Nov 24

Survival logoIberian lynx Survival character

Name: Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

Stats:

Status – Critically Endangered (CR)

Length - up to 100 cm

Height – up to 50 cm

Weight - up to 15 kg

Interesting fact:

The world’s most threatened species of cat, this elegant looking lynx is a very specialised predator with rabbits accounting for 80-100% of its diet!

Where am I found?

This magnificent cat once used to roam through Spain, Portugal and the south of France. The Iberian lynx can now only be found in a few areas in Spain where it prefers to live and hunt in Mediterranean woodland and scrub-like habitat.

What do I eat?

The preferred prey of the Iberian lynx is the rabbit, which forms 80 to 100% of its diet. It will occasionally take rodents, hares, partridges, ducks, geese and small deer, but these do not form an important part of the diet.

Iberian lynx photo

How do I live?

A nocturnal species, the secretive Iberian lynx is generally active at night, emerging from its daytime shelter at twilight. Both the male and the female Iberian lynx are territorial, with male territories overlapping those of several females. The mating season peaks in January and February, and the female gives birth to between one and four kittens around two months later. The young are cared for by the female in a lair, which may be located under a thicket or in a hollow tree. Weaning occurs at around eight months old but the juveniles stay in their natal territory until they are around 20 months old.

Iberian lynx photo

Why am I threatened?

There are now thought to be less than 200 Iberian lynx left in the wild, with habitat loss being one of the main threats to this species. Much of its habitat has been converted for agriculture and development, such as dams and highways. The Iberian lynx’s main prey, the rabbit, has also dramatically decreased in number due to hunting and the introduction of disease such as myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. Illegal hunting is also a problem, with some lynx being accidentally caught in rabbit traps.

Iberian lynx photo

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Nov 23

Survival logo

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing Survival character

Name: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

Stats:

Status - Endangered (EN)

Wingspan – Up to 28 centimetres

Interesting Fact:

An enormous wingspan of up to 28 centimetres earns this magnificently vibrant insect the title of being the world’s biggest butterfly. Highly specialised, it feeds and reproduces on a single species of toxic vine, making the caterpillars distasteful to predators, and if consumed can cause severe vomiting.

Where am I found?

Found only in the lowland rainforests of northern Papua New Guinea, east of the Owen Stanley Mountains, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing has an extremely small range.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

What do I eat?

Both the adult butterfly and the caterpillar feed only from the vine species Aristolochia schlechteri.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

How do I live?

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing lays a single egg on the underside of one of the vine leaves and after 11 to 13 days the caterpillar hatches and eats almost constantly, growing rapidly. The vine contains a toxic substance which, although not poisonous to the caterpillar, makes it distasteful to potential predators, and may cause severe vomiting.

The caterpillar’s rapid growth is accompanied by six moults, in which the caterpillar grows new skin and sheds the former, before forming a chrysalis, in which metamorphosis takes place over a period of 40 to 45 days.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

Why am I threatened?

As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is extremely attractive to collectors. Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has been severely over harvested.

However, the greatest threat to Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the loss of its lowland rainforest habitat. Historically, forests were cleared for farming and logging, and a vast area was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Lamingtonin 1951. Today, the main cause of forest loss is the expansion of the palm oil industry, and the development of rubber and cocoa plantations.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

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Nov 22

Survival logo

Name: Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini)

Hammerhead shark Survival characterStats:

Status – Endangered (EN)

Length - up to 430 cm

Weight - up to 152 kg

Interesting fact:

This shark’s oddly shaped head is thought to be a mechanism to spread out its highly specialised sense organs, which amongst other things help it to detect electrical currents created by its prey. A useful skill to have when you have an entire ocean to scan for food!

Where am I found?

The wide-ranging scalloped hammerhead occurs right the way around the world, in warm temperate and tropical waters. It can be found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and also possibly the Mediterranean Sea. It swims at depths of 0 and 275 metres and regularly enters bays and estuaries.

What do I eat?

Adult scalloped hammerheads feed on a range of ocean critters including fish, squid, lobsters, crabs, shrimps, rays and even other sharks! The teeth of the scalloped hammerhead are best suited to seizing prey that can be swallowed whole, rather than ripping into larger prey.

Scalloped hammerhead photo

How do I live?

A strange-looking creature, the strange hammer-shaped head is thought to be a mechanism to maximise the area of the sensory organs that detect electric currents, chemicals in the water, and temperature changes. Female scalloped hammerheads gather in impressively large schools around underwater mountains known as seamounts, where they perform a wide range of poorly-understood behaviours. These aggregations are thought to be a result of many sharks, particularly younger females, seeking refuge in a safe place near a rich food supply.

During the 9 to 10 month gestation, the eggs of the scalloped hammerhead hatch inside the body of the female. They are then nourished by a yolk sac until the female gives birth to between 15 and 31 live young in shallow waters during the summer.

Scalloped hammerhead photo

Why am I threatened?

The scallopd hammerhead is currently threatened by fishing, both as a commercial catch for its liver and fins, and as by-catch.

Scalloped hammerhead photo

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Nov 21

Survival logo

California condor Survival characterName: California condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

Stats:

Status - Critically Endangered (CR)

Wingspan - Up to 275 centimetres

Weight - 9 kilograms

Interesting Fact:

This enormous bird not only looks weird, it urinates on its own legs to keep cool! Known as ‘urohydrosis’, this wacky behaviour takes excess heat away from the body through evaporation helping this unsavoury character to keep cool in its primarily desert habitat.

Where am I found?

The California condor was originally widespread throughout North America, but by the 1800s they were restricted to the west coast, from British Columbia to Baja California. By the 1970s only 30 were left, all of which were confined to a small area of California. In 1987 the species became Extinct in the Wild when the last individual was taken into captivity. Since then, an extensive conservation effort has been undertaken to re-introduce captive-bred condors back into the wilds of California, Arizona and Mexico.

California condor photo

What do I eat?

Soaring over large distances on their huge wings, condors use their excellent eyesight to search for the carcasses upon which they feed.

California condor photo

How do I live?

In captivity, California condors begin to breed at six to eight years of age, and pairs mate for life, producing one chick every two years. California condors, like many New World vultures, engage in an unusual behaviour known as ‘urohydrosis’ in order to keep cool. This involves urinating on their own legs, which takes heat away from their body through evaporation; the cooled blood is then circulated back through the body. Nests have been recorded in rock cavities as well as in large Sequoia trees.

California condor photo

Why am I threatened?

Originally, the decline of the California condor followed the extinction of many large mammals in North America. Trapping, shooting, egg collecting and lead poisoning are all factors believed to have influenced the decline of this species in the 20th Century, despite legal protection since 1900. Unfortunately, lead poisoning from feeding on animals killed with lead shot, still occurs regularly and remains the condor’s greatest threat. Other current threats include collisions with power lines, shooting, and both deliberate and accidental poisoning.

California condor photo

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Nov 18

Survival logo

Eastern gorilla survival character

 

Name: Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Stats: 

Status - Endangered (EN)

Height - Up to 1.7 metres

Weight - Up to 160 kilograms

Interesting Fact:

You wouldn’t want to annoy this guy! The largest of the living apes, this mighty strong primate is famous for its intimidating chest-beating displays. It also likes to eat its own poo to help absorb more vitamins from its diet of plants and seeds. Best to avoid smelling its breath!

Where am I found?

Living in tropical forest, mountain gorillas, the most famous of the eastern gorillas, are found in just two remote areas, one in the Virunga Volcanoes, on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the other in southwestern Uganda. The lesser known eastern lowland gorillas are only found in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Eastern gorilla photo

What do I eat?

Eastern gorillas are herbivorous, and their vegetarian diet is mostly made up of leaves. Because of their large size and the fact that the leaves they feed on aren’t very nutritious, gorillas have to spend a lot of their time eating!

Eastern gorilla photo

How do I live?

Eastern gorillas live in peaceful family groups, led by a large and powerful silverback male. Because there are plenty of leaves to eat and not much competition for food, eastern gorillas can live together in large numbers, and occasionally as many as 50 have been seen together!

Female gorillas only give birth only every three or four years, as they spend a long time raising each infant. Young gorillas are not fully weaned until they are around 3.5 years old. Males defend their families using their large size and intimidating chest-beating displays.

Eastern gorilla photo

Why am I threatened?

Sadly, there are lots of threats to the Eastern gorilla. Snares set to catch other animals may accidentally injure and even kill gorillas, and some poachers deliberately trap infant gorillas.

Eastern lowland gorillas are at risk from the human conflict in the area they live, many have been shot dead in crossfire, or killed for food by people hiding in the forest.

A relatively new threat to the gorillas comes from tourism, as they are vulnerable to human diseases passed on by people keen to get up close to these majestic primates.

Eastern gorilla photo

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