Animal Travels: New Zealand

New Zealand is probably less thought about than their big next door neighbours when it comes to wildlife; but with almost 103,500 square miles of land and a population of almost 5 million, this little island is no stranger to animals.

New Zealand is famous for its Kiwis and is home to 5 species of them:

  1. Southern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis) Vulnerable
  2. Great Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx haasti) Vulnerable 
  3. Northern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) Endangered
  4. Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx owenii) Near Threatened
  5. Okarito Brown Kiwi (Apteryx rowi) Endangered

(Apteryx rowi)
120048Birds online CD1 084.jpgAlthough these kiwis are endangered they have an increasing population trend with around 200-250 mature individuals remaining in the wild.

The native population of the Okarito Brown Kiwi has now been restricted to 10,000ha of forest between the Okarito River and the Waiho River.

These kiwis are affected by habitat loss and predation of introduced mammals. Chicks are predated by stoats and some adults are killed by dogs and in road traffic collisions.

Operation Nest Egg has been put in place to help reduce the affects of predation. Eggs are removed from nests and the chicks are hand reared until they are large enough that they are no longer the prey of stoats.

(Apteryx mantelli)
TeTuatahianui.jpgAgain, these kiwis are endangered but they current have a stable population trend.

These kiwis can be found in dense, subtropical, and temperate forests but can also occasionally be found living in shrub lands.

These kiwis face threats from the predation of dogs and ferrets.

These kiwis are also a part of Operation Nest Egg.

(Nestor notabilis)
kea-for-kate.pngThese birds have a declining population trend with around 3300 mature individuals remaining in the wild. They are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

The Kea prefer high altitude forests and alpine basins, feeding on a diet of shoots and berries.

Climate change, deforestation and killings by farmers are the most current threats to the numbers of Kea.

Kea are listed on CITES Appendix II and there is a population census planned to take place soon to get a more accurate count of the remaining individuals.

(Cephalorhynchus hectori)
hectorsjump_labelled_cropped_22629.jpgThese dolphins are Endangered with around 7500 mature individuals remaining in the wild and a decreasing population trend.

Hector’s Dolphins inhabit the shallow coastal waters within 15km of the shore of New Zealand; feeding on squid and several species of small fish.

The largest threat to the Hector’s Dolphin is entanglement in gill nets. Around 60% of deaths were due to entrapment in gill nets.

They are listed on CITES Appendix II and they occur mostly in protected areas (consisting of two sanctuaries).

(Phocarctos hookeri)
sea-lion565.jpgThese Sea Lions are Endangered with a decreasing population trend and around 3000 mature individuals remaining in the wild.

Commercial sealing in the early 19th century until the mid-20th century depleted the population. They are also in danger from epizootic outbreaks.

The New Zealand government has protected these Sea Lions since 1881 and they are also covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978.

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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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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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Lost Forever. Animals We’ll Never See Again: Thylacine/Tasmanian Tiger

thylacine3.jpgThe last Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine dying at Hobart Zoo in 1936 will probably be remembered by grandparents all over the world, but for future generations it will be another species that has been lost to time.

Thylacines were endemic to Australia but the introduction of domestic dogs onto the mainland meant that they were restricted to the island of Tasmania. Thylacines found their home in open forests and grasslands.

r0_0_1200_675_w1200_h678_fmaxUnfortunately the downfall of the Thylacines came at the hands of humans, as they were considered a threat to sheep and livestock. For this reason they were hunted, trapped and poisoned and fell prey to domestic dogs which were introduced.

The last recorded wild Thylacine was in 1933 which was captured and taken to Hobart Zoo where it died three years later.

Unknown.jpegThere are many other species that are in danger of becoming extinct in our lifetime if we don’t act to soon to conserve them. For more information on which species are close to extinction visit the IUCN Red List.

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