Close to Extinction: The Critically Endangered Addax Antelope

Wildlife

A Dying Breed

The addax antelope is one of the most critically endangered species of antelope. No one is certain of the exact amount of addax left in the wild with numbers ranging from only three to fewer than one hundred individuals.  One thing however is certain, this species is critically endangered and extremely close to extinction in its natural habitat. Although on the verge of being wiped out in its native habitat in northern Africa, the species is fortunately thriving in captivity with approximately two thousand individuals in zoos and sanctuaries worldwide. I was fortunate enough to get to experience the addax antelope up close and personal during my internship at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park in the summer of 2016. As you can see from the featured photo, quite a few babies were born to the addax that summer.

An Old Friend: The African Spurred Tortoise

Wildlife

We Meet Again

If you happened to see my most recent post about the three-banded armadillo, you would know that I recently attended a local event that had a New Hampshire based organization called Wildlife Encounters present. This organization provides education and outreach through live animal interactions. This program actually came to the University of New England during finals week and I had the chance to bond with an African spurred tortoise, also known as a sulcata tortoise, named Rex. I once again came across Rex at this particular event, clearly having a good time munching on some grass, so I decided to ask the wildlife educators some questions so I could tell everyone here about the African spurred tortoise!

Marabou Stork: The Undertaker Bird

Wildlife

Unlike its counterpart the white stork, associated with the mythology of bringing babies, the marabou stork’s unruly appearance and unsettling scavenging behaviors make this bird the center of death folklore.

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

The marabou stork is a unique species of bird. Known for its large stature, its long, hollow legs, large beak, and a droopy, pink wattle, the purpose of which is strictly for show, many would consider the marabou stork an unappealing animal. In spite of not having any feathers on their spotted head or legs, their bodies are covered in dark grey feathers. Unlike the traditional stork mythology, the marabou stork is associated with death rather than the bringer of babies. Sometimes called the undertaker bird, African folklore says this awkward looking stork was created by God out of remaining bird pieces when he ran out of animal parts; this is why its appearance is so unpleasant. Although unique looking, these birds have many fascinating characteristics.

Three Easy Ways to Help Wildlife This Spring

Wildlife

Springtime brings an abundance of wildlife. With a rise in temperature, many animals come out of winter hibernation. Here are three easy ways you can help and enjoy the wildlife in your backyard this season.

1. Leave Baby Animals Where You Find Them

Mother knows best! Baby animals are very difficult to care for and most wildlife rehablitators recommend that you leave wild animals where you find them. Most baby animals that appear to be abandoned, are in fact being cared for by their mothers. Deer commonly leave their fawns in wooded areas and only visit a few times a day. Rabbits only visit their nest two or three times a day. Another common myth is that if you touch a baby bird, their mother will smell your scent and abandon their nest. Aside from some large birds of prey, most wild birds actually don’t have much of a sense of smell! If you see a baby bird on the ground, you can place the baby back in the nest.

Of course, there may be a time when an animal does need your help. Some circumstances where you may need to intervene:

  • If an animal appears injured or sick (i.e., obvious signs of injury, visible blood, or limping)
  • If an animal is stuck or in an unsafe situation (i.e., trapped in a fence, stuck in the road)
  • If you suspect a nest has been abandoned
    • For rabbits, you can leave two sticks in the shape of an X over the nest. If it is not disturbed for over 12 hours, then it is best to call a wildlife rehabilitator.

If you find yourself in a position where you are concerned about the well-being of a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center. It is best to leave the care of wildlife to the professionals!

2. Provide Nesting Materials

Springtime is when most wild birds in North America begin to build nests in preparation for hatching young. You’d be surprised to find you have many household items that would work as nesting materials for birds! Yarn, cloth strips, wool, and even dog fur (that has not been treated with flee and tick prevention) are great options. You can also gather natural materials from your yard, such as grass clippings and twigs. Click here to read my tutorial on how to make a DIY nesting material craft.

3. Get a Birdhouse

Whether you choose to purchase a bird house or decide to make your own, bird houses provide a safe environment for birds to nest and raise their young. There are a few key things you can do to make your birdhouse habitable.

  • Your birdhouse should be located in a quiet area of your yard that is unlikely to be disturbed.
  • Make sure the hole is a small enough. A larger hole means potential predators can make their way in. About two inches in diameter should be the perfect size.
  • The birdhouse should be raised off the ground at least five feet.

I hope you enjoyed these tips! For more information on how you can help wildlife in different seasons, check out the links below.

Prehensile Tail Porcupine

Wildlife

My Run-ins with the Prehensile Tail Porcupine

I first learned about prehensile tail porcupines when I was sixteen. I was on a class trip to Busch Garden’s where my classmates and I got to spend three days working behind the scenes in Tampa, Florida with the zookeepers. The keepers had this critter perched on a wooden platform where people could come up and pet it. I was reluctant, thinking the quills would be painful to touch, but they actually weren’t that bad! The featured photo on this post is from that experience (please excuse me while I cringe over that picture!) I later worked with these guys again at my internship at Wildlife World Zoo where I managed to snag a few of the quills they shed for a scrapbook.

Overview of the Species

Prehensile tail porcupines are very unique looking. They almost remind me of a cartoon character. Their bodies are covered in short black and white quills that defends against predators. They also have a velvety soft nose and a prehensile tail for which they were named. This tail is made up entirely of muscle and is used as a fifth limb to assist in navigating their habitat as arboreal animals (tree-dwelling) in South America.

The prehensile tail porcupine is classified in the rodent order by scientific taxonomy, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. They traditionally weigh about four to eleven pounds and are approximately twelve to twenty-four inches in length. This species of porcupine is nocturnal and an herbivore, consuming any vegetation easily found in treetops. Females reach sexual maturity around nineteen months and can continue reproducing until about twelve years of age. Babies are born with soft quills in order to prevent injury to the mother, these quills harden within an hour after birth.  The baby prehensile tail porcupine also has the ability to climb immediately after being born.  The average lifespan of a prehensile tail porcupine is twelve to seventeen years.

Any Threats?

Fortunately, the prehensile tail porcupine is well adapted to fend off potential threats from predators! They stiffen their quills when threatened, but no species of porcupine can shoot their quills out of their body which is a common misconception. However, porcupines do shake their quills in order to intimidate potential predators which is most likely where the misconception originated. This porcupine does have some natural predators, such as large birds or big cats native to South America. Sometimes the porcupines forage for food on farms and are potentially hunted and killed by humans. As of right now, the prehensile tail porcupine is listed as least concern according to the Cincinnati Zoo. 

**This post was previously published on the author’s former blog**

The Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Wildlife

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Providing food for wildlife has its pros and cons. Leaving food for small backyard animals during the cold months when food may be scarce is a great way to help maintain wildlife populations. However, you also don’t want to overfeed wild animals, as they will become dependent on people and be less efficient at finding food themselves. You also run the risk of attracting pests into your home. This how-to guide gives some pointers on how to safely provide food to wildlife.

How to Find Animal Care Internships and Volunteer Opportunities

Wildlife

I’m often asked about my many unique experiences I have had with animals over the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lots of animal interactions from a young age. Such as growing up visiting my grandfather’s farm, to volunteering at animal shelters, interning at veterinary hospitals, volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation for birds, and of course my two-month internship at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park in the summer of 2016. If I had a nickel for every time someone exclaimed “ugh I am so jealous of all the cool animals you have gotten to interact with.” I would have enough money to buy my own giraffe (which I would not recommend, giraffes are smelly!) However, most people don’t realize that you don’t need to have an animal related education or career to have the experiences I have had. In fact, there are many ways that you could start volunteering, interning, or even find a job in animal related career today! I have compiled a list of helpful hints, tips, and ideas below. Check ‘em out!