Thursday, 29 November 2012

A name like the weather and one of the rarest carnivores on the planet.

Hello everyone I hope you have had a good week even with the appalling weather we have been forced to suffer recently. This week’s blog sees the conclusion of Owl month, followed by my endangered species section, this time focusing on one of my favourite animals and one that I have been lucky enough to see in the wild, the African Wild Dog. As well as this I conclude my blog with a couple of light hearted clips of footage which have caught my attention over the past week. So I start off with my usual Owl section this time on the Snowy Owl, as always I hope you enjoy the blog and feel free to give feedback.


                                       Snowy Owl  Bubo scandiacus

The Snowy Owl is a rare visitor to Britain, and when it does visit is mainly is found in Northern Scotland, however there have been cases in recent years of Snowy Owls visiting Cornwall, Alderney and Guernsey (for full story see link below). The Snowy Owl has a wide distribution and can be more commonly found in the Arctic Tundra and open grassland and fields of North America. They are active from dawn till dusk and their size ranges with females usually larger than the male, the wingspan can be between 51 and 68.5cm, wingspan 137-164 cm and weight 1134-2000 g.  The diet of the Snowy Owl includes a wide variety of mammals and birds although through their Artic wintering range Lemmings and Voles make up a large percentage of their diet.  The breeding season occurs in May and clutch size depends on prey particularly Lemming abundance. Typically however they range from 5- 8 eggs however in years of high prey population, up to 14 can be laid at 2 day intervals, however if years when prey is scarce, some Snowy Owls may not nest at all.

                                   Five facts about Snowy Owls.

1) During hot weather Snowy Owls can thermo regulate by panting and spreading their wings.

2) As a result of Snowy Owls not hunting near their nests, birds such as Snow Geese take advantage of this by nesting near them and benefiting from the Owls chasing away predators such as Foxes.

3) Snowy Owls will defend their nests fiercely and may attack potential threats up to 1 kilometre away.

4) A nesting Owl requires 2 Lemmings a day and a family of Snowy Owls may consume as many as 1, 500 Lemmings before the young Owls fledge the nest.

5) The Snowy Owl has many alternative names including the Artic Owl, Great White Owl and Ghost Owl.

All information for this section was sourced from The Owl Pages.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) - Picture 2 in Bubo: scandiacus - Location: Quebec, Canada.

                    Endangered Species : African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus

I remember the first time I saw an African Wild Dog, it's a memory that I will never forget and unless we are careful memories of its beauty and charismatic behaviour are all that will be left of this magnificent species.

The African Wild Dog is classed as endangered by the IUCN and is second only to the Ethiopian Wolf as Africa’s rarest large carnivore. Weighing between 17 and 36 kg, the African Wild Dog preys on predominantly medium sized Antelope such as Impala and Thompson's Gazelle, however prey size can range from anything as small as a Cane Rat to much larger Antelope such as Eland and Kudu. Being an intelligent and cooperative pack hunter, means that success rate percentages for packs have been recorded at 70 %. The species is also special because of its social structure which differs sharply in contrast to other species which live in social groups. Rather than the males integrating into a pack and the females staying together from pups, the opposite applies with the males staying together from birth. As well as this not only are the males all related to each other, the females which join the pack are also all related to each other, leading to two separate hierarchies one for each sex.  Only the highest ranking male and female will breed in the pack. Sexual maturity is reached at between 12 and 18 months, with a gestation period lasting between 60-80 days after which up to 19 pups born.

 As a result of their diminished range, African Wild Dogs are now found mainly in short grass plains, bushy savannah, semi desert, upland forest and open woodland. African Wild Dogs have now almost completely disappeared in West Africa and their numbers have been severely depleted in Central and North East Africa, even in areas where Wild Dogs are considered common, the chances are still slim of actually seeing them. 

 So what are the reasons why this beautiful animal is so endangered? The African Wild Dog is at risk of infectious diseases such as Canine Distemper and Rabies which as a result of human encroachment into their habitat continues, increases their chances of catching the diseases through domestic dogs. These can prove to be devastating to the already fragile populations of this species due to the social nature of the African Wild Dog. If one comes into contact with the disease it is highly to pass it on to other members of its pack, and it is not for all members of a pack to be completely wiped out by one of these diseases. Of course as well the disease risk, human encroachment has been severely reducing the suitable habitat of the species and with more and more roads being built through their habitat, their vulnerability to vehicles becomes much greater. Human persecution is another reason why this species population has been in such decline. Maligned incorrectly for being a serial killer of livestock, means that the African Wild Dog has been shot and poisoned relentlessly increasing severely the decline of this special animal. 

What is being done to protect this most iconic animal? Efforts are being made to change the local people’s perception of these predators and ways that both can peacefully co-exist are being explored.  Including encouraging land use planning to maintain and expand the Wild Dog populations. The AWF (African Wildlife Foundation) are conducting vital scientific research in Northern Kenya to help the species and encourage the public to donate if they can towards their research. Other organisations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society are also doing similar fine work in trying to raise awareness of the species as well as trying to minimise the risk of predator and livestock conflict. Eco tourism programmes which create an incentive for local communities to get on board are also making good progress.

The future for the species is in the balance, and we can play a large part in deciding their future, our generation has been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see these animals whether it be in the wild, zoos or on television I just hope that future generations will have the same opportunity’s to appreciate these quite magnificent animals.


 Image taken by Author.

All information for this section was taken from the IUCN, Animal Info, the African Wildlife Foundation and the World Conservation Society.

For the full story on my African Wild Dog encounter, click on the label underneath the post saying “Wild Dogs".

                                Light hearted amusement.

This series always made me laugh! I hope you enjoy it.

That’s it  for this week, I hope you liked it,


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