A news site about animals

The Otters of Prospect Park

These three North American River Otter Pups, all male, were born in Brooklyn, NY, in February, and the triplets have just made their debut at Prospect Park Zoo, where they will help “educate people about the importance of keeping local waters and ecosystems in good health.”

The zoo breeds these otters as part of the Species Survival Program, and have created a naturalistic representation of their natural habitat on their Discovery Trail, where you can now go visit them.

Happy Ottersday :#)

New African Mammal Discovered

A new mammal discovered in the remote desert of western Africa resembles a long-nosed mouse in appearance but is more closely related genetically to elephants, this according to a California scientist who helped identify the tiny creature.

“The new species of elephant shrew, given the scientific name Macroscelides micus, inhabits an ancient volcanic formation in Namibia, and sports red fur that helps it blend in with the color of its rocky surroundings,” said John Dumbacher, one of a team of biologists behind the discovery.


Genetic testing of the creature, which weighs up to an ounce and measures 7.5 inches in length- including its tail- revealed its DNA to be more akin to much larger pachyderms.

“It turns out this thing that looks and acts like shrews that evolved in Africa is more closely related to elephants,” said Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.


The findings, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, floored scientists, who said the only visible link between an African elephant and the diminutive shrew is its trunk-like nose. An elongated snout is a common feature of various shrew species, many of which look like long-nosed mice externally, though shrews are not classified as rodents.


Dumbacher likened the newly discovered mammal to a small antelope in its physique and sleeping habits and to a scaled-down anteater in hunting techniques and preferred prey. Like an antelope, the creature has long, spindly legs relative to its body size, and hunkers down next to bushes to sleep rather than burrowing. Like an anteater, it uses its extended nose to sweep the ground in search of ants and other insects. The desert-dwelling shrew is prone to giving birth to twins, which hit the ground running like the calves of some types of African antelope.


Biologists plan to return to Africa in the coming months to outfit the new mammals with miniscule radio collars to learn more about their habits, Dumbacher said.


Happy Bun(shrew)day (|^_^|)

Translating the Chimpanzees

After analyzing thousands of wild chimp-to-chimp gestures, University of St. Andrews researchers believe that they have translated the meanings of thirty-six chimpanzee gestures used to communicate.



According to the researchers, this is the first time that another animal communication system has been found to have meaning.  Furthermore, this novel information may also offer an insight into the evolution of human language. The study has been published in Current Biology.,23043,en.php

While previous research has found that apes and monkeys are able to understand information conveyed by the call of another animal, it did not appear that voices were used intentionally to communicate messages. This is the crucial difference between calls and gestures, lead researcher Catherine Hobaiter told BBC News, since chimps use gestures as a communication system to convey messages to others.

“That’s what’s so amazing about chimp gestures,” said Hobaiter. “They’re the only thing that looks like human language in that respect.”

In order to conduct this study, Hobaiter spent 18 months observing a group of wild chimpanzees in the Budongo rainforest in Uganda. She and colleague Richard Byrne then analyzed more than 4,500 chimp exchanges in order to decipher what the gestures could mean.


They found that chimpanzees use sixty-six gestures to deliberately communicate nineteen different meanings. The researchers were also able to assign true meanings for thirty-six of these gestures. For example, if the chimps wanted to play, they would stomp both feet, or if they wanted contact they would hug the air.


Some of the gestures were used to convey only one meaning, such as leaf clipping which is used to elicit sexual attention, whereas others were more ambiguous and could have several meanings. Grabbing another chimp, for example, is used to communicate: “Stop that,” “Climb on me,” and “Move away.” Furthermore, several different gestures could also be used for one meaning.


“What we’ve shown is a very rich system of many different meanings,” Byrne told Wired. “We have the closest thing to human language that you can see in nature.”


The researchers acknowledge that their study was limited by the fact that they could only assign meanings to gestures that provoked an action, meaning that there are probably many more subtle gestures that cannot be interpreted. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that the vague nature of some of the meanings likely means that we are missing a lot of information contained within these gestures.



Still, the researchers are confident that their work has merit.

“The big message is that there is another species out there that is meaningful in its communication, so that’s not unique to humans,” said Hobaiter. “I don’t think we’re quite as set apart as we would perhaps like to think we are.”


Happy Monk(ape)day :_)

Father Tiger

Forest officials in northern India say a male tiger appears to be caring for two orphaned cubs in an extremely rare and unprecedented display of paternal caring. Officials say there just is no recorded evidence of males ever behaving like this.

Photographs taken by hidden cameras in the forest reserve in India's northern Rajasthan state have documented the tiger's behaviour. The most recent images show the male tiger walking just a metre behind one of the cubs, Ranthambore field director Rajesh Gupta told the BBC.


The cubs lost their mother in February, in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Officials there say they believe the male tiger, named T25, is their father. Wildlife experts say cubs are usually raised by their mothers and male tigers often kill cubs they come across.


These cubs, who are believed to be about eight months old now, were first seen on January 29th, with their mother T5, according to Field Director Rajesh Gupta in Ranthambore, India. He said after the tigress died in early February, the cubs were being reared in the wild by forest department staff, because they were too young to make a kill on their own.


“During my visit to the park on Monday 30 May, I was standing on the top of a cliff and I saw one of the cubs down below eating a kill,” Mr Gupta says. “It is seen in good health,” he said. “It appears as if the male tiger is allowing the cubs to eat their kill and not taking it for himself.”


“It’s very unusual,” UM Sahai, Rajasthan’s Chief Wildlife Warden, said from the state capital, Jaipur, “normally the tigress keeps an eye on the cubs while the father is a visitor, who is seen off and on, especially when he comes to mate with the tigress,” he said.


Wildlife experts say that it is common for male tigers to never even set eyes upon the cubs they father- especially when the mother is not present and many male tigers will simply see cubs as food.


Ranthambore, one of India’s best known tiger parks, has about forty tigers, including about a dozen cubs. According to the latest tiger census figures released in March, India has 1,706 of the big cats. The country had 100,000 tigers at the turn of the last century but there has been a serious decline in numbers since then.


Considering the statistics, a sudden surge in paternal skills of a tiger father couldn’t have come at a better time.


Happy Caturday =^_^=

Dallas Zoo Baby Otter Beats the Odds

The Dallas Zoo is debuting its newest otter pup, who was born a single litter-member.  She is the first female single pup ever to survive longer than 30 days in a U.S. zoo.

Tasanee after her first outdoor swim earlier this May. (The Dallas Zoo)


Tasanee is an Asian small-clawed otter.  Her name means “beautiful view” in Thai.  She was born Jan. 25, to Daphne, who was almost thirteen when she gave birth, the oldest otter in the U.S. to give birth.  Since she was a single pup, Tasanee required more than one hundred days of care from a team of nutritionists, veterinarians and other zoo staff.

“Single pups usually lack stimulation from litter-mates and mothers produce an insufficient amount of milk,” said zoo spokeswoman Laurie Holloway.


Since 2000, only 18 single pups have been born in U.S. zoos and the vast majority of them die, Holloway said.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment for our team,” said Dr. Lynn Kramer, vice president of animal operations and welfare at the zoo, in a written statement,“the safe birth of a single pup to the oldest otter mother to give birth has required skilled, dedicated care.”

Tasanee at just a few hours old. (Dallas Zoo)


The weight of a “C” battery when she was born, Tasanee was 2 ounces and gained weight slowly. Her weight gain had to be documented daily along with her body condition and other milestones. Keepers had to wear medical gloves so no human scent was left on her. She’s now 2.3 pounds and was introduced to the otters’ outdoor habitat last week.


“Our entire section participated in pup monitoring. We were very fortunate to have otter parents who accepted our assistance,” said mammal supervisor Linda King in a written statement. “Tasanee has a sassy survivor attitude, and we are overjoyed to see her progress.”


Tasanee is a , which can grow to 2-3 feet long and weigh five to 11 pounds. They have sensitive paws and toes with little webbing and almost no claws.


Happy Ottersday :#)