Lost Forever/Animals We’ll Never See Again: Great Auk


The Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis) was a large, flightless bird that went extinct in 1844 when the last known specimens were killed on the 3rd July at Eldey Island, Iceland. The nearest living relative of the Great Auk is the Razorbill.


Historically, the Great Auk only bred on remote, rocky islands. Young birds fed on plankton, while the adults dived for fish.


Great Auk Painting.preview.jpgGreat Auks were hunted for their feathers, meat, fat and oil. As the birds became more scarce, early conservations believed that the collecting of specimens was necessary to help save the species. Unfortunately, this specimen collecting was what lead to the ultimate demise of the Great Auk.

In remembrance of the errors that early conservationists made, the peer reviewed academic journal of the American Ornithologists Union is named the Auk.

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Animal Travels: Holland

With 2119 square miles of space and a population of almost 6 and a half million, Holland has its own ‘Big Five’. The Red Deer, Wild Boar, Roe Deer, Badger and the Red Fox.

(Cervus elaphus)
Unknown.jpegThe Red Deer is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List and they have an increasing population trend.

Red Deer can found in a range of habitats including: open deciduous woodland, mixed forests and coniferous woodland, upland moors and mountainous areas; but they prefer broadleaved woodland that is interspersed by large meadows. Red Deer feed mainly of shrub and tree shoots but they will sometimes dine on grasses, fruits and seeds.

Red Deer are facing trouble from habitat loss and overhunting. They are also susceptible to the spread of parasites and diseases from introduced species.

(Sus scrofa)
Wild-Boar-1_public-640x425.jpgThese mammals are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List however, their current population trend is unknown.

Again, Wild Boars can be found in a wide variety of habitats, whether that is temperate and tropical habitats such as semi-desert regions and tropical rainforests. They can also inhabit temperate woodlands and grasslands. Wild Boars are omnivorous, although vegetable matter makes up around 90% of their diet. These Boars are most active in early mornings and late afternoon and they spend around 4-8 per day foraging.

Globally, there are no major threats to Wild Boars; but locally, they can be susceptible to habitat destruction and hunting pressures.

(Capreolus capreolus)
Roe-deer-buck-moulting-into-summer-coat%2c-Pigneys-Wood%2c-Julian-Thomas%2c-11-May-2015-(small).jpgAgain, the Roe Deer is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List with an increasing population trend. There are around 15 million mature individuals remaining in the wild.

These deer prefer landscapes with a mosaic of woodland and farmland.

There is an increased mixing of various genetic pools which could leave the Roe Deer susceptible to diseases and parasites. They also face danger from poaching, free-roaming dogs and collisions with vehicles.

There have been re-introductions of Roe Deer into depleted populations.

(Meles meles)
140506.jpgThe Eurasian Badger is another species that is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. These Badgers currently have a stable population trend.

Badgers prefer either deciduous woods with clearings, or open pastureland with patches of woodland. They are opportunistic foragers with an omnivorous diet, feeding on fruits, nuts, cereal crops, invertebrates and some vertebrates such as hedgehogs, moles and rabbits.

Land use changes have caused a loss of suitable habitat for the badgers. Badgers are also persecuted as a pest and in places like the UK they are believed to be associated with bovine TB and so this lead to a cull. Also, rabies reduced numbers of badgers throughout Europe.

(Vulpes vulpes)
150px-Red_fox.jpgThe final of Holland’s ‘Big Five’ is also classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List with a stable population trend.

The Red Fox can survive in extremely diverse habitats such as the tundra, deserts and forests as well as in city centres. Their natural habitat is a dry, mixed landscape with scrub and woodland. Foxes now appear to be closely associated with people and so can be found wherever there is human life.

Threats to Red Foxes are highly localised and include habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation. Globally, Red Foxes don’t face any major threats. The Red Fox is classed as a pest and so is unprotected throughout all its range. In the future, this could potentially cause problems.

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Dog Breeds 101: Rhodesian Ridgeback


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large dog in the Hound class! They are also known as the Lion Dog, African Lion Dog or simply Ridgeback.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks stand between 24-27 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 70-85 pounds.

five-fascinating-facts-about-the-rhodesian-ridgeback-dog-breed-58a1be552ceda.jpgRidgebacks are a relatively healthy breed with a lifespan of between 9-15 years. However, as with all dogs, the breed is susceptible to certain conditions. For Ridgebacks this includes elbow and hip dysplasia due to their size; and also dermoid sinus (which is a congenital skin condition and so is present from birth).

Ridgebacks are able to adapt to a variety of living situations as long as they get sufficient daily exercise. The minimum suggested amount of exercise is a couple of 15-20 minute walks daily. However, Rhodesians will try to escape if they become bored and they love to dig so that they can lie in the cool and comfortable dirt. The coat of Ridgebacks tends to be odour-free and they are very low maintenance in terms of grooming; requiring brushing with a wire brush once a week.

RhodesianRidgebackPurebredDogBrucePuppy14WeeksOld.jpgRidgebacks are intelligent and independent with a high prey drive meaning they need to be walked on-lead at all times and a high fenced yard is needed to avoid them going off hunting alone. They are extremely playful and exuberant during puppyhood but they mature into a quiet dog with moderate exercise needs. Ridgebacks are extremely protective of their homes and so are prone to excessive barking. They are also reserved with strangers but gentle and affectionate with family members. Although, they are very tolerate of children of all ages, they are still a large dog and so close care is needed around younger children.

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Animals You Might Not Have Heard About: Dugong


Now unless you are a Harry Potter fanatic, you’ve probably never heard the word Dugong or know what one is. In this post, I’m going to introduce you to the fourth member of the Sirenia family.

The Dugong (Dugong dugon) may look like a manatee and they do belong in the same family but they are different species. The dugong is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List with a decreasing population trend. The Dugong lives between East Africa and Vanuatu.

spd0816_species_istock_000032507042_web.jpgThe Dugong lives in coastal areas in waters that are shallow to medium-deep and between 15-17ºC. The Dugong can be found in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and in the northwest and western Pacific Ocean.

Dugongs face threats from incidental capture from fishing gear. They are also hunted both legally and illegally. Boat strikes and boating activities such as acoustic pollution are causing problems for the dugong. There has been damage, modification and loss of their habitat and there has also been chemical pollution such as oil spills in their range. Although dugongs are legally protected in most of their range the enforcement is typically weak or non-existent.

Dugongs are covered under three international conservation conventions:

  1. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  2. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  3. The Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

They are also included in the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). The IUCN believe that the most promising initiative is the UNEP Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative.

Animalia Chordata Mammalia Sirenia Dugongidae



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Big 5 Week – Leopard


For the final day of Big 5 Week, we are exploring all about the Leopard (Panthera pardus). The Leopard is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List with a decreasing population trend. There are nine recognised subspecies of Leopard worldwide:

  1. Panthera pardus pardus – African Leopard
  2. Panthera pardus nimr – Arabian Leopard
  3. Panthera pardus saxicolor – Persian Leopard
  4. Panthera pardus melas – Javan Leopard
  5. Panthera pardus kotiya – Sri Lankan Leopard
  6. Panthera pardus fusca – Indian Leopard
  7. Panthera pardus delacouri – Indochinese Leopard
  8. Panthera pardus japonensis – North-Chinese Leopard
  9. Panthera pardus orientalis – Amur Leopard

leopard-slider.jpgLeopards can be found in a wide variety of habitats such as desert and semi-desert regions, rugged montane and savannah grasslands. Leopards prefer medium sized ungulates but will feed on reptiles, birds, insects, small mammals and also large ungulates. Their diet is based largely on the availability of prey.

The main threats to leopards come from habitat fragmentation, reduced prey bases and conflicts with livestock. They are also popular targets for trophy hunters and are subject to illegal trade of skin and bones which are used in traditional ceremonies and for medicines in eastern cultures.

1-explore-kruger-leopard-portrait-henrich-van-den-bergLeopards are listed on CITES Appendix I and the trade of leopard skins and products has been restricted to 2560 individuals in 11 countries in Africa. Trophy hunting has been banned in several countries; most recently in 2016, South Africa suspended the trophy hunting of leopards. To address the use of leopard skins in traditional ceremonies, conservationists have partnered with textile companies in South Africa to create and provide faux-fur alternatives.


If you want to donate to leopard conservation, you can do this with the Born Free Foundation where you can adopt a leopard family for £2.50 a month. In the adoption pack you receive a cuddly toy, a leopard photo, a personalised certificate, the full story of the leopard family, a Born Free window sticker, a Born Free folder and a copy of adopt! magazine. The adoption lasts for a year.

You can read my Animal Travels: Kenya post or you can read about more Big 5 with the Lion, African Elephant, African Buffalo and Rhinoceros posts.


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Big 5 Week – Rhinoceros


The Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Luckily they currently have an increasing population trend.

rhinocloseup_351196.jpgBlack Rhinos can be found in a wide variety of habitats from desert areas to wetter, forested areas. However, they tend to be found in the highest densities in savannahs. Black rhinos are browsers and spend the majority of their time eating vegetation.

Rhinos’ biggest threat comes in the form of poaching (illegal hunting) for the international rhino horn trade. Rhino horn has two main uses:

  1. Traditional use in Chinese medicine
  2. Ornamental use

In recent years there has been an upsurge in black market prices for rhino horn, which has also increased the amount of poaching that is taking place.

black-rhino-200x300.jpgThe Black Rhino is listed on CITES Appendix I and has been since 1977. All commercial trade in Black Rhinos and their predicted have been prohibited and many of the remaining rhino are in fenced in sanctuaries, conservation zones and intensive protection zones. The IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group is the coordinating body for rhino conservation throughout Africa.

You can donate to rhino conservation at Save The Rhino. You can choose to donate as little or as much as you like to help save this struggling species.

You can read my Animal Travels: Kenya post or you can read about more Big 5 with the Lion, African Elephant and African Buffalo posts.


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Big 5 Week – African Buffalo


The African Buffalo, or Cape Buffalo, (Syncerus caffer) is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. There is estimated to be around 900,000 mature individuals remaining in the wild and they currently have a decreasing population trend.

There are four recognised subspecies of African Buffalo:

  1. Forest Buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus)
  2. West African Savannah Buffalo (Syncerus caffer brachyceros)
  3. Central African Savannah Buffalo (Syncerus caffer aequinoctialis)
  4. Southern Savannah Buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer)

buffalo-800-2.jpgYou can find the African Buffalo in a wide range of habitats from semi-arid bushland, Acacia woodland, grasslands and forests to coastal savannahs and moist lowlands. Buffalo are only absent from deserts. Grass forms the main bulk of the buffalo’s diet and without fresh green feed buffalos can deteriorate quickly. Buffalos are a spectacular site to see in the wild as they can congregate in the thousands in the rainy season; which is when the majority of births occur.

-1x-1.jpgIn the 1890s there was a rinderpest epidemic that resulted in mortality rates as high as 95%. Since then rinderpest and other disease such as anthrax have continued to cause localised declines in numbers and extinctions. Buffalo are also at risk from habitat loss and droughts. Buffalo face high levels of poaching as they are a favourite target of meat hunters.

172430-004-8808D805.jpg70% of the African Buffalo populations occur in and around protected areas such as the Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks in Uganda. The future of this species relies closely on the correct management of these protected areas and also in the management of hunting.

You can donate to the African Wildlife Foundation who work to protect many species with the African Buffalo being an important species to them.  You can either make a one-off donation or you can donate monthly. If you donate more than $25 you also receive:

  • A 16-month calendar with stunning photos of African wildlife
  • AWF’s quarterly newsletter

You can also read my Animal Travels: Kenya post or read more about the Big 5 with my Lion and African Elephant posts!


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