Pikas in Peril: Tiny Mountain Mammal Faces Uncertain Future

by Tom Rodhouse

Scientists from the National Park Service (NPS) and three western universities predict a complex future for populations of the diminutive and charismatic pika. The hamster-sized member of the rabbit family lives in rocky, icy patches in the western United States.

Funded principally by the NPS Climate Change Response Program, researchers from the NPS, Oregon State University, University of Colorado Boulder and University of Idaho completed a five-year study on pika populations’ vulnerability to climate change in eight national parks. The predictions through the end of this century vary by park because of local conditions such as elevation, weather patterns and genetic diversity.

For example, in cold and wet Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, scientists expect pika populations to survive. However, the researchers predict local extinctions of the species by the year 2100 in other parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Study findings will help guide park strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change…

(read more: National Park Service)

photograph by David Restivo

During a vist to  Karnataka on December 13, 2015 , Hrishikesh Sagar  witnessed a feral dog run out from the bushes carrying what appeared to be a leopard cub.

Sagar pursued the dogs carefully to ensure they did not run off, however they did eventually notice her and sprint into a near by village.  Sagar eventually tracked down what she thought was a cub but  instead a leopard cat 
This incident highlights the danger of what feral dogs can wreak upon an ecosystem and harm unique wildlife.      


This week’s #FeatureFriday is all about Ansell! Ansell is the matriarch of our largest ring-tailed family. Along with Yuengling and their six children, Ansell rules the forest.

Ansell and her brother Molson came to LCF from Canada. Despite the big weather differences between Florida and Canada, Ansell adapted quickly and often doesn’t bother to utilize her forest shelter. Instead the family is most often found sunbathing in the trees during the winter, or splayed out in the shade during the summer.

A few years ago Ansell came down with an inner ear infection, resulting in a permanent head tilt. Ansell doesn’t let it slow her down, however, as she has since given birth to three sets of twins, easily keeping them in check and teaching them the rules of forest life.


The scaly ant eater, also known as the pangolin , is a mammal armored with large, keratin plates covering the top of its body. They are found in both Africa and Asia and are around 12 – 40 inches in size on average.

In the event of an attack, the pangolin will curl up into a ball to shield itself, hence its name, which derives from the Bahasa Malaysian word “pengguling” which means “roll up”.

They are also able to release an unpleasant gas, much like a skunk.

A solitary and nocturnal animal, the scaly ant eater survives on a diet of termites and ants, for which they use their long tongue to pick off their prey. Their tongues are often longer than their bodies, at around 16inches.

Unfortunately for the Pangolins, they are heavily hunted for both their armor as well as their meat.

Seen as a delicacy in some countries, they are often hunted and exported to countries in Asia, as there is a unsubstantiated belief that the keratin armor has certain medicinal properties.

This, as well as the Pangolins natural habitats being largely destroyed by deforestation, has earned them a place on the red list.


Cu Rua, the world’s most important turtle, has died

Cu Rua, a rare Yangtze giant softshell turtle living in Vietnam, was found dead Tuesday after its body floated up to the surface of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem lake. Thought to be over 100, its death brings the worldwide population of the rare turtle to three. For locals, the turtle’s demise hit hard.

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The Southern Resident population of orcas was placed on the endangered species list in 2005.

Historically, this population of orcas numbered over 200 individuals in the late 1800’s, but capture for live display and other environmental threats has reduced the population to less than 90 individuals.

Despite their recognition as an endangered species, this population has been very slow to recover. The Southern Residents face multiple threats, including loss of habitat, increased vessel traffic, bio-contamination, and prey depletion.  Next week we will focus on the latter by introducing you to the Southern Residents’ fish of choice: the Chinook salmon.

(via: Whale and Dolphin Conservation)

photograph: NOAA / Vancouver Aquarium - Aerial view of mom and calf


The bumblebee bat seems to give birth to a single young in the spring, during the dry season.  The infant bats are so tiny that their mothers can fly and hunt with their babies clinging to their waists or the vestigial nipples in their pubic area (females have two sets of nipples; a functional pair on their chests and a vestigial pair on their pubic area).  

When the babies grow too heavy to carry, they are left roosting in the caves, or, some believe that the babies hide in the hollow stalks of bamboo, where the openings are so narrow that predators cannot enter.  

Despite a great deal of study, because of the bat’s small body size it is difficult for biologists to determine the difference between juvenile and adult individuals, making it hard to study their reproductive habits.


Introducing Machimosaurus

Has anyone heard of this guy ? Well if you have you would know this is the largest ever recorded seawater crocodile who happened to be unearthed in the deserts of Tunisia.

Now relax, it was just the remains, sadly not the real thing :*(

This big fella was on average around 30 feet long and to give you that indication I am short fellow at 5 foot 6, that’s a lot of azzventura’s stacked up on each other , and weighing a monstrous 3 tons! The second picture displays a saltwater crocodile , a human and the Machimosaurus skull to scale!

The fossils, including a skull and a smattering of other bones, were discovered by Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna in Italy and colleagues with support from the National Geographic Society.

Now sadly that 30 feet long is the current best estimate and scientists are now waiting to unearth more complete skeletons to get an even better idea on how big this croc grew!

I should note, that Machimosaurus was the biggest ever seawater crocodile, however standing at an impressive 40 feet and weighing up to eight metric tones, was the freshwater Sarcosuchus imperator who lived on 10 million years ago!


I am certain there is something I am not seeing here, and probably after I clear my mind I will think of it, but why , why were freshwater crocodiles the biggest ever recorded crocodiles but only the smaller , more placid ones remain whilst the Saltwater crocodiles are now the main big intimidating boys ! Anyone have any idea?


The bumblebee bat lives in caves near bodies of water where insects tend to congregate.  Unlike many bats, which spend the entire night searching for food, the bumblebee bat active for only very short periods of time; about half in hour at dusk, and another half hour at dawn.  This means their feeding can be easily interrupted by bad weather, leaving the bats to go hungry.


Vaquitas Spotted! Critically Endangered Porpoises Persevere

A newly launched search in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez has reportedly found several vaquita marina porpoises, one of the most critically endangered animals in the world. This reassures conservationists that the vaquita isn’t extinct yet. However, that doesn’t mean the tiny animals are in good shape.

The vaquita has never exactly been an animal with huge numbers. The world’s smallest and rarest marine mammal, they live out their lives - often unnoticed - in the same Mexican waters frequented by commercial fishermen. Unfortunately, this makes them an exceptionally vulnerable species, impacted by human activity even more than most. According to the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) Cetacean Specialist Group (CSG), the vaquitas numbered anywhere between 600 and 800 in the 1990s. However, they had recently disappeared so completely that many experts thought them extinct.

That’s why the NOAA is reporting the recent sighting of two (possibly three) of the elusive porpoises with “jubilation and relief.”

(Photo : GreenPeace Mexico)


Tuatara Hatchling at UK’s Chester Zoo


Our keepers have hatched the first ever tuatara outside of their native New Zealand - a successful breeding that has taken several decades to achieve.

The tuatara is one of the world’s oldest living species and is believed to have pre-dated the dinosaurs, having been on the planet for more than 225 million years.

Around 70 million years ago they became extinct everywhere except New Zealand, where it now has iconic status.

Our achievements in successfully hatching the tuatara - and all of the intricate skills developed along the way - give us confidence that we can help save highly threatened species such as mountain chicken frogs and Bermudan skinks from extinction in the wild.

(via: Chester Zoo)