Friday, 25 January 2013

Jaguars, Madagascars Mighty Mitsinjo and a little from myself.

Hello and welcome to the long overdue latest edition to my blog, I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year. Time has been limited with the strain of preparing for exams taking its toll and therefore my priorities have had to be academic, but I am back now and hopefully this edition will be worth the wait. We are lucky to have a guest article written by Matt Ward on Madagascars Mighty Mitsinjo, which resolves around the amphibian crisis and the work being done to try and save them, Matt is extremely knowledgeable on the subject having himself travelled to Madagascar and has also given many lectures around England on the subject, needless to say his report is well worth a read. Other sections include my observations on anything involving the natural world and the ten facts on this time focuses on one of the biggest but also one of the most elusive members of the cat family, the Jaguar, as ever I hope you enjoy the blog.

                                                      Ten facts on : Jaguar Panthera onca

1) The very name Jaguar originates from the native Americans word Yaguar, which translated means "he who kills with one leap".

2  Jaguars break the trend from many other cat species as a result of their tolerance of water, in fact Jaguars are excellent swimmers and will even do some of their hunting in water.

3 The diet of the Jaguar is widely varied, prey species include ;Fish, Turtles, Caimans, Birds,Deer, Peccaries, Capybaras, and Tapirs.

4 The range of the Jaguar has significantly decreased over time, once found to roam from the southern tip of America right down down to the northern end of the region surrounding the U.S -Mexico border, nowadays however the only large populations of the species can be found in small regions of Central and South America in particular the Amazon basin.
5 The major threats facing Jaguars include habitat destruction, which then has a knock on effect to how Jaguars hunt as they are sometimes forced to encroach onto cattle ranchers land, sometimes taking their livestock. This then leads to conflict as the cattle ranches retaliate. Jaguars are also persecuted for their beautiful fur, which has played a huge part in the decline in their population.

6_ Jaguars are closely related to Leopards Panthera pardus, however they are both heavier and sturdier than them, and it has been said that Jaguars have the most powerful bite out of all the big cat family.

7 Like fingerprints are unique to humans the rosettes which appear on the Jaguars fur coat are also identical to them, this helps to provide excellent camouflage. It has been noticed that Jaguars who inhabit denser rainforest, tend to be be both smaller and size and darker in colouration than individuals who prefer to spend greater amounts of time in more exposed, open areas.

8) Male individuals territories may overlap with numerous females, however they are fiercely territorial with other males. Marking of their territories may be done through three main ways of defining the borders of their territory to potential intruders through scent marking, visual signals such as scratching on trees and through vocal communication.

9 Cubs are usually born between the months of December and March however it is not unusual for them to be born at other times of the year. Usually the number of young born is two to three and are born blind. Just after  two weeks  they open their eyes for the first time and rely on their mother solely to provide them with food for the first six months of their lives, after which they will start to follow their mother on hunts. It will take at least another six months however for them to start to look for a territory of their own.

10) The Jaguar is listed by the IUCN as a species which is threatened in its surrounding environment, it is estimated there are 15,000  thousand wild individuals left prowling the rainforests.,d.d2k&psig=AFQjCNGAA9JccWGi4LP-DawX30rMFFydVQ&ust=1359222732107378
All facts in this section were originally sourced from : a-z animals and National Geographic.

                                                           Madagascars Mighty Mitsinjo - By Matt Ward

In the town of Andasibe, Madagascar, there is a new facility built in 2011 for the protection of the countries extremely rare amphibians. The Mitsinjo (Mit-sin-zoo) association, meaning community in local Betsimasarek language, was born from the desire of local people wanting to conserve the wildlife of the rainforest that the government wasn’t prepared to and the influence of some western scientists with the drive to help. After the purchase of some land and a few years of guiding tourists a German conservation called Rainer Dolch helped the association to improve their conservation work by starting the reforestation of large empty patches of land with natural primary forest trees grown in their own nursery. In 2011 however more foreign scientists were brought in to help the association with the protection of their local amphibians. Whilst the local guides were very knowledgeable about how to find these species they didn’t have the biological knowledge of how to keep them or recognise when they were under threat.

For the past 50 years a killer fungus has been spreading across the globe killing all amphibians in its way and the spread has sped up in the past two decades. This fungus called Bataracachytridium dendrobatidis (Chytrid for short) is found in every country with amphibians except for 3, one of which is Madagascar. Due to the aquatic lifestyle of the fungus, its hyper aggressive spread speed and its contagiousness if it was to get into the rainforest of Madagascar it would almost certainly cause catastrophic damage and kill at least 80% of the national population.  This is one of the reasons that the global conservation group the Amphibian Ark helped to initiate the installation of an amphibian conservation centre in Madagascar. Madagascars wildlife is under massive threat from destruction of habitat and illegal poaching and the threat of a fatal fungus could push the frogs (Madagascars only amphibian order) over the edge, 98% of which are endemic and many are even locally endemic to areas of only a few hundred hectares.


At the end of 2010 construction started on the facility in the heart of the rainforest with the idea being a three roomed concrete laboratory. The construction was finished in May 2011, with one room designated for the rearing of frog food (3 cricket species and fruit flies), one room to be a breeding room with terrariums for the frog populations and a quarantine room for new animals, research, hatching and sick animals. A team of 7 local technicians were trained by some of the world’s amphibian experts in the building of terrariums, breeding of live prey and monitoring frog behaviour to detect disease and stress. After 2 weeks of the building being completed the first populations to be introduced were all local, non-endangered species, in order to develop a smooth operating system and help train the native technicians. After only 4 weeks with the initial stock of 5 species, 4 of them had produced egg clutches with all females laying. The tadpoles were then used in a research project to identify the best food source to increase survivorship and vigour. After a few months in operation the government then announced that they had sold a large part of forest to the mining company and therefore were going to have to relocate some frogs which came into the new Mitsinjo facility. This turned out to be 140 critically endangered Golden Mantella, a species only found in 4 areas of the eastern rainforest marshes. Although the facility was fairly new they took on the new population and are now successfully breeding them with intent to release back into the wild upon location of ideal habitat. The association also do bi-annual disease surveys to try and find any cases of chytrid before it is too late and also population surveys to keep up to date information on the wild species. Thanks to the rapid expansion of the Mitsinjo associations conservation work and their collective knowledge and experience of the countries wildlife they have made lots of influential friends. Including being used by the BBC multiple times, ITV, National Geographic, Arkive and a host of zoos around the world including Durrel and Henry Dorley Omaha and being recognised by the conservation organisations in awards for their work against the destruction of this biodiversity hotspot.
                                                A final word from myself.

Make sure you give the bird life in your back garden all the help you can to get through the cold winter your help will make a big difference to their fortunes. If your patient enough you could be rewarded with some wonderful sightings, two of note in our own garden include a pair of Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla ( males and females can be easily distinguished between by the colour of their caps as the name suggests, the males is black while the females is a lovely looking chestnut colour).  The other stand out sighting recently was a striking looking Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula , which I was disappointed to miss out on seeing as they are one of my favourite garden birds.
Has anyone been  watching the rather spectacular new wildlife series on the BBC "Africa" ? Personally one of my highlights of the series so far has to be the amazing scenes of Agama Lizards Agama agama, hunting flys on the backs of Lions Panthera leo! amazing television and of course narrated by Sir David Attenborough, always makes a series extra special, will there ever be someone  who equals his endless list of achievements? probably not.
That's it for this week I hope you enjoyed it and keep an eye out next Friday, for the next edition as from now on I am back to a normal schedule!
Have a great weekend,


  1. Highlight of 'Africa' so far for me was the Drongo bird mimicking the meerkats in the Kalahari in the first programme, and also the night footage of the black rhinos talking to each others at the water hole. Quality.

    1. Yes those clips were amazing, it has been a fascinating series!