On The Brink: Dama Gazelle


Dama-Gazelle-3-700x350.jpgThe Dama Gazelle (Nanger dama) is a critically endangered (CR) antelope living in Africa. They have been listed a CR since 2006 when they were upgraded from endangered due to having a population size below 250 mature individuals. There are currently 5 surviving subpopulations which are fragmented and are considered to contain less than 50 mature individuals.

Dama-Gazelle.jpgWhile the Dama Gazelle used to roam most of the Sahara and surrounding countries, it is now only native in Chad, Mali and Niger after going extinct in Mauritania, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and the Western Sahara.

maxresdefault.jpgThe main threats that caused the decline in numbers of the Dama Gazelle was the introduction of firearms which lead to the uncontrolled hunting of the Dama Gazelle. They also have harm from habitat loss and degradation cause by the overpopulation of domestic animals and pastureland.

The biggest problem they are facing to their conservation is whether to isolate populations to reduce chances of external diseases and intraspecies competition or to allow them to integrate and breed within the different populations. The largest issue with isolating populations is that inbreeding will reduce genetic diversity and their ability to adapt to new diseases and habitat change.

To learn more about the Dama Gazelle and their conservation head over to the IUCN Red List.

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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 – 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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Animal Travels: Kenya

Kenya is a country in East Africa with a population of just over 43 million people. Kenya is a popular tourist destination for seeing wildlife such as ‘The Big 5’ and with 224,610 square miles savannahs and tropical and subtropical rainforests its clear to see why Kenya is so abundant in wildlife.

(Loxodonta africana)
African_Elephant_7.27.2012_whytheymatter_HI_58709.jpgThe African Elephant is classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. There is evidence that the African Elephant should be split into two separate species: The Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). The African Elephant is the largest terrestrial (land) animal, and luckily for them their numbers are on the rise.

They can be found roaming in dense forests, open and closed savannahs, grassland and occasionally in arid deserts. The African Elephants do have some major threats to their survival. Historically the main threat came in the form of illegal hunting (poaching) for ivory and meat. However, recently the most current threat is the loss and fragmentation of habitat.

(Syncerus caffer)
african_buffalo_1.jpgThe African Buffalo is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Its believed that there is around three of four different subspecies of African Buffalo: The Forest Buffalo (S.c nanus), the West African Savannah Buffalo (S.c brachyceros), the Central African Savannah Buffalo (S.c aequinoctialis) and the Southern Savannah Buffalo (S.c caffer). Unfortunately for the African Buffalo their numbers are on the decline.

They are distributed throughout sub-Saharan African and can be found in semi-arid bushland, Acacia woodland, montane grasslands and forests, coastal savannahs and moist lowland rainforests. African Buffalo have faced several major threats to their survival. In the 1890s the rinderpest epidemic, coupled with pleuro-pneumonia, caused mortality rates as high as 95%. Since the 1890s diseases such as rinderpest and anthrax have continued to result in localised declines and extinctions in populations. The African Buffalo is also subject to habitat loss and drought. They are also a favourite target of meat hunters and so have high rates of illegal hunting.

(Acinonyx jubatus)
Cheetah_portrait_Whipsnade_Zoo.jpgThe Cheetah is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and their numbers are currently in decline with only 6674 mature individuals left in the wild. Cheetahs are the only cat that has non-retractile claws and are the fastest land mammal.

They can be found in the dry forest and thick scrub, grasslands and also in hyperarid deserts. The Cheetah is facing some major threats to their survival. Habitat loss and fragmentation is causing big problems for the cheetahs, as well as high speed roads and human-cheetah conflict. Cheetahs rarely hunt livestock but in desperate times they will choose livestock as their prey, this results in retaliation kills from the farmers.

(Panthera pardus)
Leop_Billy.jpgThe Leopard is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and they currently have a decreasing population trend.

Leopards can be found in desert and semi desert regions, arid regions, rugged montane and savannah grasslands. Leopards are currently facing major threats from habitat fragmentation, reduced prey bases and from conflicts with livestock.

(Panthera leo)
nws-st-african-lion-male.jpgThe African Lion is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and again they currently have a declining population trend, with around 23000-39000 mature individuals in the wild.

African Lions are only absent from the tropical rainforests and the interior of the Sahara desert. Lions are the most social of the cats with related females remaining together in prides. African Lions are facing major threats from indiscriminate killings, prey base depletion and habitat loss and conversion.

(Diceros bicornis)
rhinocloseup_351196.jpgThe Black Rhino is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List but luckily their current population is increasing.

Black Rhinos can be found everywhere from desert areas to wetter forested areas. The highest densities of black rhino are found in savannahs and in succulent valleys. Black Rhinos are facing a major threat from poaching for the international rhino horn trade, and also from habitat changes, competing species and alien plant invasions.

(Giraffa camelopardalis)
Misha-giraffe-670328.jpgThe Giraffe is currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and unfortunately the current population numbers are decreasing with around 68293 mature individuals remaining in the wild.

Most giraffes can be found in savannah and woodland habitats. Giraffes have four major threats to their survival:
1. Habitat loss
2. Civil unrest
3. Illegal hunting (poaching)
4. Ecological changes

(Hippopotamus amphibius)
hippo-facts-3.jpgThe IUCN Red List lists the Hippopotamus as Vulnerable and their current population numbers are stable. The hippo spends its days in the water and emerges at night to feed. Hippos require a permanent source of water as their skin needs to remain moist so that it doesn’t crack. They also secrete a red liquid that is believed to function as a sunblock and an antibiotic.

The major threats that are affecting the survival of the hippo come from habitat loss and the illegal and unregulated hunting of hippos for their meat and ivory.


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Animals You May Not Have Heard About: Gerenuk

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The Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) is a species of Antelope that is native to African countries such as Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. The Gerenuk is also nicknamed the Giraffe-Gazelle due to its elongated neck.

3135323.large.jpgGerenuks can be found in bushland and semi-arid locations. They are largely independent of water as they are one of the most exclusive browsers in the animal kingdom.



According to the IUCN Red List, Gerenuks are currently Near Threatened but they are extremely close to meeting the threshold of Vulnerable. The reason for the decline in numbers has been thought to relate to the encroachment of human settlement onto their natural range. Humans have cut down trees in their natural habitat for wood burning. Furthermore, Gerenuks are hunted for their meat, although it is not known how much this has affected their numbers.

gerenuk1_velthaus.jpgAround 10% of the population of Gerenuks occurs in protected areas such as the Tsavo National Park. The population that calls the Tsavo National Park its home has faced its own problems with their numbers being reduced by rinderpest and drought.

Perhaps the best thing about Gerenuks is their unusual way of feeding!!

G_paul.jpgClick here to learn about more Animals You May Not Have Heard About.


Animal Travels: Tenerife

Having just returned from a ten day holiday to Tenerife it seems fitting to make it this week’s Animal Travels location. Although I didn’t specifically go on a wildlife holiday Tenerife gave me plenty of opportunities to get face to face with the wildlife of the island.

StingrayThe first wildlife I came across was stingrays swimming around the rocks at La Pinta beach. Judging from the pictures that I took and from viewing the rays they looked like Common Stingrays. However, many other species can be found around the island such as the Round Stingray, Round Fantail Stingray and the gargantuan Roughtail Stingray.

Siam Park Sea LionsLater in the week, we headed to Siam Park which is rated as the world’s best waterpark. One of the biggest draws to Siam Park for me was the sea lions that were housed there. Although they are captive animals they are an easy view for tourists who are less into wildlife hunting and they appeared in good health and condition.

The absolute wildlife highlight for me was a Whale and Dolphin tour which was simply amazing. On the trip we weren’t luck enough to see loads of species, but we did get to witness two different pods of short-fin pilot whales, which are permanent residents of Tenerife. Seeing the whales in the wild is a truly humbling experience and makes you realise how much the oceans need protecting. On the return trip the captain of the boat headed towards the fish farms which are just off the coast as turtles frequent these farms. Surely enough we managed to spot a Loggerhead turtle bobbing along on the surface of the water.

Short-fin Pilot WhaleIf anyone is heading to Tenerife and wants to do a Whale and Dolphin tour like this, please use the Bonadea II. I can’t sing their praises high enough, they are not just a tourist money making boat, they are true conservationists with a passion for marine life. If you look through their Facebook page you can see how much of the ocean they have cleaned and how much they respect marine life. They are also a Blue Boat which means they are approved to take tourists on tours without disrupting the animals that call the seas around Tenerife their home. While on the boat trip we witness another boat which definitely was not a Blue Boat as they drove straight on top of the whales forcing them to dive under and also chased the whales.

Short-fin Pilot Whales are not the only cetaceans in the Tenerife waters. They are also home to Bottlenose Dolphins, Sperm Whales, Pygmy Sperm Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales,  Bryde’s Whales and even occasionally Killer Whales. Along with cetaceans you can also come across Leatherback Turtles.

DSCN0174We also managed to make friends with an African collared dove who we nicknamed Marlon. African collared doves are popular on the island and are not extremely wary of humans so you may have the chance to feed one on your hands.

Speaking of wildlife that you may find in your apartment or hotel, I will make an honorable mention for cockroaches, considering we had one that kept us awake until 2am. If you have a fear of them, make sure you buy some bug spray from the local supermarket and keep it handy; and also don’t leave any windows or doors open at night as they will always find a way in.

On that note, if anyone is travelling to Tenerife, leave me a comment and let me know and I can give you some wildlife finding tips or just some general travel advice.

Click here for other Animal Travels.