Wildlife TV

Learn interesting and funny plant and animal facts with videos and photos

World Lion Day – 10th August

Today is World Lion Day, a day when we should reflect on this beautiful animal’s place in our world and more importantly, our impact on its population. The lion (Panthera leo), second largest of the big cats, is the king of the beasts and admired around the world by children and adults alike for its beauty and power.

Male African Lion (Panthera leo)

Male lions (Panthera leo) have a thick mane of hair around their neck to protect them in fighting. Photo Credits.

Lions had a wide range historically; found all over Africa and much of Europe and Asia. As recently as Roman times, Lions were roaming in the wild in Italy and Greece, but these lions have now disappeared. There is a subspecies of modern lion that still lives outside of Africa; the Asiatic lion (Pentera leo persica) still has a small population of around 400 living in the Gir Forest in Gujarat, India.

Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica)

Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) are a subspecies of lion found in Gujurat India. Lions were once found in many places in Europe and Asia. Photo Credits.

Today there may be as few as 20,000-30,000 lions left in the wild and their numbers are declining. There are many threats facing the world’s remaining lions from farmers killing them to protect their livestock to poachers hoping to sell lion teeth and bones for ‘traditional medicine’.

To celebrate World Lion Day, there are many things you can do if you want to help out lions.

One of the most important things you can do is talk to people and raise awareness; tell people about the plight of lions around the world and suggest that they can also help out.

You might want to donate time or money to a conservation organisation; check out this page on the World Lion Day site to discover a whole range of groups that are working to conserve lions and see if there is any way you can help them.

You can also make sure that you prevent contributing to abuse of lions by avoiding attractions like animal circuses, or zoos/sanctuaries with poor conditions.

Lion cubs (Panthera leo) playing

Lion cubs (Panthera leo) grow up in family groups and males leave to make their own prides when they reach adulthood. Photo Credits.

Hope is not lost and the future for lions could be bright. Ethical and sustainable tourism can bring money to help conserve lions in suitable reserves and conservation groups are working tirelessly on reducing human and environmental impact on lion populations. It is never too late to make a difference and hopefully we can work together to ensure the lion can keep its thrones as king of the beasts for many generations to come.

Much love,

-Nick

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Do hippopotamus have horns?

 

“Do hippopotamus have horns?”

 

Occasionally I like to check the keywords used on search engines that lead to our blog. This task of mine has lead me to realise that this is something that many people ask but we hadn’t covered it.

In order to answer the question “Do hippopotamus have horns?” we must first answer the following question:

 

“What is the difference between hippopotamus and rhinoceros?”

 

So why would I assume that the problem here is that you might be confusing hippos and rhinos?
The answer is quite simple. In terms of appearance, habitat and even (some) behaviour, both species can be quite similar, therefore many people sometimes get them mixed up.

So first of all let’s check out the similarities between species:

 

Both Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus are:

  • Big, heavy animals (both males and females weighing over a tonne),
  • Greyish in colour with a thick skin,
  • Mammals (babies drink milk from the mother),
  • Located in the African continent,
  • Very dangerous to humans,
  • Herbivorous (only eat plant matter),
  • Territorial (males),
  • Faster than any human on Earth (yes, even Usain Bolt),
  • Can’t swim.
White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

 

 

Now what about the differences between these two species?

Rhinoceros:

  • Second largest land mammal,
  • There are 5 different species of rhinos: white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
  • Located in Africa and Asia,
  • Spend their day on land,
  • Have been around for about 11 million to 15 million years,
  • Don’t have any sharp teeth,
  • Are odd toed ungulates (with three toes on each foot).
  • Very threatened by illegal poaching,
  • Are one of the Big 5 species,
  • Have horn(s). The Javan and Indian species have only one horn while the black, white and sumatran species have two horns on their face.
White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) mother with baby

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) with baby
Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hippopotamus:

  • They are the third largest land mammal,
  • There are only 2 species of hippopotamus: the “normal” hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis),
  • Only located in Africa,
  • Spend most of their day inside the water (but can’t swim!),
  • Share a common ancestor with whales,
  • Have been around for 8 million to 16 million years,
  • Have very big, sharp canines and incisors (tusks), used for fighting,
  • Are even toed ungulates (with four toes on each foot),
  • Not as threatened by illegal poaching as the rhino,
  • Don’t have horns!
Mother Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby
Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So to conclude:

Hippopotamus do not have horns but they do have big tusks that they use to defend against predators or fight each other.

Rhinoceros use their horns to defend against predators and fight each other since they don’t have tusks.

 

Angry hipppopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Até à próxima!
~Sofia.

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Collecting Urine For Conservation

They may not be the most famous or iconic African animals (they’re not one of the ‘Big 5’, for example) but they have a place in the heart of many safari-goers; the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus), or ‘painted dog‘, is a fascinating, beautiful and (sadly) endangered animal.

African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)

The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is a beautiful and unique animal, but it is becoming increasingly endangered. Photo Credits.

Wild dog numbers are dwindling in the wild for a number of complex reasons, but work is under way to help conserve the remaining population and hopefully help them prosper for future generations: recent research efforts have shown that the secret to their salvation may be found in their urine! But why are wild dogs in so much trouble? The reason, almost invariably, is because of conflict with humans. Human farmers do not enjoy sharing land with dogs that hunt and kill their livestock.

African wild dogs are exceptional hunters, perhaps some of the most successful hunters in the animal kingdom. Packs of wild dogs cooperate extremely effectively to coordinate bringing down prey that is often much larger and stronger than themselves and their hunts end in a successful kill 80% of the time. Most predators are very lucky if they can succeed in a hunt half of the time. The effective team-working approach to hunting means that individual wild dogs do not have to be strong and powerful which means that if they come into conflict with a competing predator, such as a lion or spotted hyena, they are unable to put up a fight. Indeed, in the wild, lions and hyenas will drive wild dogs off of their kills and steal it for themselves. Wild dogs are also not particularly fearsome creatures; their peculiar social system is based on submission and non-aggression (for example, in the pack, individuals will never fight over food, but rather compete with begging).

In order to ensure that they don’t end up on the wrong end of a lion, wild dogs hunt over huge areas of land, which helps lower the chances that they’ll run into any competition. Unfortunately, huge, open, wild spaces are becoming more and more rare in Africa and wild dogs are feeling the squeeze, in fact, almost all the nature reserves in Africa are too small to sustain a decently sized pack of wild dogs. One quirk that wild dogs possess is that fences cannot contain them; they are notoriously clever in finding a weakness in a fence and getting through it, and they certainly have reason to.

Wild Dog Pack with a Wildebeest

Wild Dogs are extraordinarily effective hunters, able to bring down prey much larger than themselves, however, they are very social and do not show aggression to each other (most of the time). Photo Credits.

The problem arises when wild dogs break free of their wildlife reserves and go out hunting in the human world beyond, often killing farmers’ livestock. Local farmers have resorted to extreme measures in protecting their livelihoods, often resorting to extermination, including poisoning whole packs of wild dog. Diseases spreading from domestic dogs into the wild has also resulted in wild dog deaths and this, combined with severe habitat loss, is threatening the very existence of the animal. Last century there could have been as many as 500,000 individuals throughout Africa, but now their numbers are down to around 5000; only 1% of the former population. In a previous post, we saw how there are only a handful of individuals remaining in South Africa.

Thankfully, work is under way to save the wild dog. Craig Jackson, a wild dog researcher, has recently completed a thesis on wild dog territorial behaviour for the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and it seems he might have discovered a key for the conservation of wild dogs. Packs of wild dog hunt in clearly defined territories (that ignore human fences) and these territories are marked by the spraying of urine. The dogs are very respectful of these territorial borders and will rarely cross over into a neighbour’s turf. Jackson found that by collecting the sand onto which they sprayed urine, he could relocate it and create ‘fake’ borders and the dogs were fooled; they respected the transplanted urine trails as if another pack had sprayed them.

Urine collection might seem like an unlikely form of conservation, but strategically placing urine trails around wild dog packs will be much more effective than erecting fences and it will keep wild dogs out of danger from rival predators and disgruntled farmers. Unfortunately, the process of following dogs around and collecting their urine is very time consuming and labour intensive, so the challenge is set to try and synthesis a chemical that replicates wild dog urine and mass produce it. Pioneering wild dog researcher and conservationist John ‘Tico’ McNutt is on the case and is currently experimenting with a range of options.

Hopefully, if this new idea can be implemented, we might see a decline in unnecessary wild dog deaths and we might be able to save the species from extinction. It would be a tragedy to see such a peculiar and fascinating animal disappear, but, with the right science it might not be the case.

Much love,

-Nick

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