Adopt an Animal - News

Record Number Of Rhinos Poached Last Year

Record Number Of Rhinos Poached Last Year

In 2014, 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa setting a new record and representing an increase of 21 per cent over the previous year. To add insult to injury, over two-thirds were killed in the famed Kruger National Park. Over the last few years new records have continuously been set as a result of demand for rhino horns from countries such as Vietnam and China where there is a belief the horns have medicinal properties. As a result the market is very lucrative and has attracted criminal gangs who make use of sophisticated technology to kill their prey.

Rhinos have been moved

Edna Molewa the environment minister for South Africa says over 100 rhinos have been shifted to locations that are more secure including some neighbouring countries in order to make sure the animals remain protected. Ms. Molewa says it is hoped that this method will result in the creation of rhino strongholds where the species can be reproduced cost effectively.

Number of rhinos being poached worrying

Despite the relocation programme being successful, Ms. Molewa says the number of rhinos being killed every year remains worryingly high. She adds that conservation efforts were being undermined by the organised transnational illicit trade in rhino horn. As a result her agency wants to ensure it works with all stake holders in bolstering the measures that have been adopted. Conservationists say the challenge they face to protect these animals from poachers is extreme because they equip themselves with sophisticated tools such as long range rifles and night vision goggles.

“Killing on this scale shows how rhino poaching is being increasingly undertaken by organised criminal syndicates. The country’s brave rangers are doing all they can to protect the rhinos but only a concerted global effort can stop this illegal trade. This includes South Africa scaling up its efforts to stop the poaching and Vietnam taking urgent measures to reduce consumer demand.” said Dr Carlos Drews, WWF’s director of global species programme.

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Zimbabwe Undertakes Controversial Plan To Export Baby Elephants

Zimbabwe Undertakes Controversial Plan To Export Baby Elephants

Wildlife officials in Zimbabwe say they intend to export as many as 62 baby elephants in order to raise finance for the country’s national parks, where poachers pose a threat to the species as a whole. Despite that fact, animal activists have been very vocal with their disapproval and say they want to know what is really going on.

Elephants at risk from poachers

The valuable trade in ivory has meant that African elephants have been poached for their tusks which of course has resulted in a contracting population. State parks in Zimbabwe have very limited funding from the government which means there are not enough patrols by game rangers which leaves these magnificent animals very vulnerable to illegal poachers. In 2014 at least 300 elephants were killed in Hwange National Park after their watering holes were poisoned with cyanide by poachers.

Export of baby elephants to start soon.

Jerry Gotora who is chairman of Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority and parks says he expects exports to start in the first quarter of this year as officials decide which destination the baby elephants should be sent to. In an interview with a news agency he said buyers from the United Arab Emirates wanted 15 elephants, French buyers expressed interest in 15 to 20 whilst Chinese buyers wanted 27 elephants.

“We have 80,000 elephants against a carrying capacity of 42,000 and this is not sustainable in the long run,” Mr. Gotora said.

Animal rights activists say plan is cruel

Despite the good intentions behind Zimbabwe’s plan, many animal rights activists say the capture of baby elephants endangers their lives and is cruel. Elephants tend to live in tight social matriarchal groups and babies are entirely dependent on their mother’s milk until they reach five years old. This means that separating them from their mother even when the interests of the whole population are being considered means it is extremely likely that the babies will not survive.

“We are trying to speak to those who we believe brokered the deal and check on the welfare of the captured animals,” Ed Lanca, ZNSPCA’s (Zimbabwe’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chairman said.

Officials say the plan is necessary

Mr. Gotora responded by saying the exports of these animals are both safe and necessary and there is nothing unusual about it. The main reason for the sale is because the country wants to ensure there is sustainable use of natural resources.

“All those making noise about it are people who do not want Zimbabwe to benefit from its resources,” he added.

Baby Elephant Walk by Saumil Shah, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Dolphins Have The Longest Memories In The Animal Kingdom

Dolphins Have The Longest Memories In The Animal Kingdom

Move over elephants, it would seem the dolphin has the best memory in the animal kingdom according to the latest research. New experiments suggest the bottlenose dolphin has the ability to remember the whistles of other dolphins they have encountered or lived with even after they have been separated for over 20 years. Each dolphin is identified by a unique whistle which acts just like a name, enabling these marine mammals to maintain strong social bonds.

Remembered by a dog

This new research has conclusively found that dolphins have the longest memory of any species of animals apart from humans. Chimpanzees and elephants also present with similar memory abilities though these have yet to be tested according to Dr. Jason Bruck of the University of Chicago. Dr. Bruck had the idea to study the memory of animals when he was remembered and greeted by his brother’s dog after a four year absence.

Lots of data on dolphins

Dr. Bruck decided to study dolphin behaviour because they have extremely tight social bonds which are very important and there are excellent records for captive dolphins (rather than wild dolphins). He collected data from six facilities and 43 bottlenose dolphins throughout the U.S. and Bermuda. These facilities formed a breeding consortium that have been swapping dolphins for decades and kept meticulous records of each dolphin’s social partners.

Dolphins remember their companions

Dr. Bruck began by playing recordings of a number of unfamiliar whistles to the dolphins that were participating in the study. The dolphins eventually got bored and stopped checking out the underwater speaker that was making the sounds. At that point Dr. Bruck started to play the sounds of dolphins the subjects of the study were familiar with. When the dolphins heard these sounds they would perk up and approach the speakers, and in most cases they would whistle their own name in the hope of a response. In general the dolphins under study tended to respond more to the sounds of animals they had known decades ago than to animals that were picked randomly, which suggests they did indeed recognise their previous companions.

Memory Linked to Smarts?

It is still not known why a dolphin with a lifespan in the wild of 20 years would need long term memory. Some people theorise that it may be due to having to maintain relationships because over time, groups of dolphins tend to break up and reorganise themselves into new alliances. This type of social system is known as “fission-fusion” and is also seen in both chimpanzees and elephants which are also both social and highly intelligent species.

5 dolphins_Save_these_beautiful_creatures by Jay Ebberly, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Diving Can Be Dangerous For Marine Mammals

Diving Can Be Dangerous For Marine Mammals

The Weddell seal has the ability to dive up to 2,000 feet below the surface of the sea. This is astonishing because at that depth, even most submarines would be crushed. Even more impressive is these seals can hold their breaths for up to 45 minutes in the icy waters of Antarctica, but the big question is whether there is any cost in doing so. A new study suggests that the mechanism which allows marine mammals to dive so deeply may in fact not be good for their hearts.

Heart rate slows down and then speeds up

When either a terrestrial or marine mammal dives, they experience a reduction in the heart rate which is known as bradycardia. The slowdown in the heart rate allows the diver to conserve oxygen whilst they are holding their breath. There are some marine mammals such as seals and dolphins which go on extended dives in search of food. This means they must find and chase their prey, all on a single breath. They must do all of that whilst enduring hydrostatic pressure which can be intense. The sheer physical exertion of this kind of activity produces what is known as tachycardia or a sharp increase in heart rate and until very recently it was not known how these marine mammals were able to deal with such dramatic cardiovascular disparity. The results of the study suggest they do not cope well with it at all.

Marine mammals suffer from irregular heartbeats

The researchers led by Dr. Terrie Williams assessed the diving behaviours of both Weddell seals and bottlenose dolphins. The team fitted these animals with specialised equipment which enabled them to measure both depth and heart rates on over 165 separate dives. In 73 per cent of all dives the animals suffered from an irregular heartbeat known as cardiac arrhythmia.

The two conditions work against each other

The results of the study suggest that the alteration between a slow and fast heart rate produces the erratic cardiac condition. Bradycardia and tachycardia work against one another it would seem though it is not clear what the effects of arrhythmia on the hearts of marine mammals are. Dr. Williams is hoping her work will inspire more research to that end.

“This paper is introducing people to the fact that we have some sort of ancestral baggage that seems to exist in these mammals. That dive response that we thought was such a great safety mechanism for marine mammals isn’t perfect.” Dr. Williams said.

Evolution is not perfect

Cetaceans such as dolphins and whales share a land dwelling ancestor that is common to both. Evolution however is far from being a perfect system in the sense that it does not create attributes from scratch but instead compromises between existing traits. For marine mammals this has resulted in two contradictory impulses which cannot be reconciled – to slow the heart when diving and to speed it up when exercising.

“The more we got into this, the more we realized that there are so many signals going to the mammalian heart, and as we started to look at this in detail for marine mammals, we noticed that the heart looks like the same heart you would see in a mountain lion. These animals are working with the same cardiovascular system, just packaged in marine mammal form. So maybe living in the ocean is asking an awful lot from that system.” Dr. Williams adds.

Seal by Jackie Bamber, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Bowhead Whale Has 200 Year Lifespan

Bowhead Whale Has 200 Year Lifespan

The bowhead whale has the longest life span of all Earth’s mammals and can live for over 200 years according to the results of a new study. With scant evidence of disease as a result of its age, researchers hope the longevity of the whale can offer some insight into how humans can live longer and healthier lives. The findings of the study were published recently in the journal Cell Reports.

Bowhead’s don’t get cancer

Scientists from the University of Liverpool sequenced the bowhead whale’s genome and then compared the results with those of mammals with shorter life spans. It would seem the bowhead whale has some important genetic differences that are unique to its species. One example of this pertains to cancer, DNA repair and cell division. It appears the process of aging might actually help increase its lifespan by ensuring the species avoids contracting diseases that usually occur with old age.

“Our understanding of species’ differences in longevity is very poor, and thus our findings provide novel candidate genes for future studies. My view is that species evolved different ‘tricks’ to have a longer lifespan, and by discovering the ‘tricks’ used by the bowhead we may be able to apply those findings to humans in order to fight age-related diseases.” senior author Dr. João Pedro de Magalhães said in a press release.

Whales have a huge number of cells

One important fact that should be considered is that larger whales such as the bowhead, have over 1,000 times the number of cells of humans and scientists believe that this is a natural defence against the onset of cancer in such species. Additionally whale cells have a much slower metabolic rate when compared to mammals that are a lot smaller. It is hoped that we will eventually learn how the bowhead whale avoids cancer which could have significant impact for treatment in humans.

The bowhead is the second heaviest mammal

The bowhead whale is closely related to the right whale and like that species, the bowhead is a slow moving filter feeder that consumes zooplankton such as mysids, euphausiids and copepods according to the NOAA. Aside from being the longest living mammal on the planet with a 200 year lifespan, they are also one of the heaviest mammals as well, weighing in at 100 tons which is second only to the blue whale. Bowhead whales can typically be bound in the Arctic and it is estimated that there are between 7,000 to 10,000 bowhead’s alive today.

Bowhead Whales (Tim Melling) by Naturetrek Wildlife Holidays, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Rare Albino Dolphin Spotted Off The Coast Of Florida

Rare Albino Dolphin Spotted Off The Coast Of Florida

According to recent reports, a rare albino dolphin was seen in waters off the coast of Florida. If the reports are to be believed, this would be the first time in nearly fifty years an albino dolphin has been spotted. According to biologists, albinism has been confirmed in 20 species of porpoises, dolphins and whales and there have been only 14 previous sightings of an albino bottlenose dolphin.

The dolphin was spotted last month

Daniel Carter who volunteers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shot video footage of the latest sighting last month of the East coast of Florida, in an estuary. An FWC spokesperson said they felt it was worth sharing the video because of how rare the occurrence was, however for the sake of the safety of the animal, they declined to specify its exact location.

Snow white dolphin

Mr. Carter shot a two minute long video showing a bottlenose dolphin that was snow white, surfacing on multiple occasions near a shoreline of mangroves. The best views of the dolphin can be seen towards the end of the video. Albino marine mammals tend to become famous for their fair complexion. One species in particular that is famous for this is the mythological pink river dolphins of Brazil.

Albinism is extremely rare

Albinism is very rare and occurs when recessive genes are passed down from both parents. Whilst most people associate albinism in dolphins with pure white colouring, in actual fact they tend to have a pinkish hue colour, though the very latest sighting appears to be strikingly white. Albinism is also characterised with impaired vision and red eye colouring.

The trait makes animals vulnerable to predation

Because albinism in dolphins is so rare, there has been very little study and researchers are still unsure whether there are any other negative health effects. Greg Bossart, a veterinary pathologist says there is not enough clinical data to suggest whether they are healthy. He adds that it is probably not an adaptive trait because for obvious reasons in the wild, it would make animals more vulnerable to predation.

Pink_Dolphins_2 by Travis, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Weddell Seals May Use Earth’s Magnetic Field As GPS

Weddell Seals May Use Earth’s Magnetic Field As GPS

Antarctic seals whilst hunting, may make use of the Earth’s magnetic field which functions as a kind of natural GPS according to the results of a new study. Weddell seals are uniquely adapted biologically speaking to deep dive whilst hunting, but they also have an amazing ability to locate the breathing holes they need on the ice surface. Scientists have been perplexed by this amazing ability and have sought to find some answers.

First marine mammal with natural GPS

Scientists researching these seals believe they are able to achieve this feat by using the magnetic field of the Earth as a Global Positioning System, which if true would represent the first evidence of such ability in a mammal that spends most of its time in the ocean. Terrie Williams and Randall Davis of the University of California Santa Cruz have been studying how Weddell seals behave for decades along with another colleague Lee Fuiman of the University of Texas.

The theory dates back to the 90’s

The hypothesis that these seals have the ability to track magnetic lines originates as far back as the 1990’s, when the researchers first began working together in Antarctica. Dr Fuiman says he was surprised by data produced from the onset of their study which showed the seals returning to the same dive holes with amazing precision, time and time again. This prompted the team to start thinking about what causes the phenomenon.

The data is still not conclusive

The researchers say that whilst the behaviour from drive profiles is very intriguing, the data is far from conclusive. The researchers will continue to study Weddell seals to determine whether the seals, like homing pigeons, make use of magnetic lines to make their way back home. For the next three years, the team will work with a handful of Weddell seals. All the seals that are being studied will be kitted out with a video and data recorder. The seals will then be released into three different areas in McMurdo Sound over the course of couple of weeks.

The theory will be put to the test

The area was chosen because the researchers have already precisely mapped the magnetic field. The research team is expecting there to be changes in behaviour when the seals are in a different magnetic field. The researchers will then compare the dive profiles of the video and data recorders with the magnetic anomaly maps of McMurdo Sound which they believe should provide some answers. If the theory turns out to be correct, it will be truly astonishing.

fish8459 by NOAA Photo Library, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Rare Elephant Twins Born At South African Game Reserve

Rare Elephant Twins Born At South African Game Reserve

Last month an elephant in South Africa named Curve and aged 31 delivered a set of twins at the Pongola Game Reserve. The birth left conservationists and experts amazed because they say elephant twins are an incredibly rare occurrence. Scientists at the Kruger National Park say that twins occur in less than 1 per cent of elephant births.

The twins gender has yet to be determined

Whilst twin elephant births are indeed rare, typically one of the twins will fail to survive into adulthood. This means conservationists at Pongola are keeping a constant watch on Curve and her cute little offspring to see how they are doing. The experts are making sure Curve has her space though, because they want to ensure there is no unnecessary stress on the animals and as a result, they have been unable to determine the sex of the twins.

“This is the best approach, mortality of one of the twins usually occurs as the increasing demand for milk by two calves cannot be met by the mother, and the less dominant of the two calves usually cannot gain access to its share.” Dr. Ian Whyte said in a news release.

Some twins do survive

However Dr. White went on to add that in Kruger National Park, there was a famous matriarch named MaMerle who delivered a set of twins back in 2002, both of which managed to survive into adulthood. Even more amazing is the fact that the same elephant delivered a second set of twins just four years later, with both twins surviving for more than a year. Twins also face threats from predators such as hyenas and lions.

Curve gets her name from the shape of her tusks

Curve gets her name because of the curved shape of her tusks and has delivered three other baby elephants in the past, all of whom were male. The twins father however is believed to be a 44 year old bull that passed away in 2013. Elephants have a gestation period that last for 22 months so it is quite feasible that this was the case in the event you were wondering.

Pongola has never lost an animal to poachers

Pongola Game Reserve is located in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. Whilst elephant poaching is a rampant problem across Sub Saharan Africa, Pongola is heavily guarded and regularly patrolled and according to the reserve’s marketing manager Donoven Gloy, the reserve has an admirable record of never having lost an animal to poachers.

Out for a stroll. by hyper7pro, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Why Do Cats Purr?

Why Do Cats Purr?

The results of a new study has revealed the changes to the genome of felines that cause kitty cats to purr for treats and snuggle up to their human owners. Genetic changes have reduced the cat’s fear of new situations and altered their motivation to actively seek out rewards according to Dr. Wesley Warren, the co-author of the study. The relationship between humans and cats is an old one, with some studies suggesting the cat was first domesticated approximately 9,000 years ago in the Middle East. Other studies reckon the cat was first domesticated 5,000 years ago in China. Whichever theory you believe, what everyone can agree on is cats and humans go way back.

Domestication is quite rare

Whilst it might seem quite normal to have a relationship with your tabby, the fact of the matter is that in the animal world, domestication of animals is actually quite rare. There are only a handful of animals that have been domesticated such as the dog, cow, horse, chicken, sheep, goat and pig, and scientists were completely in the dark when it came to which genes are responsible for domestication.

Cats have genes linked to fear and motivation

Scientists sequenced the genome of an Abyssinian cat back in 2007 in an attempt to find out which genes were responsible for domestication. Unfortunately they did not manage to complete the analysis so they were not able to say very much about which genes underpin the process. Dr. Warren and his team did a secondary sequence of the same cat’s genome and also sequenced the genomes of a number of other domestic cats and a couple of species of wildcat. They then compared the results with the tiger genome, the dog genome and the genomes of a few other animals. What they found was that domestic cats have genes which are strongly linked to fear and motivation, both of which have evolved over time and resulted in cats becoming less fearful and more driven by rewards Dr. Warren said.

The difference between cats and dogs

In comparison to cats, dogs have lots more copies of genes for smell receptors which is probably the reason why they have such an amazing sense of smell. Felines (both big and small) have strongly selected genes for keen hearing and night vision which goes a long way to explaining why the species are such expert hunters Dr. Warren added. The study is still a inconclusive because it identifies only large gene regions that have been altered in the domestic cat and it is not obvious exactly how those genes are regulated or what those genes do. In order to be able to understand that, researchers will need to focus on very specific gene regions and study animals that have different versions of the genes and come to an understanding of their behavioural effects. So whilst we now have an idea of why the cat purrs, it is still only a general one.

Cat by Isabelle Puaut, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

The Intricate Mating Dance Of The Flamingo

The Intricate Mating Dance Of The Flamingo

Thanks to its distinctive feathers, the flamingo is one of the most recognisable birds in the world. Flamingo feathers range from bright red to light pink which lends a certain sense of flamboyance to the species in general. However did you know the mating habits of these birds are just as flashy as their looks? In fact the mating ritual of the flamingo is almost as elaborate as the human mating ritual, well not quite, but you get the picture.

Where flamingos live

There are six species of flamingo in the wild today, four can be found in South America whilst the other two live in India, the Middle East and Africa. Flamingos don’t have a designated season for mating and instead tend to breed when food availability and water levels in the wetlands are just right according to Dr. Juan Amat an ornithologist. Flamingos are a very sociable species living in huge colonies that number thousands of birds. However when the conditions are right for mating, the entire colony does not commence with courtship rituals simultaneously. Instead Dr. Amat says the flamingos tend to display in groups which number anywhere between ten to hundreds of individuals.

Mating involves an elaborate dance

In order to attract a mate, both females and males engage in elaborate group dances which are made up of a number of different moves. The mating display typically starts off with the “head flag” where the flamingo makes a series of loud calls and waves its head back and forth. The next move is called the “wing salute” and the dancers stretch out their necks and display their back flight feathers by spreading their wings. This is then followed by the “inverted wing salute” where the flamingo angles its tail upwards and its head downwards which enables their black flight feathers to point upwards.

Nobody knows how flamingos choose their mates

It is not obvious whether the dance performance even matters because nobody really knows how flamingos choose their mates. Dr. Amat says the choice of mate has so far not been studied in detail, though he thinks that the colour of plumage is probably an important factor in choice of mate. In fact a recent study undertaken by Dr Amat and his colleagues found that in order to attract mates during breeding time, flamingos actually apply make-up.

Flamingos apply make up

The vibrant colour of the flamingo feather comes from carotenoids which are a type of pigmented compound that are obtained from small invertebrates and algae that flamingos like to eat. And just like other species of birds, the flamingo’s tail has glands that produce an oily substance rich in these carotenoids which they spread onto their wings. During mating season flamingos ramp up the application of this oil and as soon as the chicks have hatched the birds stop applying their make-up and their wings quickly lose their bright colours.

Monogamous during breeding season

During the breeding season, flamingos tend to be monogamous with mating pairs remaining with one another helping to build nests and incubate eggs. However most adult flamingos tend to look for new mates every year. Despite the fact that flamingos don’t mate for life, which is the case for most species on the planet,  it is unusual for both the male and female of the species to be involved in making sure the eggs are incubated. There is still a lot we don'[t know about the flamingo and hopefully with further study scientists may be able to reveal more of  this amazing species mysteries.

Pink Flamingos by Scott, on Flickr

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Next Page »