Saturday, 27 October 2012

Where it all began and the plight of the Amur Leopard.

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest blog. I hope you all had a good week and are enjoying the weekend even if the temperatures have noticeably dropped! This week I look back on where my fascination of the natural world began as well as taking a look at the struggles of a species of particular fondness to myself, the Amur Leopard, as always I hope you enjoy reading about it.

In the Beginning.
It's hard looking back to remember exactly what triggered my fascination with the beauty of the natural world, all I know is from a very young age if it walked, crawled, flew or swam I was fascinated by it. On top of this I had an obsession for fossils in particular those of Dinosaurs (an interest which has yet to leave me and doubt it ever will). However as finding real fossils was a highly unrealistic aim for a child of my age, I instead took great delight in trips to the Natural History Museum and other scientific establishments, which gave me an opportunity to get up close to some quite unbelievable sights. These trips often ended in a trip to the gift shop and this would be another highlight of my day as I could often be seen clutching proudly a new model dinosaur.
Birds played the biggest part however in engaging me in the natural world and, at the age of six one Christmas I was presented with a bird table which provided years of happiness as various species ranging from the ever reliable robins, starlings and various members of the finch such as the green and tit family’s such as the blue came to visit. Occasionally rarer species such as the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker or Goldcrest would come to visit the garden and if we were lucky land and feed on the bird table prompting scenes of excitement in the house as everyone strained for a better view. Sadly however frequent battering from the weather and the less than subtle Rooks and other larger bird species which persisted on landing on the bird table to feed despite their struggles to balance properly meant that eventually my bird table needed to be replaced, but I will always remember those early days and forever be thankful for that bird table and the happiness it brought to all.
As I have grown older I have continued to grow though phases of being almost obsessive in my fascination for particular groups of species. As previously mentioned dinosaurs and birds in general (later specifically becoming birds of prey) were the early stages of my appreciation and understanding of the species we share the planet with. Later just some of the groups of animals, which particulary caught my imagination, included: snakes (in particular venomous), sharks, big cats and large herbivores. Of course my appreciation for the entire natural world would never diminish and as I did then I still get as much enjoyment reading about or watching any animal however big or small they may be.
Of course world famous and hugely inspirational figures also played a huge role in  my education and understanding of what surrounds us. Sir David Attenborough doubtless an inspiration to everyone involved in working in the natural world and even those who are not was and still is a regular on the television screen in our household as were other figures such as Jonathan Scott and Simon King two of the main presenters to one of my favourite programmes growing up Big Cat Diary. Steve Irwin was another who despite his sometimes controversial methods behaviour did a huge amount in educating people about animals they may other wise not get to see and as a result never get to properly understand. He also did marvellous work in educating the public and helping ease their fears about potentially dangerous animals and as a result his programmes were always looked forward to.
It was television, which provided my brother and myself with a brief moment in the media spotlight. We took part in a starling survey organised by Blue Peter and sent out results in thinking nothing more of it apart from playing a small part in some important research. A couple of weeks later a message left on our answer phone asked for a picture of each of us to be sent in. We were then sent a Blue Peter badge and a signed photo of the presenters while our picture briefly aired on screen to millions of people as reward for taking part in the survey!
As I have grown older I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to become more and more involved in conservation as well as being given the chance to study something I love. I have been fortunate enough to visit the beautiful country of South Africa (which I am returning to next year) as well as now studying a Bsc in Applied Zoology. When I look back I have a lot to be grateful for, the huge box of plastic animals may no longer take pride of place in my room, but they still remain in the house and serve as a reminder of the patience shown from my family, as I insisted on visiting the same places time and time again and picking up a collectible along the way! One thing I know for certain my love for the natural world will never leave me.

I always loved spending time here!,r:3,s:0,i:146&tx=71&ty=33

                                               The Struggle of the Amur Leopard.

The Amur Leopard is on the brink of extinction. I can't think of a way it can be put any differently that will make it's situation sound any less desperate. With an estimated 35 individuals left in the wild and most of these found in a 5,000 sq Kilometer area between the Vladivostok and the Chinese border with a few individuals living in the Jilin and Heiongjiang provinces of NE China with the possibility of a small number also living in North Korea. It makes me very sad to think how their situation has been allowed to get so bad. It is little wonder they are the most endangered big cat in the world.
The threats that face these beautiful cats are sadly similar threats, which threaten so many species all over the globe. Loss of habitat due to deforestation, forest fire and the increased demand in areas for agriculture mean their natural habitat has been seriously diminished.  Their natural prey species such as Sika Deer being over hunted forces them to turn to other prey sources, and if they are in short supply brings them into conflict with people in search of livestock, which inevitably, ends poorly for the Amur Leopard more often than not. The threat, which makes my blood boil the most, however is the persecution of these animals for their magnificent fur coats and their bones for tradiitonal Asian medicines.
Through WWF however efforts are being made to try and save this charismatic species before we lose them forever resigning yet another animal to the history books never to be seen by future generations.
   By working with groups of people such as regional authorities, the goverment and local communities in       the small area of remaining prime Amur Leopard habitat of the Amur - Heilong region, valauble work such as attempting to replenish numbers of suitable prey animals, increasing protected areas and clamping down harder on illegal logging. And this leads me to why these beautiful animals have such personal importance to myself. Over the last 18 months, I have had the priveledge of knowing that somewhere out there is an Amur Leopard I have adopted. I recieve regular updates about how "my " Leopard is doing as well as general news on the progress WWF are making in their conservation efforts. It feels great to know in some small way I am helping to contribute towards their plight improving. Let's just hope one day we can all look back and say what a fantastic success story! Here is the link if anyone would like to know more or is interested in adopting :)

Amur leopard
A truly beautiful animal. Image taken from WWF

That's it for this week everybody I hope you enjoyed it, enjoy what is left of the weekend and I will be back next week,
all the best George.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Photographers, endangered animals, and a little from myself.

Photographers, endangered animals and a little from myself

Hello and welcome to my latest blog. What a week! I can't remember having a week as busy as the one just passed for quite some time. I hope you all have been having a good week yourselves and are now enjoying the weekend.


I start my blog off this week by pointing you towards the amazing work of some highly talented photographers who entered and were subsequently recognised and rewarded for their work when the final judging took place in the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.. A mention should go to Matthew Button for bringing this article to my attention, so please take the time to appreciate these exceptionally talented photographers work.

Endangered Animals Part 2: Four - toed Terrapin Batagur baska


The Four -toed Terrapin is classified as critically endangered and thirty ninth overall in the hundred most endangered species on the planet by the IUCN and the Zoological Society of London. This species of Terrapin are separated from all other species of Terrapin as a result of having four rather than five claws on the forelimb, hence the name Four-toed Terrapin. The Terrapin prefers estuaries and coastal habitats, feeding on aquatic plants and animals such as clams. The distribution of the species is known to include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia, India and Indonesia. It has been declared extinct in Viet Nam, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

Numerous threats mean the future of the species is bleak. These include harvesting of eggs, pollution, accidental deaths caused by power boats, loss of Mangrove Forest, loss of suitable nesting beaches and the decline in food supplies. One of the main actions taken to protect the Four -toed Terrapin was to include it in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This is the main law put in place to protect rare species in India.
The future looks bleak however unless more is done to protect them from habitat loss, human predation and all the other threats they face unsurprisingly most of these are man made problems.

 Information for this section was found for the following links.

Image copyrights: Asian Turtle Conservation Network

Finally from myself, did anyone here about this recently?   What a turnaround for an animal that for long periods of time has been feared by people, as it now comes to light  could provide a huge amount of medical benefit to people. I believe that any species that faces problems should be properly looked after and conserved and with this new possiblity coming to light it can only help their cause.
That's it from me have a good week and I will be back next Friday with my latest blog,




Friday, 12 October 2012

Endangered Species Part 1.

                                                                   Endangered Species Part 1.
Hello everybody and welcome, to my latest blog. This week signals the start to a section which will highlight the plight of an endangered animal.  This week takes a detailed look at the struggle to survive for the Angel Shark, I really hope you enjoy it. 

                                                        Angel Shark Squatina squatina

This bottom dwelling species of shark is currently ranked the ninety fourth most endangered species in the world according to the IUCN and the Zoological Society of London. This bottom dwelling species of shark belongs to the family Squatinidae. Its diet as a involves a lot of crustaceans and molluscs but will also take fish, eelgrass and even sea birds have been recorded. The Angel Shark is oviviviparous meaning they give birth to live young and can at any one time produce up to twenty five offspring. The Angel Shark is largely nocturnal and rests torpid during the daytime on the sea bottom.

Over the past 50 years, the population of the Angel Shark has diminished at an alarming rate, so much so in fact that it has been now been declared extinct in the North Sea, and its population had been severely damaged in huge areas of the Northern Mediterranean The overall population throughout the rest of its original range is also severely depleted, the only possible exception to this is thought to be in the Southern Mediterranean and Canary Islands where further study’s need to take place to establish a better understanding of their population in this area.

One of the most prominent and devastating threats to Angel Sharks comes as a direct result of their lifestyle. Being a bottom feeding species, means it’s highly likely to be caught as by catch in trawls, trammel nets and bottom long lines. Human interference through tourism and habitat loss to its preferred habitat of sandy close to shore habitat.

So what protection has the Angel Shark been granted? The Angel shark has been given protection in three marine reserves in the Balearic Islands as a result of this fishing for the whole genus of Squinata has now been banned. In 2010 the Angel Shark, was listed under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act. This means they are protected from either killing, injuring or taking onto land as well as being protected from up to three nautical miles from the English Coastal baseline. The Angel Shark is also listed on the Annex 111 of the Barcelona Convention.

But the despite this the future for this beautiful shark looks bleak and it is of no surprise to find them under the category of Critically Endangered. Unless more steps are taken to save this species we may one day be reduced to looking at pictures of them in a history book resigned to the same thought we have certainly had for many other now extinct species, "we could have done more".
Facts taken from this blog came from

Angel Shark Squatina squatina

And here's another sobering article I

Thats all for this week everyone, I hope you have a good weekend and I will be back next Friday with my latest installment.

Friday, 5 October 2012

The plight of the Slow Loris and some exciting news.

                                   The plight of the Slow Loris and some exciting news.

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest log, and this time thanks to my good friend Matt Ward I am able to bring you a detailed and interesting report on the plight of the Slow Loris which Matt recently spent time helping with highly important, rewarding and at times challenging research into better preserving these fascinating Prosimians.

The Little Fireface Project, Lethal Lorises. ( Written by Matt Ward)

In the face of encroaching human presence, habitat destruction and illegal trade the Javan Slow Loris (nycticebus Javanicus) is ever declining and facing extinction in the wild. This species is very cute and unfortunately for it has been the star of many You Tube videos but it is also a very interesting animal crucial to its environment. A member of the prosimian order of primate’s lorises are a SE Asian family that include several species of Indonesian Slow lorises, Slender loris, Bengal loris and Pygmy slow loris. The slow loris has a varied diet including fruit, leaves, nectar, small insects, gum (sap-not gummy bears), frogs and occasional mammals. One of the aspects that make these animals so special is that this diet may vary widely depending on location and even individual differences. Over observations some animals were seen to feed almost entirely on nectar of the Kaliandre flower where as others would carve out grooves in specific tree species to access high sugar gum. These animals are also very unusual in mammalian circles because they are one of the few Venomous mammals. The venom itself is very strange as it is a combination of compounds that come from a gland secretion on the upper arm mixed with its saliva. Upon this mix the new material is toxic both upon ingestion (poisonous) and through the bite of the individual (venomous). There are several theories as to the reasons for the venom and this one of the major driving points behind the ongoing field study on them in West Java. The study was initiated in joint between Oxford Brookes University and the International Animal Rescue centre in Ciapus, West Java. As the field study is still in progress the details of the methods, field site and results cannot be shared but the project does have a page on Facebook and a field journal blog,, where updated information on the subjects and progress can be read. The goal of the study is to discover more about the wild behaviour and ecology of this secretive nocturnal primate, it’s a challenging environment and difficult for the observers (believe me, I know), but the data being gathered will further our knowledge of these little known primates and hopefully help us conserve them in the future.

 And now a little from myself. I have recently just started my Applied Zoology Honours degree.  Being a part time course I now travel up and down on the train on a daily basis. This can be a little inconvenient, however it was a result of one of these journeys I was treated to a wonderful wildlife spectacle. A flock of at least 60 Canadian Geese came into view flying in a wonderful, elegant formation which few others on the train noticed. Us privileged few who did, were treated to a sight I will remember for a long time the sheer beauty of nature.


 Finally I have received some very exciting news. My application for placement working with African Wild Dogs has been accepted! this means next August I will be spending two weeks working with one of the rarest carnivores on the planet. This will mean a return for myself to the Kwazulu Natal region of South Africa, and to say I am excited about the prospect is an understatement!

  Image taken by Author
Well thats it from me have a good week and the next one will be this time next week, until then all the best George.