Endangered Animals

Cook Inlet Beluga Whale--Danielle von Waldow

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Adult beluga whales are easily distinguished by their pure white skin, their small size and their lack of dorsal fin. The beluga has a broad and rounded head and a large forehead. Belugas are toothed whales. They have broad, paddle-like flippers and notched tails. The Cook Inlet beluga whale is a small, isolated subspecies of the beluga whale currently facing critical threats. The whales eat whatever fish species are most common including salmon, eulachon, tomcod, smelt, char, rainbow sole, whitefish, saffron and arctic cod, herring, shrimp, mussels and octopus. Globally, belugas are found mostly in Arctic and sub arctic waters, as well as in the Cook Inlet and the St. Lawrence River. Cook Inlet Belugas forage for food on the seabed. This typically takes place at depths of up to 1,000 feet, but they can dive to at least twice this depth. Belugas congregate and travel in groups from 2-3 to as many as several hundred. Some are migratory within their range while others remain residents of a particular area. They are found close to shore or in the open sea. During the summer months in some areas they gather in the estuaries of rivers to feed and calve.Unregulated hunting has been in the main cause of beluga whale decline. Despite stringent hunting controls implemented in 1998, the Cook Inlet beluga whale population has not rebounded as expected. Because beluga congregate in river estuaries, human caused pollution is proving to be another significant danger to their health. Other threats include strandings, disease, contaminants, shipping vessel traffic, noise (including seismic testing), prey declines, predators (such as the killer whale) and human-induced habitat changes. Climate changes in the Arctic may alter food web dynamics, and reductions in ice cover could bring more human activities, increasing hunting pressure and the risk of vehicle strikes and other disturbances. Actions by the government have been taken to protect the whales. In April, 2006, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) added the Cook Inlet beluga to its Red List, classifying it as critically endangered. The IUCN says that "The beluga whale is unquestionably a conservation-dependent species.". In addition, in May 2000 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed the Cook Inlet beluga whale as a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. So why should we care? Both the United States Navy and the Russian Navy have used belugas in anti-mining operations in Arctic waters. In one instance, a captive beluga brought a cramp-paralyzed diver from the bottom of the pool up to the surface by holding her foot in its mouth, certainly saving the female diver's life

California Condor---Vinay Viswanathan
The California Condor (Gymnogyps Californianus) is the largest terrestrial bird in North America, with a wingspan of up to little over 3 meters (roughly 10 feet) which is endemic to south-central California, in a stretch going from near the coast to the desert, and the area in Arizona around the Grand Canyon. In the 1800's the population of Californai Condors spanned the Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada with populations even as far as Florida and New York but it has now dwindled and been limited to areas in California and Arizona. The condors consume carrion (animal carcasses), making them scavengers, and they strongly prefer an abundance of large mammals like sheep in a habitat. They do lots of traveling in obtaining nourishment. California Condors were hunted because cattle ranchers felt that they killed cattle and livestock (even though they only ate livestock which had already died). Another serious issue is that the California Condors eat led shots and strychnine scattered within carcasses and are poisoned. The California Condors have low reproductive rates, which both lead to a rapidly dwindling population and make their eggs, which are also very large, rare and expensive. The amount of carrion, some scientists believe, may have decreased as well which leads to reduced populations. Many efforts have been undertaken to increase the population. The Condors were first domesticated to conserve the remaining population, and the domesticated population was, after being developed under close maintenance and care, distributed by the Grand Canyon and the deserts of South-Central California as well as the coast, now, of Baja California in Mexico. Eggs, in domestication, are incubated and hand puppets are used to take the place of a parent in feeding the birds.

Giant Panda by Kristen Walczak
The Giant panda is a black and white bear native to the country of China. They are distinguished by the black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Female pandas weigh around 170 pounds, while male pandas can weigh up to 360 pounds. A panda's paw consists of a thumb and five fingers, which allows this large creature to easily eat the bamboo that makes up 99 percent of a panda's diet. In the wild, a panda typically lives for only 20 years, and can live up to 30 years if in captivity. The giant panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, in the Sichuan Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. This animal is describes as "highly specialized" with "unique adaptations". Because Pandas are unable to receive the right amount of energy needed from their bamboo diet, they limit their social interactions and avoid steeply sloping terrain in order to limit energy expenditures. Their bamboo diet has also adapted the look of the panda. Their large size and round face allow the panda to consume large amounts of bamboo for they therefore contain a lower metabolism than most species. Due to Panda's luxurious soft fur, they have been a large target for poachers. But, the main reason for the Panda's endangerment is due to loss of habitat. Already confined to small areas located in the mountains of China, much of their natural lowland habitat has been destroyed by farmers through development and forest clearing. This has caused a fragmentation in the Pandas habitat, for they were forced to move upland (into the mountains). This fragmentation of habitat is detrimental to the panda’s ability to find food. The new extremley small range of habitat leaves the panda with less area to find bamboo. Because Panda's consume so much of the bamboo in one sitting, they have to continuously relocate in order to find more. So with the decrease of habitat, it has become incredibly hard for Pandas. Luckily though, Pandas are one of the world's most recognizable endangered species. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are working to increasing their area of habitat under legal protection, and patrol against poaching, illegal logging and encroachment.

Cheetah--Anna Siegfried external image cheetah-cubs.jpg
The largest population of wild cheetahs currently lives in Namibia (African Country). The rest are in few other African countries and Asia with only fifty to sixty individuals living in Iran. Cheetahs are known as the world’s fast land mammal. They can only run for a short period of time, but they have intense bursts of speed of 65-70 mph. Because of their limited speeds, cheetahs will stalk their prey until they are close enough to put on a burst of speed and catch the prey. Then the cheetahs will try to swipe the hind legs of its prey in order to trip it. Once the animal is down the cheetah grabs the throat to suffocate the animal. Cheetahs have very slim bodies and long legs which allows the predator to take longer strides during the chase. They have large nasal passages to make breathing easier while running. The long tail with a semi-flattened end acts like a rudder for the cheetah to change direction at top speeds. Their claws do not fully retract which gives them better traction while running. A cheetah’s spots give it camouflage in its open grassland environment which it needs because of its limited hunting strategies. Female cheetahs live alone except when raising cubs; they rarely associate with other cheetahs. Male cheetahs are more sociable and live together permanently in groups called coalitions. The groupsare usually made up of a cheetah and his brothers. A cheetah’s diet consists of mostly gazelles, young wildebeest, hares, warthogs, and birds. In the wild a cheetah can live up to 8-10 years, and the produces 2-5 cubs. Cheetahs are endangered for a number of reasons. The four most significant reasons are decline in prey, habitat loss, poaching, and the high mortality rate of cheetah cubs. Because cheetahs require open plains to hunt habitat loss is a major problem. Habitat loss decreases the area to hunt; therefore, leading to more unsuccessful attempts. It’s difficult for cubs to survive to adulthood because they have many predators such as lions, leopards, and hyenas. These predators also cause more competition for prey as well. Cheetahs are often killed by farmers because the cheetahs will attack the livestock for food. To bring back the cheetah population there have been successful breeding programs, protection under national legislation throughout most of the cheetahs’ ranges, and non-governmental organizations. There has been significant emphasis to educate the public about the cheetahs’ conditions as well.

Polar Bear- Sam Scarpino
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The polar bear tends to inhabit areas of high northern latitude in the Arctic Circle including Canada, Greenland Iceland and northern Russia. Polar bears have thick coats of white fur over their layers of blubber to insulate heat. Because the surrounding temperatures are very often below freezing, polar bears need insulate as much heat as possible. It is classified as a marine animal due to spending most of its time traveling across frozen layer of ice above bodies of water. While travelling across the ice, polar bears hunt for their prey which can include seals and fish. This prey is normally found where the ice gets thin, and the water is relative shallow, allowing polar bears to either fish from land, or jump in and attack their prey. There are several reasons for polar bears’ path toward endangerment. One reason is the affects of climate change. The rising temperatures across the entire planet have brought about changes to the Polar Regions as well. Ice caps, which are the main habitat for a polar bear, have been melting due to the rising temperatures. As a result, the polar bears have lost their natural living spaces, and seen a decrease in population as a result. Another reason polar bears have been declining is overhunting. Polar bear furs are known to be very warm, so those people that live in such harsh areas sometimes hunt polar bears for their fur. There have been many attempts to saving polar bears. In 2008, the polar bear was placed in the Endangered Species Act after several years of multiple groups and agencies lobbying and forming petitions to provide the polar bear with legal protection. Because the declining population of the polar bear has become sort of a mascot for the negative effects of climate change, many people are aware of the polar bears' danger, and are willing to aid in its recovery.

Siberian Tiger--Emily Schmitt
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Siberian (or Amur) tigers are the world's largest cats. They live primarily in eastern Russia's birch forests, though some exist in China and North Korea. There are an estimated 400 to 500 Siberian tigers living in the wild, and recent studies suggest that these numbers are stable. Though their northern climate is far harsher than those of other tigers, these animals have some advantages. Northern forests offer the lowest human density of any tiger habitat, and the most complete ecosystem. The vast woodlands also allow tigers far more room to roam, as Russia's timber industry is currently less extensive than that of many other countries. Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful hunters that travel many miles to find prey, such as elk and wild boar, on nocturnal hunts. Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes) and hunt by stealth. They lie in wait and creep close enough to attack their victims with a quick spring and a fatal pounce. A hungry tiger can eat as much as 60 pounds in one night, though they usually eat less. Wild tiger numbers are at an all time low. The largest of all Asian cats may be on top of the food chain and one of the best-loved animals, but they are also vulnerable to extinction. Tigers are forced to compete for space with dense human populations, face unrelenting pressure from poaching, and habitat loss across their range. In 1992, the Siberian Tiger Project was founded aiming to conserve the tiger species. They address the human-tiger conflict and try to get tigers to reproduce and enhance their population. WWF has also set goals to double the tiger population by 2022. Five decades of conservation experience has shown WWF that, given enough space, prey and protection, tigers can recover.

Blue-Throated Macaw--Chris Beaulieu

The Blue-throated Macaw is a parrot endemic (specifically native) to an area in north-central Bolivia called Los Llanos de Moxos. This macaw is usually around 33 inches long (including the tail) and weighs about 25-27 ounces. It has blue cheeks, throat and outer coat, bright yellow underparts and a brown beak. It is often confused with the Blue-and-Yellow Macaw but the Blue-Throated Macaw weighs less and does not have a patch on green on the top of its forehead. It is believed that there are only around 100-200 of these rare parrots left in existence. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed them on the critically endangered list which means they are at the highest risk of becoming extinct. Their decrease in population is mostly due to capture for pet trade and destruction of habitat.The Blue-throated Macaw depend on palm trees as an area to nest in and as an area to raise their young. It also competes with other birds such as toucans, woodpeckers and other parrots who use palm trees for nesting too. So it is already hard enough for them to find a home. In Los Llanos de Moxos many palm trees have been cut and cleared out so there can be more land for agricultural use. These birds are extremely friendly, docile and usually quite calm in social situations. Their love for human interraction is one of the many reasons as to why they are such a desired pet. Bolivian export of these birds was outlawed in 1984 but illegal export still continued. A pet trade monitoring program has been set up between the two biggest cities in Bolivia in order to survey other areas in the region where Blue-throated Macaw may exist. Bolivia also launched a wide-spread educational program and used posters, t-shirts, videos and presentations to help spread the word on the decrease of population. Fortunately, breeding these birds in captivity is relatively easily and the population in captivity greatly outnumber the population out in the wild. Associations including the Asociación Armonía, the American Bird Conservancy and World Land Trust have taken it upon themselves to breed Blue-throated Macaws in conservation areas and to provide nest-boxes to ease the competition for nesting out in the north-central Bolivia.

African Penguin- Jenny Godwin

The African penguin is only native to certain south-west regions of Africa- mainly Africa’s coastal waters and islands from Namibia through South Africa. This type of penguin has a black back with a white chest that has one stripe and a pattern of spots. These spots are unique to each penguin, just like the human fingerprint. The coloring of this penguin is a form of camoflauge known ascountershading. This helps the penguin remain undetectable to predators swimming both above and below it. The African penguin typically grows 23- 25 inches tall with a weight range of 7- 9 pounds. Their pointed beaks distinguish them from other similar species of penguins. In the wild they live anywhere from 10-15 years, while in captivity they have been known to live up to 25 years. They hunt for prey such as anchovies, horse mackerel and sardines in the nearby coastal waters. They primarily hunt near the coast because the cold water that comes to the surface due to upwelling is rich in nutrients and prey. African Penguins tend to live on the beaches of Africa's southern islands. They are sociable animals, so they live in huge colonies with hundreds of other penguins. The African penguin population was as great as 1.5 million in 1910, and it is estimated that only 10% of that population remained by the end of the 20th century. The main reason for such a dramatic decrease in population size is a shortage in their food supply. The commercial fisheries that operate near penguin hunting grounds are forcing these penguins to hunt further off-shore, where the less nutritious prey is. Also, the penguin's habitat is being destroyed by chemicals from oil spills and shipwrecks. Recently, predators of the penguin such as the mongoose and lion have been introduced to islands where the penguin would normally be safe from these predators. This has caused the survival rate of the African penguin population to dramatically decrease. In September 2010, the African Penguin was listed as endangered under the U.S.A Endangered Species Act. It is also currently listed in the Red Data Book as endangered. There are many conservation efforts including organizations like SANCCOB, Dyer Island Conservation Trust, and the South African government who are working to halt the decline of the African penguin. They are doing things like setting up artificial nests and creating marine reserves where fishing is prohibited in order to accomplish this.

Blue Whale-Hannah Wilhelm


Blue Whales are the largest known animal to ever have lived on the Earth. These creatures weigh up to 200 tons and grow to be about 100 feet long (three school buses). Blue whales are baleen whales, meaning they have long, thin fringed plates of finger-nail like material attached to their upper jaw instead of teeth called baleen. The baleen is used to eat up to 4 tons of krill a day. They feed by gulping an enormous amount of water, pushing the water back out through its baleen, and catching the krill in its filters system. The Blue Whale is a mammal, so it must reach the surface every 3-4 hours to get air. When the Blue Whale visits the surface, it can spray water from its blowhole up to 30 ft. in the air. The Blue Whale obviously gets its name from its color, however, they are really a light grey with yellow underbellies and look true blue under water. These marine animals are found in many of the world's oceans and do most of their feeding during the summers in the polar waters and are thought to migrate towards the equator when winter arrives. It is said that females give birth to one calf a year in warmer waters since the baby has vulnerable blubber and cannot withstand cold temperatures, but this is speculation since it has not been proven where the whales go to breed. They are also on of the loudest animals, emitting pulses as loud as 188 decibels, just below the sound of a jet engine, that can be detected from about 500 miles away. Their average lifespan is about 80-90 years old. Between 1900 and the 1960s, about 360,000 Blue Whales were slaughtered for whale oil. In 1966, the species were put under protection by the International Whaling Commission. Today, only about 2,000-5,000 are left and are on the World Conservation Union's red list. To try and increase whale population, conservationists have implemented strict rules and consequences for whaling. Also, another leading cause of death for these animals are ship collisions, so some ideas are to eliminate ship travel in popular areas where the whales travel. There is said to have been recovery over the past 10 years, however, the recovery is very minor and more drastic measures need to be taken, especially multi-national measure, in order to significantly increase the whale population.

Snow Leopard- Anna Meenen

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The snow leopard is a relatively large cat that typically resides in South and Central Asia. They have a very long and thick coat of fur that varies from grey to yellowish tan with whitish underparts as well as black open rosette spots. They have small and rounded ears which help them minimize heat loss. They have wide paws that help distribute their weight for walking on snow. They also have long and flexible tails which are extremely important for balancing on rocky terrain. They have very powerful legs that help them leap as far as 50 feet. The snow leopard's short muzzle and domed forehead contain large nasal cavities which help them breathe in cold air. Snow leopards cannot roar, despite possessing partial ossification of the hyoid bone. Instead, they hiss, mew, growl, and wail. The snow leopards needed resources include a variety of food; they are classified as opportunistic omnivores which eat whatever they can find (carrior, domestic livestock, blue sheep, hares, gamebirds, grass, and twigs).
It is possible that the snow leopard is endangered for many reasons.
Humans are the first reason that snow leopards are endangered. Humans have pushed ever further with their livestock into the snow leopard’s habitat. Overgrazing damages the fragile mountain grasslands, leaving less food for the wild sheep and goats that are the snow leopard’s main prey. With less food for the wild sheep and goats, there become fewer of these animals for the snow leopard. This leaves the snow leopard with little choice but to prey on the domestic livestock for their own survival. Herders and farmers are then unhappy about their preying on such livestock and retaliate by killing the leopard. Furthermore, poaching driven by illegal trades in pelts and body parts used for traditional Chinese medicine has unfortunately driven up the killing of snow leopards. Vanishing habitat and the decline of the cats' large mammal prey are also contributing factors.
The Snow Leopard Conservancy is just one of many organizations that are trying to help the troubled animals of the world.
he International Union for the Conservation of Nature (which is known as IUCN for short) is a world-wide organization whose membership is made up of many hundreds of smaller organizations devoted to every part of the effort to preserve the natural world. This organization has also been known for its efforts in aiding in the recovery of snow leopards. The International Snow Leopard Trust is solely dedicated to the conservation of the endangered snow leopard and its mountain ecosystem through a balanced approach that considers the needs of the people and the environment.
Troy Baltutat- Thorny Devil
The Thorny Devil Lizard is native to most parts of Australia. Also known as the Mountain devil, or Spiked lizard, the Thorny Devil has a body covered in spikes which have a system of tiny grooves or channels which eventually lead right into the corners of its mouth. The Thorny Devil's skin is totally impervious which means it doesn't lose any water through its skin and it doesn't sweat. This lizard is least active during the summer months and winter months, eating very little and usually moving in only small increments or when temperatures are ideal. The Thorny Devil moves sort of like a chameleon and has the some of the same camoflauge abilities. As it moves the Thorny Devil sways side-to-side as if to act like the wind is simply blowing on a few leaves. The Thorny Devil uses its camoflauge patterns to help blend into surrounding objects, but mostly they are used to reflect the overall body temperature of the Thorny Devil. As its body temperature increases so does the brightness of the colors, and as the body temperature decreases the colors turn more dull and dark. This lizard can reach a length of approximately 20cm with females being larger than males, and it can live up to 20 years of age. The Thorny Devil Lizard eats a diet consisting mostly of ants. It uses the relatively same technique as an anteater, in that the lizard uses its tongue to flick up ants into its mouth, and can eat ants at a rate of 45 per minute. The Thorny Devil Lizard eats more than 600 ants in a day, but only during its extremely active months.This lizard also has a brilliant self defense technique. The Thorny Devil has a false head behing its regular one, and when danger approaches, the lizard bends its real head down so the false head looks to be its real head. The reason the Thorny Devil Lizard is threatened is because of habitat destruction and human intervention. Since being added to the Endangered list in the early 90s, conservationists have harvested the young and helped to grow the population.

Mountain Gorilla- Steve Machi

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The Mountain Gorilla, Gorilla beringei, is a subspecies to the Eastern Gorilla. The Mounain Gorilla is found only in two regions of the world. One is the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa. This includes parts of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The other region is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. As of the spring of 2010, there is believed to be only about 790 Mountain Gorillas left in existence. There are some characteristics that make the Mountain Gorilla unique. The fur of the Mountain Gorilla is thicker an longer than that of other gorillas. This enables them to love in colder temps. The Mountain Gorilla is the largest of all gorillas. Efforts to aid recovery lay entirely on humans. Poachers are the most threatening factor to these gorillas survival. If pouching is not controlled, it is believed that these magnificent creatures will become completely wiped out of existence within the next 20-30 years due to poaching.