Devils in Danger!


images.jpegIf you read my Animal Travels: Australia post you will know that Tasmanian Devils are suffering from a infectious tumour disease known as DFTD (Devil Facial Tumour Disease). This post will delve deeper into this disease that is causing the rapid decline of the Tasmanian Devils!

Loh et al. (2006) said that the disease was a disfiguring and debilitating neoplastic condition. Neoplastic refers to a new or abnormal growth of tissue. In 2006 DFTD had affected 51% of the natural population leading to a decline of up to 80%. The tumours presented themselves as large, solid, soft tissue masses which were usually flattened with centrally ulcerated surfaces. The tumours normally first appeared in the oral, facial or neck regions. The tumours were locally aggressive and metastasised in 65% of cases. Metastasised refers to when a tumour starts in one location on the body and then moves to another location. Loh et al. concluded that Devil Facial Tumour Disease is an undifferentiated soft tissue neoplasm.

42-36662395.jpgMurchison et al. (2010) also studied DFTD in the Tasmanian Devil. They discovered that DFTD is clonally derived and is an allograft (tissue graft of one individual of the same species to another) transmitted between individuals by biting. They also found that DFTD is of Schwann cell origin.

A further study by J.H Brown (2008) found that DFTD had lead to a change in the life history of Tasmanian Devils as many individuals face mortality after their first year of adult life. This lead to a 16-fold increase in precocious sexual maturity. This is believed to be the first known case where an infectious disease has lead to an increased amount of early reproduction within a mammal species.

Tasmanian-devil-with-Devil-Facial-Tumour-Disease-DFTD.jpgThese studies show us why Devil Facial Tumour Disease has spread so rapidly within the Tasmanian Devil population. They also pose important questions about how diseases can drive evolution within a species. Although it is clear that evolution is happening within the Tasmanian Devil species, it is important to note that this evolution is not sufficient to maintain the survival of the species and conservation projects are needed to help the species back into a sustainable population that is no longer in danger of extinction.




Animal Travels: Australia

When you say wildlife to someone chances are the places they think of are either Africa or Australia. Therefore for this week’s instalment of Animal Travels we’re going to exploring the wildlife of Australia.

image.adapt.1200.HIGHStarting of with Australia’s most famous resident, the Kangaroo. There are three species of kangaroo in Australia; the Red Kangaroo, the Western Grey Kangaroo and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo. All three species can be found all over Australia but perhaps the best place to view them is Murramarang National Park which is on the NSW (New South Wales) South coast. The park is 44km of coastline and there is a great abundance of both kangaroos and wallabies. All three species of kangaroo are classified as ‘Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Fun fact: Kangaroos use their tails like an extra leg.

162626-004-C076EDBD.jpgMoving onto Australia’s next most famous resident, the Koala. Koala’s are an amazing species, surviving off leaves that are poisonous to every other species. Koalas have a unique digestive system that allows to eat eucalyptus leaves. Again koalas can be found all over Australia but at You Yangs in Victoria there is a disease free population. Koalas are unfortunately suffering from chlamydia which is severely affecting their numbers. Fun fact: Koalas are the only mammal besides primates to have fingerprints.




Quokkas are also quite a famous Australia resident, however there isn’t many places that you can see this species anymore. They were once widespread over Australia but now there is only a small collection left on the mainland. This small collection can be found at a nature reserve at Two People’s Bay. Off the mainland though they are found on Rottnest Island near Perth. Fun fact: Quokkas can survive for a long time without food or water using the fat that is stored in their tails.

Laughing_Kookaburra_0Moving onto one of the famous birds of Australia, the Kookaburra. There are actually four species of kookaburra but the most famous is the Laughing Kookaburra which are famous for their calls. Kookaburras are extremely widely spread throughout Australia and can be found in all NSW National Parks. Fun fact: Laughing Kookaburras are the largest member of the kingfisher family. However, they don’t actually feed on fish.

whale_shark_pictureAustralia’s land isn’t the only place you can find some amazing wildlife. The waters surrounding Australia are also home to some fantastic species. If you head to Ningaloo Reef which is just off Exmouth in Western Australia you are likely to find the largest fish in the seas, the Whale Shark. Fun fact: Whale sharks can reach up to 46 feet in length!

01humpbackwhalesWhale sharks aren’t the only marine life you can find off the coast of Australia. In fact the waters of New South Wales are known locally as ‘Humpback Highway’ as these waters are part of the Humpback Whales’ migration route. Fun fact: Like a human fingerprint the tails of all humpbacks are unique. You can see a catalogue of all the known Alaska whales here.

Total_internal_reflection_of_Chelonia_mydas.jpgAustralia is also home to a few species of Sea Turtle. If you want to see sea turtles such as the Loggerhead and the Green sea turtle then Heron Island is the place to head to. The turtles lay their eggs on the beach from November and the hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea between December and May. Fun fact: Sea turtles can hold their breath for longer in colder waters.

mo-mantas1689-920-410Another species that Australia has an abundance of is Manta Rays. Mantas are the largest of the ray family and a noticeable by their cow horn shaped body. The best place to view mantas in the wild is by heading to Lady Eliot Island in Queensland. There are several companies that offer diving with mantas. Fun fact: Mantas need to constantly swim as the movement washes water over their gills.

getty_669374512306062175.2e16d0ba.fill-1200x600-c100_tUhgVZzThe final species that I want to mention on this week’s instalment of Animal Travels is the Tasmanian Devil. This species is in grave danger from a fatal infectious cancer known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). The majority of the population is suffering from this fatal cancer. However, on Maria Island there is a conservation project running which is home to disease free animals. If you want to see a photo of an infected individual please click here as I don’t want to post on the actual blog in case it is disturbing for some people.

For tips and advice for viewing wildlife when visiting Australia. Feel free to contact me via email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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All About Killer Whales

Killer Whales have become extremely popular in the media lately due to the very public argument about whether or not they should be kept in captivity or not. This all started when the largest killer whale in captivity, Tilikum, killed a senior trainer at SeaWorld Orlando. Dawn Brancheau’s death started the argument leading to the film Blackfish and several high profile books about killer whales in captivity.

Killer whales (Orcninus orca) are the most widely distributed of all whales and dolphins as they are found in every ocean on the planet. This post is going to explore the lesser known things about the killer whale. For example, many people do not know that there is not just one type of killer whale. There are in fact 10 different ecotypes. These ecotypes have many different characteristics and are all genetically distinct from each other. Many scientists believe that the different ecotypes should actually be classed a subspecies, but this argument is still ongoing.

As I have mentioned the different ecotypes, I’m going to take this opportunity to write about the different ecotypes and what makes them different from each other. In the Northern Hemisphere there are 5 ecotypes. The first three of these can be found in the North Pacific.

Southern Resident Killer Whales
The Resident Orca is a fish specialist which gets its name from its small home range. Residents live in the largest numbers within their pods and within the Residents there are two different communities; the Northern Residents and the Southern Residents. Both of these communities are genetically and acoustically distinct from each other. Because the Residents are fish specialists they are very vocal when hunting. images.jpegFamous Resident: Lolita is the oldest captive killer whale who currently resides at Miami Seaquarium.


The next ecotype in the North Pacific are called Transient Orcas. Transients are mammal eating orcas and travel in much smaller groups than the Residents. Transients are named due to their large home ranges. Due to their diet of mammals Transients are much less vocal when hunting as mammals can also hear sounds on the same wavelength as the killer whales. Again Transient whales are genetically and acoustically distinct from the Residents. tilikum-030816Famous Transient: Tilikum, the largest killer whale that ever lived in captivity, also the whale that killed trainer Dawn Brancheau.

980xThe third ecotype in the North Pacific are the Offshore Orcas. Little is known about the Offshore orcas as they are far from sure and not often seen. However, when they are seen they are usually in large groups with more than 50 individuals. The teeth of Offshore orcas are worn down which suggest that they eat things with rough skin such as sharks. These mysterious orcas are the smallest of the three North Pacific ecotypes.fincomparisonscaled.jpg

tysfjord_2007_84_0Moving onto the North Atlantic ecotypes of which there are two. The first of which is called the North Atlantic Type 1 orca. These small orcas live in closely related pods and eat both fish and mammals. These particular orcas are famous for their tail-slapping method of hunting where they herd fish into a tight ball and then slap the fish with their tails to stun them.

_47034904_eyepatchshotofwestcoasties.jpgThe second ecotype in the North Atlantic is the North Atlantic Type 2 orcas. These orcas prey primarily on whales and dolphins and they are a large orca with back-sloping eye patches.



antarctic_type_a.jpgThe Southern Hemisphere also has 5 different ecotypes. The first of which is the Type A orcas. These are extremely large orcas thats can reach up to 31 feet long and hunt primarily Minke whales.



The Type B killer whales are split into two other ecotypes. There are Type B small orcas and Type B large orcas. The Type B large orcas are also known as Pack Ice orcas. These orcas forage for seals in the loose pack ice and are particularly famous for their co-operative wave washing hunting technique. The Type B small orcas are also known as Gerlache orcas. They are smaller than both the Pack Ice and Type A orcas and are thought to feed on penguins as they are most commonly found around penguin colonies. Both of the Type B orcas appear to have a brown or yellowish hue with a cape of paler colouring.

whales_typecThe fourth ecotype in the Southern Hemisphere is the Type C orca also known as the Ross Sea orca. These are the smallest ecotype of orca reaching a total length of 20 feet. These orcas normally appear grey and white as opposed to black and white and they sometimes have a yellowish hue. The cape of the Ross Sea orca tends to be darker than the rest of the body and they have a dramatically slanted eye patch. Little is known about the diet of the Ross Sea orcas, although it is believed that they eat Antarctic toothfish.

image_1172_1-killer-whale-type-dThe final ecotype of killer whale is called the Type D orca. These are the subantarctic orcas and look dramatically different from the other ecotypes. These orcas are black and white in colouring and they have shorter dorsal fins, rounder heads and the smallest eye patches. Very little is known about these orcas as there have been very few sightings. It is believed that they feed on the Patagonian toothfish.Killer Whale Poster - final.jpg

If you want to know more about killer whales there are plenty of websites online, and if you are interested in captive killer whales I suggest watching the film Blackfish and reading books such as Death at SeaWorld by David Kirkby and Beneath the Surface by John Hargrove.

I hope this post has informed you more about killer whales, if you’d like more information please leave me a comment, and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge.

Lost Forever/Animals We’ll Never See Again: Steller’s Sea Cow

Stellers-Sea-Cow-Images.jpgSteller’s Sea Cow used to inhabit the shallow, cold waters of the Bering sea around the Commander Islands. The last known population was on Bering Islands in 1741 (which is also when the species was first recorded). Reports state that the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably extinct by 1768.

Hydrodamalis_gigas.jpgMany scientists believe that the hunting of the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably enough to lead the species into extinction. The Sea Cows were hunted for their meat and leather and they were an easily available source of meat for Russian fur hunters.


However, some other scientists argue that it was the hunting of sea otters that lead to the demise of the largest Sirenia species. Sea otters ate sea urchins, the sea urchins ate the kelp that the sea cow also ate. The hunting of sea otters meant that the numbers of sea urchins soared and ultimately meant that the sea cows had less kelp readily available to eat.

More than likely it was a combination of the two factors that ultimately lead to the extinction of Steller’s Sea Cow.

Click here to read about more animals that have been lost forever.


  • The IUCN Red List
  • Anderson, 1995

Animal Travels: Brazil

Brazil is full of many weird and wonderful species, and in this instalment of Animal Travels we are going to explore all the amazing wildlife that Brazil has to offer.
mommyslothStarting off with the mammals of Brazil and everybody’s favourite lazy animal, the sloth. More specifically the sloths in Brazil are Maned Sloths. Maned Sloths are one of the rarest of the six sloth species and they can only be found in Brazil. They gained their name due to their manes of black hair. If you want to view of the Maned Sloths in the wild you’ll need to head to the rainforests around Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo and Sergipe as these are the only places that the Maned Sloth is still surviving in the wild. Although not yet Endangered, the Maned Sloth is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.
Giant-Anteater-Brazil-©-Jonathan-RossouwFrom sloths to anteaters. Brazil is home to the Giant Anteater, which can weigh anywhere from 40 to 140 pounds. They are generally solitary animals and are not normally aggressive but can become so if cornered. The Giant Anteater has also been known to fight off pumas and jaguars. If you want to see Giant Anteaters in the wild you’ll need to head into Brazil’s Cerrado. Fun fact: Giant Anteaters have the longest tongue of any animal! Again the Giant Anteater is considered Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

armadilloThe Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo is the only armadillo species that is endemic to Brazil. They can be recognised by their blackish brown armour plating that can allow they to roll into a ball to protect their vulnerable underbody. The three-banded armadillo has been spotted in Bahia, Alagoas, Rio Grande do Norte and the Federal District of Brazil. The three-banded armadillo is yet another species that the IUCN Red List classifies as Vulnerable with a decreasing population.

Coati-S004The South American Coati is a member of the raccoon family that can be easily recognised by its reddish-brown fur and banded tail. Locals claim that they best place to view coatis in the wild is in Pantanal. The coati population is doing well and they are currently classed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.

braziliantapir2A zoo favourite Tapirs are also found in Brazil. The species is known by several different names, the South American Tapir, Brazilian Tapir or the Lowland Tapir. The Brazilian Tapir is one of four tapir species, and although the most abundant of the four, the Brazilian Tapir is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Tapirs are hunted for their meat and hide and their habitat is being reduced by deforestation. If you want to see a tapir in the wild they inhabit the rainforests of Brazil and are most likely to be spotted in or around water as they are extremely capable swimmers and divers.

CarKoxxBrazil is also famous for its Capybaras, the world’s largest rodent. Capybaras are classified as Least Concern. They are good at avoiding predators as they can stay underwater for up to five minutes. In previous years capybaras were hunted for their meat, now the hunting of capybaras is prohibited in Brazil. To see a capybara in the wild you’ll need to visit some densely forested areas that are near water as this is the natural habitat of the capybaras.

nws-st-brazil-jaguarFrom big rodents to big cats, Brazil has a variety of species. For example, Brazil is home to the Jaguar, the biggest of the South American felines. They can be found over most of Southern and Central America but they are notoriously difficult to spot. Most reports of sightings by tourists and locals come from Pantanal or from the Refugio Ecologio Caiman in Mato Grosso do Sul. Jaguars are recognised by their spotted coat and large stature. Fun fact: Jaguars have one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom. These powerful bites can allow them to hunt caimans as one bite can pierce the skull of the caiman. The IUCN classifies Jaguars as Near Threatened.

Toco-Toucan-Pantanal-Brazil-_J4A6380Brazil is also famous for its birds. Brazil is home to the largest species of toucan the Toco Toucan. Toucans are easily recognised by their large colourful bill. Although they spend most of their lifetime in trees, Toco Toucans are not very adept at flying and prefer to manoeuvre around the treetops by hopping. Fun fact: Toucans regulate their body temperature by adjusting the flow of blood to their bill. Toco Toucans are doing quite well on the conservation front as the IUCN classifies them as Least Concern.

Scarlet-MacawsPerhaps the most famous Brazilian bird is the Scarlet Macaw. Macaws are the largest parrots in the world and they mate for life. They spend the majority of their time in tall, deciduous trees near rivers. In Brazil Scarlet Macaws are found in eastern Brazil. Again, Scarlet Macaws are classified as Least Concern.

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  • The IUCN Red List
  • Fun Animal Facts
  • Wikipedia


Dog Breeds 101: Border Collie

1-facethreequartersFor many people the Border Collie is the ideal dog, and the breed they picture when you mention a dog! Border Collies fall into the category of herding dogs. They are a medium size dog reaching between 1’6″ and 1’10” and weighing between 30 and 45 pounds. They are a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. Although they like all dogs have some breed specific disorders. Border Collies can be prone to seizures, Collie Eye Anomaly, hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia.

Border-Collie-3Border Collies are not normally considered a family dog unless with an experienced owner who can direct their natural herding behaviours in a productive direction. Without proper direction Border Collies will herd anything that moves, including children. This means they can nip, nudge and bark. Their natural herding behaviours and great intelligence means that Border Collies are at risk of escaping. Fenced gardens are a must!

b1They definitely aren’t lap dogs as they were bred to work, because of this they will need plenty of mental and physical stimulation. However, if Border Collies are socialised well and their mental and physical needs are met they can adapt to any living situation.

thumb-1920-471212I hope this post has helped your decision on whether a Border Collie is for you! If you need any advice or tips please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Animals You May Not Have Heard About: Maned Wolf

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ab833056118095e446bad796b2627050--maned-wolf-rainforests.jpgThe Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid of South America which slightly resembles a red fox. Despite its appearance and its name, the Maned Wolf is neither wolf nor fox and is also not closely related to any other canids. The Maned Wolf is in fact the only species in the genus Chrysocyon; which means ‘golden dog’. Maned Wolves are the tallest of all living canids, with reddish brown fur and long black legs with a black mane.

Maned WolfThe Maned Wolf can be found in the lowland grassland and scrubland of Central and South America, with around 17000 mature individuals in the wild. The IUCN Red List now classifies the Maned Wolf as Near Threatened and the species is at risk from four major threats.

  1. maned-wolfHabitat loss
  2. Human persecution
  3. Road traffic accidents
  4. Pathogens from domestic animals

There are several conservation projects aimed at saving the Maned Wolf from a further demise. Click here to read more about these projects.


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