an uncertain future
96 Bizarre: curved
spiny spider
Meet the armoured arachnid
with terrible manners
88 Behind the lens
How Ben Cherry captured
the story of elephants in an
environment pressurised
by palm oil plantations
90 Keeping in touch
94 Readers’ Q&A
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Page 92
The amazing world of animals
The amazing world of animals
Brave vampire crabs risk life and limb as they
climb into the open mouth of a baby crocodile
resting in the sweltering heat of Indonesia
© Shutterstock
This little reptile is demonstrating how crocodiles cope with high
temperatures: unable to sweat, they ‘mouth gape’ to lose heat. The crabs
have not been given their name due to any frightening feeding habits but
because of their narrow, bright yellow eyes.
The amazing world of animals
King of the urban jungle, a red fox clambers up
a slope to survey its territory in front of Bristol’s
Clifton Suspension Bridge
© NaturePL/Sam Hobson
With a highly adaptable diet, the red fox has become one of the most
widespread carnivores in the world. It can be found in a range of habitats
throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere all the way down to
Australia. Its boldness and opportunism means that this species lives
quite happily in urban environments.
The amazing world of animals
© Andy Rouse/Nature Picture Library/Getty
These young European rabbits are inding their
feet, working out their social standing through
harmless play-ighting
Rabbits have earned a reputation for reproduction, with one female
able to produce over 50 kittens in a year, so the young are never short of
company. Play-fighting allows juveniles to establish their position within
the hierarchies established inside their burrows. It also helps them to
practise behaviour they may need for survival and mating later on in life.
The amazing world of animals
The amazing world of animals
In their search for water in the heat of Australia, tens of thousands of
birds can flock together. Budgerigars are nomadic, travelling between
scarce food and water sources and finding safety in numbers. They
usually live in smaller groups, but in dry years even a small watering
hole becomes busy.
© NaturePL/Roland Seitre
In a lurry of green these budgerigars ill the
skies with colour as they ly for their lives in the
harsh environment of western Australia
Vast, diverse and almost impenetrable,
the rainforests of the world are unique
environments that harbour extraordinary
animals that cannot be found anywhere else
Words Hannah Westlake
Though rainforests only cover around seven
per cent of Earth's landmass, they play host
to over half the world's species of plants
and animals, with possibly millions more
species yet to be discovered. The mass
of leafy lora reaching for sunlight means
that rainforests are responsible for over
a quarter of the world's oxygen turnover
through the process of photosynthesis.
Rainforests are made up of four discrete
layers. At the bottom is the forest loor,
which only receives about two per cent of
the overall sunlight due to the thickness
of the canopy; much of the forest loor
is decomposing plant and animal matter.
The understorey layer lies between the
loor and the canopy and is home to many
rainforest animals. The canopy can grow
up to 45 metres (148 feet) tall and this
inaccessible world of adjacent treetops is
amazingly diverse. Reaching even higher,
the emergent layer breaks through the
canopy up to an incredible 55 metres
(164 feet) high.
© Getty; Martin van Lokven/ NiS/ Minden Pictures
Secrets of the rainforest
Secrets of the rainforest
Washington State, US
(Olympic National Park)
The elk is the largest deer species in
North America
Out of the six subspecies of elk in
North America, only four now survive.
The Roosevelt elk (also known as the
Olympic elk) is one of the largest species
of elk in North America and it can be
found in the rainforests of the
Paciic Northwest.
Red-eyed tree frog
Central America
The red-eyed tree frog uses the cover of
darkness to hunt at night
Adopted as the mascot for the
Rainforest Alliance, the red-eyed tree
frog is a little bit smaller than a human
hand. It stands out with its bright green
skin, striped blue sides, orange feet and
red eyes, so it has become a nocturnal
hunter, utilising the cover of night.
Amazon Rainforest
Macaws are the largest of all the
species of parrot
Social and intelligent, macaws can be
found in the canopies and emergent
layers of the rainforests in Central
and South America. They tend to
nest in the hollows of trees, though
with the destruction of the rainforest
breeding pairs are inding it harder
and harder to locate a nesting spot.
Mountain gorilla
Congo River Basin
Mountain gorillas live secluded lives at
elevations of 2,438-3,962 metres
(8,000-13,000 feet)
Mountain gorillas have adapted to
living in forests at high altitude by
developing thick fur that can protect
them from the cold temperatures of
their habitat, which can sometimes
drop below freezing. Despite years of
civil unrest in the region, conservation
efforts for this critically endangered
species are proving successful.
Secrets of the rainforest
The heat and humidity of a rainforest
means that species must adapt to survive
There are two types of rainforest: tropical and temperate.
Both types of rainforest are characterised by the
signiicant amount of annual rainfall they experience,
though temperate rainforests typically experience less
rainfall than tropical rainforests, which typically grow
between ten degrees north and south of the equator.
Being temperate, this environment has a more moderate
temperature than tropical rainforests and a completely
different collection of lora and fauna. Biodiversity is a
hallmark of rainforests; they are home to unique species
of animal, foods such as sugar, chocolate and coffee, and
over a quarter of the world's natural medicines have been
sourced from rainforests.
Daintree Rainforest
The rainforest down under that is home to
the world’s most lethal bird
Bengal tiger
Some Bengal tigers can be found in the mangrove
forests of India and Bangladesh
Found primarily in India, the Bengal tiger is one
of the most numerous subspecies of tiger, with
approximately 3,890 individuals surviving in the
wild. Despite this, the tiger is still an endangered
species, threatened by poaching, loss of prey
and loss of habitat through human development.
These prehistoric-looking birds are
surprisingly shy and are more likely to
be heard than seen. In spite of their
dangerous reputation, when threatened
their usual response is to run or swim
away. Yet despite their timid disposition,
their booming calls can be heard
resonating throughout the forest.
parrot can be
seen flying
over the forest
canopy alone
or in pairs
Ara macao
Class Bird
Territory From southeast
Mexico to Brazil
Diet Fruit, seeds and nuts
Lifespan 40-50 years
Adult weight 1.2kg (2.6lb)
Conservation status
The largest feline
in the Americas is
an elusive creature
As the third largest big cat behind lions and tigers,
the jaguar is the biggest cat in the Americas,
ranging from the dry scrublands of New Mexico to
the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland
stretching through Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.
It prefers the cover provided by the trees, but like
the tigers of Southeast Asia, it will happily swim.
The pattern of rosettes on its fur helps it hide in the
dappled sunlight that manages to break through the
rainforest canopy. A stocky cat, it has sturdy limbs
that help it navigate the jungle by climbing into
the understorey layer of the rainforest or crawling
through the undergrowth.
It hunts by stalking prey then pouncing when
the time is right. As an apex predator the jaguar
is presented with countless opportunities to take
down prey and it has a very varied diet. They’ve
been observed eating monkeys, birds and even
anacondas. However, one of the most incredible
demonstrations of strength is the Pantanal jaguar
pouncing on an adult caiman and severing its neck
vertebrae with its long canines. The jaguar’s sturdy
skull and thick neck makes it easier to drag heavy
prey to a safe spot for later consumption.
Macaws are
social birds that
require a lot
of interaction
for healthy
Strikingly scarlet, with blue and yellow in
the tail and wings, scarlet macaws can
be heard squawking and screaming for
miles in an attempt to call to others in a
lock. They have a long lifespan that can
reach up to around 40-50 years when
kept in captivity. Intelligent and curious,
the species (along with its blue and yellow
cousin) can be taught to mimic human
speech very well and even solve some
complex puzzles using tools. As a species,
the scarlet macaw has been threatened by
deforestation and the pet trade, though
they have a large range from Mexico to
Bolivia and Brazil. Their diet of fruit, nuts
and seeds is supported by the incredible
diversity of the Amazon Rainforest.
The brown-throated
sloth is the most
common species of
three-toed sloth
Look up into the canopy
of the rainforest of Central
or South America and it’s
Bradypus variegatus
likely that you’ll see a sloth.
class Mammal
While some subspecies are
threatened, sloths make up
70 per cent of the biomass
of tree-dwelling mammals.
territory Rainforests of
Travelling at around
Central and South America
Diet Leaves, fruit and lowers
35 metres (114 feet) a day
lifespan 30-40 years
through the rainforest’s
adult weight 2.25-6.3kg
canopy, the sloth doesn’t
conservation status
get very far very fast. That’s
because they spend around
15-20 hours a day sleeping
and their waking hours
browsing for and munching
on leaves and young buds. Being so slow leaves the sloth
vulnerable to predators, but their fur hosts algae that gives
them some camoulage. Invertebrates including moths
and beetles will sometimes live inside this slow-growing
covering, making a sloth’s fur an ecosystem in itself.
The red-eyed tree frog
is a master of disguise
in the rainforest
Being brightly coloured and standing
out in the rainforest isn't always
beneicial for an animal, and this is
certainly true for Central America's
red-eyed tree frog. This bright green
frog with red eyes, blue legs and
orange feet is certainly eye-catching,
so it has learnt to camoulage itself
in the canopy. It positions itself on a
© Thinkstock; Alamy/Michael Nolan
“These sloths spend around
15-20 hours a day sleeping
then wake up to eat leaves”
Around 80 per
cent of the Amazon’s
deforestation has occurred
in order to pasture cattle.
The runoff from cattle
pastures contaminates
green leaf, pulls its legs to its side, sits
on top of its feet and closes its eyes,
becoming only a slightly different
patch of green on the forest foliage.
The red-eyed tree frog can stay in
this position until it’s frightened, when
it startles predators with a lash of
its red gaze then leaps away. It hunts
nocturnally to avoid being seen.
BELOW The red-eyed tree frog hides
itself from predators in broad daylight
The Bengal tiger is the
national animal of both
India and Bangladesh
Despite there being a mere 2,500 individuals let
in the wild, with the population decreasing, the
Bengal tiger is still the most numerous of all the
tiger subspecies. It lives in small, fragmented
populations in Southeast Asia. The species'
preferred prey are ungulates such as sambar and
water bufalo, though they will also hunt boar and
sometimes even domestic livestock when they
come into contact with it. Bengal tigers do have a
reputation for being man-eaters, but this only tends
to happen when the tiger's usual prey is scarce and
when humans are encroaching on their territory
during this scarcity.
The Bengal tiger is threatened from many angles.
There is a long history of human-tiger conlict,
dating back to the 19th century when people were
encouraged to hunt these animals. The exploding
population of humans since the mid-20th century
has resulted in a loss of habitat through forest
clearing and agriculture. This has a knock-on
efect on the tiger's prey, destroying the habitats
of deer and antelope. Despite an international ban
on tiger trade in 1993, tigers are still being illegally
poached and traded. Skins are desirable decorative
items and various body parts and bones are used
in traditional Chinese medicine. The World Wildlife
Fund (WWF) is working in India and Nepal to
connect fragmented populations and habitat with
wildlife corridors alongside the Terai Arc Landscape
initiative. It has already seen tigers, elephants and
rhinos return to the area.
BeNGal tIGer
Panthera tigris tigris
class Mammal
territory India, Bangladesh,
Nepal, Bhutan, China and
Diet Carnivore
lifespan 8-10 years in the wild
adult weight 108.9-226.8kg
conservation status
Orangutans build elaborate
nests in the rainforest canopy
Wild members of the two orangutan
can only be found in the Southeast
Asian rainforests of Borneo and
Sumatra and are split into two
species: the Bornean and the
Out of all species of great ape, the
orangutan is the ape that spends
most of the time in the treetops, rarely
coming to the ground. They even
Orangutans share
96.4% of the genes of
humans and are incredibly
intelligent, able to use
tools and even learn sign
build complex nests in the treetops
consisting of a ‘mattress’ and ‘pillows’
instead of sleeping on the ground.
Young orangutans are taught this
skill by observing their mothers and
then practising for months. A young
orangutan typically masters this skill
by three years of age and it tends to
coincide with the youngster leaving its
mother and seeking independence.
Boyd’s forest
dragons are
among the
coolest lizards
Creatures of
the Daintree
Found only in north Queensland, Boyd’s forest
dragons are usually seen on the sides of trees a
few metres from the ground. From here, they can
ambush prey, with ants being the most common
victims. And should they ind themselves in the
glare of a predator’s, they have a useful accessory.
The large yellow lap under the lizard’s chin is a
dewlap and can be opened to display to others or
deter predators.
The lizard’s breeding season begins when the
storms of the wet season arrive, with the weather
encouraging mating and egg-laying. Unlike most
lizards, these dragons don’t spend time basking
in the Sun. Their body temperature luctuates
with the temperature of the air. This strategy,
called thermoconforming, makes them much less
noticeable to the heat-sensors of
predators like the amethystine
python and lets them cope
with the patchy conditions.
Ulysses butterly
The undersides of this butterly’s
wings are brown to conceal them
from predators, but the tops are a
blue to attract mates. They have a
wingspan of around 10.5cm (4.1in).
tiger quoll
This spotty creature is the largest
carnivorous marsupial in Australia.
Climbing trees and ranging several
kilometres a night, they eat birds,
reptiles, insects and mammals.
Sugar glider
Gliding over 50m (164t) between trees
using a membrane between its legs
(patagium), this possum can search
for food and avoid predators. Wide-set
eyes help it to judge distances.
Despite its size,
the southern
cassowary prefers
to go unnoticed
The southern cassowary is the third tallest and
second heaviest bird in the world, coming in at up
to 1.8 metres (5.9 feet) and around 57 kilograms
(125 pounds). The tall casque on their head is
spongy and its function is still debated. Unlike most
animal species, male cassowaries are the ones who
look after the young. Fathers incubate the eggs and
care for the chicks for almost a year.
Cassowaries are considered the most dangerous
bird on Earth, running at 50 kilometres (31 miles) an
hour and possessing a powerful kick and claws up
to ten centimetres (four inches) long. Most injuries
to humans occur in self-defence, and a cassowary
has not killed a human on mainland Australia since
1926; they are naturally timid birds and will run or
swim away from threats.
These birds are vital to the rainforest as they
transport seeds when they eat fruit, many of which
are so large that no other animal can swallow them.
The casque on the cassowary’s head
could be used to signal to potential
mates or to make their booming
calls even louder
© Jim Bendon; Bernard Dupont; Joshua Cunningham; Thinkstock
rainbow bee-eater
Thought to mate for life, males bring
insects to the female while she digs
a burrow for their young. Immune to
bee venom, they still knock their prey
against a branch to remove the sting.
There are only 880
mountain gorillas left
The mountain gorilla is a
subspecies of eastern gorilla
Gorilla beringei beringei
and is second in size and
class Mammal
weight only to the eastern
lowland gorilla – the other
eastern gorilla subspecies.
On average, male mountain
territory Eastern part of
gorillas weigh around 180
Democratic Republic of
kilograms (396.8 pounds)
and stand upright at a height
Diet Leaves, roots and insects
lifespan 35 years
of around 1.8 metres (six
adult weight 136-220kg
feet); almost double the size
of females. Groups tend to
conservation status
consist of one dominant male
silverback, a few subordinate
males and several females. The
silverback needs his size and
strength to ensure his dominance over the group, mediate
conlicts, move the group to seasonal feeding sites and
protect his females.
Silverbacks are rarely aggressive, and although the meeting
of two males can result in non-physical threat displays and
shows of strength, ights to the death do not often occur.
Dominant males are so gentle in fact that they have recently
been observed to take over the parenting of an infant when
its mother has died or abandoned the group, letting the
infant share its nest at the end of the day. In the event that
the group is threatened, the silverback will rush to protect
them, with his life if necessary. Sadly, without conservation
efforts, the species is unlikely to survive the threats of habitat
loss and poaching.
moUNtaIN GorIlla
The rainforest’s canopy
is so thick with vegetation
that it can take ten
minutes for a raindrop to
fall from the canopy to
the loor.
The okapi is a member
of the Girafidae family
It may have stripes that remind you of zebras, but the
okapi is actually a member of the Giraffidae family, of
which the only other member is the giraffe. Looking
closer, the similarities between the okapi and the
giraffe are more obvious. Both species have a long
black tongue, long necks (with only seven cervical
vertebrae) and similar stubby horns, though while
in giraffes both males and females have horns, only
male okapi bear horns.
The okapi is endemic to the tropical rainforests
of the Democratic Republic of Congo and can be
found nowhere else. The rainforest is its source of
food and its diet consists of grass, fruit and leaves.
Its unique markings make for great camouflage
when hiding in the filtered sunlight of the rainforest
and the okapi’s dense fur is oily, which means that
water runs right off it, keeping the animal dry.
Males and females are solitary, with their own
distinct territories marked by scent.
A female elk will
recognise its
newborn by its
high-pitched voice
elk are named after
President Theodore
Standing at 0.8–1.5 metres (2.5 to ive feet) tall at the
shoulder, the Roosevelt elk is an intimidating creature to
come across in North America's temperate rainforests.
Males, called bulls, can weigh a hefty 317.5-499 kilograms
(700-1,100 pounds) while cows (female elk) can weigh
between 260.8–628.3 kilograms (575-625 pounds).
That weight doesn't include the giant pair of antlers that
males grow every year.
The antlers begin to grow from a bull's skull in spring,
with tiny blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients
to the tips of the antlers, making them grow roughly 2.5
centimetres (one inch) every day. The velvet falls off and
the antlers ‘die’ (no longer receive nutrients and become
bone instead) in late summer revealing an 18-kilogram
(40-pound) pair of antlers ready for the rut, where bulls
ight for the opportunity to mate with cows throughout
autumn. After the rut, the bony tissue at the root of the
antlers is reabsorbed into the body, causing the antlers
to fall off. Three months later the process starts again.
Animals of
the Olympic
olympic marmot
The Olympic marmot is found
nowhere else in the world. Roughly
the size of a housecat, this playful and
social rodent can be found roaming
alpine meadows with its family group.
The second largest wild cat in the
Americas ater the jaguar, the cougar
can be equally as elusive. Sightings
are rare as it tends to live deep in the
mountains and rainforest.
The black
bear is the
most common
species of bear
river otter
River otters tend to stick to the
riverbanks and lakeshores of their
territory, spending less time in the
water compared to the sea otter. It
largely preys on crayish and ish.
© Thinkstock; Helen Rickard
Smaller and with darker fur than the
grizzly bear (also known as the brown
bear), the black bear ranges across
North America and is quite common
in the Olympic temperate rainforest.
In fact, the American black bear is the
most common of the three species of
bear found in North America.
The species is at home in a variety of
different environments. They tend to
inhabit woodlands thick in vegetation or
mountainous, inaccessible areas also
dense with vegetation. This is thought
to be a tactic to avoid the larger and
more aggressive grizzly, though the
black bear is very adaptable and can
survive quite well when humans begin
encroaching into its territory. It helps
that the bear can consume a varied
diet, including young tree bark, insect
mounds and salmon when the fish are
making their way to spawning sites.
This bear is incredibly fond of honey
and will risk stings for honeycomb.
Snowshoe hare
The snowshoe hares of the Olympic
Rainforest are the only snowshoe
species that doesn’t shed its brown
coat for a white coat in the winter
months; they stay brown all year.
Black bears are mostly
vegetarian, though they will
feed on carrion and insects
All about the peregrine falcon
All About
The peregrine falcon
Originally an endangered species, this
majestic raptor has gone on to become
one of the world’s most widespread and
deadliest birds of prey
© Thomas Mangelsen/Minden Pictures/FLPA
Words Darran Jones
All about the peregrine falcon
A beautiful but deadly hunter
Peregrine falcons are the fastest animals in the world and have become legendary for their
dangerous hunting technique and striking appearance
The peregrine falcon is one of the world’s most
famous raptors thanks to its legendary stoop,
which sees the bird reach incredible speeds that
can surpass 322 kilometres (200 miles) per hour
in perfect conditions. Even in level light this
powerful falcon is no slouch, typically moving
at 64.4-97 kilometres per hour (40-60 miles
per hour) as it prowls clifftops and the cities in
search of prey.
Once persecuted throughout the world, this
undeniably handsome falcon has bounced back
in recent years and can be found across the
globe. It’s a true success story that proves that
conversation is incredibly important when it
comes to preserving the world’s wildlife.
Even if you didn’t witness a peregrine in
motion this large falcon is incredibly easy to
recognise thanks to its distinctive appearance.
It has a bluish-black to slate-grey back with
whitish underparts that feature distinctive bars
of black or brown. Adding to its majestic look is
a black moustache that contrasts sharply with
its white throat. It’s a truly magniicent bird that
has been desired over the years by falconers for
both its appearance and hunting abilities.
And it truly is an amazing hunter. Its deathdefying stoop has been clocked at 389.5
kilometres per hour (242 miles per hour) and it
typically strikes its prey’s wing to avoid causing
damage to itself. While it was known in the past
“It’s thought that the 17
distinctive subspecies
predate close to 2,000
different types of bird”
The stoop
A blow-by-blow account of the
peregrine’s remarkable killing move
On the hunt
The peregrine starts
to hunt, occasionally
readjusting its position
to ensure its prey is
correctly targeted.
Locked on
The peregrine
starts to descend
earthwards, heading
towards its typically
unaware prey.
The deadly stoop
Wings drawn in, the
peregrine is now
hurtling towards its
target, hitting speeds of
over 322kph (200mph).
The deadly strike
The peregrine
strikes its prey
with one of its feet,
stunning or killing
the hapless bird.
as the ‘duck hawk’, the peregrine is not fussy
when it comes to food and it’s thought that the
17 distinctive subspecies predate close to 2,000
different types of bird. And while it mostly feeds
on other birds, peregrines have been known to
eat mammals (bats are a particular delicacy)
and occasionally small reptiles.
Fiercely territorial, peregrines mate for life,
typically making a scrape on a cliff edge, which
hopefully keeps it out of the way of predators.
Amazingly, after almost being wiped out in the
UK, the peregrine can now be regularly found in
many of our bigger towns and cities, where the
tall buildings have started to replace the cliffs it
once called home. It truly is a remarkable bird.
Peregrines in the city
Odds are, if you live in a well-populated town or
city, particularly one that features tall buildings,
you could ind them home to peregrine falcons.
In recent years these stunning birds have begun
to move to places like London and New York to
take advantage of the available prey and the lofty
locations that keep their nests safe.
Conservation projects like the London
Peregrine Partnership actively work to not only
protect peregrines that are found in the city
but also make the public aware of them, typically
making use of high-end technology to allow those
with an interest in these majestic birds to view
them from a safe distance.
A peregrine’s life
Peregrines are extremely popular birds of prey, so we know plenty about their fascinating lives
Highly adaptable
Cities have become the perfect
habitat for peregrines
While peregrines still nest on lonely clif
faces throughout the world, they’re equally
comfortable in our cities, where they ind
abundant food supplies in the form of
pigeons, starlings and other small birds,
as well as plenty of high places to nest.
Learning to hunt
Playing teaches much needed skills
Juvenile peregrines are fairly boisterous growing
up and will talon grapple each other as well as
chase each other through the air. While they are
learning these useful techniques the adults will
drop food in mid-air for the younger birds to catch.
Partners for life
When a peregrine mates, it mates for life
While peregrines are sexually active from the age
of one, they sometimes start breeding from two or
three years of age. When they do breed, it’s always
with the same partner and they always return to
the same territory to breed.
Juvenile birds ly for around
70 metres (229.7 feet) before
attempting to return to the
nest. They will oten lose height,
though, and have to perch nearby.
These unlucky birds can glide into
windows and end up grounded.
© The Art Agency/Sandra Doyle; Thinkstock; Getty/Javier Fernández Sánchez
Dangerous flights
Peregrine juveniles face
tough challenges
Fast-growing chicks
Peregrine chicks grow up fast
They only weigh around 42.5 grams
(1.5 ounces) when born, but peregrine
chicks quickly put the weight on.
They’ve typically doubled their weight
in their irst week of life and are able to
start lying around six weeks of age.
The precious clutch
Peregrines are extremely
protective of their nests
Peregrines typically lay clutches
of two to four eggs. Incubation
takes roughly 33 days, with most
of the incubating carried out by the
female. The male typically steps
in for smaller periods to allow his
partner to feed.
Like many birds of prey,
female peregrines are
far larger than their male
counterparts. It’s generally
thought that this size
difference allows the pair
to catch a wide range of
different prey.
Unique sizes
Ducks like the mallard easily
fall prey to the fast-lying
falcon, leading the falcon
to being referred to as the
‘duck hawk’ in some parts
of the world.
Wood pigeons, along with
feral pigeons, are a staple
diet of the peregrine. They’re
typically killed with a swit
bite to the neck.
Wood pigeon
Corvids may mob peregrines
when they are in groups,
but that doesn’t mean the
falcon won’t turn on them if
it catches them unawares.
Carrion crow
This large gamebird is found
throughout the world and
was introduced into the UK
in the 18th century. It has
three recognised subspecies.
Peregrines have a wide range of prey
On the menu
Few birds are as eficient at killing as the peregrine falcon.
Its strong, powerful wings and stiff feathers enable it to
reach incredibly high speeds, and it also boasts a highly
eficient respiratory and circulatory system
Inside a peregrine falcon
The long talons of
a peregrine enable
it to reach through
its prey’s feathers to
get a better grip. Its
clenched talons are
used to stun or kill its
prey during a dive.
Terrifying talons
A peregrine’s feathers
are slim and stiff, which
greatly reduces drag.
Additionally, small
feathers pop up on the
bird’s body while it is
diving for prey, serving
to improve its airlow.
Territory Global
Diet Birds, mammals and
small reptiles
Lifespan 5-15 years
adult weight
330-1,000g (0.7-2.2lb) - male
700-1,500g (1.5-3.3lb) - female
conservation Status
class Aves
Falco peregrinus
Peregrine faLcOn
All about the peregrine falcon
Air sacs
Fantastic vision
© Thinkstock; Getty/Rajeev Doshi
Breaking free 0 days
The peregrine chick uses
its ‘egg tooth’ to neatly
cut all around the egg. It
can take up to 48 hours
to achieve a breakout.
On the move 2 weeks
Peregrine chicks develop
incredibly quickly.
Within just two weeks of
hatching they can already
walk about the nest site.
Taking light 6 weeks
While the young bird
starts to make tentative
lights, it isn’t always
able to return directly to
the nest.
Hunting 8-9 weeks
The young bird
actively chases
other birds and will
eventually make its
irst, all-important kill.
Powerful beak
The peregrine’s tomial tooth is
found on the outer edges of the
upper mandible and is a sharp,
triangular-shaped ridge that is
used to snap its prey’s vertebrae.
The peregrine features specialised
tubercles that direct airlow away
from the nostrils so that sudden
changes in air pressure when
diving don’t affect the bird’s lungs.
Upper mandible
All birds of prey have
fantastic vision and
the peregrine is no
exception. It can use
its keen vision to spot
medium-sized prey from
up to 1.6 kilometres
(one mile) away.
Cervical vertebrae
The peregrine falcon’s
incredibly eficient
respiratory system includes
a one-way low of air to the
lungs that allows it to easily
breathe while lying at its
dizzyingly-high speeds.
The air sacs support
the lungs in a very
important way. Working
like bellows, they ensure
that the lungs are always
inlated, even when the
bird is exhaling.
Large keel
alone 10-12 weeks
Now that they are able
to catch their own food,
the young birds leave the
nest site and strike out
on their own.
Danger 1 year
This is an incredibly
dangerous time for young
birds – the mortality
rate among juveniles is
around 59-70 per cent.
Closest family
eurasian hobby
This striking-looking
bird of prey is a
regular visitor to the
UK and is also a fast
and powerful lier.
Incredibly, this bird
is so agile in light
that it is able to catch
dragonlies, bats,
swits, swallows
and numerous other
species of small birds.
Breeding 1 year +
Peregrines typically
breed from the age of two
in healthy areas. They
breed for life and return
to the same territory.
common Kestrel
The UK’s second most
common raptor is
extremely widespread
and found throughout
Europe, Asia and
Africa. It’s famed for
its ability to hover in
place while hunting,
making it a very
eicient predator of
small creatures such
as mice and voles.
Old age 8 years +
They can live as long as
15 years, but this rarely
happens as mortality is
typically at 25-32 per cent
in adult birds.
Barbary falcon
This mediumsized falcon looks
very similar to the
peregrine and there
is still continual
discussion on whether
it’s a subspecies. They
are typically found in
semi-desert areas
in Africa, the Middle
East and central and
southern Asia.
The peregrine is one of 60+ members of the falcon family
Sexual maturity 1-8 years
Depending on the
subspecies, females reach
sexual maturity within one to
ive years, with a range of two
to eight years for male birds.
The peregrine’s excellent circulatory system
is one key to its success as a hunter. Its
heart beats between 600-900 times per
minute, allowing oxygen to travel through
the body at a tremendous rate.
This extension of
the breastbone is
important in all birds.
It’s particularly large
in the peregrine
falcon, meaning more
muscles can attach,
which helps make it a
powerful lier.
“The peregrine’s long talons
allow it to reach through
prey’s feathers and grip on”
Like all birds, the
peregrine falcon has
hollow bones, which
ensures that the bird
is as light as possible,
allowing it to reach
incredible speeds in its
legendary stoops.
Hollow bones
The peregrine falcon
All about the peregrine falcon
The born survivor
Peregrines have beaten the odds in dramatic style
The most successful animals are generally the ones
that can adapt to a variety of environments. The
peregrine falcon is one such example and can be
found virtually everywhere on Earth. In fact, the only
places it can’t be seen are mountain tops, extreme
polar areas like Antarctica, tropical rainforests and
New Zealand. It’s generally considered to be the
world’s most widespread raptor. Indeed, the word
‘peregrine’ actually means ‘a tendency to wander’.
While the peregrine is now a common bird (it’s
currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN), this
wasn’t always the case. The 1950s and 1960s were
especially bad for the peregrine, particularly in the
UK, where the use of pesticides such as DDT resulted
in a huge decline in breeding numbers. Luckily, new
legalisation and various protection programmes were
introduced and the peregrine has bounced back.
That’s not to say that the peregrine now has it easy,
though. Being a predator, the peregrine is pretty
high on the food chain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not
susceptible to attacks from others.
Depending on where it lives, an adult peregrine can
fall prey to larger raptors and owls, while bears, foxes,
wolves and various other creatures will predate eggs
and ledglings. The adult birds will iercely protect
their young from attacks, driving off creatures that are
far larger, but they’re not always successful. And then
of course there are humans, who continue to illegally
hunt these birds to prevent them from preying on
racing pigeons and game birds, while their eggs are
still coveted by egg collectors and falconers.
While humans have been one of the biggest threats
to the peregrine over the years, the bird’s adaptability
has seen us inadvertently help them in some areas,
particularly towns and cities. Our tall churches,
cathedrals and similar buildings have become perfect
substitutes for the rocky cliffs that peregrines love
to breed on, while the huge number of feral
pigeons found in these locations has given
the birds an endless food supply that they’ve
quickly taken advantage of. Peregrines are
now a common sight in urban areas.
“The use of pesticides such as DDT resulted
in a huge decline in breeding numbers”
Environmental factors
Peregrines still face a number of challenges in order to survive
illegal hunting
Although they are a protected species
in many parts of the world, peregrines
still fall prey to human hunters, who
will unlawfully shoot the birds to
protect their livestock.
While it has been banned in many
countries, pesticides like DDT are still
used in various parts of the world and
they have an immediate impact on the
peregrines found in those areas.
Peregrines might be lethal killing
machines but they’re still susceptible
to predation. Great horned owls and
golden eagles will happily snack on a
peregrine if they can catch them.
Marine pollutants
Northern Scotland is currently
undergoing a large decline in
peregrine numbers. It’s thought the
peregrines’ prey is ingesting marine
pollutants such as mercury and PCB.
The peregrine falcon
Humans and peregrines have a complicated history
that goes back thousands of years. Falconry had
been popular in China since 2000 BCE and eventually
reached Britain in the 9th century. Thanks to its
speed, power and the ability to take a number
of diferent birds, the peregrine has always been
incredibly popular with falconers and is still widely
used today, with the price of birds typically starting
at £500 ($645), rising higher depending on the age,
skill or the purity of the bird in question (many are
crossbred with lanner falcons).
One use of peregrines in modern falconry is as a
deterrent at airields to scare away any birds that
might come into collision with aircrat. Peregrines
are also popular on photography shoots, allowing
keen bird lovers to get incredibly close to them and
hopefully take a photograph that will last a lifetime.
The peregrine shares its home
with a number of diferent birds
rock dove
These wild pigeons frequent the same
cliftops that peregrines patrol and
nest on, so they inevitably end up as
prey. The same can be said for their
feral pigeon counterparts, which have
given city peregrines easy pickings.
Peregrines have an incredibly diverse
diet and will take a huge number of
diferent birds. While pigeons are their
predominant prey in cities and towns,
they’ll also predate starlings, as
Planet Earth II recently revealed.
Peregrines share their cliftop
homes with many diferent seabirds,
including gulls, gannets and auks
such as the razorbill. While similar to
the guillemot, they are easy to identify
thanks to their heavier, marked bills.
golden eagle
Over 400 species of vertebrate fall
prey to golden eagles, so it’s inevitable
that peregrines get predated, as
they are oten found in similar
environments. These large eagles
have seven distinct hunting methods.
© Wil Meinderts/Minden Pictures/FLPA; Thinkstock
Peregrines and humans
Crazy caterpillars
© NaturePL/Visuals Unlimited
It’s all or nothing
for the Suraka silk
moth’s cocoon
Caterpillars of the Suraka silk moth
come in a variety of colours and
patterns. Found in Madagascar,
the larvae become moths with
large eyespots – the wings with
these spots are raised when
the moth is alarmed in a ‘startle
response’. Some caterpillars of
this species spin cocoons with
drainage and ventilation holes,
while others forego a cocoon and
pupate on the ground.
Fluffy, fierce and fabulous, these beautiful larvae are
just as fascinating as the butterflies and moths that
they transform into
Words Victoria Williams
Crazy caterpillars
© NaturePL/John Cancalosi
Encounters with
this caterpillar
can be costly
Like the Suraka silk moth,
this caterpillar belongs to the
Saturniidae family of moths.
It’s the larvae of the Automeris
metzli moth and can be found
from Mexico to northern
South America. The impressive
branched spines aren’t just
for decoration – they protect
the caterpillar by delivering a
painful sting to anything that
gets too close.
Crazy caterpillars
The sinister-sounding
death’s-head hawkmoth
is the UK’s largest moth.
It produces a caterpillar
that can grown up to 12.7
centimetres (ive inches)
and feeds on potatoes.
These giant larvae make
a clicking sound when
threatened and can even
bite an attacker. After
metamorphosis the
caterpillar becomes a dark
moth with the skull-like
marking that earned the
species its name.
© Joke Stuurman, NiS/Minden Pictures/FLPA
From colourful
caterpillar to
gothic giant
Crazy caterpillars
© Dreamstime
This caterpillar
isn’t sluggish in
the face of danger
Members of the Limacodidae
family are often referred to as ‘slug
moths’ because their caterpillars
have lattened bodies and,
instead of true legs, have a sticky
underside and move with a wave
motion. Found in Southeast Asia,
Phocoderma velutina caterpillars
can inject venom from sacs at the
base of their hairs if a predator
attempts to eat them or a person
brushes against them, as they sit
on the underside of leaves.
Crazy caterpillars
The sycamore moth is found across
most of Europe, Morocco and as far
east as west Asia. This caterpillar is
covered in long orange and yellow
hairs with distinctive spots down its
back, but it becomes a dull grey and
white adult. Despite the shocking
colours, this caterpillar isn’t toxic.
© NaturePL/Simon Colmer
This caterpillar is
easily spotted
A sense of
Representing ten per cent of all toothed whales,
these tiny dolphin lookalikes are found in their
hundreds across the globe
Words Amy Grisdale
A sense of porpoise
noises to exchange information and understand the
environment. Shallow seas are favoured porpoise habitat,
and these mammals rely on echolocation to scan their
surroundings for potential threats.
Porpoise sonar has been studied extensively and has
been found to be a narrow beam of sound, much like a
torch beam. The whales move their heads from side to
side while swimming forwards to look out for predators,
threats and prey of their own. This is especially important
in the dark or in deep water, and as porpoises are on the
move 24 hours a day they need to be on constant alert.
“Porpoises are prey animals, and each part of their body
and every aspect of their behaviour is defined by this”
Harbour porpoise
Phocoena phocoena
Class Mammalia
Territory Coastal areas of
North Atlantic and Paciic
Diet Fish and crustaceans
Lifespan 13 years
adult weight 45-60kg
Conservation status
© NaturePL/Solvin Zankl
Life as a porpoise isn’t easy. There are predators lurking
around every corner, from the fearsome orca to the
bottlenose dolphin. These little whales have no choice but
to be fast, streamlined and on alert at all times, and are
the ocean’s equivalent of Africa’s gazelles.
Porpoises are prey animals, and each part of their
body and every aspect of their behaviour is deined
by this. Like the vulnerable ungulates that roam the
savannah, porpoises ind that there is safety in numbers
and will often swim in pods of ive or more. The group
communicates with sound, generating a variety of
A sense of porpoise
The little whales with little legs
Porpoises once wandered on land, and the evidence remains
We know that all life came out of the ocean
millions of years ago, but not everybody
knows that some animals chose to go
back. The ancestor of the porpoise was
one of them. Hoofed mammals began to
explore shores around 50 million years ago.
Dinosaurs were long extinct and the ocean
was an untapped resource that was so rich
in food that around 90 species of marine
mammal roam the seas to this day. Six of
these are porpoises, and they all bear the
marks of their land explorations.
Firstly, porpoises breathe air using the
same type of lung found in land mammals.
In fact, most of their organs and skeletal
structure are almost indistinguishable from
terrestrial mammals. One part that is missing
in the modern porpoise are the hind legs,
which once helped the animal get around
on terra irma. In the ocean, however, these
limbs weren’t necessary and they slowly
began to shrink. They didn’t disappear
completely and remain part of the skeleton
as vestigial leg bones that have no purpose.
While all you see from
above the surface is a
dorsal fin racing by, the
underwater life of porpoises
is rich and complex
“Most of a porpoise’s structure
is almost indistinguishable from
terrestrial mammals, including
the same type of lung”
A sense of porpoise
Dolphin vs porpoise
Despite an overwhelming number of overall similarities, these two toothed whales aren’t even in the same family
facts you’ll
never forget
Morse code dorsal
Harbour porpoises have raised
ridges along the edge of their
dorsal in. These act like braille,
and it’s believed these animals
are able to recognise one
another by rubbing the unique
pattern of notches.
Big momma
in the house
No need to chew
This animal is instantly recognisable with its distinctive long beak
and curved dorsal fin. While this bottlenose is a familiar face,
not every dolphin species shares these characteristic attributes
and the real difference is in the animal’s behaviour. Dolphins
generally live in much larger groups and are known to leap clean
from the water, which is almost unheard of in porpoises.
A wild porpoise sighting is usually fleeting, and only a portion of
the back is visible above the water. The dorsal fin is small and
triangular, though the defining difference between dolphins and
porpoises is in the mouth. While dolphins have sharp, conical
teeth, those of porpoises are flat and barely extend above the
gumline. They are also less talkative than dolphins.
Porpoises do have teeth, but
they barely use them. All of
their prey (which is usually
smooth) is swallowed alive and
whole, from darting sprat to
live crabs. Powerful enzymes in
the stomach reduce bones and
shells to dust before pumping
them out of the narrow anus.
© Thinkstock; NOAA; NaturePL/The Big Picture
Females are signiicantly larger
than males because a mother
needs room in her body for
a young calf to grow. Ater
an 11-month pregnancy the
calf takes up one-third of the
mother’s body.
Set for extinction
Possibly the world’s smallest whale, the vaquita won’t last much longer
Only discovered in 1958, this miniature marine
mammal is found only in the narrow Gulf of
California in Mexico. Unfortunately, this area is
teeming with illegal ishing operations and hidden
gillnets. These are wide, stationary nets designed
to trap ish that don’t hang out at the surface.
However, all sorts of animals become entangled in
these nets, like the vaquita (Spanish for ‘little cow’),
which drowns if it cannot return to the surface.
It has been estimated that one in ive vaquitas
dies this way, and sadly there are only 30 of these
animals remaining. Without a halt on gillnet ishing
they could all be gone within the next year.
The Mexican government is working with
charities including the Leonardo DiCaprio and
Carlos Slim foundations to establish vaquita-safe
ishing practices. The gillnet is now illegal, though
it’s extremely dificult to enforce the law as nets
can be put in place in secret. The target ish is the
totoaba, and in an effort to reduce vaquita bycatch
international totoaba trade has been banned. Only
time will tell if the vaquita can be saved.
The blowhole is basically the
animal’s nose and contains two
chambers like our own nostrils.
This is where all of a porpoise’s
sounds are produced,
though they tend to use
one ‘nostril’ at
a time.
A sense of porpoise
Know your porpoises
With six subspecies and a striking resemblance to
dolphins, it’s not easy to identify the right porpoise
1. Vaquita
One of the smallest whales
in the world, it is only found
in the northern corner of
the Gulf of California. It’s the
rarest marine animal on
Earth and very nearly extinct.
2. Dall’s
3. Burmeister’s 4. Harbour
5. Commerson’s 6. Spectacled
7. Finless
Commonly seen around
British Columbia, this
robust porpoise is
sometimes confused
with a baby orca.
Found along the South
American coastline, this
rare animal swims alone
or in pairs and barely
makes a splash.
This black and white
dolphin is oten mixed up
with a porpoise due to its
small size, rounded dorsal
in and lack of a beak.
The only freshwater
porpoise is immensely
intelligent but its
environment is under
very serious threat.
Porpoises and captivity
© Thinkstock; Alamy/Solvin Zankl
Keeping a porpoise in an aquarium is a fine balancing act
There are only four facilities that keep porpoises and not all
of these are on display to the public, so very few of us will
have ever seen one. Some are kept for research purposes
to help us learn more about them and help reduce the rate
of ishing net entanglement for porpoises in the wild.
As animals that are extremely diicult to study in the
wild, data from research like this has been valuable in
developing alarms known as ‘pingers’ that alert the
presence of ishing nets to nearby whales. These have
been especially efective in stationary gillnets like those
entangling the Mexican vaquita, which are legally used
around the world.
In general, porpoises aren’t particularly suitable for a
captive environment. Their genetically coded light instinct
can invoke a fearful response to humans, and being
surrounded by crowds all day might not be a situation a
porpoise would enjoy. In fact, the irst Dall’s porpoise to be
put in captivity sadly died within 24 hours of being removed
from the sea.
The most common
porpoise species lives
in shallow coastal
water in the Northern
With only a handful of wild
sightings, this species is
surrounded by mystery. They are
found of the tip of South America,
north of the Antarctic ice.
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For many creatures, the fight for
survival is a literal one. The stakes are
high in the wild, and these animals
don’t pull their punches
© Imagebroker/FLPA
Words Matt Ayres
Fight club
Hippo jaws crush
together with
1,821 pounds per
square inch of
bite force.
Africa’s big cats may be more feared, but a rampaging
hippo will make very quick work of a lion
They might look slow and clumsy when
they’re lumbering around at the zoo,
but hippos have a ierce reputation in
the wild. These enormous semi-aquatic
mammals are highly territorial and will
not hesitate to attack if threatened.
Hippos use their giant incisors and
canines as weapons in battle, crushing
down on opponents with 1,821 pounds
per square inch of bite force. Individuals
will attempt to intimidate their rivals by
‘yawning’, baring teeth that can grow to
half a metre (19.7 inches) in length.
As well as showing aggression to
their own kind, hippos regularly take
on Africa’s most formidable predators.
Lions and hyenas have both felt the
wrath of raging hippos, particularly
during breeding season when hippo
babies are preyed upon by these
stealthy hunters. Nile crocodiles are
also attacked frequently by hippos, and
these powerful mammals have even
been known to attack boats illed with
human passengers. In fact they kill
around 2,900 people per year.
Fight club
Although closely related to horses, zebras exhibit
wild aggression that makes them impossible to tame
Compared to other icons of the African savannah
such as lions and leopards, zebras seem relatively
tame. Yet within their own social hierarchies,
zebras are known to be highly aggressive,
engaging in brutal same-species combat to
protect fellow members of their group.
A small group of zebras is called a harem,
and consists of one male (a stallion) and several
females (mares). These harems are expanded by
attempting to abduct young mares from their
families. The female’s father will ight violently to
protect her, kicking and biting the abductor while
attempting to wrestle him to the ground. Mares
are fought over until impregnated, at which point
they become a permanent part of their new
partner’s harem.
Zebra fathers
ight violently
to protect their
daughters from
rival groups.
The ancestors of the domestic dog aren’t nearly as friendly
when canine visitors encroach on their range
Territorial disputes occur in a variety of animal species, but few
creatures are as fiercely protective of their home turf as the grey wolf.
These wild canids live in packs consisting of a male, a female and
their offspring – encounters with other families are usually violent and
occur on the edges of territories where rival groups are more likely to
meet one another.
When a breeding pair of wolves form a pack, they will aim to find
an unoccupied area of terrain to live and hunt in. This becomes its
territorial range, the size of which depends on the number of prey
species within it. While some wolf packs have established territories
as small as 36.3 square kilometres (14 square miles), others can
occupy areas larger than 6,200 square kilometres (2,393.8 square
miles) without having to share with rival packs.
Wolf packs spend most of their time safely within their home range,
but food shortages may force them to venture beyond borders. This
can lead to fatal encounters with other packs, whose refusal to share
the prey within their range results in ferocious tooth-and-claw battles.
Indeed, most wolf deaths are caused by other wolves; as the leaders of
their packs, alpha males and females have the highest mortality rate.
Fight club
It might look strange to us, but the giraffe’s
neck is an invaluable tool in combat
A well-placed
kick from a
giraffe is strong
enough to kill a
big cat.
© NaturePL/Lou Coetzer; Eric Baccega; Charlie Summers
The giraffe’s most famous bodily feature is also
its greatest weapon. These gangly mammals
swing their long necks into one another during
ights, making for some of the most whiplashinducing battles in the animal kingdom.
This ‘necking’ behaviour usually occurs
between rival males, who compete to establish
dominance or win the right to mate with
a female. However, not all neck ights are
dangerous; occasionally a pair of giraffes will lean
their necks into one another, using their body
weight – which can be up to 1,270 kilograms
(2,800 pounds) – to wrestle until the exhausted
loser submits.
A giraffe’s powerful legs are another asset,
particularly when predators decide to
try their luck. Indeed, a wellplaced kick from a giraffe is
strong enough to kill a
big cat, so predators
have to be desperate
to take on such
powerful prey.
Fight club
Grudge matches between mongooses and snakes have been raging for centuries
One of the animal kingdom’s greatest rivalries
occurs between the snake and the mongoose. While
venomous snakes such as cobras and black mambas
are too dangerous for most animals to mess with, the
plucky mongoose isn’t afraid to face up to these feisty
reptiles in order to secure a meal.
This is because mongooses are immune to snake
venom; they have specialised acetylcholine receptors
that prevent paralysing neurotoxins from taking
effect. So while a single bite from a black mamba can
kill a human within a matter of hours, the scrappy
mongoose is able to withstand one of nature’s
deadliest substances, and it’s all thanks to the way its
courageous ancestors evolved.
With thick hides and agile relexes, the mongoose is
able to shrug off a snake’s strikes with ease, dancing
around the agitated serpent until it spots a chance to
deal critical damage with its own sharp fangs. Due to
their legendary snake-hunting skills, mongooses are
revered in some cultures around the world.
Evolution has
enabled mongooses
to withstand one of
nature’s deadliest
“Mongooses dance
around a snake
before dealing a
critical blow”
Crocodiles ‘death roll’ their victims
As Earth’s largest living reptiles, crocodiles are formidable
fighters. These mighty predators have the strongest bite in the
animal kingdom, and exert their aggression on one another
during savage territorial bouts. One of the croc’s most notorious
killing strategies is the death roll: a technique where the victim is
dragged underwater between clamp-like jaws and rolled violently
until they drown. Few victims survive this revolving death trap.
Grebes are much more aggressive
than you would think
Great crested grebes are more famous for their elaborate mating
rituals than violent scuffles, but these water birds are known
to attack one another during breeding season. The graceful
swimmers grab at one another with their pointed bills and
attempt to plunge their opponents underwater, using their long
necks to twist and wrestle their rivals into submission.
Lions must fight for every meal
There’s no doubt that lions are impressive animals and deserve
their reputation as fearsome predators. Yet these powerful big
cats aren’t invulnerable – they inhabit the African savannah,
where prey isn’t just fast, but also incredibly tough. Lions regularly
risk their lives while attempting to hunt ungulates such as buffalo
and sometimes end up being gored to death by these indomitable
creature’s deadly horns.
Fight club
In forests, ields and gardens around the world,
wars are fought between ants and other insects
into a false sense of security
before larger soldier ants step
in to deal the killer blow. When
they have successfully claimed
a new territory, the colony
will devour as much food as
possible (including the bodies
of their fallen victims) before
moving on to the next target.
Thousands of ants readily
sacriice themselves with
every raid, but by focusing on
the good of the group rather
than individual lives, ants
have become extraordinarily
successful predators.
Ant armies take their
enemies by surprise
by moving as one
united front.
© NaturePL/Lou Coetzer; Anup Shah; Krijn Trimbos; Roger Powell; blickwinkel /Alamy; Thinkstock
Ants regularly engage in
combat with other mini beasts.
They wage war on enemies
such as termites, forming large
armies and raiding nests with
devastating eficiency.
Rather than focusing on
individual ighters in their
battles, army ants take their
enemies by surprise by
moving as one united front,
overwhelming the opponent
with a vast biomass of sixlegged marauders.
Weaker ants are assigned to
the front lines, lulling the enemy
Buzzards scrap with their talons
Birds of prey such as buzzards have evolved remarkable eyesight
to spot prey from above. While they are adept at swooping
down to catch live prey such as rabbits and voles, buzzards
oten struggle to ind enough food during winter and may resort
to scavenging larger kills. These hungry birds are not fond of
sharing, which oten means a vicious ight for food that sees them
fending of fellow scavengers with their sharp talons.
Tigers have to earn their stripes in
brutal territorial bouts
Tigers are highly territorial. Like wolves, the chance of inighting
between tigers increases when territories overlap – destruction
of habitat can mean that these big cats are forced to enter the
hunting grounds of their rivals, leading to savage confrontations.
Even when there’s enough prey to go around, competing tigers
will ight, pouncing at one another and swiping with their claws.
Deer wrestle with their antlers
Rutting is a common behaviour among deer – stags compete
for does in aggressive mating battles, using their large antlers
to wrestle one another and occasionally inlict fatal injuries,
sometimes on unfortunate humans. To make themselves look
larger and more intimidating some stags cover their antlers in
vegetation. Species without antlers, such as water deer, slash at
one another with large canine tusks during ruts.
It’s not all about honey – these
important pollinators keep
themselves busy by working,
building, exploring and dancing
1. They feast on lowers
Honeybees and bumblebees eat pollen
and nectar from lowers. They get protein
from pollen, while nectar is sugary and
gives them energy. Honey is made by
mixing pollen with saliva; it’s used as a
food store and to feed the queen.
2. Honeybees take on
a grave responsibility
Every honeybee has a speciic job in
the colony, and a small number are
employed as undertakers. Their job is to
remove any dead bees from the hive to
keep it clean. Others spend their lives
as soldiers, keeping guard over the hive.
3. Honeybees communicate
through dance
When a honeybee scout inds a good food supply,
she returns to the hive and performs a sequence of
movements to tell others where the lowers are. A
circular routine means food can be found nearby,
while a igure-of-eight ‘waggle dance’ is used for
sources further aield. The angle and speed of the
dance indicates the direction and distance of the
food, and the lingering smell on the scout helps
others to locate the correct lowers.
4. Some can defy
the ageing process
5. Honey is food
for thought
Honeybees have different jobs
depending on their age. If younger
members of the hive are lost, older
bees will take over their tasks, going
from foraging to caring for larvae. Not
only do they adapt to the new roles,
their brains actually age in reverse.
Honey is full of vitamins and
minerals, as well as enzymes
and water. It also contains
an antioxidant called
pinocembrin, which has been
linked to improved brain
function by scientists.
6. One hive of honeybees lies almost
145,000 kilometres (90,000 miles) to
produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds)
of honey – that’s three laps of Earth!
7. One species holds
an insect world record
Carpenter bees use their strong jaws to
dig tunnels in wood and soil. The violet
carpenter bee grows up to 23 millimetres
(0.9 inches) and digs a tunnel up to 30
centimetres (12 inches) long. It also holds the
title for the largest insect egg in the world.
8. Only the queen
bumblebee survives winter
Worker bumblebees all die at the end of the year, with just
the queen hibernating and surviving until the next spring. During the
summer she stores some of the sperm from mating so that when
she comes out of hibernation she’s able to start a whole new colony.
9. There are around 20,000 species
of bee. 95 per cent are solitary, and
only 19 species make honey.
12. In theory,
a honeybee
could ly
around Earth
powered by
only 28 grams
(one ounce)
of honey.
11. They can use pottery to
build a new home
Mason bees are solitary and build
cells rather than nests. They create
these homes out of earth, sand and
clay, sealing entrances of hollow
twigs, abandoned beetle holes and
even snail shells. One species, Osmia
avosetta, digs a shallow burrow and
creates chambers for its larvae out
of petals glued together with mud.
In the 1950s, biologist Warwick Kerr crossbred
European and African honeybees in an attempt to
make a more productive species suited to South
America. In 1957, 26 queens escaped from their hives
in Brazil and the Africanized bee has been spreading
ever since. These hybrids have been nicknamed
‘killer bees’ – while they won’t pick a ight, they’re
incredibly aggressive, chasing anything
threatening for over 400 metres (1,312 feet).
15. Long live the queen
Social bee species have a queen who
produces all other bees in the colony.
She spends her life laying eggs,
producing around 2,500 eggs a day for
several years! The queen can decide
the sex of her offspring; if she uses
sperm to fertilise the eggs then she will
produce daughters, while unfertilised
eggs will hatch into males. When a
queen dies, workers notice the lack of her
smell and a new queen must be chosen.
13. Bumblebees
lap their
wings around
200 times per
16. A single hive can contain
up to 80,000 honeybees.
Bumblebee colonies are
much smaller, ranging from
100-400 individuals.
17. In its entire lifetime, a
honeybee will produce onetwelfth of a teaspoon
of honey.
18. Honeybees have 170
scent receptors, compared
with 62 in fruit lies. They use
this strong sense of smell for
inding food, recognising kin,
and communication.
19. Approximately 75 per cent
of the world’s food production
is helped by or fully relies on
bee pollination.
20. Orchid bees have
tongues that can be as long
as four centimetres (1.6
inches), allowing them to
reach deep into lowers.
21. Orchid bees make
their own perfume
Male orchid bees come in a rainbow of metallic
colours. As well as their eye-catching appearance,
they mop up scented wax and oil from orchids and
collect the odours in spongy chambers on their
legs. It’s thought that this acts as a custom cologne
used to attract females. The dedicated suitors can
travel almost 50 kilometres (30 miles) in one trip to
get the perfect blend, far further than a honeybee.
© Thinkstock; Carver Mostardi/Alamy; NaturePL/Kim Taylor; Jurgen & Christine Sohns/FLPA
14. Scientists accidentally
created a ‘killer’ bee
10. Some bees make nests from leaves
Leaf-cutter bees are a ‘cavity-nesting’
species, making nests in plant stems, wood
and holes in cliffs and walls. They cut neat
discs out of leaves and glue them together
with their saliva to create a cell for their
young, carefully sealing the top with leaves to
keep them safe.
Saving armadillos
With claws like spades, scales like a crocodile and hinged
armour like a medieval knight, giant armadillos are the
stuff of legend. So much so that even the locals in their
native home of South America aren’t always sure quite
where they are, if they’re around at all.
These elusive animals are solitary nomads and are rarely
ever seen. Little is known about their lives, their biology
or their behaviour, but their numbers are thought to have
fallen by around one-third in the past 20 years.
Giant armadillos wander over vast swathes of land,
pausing to feed and to rest. Their hooked third claws work
like giant shovels, tearing into termite mounds to reveal
the thousands of insects that swarm beneath the surface.
From head to tail, these impressive animals can reach 1.5
metres (4.9 feet) in length and, rearing up on their hind
legs, they rip through the structure, eating everything that
they ind inside.
Once the mound is cleared they rest in the remains
of the hollowed out nest or dig into the earth to create
a temporary burrow, but they don’t stay for long before
moving off. Each armadillo has a home range of up to
three square kilometres (1.2 square miles), and in an area
of 100 square kilometres (38.6 square miles) it’s unusual
to ind more than six individuals.
© Minden Pictures/Alamy
Giant armadillos are
ecosystem architects, but
their way of life is under
threat and conservationists
are racing to learn the
secrets that will save
the species
Saving armadillos
Giant armadillo numbers
are faltering because of
Priodontes maximus
habitat loss. They have
Class Mammalia
some natural predators,
including jaguars, mountain
lions and pumas, but
encroachment by humans is
Territory South America
thought to be their biggest
Diet Termites and ants
threat. Protected areas,
Lifespan 12-15 years
Adult weight 18.7-32.3kg
like the Central Suriname
Nature Reserve, provide
Conservation Status
some refuge, but elsewhere
they must live side by side
with people, and this can be
dangerous. Giant armadillos
are captured for their meat,
and their body parts are sold as tools and trinkets. Their
armoured carapace, for example, can be converted into
a basket or a cot. The situation is now so dire that the
species is currently listed as Vulnerable, and conservation
is a challenge. With little knowledge of their habits, it’s hard
to put measures in place to protect them.
In an effort to save the species, the irst long-term
giant armadillo study began in 2011. The Pantanal Giant
Armadillo Project is a collaboration between international
organisations, including the Royal Zoological Society
of Scotland, who have been supporting work on giant
armadillo research in Brazil for 12 years. The team have
been using inventive new methods to track these secretive
animals down and learn more about their habits.
Every month, expeditions are made into the wetlands to
look for signs of armadillo activity, but between January
and May looding often impedes progress. Burrows are
surveyed to reveal clues about their occupants, and
camera traps are laid to ind out how the armadillos are
using their environment. Dogs are also used to sniff out
their droppings, which can be analysed for clues about
their diet, health and movement through the wilderness.
It’s important not to stress the animals but equally
critical to study them, so under guidance from a specialist
Arnaud Desbiez
tracking giant
armadillos in the
Pantanal, Brazil
“In an effort to save the
species, the irst longterm giant armadillo study
began in 2011”
Meet the family
There are around 20 species of armadillo,
almost all living in South America
The giant
The American
The ball
The giant armadillo is the largest armadillo in the
world, reaching up to around 1.5 metres
(4.9 feet) in length.
The nine-banded armadillo is the only species
native to the United States, where their armour
shields them from bears and alligators.
Three-banded armadillos are the only members
of the family that can roll into a defensive ball
when startled.
Saving armadillos
veterinary task force, giant armadillos are also being
trapped and itted with radio transmitters so that their
behaviour can be monitored and their movements
tracked. But this is not an easy process.
Since the project began, only a handful of animals
have been captured for the study, and the team
have reported periods of up to nine months where
no animals have been trapped at all. But when they do
succeed the rewards are huge.
In 2012, the team discovered an adult pair sharing a
burrow. Their encounter was brief, but they followed the
female for several months and suddenly her behaviour
changed. Rather than frequently switching burrows, she
stayed in one place for over a month and, a few weeks
later, a baby giant armadillo was caught on camera for the
irst time.
Research is helping to reveal the secrets of the giant
armadillo but it’s only part of the battle. The other arm
of the project aims to tackle human-armadillo conlict
using a combination of education and policy change.
Conservationists are working with planning authorities,
local government and universities to encourage the
© Minden Pictures/Alamy; imageBROKER; Kevin Schafer; Stefano Paterna
parts are
traded on the
black market
means ‘little
armoured one’
armadillos also
eat snakes
The fairy
The ancient
The imposter
The wonderfully named pink fairy armadillo
could it in the palm of your hand and only
weighs 120g (4.2oz).
Glyptodonts were car-sized armadillos with
armour thicker than your inger. They have been
extinct for 10,000 years.
Pangolins, or ‘scaly anteaters’, look like
armadillos and can roll into a ball, but they’re
from Africa and Asia and aren’t related.
Saving armadillos
Venezuela marks the
northernmost point of
the giant armadillo’s
known range.
The furthest
south that giant
armadillos are still
known to venture
is northern
According to
the IUCN, giant
armadillos have
been spotted, albeit
in small numbers, in
the tropics of Espirito
Santo, eastern Brazil.
The Pantanal is
a giant armadillo
stronghold, covering
210,000 km2 (81,081
mi2) of wetland in
South America.
Giant armadillos
have not been
seen in Uruguay
for years and
are now thought
to be extinct.
Anatomy of a rainforest architect
Giant armadillos destroy entire termite mounds with their impressive claws
100 teeth
Hidden inside this little mouth
are between 80 and 100 teeth.
Giant armadillos eat mainly
termites, but will also take on
ants and other invertebrates
like spiders and worms.
third claw
This oversized ingernail
is the secret to the giant
armadillo’s digging success.
They use their enormous
third claws to tear through
the earth, ripping into termite
mounds and digging burrows.
Hinged bands
Like other armadillos, the
giant armadillo is coated in
a protective shell of armour.
But they can’t roll up for
protection. Instead, they dig
deep burrows and remain
hidden underground.
Soft underneath
Beneath their tough
exterior, giant
armadillos have sot,
wrinkled skin. The tops
of their legs and their
tail are coated in scales
for added protection.
© Alamy/Kevin Schafer;
formation of protected areas, and local professionals are
being trained to conduct research to learn more about
the animals in their natural habitat. Even the animals
themselves are becoming ambassadors for biodiversity in
South America. Giant armadillos share their environment
with giant anteaters, nine-banded armadillos, six-banded
armadillos and naked-tailed armadillos, and their stories
are being used to teach conservation messages in schools
and local communities.
When an animal is as secretive as the giant armadillo,
misconceptions about their behaviour can spread.
Beekeepers and farmers can see these insect-eating
diggers as a threat to their livelihood, but in truth they are
vital ecosystem architects.
Giant armadillos eat termites, and their enormous body
size and voracious appetites help to keep populations
of these pesky insects under control. Termites can form
colonies that number in their thousands and of the 400
species in South America, at least 70 are classiied as
pests. Their entire lifestyle revolves around destroying
plant matter to get at the cellulose inside; they feast
on wood, gorge on crops and even target buildings,
destroying everything from carpets to books.
Termites change the ecology of their environment by
removing ground cover, causing food shortages for local
wildlife and allowing water to erode the bare ground. Giant
armadillos help to keep the levels of these pests down.
These hungry animals can take on an entire colony in one
sitting, and in the process they turn the soil over, adding air
and mixing nutrients.
Giant armadillos are a key species in their homelands
of South America, and though they are rarely seen, the
landscape wouldn’t be the same without them. Thanks to
ongoing conservation efforts, our understanding of these
incredible animals is increasing day by day; the irst vital
step in securing their future.
Interview with a…
badger advisor
As both an advisory group volunteer for Scottish Badgers and a
countryside ranger, Melanie Craig is a hands-on badger enthusiast
Why are badgers special?
Badgers are one of our
largest native mammals,
part of the Mustelid family
(which also includes otters,
pine martins and weasels).
They are protected by
law, not due to rarity but because of
persecution. Badgers are a bit of an enigma
because they are elusive and so there
is lots we still don’t know about them.
We are often taught ‘facts’ like they only
come out at night, only live in woodlands,
and only dig setts on sloping land, but in
actual fact none of this is entirely true. We
have footage of badgers being out in the
afternoon and have found badger setts in
the middle of lat farmland, moorland and
even sea cliffs.
How can you see badgers in the wild?
When you watch badgers in action, either
in person or via a trail camera, they are
fascinating, comical and very easy to love.
If you know of a badger sett near you,
there are several organisations that can
give you advice on the do’s and don’ts of
badger watching. Guided badger watches
are also available in many areas. You can
contact your local Countryside Ranger
Service for information or Scottish Badgers,
the Badger Trust or your local Wildlife
Trust might be able to advise if there are
organised badger watches in your area.
advice from your local statutory nature
conservation organisation (e.g. Scottish
Natural Heritage, Natural Resources Wales
or Natural England). There are options to
have them moved, but because badgers
are protected by law this must be handled
by experts under government licence.
What threats do badgers in the UK face?
Badgers are creatures of habit and often
use the same network of paths throughout
their lives, even if we build things like roads
over them. In spring and autumn we often
see large numbers of vehicle fatalities,
which has a huge impact on populations.
Badger setts are also often damaged,
inadvertently or deliberately, during
agricultural and forestry works, which is
why government licences are required to
work near setts. Badger bating, an illegal
blood sport, is also prevalent in some areas.
If you suspect a sett is at risk report your
information to the police.
As with all species, it’s important to know where badgers live
and if their populations are going up or down over time. Lots of
organisations, both national and local, are involved in recording
badgers and their setts. Most areas have a local wildlife recording
centre who will be keen to receive records of badger sightings.
There are also specific badger groups in many areas, with
Scottish Badgers and the Badger Trust (England and Wales) able
to give details on local volunteer groups.
Both of these organisations are also keen to hear about any
dead badgers or incidents with setts. Some groups also look for
regular volunteers to help with long-term monitoring of known
setts, badger watches and other research projects. Volunteering
can be a great first step into a career working with wildlife.
It’s thought the name
‘badger’ derives from the
French word bêcheur,
which means ‘digger’
Where can you get help if you find a sick
or injured badger?
If you ind an injured badger, please do not
approach it yourself. They have a strong
bite and sharp claws and they’ll defend
themselves. Keep a distance and phone the
SSPCA or RSPCA for help, or contact your
local Wildlife Rescue Centre.
For more
about badgers
please visit the
Scottish Badgers
website at www.
What should you do if there are badgers
in your garden?
If a badger is entering your garden to
forage, don’t encourage them by providing
food as they will come more regularly
and can be quite destructive. You can
build a fence to secure your garden,
and there is useful guidance on Scottish
Natural Heritage’s website on how to do
this. If badgers have actually moved into
your garden and created a sett, seek
“When you watch
badgers in action,
they are fascinating,
comical and very
easy to love”
How can you get involved
in badger recording?
A purpose-built penguin enclosure,
Scottish Badgers was
founded in 1991 with the
backing of the Scottish
We love and cherish our pets as
companions, but what happens when
they become more than that?
Words Sanne de Boer
Whether you have a hamster or a Great Dane, pets
have provided us with comfort, friendship, exercise,
protection and emotional stimulation for thousands
of years. Evidence of dogs walking alongside men
as their companion can be traced back 26,000
years ago, and animal welfare and the sentient
nature of animals has been a topic of discussion
since the 19th century.
However, it wasn’t until very recently that
scientists turned their attention to how animals
ensure the wellbeing of humans. Studies have
shown that the presence of or interaction with
a dog, especially a subject’s own pet dog,
produces oxytocin in the brain, also known as
the ‘happy hormone’. While this is not news for
dog people, this effect goes far deeper, and has
more signiicant effects, than just feeling happier
– it could make you feel better. Oxytocin has a
role in reducing stress, lowering blood pressure,
improving heart health and can even aid in mental
health issues such as depression. In other words,
animals are thought to aid the process of healing.
Dogs’ cognitive abilities help create incredible bonds
The obvious frontrunner in the race to become man’s best
therapist is, of course, man’s best friend. Dogs have come
to our aid in many ways: guide dogs, guard dogs, bomb
sniffer dogs – they’ve even been found to detect cancer.
However, it’s only quite recently that dogs’ therapeutic
value has been recognised – the first therapy dog is
said to have been Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier in 1944.
This charming little canine helped to raise the spirits of
wounded American soldiers fighting the Japanese in the
Pacific and even pulled a communications cable through
a tunnel, meaning that troops didn’t have to lay it in open
ground under enemy fire, saving countless lives.
Dogs are among the most common animals used for
therapy, and they’re trained through organisations like
Pets As Therapy (PAT) to provide emotional support in
elderly homes, hospitals, hospices and schools. Dogs even
provide benefits for children’s learning through charities
like Dogs Helping Kids (DHK), offering services where
dogs are a daily part of children’s education.
While all therapy dogs should undergo training of some
kind, other dogs have a natural way of comforting patients,
or, through some rather unfortunate coincidence, of
showing people that their handicap does not have to limit
them. One example is Smiley, a fluffy golden retriever with
all the endearing qualities you expect from a retriever:
patience, playfulness, affection and intelligence. You
name it, Smiley can do it, apart from actually retrieving,
as Smiley was born without eyes as the result of cruel
breeding malpractice in a puppy farm. But that doesn’t
stop Smiley from trying. With a permanent spring in his
step and a wag in his tail, this dog shows children that a
disability does not have to stop you doing what you love.
© Thinkstock
Pet therapy
Pet therapy
Cats help relieve stress
Dog people might tell you that cats aren’t
as affectionate, or that you can’t form the
same bond with a cat as you can with a dog.
Luckily, science can help you to prove them
wrong. Stroking a cat produces oxytocin in
the brain, as does the presence of most pets,
and studies have shown they help relieve
stress and lower blood pressure. Studies also
suggest that cat owners have 40 per cent
less risk of a heart attack, although this could
be down to the typical cat owner’s lifestyle
rather than the presence of a cat in itself.
Like dogs, cats are great candidates to
become therapy animals in nursing homes,
schools and hospitals. However, not every cat
meets the requirements to become a therapy
cat. They need a naturally calm and laid-back
temperament and to be fully trained by a
recognised institution. They also need to be
used to being handled and able to cope with
unpredictable situations and loud noises.
Birds are as expressive as dogs
and cats in their body language
A pet does not have to be cuddly and
furry to provide humans with comfort
and companionship. Humans have been
domesticating poultry and other birds since
around 2,000 BCE, but keeping birds as
companion animals is admittedly a more
modern habit.
The irst bird to be kept for other purposes
than meat and eggs was most likely the
pigeon. As it was discovered that pigeons,
and consequently other birds, could be trained,
their value to us increased exponentially.
Birds are oten undervalued as pets, but
they’re far more emotive than people give them
credit for. For instance, did you know that a
bird will click its beak if it wants some attention
or petting? They can provide interaction,
amusement and stress relief, and, as their
upkeep requires little efort, they are especially
suited as pets for elderly people.
“Humans have been domesticating
birds since around 2,000 BCE”
Unlikely heroes
Though they might not wear the same
high visibility jackets as a guide dog,
these animals are just as valuable to us
Silent spiders
While spiders do make pets for some, they’ve
made this list due to their appetite for other
creepy crawlies. Spiders help keep particular
insects at bay that would otherwise carry
diseases harmful to humans.
Dutiful donkeys
Though it’s easy to forget when its close
relative the horse takes all the glory, donkeys
have been domesticated since 3,000 BCE
and have been working animals as well as
afectionate companions.
Peppy pigs
Oten regarded as mere livestock, in recent
years these intelligent and emotionally
sensitive animals have begun to shine as
companions and even therapy animals.
Mighty moths
Silk moths have lost the ability to ly, and
their caterpillars can’t ind mulberries to eat
without being fed. Their existence, sadly, is
wholly supported because humans want silk.
Rabbits help children relax
It’s not always possible for schools or hospitals to
get an animal as large as a dog or a cat, let alone
a horse, to come in and apply their healing powers
or simply distract children from their worries.
Among young children, small mammals such as
bunnies and guinea pigs are the most popular.
Not only do they provide relaxation, they teach
children valuable life skills and can be used as
an education tool. These animals can help to
teach children about how to approach and hold
a creature without scaring them. The reward, in
the form of the comfort of holding a soft creature,
requires children to learn empathy, understanding
how another creature feels. Some schools will
have their own class bunny, guinea pig or hamster,
teaching children even more advanced skills such
as the responsibility of providing water and food
for the animal and ensuring they are comfortable.
© Thinkstock; Phanie/Alamy; BSIP SA/Alamy; Getty/CasarsaGuru
Busy bees
Bees don’t just produce honey: as pollinators,
they carry pollen from one lower to another.
This kind of cross-pollination is responsible
for over 30 per cent of the world’s crops.
Stables often double
up as rehab facilities
The earliest evidence found suggesting the domestication
of horses was in Kazakhstan and dates back 5,500 years
ago. The indings discovered by archeologists showed that
the horses wore harnesses similar to saddles and were
ridden as well as milked.
But horses mean far more to humans than just transport
and sustenance. Humans have formed deep emotional
bonds with their horses for centuries, and for dedicated
equestrians riding and caring for their horse is part of a
strong friendship. Horses are described as social animals,
with a herd mentality that matches the pack mentality of
dogs and the family values of humans.
It’s no surprise then that equine therapy is a practice as
genuine and remarkable as any other. It too relieves stress
and anxiety and lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It
has been shown to be beneicial for those struggling with
mental health and even addiction, taking the patient out of
their environment and comfort zone to form a bond with
an animal, putting their complete faith and trust in them as
they climb up into the saddle.
Explore the Earth
To seek out the real-life Paddington, Baloo and Yogi,
you’ll have to venture to some of Earth’s remotest
places. But the moment you catch a glimpse of these
majestic mammals you’ll know it was worth it
Words Adam Millward
Bear country
Chris Breen is the founder and managing director of Wildlife Worldwide, a travel operator
that specialises in tailor-made wildlife watching holidays:
There’s something wonderful about watching bears –
they cause an adrenalin rush every time I see them.
Whether it’s black bears, grizzlies or their polar cousins, they are
among the very best wildlife to observe and photograph.
Canada’s British Columbia is surely the top spot for black bears
and grizzlies, although I have had amazing encounters in the Arctic
Polar bear
You might be surprised to hear that Europe has a
healthy population of these iconic white bears. The
Svalbard island group, which belongs to Norway, is
home to stunning scenery and a wide variety of other
Arctic wildlife to boot.
Spirit bear
Also known as Kermode
or ghost bears, these
rare, pale-coated black
bears are found only
on the coastal islands
of British Columbia in
Canada. In fact it’s the
official provincial animal.
Spectacled bear
The inspiration for Paddington is
the only bear species found in South
America. It lives in the wilds of the
northern Andes mountain range.
north in Nunavut, where a bear’s fur turns to ice as soon as it gets
out of the water! As for polar bears, it has got to be either Churchill,
staying at one of the remote tundra lodges, or aboard one of the
vessels that we operate to Svalbard. For the real connoisseur, you
might consider a visit to the icy north of Wrangel Island in Russia’s
Far East, where up to 500 polar bears are thought to be denning!
Giant panda
They are the evolutionary
oddballs of the family,
but giant pandas are
indeed bears. Decades
of conservation
work in China saw
them downgraded
from Endangered to
Vulnerable in 2016.
Sun bear
The world’s smallest
species of bear leads
a largely arboreal
lifestyle in pockets
of Southeast Asia.
A dedicated rescue
centre in Borneo is
home to 40-plus
sun bears.
Sloth bear
Native to the Indian subcontinent,
these charismatic bears are
distinguished by their shaggy
coats and long claws. They
inspired one of the Jungle Book’s
best-loved characters, Baloo.
1 Spitsbergen National Park, Svalbard
2 Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Sabah, Borneo
3 Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve, Ecuador
4 Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, China
5 Pench National Park, India
6 Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy, Princess Royal Island, Canada
When to go
Bears in colder climes tend to enter a
period of dormancy in winter, so are best
seen in spring or summer. Those from
temperate regions can be seen all year.
How to see bears
This depends on the species and the terrain.
Polar bears can be viewed from the water,
the air or tundra buggies, while others will
require you to don your hiking boots.
What the weather will do
© Thinkstock;; Nature Picture Library/Alamy
You’re most likely to view bears in the
summer months, so the weather should be
warm and sunny. If heading to the tropics,
prepare for heavy rain and high humidity.
What to take
For polar trips you’ll need a waterproof
jacket, gloves and sunglasses. If you’re
staying in bear country, take bug repellent
and a kit to bear-proof your camp.
What you’ll see
One thing that all bears share in common
is a fondness for real wilderness. On a
bear watching holiday you can guarantee
that you’re going to get away from it all.
Explore the Earth
Polar bears rank among the most popular
animals on Earth, so it’s little wonder that there
is a well-established tourism industry built up
around them. Although Canada boasts by far
the largest population – including the worldfamous ‘polar bear capital’, Churchill – Europe
too has its own polar bear paradise: Svalbard.
This Norwegian archipelago, which straddles
the Arctic Circle, is now estimated to be home
to more polar bears than human inhabitants –
3,000 bears versus some 2,600 people. Given
that these bears are most active on the sea ice,
hunting for prey such as seals, the majority of
tours are conducted by boat – the perfect way
of navigating this fragmented and ever-changing
landscape. Depending on how close you want
to get to the planet’s largest bears – they can
weigh over 725 kilograms (1,600 pounds) and
stand up to three metres (9.9 feet) tall on their
hind legs – you can choose to view them from
the deck of larger cruise ships, or get closer to
the action on smaller inlatable craft.
It’s worth noting that if you’re hoping to see
the northern lights during your visit to Svalbard,
the best displays occur in winter. However,
this doesn’t coincide with the optimum bear
watching season of May to September.
From size and colour to temperament and
habitat, sun bears are virtually the polar
opposite of their giant, Arctic-dwelling
cousins. This bijou bear, reaching no bigger
than 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) long, is native to
the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
In the wild they can be extremely elusive;
this is largely because they spend a lot
of their time in the dense jungle canopy,
resting or hunting out bugs and lizards.
However, their favourite snack by far is
honey. Its passion for the sweet stuff, which
easily rivals that of the famous Winnie the
Pooh, has earned it the nickname of the
‘honey bear’.
The best place to see these bears up
close is at the Sun Bear Conservation
Centre in Sabah, Borneo. Open to the
public since 2014, the sanctuary features
large forest enclosures, encouraging the
rehabilitation of wild bears that have been
rescued from captivity. To do your bit for
conservation, and get to know the bears
more closely, you can volunteer to assist
with daily tasks at the centre, including
feeding, cleaning and giving tours.
Bear country
Keep your distance
It sounds obvious, but in the excitement of
the moment, it’s tempting to get as close as
possible to take a photo. Respect a bear’s
space, especially if it’s a mother with cubs.
Never walk alone
If trekking through areas where bears are
known to be active, always try to stay in small
groups or at the very least in pairs. You also
need to pay attention to your surroundings.
Keep a tidy camp
To avoid attracting bears, keep the kitchen
area at a distance from your tent and consider
storing food in a sealed bag hung from a tree.
Noise matters
Bear spray
For unexpected encounters, it pays to have
a canister of bear spray close to hand. It’s
effective as far as 12 metres (39.4 feet).
© Dreamstime; Thinkstock; Jami Tarris/Minden Pictures/FLPA
When watching bears keep noise to a
minimum, but if you spot a bear approaching,
a few blasts of an air horn should deter it.
Explore the Earth
Polar bears aren’t the only all-white members of the
family. The enigmatic Kermode bear is a rare subspecies
of black bear native to the lush Paciic coast of British
Columbia in Canada. They go by many names, including
spirit bears and ghost bears, and they are held in high
esteem by locals, especially First Nations people. Their
unusual colouration is not the result of albinism but a
recessive gene, which both parents must have for there
to be a chance of producing pale offspring; as the trait
is recessive, both parents can have black fur and still
produce a white cub.
Notoriously timid, these bears spend most of their
lives hidden among the ancient trees and ferny dells
of the world’s largest temperate rainforest. However,
they do break cover for a few weeks every year. They
emerge to gorge on the ready supply of salmon that
arrives every September to spawn in the shallow coastal
creeks, so this is the best time to see them.
The lazy, if well-intentioned character, Baloo
does something of a disservice to sloth
bears. Likewise does their association with
the slow and cumbersome tree sloths of
South America. In reality, these charismatic
creatures are anything but lazy or slow! The
only reason they got their name is because
their unusual teeth and long claws – both of
which are adaptations for their diet of ants
and termites – are reminiscent of sloths,
despite there being no biological link.
To see what these bears are really like,
what better place to head to than the area
that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book
story? Pench National Park, located in the
heart of India, comprises vast grasslands,
hills and rocky bluffs and various types
of forest. This diverse landscape makes
it perfect not just for sloth bears but also
a wide array of other large mammals,
including tigers, wild dogs, jaguars and
wolves. Unlike their cold-climate relatives,
sloth bears can be seen year-round, though
you might have to pull a few late nights as
these bears are mostly nocturnal.
The bear that isn’t
Despite their resemblance and oten being referred
to as ‘bears’, koalas are not part of the bear family. As
marsupials, they’re more closely related to wombats.
Bears don’t
technically hibernate
While a number of bears do disappear into dens to
escape the winter, scientists don’t believe they are true
hibernators, instead entering a sleep known as torpor.
They have good eyesight
A common misconception about bears is that their
vision is poor. In reality their eyesight is as good as ours,
and they are particularly adept at seeing in low light.
You should never run away
In the world of wildlife conservation it’s not very
often we get to celebrate turnarounds as positive
as the giant panda’s. But while the IUCN’s
downgrading of the species from Endangered
to Vulnerable is no doubt a huge achievement,
there’s no room for complacency.
In early 2017, China announced plans to create
a vast national park – three times the size of
Yellowstone in the US – to link up several existing
pockets of wild pandas and boost their long-term
viability. It can only be hoped that this positive
trend will be able to continue.
While understandably most people would
prefer to see pandas in the wild, the fact remains
that, for now, your chances of inding one –
even with a guide – are very low. To avoid a
disappointing trip you should set aside time to
visit one of the conservation centres in Sichuan,
such as Chengdu Panda Base. Here, in what
is generally considered the ‘panda capital of
the world’, you can learn about the decades of
breeding and rehabilitation work – still ongoing
– that has turned around the panda’s fortunes.
Better still, sightings are guaranteed.
Pandas are meat-eaters at heart
Pandas may dine almost exclusively on bamboo, but
millions of years ago they were voracious carnivores.
Even now, they will eat the occasional rodent.
© Thinkstock; Erik Veland; Dreamstime
Few people realise how fast bears are. At full pelt, a
grizzly can hit 56.3 kilometres per hour (35 miles per
hour). If charged at, hold your ground, make lots of
noise and prepare to defend yourself.
Explore the Earth
Everyone’s favourite bear from
Peru, Paddington, is based on
the spectacled bear. This shy
species lives in the cloud forests
of the Andes, including Colombia,
Ecuador, Bolivia and, of course,
Peru. You’ll frequently ind them
in a tree, feasting on leaves, fruit
and nuts; their diet is almost 95
per cent vegetarian. Although they
don’t retire in the winter like their
northern relations, it’s worth noting
that spectacled bears are more
active during mating season (April
to June). However, if you’re keen
to see some baby Paddingtons,
you’re better off going later in the
year (November to February).
Canada is famous for its grizzlies, but Europe has its
own brown bear population, dispersed from Spain all
the way to Russia. The Carpathian Mountains are home
to some 8,000, with Romania claiming the lion’s share.
This country has hundreds of hides in its vast forests,
where you can watch from safety and with a degree of
shelter – this region is notorious for its temperamental
weather! Brown bears share their woodland territory
with many other species, including beavers, wolves,
lynx, bison and deer.
Bear country
a Parakito antimosquito band!
Bug repellent can be bear repellent
Bear watching hides will often bring you into
contact with lots of nasty biting insects. Be wary
of overdoing it with the mosquito spray, though, as
bears’ acute sense of smell may detect this in the
wind and deter them from approaching.
enter the comPetition at
Look out for the signs
Bears are notoriously good at hiding, but there are
several telltale clues that indicate when they are
in the vicinity. Tracks are the most obvious clue,
left behind in snow, sand or soft mud. Other signs
include scratched tree trunks, scat and areas of
freshly dug earth.
Don’t be bear blinkered
Anti-mosquito band
Hiking boots
DSLR camera
Binoculars are a must on
any bear watching trip,
letting you see them in
detail without getting too
close. Bushnell’s Excursion
HD 8x42 offers stunning
clarity and a wide ield of
view. Plus, at just 690g
(24.3oz), they won’t weigh
you down.
If you’re heading to see
polar bears, thermal
clothing is the order of the
day, especially protection
for the extremities. As
well as having an insulated
lining, these Pinnacle gloves
are waterproof and have
leather palms that offer a
better grip.
Strong-scented bug spray
could alert bears to your
presence. PARA’KITO’s
wristbands are much more
subtle and localised, with
pellets containing natural
oils to mask your scent.
Anti-mosquito products
don’t come any more
stylish than this!
Most bear holidays are
going to involve plenty
of walking, so it makes
sense to take appropriate
footwear. Salomon’s
waterproof Quest Prime
GTX are built for wild treks:
high-cut for ankle support,
super-light, waterproof and
The 24MP Pentax KP is a
great all-rounder and ideal
for bear watching. It boasts
a wide ISO range and userfriendly features such as
customisable dials and builtin image stabilisation. Its
compact form sets it apart
from other cameras
in its class.
Sun Bear Centre
Polar cruise
Wilderness escape
Wildlife Worldwide
14-day volunteer programme
Approx. £790 to work with sun
bears for 14 days in Borneo. Includes
accommodation, meals and transfers;
excludes lights, visas and insurance.
Spitsbergen and Polar Bears – Arctic Adventure
Six days aboard the MS Nordstjernen exploring
the wilderness of Svalbard, home of the world’s
largest bears. £1,153 per person; excludes lights;
tour runs from June to September 2017.
The Bear Essentials
A week in British Columbia, Canada, from
£3,345 per person. There’s the chance to see
grizzlies, black bears and even ghost bears;
excludes international lights.
© Thinkstock
Bears live in some of the most beautiful wildernesses
on the planet, from frozen icescapes and alpine
forests to tropical jungles. Even if the bears aren’t
making an appearance, don’t forget to appreciate
the surroundings and the other local fauna.
tamarins are sm
World monkeys all New
Would you give up your time to help people learn about and
be inspired by nature? We sent staff writer, Victoria Williams,
to experience a day in the life of a Learning Volunteer at ZSL
London Zoo to ind out what it means to be a volunteer...
10:30am Brieing
Having found my way to the zoo through the
rain, I was met by Caroline Whitson, ZSL’s
volunteer coordinator. We arrived at the
volunteer common room just as the cheery
Tuesday team did up their coats and set off
for every corner of the zoo. Caroline talked to
me about the roles and importance of these
dedicated volunteers, and the activities I’d
be visiting. I was given a volunteer shirt
and a much-needed waterproof, and then
we set off.
at a
Taking a look n in the
Reptile House
Monkey business
12:45pm Rainforest Life
Rainforest Life is a living rainforest exhibit, where animals run
past people’s feet and climb above their heads. I was meant to
be putting what I’d learned into practice and going it alone at this
activity, but the atrocious weather meant there weren’t many
visitors to quiz me on my newly acquired knowledge. Still, I got a
good idea of the difference Learning Volunteers can make, adding
another level of engagement and ensuring no one leaves the
zoo with an unanswered question. Even in the short time I was
there it was easy to see how volunteers can get attached to the
charismatic animals they work with.
An hiss-toric disp
11:30am Amphibian
and reptile house
My first stop of the day was the Amphibian and
Reptile House, where I met volunteers Sharon
and Pauline. They were spending their first hour
at the touch table, an activity that encourages
visitors to interact with biological artefacts. Most
of these, including the impressive skins and
shells, have been confiscated from smugglers at
customs. At the touch table, volunteers educate
the public about the animals and show that
they’re just as interesting as the bigger species,
but they also highlight the problems caused by
illegal wildlife trade.
12:15pm Butterly paradise
Flights of fancy
I went with Sharon as she rotated to her next activity, Butterfly
Paradise. This humid walk-through area surrounds visitors with
butterflies and moths from Africa, Southeast Asia and South
America. Here, Learning Volunteers help visitors to spot the various
species fluttering around and show them the puparium, where
brand new butterflies emerge from their pupae. They also frequently
point out that the huge Atlas moths are in fact real and not models!
How to
get involved
If you have a passion for wildlife and
can spare a day a week or fortnight,
then why not share your enthusiasm with
others? You can inspire and inform visitors
by becoming a Learning Volunteer, or there
are other roles too. Full training is
provided so you don’t need to be an
expert to apply. Visit
A closer look
1.15pm My experience
In the few hours I spent with London Zoo’s Learning
Volunteers, I was impressed by not only their knowledge
and dedication but also by their warmth and enthusiasm.
Volunteering here brings together a group of people with
a common love of animals, and there’s a real community
spirit. These people give their time freely to educate and
inspire and to ‘make the difference between a good day
and a great day’ for the public. Everyone working at the
zoo, paid or not, is clearly devoted to conserving animals
and showing the world how amazing they are.
ou 1 ir
sc by fa
di e rd
y in
Bu n
ck t
ti gus uk
ed u rg
nt A
The international
wildlife event
of the year!
18–20 August 2017
Jointly promoted by
& Rutland
Wildlife Trust
Main sponsors
Associate sponsors
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Opens 9 am daily
Wildlife personalities • Events and talks
Latest products • Excellent birdwatching
Wildlife art • Great food
Birdfair 2017
Follow us:
Saving Paradise
in the Pacific
All profits will be donated by Leicestershire Wildlife Sales to BirdLife International. Leicestershire Wildlife Sales
is a wholly-owned subsidiary of LRWT. The RSPB, BirdLife International and LRWT are UK registered charities.
Artwork by Carry Akroyd
Living fossils
Despite the many changes the Earth has
gone through over millions of years, these ive
animals look a lot like their prehistoric ancestors
Ancient history
Lungfish are
thought to have first
swum in Devonian
seas, over 359
million years ago.
Drought survivor
To survive dry seasons
some lungfish surround
themselves in mucous and
bury themselves in mud.
02 The crab that’s
actually part spider
This arthropod might be more appropriately
named the horseshoe spider because it is
not a crab at all. Biologists classify it among
the chelicerates, which are more closely
related to arachnids than to crustaceans. The
general form of these intimidating-looking
but harmless animals has changed little from
that of their ancestors 450 million years ago.
They live along the shorelines of America
and Asia and eat bivalves and worms.
Hard shell
The characteristic
feature of this animal,
the hard carapace,
protects it against
predation from above.
Many eyes
A horseshoe crab
has multiple eyes
located around
its shell and
on its tail.
What is a
living fossil?
Charles Darwin coined the term ‘living fossil’ to describe animal
species or groups that hadn’t changed much over millions of
years of evolution. The term is used in a similar context today,
although biologists don’t agree on how much and what kind of
variation species should have in order to qualify. Regardless
of whether the term is scientifically valid, however, it seems
appropriate for several remarkable species that appear to have
been bypassed by natural selection and therefore give us a
glimpse of our prehistoric past.
01 The fish that
breathes air
This eel-like ish occurs in rivers and lakes
in Africa, South America and Australia and
can grow to over a metre long (3.3 feet).
The group gets its name from the adults’
use of primitive lungs rather than gills
to breath. They periodically swim to the
surface of the water and take gulps of air.
Juveniles have tadpole-like gills but only
Australian lungish use these when they
reach maturity.
how the prehistoric
beasts of the ocean have lived on
in their descendants and step back in
time at the brand-new Jurassic Ranger
exhibit at SEA LIFE Manchester. The
interactive experience gives visitors the
chance to meet a real-life living fossil,
Alan the lungfish.
Visit www.animalanswers. for more info.
Living fossils
03 The mammal
Africans call ‘earth pig’
An A-lister among living fossils, the
aardvark lives in Africa and is also called
an ‘antbear’ because it uses its strong
claws to break into ant and termite
nests. Its thick hide protects it from their
defensive attacks as it licks up the insects
through its long snout. It is the last species
in an order that might stretch back to the
Eocene epoch 55-34 million years ago.
Family ties
Females usually bear
only one cub, which can
remain with its mother
for several months.
Not anteaters
The aardvark’s similarity to
Central and South American
anteaters can be explained
by convergent evolution.
“A thick hide
protects the
aardvark from
ants’ stings”
Escape strategies
Solenodons may run
erratically to confuse
predators, and they
can climb rapidly.
04 The mammal that
is literally stunning
The nocturnal solenodon looks like a
large shrew, but it belongs in its own
lineage that appears to have diverged
from other mammals as far back as 78
million years ago. The two extant species
are largely insectivorous and found only
on the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. A
remarkable feature of the solenodon is its
venomous bite. The poison lows through
grooves in the lower incisors and can stun
prey, killing it in a matter of minutes.
05 The reptile that
sparked a ierce
scientiic debate
Scientists have argued for years about
whether the tuatara can be called a living
fossil because its prehistoric ancestors
appear to have occupied a variety of
niches. A study published in the Journal
Of Paleontology earlier this year, however,
concluded that the extant tuatara has
evolved very slowly and should therefore
be given living fossil status. It occurs only
in the New Zealand Archipelago, where
the government recognises one species.
Third eye
A parietal eye on the
tuatara’s head gets
covered by scales as
individuals mature.
Last survivor
Tuataras are truly unique
reptiles: their ancestors
diverged from lizards around
250 million years ago.
© Alamy/Quagga Media; 19th era 2; bilwissedition
Scent hunter
With poor eyesight,
the solenodon uses
smell to hunt insects
on the forest floor.
Bali myna
Leucopsar rothschildi
Class Aves
Territory Indonesian islands of
Bali and Nusa Penida
Diet Insects, worms, fruit
and seeds
Lifespan Up to 25 years
Adult weight 80-115g
Conservation Status
The distinctive Bali myna was only
discovered in 1912, but its striking appearance
means that it has been poached nearly to
extinction for the illegal caged bird trade.
Endemic to the island of Bali, these birds
are now limited to one small nature reserve
– where they have had to be protected by
armed guards – and a small neighbouring
island. This rapid decline in a population that
was already small to begin with makes this
myna one of the rarest birds in the world.
The causes of
Illegal capture
Because of their beauty, these birds are desirable to
bird collectors. Seen as a status symbol and fetching
thousands of dollars on the black market, wild mynas have
been captured to sell as caged pets. Captive birds have
even been stolen from the Bali Barat National Park.
The decreasing
Bali mynas are endemic to Bali and
used to live across a third of the
island but now mainly occupy Bali
Barat National Park in the northwest.
A population was introduced to the
nearby island of Nusa Penida in 2006.
Habitat loss
Bali mynas occupy monsoon forest, but the area suitable
for them to live in has been reduced by the removal of
forest for agriculture and urbanisation. As the birds had
a very small range to begin with, any loss of terrain has a
severely negative impact.
Barat National Park
Nusa Penida
Bali myna
Bringing birds back
from the brink
Mark Vercoe, assistant curator of birds
at Chester Zoo, is part of a collaborative
conservation effort working to return Bali
mynas to the wild
The natural world is full of beautiful things,
and birds, as we all know, are among some
of the most stunning. Unfortunately for some,
this can be their downfall. The Bali myna (also
known as the Bali starling, Rothschild’s myna
or jalak Bali) is only found on the Indonesian
island of Bali, where a tiny population teeters
on the brink of extinction. Highly prized by
bird trappers, this unique species is listed as
Critically Endangered.
This stunning bird is unlike any other, with
its snow-white plumage and bare patches of
blue skin around the eyes, its long, elegant
crest erected slightly when it sings. Owning
such a beautiful bird is seen as a status
symbol in Indonesian bird-keeping culture.
Wild population estimates have varied
wildly but have always been staggeringly low;
in 1990, it was thought that only 15 individuals
remained. The population increased with
conservation efforts and reintroductions, but
when matched with an increased bounty for
their capture, this dropped to an all-time low
of just six birds in 2001.
Birds bred in breeding centres in Indonesia
have boosted the population, and recently
20 birds from members of the European
Association of Zoos and Aquariums, including
four from Chester Zoo, were returned to
Indonesia to Taman Safari Wildlife Park as
part of an international collaborative effort to
help save the Bali myna. While these released
birds give hope for the species’ survival,
continued conservation efforts and protection
against trappers are essential to ensure
they continue to remain the emblem of this
beautiful Indonesian island.
What you can do...
Get involved in Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife
campaign Sing for Songbirds. People are being
encouraged to sing for songbirds to raise awareness
and funds to protect threatened Indonesian birds.
© Chester Zoo
“Owning such a beautiful bird
is seen as a status symbol in
Indonesian bird-keeping culture”
The wildlife
of a volcano
Meet the animals that call some of the world’s
most dangerous slopes home, risking the threat
of a devastating eruption to beneit from a
nutrient-rich environment
Words Jo Stass
Unless they are dormant or extinct, volcanoes can pose
a great danger to any creatures living in their vicinity.
A violent eruption will send fast-lowing lava over the
surrounding land, incinerating anything in its path, and
can even trigger mudslides or block out the Sun with
vast clouds of ash. However, despite these constant
threats, many animals still choose to settle on these
destructive mountains. The main reason is that volcanic
soil is some of the most fertile on Earth.
Over time, lava and ash deposited after an eruption
breaks down, enriching the soil with valuable nutrients
such as silica, magnesium, calcium and iron. This
encourages vegetation to grow, creating new habitats
and supporting diverse ecosystems that are often
found nowhere else on Earth. On active volcanoes,
this beneit usually outweighs the risk for the animal
inhabitants who live in a home they may one day need
to lee at a moment’s notice.
How a
volcano forms
What causes violent eruptions
on the Earth’s surface?
Pressure builds
Pressure slowly builds
up inside the Earth until
eventually it is so great that
the magma explodes up
through the surface.
New crust forms
Lava, the name for magma
that reaches the Earth’s
surface, flows outwards from
each eruption and then cools
to form new layers of rock.
Magma rises
Molten rock rises up from
the Earth’s mantle through
cracks and weaknesses in the
crust, mainly at destructive or
constructive plate boundaries.
“An eruption can trigger
landslides and block out
the Sun with ash clouds”
© Thinkstock
The wildlife of a volcano
The wildlife of a volcano
National Park
In the middle of the Paciic Ocean,
the volcanic islands of Hawaii are
home to an array of species that are
found nowhere else on Earth, having
evolved often bizarre characteristics
to thrive in the state’s diverse habitats
Giant Hawaiian dragonfly
Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands,
this dragonfly is the largest in the
United States, with a wingspan
than can reach over 15cm (5.9in). It
is commonly found high up on the
volcanoes and feeds on aquatic
insects in slow-flowing streams
and wetlands.
Eupithecia caterpillars
While most caterpillars munch on
leaves, certain Hawaiian species from
the genus Eupithecia have evolved to
become carnivorous predators. They sit
camouflaged on green leaves waiting
for a fly to pass by, then pluck it out of
the air with their sharp pincer-like claws.
Blacktip reef shark
The wildlife of a volcano
Hawaiian goose
Also known as nēnē, this species of goose is endemic
to Hawaii and has become the oicial state bird. It is
thought to have evolved from the Canadian goose,
which arrived on the islands half a million years ago,
but is now classiied as Vulnerable due to habitat loss
and the introduction of new predators.
Wekiu bug
These lightless insects live on the
summit of the Mauna Kea Volcano, at
4,207m (13,802.5t) above sea level. They
survive temperatures at this altitude
thanks to a compound in their blood that
acts like antifreeze, which prevents ice
crystals forming. They feed on insects
that have been blown up the slopes.
These brightly coloured birds are just one
of the 56 species (although many are now
extinct) of honeycreeper in Hawaii. Their
beaks are oten compared to Swiss Army
knives as they have a straight lower section
and a curved upper one, which is perfect for
extracting insects from beneath tree bark.
hoary bat
Originally from Puerto Rico, these small
frogs hitched a ride to Hawaii in the 1990s,
and with no natural predators to contend
with, the population grew rapidly. Now there
are more than 10,000 per acre in some areas,
forcing state oicials to begin controlling the
spread of this invasive species.
© The Art Agency/Peter Scott
Green sea
Life among
the lava
Volcanoes offer a diverse
range of habitats across
the globe, attracting all
sorts of creatures from
the land, sea and air
Although volcanoes attract a wide range
of animals, the speciic species that inhabit
them will depend largely on geographic
location. For example, the indigenous
creatures of the Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park are limited by the fact that the islands
are in the middle of the Paciic Ocean,
thousands of miles from their nearest
neighbour. The species that settled there
had to ly, swim or be carried by the wind,
so there are few large mammals but many
different birds and insects. Less isolated
volcanoes, such as Mount St Helens in
Washington, US, attract more varied
species, such as bears and mountain lions.
And then of course there’s the
underwater variety. Around 80 per cent of
volcanic eruptions on Earth occur beneath
the ocean, and although they tend to be
less violent than those on land, they still
produce some pretty hostile conditions.
Spewing gas and lava can heat the water
to extreme temperatures and cause it
to become highly acidic, yet there are
still creatures that choose to live there.
Shrimps, worms, crabs and barnacles are
drawn to the bacteria and minerals the
volcanoes produce, and they in turn attract
larger predators, including sharks.
Volcanoes of the world
Areas of volcanic activity across the globe
Volcano dwellers
Meet the species that have adapted to occasionally explosive habitats
1. Sleeper shark
2. Loihi shrimp
3. Volcano rabbit
Normally found in the northern Paciic and
North Atlantic Oceans, these deep-dwelling,
slow-swimming creatures have been spotted
20 kilometres (12.4 miles) away from the
underwater Kavachi Volcano, just off the
Solomon Islands. This is the southernmost
sighting of the species ever recorded.
Previously only seen living on an active
underwater volcano near Hawaii, these shrimp
have now also been observed in a similar habitat
near Guam. They have evolved tiny claws that
resemble garden shears, which help them to
graze on the bacterial ilaments that coat the
volcanic rocks.
Endemic to Mexico and native to only four
volcanoes in the country, this tiny rabbit is one
of the smallest in the world. Its dark fur blends
in well with the volcanic soil to help it evade
predators, but habitat destruction has led it to
becoming endangered. However, the population
is believed to now be increasing.
4. Lava lizard
5. Chinstrap penguin
6. Tubeworms
There are around 20 species of lava lizard that
are native to South America and can be found
along the continent’s Paciic coast. Seven of
those species are endemic to the Galapagos
Islands, spending their days basking in the Sun
on the volcanic rock that inspired their mythicalsounding name.
The volcanic Zavodovski Island in the Southern
Ocean is home to around 1.2 million breeding
pairs of chinstrap penguins, making it one of the
largest penguin colonies in the world. They use
the rocky volcanic slopes as a breeding ground
despite the constant threat of an eruption that
could wipe out the entire population.
Living off the gasses ejected by mud volcanoes
on the Arctic Ocean loor, these hardy creatures
can survive without light in extremely hot and
acidic water. With no stomach, they rely on
bacteria living inside them to convert gas into
organic chemicals that they then use as a source
of energy.
© Picture
Thinkstock; Alamy/Jose B. Ruiz/David Pillinger; Getty/Emory Kristof
The wildlife of a volcano
Global Wildlife Conservation’s campaign The Search for Lost
Species is on the hunt for animals unseen for years; feared
extinct. Scientists have compiled a list of 1,200 species reported
missing and need help inding them. Here are just a few...
Bullneck seahorse
(Hippocampus minotaur)
This tiny sea creature has never
actually been spotted
This pygmy seahorse has never been seen in
the wild. Probably living in sand beds of the
southeast coast of Australia, it is only known
because of samples collected by trawlers.
“They are important
lagships for some of
the most imperilled
ecosystems worldwide”
flying squirrel
The missing squirrel with
an inbuilt parachute
With reddish fur and a white
underside, this tree-dwelling species
is thought to live in northeast India.
Only one specimen of this animal has
ever been recorded, found in 1981.
GWC communications director Robin Moore
Omiltemi cottontail
Pondicherry shark
(Carcharhinus hemiodon)
Its small size makes this shark
even harder to find
Growing not much longer than a metre (3.3t), this
extremely rare shark has serrated teeth and blacktipped ins. Fishing pressure in the Indo-Paciic is
probably the reason it hasn’t been seen since 1979.
This rabbit is as
elusive as the
Easter Bunny
Found only in a small area
of Mexico, this rare rabbit
vanished in the 1900s until
a skin was recovered in
1998. Deforestation is likely
responsible for its rarity and
possible extinction.
Lost species
Wallace’s giant bee
(Megachile pluto)
Sinu parakeet
(Pyrrhura subandina)
The world’s largest bee lives as
an uninvited tenant
It looks like a rainbow and
is just as rare
First described by Alfred Russel Wallace,
this 38-millimetre-long (1.5 inch) insect
takes up residence inside termite nests. Six
nests were found on an Indonesian island in
1981, but this was the last sighting.
Despite its vivid colours, this
parakeet has not been seen
since 1949. Ater years of
conlict in Colombia, the
area containing this
bird’s valley home is
accessible again and
explorers are hoping
to ind the bird still
living there.
Ilin island cloudrunner
(Crateromys paulus)
The mythical-sounding rat with a
suitably mysterious past
Bushy-tailed with a lufy coat, this rat may still
live in tree hollows on the Filipino island of Llin.
The island has sufered large-scale habitat
loss, and the only specimen of the cloudrunner
was recorded in 1953.
echidna (Zaglossus
There are signs of this
peculiar mammal but
no sightings
Sierra Leone crab
(Afrithelphusa leonensis)
People may have walked past this
long-legged crab
Missing for over 60 years, this brightly coloured and
oddly-shaped crab may simply have been overlooked
as it lives in trees and caves. Scientists are aiming to
provide the irst photo of the elusive creature.
Join the
The Search for Lost Species is fundraising
to send teams of scientists and explorers
around the world in search of the top
25 missing species. Some of these
expeditions will be working from
descriptions alone, as several
species have never been
© Abi Daker
Named ater Sir David himself, the
spiny egg-laying mammal was
thought to be extinct for decades
until signs of echidna activity were
discovered in New Guinea in 2007.
Pink-headed duck
(Rhodonessa caryophyllacea)
The duck that’s hard to miss but
proving hard to ind
Once widespread in the swamps of Southeast
Asia, this large duck has not been spotted since
1949. Pigments in the plumage produce the
distinctive colouration of the male’s head and bill.
A hog’s life
With their characteristic defence
system and enviable winter rest, these
spiny little punks have snufled their
way into British hearts
Words Victoria Williams
“Hedgehogs have lived on
the British Isles for over
2 million years”
© Getty/Ingo Arndt/Minden Pictures
Ask people to name a British animal and it won’t be very
long before the hedgehog is mentioned. Evolving from
a spineless Asian ancestor and living on the British Isles
for over 2 million years, this charismatic little creature has
a irmly established position in the hearts and culture of
British people.
Hedgehogs gained their name because they are often
found in hedgerows, and they make a pig-like snufling
noise while searching for food. The animal found in the
UK is the West European hedgehog – one of 17 hedgehog
A hog’s life
species – and can be found across Europe. They are
easily recognised by their round bodies and characteristic
spiky backs. An adult hedgehog can have as many as
7,000 spines, acting as a defence against predators. The
modiied hairs are hollow to reduce weight and interlock to
make a near-impenetrable suit of armour. Each individual
spine is attached to its own muscle, allowing them to move
independently and anchoring them to a large muscular
sheet on the animal’s back called the panniculus carnosus.
When a hedgehog is disturbed or threatened, contraction
of this large muscle rolls it into a ball for safety. The anchor
muscles then contract, standing the spikes on end to make
a formidable barrier.
Spines can last for up to two years but eventually need
to be replaced. As they are essential for the hedgehog’s
safety, spines can’t be shed and re-grown all at once. They
appear to grow and moult at different rates so that new
spines can develop without the hedgehog ever being left
totally defenceless.
Most hedgehogs have cream-coloured spines with dark
brown bands, but some individuals’ spines are completely
white or blonde, thought to be caused by a rare genetic
mutation. These hedgehogs are known as leucistic and
are not often seen. The only place they’re not rare is
the Channel island of Alderney. Here, the lack of large
predators keeps the blonde creatures out of danger.
The classic image of a hedgehog has them snufling
around for slugs and snails, but they actually have a much
more varied diet. They’re omnivores, largely feeding on
insects but also happy to scoff worms, berries, spiders
and eggs. They’ve even been known to eat small birds and
rodents. With poor eyesight but keen senses of smell and
hearing, they can locate food in undergrowth and even
buried in the ground. As nocturnal animals, hedgehogs
rest during the day and then spend most of the night
foraging and hunting, travelling up to two kilometres (1.2
miles) before bedtime rolls around. In their hunt for livelier
prey, they can reach a top speed of almost 19 kilometres
per hour (12 miles per hour), although usually they prefer
a more sedate pace. Hedgehogs are also decent climbers
and swimmers if the need arises.
Besides their usual day-to-day activities, hedgehogs
have been observed displaying some odd behaviour. Some
have been known to run in continuous circles, with one
individual inexplicably completing a 14-metre (46-foot)
loop 303 times – that’s a total distance of 4.24 kilometres
(2.63 miles). Sadly, on some occasions such circular
running can be a sign of an ear infection or head injury.
Another unusual behaviour is the chewing of certain
stimuli, including tobacco and carpet. Once inished,
hedgehogs cover their spines with frothy saliva. There
are a multitude of theories for this self-anointing
behaviour, but it’s most likely linked to scent
marking. Hedgehogs are solitary animals,
keeping to themselves until it’s time to
mate. They are non-territorial and prefer
to avoid confrontation, possibly using
scent to stay away from others.
Mating season begins in April and
May. Males (known as boars) circle
Western european
Erinaceus europaeus
Class Mammalia
territory Found throughout
Europe in woodland,
grassland and human-made
habitats like gardens and
diet Insects, eggs, birds,
reptiles and rodents
Lifespan Up to 8 years
adult weight 500g (1.1lb),
up to 2kg (4.4lb) in autumn
Conservation status
RIGHT Not just
restricted to creepy
crawlies, hedgehogs
will also eat eggs if
they find them
They may not look like
they’re built for more
than shuffling, with
round bodies and short
legs, but hedgehogs
are capable swimmers
A hog’s life
females (called sows) while snorting until their advances
are accepted or they admit defeat in a courtship ritual that
can take hours. Temporarily abandoning their peaceful
ways, males can charge at rivals and attempt to chase
them away. Females are polygamous, receiving courtship
from and mating with multiple males in a season. Once a
male has been accepted, the female lattens her spines
to allow mating to occur with minimal injury. Hedgehog
expert Dr Nigel Reeve has described hedgehogs as
“rather ineficient at getting pregnant” but, if conception
is successful, gestation lasts around 35 days, after which
around ive (but sometimes up to 11) hoglets are born.
In order to protect the sow, the hoglets’ spines are
covered by a luid-illed pocket until after birth. The young
animals are entirely dependent on their mother – blind,
deaf and weighing just 9.5-25 grams (0.3-0.9 ounces).
Sows usually produce one litter per year but can
often give birth to a second. Male hedgehogs have
nothing to do with their offspring, leaving of their
own accord to ind other fertile females or being
chased away by the mother.
At a day old a hoglet’s irst set of short spines
is fully emerged, but these are replaced a few
weeks later when the adult spines begin to appear.
Young begin to accompany their mother on foraging
expeditions after about a month and wander off alone
after another few days. About 70 per cent of hedgehogs
don’t make it to a year old, with many not able to survive
their irst winter.
Bats, dormice and hedgehogs are the only animals in
the UK to undergo true hibernation. Hedgehogs hibernate
from around October to March or April, conserving energy
in the cold months when food is scarce. In warmer areas
of its range the European hedgehog may not need to
hibernate for so long, while those introduced to New
Zealand can stay active all year round. Before huddling
away in its winter nest (hibernacula), each animal has to
eat as much as possible so that it has fat stores to keep it
alive until spring.
BELOW These hoglets
can already curl into
a ball when they feel
unsafe, behaviour that
may keep them alive
one day
Several accepted ‘facts’ about
hedgehogs just aren’t true.
They’re still spread even now, so
here’s what not to believe
all hedgehogs sleep through
the winter
European hedgehogs living in
warmer parts of the continent can
remain active all year. Species in
hot climates such as deserts sleep
through heat and drought in a
process similar to hibernation known
as aestivation.
During hibernation they enter a state called torpor,
where bodily activity is reduced. Body temperature
drops and heart rate falls as low as 20 beats per
minute from 190. Breathing rate also plummets, and
there are periods known as apnoetic events where
breathing ceases entirely, lasting from minutes to hours,
interspersed with short periods of rapid breathing. By
not breathing hedgehogs reduce water loss from their
lungs, and the build-up of carbon dioxide slows the rate
at which their energy reserves are broken down.
hedgehogs pass leas to pets
Hedgehogs do play host to fleas,
but these are hedgehog fleas. The
parasites are host-specific and will
not survive if they transfer onto a
cat or dog.
Hoglets are born with
their eyes and ears shut,
but their irst set of spines
are in place ater 24 hours
a hedgehog out in the day is ill
An adult hedgehog active during
daylight hours is probably not well,
but it’s not unusual for young animals
to roam in the day. They’re still
transitioning to nocturnal life from
being awake at all times to feed.
© NaturePL/ Martin H Smith; Klein & Hubert; Mark Taylor; Jane Burton
hedgehogs in your garden
should be fed bread and milk
Hedgehogs will happily eat it, but this
meal will make them very unwell
indeed. Bread has no nutritional
value for hedgehogs, and they are
unable to process lactose. If you
want to feed them, leave water and
cat food, chopped unsalted peanuts
or dried mealworms.
A hog’s life
Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t sleep all
winter. They still contract in response to potential threats
and can wake for a few days as frequently as after every
seven days of torpor. During these active days, hedgehogs
may leave their nest to look for extra food or to ind a
new site. It is believed to be common for an individual
to change nests every couple of months. Final arousal
from hibernation appears to be prompted by increasing
temperatures and daily light hours. Once they are fully
awake it’s a race to prepare for the next breeding season.
A poll by the Royal Society of Biology in 2016 conirmed
that the hedgehog remains the UK’s favourite mammal
by a vast lead. Yet despite this national love for these little
mammals their decline in the UK rivals the global decline in
tigers, and there are now feared to be fewer than 1 million
remaining, with an estimated decline since 2000 of onethird in urban areas and half in the countryside.
Natural causes of death include predation by foxes,
badgers and stoats and a failure to survive winter.
Hedgehogs are accident-prone and many are lost each
year through getting stuck, falling down holes, drowning
and wandering into electric fences. They’re also susceptible
to a range of diseases and conditions, including the bizarre
‘balloon syndrome’, where the whole body swells up,
leaving the legs stuck redundantly in the air.
Human activity appears to be adding to the plight of
the European hedgehog. It’s not the irst time they’ve
RIGHT Hedgehogs spend most of the winter months tucked
away while they hibernate, but come spring they’re out and
about looking for food and a mate
encountered human-made problems –
the Romans used their dried bodies to
prepare wool for spinning, and King
Henry VIII put a bounty on ‘vermin’ to
protect grain – but never have their
numbers been threatened to such a
degree. About 50,000 are killed on
the UK’s roads every year, and sadly
the only way many people have ever
seen a hedgehog is as a body by
the curb. Habitat loss from human
development is also playing a huge
part, with fewer places for hedgehogs
to hunt and shelter.
Hedgehogs are classiied in the UK
government’s Biodiversity Action Plan
as a priority species, and many charities
and trusts are working to conserve them.
The increasing popularity of wildlife-friendly
gardening means that more people are trying to
accommodate hedgehogs at home. Hope remains
for this prickly predator; a combined effort by
organisations and members of the general public could
prevent the loss of the UK’s favourite mammal.
How to build a hedgehog house
You can help to keep your local hedgehogs warm and cosy by building
them a hedgehog house. It’s really easy – here’s what to do:
You will need
A medium-sized plastic box
A crat or Stanley knife
Dry grass and/or leaf litter
1. Turn the box upside down
and cut a 15 x 15cm (5.9 x
5.9in) entrance in the front.
Cut narrow air vents in the two
sides. If you can ind tubing
large enough for a hedgehog,
this can be added as an
entrance tunnel.
4. Cover the home with soil
and dry leaves and pack down
for extra insulation. Leave your
new shelter undisturbed as
much as you can, but make
sure the entrance remains clear.
© Thinkstock; Abbi Castle
Straw and/or newspaper
Dead leaves, twigs and soil
3. Cover the box with a plastic
sheet or an opened plastic
bag. Position your hedgehog
home under a hedge or plants
if possible, ideally with the
entrance facing south.
Plastic sheeting or a plastic bag
2. Put bedding material inside
the box. If you are using leaf
litter, top it with grass or straw.
from all good
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Ben Cherry
How Ben Cherry captured the story of
elephants in an environment pressurised by
palm oil plantations
This image was taken on the banks of the
Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah
(in Borneo). This was my second time to Sabah,
having briely worked there on a university ield
course. I had explored much of Sabah but came
back to the Kinabatangan three times to try and
cover the story of the pygmy elephants as palm oil
plantations continue to pressurise the area. There
are lots of places to stay; I would recommend
one of the little homestays as the money will help
families in the region.
I spent three weeks there in total and it
was simply a day-by-day situation – I was
incredibly lucky to know which direction the
animals were travelling. Pygmy elephants are
forest-dwelling elephants that can be found in
large herds exceeding 80 individuals. Despite
being 2.5 metres [8.2 feet] tall they are surprisingly
stealthy as they move through the rainforest.
The occasional rumble or breaking branch is
often the only way they’re discovered, unless
they’ve come to drink from the river.
I knew the kind of images I needed to take
in order to form the story, but at the same
time it was about adjusting to the situation. I
really wanted an image that placed a pygmy
elephant within its natural environment. I
could then contrast that elephant against one
photographed in a palm oil plantation.
I set up the camera where I thought the
elephants might travel through. I had to set the
composition so it could it an elephant in as it
peered through the low foliage from a small
opening behind it. I like that there is one elephant
behind this one and that the foliage helps to break
up its shape, highlighting how quickly these gentle
giants disappear among the trees.
This image was taken using a radio trigger,
which allowed me to set up the camera and then
keep away as the herd naturally moved through
the area. It wasn’t particularly well camoulaged;
the elephant briely glanced at it for a moment
before carrying on.
Rainforests are very dificult places to keep
camera equipment working, from the savage heat
and humidity to periodic downpours. Thankfully
my kit survived the situation! The added bonus
of the camera I use [the Fujiilm X-T1] is that it
is very quiet, which means that it doesn’t startle
the elephants, clearly the last thing I want to
do. Leaving only footprints is the goal for any
work with wildlife. Obviously elephants are big,
potentially dangerous animals, so it was important
to give them a wide berth and to closely observe
the behaviour of the herd.
Ben Cherry
An environmental photojournalist and
Fujifilm X-Photographer, Ben is passionate
about raising conservation issues and tries
to tell stories through his shots to show
how we interact with nature.
Location: Kinabatangan River in the
Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo
Camera used: Fujifilm X-T1 with an XF
16mm f1.4 lens
Ben Cherry
Create a narrative
Here are Ben’s top tips for creating
images that will tell a story
Capture the animal within its
natural environment
Depicting an animal in its natural habitat is
increasingly one of the most important images to
try and capture. Showing an animal in its habitat
gives a sense of place and reasoning to preserve
an environment.
“This was taken using
ISO 1600, f.5, and
1/160sec. Rainforests
are generally very dark,
making it difficult to get
enough light to take a
photo, particularly with
a moving subject”
Try to tell a story
Conservation starts and stops with us. We need to
highlight problems such as conflict between the
palm oil industry and pygmy elephants, but also
remember the power of good news. Conservation
should be celebrated when it succeeds – there is
hope yet for the pygmy elephants.
© Ben Cherry
Look for some details
When putting together a multi-photo story, having
details or moments that help to shed some light
on animal behaviour are vital to help connect the
viewer with the animal.
Keeping in touch
We asked World of Animals
readers which animal has the
best camoulage:
“Leaf insects of course,
can’t even tell them
apart from the real
“A zebra when it’s
crossing the road”
“Snakes, no one sees
them coming!”
“We <3 snow
leopards who are
the best at hide
and seek”
“I absolutely love
giraffe camoulage.
Unique to each giraffe,
and so gorgeous too.”
Win a copy of the
magazine before it
goes on sale!
Get in touch and tell us which is your
favourite feature and why and you could be
a lucky winner!
Contact us at…
Superpower dogs update
As Halo is roughly halfway through her training, her handler Cat tells us about the amazing progress that Halo has made (even
when it comes to ignoring tennis balls!) and about what’s next for Halo’s progression into a fully-fledged superpower K9
Hi Cat! How is everything going with you and Halo?
Everything is going good – it’s been super hot here in Miami
so I haven't been out as much as far as training is concerned.
I’ve been out a few times and we’ve been doing some
distraction work with other dogs around, that kind of thing.
She’s been working really well and doing a really great job.
How is training progressing?
Because it’s been so hot, I’ve had her tired when I’ve asked
her to do things that I know are a little difficult for her, like
staying in that same spot for more than a couple minutes,
sitting and just relaxing with other dogs. It’s so far so good!
She’s doing really well and she did a really nice search the
other day.
Please can you tell us about the search?
It was blind for both of us, meaning I didn't know where the
person was and neither did Halo – somebody else set it up.
I released her and she did what she was supposed to do!
It was really nice to see – it was super hot, but she wasn't
tempted to lie down or distracted by the shade. She worked
through the whole thing and it didn't take her very long, but
I hadn't done a search with her like that in about a week so
it was really nice to see her jump straight back into it and
enjoy it.
Last issue we chatted about distractions. How is this
training going?
She’s getting it, she’s slowly understanding! Every dog is
different so I have to figure out what her threshold is and
Superpower Dogs is an
upcoming 3D live-action Imax
film unlike anything you’ve
ever seen. “Dogs are the most
extraordinary creatures,” says
George Duffield, one of the
film’s producers. “The super
dogs are the working dogs
– search and rescue dogs,
service dogs, avalanche dogs...
We’re making a movie about the Olympic heroes of the
dog world.” The movie and its accompanying exhibition
– in collaboration with the California Science Centre
– will reveal how dogs think and work. For more
information visit
then I can expand upon it. In her world tennis balls mean lots
of play at home, but there has to be that distinction between
that and when she's out there working and searching;
she has to leave them alone when she’s working. She’ll
eventually get it; all dogs do. My labradors had ball issues
where all they wanted to do was play, and even still a lot of
the dogs will pick up a tennis ball and continue to work with
the tennis ball in their mouth, which is quite funny.
Is it the same with other dogs?
The same thing – she wants to play and chase and be
social. I just have to be more exciting than the other dogs,
which is very difficult because it’s not like I can roll around
on the ground and play with her, although I have done that
before just to get her attention! But you just have to be more
rewarding that the other things around her. That way you can
keep her focus on the job at hand.
So what’s next?
I’m working towards the first in-house test, which includes a
five-minute down stay with me out of sight. So far I’ve done
about four and a half minutes with me in and out of sight in
short bursts. I also have to work on directionals in longer
distances. Directionals are exercises where she hops up on
the boxes in the shape of a diamond. The distance for the
test is 25 metres, but we are working at about eight to ten
metres, so I have to keep expanding that. It’s not a hard thing
to teach – the dogs get it really easy and quickly – it’s just not
my favourite thing to train. I’d rather spend my time on the
pile training her to search!
Animal antics
this month
Wildlife journeys
Reader John Boyle tell us about
discovering sunlounger lizards on a
beach trip to Bentota, Sri Lanka
Important news we’ve followed
this month. Email your stories to
Earlier this year we enjoyed a family
holiday at the beautiful beach resort
of Bentota on the southwest coast
of Sri Lanka. A huge bonus for me was
the abundance of wildlife that could
be found in the local area. I enjoyed
sightings of bee-eaters, sandpipers
and kites from the comfort of the hotel
sunlounger. Even more amazing than the
beautiful bird life was the wide variety of
reptiles that could be encountered and
photographed in the area.
There were small geckos and
colourful garden lizards around the hotel
and several young land monitors digging
for insects and crabs on the fringes of
the sandy beach. During a boat trip
along the local river we saw green vine
snakes, an adult mugger crocodile, a
green forest lizard and water monitors
[large lizards native to Southeast Asia]
basking on the riverbank.
Keeper killed by tiger
We were very sad to hear about
the tragic death of zookeeper
Rosa King at Hamerton Zoo in
Cambridgeshire, UK. Authorities
are investigating what the zoo is
calling a “freak accident” ater a
tiger entered the enclosure that
Rosa was working in.
Tell us
about one of your
wildlife holidays by
emailing your story and
photos to animals@
Reader photos
This lovely male bear is
showing of his face and
tongue by my hide
Punishment for
cow slaughter
A judge at the Rajasthan High
Court in India has called for
the sacred cow to be made
India’s national animal and the
punishment for slaughtering
them to be raised to life in
prison. The statement was
made during a case concerning
100 cows in a government-run
cowshed that died.
A male bear trudging
through the snow
close to my hide on the
Finland/Russia border
Scottish spider search
Thanks to Annie Hayes-Watkins for sending in these awesome photos of
bears and wolverines on the Finland/Russia border.
A wolverine posing in front
of my hide in Finland. I
managed to get a nice
photo of his face
We love hearing from readers,
whether it’s receiving letters,
emails, photos, drawings or even
feedback. Get in touch and you
could receive a free copy of the
magazine before it goes on sale!
© Thinkstock; Shutterstock; Danny Wilcox Frazier (VII)
A survey has been launched
to get the public involved in
looking for spider species
in Scotland. The Wildlife
Information Centre is on the
lookout for species including
the four-spotted orbweb, zebra
and nurseryweb spiders.
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The male Pacific
chorus frog uses
its song to attract
females and ward
off rivals
Send your animal questions to us at:
Can any
animals other
than birds sing?
While birds are best known for it, lots of
animals can sing. Several mammal, frog and
ish species sing in order to communicate
with others. Male mice seduce females by
singing so high that it can’t be heard by
humans – the mouse with the best pipes
has his pick of the ladies. Loved-up gibbons
sing loud duets to warn potential rivals to
stay off their territory.
Toadish males are a bit more laid-back,
producing a gentle hum to draw females
towards their nests. Joining them in the
underwater chorus, humpback whales and
orcas sing to communicate with each other
over great distances. Beluga whales have
been called ‘sea canaries’ because of their
birdlike vocalisations.
As well as claiming territory and
attracting mates, the Paciic chorus frog
also sings when the weather is about to
change. The song of this frog is often used
in ilms for a ‘tropical’ soundtrack.
What is animal imprinting?
Filial imprinting occurs when a newborn
animal recognises and forms an
attachment to a parent. It involves rapid
learning in a critical time period soon
ater birth, allowing young to stay with
their parent in a busy environment
and to learn behaviour from them. It’s
especially important in species like
ducks and geese, as their young are
precocial (relatively mobile soon ater
birth) and wandering of could prove
dangerous. Chicks can imprint on
something other than their parent –
including humans and inanimate objects
– if it’s the irst moving thing they see.
Sexual imprinting is the process by
which young animals learn their mate
preferences, oten with parents as a
model, but this can be afected if they do
not correctly imprint at birth.
Imprinting has been utilised for
conservation, as young migratory
birds born in captivity under the wings
of ultralight aircrat can be taught the
correct route ready for their release into
the wild later on in life.
Follow us at...
Animal answers
Crocodiles probably swallow
stones to keep themselves
balanced, not to make
themselves sink
Why do crocodiles
swallow stones?
How do fish breathe
The lungs of land-dwelling mammals
can’t cope with luid, but ish are
surrounded by it and have evolved an
alternative way of obtaining oxygen.
Fish have gills, which are feathery
organs full of blood vessels (capillaries)
located on either side of the body. As a
ish swims, it takes water in through its
mouth and then forces it out through
the gills. As it passes the walls of the
gills, oxygen dissolved in the water
transfers into the blood via the blood
vessels, thereby supplying their body.
Bony ish (most ish species) have a
series of bones called the operculum
that protects the gills and changes the
pressure as a ish opens and closes its
mouth to keep water lowing through
the respiratory system. Other ish, like
sharks and tuna, lack an operculum and
so must swim constantly to keep water
moving through their gills.
A swallowed stone is known as a gastrolith, and the process
of swallowing rocks is seen in ostriches, domestic fowl, seals
and even axolotl. Every member of the order Crocodilia creates
gastroliths, from the small caiman to the massive alligator. It’s
thought that these stones can help to crush food in the animal’s
stomach (where they can remain for years), especially prey with
tough bones and shells or prey swallowed whole. It has been
suggested that crocodiles also swallow rocks to keep their
bodies further underwater, but the weight of gastroliths has
been found to be insufficient for this. Instead, scientists think they
might help the animals to stabilise so they are less likely to roll.
Once a new bird has developed and is ready to
hatch it must tackle the surprisingly tough egg it
is encased in. This process can take minutes or
days, with the chick breaking through the shell and
widening the hole until it can it through. The chicks
of most bird species have an egg tooth: a bump at
the tip of their beak to help break the shell as their
claws and beaks are not strong enough. The egg
tooth soon falls off or wears away. Once the chick is
free of the egg, a parent may discard the
shell to avoid attracting predators, or
the female may eat it to recover
some of the nutrients she has
spent producing her young.
© Peter Pearsall/USFWS; Thinkstock; Dreamstime
How do bird
eggs hatch?
Thousands of blood
vessels in their gills
allow fish to take
oxygen from the water
BELOW Originating
from the Marans region
of France, Marans
chickens lay 150-200
eggs per year
Q.Can cats smell
with their mouths?
Find out at…
Curved spiny spider
Gasteracantha arcuata
Class Arachnida
Territory Southeast Asia
diet Insects such as beetles,
moths, mosquitoes and lies
Lifespan Unknown
Adult weight <1g (0.04oz)
Conservation status
The armoured
arachnid with terrible
table manners
It’s brightly coloured and spins beautiful webs, but there’s
nothing pretty about what the curved spiny spider does
when its creation catches an unsuspecting insect
These spiders
have spines
When you’re small and potentially tasty,
it’s important to be defended. The curved
spiny spider has three pairs of spines on
its abdomen, with one pair extremely
elongated. This armour deters many
predators as they look like thorns and
make the spiders hard to handle. In this
species it’s only the females who possess
these impressive spines.
They belong to an Birds could
enormous family cost them
© Chien Lee/Minden Pictures/FLPA
The curved spiny spider and other orb
weavers belong to the family Araneidae,
the third largest arachnid family. This
huge group contains over 3,000
species – that’s nearly seven per cent of
known spiders – and is thought to have
originated in the Jurassic era. They’re a
variable bunch, from the barn spider of
Charlotte’s Web to the spiny spiders.
Webs are built at the ideal height
to catch lying insects, but this can
often mean they’re in the light
path of birds. If a bird lew into a
web it would destroy it, leaving
the spider homeless and hungry.
Some orb weavers add tufts of
silk to their webs, thought to alert
birds and avoid a costly collision.
They’re the
They have a
architects behind gruesome way
the classic web
of eating
This spider and its relatives produce the
lat, wheel-like webs seen in gardens and
forests. The web’s spokes are used as
pathways for the spider, while the circular
strands are sticky and turn insects into
helpless prey. Spiders wait in the centre
for their trap to do its work, then inspect
the victim before eating it.
Orb weavers bite insects to immobilise
them, then vomit digestive luid onto
them to soften the body. Like other
spiders, they suck out the liqueied
insides, but they are also able to chew
their prey with jaw-like appendages
(chelicerae), which is an unusual ability
among this type of arachnid.
from all good
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