Tag Archives: wildlife

The First Ever Chimp Fashion Trend: Sticking Blades of Grass In the Ear

A group of chimps at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust sanctuary in Zambia have a new fashion statement: sticking a blade of grass in one ear.

Chimps are highly intelligent and are known to use grass to fish for termites, but after extensive study, scientists have concluded that there is no discernible purpose for what they’re calling the “grass-in-ear behavior”.

It all started back in 2010 when an older female named Julie started sporting a long blade of grass from her ear. Julie was a sort of role model for the other 11 chimps in her group, and they paid close attention to her strange new behavior.

Julie, the chimp who started the fad. Click to enlarge

After repeatedly observing the behavior for a while, other chimps in the group began to join. Although Julie has since passed away, seven of the 11 chimps from her group still sport blades of grass from their ears today.

Edward van Leeuwen is a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in the Netherlands who led a study to examine the odd behavior. Him and his colleagues spent a year observing four groups of chimps at the Chimfunshi orphanage.

Despite the fact that all four groups lived in the same grassy environment, only Julie’s group exhibited the “grass-in-ear behavior”. After extensive observation, van Leeuwen concluded that there were no genetic or ecological purposes for the behavior- it had simply become part of the group’s culture.

Other chimps from the group adjusting the blades of grass in their ears. Click to enlarge

“The chimps would pick a piece of grass, sometimes fiddle around with it as to make the piece more to their liking, and not until then try and stick it in their ear with one hand… Most of the time, the chimps let the grass hanging out of their ear during subsequent behavior like grooming and playing, sometimes for quite prolonged times. As you can imagine, this looks pretty funny,”

says van Leeuwen. He also pointed out that the behavior isn’t much different then the fads that emerge amongst humans, comparing it to, “wearing earrings or certain kinds of hats.”

Read the original story from The Dodo here.

Time Lapse Photography Reveals the Amazing Secret Life of Corals (Video)

You may have heard of or even seen coral reefs before. The corals that make up these reefs may look like strange rock formations or odd plants, but in actuality, corals are animals.

These marine invertebrates live in large colonies of genetically identical polyps: tiny, spineless creatures which are typically vase-shaped. A colony of these polyps is known as a coral “head”.

Star coral polyps. Click to enlarge

Corals don’t do anything very fast, which is why many people mistake them for rocks or plants. But when you get long term footage of these strange creatures and speed it up, you immediately realize that they are very much alive.

Check out this awesome time lapse video of corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, captured by Pim Bongaerts from the University of Queensland:

Coral also use the calcium and carbonate in the water to create a hard, calcified exoskeleton for protection (which is why some mistake them for rocks). When a polyp is physically stressed, it recedes behind this tough outer layer.

Coral are also equipped with stinging tentacles, which they typically use to capture plankton and small fish. They also use them when competing for space with other corals.

You can check out more of Bongaerts’s work on his website coraltimelapse.com.

How Stoats Hypnotize Their Prey When Hunting (Video)

You may have never heard of stoats before. These cute little creatures are closely related to ferrets, which are becoming an increasingly popular house pet these days.

But don’t let their innocent appearance fool you- stoats are ferocious hunters. And when their speed and agility isn’t enough, they have a strange but fascinating secret weapon: hypnotism.

Check out a stoat using this amazing ability to snare a rabbit in the video below:

Stoats are very hardy creatures, and are able to live in all kinds of environments from the Siberian Arctic, to the mountains of Japan to the Great Plains of the United States. They can be found in Europe, North America, Asia and New Zealand.

A large portion of a stoat’s development centers around play fighting, which builds up their strength and stamina and hones their agility. These fine-tuned skills allow them to take down some surprisingly challenging prey.

The video below shows some of this play fighting, and also shows a stoat taking down a rabbit 10 times its size, using the hunting skills it perfected as an adolescent.

Australia’s Famous Albino Humpback Whale Makes A Rare Appearance (Video)

More than 160 years ago, in 1851, Herman Melville published one of the most famous books in American literature history. Moby Dick tells the story of a massive white whale and a ship captain (Ahab) bent on getting revenge for a leg he lost trying to battle the beast.

The story of Australia’s famous albino humbpack whale is quite different. Migaloo (which means “white fella” in one of Australia’s aboriginal languages), was first discovered back in 1991. It’s estimated he was between 3-5 years old at that time.

Migaloo the albino humpback (Image Courtesy of Jenny Dean)

Every winter, more than 12,000 humpbacks migrate up Australia’s east coast to reach warmer waters. While most humpbacks stay in deep waters well of the coast, some of them, like Migaloo, prefer to travel closer to shore, where humans can see them.

Every year, countless people flock to Australian waters hoping to catch a glimpse. Although he is not the only white humpback in the world, Migaloo’s tendency to swim in waters close to shore has made him probably the most famous. He has his own twitter account and you can even buy his songs on iTunes.

This past January, Migaloo made a rare appearance with a few of his buddies, putting on quite the show for anyone lucky enough to catch it. You can watch some of the footage below.

Why is he white? Questions were initially raised as to whether Migaloo was actually albino after it was discovered that his eyes were actually brown (most albinos have red or white eyes).

However, a study of Migaloo’s DNA revealed that he had a genetic mutation which truncated the protein that produces melanin, the substance which gives our skin its color. This finding proved Migaloo was a true albino.

(h/t IFL Science)

The World’s Fastest Animals, In Super Slow Motion (Video)

When you think of the fastest animals in the world, you probably don’t think of salamanders or crabs. Surprisingly however, these two unassuming creatures top the list of the world’s fastest animals.

Both share the ability to make lightning-fast movements with different parts of their body. The hydromantes salamander takes the top spot with the animals kingdom’s fastest tongue, and the mantis crab comes in second with a hammer claw that moves so fast it actually creates a compression wave that boils water in front of it.

Check out the video below to see these two amazing creatures in action:

For everyone who came here to see a cheetah in super slow-motion, don’t worry, I got you- watching cheetah videos has been a favorite activity of mine since I was a kid.

Cheetahs, the fastest land animals on our planet, are capable of reaching speeds up to 75 mph. When chasing prey at these extremely high speeds, cheetahs use their tails as a rudder to help steer:

The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest bird, and the fastest animal if we’re talking about moving the whole body.

These fighter-pilot like falcons assault their prey (almost exclusively other birds) from above, reaching a terminal velocity of 200 mph as they dive-bomb from sky (terminal velocity is the point at which air resistance stops an object from accelerating during free fall).

The falcons strike with a clenched fist which either stuns or kills their prey. The falcon then twists in midair to snare the other bird.

The Indonesian Mimic Octopus Is the Animal Kingdom’s Master of Disguise (Video)

In open water, most octopus species are extremely vulnerable to predators. Because of this, they tend to avoid open areas, preferring to hide amongst rocks and corals along the ocean floor.

But the Indonesian Mimic Octopus isn’t your average tentacled invertebrate. These creatures have extremely well-developed systems of camouflage and mimicry.

One minute, the octopus is a flounder, the next it’s a lion fish, and just moments later, it’s a sea snake!

Check out some of these amazing adaptations in the video below:

These adaptations allow this unique species to move freely in areas where other octopi would never even dream of going.

Mimic octopuses typically forage for small crustaceans and fish in the sand along the ocean floor, but they are also known to stalk their prey from time to time.

You can learn more about these amazing creatures courtesy of Dive the World here.

Satao, One of The World’s Largest Elephants, Has Been Poached in Kenya

Warning: This article contains graphic images.

Following six weeks of investigation and speculations, the Kenya Wildlife Service confirmed that an elephant found dead in Tsavo East National Park on June 3 was indeed Satao, Kenya’s largest elephant and one of the largest elephants in the world.

Satao the elephant

Satao was one of the last “great tuskers”, large male elephants with tusks weighing 100 or more pounds a piece. Tasvo has one the last known collection of these giants, with only about a dozen left.

Satao next to a younger elephant

Satao’s carcass was discovered by Richard Moller, the executive director of the Tsavo Trust. This non-profit protects Tsavo’s elephants and works to promote conservation and healthy human-animal interaction in Kenya.

“It was the hardest report that I have ever written. I couldn’t see past a wall of tears,”

said Moller, who found Tasao with a poison arrow in his side. The poachers had hacked off his face and tusks, but Moller recognized him by his large frame and his unmarked ears.

Click to enlarge (Courtesy of National Geographic)
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge (Courtesy of Tsavo Trust)

Satao had a reputation for being highly intelligent, and was even known to hide his massive tusks in bushes, seemingly aware of the danger that they brought upon him.

The iconic elephant is among 97 elephants already poached this year in Kenya. His death comes just weeks before Kenya is set to showcase the country’s conservation efforts at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Assembly on June 24.

In their incident report the Tsavo Trust had this to say:

“For the last 18 months, KWS and TSAVO TRUST jointly monitored Satao’s movements using aerial reconnaissance, and KWS deployed ground personnel in his known home range,” the Tsavo Trust said in an incident report. “But with today’s mounting poaching pressures and anti-poaching resources stretched to the limit, it proved impossible to prevent the poachers getting through the net.

Understaffed and with inadequate resources given the scale of the challenge, KWS ground units have a massive uphill struggle to protect wildlife in this area. … Tsavo is our home, our passion and our life’s work but, as the untimely death of Satao so tragically proves, we cannot win every time.”

Read the original story from Outside Online here.

A Honeybee Was In the Clutches of A Spider. Then His Comrade Saved the Day (Video)

I saw this video earlier today and was very intrigued. I’ll let you watch it first before I make any observations.

So what do you think is going on here? Bumble bees, like other insects that live in queen-controlled colonies, are basically just extensions of the queen- pretty much every action they take is because of directions from the queen.

One of the ways these types of insects communicate is with pheromones, chemical substances secreted by the insects which convey specific pieces of information based on their scent.

Personally, I don’t think individual bumble bees are smart enough to recognize that a fellow bee is in danger and then consciously decide to go help it. I do, however, think its possible that the first bee started releasing “distress” pheromones (like those released when a beehive is attacked) when he was ensnared.

Smelling these distress pheromones prompts other nearby bees to become aggressive to protect the hive. I think that the second bee probably smelled the distress hormones of the trapped bee and responded by attacking the closest thing it could find: the spider.

That’s just my guess though. If you have any other theories, please share them in the comments!

(h/t Gizmodo)

A New WikiLeaks-Style Website Is Taking Some Huge Bites Out of Wildlife Crime

WildLeaks is a new website using the internet to target and investigate the kingpins of illegal wildlife activities, such as poaching, the illegal trafficking of tropical pets and deforestation, among other things. The website utilizes Tor technology to ensure anonymity.

WildLeaks’s first major revelation was the story of how Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab had been smuggling ivory to fund their operations.

Founder of WildLeaks Andrea Crosta

“We had our first tip within 24 hours and the response has been beyond our wildest imagination,”

says founder Andrea Crosta, who is also the director of the Elephant Action League. Crosta explains that since many of the major wildlife crime operations rely on corrupt law enforcement officials, the site provides whistleblowers a safe avenue to report the crimes:

“You can’t, for example, export containers full of ivory from Mombasa without bribing people left, right and centre… We definitely feel we are filling a gap.”

In the three months it has been operating so far, the site has yielded 24 major tip-offs of wildlife crime, including:

• elephant poaching in Africa and illicit ivory trading in Hong Kong;

• killing of Sumatran tigers, of which there are just 400 left in the wild;

• illegal lion and leopard hunting in South Africa;

• chimpanzee trafficking in Liberia;

• illegal fishing activities in Alaska, including alleged mafia involvement;

• importing of illegal African wildlife products into the US;

• illegal logging in Mexico, Malawi and Siberia

According to Interpol, the illicit wildlife trade makes $10-$20 billion dollars every year. Read the full story from The Guardian here.

Did Something Just Eat A Great White Skark Off The Coast Of Australia? (Video)

The discovery came from Australia’s first ever large-scale tagging and tracking program for great white sharks.  Lead by filmmaker Dave Riggs and a film crew, the team successfully tagged a 9-foot bluechip specimen and named her “Shark Alpha”.

Four months later the tag was mysteriously found washed up on the beach. When the data was collected from the tracker, Riggs was stunned. According to Yahoo.com,

“Alpha had plunged straight down the side of the continental shelf, more than 1,500 feet deep. While the temperature of ocean water drops considerably in deep water, the tag itself actually heated up, from 46 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees. That means the tag had to have been inside the belly of another animal. Alpha had been attacked, and bested, but by what?”

The story is chronicled in the upcoming Smithsonian documentary, “Hunt for the Super Predator.”  which can be viewed below.

Of course after the story surfaced on the internet, theorists from all over gave their best guesses as to what could’ve happened- some based in fact (like an Orca or giant squid), others in fantasy (like the Kraken).

So what did eat this 9-foot great white? Well, the most likely answer is that Alpha was eaten by another member of her own species, or as the scientists called it, a “colossal cannibal great white shark”.

This wouldn’t be too surprising: the average adult great white is between 13-16 feet in length, with some monsters growing up to 20+ feet. Great whites are also known to be aggressively territorial, and a bleeding, injured shark, even a great white, wouldn’t last long in waters full of other sharks

No matter what actually happened to this 9-foot great white, I don’t think that I’ll be swimming in Australia anytime soon…