Sunday, June 19, 2011


The saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) or simply saiga, is a species of antelope found only in  Asia.  It is rated as 'critically endangered' by the IUCN.  It was found in many other places during the Ice Age.

Physical Features
A baby siaga
The weight of a saiga ranges from 39 kg to 65 kg.  They stand about 0.7 to 0.9 meters at the shoulder.  Males are normally bigger than females.  Males have horns while females do not have any.  Their horns are used for medicinal purposes.  Saigas have an unusual nose.  The nose is flexible and long.  Their nose warms up the air they inhale during winter and clears out the dust they inhale during summer.

Behavior and Diet
Saigas eat several species of plants, including some poisonous plants which other herbivores do not eat.  They live in large herds that can cover quite a long distance.  Saigas can swim across rivers and avoids rugged and steep terrain.  Their mating season starts at November,  where males (stags) will fight against each other for the females.  The winner will get to lead a group of 7 to 50 group of females.  In springtime, females give birth to young ones.   

Distribution and Habitat
The siaga is classified as critically endangered.  The population has reduced by 95% in the past 15 years.  They are currently found in three particular areas in Kazakhstan, two isolated places in Mongolia and in Kalmykia, Russia.  During the Ice Age, they were found in Alaska, North America, through the British Isles and Central Asia.  They live in semi-desert steppes.   

In 1920, saigas were almost extinct.  But, by 1950, they were recovered and there were more than 2 million in USSR itself.  Today, only 50,000 are present globally in the wild and therefore, they are rated as critically endangered.  They are hunted as their horns have medicinal properties.  Since rhino hunting was banned, hunters started hunting saigas as their horns are equivalent to those of a rhino.  Currently, Moscow zoo is the only zoo that have these antelopes.

Source of pic 1 and pic 2   

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The biturong (Arctictis binturong) also known as the Bearcat, Asian bearcat or the Palawan bearcat is a species from the family Viverridae which includes civets and genets.  The real meaning of the original word has been lost as a particular local language is extinct.  This species is classified as vulnerable as numbers have reduced due to destruction of habitat.

Physical Features 
As the binturong is an omnivore, people refer to it as a small bear but it is actually the size of a large cat.  It can grow 24 to 38 inches (60 to 96 cm) and can weigh about 14 kilograms.  Some  specimens are 24 kilograms or more.  They have coarse, black fur and has light silver fur on its face which makes it look larger to other animals.  It is a nocturnal and sleeps on branches during the day.  The tail is prehensile, bushy and is almost the length of the animal itself .  It can act like  a fifth hand for the animal.  Binturongs have small, round ears and eyes.

The binturong is an omnivore.  It feeds on leaves, fruits and seeds while it even feeds on insects, eggs, rodents or even birds.  This habit resembles a bear and therefore, it has earned its name 'bearcat' as it is like a large cat.

The binturong jumps from branch to branch in search of food using its tail as support and its claws for grip.  They can use their tail to communicate as there are scent glands near the tail which sends a signal to other animals.  Many people say that the scent that they emit smells like warm buttered popcorn.  Binturongs make chuckling noises when happy while they make a high pitched wail when annoyed.  Sometimes, when they are conered by an animal or a hunter, they can be vicious.

 Distribution and Habitat
A baby binturong with its mother
Binturongs live on canopies of rainforests.  They are found in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan, India, Burma, Indonesia, The Philippines,  Thailand, Nepal, China and Vietnam.

Life Cycle 
Binturongs have a gestation period of 91 days.  Females mature at the age of 30 months while males mature after 27 months.  They have a lifespan of 20 years in captivity.  There was a specimen that lived for 26 years

Binturongs are on demand as their fur is used for medical purposes.  It is hunted by locals for their meat.  They are even threatened as alien species are introduced to their habitat.

Source of pic 2

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sierra Madre Forest Monitor

The Sierra Madre forest monitor (Varanus bitatawa) is a species of monitor lizard found in Sierra Madre of Philippines.  It belongs to the genus Varanus.  It is also called the golden spotted monitor.  

Physical Features
The head of the Sierra Madre forest monitor
Despite growing more than 2 meters (6.6 feet), this lizard weighs only 10 kilograms.  These forest monitors are very brightly colored with stripes of yellow dots and flecks.  Their legs are blackish-blue in color.  The tail is alternately colored with green and black.

Behavior and Diet 
The Sierra Madre forest monitor belongs to the same family as the Komodo dragon.  Surprisingly, the Sierra Madre forest monitor, is a frugivorous unlike other monitors.  They spend a lot f time on trees, overlooking the forest floor.  It camouflages on trees so that it is not spotted by any predator.  Their diet consists of Pandanus fruit, figs, Pili nut fruits and the occasional a snail.  Scientists do not think they have venom as they are not carnivores and therefore it will be no use producing venom.

Discovery and Distribution
The Sierra Madre forest monitor has a limited range in an island called Luzon island.  Even though this monitor is 2 meters long, it was discovered only in 2010.  It was discovered by scientist Brown along with other scientists.  Brown says that it was not discovered all these years as the forests in Northern part of the Luzon island was not explored much.  Many people say it was already known to local hunters.

Source of pic 1 and pic 2