Sunday, October 31, 2010

Green Anaconda

The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) is a species of snake found in South American rainforests, swamps, marshes and slow moving streams.  It's numbers is not known, but few populations are declining due to habitat destruction and hunting for skin.

Physical Features
The green anaconda is one of the most heaviest snakes, reaching a weight of almost 230 kilograms.  Females are bigger than males, the biggest one being about 29 feet.  These reptiles have an average length of 17 to 20 feet. Their over all body color is olive green with black blotches on it.  Their are reports of 40 feet anacondas, but such claims have not been validated.
Their is an award of $50,000 for anyone who can catch a 35 feet or more long anaconda.  Its head is narrow compared to the body and has an orange and a yellow stripe on either side.  Its eyes are on top of its head so that they can see above the water without exposing their body.

They are found in the Amazon and other countries east of the of the Andes like Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, the Guineas, Venezuela and the island of Trinidad.  It is also found in the Orinoco basin.

The green anaconda can overpower and almost eat anything compared to their size.  Generally , they eat small mammals, reptiles and fishes.  But, large ones prey on huge mammals like capybaras, tapirs, jaguars and some reptiles like caimans and smaller anacondas.  They kill their prey by constricting.  They suffocate their prey and sometimes even stop their victim's heart beat.

Other names 
The other names for green anaconda is the water boa, common anaconda or simply anaconda. They are locally known as 'mata-toro'  which means 'bull killer'. This local name is used in South America and it is a Spanish term.

Source of picture 1:

Friday, October 29, 2010


The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is a species of crocodile and is critically endangered.  It is found in India and is one of the longest species of crocodile.  It is sometimes called the Indian gavial or simply gavial.  It is one of the two surviving species of the family Gavialidae.

Physical Features                                                                   A gharial's snout 
The gharial is the second longest crocodilian, being smaller only to the massive saltwater crocodile.  Its long snout distinguishes them from other crocodiles.  They normally measure 16 feet and weigh upto 680 kilograms.  The biggest one caught was 23 feet and weighed more than 1000 kilograms.  Along with the saltwater and nile crocodile, the gharial has a record where three individuals were above 1000 kilograms.  They have more than 100 teeth, with 29 teeth and 26 teeth on the lower jaw on both sides.

The gharial is found in India.  they used to be found throughout the Indian subcontinent, but now, the remaining populatiion is mostly found in India.  They inhabit the Ganges river and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and in Nepal.

The gharial's closest relative is the false gharial found in part of Malaysia.  It is one of the two species from the family Gavialidae.  Like all crocodiles, it is from the order Crocodolia. 

Conservation Status
The gharial is critically endangered.  About a decade ago, it was on the brink of extinction, but now, due to breeding programs, its population has increased.  In India, there are about 500 gharials released into the wild every year.

Source of picture 1:
Source of picture 2:

Monday, October 18, 2010


The dugong (dugong dugon) is the closest relative of the extinct Steller's sea cow.  It is a large marine mammal and forms an order called Sirenia along with the manatees.  They are under the threat of getting endangered due to poaching.  

Physical Features
Dugongs are relatively smaller than manatees.  They are the second smallest living species of Sirenia, being bigger to the Amazonian manatee.  Females are normally larger than males.  The biggest female landed on the coast of Saurashtra, India which weighed about 1000 kilograms and was 13 feet long.  The normal length of an adult is 8 feet and they generally weigh 150 to 300 kilograms.  They have thick layer of fat called blubber which protects them from the cold environment of the water.

Diet                                                     A dugong feeding at the Sydney aquarium                              
The dugong is a herbivore and feeds mainly on underwater grass.  They root these grasses out of the sea floor with their snout and chop them with their rough lips.  They feed on these grasses day and night.  They are referred to as "sea cows" because of their diet which consists of grass like cows.  Unlike manatees, they are bottom feeders.

Dugongs are found in the warm, coastal waters of East Africa, India and Australia, which includes the Red sea, Pacific ocean and the Indian ocean.  They once roamed the waters of the South Pacific ocean and Indian ocean, but their numbers have greatly reduce due to poaching and they are only found in some parts of these oceans.

Dugongs are in the order of Sirenia like the manatees.  Their are subspecies recognized.  Dugongs are in the subfamily Dugonginae and in the family Dugongidae.  It used to be considered as a species of manatee and classified in genus of manatee.

Conservation Status
The dugong is currently threatened due to poaching and water pollution.  Its range has greatly decreased.  Many people have started breeding programs to save this species.

Source of picture 1:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Australian white ibis

The Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) is common throughout Australia.  It is a species of wading bird and is also known as the sheep bird.

Physical Features
The Australian white ibis has a long, black beak with the face the same color.  They measure about 30 inches and have a beak which is about 7 inches long.  Males weigh 2.5 kilograms while the smaller females weigh about 1.8 kilograms.  They have bald heads.  Most juveniles have feathered heads.  Immature specimens have a shorter beak.  They communicate with other birds by producing a long croak.  They can live for 28 years.

The Australian white ibis is a member of the family Threskiornithidae and has two subspecies recognized.  These are the T. m. molucca  and the T. m. pygmaeus.  The Australian white ibis was first described by  Georges Cuvier in 1829.  It is part of the superspecies complex along with the Black headed ibis and the sacred ibis.

The Australian white ibis mainly feeds on fish, frogs and insects.  Sometimes, when it enters cities, it will mainly eat food from the garbage cans.

They are found in the north and eastern parts of Australia.  They are found in Wollongong, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville and Gold Coast.  

Conservation status 
The Australian white ibis is not threatened and has an estimated population of 12000 breeding pairs.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The Southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) is large ratite found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.  They are rainforest dwellers and cannot fly.

Common Names
The Southern cassowary is also known as the the double-wattled cassowary, the Australian cassowary or the two-wattled cassowary.

Physical Features
The southern cassowary is the largest Asian bird (part of Papua New Guinea is given to Asia) since the extinction of the larger giant moa and the Arabian ostrich.  It is the third tallest bird, being shorter than the ostrich and the emu.  Despite being the third shortest bird, it is the second heaviest and is lighter than the ostrich.  They have three toes on each foot which are very powerful and are used as defense.  The southern cassowary has a blue neck and face, a black body color and two wattles dangling from the neck which are red in color.  They have a casque which is brown.  Their inner toes are 12 cm long.  Females are larger than males.  They weigh 85 kilograms.  This massive range from 130cm to 190 cm and females have an average weight of 58kilograms while males weigh 34 kilograms.

Conservation Status                      Southern cassowary of Cairns Tropical Zoo
The numbers of the southern cassowary are declining in Australia, but is quite stable in Papua New Guinea.  With an estimated population of 2500 in Australia, they are threatened due to habitat destruction and because of human encroachment.  There are breeding programs in many places to save this bird.  They have a total population of about 20,000 individuals and therefore are not considered as endangered.  They are classified as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

The southern cassowary is found in the rainforests of Indonesia. Papua New Guinea and Australia

The southern cassowary is a close relative of the kiwi and is classified into the the family Casuariidae.  These two birds (the southern cassowary and the kiwi) are related to a bird which existed 40 million years.  They are in the class Aves like all birds.  the class Aves are again related to reptiles like snakes, lizards, crocodiles, etc.  Most zoologists believe that there are subspecies of this bird, but there has been no prove.

Picture 1 was kindly photographed and offered by Nita Pratap.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Baird's Tapir

The Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) is a species of tapir found in South America.  They are nocturnals and become active only during the night.

Breeding                                                                        Mother and baby tapir
The Baird's tapir has a similar life cycle as that of a mountain tapir.  It has a gestation period of 400 days and like all tapirs, it has a reddish coat with stripes and spots.  The mother will leave the babies in a safe place and then go in search of food.  This will continue for a week.  After sometime, the babies will also accompany the mother in looking for food.  The Baird's tapir can live for 30 years.

Physical Features
The Baird's tapir is the largest wild land mammal of South America.  The generally grow 6.6 feet.  They normally weigh 270 kilograms but the heaviest specimen was 400 kilograms.  Like all tapirs, they have a stubby tail.  They have a cream colored throat and face.  They have a dark spot on their cheeks, behind and below their eye.  They have four toes on the front foot and three toes on the back foot.  It has a long and flexible snout like all tapirs.

They are found in  Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras,Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Like all tapirs, The Bard's tapir love water.  They are excellent swimmers and spend most of their day near water.  Even though they are active at all hours sometimes, they are primarily nocturnal.  They normally lead a solitary life but are sometimes seen in small herds.  They communicate with other tapirs using shrill noises.  They can be aggressive when approached.  If approached, they can chase people for short distances.  These incidents rarely happen.

Source of picture 1:
Source of picture 2 :

Mountain Tapir

The mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) is one of the four species of tapir.  It lives in the mountains and therefore is the only species that doesn't live in the rainforests.  It s name is derived from a beast called "La Pinchaque" which was believed to have roamed in the same range as the mountain tapir.  The La Pinchaque was a mythical creature.

The mountain tapir lives in the cloud forests of the Andes.  They live in heights of about 3000 feet to 4500 feet.  They normally prefer to live in the high places of the Andes in the wet season.  They are able to survive in these cold places because of their woolly coat.

Physical Features
The mountain tapir is the smallest species of tapir.  Females are generally larger than males.  They have a slender snout like all tapirs.  They can be easily recognized  with their woolly fur.  They are normally brown in color with their lower lip white in color.  Their cheek color is a lighter color than their body.   They have a body length of 6 feet and measure 3 feet in height.  They have an approximate weight of 220 kilograms.  They have four toes in the front feet and three toes in the back feet.

Breeding                                                                  Appearance of a baby tapir
Normally, mountain tapirs have only one baby and it is rare for them to have more.  When the baby is born, it will weigh about 7kg like all baby tapirs.  They will have stripes and spots which will fade away as the years pass.  The fur of the babies are red in color.  Like all the adult mountain tapirs, they also have woolly furs to keep themselves warm.  Mountains have a life span of 30 years.  They have a gestation period of 400 days.

Conservation status
The mountain tapir is endangered due to poaching as bushmeat and for their fur.

Source of picture 1:
Source of picture 2:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brazilian tapir

The brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris) is also known as the South American tapir or the lowland tapir and is found in parts of South America.  It is one of the four species of tapir.  The other species of tapir are the Malayan tapir, the mountain tapir and the baird's tapir. 

They are found in the east of the Andes and can be seen often near water in the Amazon rainforest and its river basin.  It is found in Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and the Guianas.

Physical features
The brazilian tapir can measure upto 8 feet with a shoulder height of 3 feet.  They can weigh a massive 270 kilograms and are termed as the largest land wild animal of South America.  Their body color is brown with a lighter brown on the face.  They have brown, round ears which have white outlines.  They have a bushy tail which is about 3 inches.

The brazilian tapir loves swimming and diving.  Their natural predators in the water are the black caiman and the orinoco crocodile.  The brazilian can run in high speeds on land.  Their predators on land are the jaguar and the puma, the only land animals in the amazon which are capable of hunting prey this large.  Brazilian tapirs normally run away when the sense danger.

They are herbivores, using their mobile snout for eating different typesof plants.

Conservation status
The brazilian tapirs are endangered due to hunting as bushmeat and destruction of habitat.  Many people have started breeding programs to save this animal from extinction.

Source of picture 1:                                      

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Australian freshwater crocodile

The Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni) is also known as the Johnston's crocodile  and is found in northern Australia.  It is not known to attack humans as their prey is much smaller but no child should be left alone near this animal.  There have not been many reports of attacks or deaths.  It is much smaller than the saltwater crocodile.  It is locally called as the 'freshie.'  

Physical features                                               Snout of a freshwater crocodile
  Males measure about 9 feet and female grow up to 7 feet.  Their body color is light brown   and its body scales are big.  There were some specimens which were about 13 feet.  This species is very shy and is not aggressive like the saltwater crocodile.  It has a very slender snout and is a relatively small crocodilian.  It has round scales which cover the outsides and flanks of the legs.

The freshwater crocodile eats bats, amphibians, reptiles and fish.  It may even eat larger animals like wallaby.

Distribution and Habitat
They occur in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.  It prefers habitats like billabongs, creeks, wetlands and rivers.  They are not in the range of the saltwater crocodile.  Even though they live in freshwater habitats, they are tolerant to saltwater.
Conservation status                          A 'freshie' in Hartley's Crocodile farm at Cairns
The freshwater crocodile is not under much threat.  Only few numbers have decreased as it preys on the cane toad and dies due to the toxin secreted from the paratoid gland.

Source of picture 1:
Source of picture 2:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Blue Malaysian coral snake


The blue malaysian coral snake (Calliophis bivirgatus)  is an elapid found in Asia.  It was first identified in 1827.

Physical features                                        
It is a deep blue color with stripes which are light blue or white color.  It is very slender and measures about 5 feet even though there have been larger specimens caught.  They have small eyes at the sides of their blunt head.  The head, venter and tail are normally bright red.
Juveniles are often confused with pink headed reed snakes which are completely non venomous.

The blue malaysian coral snake is nocturnal.  Most of the people get bitten during the night if they enter its territory.  Its behavior resembles that of a banded krait as it is very shy and inactive in the day.
As defense, it displays its bright red.  Sometimes they even hide their head by coiling up their body and they show their tail to confuse the predator 

It is found in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Venom features
The venom of the blue malaysian coral snake is neurotoxic like most of the elapids.  Initially, there are no effects after a bite for several minutes.  After sometime, the victim will have numbness and then difficulty in breathing.  The victim finally dies due to respiratory failure.
It is sometimes called the "100 paces" as no man can walk more than 100 steps after getting bitten.

Source of picture 1                             

Wednesday, October 6, 2010



The hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) is also known as the stinkbird, hoactzin or the canje pheasant.
It gets the name stinkbird because of the smell that comes from it due to daily consumption of leaves.  It is the only member of the genus Opisthocomus which means wearing  long hair behind in ancient Greek.  It is given this name as it has a crest on the back of its neck.

Physical Features                                                   Close up of a hoatzin's head

The hoatzin grows about 65 cm in length.   It has a face with no feathers and has maroon eyes.  On the top of its head there is a spiky crest which makes it different from other birds.  It has a small head and a long body.  It is a very noisy bird, having discordant noises like hissing, croaking, groaning and grunting.  They make these noises to contact with other individuals or groups and to warn off intruders. 

The hoatzin's staple food is leaves.  It also eats fruits and flowers from its marshy habitat occasionally.  When it  looks for food, it is often seen scrambling around awkwardly and being quite tame.  People once  thought that the hoatzin eats leaves only from mangroves and arums.  Later, zoologists found out that this bird consumes leaves from more than 50 species of trees.  It has a leathery bump on the bottom of its crop to keep balance while going from branch to branch to look for food.  After one experiment in Venezuela, the zoologists found out that an hoatzin's diet includes 82% leaves, 10% flowers and 8% fruits.

Hoatzin's live in colonies.  They breed during the rainy season.  They lay 2 to 3 eggs in a nest, which is made on trees and some are made hanging above water in seasonal flooded forests.  The chicks have a very awkward feature: they are born with claws on their wings.  They have this feature to avoid predation.  When a predator arrives, the chick will fall inside the water.  They use the claws to to climb up the nest again. 

The hoatzin is found in the amazon.  They are found in the amazon's mangrove forests too.  Their range included Venezuela, Peru and Brazil.

Source of picture 1:
Source of picture 2: 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blood python

The blood python (python curtus) is a species of python and is non-venomous.  They are found in Southeast Asia.  There are three subspecies.

Physical Features
Adult blood pythons range from the size of 5 to 8 feet.  They have a pattern which is beige, tan or grayish brown ground color overlaid with blotches of brick red or blood red.  They are heavy built.  Their tail is extremely short in relation to its body.

The blood python feeds on many varieties of birds and mammals.

Common name
Short tailed python, blood python, short python, black blood python, Sumatran short tailed python and Sumatran blood python.

Blood pythons are found in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sumatra.

They are found in rainforests where they live in marshes, swamps and long river banks and streams.

Source of picture 1:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cane toad

The cane toad (Bufo marinus) is also known as the marine toad or the giant neotropical toad.  It is native to Central and South America and has been introduced to Australia and the Caribbean islands.
They have poison glands and the tadpoles can be very dangerous if digested.  Since it has a devouring appetite, it has been introduced to Australia and the Caribbean for a method in agriculture to control pests.  The cane toad
gets its name from the cane beetle which it is used against.  Now, the cane toad itself is considered as a pest and many species of reptiles in Australia, like the monitors, are going to be classified as a threatened species as they eat this toad.  When they eat this toad, they die as the cane toad secrets poison from its glands.

Physical Features                                                                  Female cane toad                    
Cane toads are the largest toads, especially females, who are longer than males.  Females grow 10 to 15 inches long.  They live for about 15 years in the wild whereas in captivity, they are few specimens which survived till the age of 35.  The biggest cane toad is a pet in Sweden named Prinsen who weighs about 2 kg and measured 38 cm snout to vent.  When it is fully extended, it reaches a length of 54 cm.
Cane toads have warty and dry skin.  They have big paratoid glands under each eye.
Juvenile cane toads are much smaller than adult cane toads at 5 to 10 cm.  Some juveniles have a red wash while most of them have smooth dark skin.  They do not have fully developed paratoid glands and therefore are not as poisonous as adults.

Cane toads track down their prey using the sense of smell and vision.  They normally feed on invertebrates, birds, reptiles, rodents and other amphibians.  They also eat dog food if they are kept as a pet.  They eat their prey by swallowing it whole.

Defense                                                        Paratoid are below the eyes
The cane toad has paratoid glands below their eyes and across their back which secrete a toxin called bufotoxin.  When threatened, they will secrete this toxin which is like a milky white fluid.  Many animals die when they eat this toads and even some humans have died.
Cane toads are even capable of inflating their lungs, puff up and raise there body to look more taller and bigger when they face more dangerous predators.

Cane toads are native to the Americas.  It was introduced to South America and Australia.  It lives in semi-arid areas and tropic environment.

The cane toads have many predators in its native range.  They are: the banded cat eyed snake, broad snouted caiman, eels, species of killfish, rock flagtail, some species of catfish and different species of ibis.  The predators outside its native range include the whistling kite, rakali, the black rat and monitors.

Source of picture 1:
Source of picture 2:
Source of picture 3:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

King Cobra

The king cobra(Ophiophagus hannah) is one of the most feared snake in all of south Asia.  It is the world's longest venomous snake and is a very fierce and agile hunter.  Its venom is very dangerous and it delivers a lot of venom in one bite.

Physical Features                                                
Full grown male king cobra
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world.  It grows 18.8 feet long.  It can be tan, olive green or black in color.  A full grown king cobra can lift its head high enough to reach a man or a woman who is standing upright.  It has cross bands which  are a faint, pale yellow.  The scales of the belly are smoothed and the color of the belly is pale yellow or cream.  Juvenile king cobras have narrow yellow bands.  The body color is a shiny black for the juveniles. These juveniles are often mistaken for banded kraits, but immediately identified with its hood.  King cobras have an average lifespan of 20 years.  Males have about 250 ventral scales whereas females have about 265.  They have 15 rows of dorsal scales on the mid body.  On the tail, they have a single or a paired subcaudal scales in each row.  Males have 96 of these scales, whereas,  female have 98.
The king cobra is the sole species of the genus Ophiophagus and is not classified in the genus of  Naja, which makes it different from other species if cobras.

Distribution and Habitat
The king cobra is widespread throughout southern and south eastern Asia.  It is normally found in thick forests.  It likes to live near lakes and ponds.  Population has dropped mildly in very few places and is not considered as an endangered species of snake.

The name Ophiophagus means "snake eater".  It is given this name as it eats snakes, sometimes sizeable pythons, kraits, ratsnakes and other venomous snakes.  When food is not available it may even eat small invertebrates, rodents and small birds.  Sometimes, if the the prey is too big, the king cobra may even constrict its prey to death.  This sight is seen rarely.  After it eats a meal, it will not eat another for a month.

The king cobra injects neurotoxic venom which also contains cardiotoxic elements.  If bitten, the venom will go straight to the victim's central nervous system and causes paralysis, vertigo and severe pain.  During a bite, the venom is forced through the snake's  half inch fangs.

The female king cobra is a devoted parent.  Before laying her eggs, she uses her long body to gather up leaves and make a pile of them.  She then lays 20 to 40 eggs int he pile of leaves which acts like an incubator.
She guards the eggs and if a trespasser comes near the eggs, she displays an aggressive bustle to scare the trespasser away.
The eggs get incubated steadily with a temperature of  28°C.  After the eggs hatch, the mother is forced to leave in search of food so that she doesn't eat the young.  The hatchlings are about 22 inches when they hatch.

When threatened, the king cobra raises it's body, displays it's fangs and hisses loudly.  King cobras are very fast and can attack at a striking distance of 7 feet.  Many people misjudge the sake distance.  Even though, it is very venomous, it normally prefers to escape unless it is provoked or cornered.  The king cobra gives multiple bites or it bites and holds on.  When it encounters a natural predator, like a mongoose can resist venom, the king cobra will flee.  If it is not able to escape, it will expand its hood and release a loud hiss.  This is a good technique to escape from predators.

Photo 1 credited to Prajwal Mujumdar,picture 2