Reversing extinction: Marwell zoo and the scimitar-horned oryx

Declared extinct in the wild back in 2000, this species is now not only re-established in the wild, but has a big enough population to now only be listed as endangered (down from critically endangered).

Apart from supplying individuals for the reintroduction, Marwell zoo also helped with strategy.

The video below is just 2 minutes long. While it talks about Marwells other work as well, it shows a number of these animals living wild back in Africa.

This has got to become the reason for zoos. What ever else they do, there are many species at risk of extinction in the wild, these need to have enough captive individuals to re-establish wild populations, should the current conservation fail.

Of course, zoos have many other roles, from education, to fostering a love of wildlife in the next generation.

One thing that they should not be, is a curio house- many zoos are far to worried about displaying albino or melanistic individuals. Now while these individuals are fascinating and can be used as ambassadors for the species, their genetic health should be looked after (all white tigers are descended from one female, and closely related individuals are regularly bred togerther to ensure this trait is passed down. Indeed, as a result of this, white tigers are often not of good health.

The majority of zoos are now like Marwell – while like many, it started as the private zoo of wealthy owners it has turned into an important place of conservation and science. Another of their successes, is the cooperative breeding that occurs as standard in current times, across Europe. Regular loaning of animals is essential, so that we can treat all of the zoo animals in Europe as one single population, thereby  making sure that all animals in the system are healthy.

There are many hundreds of zoos across Europe (some claim as many as 2000, though around 1500 is the estimated worldwide number suggesting that this is a rather large exaggeration. It is likely that around half of the worlds zoos are in Europe, and by cooperative breeding, we can make sure that healthy populations remain in captivity, so that should a population be lost from the wild, it can be returned, when the wild situation improves.

Almost all predictions about human population are expected to peak in the coming decades, and then decline after that. If this pattern is followed, it should be expected that we will need to re-establish wilderness in the future. 

Scimitar-horned oryx have been returned to the wild in Tunisia, and Chad and there are plans to return them to the wild in Niger, in the near future.

Extinction was caused by a variety of features, but the primary one was over-hunting. This has virtually been eliminated, after a ban on hunting of this species was put into effect in 2013. Should this species be allowed to fully recover. In 1985, there was a population of at least 500 of this species living in the wild, so it took only 15 years for it to disappear, as such what is clearly essential is a regular assessment on how this species is faring, allowing earlier interventions.

Saving the natural world, may require this kind of success to be a regular feature.

3.4.5 Peleinae, Alcelaphinae, Hippotraginae

Subfamilies 3. Peleinae, 4. Alcelaphinae, 5. Hippotraginae

The subfamily 3. Peleinae (one species)

Grey Rhebok

Grey Rhebok

The grey rhebok or grey rhebuck, locally known as the vaalribbok in Afrikaans, is native to South Africa, Lesotho, and Eswatini (Swaziland). The specific name capreolus is Latin for ‘little goat’. Generally confined to the higher areas of Southern Africa, they typically inhabit grassy, montane habitats – for example, sourveld – usually 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level, and carry a woolly grey coat to insulate them from the cold. They are not strictly limited to this habitat as they can be found in the coastal belt of the Cape, almost at sea level.

The grey rhebok is listed as “Near Threatened”, with a population of between 10,000-18,000

4. Subfamily Alcelaphinae - Sassabies, Hartebeest, Wildebeest (6 species)

Hirola

The HIrola ( also known as the Hunters hartebeest or hunters antelope) is a critically endangered species. It was named by H.C.V Hunter (a big game hunter and zoologist) in 1888. It is the only member of the genus Beatragus, and it currently has 300-500 individuals living in the wild (there are none in captivity).

It is a widely known fact, that should the Hirola be lost from the wild, it will be the last species in its genus, and therefore the first mammal genus to go extinct in Africa in the modern era. Locals have got behind this species, with 17 conservancies protecting much of the area. There are even efforts to make some of this area devoid of predators, so as to help this species bounce back faster.

Hirola

Tsessebbe, other names regularly used include Topi Sasseby and Tiang

Tsessebbee

The Tsessebbe is part of a group of so called species, which are actually subspecies (there are 5 or 6 subspecies recognized

It is closest related to the Bangweulu Tsessebe, Less so, but still very close to the Topi, Korrigum, Coastal Topi and teh Tiang subspecies. Even the Bontebok is very closely related.

  •  Tsessebbes have around 300,000 living wild
  • Korrigum (Senegalese Hartebeest) in 2004, it was numbered 2650, split between 2 national parks. They situation has not improved
  • Topi are doing well with over 100,00
  • Currently, the Tiang still number very high.

Bontebok

Found only in Southern Africa, its range includes South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia

There are 2 subspecies:

  • Bontebok, found around the western cape -2500-3000 (vulnerable IUCN)
  • Blesbok, found in the high-veld. Closely related to the Tsessebe has a population of around 120,000 (Least concern IUCN)
The majority of this is in protected reserves, meaning that the current threat is low and this species should keep growing
Bontebok

Hartebeest

Hartebeest

The Hartebeest – as many as 70 subspecies, local variants and similar have been suggested, however there is only one currently recognized species.

Overall, the species is listed as least concern with a population of around 360,000. The red hartebeest has a population of 130,000, but at the other end the Swaynes hartebeest in Ethiopia is only thought to number 800 in the wild. The Bulbul hartebeast (light blue) is extinct. The Lelwel Hartebeest(green) is considered endangered and has around 70,000 members. The western or Major hartebeest has around 36,000. What is clear, is that if you are travelling to an area where the local hartebeest is struggling, it would be we worth paying to see them, so as to give a value to them

Blue Wildebeest

  • Other names include common wildebeest, white-bearded gnu or brindled gnu.

There has been five subspecies recognized:

 

  • C.t.taurinus (Burchell, 1823), the blue wildebeest, common wildebeest, or brindled gnu Inhabits the dark brown range

  • C. t. johnstoni (Sclater, 1896), the Nyassaland wildebeest, inhabit orange (Tanzania, Mozambique Malawi)
  • C. t. albojubatus (Thomas, 1912), the eastern white-bearded wildebeest, found in the Gold (beside the Yelow)
  • C. t. mearnsi (Heller, 1913), the western white-bearded wildebeest, its range is shown in yellow
  • C. t. cooksoni (Blaine, 1914), Cookson’s wildebeest, is restricted to the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. This is the mighter brown

In addition, the distinctive appearance of a western form, ranging from the Kalahari to central Zambia, suggests that subspecies mattosi (Blaine, 1825) may also prove distinct from subspecies taurinus. The western form can be recognised even at a distance by its upright mane, long beard, and minimal brindling.

There are around 1.5 million of this species living in the wild – so they are not endangered. Having said this, given that 1.3 million (almost 90% of them live in the Serengeti ecosystem), were something to happen, we could be in a very different position..

Blue wildebeest

Black Wildebeest

Black wildebeest

The Black wildebeest is the black wildebeest or white-tailed gnu is one of the two closely related wildebeest species.  It was first described in 1780 by Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann. It came surprisingly close to extinction, having been hunted as a pest and for its meat and hide.

The current population is now thought to be around 18,000, though 7000 of this is in Namibia (outside their natural range) where they are farmed. Their conservation status is least concern

5. Subfamily Hippotraginae

Addax

The addax , also known as the white antelope and the screwhorn antelope, is an antelope found in the  Sahara Desert. The only member of the genus Addax, it was first described scientifically by Henri de Blainville in 1816. As suggested by its alternative name, the pale antelope has long, twisted horns – typically 55 to 80 cm  in females and 70 to 85 cm in males. Males stand from 105 to 115 cm at the shoulder, with females at 95 to 110 cm. The females are smaller than the males (sexually diamorphic). The colour of the coat depends on the season – in the winter, it is greyish-brown with white hindquarters and legs, and long, brown hair on the head, neck, and shoulders; in the summer, the coat turns almost completely white or sandy blonde.

The addax mainly eats grasses and leaves of any available shrubs, leguminous herbs and bushes and can survive with no more water than that in the plants they eat for long periods of time. Addax form herds of 5to 20 members, consisting of both males and females, but they are led by the eldest female. Due to its slow movements, the addax is an easy target for its predators: humans, lions, leopards, cheetahs and African wild dogs. Breeding season is at its peak during winter and early spring. The natural habitat of the addax are arid regions, semideserts and sandy and stony deserts.

The addax is a critically endangered species of antelope, as classified by the IUCN (though the USFWS lists them as endangered, as the population is thought to have gone from under 100 to around 500 in the last few years) . Although extremely rare in its native habitat due to unregulated hunting, it is quite common in captivity. The addax was once abundant in North Africa; however it is currently only native to Chad, Mauritania, and Niger. It is extirpated from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Western Sahara, but has been reintroduced into Morocco and Tunisia. On the map, they green areas are where they still live, while the red represent places that they have been reintroduced

Addax

Sable Antelope

Known for its impressive back curving horns, the sable antelope is a large antelope which inhabits wooded savanna in East and Southern Africa, from the south of Kenya to South Africa, with a separated population in Angola.

There are 4 subspecies

  • The southern sable antelope (other names include the common sable antelope, black sable antelope, Matsetsi sable antelope or South Zambian sable antelope) was the first to be described in 1838 and so is considered the nominate subspecies. Often referred to as the black sable antelope because it tends to have the darkest coat, this subspecies occurs south of the Zambezi River, particularly in northern Botswana and in large numbers in the Matsetsi Valley of Zimbabwe, but it is also found in South Africa. Currently, only about 15% pure Matsetsi sable antelopes are thought to exist in South Africa. The Matsetsi sable antelope population in Zimbabwe is only 450 (down from 24,000 in 1994). The sable antelope population in South Africa is about 7,000 (commercial and in reserves). Therefore, the Matsetsi sable antelope population apparently is less than 1,500 and declining. However, most of the sable antelope in the reserves are pure Matsetsi sable antelope. Anglo-American recently started a program of breeding pure Matsetsi sable antelope commercially and keeping them pure.
  • The giant sable antelope (also known as the royal sable antelope) is so named because both sexes are larger and their horns are recognizably longer. It is found only in a few remaining localities in central Angola. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and is listed on Appendix I of CITES. There are thought to be less than 1000 left in the wild. Given a war raged for 27 years (ending in 2002), there is little tourism to the country. If this changes it is likely to give impetus for protecting what wildlife that remains.
  • The Zambian sable antelope (also known as the West Zambian sable antelope or West Tanzanian sable antelope) has the largest geographic range of the four subspecies, which extends north of the Zambezi River through Zambia, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Malawi into southwestern Tanzania. It is classified as Vulnerable (I cannot find a population estimate.
  • The eastern sable antelope (also known as the Shimba sable antelope) is the smallest of the four subspecies. It occurs in the coastal hinterlands of southern Kenya, particularly in the Shimba Hills National Reserve, and ranges through the region east of Tanzania’s eastern escarpment and into northern Mozambique.

In English “great sable antelope”, “sable” or the Swahili name mbarapi are sometimes used. An archaic term used in accounts of hunting expeditions in South Africa is “potaquaine”; the origin and exact application are unclear. Local names include swartwitpens (Afrikaans), kgama or phalafala (Sotho), mBarapi or palahala (Swahili), kukurugu, kwalat or kwalata (Tswana), ngwarati (Shona), iliza (Xhosa), impalampala (Zulu) and umtshwayeli (Ndebele).

Roan Antelope

Roan Antelope

The roan antelope is a large savanna-dwelling antelope found in western, central, and southern Africa. Named for its roan colour (a reddish brown), it has lighter underbellies, white eyebrows and cheeks and black faces, lighter in females. It has short, erect manes, very light beards and prominent red nostrils. It is one of the largest antelope, measuring 190–240 cm  from head to the base of the tail, and a 37–48 cm  long tail. Males weigh 242–300 kg and females 223–280 kg . Its shoulder height is around 130–140 cm.

It was first described by French naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1803. It is listed as least concern by IUCN, while CITES places them on appendix 3 (I have been unable to find conservation of the subspecies, but these will be added if/ when I do.

Six subspecies are recognised:

  • H. e. bakeri (Heuglin, 1863): Occurs in Sudan (East Africa). Vulnerable 
  • H. e. cottoni Dollman and Burlace, 1928: Occurs in Angola, Botswana, the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, central and northern Malawi, and Zambia (Southern Africa).
  • H. e. equinus É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803: Occurs in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe (Southern Africa).
  • H. e. koba (Gray, 1872): Range extends from Senegal to Benin (West Africa).
  • H. e. langheldi Matschie, 1898: Occurs in Burundi, the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda (East Africa).
  • H. e. scharicus (Schwarz, 1913): Occurs in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad and eastern Nigeria (Central Africa).
Roan antelopes can be found in woodland, grassland, and savannah; mainly in the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, which range in tree density from forest with a grassy understory (such as the central Zambezian Miombo woodlands) to grasslands dotted with few trees, where they eat mid-length grasses.
 
They live in small groups and form harem groups of 5 to 15 animals with one dominant male. Males commonly fight among themselves for dominance of their herd, brandishing their horns while both animals are on their knees.

Gemsbok

The gemsbok or South African oryx, is a large antelope in the genus Oryx. It is endemic to the dry and barren regions of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and (parts of) Zimbabwe, mainly inhabiting the Kalahari and Namib Deserts, areas in which it is supremely adapted for survival. Previously, some sources classified the related East African oryx, or beisa oryx, as a subspecies.

The name gemsbok is from Afrikaans, which itself is from the Dutch word of the same spelling, meaning “male chamois”, composed of gems (“chamois”) + bok (“buck, male goat”).

It is on the Namibian coat of arms, as there are roughly 373,000 in the country. They are listed as least concern. Being a desert species, they are only found in South African reserves in the west, and are not found in the Kruger. The closely related East African Oryx lives (unsurprisingly) in east Africa.

Belsa Oryx - Also known as the East African Oryx

Belsa Oryx

The East African oryx  inhabits eastern Africa. The East African oryx has two subspecies;

  • the common beisa oryx (O. b. beisa)
  • the fringe-eared oryx (O. b. callotis).

In the past, both were considered subspecies of the gemsbok. The East African oryx is an endangered species, with 11,000-13,000 mature individuals in the wild.

Scimitar Oryx

The scimitar oryx, also called the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), of North Africa used to be listed as extinct in the wild, but it is now declared as endangered. Unconfirmed surviving populations have been reported in central Niger and Chad, and a semi-wild population currently inhabiting a fenced nature reserve in Tunisia is being expanded for reintroduction to the wild in that country. Several thousand are held in captivity around the world.

Schimiter Oryx

6. Subfamily Aepycerotinae (1 species)

Impala

Impala

There are currently around 2 million Impala roaming across Africa.  About one quarter of these live in protected areas in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Around 1000 of the Black faced Impala live in the green area in the west of Africa.

In some reserves such as the Kruger, they are the most common antelope.

7. Subfamily Antilopinae

Dama Gazelle

The Dama Gazelle is a small antelope, species with a handful of small populations acros central and western north Africa. It lives in the Sahara and the Sahel desert. 

In Niger, the Dama Gazelle has become a national symbol.

There are 3 subspecies, however the Mhorr gazell is extinct in the wild (though zoos have a number) , the dama gazelle is only kept in captivity one zoo and is very rare in the wild. 

The species is critically endangered with only 100-200 left in the wild. Given that this small population is spread over a number of areas. The number of wild semi wild and captive is around 2900, so it is just the need to save the species in the wild which is the current problem.

Schimiter Oryx

Amazon River Dolphin

Amazon river dolphin by Oceancetaceen sometimes known as the Orinoco

Amazon Dolphin

The Amazon river dolphin, (other names include boto, bufeo or pink river dolphin), is a species of toothed whale endemic to South America and is classified in the family Iniidae. Three subspecies are currently recognized: Amazon river dolphin,, Bolivian river dolphin and the Orinoco river dolphin while position of Araguaian river dolphin  within the clade is still unclear The three subspecies are each found in a separate river basin (in order) the Amazon basin, the upper Madeira River in Bolivia, and the Orinoco basin.

The Amazon river dolphin is the largest species of river dolphin, with adult males reaching 185 kilograms (408 lb) in weight, and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length. Adults acquire a pink colour, more prominent in males, giving it its nickname “pink river dolphin”. Sexual dimorphism is very evident, with males measuring 16% longer and weighing 55% more than females.

Like other toothed whales, they have a melon, an organ that is used for bio sonar. The dorsal fin, although short in height, is regarded as long, and the pectoral fins are also large. The fin size, unfused vertebrae, and its relative size allow for improved manoeuvrability when navigating flooded forests and capturing prey.

They have one of the widest ranging diets among toothed whales, and feed on up to 53 different species of fish, such as croakers, catfish, tetras and piranhas. They also consume other animals such as river turtles, aquatic frogs, and freshwater crabs. However, this is not particularly surprising, as there are so many forms of life in the Amazon rainforest, and plenty is likely to occasionally find themselves in the river.

In 2018, this species was classed as endangered, by the IUCN with a declining population. Threats include incidental catch in fishing lines, direct hunting for use as fish bait or predator control, damming, and pollution; as with many species, habitat loss and continued human development is becoming a greater threat.

While it is the only species of river dolphin kept in captivity, almost exclusively in Venezuela and Europe, it is difficult to train and often die very young, when kept in captivity..

Life expectancy of the Amazon river dolphin in the wild is unknown, but in captivity, the longevity of healthy individuals has been recorded at between 10 and 30 years. However, a 1986 study of the average longevity of this species in captivity in the United States is only 33 months. An individual named Baby at the  Duisburg Zoo, Germany, lived at least 46 years, spending 45 years, 9 months at the zoo.

Below you will find any news articles on Amazon dolphin (though articles with both words also get sucked in). Also  we will add any information on where you can go to see these in the wild, beneath both of these.

Common Dolphin

Common Dolphin

  • The most abundant cetacean in the world, with around 6 million (it should be noted that there are 1350 humans in the world, for every individual common dolphin).

Despite this fact and its name, the common dolphin is not thought of as the model dolphin (that honour goes to the bottlenose dolphin due to its popular appearances in aquaria and the media). It did, however, feature heavily in Ancient Greek and Roman art and culture, most notably in a mural painted by the Greek Minoan civilization.

It is currently the only member of the genus Delphinus. The common dolphin belongs to the subfamily Delphininae, making this dolphin closely related to the three different species of bottlenose dolphins, humpback dolphins, striped dolphins, spinner dolphins, clymene dolphin, spotted dolphins, fraser’s dolphin and the tucuxi and guiana dolphin.[5] The common dolphin was originally categorized into two different species (now thought to be ecotypes), the short-beaked common dolphin and the long-beaked common dolphin. However, recent evidence has shown that generally long-beaked dolphins of this species have originated from the short-beaked population, and therefore there is no close links between different long-beaked dolphins in any part of the world.

Currently, the common dolphin is divided into four subspecies:

  • D. d. delphis, the nominate subspecies
  • D. d. bairdii, the Eastern North Pacific long-beaked common dolphin
  • D. d. ponticus, the Black Sea common dolphin
  • D. d. tropicalis, the Indo-Pacific common dolphin

A number of fossils were erroneously placed in the same genus, but this has since been corrected. 

Common dolphins can live in aggregations of hundreds or even thousands of dolphins,though are often seen in groups numbering several hundred individuals (with subgroups consisting of 20-30 individuals). Occasionally, different groups will come together to form mega-pods which can consist of over 10,000 dolphins – quite a site to witness. Genetic studies in the Northeast Atlantic suggest that common dolphin pods generally do not consist of close kin, but rather of members that are not closely related. Unlike many delphinids, common dolphins do not live in a matriarchal society. That being said, closely related individuals are usually found in similar geographical locations fairly consistently, providing evidence that this species displays site fidelity (at least in the North-eastern Atlantic). Male common dolphins display greater site fidelity in relation to their kin than females.

Common dolphin pod structure often consists of nursery pods (which includes females and calves), bachelor pods (consisting of all males) and mixed groups of males and females, including sub-adults and calves. Genetic evidence seems to indicate that common dolphins live in fission-fusion societies, where dolphins form pods that are not necessarily stable and do not necessarily consist of related individuals. It is not known if common dolphins form lifelong bonds with other individuals  like the long-term male alliances seen in bottlenose dolphins.

There is some evidence that common dolphins use signature whistles, similar to that of the bottlenose dolphin. These whistles are believed to serve as an acoustic label the dolphin equivalent of a name.  It takes approximately 1 year for a calf to learn its signature whistle after which it remains stable for the rest of a dolphin’s life.

In South Africa, as many as 29 common dolphin signature whistle types were detected. However, it was difficult to determine if each dolphin had its own signature whistle due to the vast number of dolphins present (over 1,000) and anthropogenic background noise. Additionally, considering the vast number of dolphins present and  taking into account their feeding and diving behaviour, it appears that common dolphin signature whistles are also used for group cohesion. Another hypothesis for the function of signature whistles, is that they serve as a beacon for lost individuals.

Common dolphins sometimes associate with other dolphin species, such as pilot whales (note, not actually whales). In the Gulf of Corinth, common dolphins frequently display mixed species association, especially with striped and Rissos’ dolphins. Over one third of all dolphin sightings in the gulf consisted of mixed species associations that partially consisted of common dolphins. In mixed species associations, the ratio of striped to common dolphins ranged from 6-11:1. When Rissos’ dolphins were present (there would usually be only one or two individuals), it appeared that much of their scars were the result of interactions between striped and spinner dolphins. In much of the interactions, the Rissos’ dolphins would chase and herd the common dolphins toward the boat, while the common dolphins would try and swim under the Rissos’ dolphin. When groups of common and striped dolphins would charge at each other, the Rissos’ dolphin would chase the striped dolphins. Sometimes these interactions appeared to be playful, and at other times aggressive. Synchronized swimming and surfacing was commonly observed. These interactions take place in the deepest part of the Gulf, furthest from shore and usually consist of a total of 60 dolphins from all three species.

There have been 15 cases of common dolphin and striped dolphin hybrids being recorded. Genetic and observational evidence has demonstrated that the hybrids are fertile and are capable of not only reproducing with other hybrids, but are capable of reproducing with each of the parent species. Striped dolphins have been known to mate with other dolphins, as the Clymene dolphin is the result of hybrid speciation between striped and spinner dolphins. However, this is unlikely to happen with common dolphins, as their population in the Gulf of Corinth is too low. Common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins have been known to interbreed in captivity. There is one confirmed case of a hybrid between a bottlenose and common dolphin in Southern Spain, an important feeding ground for both species. The mother was a female bottlenose dolphin (dubbed as Billie) who has spent 10 years within a common dolphin pod. Billie was observed assisting common calves reach the surface at three different intervals and would babysit the calves after the mother went through labour. They have also been observed bow riding on baleen whales, and they also bow ride on boats. They are fast swimmers and breaching behaviour and aerial acrobatics are common with this species. They are also known to display altruistic behaviours to support injured members.

The short-beaked common dolphin is pregnant for 10 to 11 months. The new-born calf has a length of 70 to 100 centimetres (2.3 to 3.3 ft) and weighs about 10 kilograms. For the Black Sea population, weaning occurs at between five and six months, but occurs later (up to about 19 months) in other areas. Typical interbirth interval ranges from one year for the Black Sea population to three years for eastern Pacific Ocean populations. Age of sexual maturity also varies by location, but can range between two and seven years for females and three and 12 years for males. No evidence exists of any major reproductive differences between the two species. In captivity, the long-beaked common dolphin has hybridized with the common bottlenose dolphin . One of the hybrids has been bred back to a bottlenose dolphin, demonstrating such hybrids are fertile.

Find our news section below this video of a megapod of common dolphins

Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin

The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is a species of Bottlenose dolphin. This dolphin grows to 2.6 m long, and weighs up to 230 kg . It lives in the waters around northern Australia , South China, the Red Sea, and the eastern coast of Africa. Its back is dark grey and its underside is lighter grey or nearly white with grey spots. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is usually smaller than the Common bottlenose dolphin, has a proportionately longer Rostrum, and has spots on its belly and lower sides. It also has more teeth than the common bottlenose dolphin — 23 to 29 teeth on each side of each jaw compared to 21 to 24 for the common bottlenose dolphin.

Much of the old scientific data in the field combine data about the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the common bottlenose dolphin into a single group, making it effectively useless in determining the structural differences between the two species. The IUCN lists the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin as “near threatened” in their Red List of endangered species.

Until 1998, all bottlenose dolphins were considered members of the single species Tursiops truncatus. In that year, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was recognized as a separate species. Both species are thought to have split during the mid-Pleistocene, about 1 million years ago. Some evidence shows the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin may actually be more closely related to certain dolphin species in the Delphinus (genus), especially the “Atlantic spotted dolphin”, than it is to the common bottlenose dolphin. However, more recent studies indicate that this is a consequence of reticulate evolution (such as past hybridization between Stenella and ancestral Tursiops and incomplete lineage sorting, and thus support truncatus and T. aduncus belonging to the same genus. Burrunan dolphin T. (aduncus) australis has been alternately considered its own species, a subspecies of T. truncatus, or a subspecies of T. aduncus. Following the results of a 2020 study, the American Society of Mammologists presently classifies it as a subspecies of T. aduncus. The same study delineated 3 distinct lineages within T. aduncus which could each be their own subspecies: an Indian Ocean lineage, an Australasian lineage, and the Burrunan dolphin. The Society for Marine Mammalogy does not recognize the Burrunan dolphin as a distinct species or subspecies, citing the need for further research. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are very similar to common bottlenose dolphins in appearance. Common bottlenose dolphins have a reasonably strong body, moderate-length beak, and tall, curved dorsal fins; whereas Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins have a more slender body build and their beak is longer and more slender. 

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins feed on a wide variety of fish Cephalopod, Squid, researchers looked at the feeding ecology of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins by analysing the stomach contents of ones that got caught in the gillnet fisheries off Zanzibar, Tanzania.  Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins live in groups that can number in the hundreds, but groups of five to 15 dolphins are most common. 

In some parts of their range, they spend time with the common bottlenose dolphin and other dolphin species, such as the humpback dolphin. The peak mating and calving seasons are in the spring and summer, although mating and calving occur throughout the year in some regions. Gestation period is about 12 months. Calves are between 0.84 and 1.5 Meters, and weigh between 9 and 21kg. The calves are weaned between 1.5 and 2.0 years, but can remain with their mothers for up to 5 years, some mothers will give birth again, shortly before the 5 years are up. 

In some parts of its range, this dolphin is subject to predation by sharks. 

Its lifespan is more than 40 years. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins located in Shark Bay, Australia, have been observed using sponges as tools in a practice called “sponging”. A dolphin breaks a marine sponge off the sea floor and wears it over its rostrum, apparently to probe substrates for fish, possibly as a tool. Spontaneous ejaculation in an aquatic mammal was recorded in a wild Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin near Mikura Island, Japan, in 2012. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins have been observed to swim near and rub themselves against specific types of corals and sponges. A team of scientists followed up on this behaviour and discovered metabolites with antibacterial, antioxidative, and hormonal activities in the corals and sponges, suggesting that they might be used by the dolphins to treat skin infections. its near-shore distribution, though, makes it vulnerable to environmental degradation, direct exploitation, and problems associated with local fisheries. 

The major predators of this species are typically sharks, and may include humans, killer whales, and sting rays. In the early 1980s, many were deliberately killed in a Taiwanese driftnet fishery in the Arafura Sea, off north western Australia. Large-mesh nets set to protect bathers from sharks in South Africa and Australia have also resulted in a substantial number of deaths. Gillnets are also having an impact, and are a problem throughout most of the species’ range.

These small cetaceans are commonly found in captivity, causing conservation concerns, including the effects of removing the animals from their wild populations, survival of cetaceans during capture and transport and while in captivity, and the risks to wild populations and ecosystems of accidentally introducing alien species and spreading epizootic diseases, especially when animals have been transported over long distances and are held in sea pens.

Bottlenose dolphins are the most common captive cetaceans on a global scale. Prior to 1980, more than 1,500 bottlenose dolphins were collected from the United States, Mexico, and the Bahamas, and more than 550 common and 60 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were brought into captivity in Japan. By the late 1980s, the United States stopped collecting bottlenose dolphins and the number of captive-born animals in North American aquaria has increased from only 6% in 1976 to about 44% in 1996. South Korea, in the 2010s, environmental groups and animal protection groups led a campaign ko:2013 to release southern bottlenose dolphins illegally captured by fishermen and trapped in Jeju Island.

In a study on three populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Japan, the characteristics of acoustic signals are believed to be affected by the acoustic environments among habitats, and geographical variation in animal acoustic signals can result from differences in acoustic environments; therefore, the characteristics of the ambient noise in the dolphins’ habitats and the whistles produced were compared. Ambient noise was recorded using a hydrophone located 10 m below the surface and whistles were recorded by using an underwater video system. The results showed dolphins produced whistles at varying frequencies with greater modulations when in habitats with less ambient noise, whereas habitats with greater ambient noise seem to cause dolphins to produce whistles of lower frequencies and fewer frequency modulations. Examination of the results suggest communication signals are adaptive and are selected to avoid the masking of signals and the decrease of higher-frequency signals. They concluded ambient noise has the potential to drive the variation in whistles of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin populations.

Small, motorized vessels have increased as a source of anthropogenic noise due to the rise in popularity of wildlife viewing such as whale watching. Another study showed powerboat approaches within 100 m altered the dolphin surface behaviour from traveling to milling, and changed their direction to travel away from the powerboat. When the powerboat left the area and its noise ceased, the dolphins returned to their preceding behaviour in the original direction.

In Shark Bay, Western Australia, on dolphin behavioural responses showed significant changes in the behaviour of targeted dolphins were found when compared with their behaviour before and after approaches by small watercraft. Dolphins in the low-traffic site showed a stronger and longer-lasting response than dolphins in the high-traffic site. These results are believed to show habituation of the dolphins to the vessels in a region of long-term vessel traffic. However, when compared to other studies in the same area, moderated responses, rather, were suggested to be because those individuals sensitive to vessel disturbance left the region before their study began. Although these studies do show statistical significance for the effects of whale-watching boats on behaviour, what these results mean for long-term population viability is not known. The Shark Bay population has been forecast to be relatively stable with little variation in mortality over time. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin populations of the Arafura and the Timor Sea are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals “Bonn Convention”. They are listed on Appendix II as they have an unfavourable conservation status or would benefit significantly from international co-operation organised by tailored agreements. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is also covered by Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary “Marine protected area”  in the Australian state of South Australia Gulf St Vincent, which was established in 2005 for the protection of a resident population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.

When we have links for viewing these species, they will appear below video and the news section

Narrow-ridged (or East Asian) finless porpoise

Narrow ridged (east Asian) finless Porpoise

This species is native to the East China Sea, Yellow Sea, and the seas around Japan. The Yangtze finless was originally thought to be a subspecies of this porpoise, though further study showed its differences to be greater than that (hence it now being recognized as a separate species). The east asian finless porpoise is a subspecies of the narrow ridged finless porpoise (the above picture is one of these).

Growing to 2.27m at most, and 72kg, though most are smaller.

They generally stay in water 50m deep or less, and mostly stay close to shore (though not always – it has been spotted over 100km from land).

The biggest threat to them is habitat degradation and pollution. The population has fallen by 50% in the last 3 generations.

They have been kept in captivity in Japan, Indonesia and China. A total of 94 are thought to have been held. Unfortunately these do not live long, and of all of the pregnancies that have occurred in captivity, only 2 resulted in a love birth and this did not survive for long.

Beluga Whale

Beluga Whale

Beluga whales are only found in the arctic and sub-arctic oceans. They are one of just 2 species in their family Monodontidae, and are unique in their genus of Delphinapterus. It is also known as the white whale, the sea canary and the Melon-head (though the melon-headed dolphin is a species of its own, so this name may cause some confusion.

Adaptions it has for the Arctic, include the fact that it is white in colour, allowing it to blend into the white world more effectively, and the fact it has no dorsal fin, which allows it to swim very close to the ice sheet above.

Growing up to 5.5m in length and up to 1600kg they are a pretty large dolphin. Generally, living in groups of around 10, in the summer, they group together in their hundreds or thousands.

The worlds population is thought to be around 200,000, Some populations move from the edge of the ice cap, into rivers in warmer areas, while others stay around the ice caps year round. Groups of people in both USA and Russia have hunted them for many centuries.

Hunting is not controlled, and as such the drop in population could happen quite fast. Russia and Greenland have killed enough to drop their local population significantly, though thankfully not Alaska or Canada.

They do also have their natural predators in both the killer whale and the Polar bear.

They are the most commonly kept cetaceans in the world, with around 300 in captivity. Japan, USA, Ukraine, Canada, China and Russia as well as a few more.

There are 22 populations around the world, these vary from 39,000 down to as little as 500. The total population is around 200,000. While this number is large, the number hunted is definitely not sustainable. There is also no care to distinguish the different populations, which suggests that sub-populations could be pushed to extinction without any care.

Below, you will find a clip from a bbc documentary which features this species. Below this, is a list of any mentions that the beluga whale has had on this site. Below this, I will list any opportunities to see this species in the wild. Click on list your wild place, to list yours. It takes just a few minutes, and costs nothing – we only charge a commission on any business we send your way.

Panda Bear

Panda Bear

Panda bears are unique amongst the bears, having become a vegetarian species. This means they are of great interest. They also survive only in China, despite the fact that it is the most populace country in the world.

A huge reserve is being created, which should connect most panda populations.

The only bear which has adapted a totally vegetarian diet, Panda bears are well known partly as a result in their face being the mark of the charity WWF, though it’s also likely that China’s panda diplomacy has had something to do with this. Eating almost exclusively bamboo they have a very restricted range in the mountains. Through much effort the current population is 2060 strong. While very expensive and needing high level of fitness, treks to see the Panda can be arranged.

Over time we hope to list many places where you can visit bears and see them in their wild home, these will appear here, and a list of posts we have published on bears will appear below these links

There are 2 subspecies, with the split thought to have occurred around 300,000 years ago.

The standard panda is the one that we all know well. This is the black and white stereotypical panda that we are all familiar with.

These pandas are generally found within Sichuan province in China.

The population of both subspecies of panda is nearly 1900, which means that the population of this subspecies must number between 1600 and 1700. However, as always, we are operating on subspecies so its hard to be sure.

Below, I have included 2 videos of the more common  giant panda.

  • The first is an incredibly rare encounter with a panda bear on one of the roads that crosses their habitat – what a treat for the driver.
  • The second is a mother panda teaching her young how to eat bamboo.
  • The last video shows the training that humans give to pandas. to get them ready for a life in the wild (this is incredibly hard and time-consuming process. While it may be possible to reintroduce captive breed animals , or even a whole population from scratch, it will be far easier if we are able to maintain a minimum wild population instead.

The Qinling panda, is restricted to the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi at elevations of 1,300–3,000m. These pandas have a brown and white pattern (though largely in the same arrangement.

The population is thought to number 200-300 though numbers are not certain.

Below, I have included 2 videos of the Quinling panda. 

  • The first is a rare piece of footage of a quinling bear on the edge of a local city.
  • The second is footage of possibly the only Quinling bear that is currently found in captivity.
  •  The last video is a more in depth video about this subspecies which has recently be discovered.

Domestic cat

Domestic cat

Domestic cats are thought to have been first tamed back around 10,000 somwhere in the middle east. Unfortunately, as this is the cat that makes up the worldwide domestic cat population (almost exclusively) in many regions like Scotland, while reduction in numbers made specific subspecies of wildcat endangered, it has often been hybridisation that has pushed them over the edge.

There is little point in showing a map of the world, as they are found in almost every human population. It is thought that there are at least 200 million across the globe

Domestic cats are thought to have been tamed in Israel, which has unfortunately meant that this species of wild cat is now spread across the globe – many local species of wildcat have become extinct through hybridisation, the British wildcat is just one such example. There are now only pure British wildcats in captivity, and while there are still quite a few living wild in Scotland they have Asiatic wildcat features. This has happened in many places and solutions are not yet forthcoming.

While unfortunate, there is still work being done. In the UK there are plans to clear a peninsular of domestic cats, and re-establish a wildcat population. Only in situations like Scotland is hybridization likely, the most common reaction to a wildcat meeting a domestic cat is for the wildcat to kill the domestic cat. I hope to live to see the wildcat roaming Scotland once more, but we will se what happens.

They are not hard to see if you are in the right place. I have seen them in Africa, take a night drive in almost any nature reserve. Links will be added below.

Flat-headed cat

Flat-headed cat

Flat-headed cat

Found on the Malay peninsular, as well as Borneo and Sumatra, the flat-headed cat is (like so many cats on this list) threatened with extinction, mostly as a result of habitat, which is being turned into farmland, palm oil plantations and human settlements.

Little is known about the wild behaviour of this cat – while it is thought to be nocturnal, in captivity it proved to be crepescular (that is active in early morning and late afternoon.

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