Red panda

Red Panda

Recent genetic analysis has shown that the red panda is not in fact a small bear, but instead has a closer relationship to raccoons, mustelids (badgers otters and the like) and skunks. However, what is even more fascinating, is that the next closest related family is in fact the pinipeds (seals sealions and similar) and only after this, do we find the giant panda amongst the other bears.

What is fascinating, though, is that this is the original panda. The red panda was discovered and named in 1825, while the giant panda was only discovered in 1869. I cannot find any articles on it, but I suspect that the red panda was also long-known about in China before its discovery as well.

It is not closely related to the giant panda, which is a bear, though they do share a number of features such as elongated wrist bones or “false thumbs” used for grasping bamboo (so-called convergent evolution; where distantly related species evolve the same features, because it allows each to survive well in the wild – eating what they eat (or similar). The evolutionary lineage of the red panda (Ailuridae) goes back as far as 18-25 million years ago, and there are a variety of fossils in this lineage, found in Europe and North America.

So what has happened in recent times? They were known to be found in  two different places, one of them lives in the Himalayas and the other in China. What has been discovered in recent times, is that these are not only subspecies, but separate species – and are thought to have split 250,000 years ago. However, while this is clearly true, it may well need to be forgotten – there are only 10,000 red pandas left in the wild as the top possible estimate, some suggest that there are actually only 2500 – we may have no choice in conserving both species, but have to interbreed them to help just one mixed group of red pandas, rather than loosing all red pandas from the wild. They live in coniferous forests as well as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, favouring steep slopes with dense bamboo cover close to water sources. Most of its nutrients come from bamboo stems and leaves,

Support for these wild populations is essential. The best way to help justify their long term survival, is for local people to see them as a financial gift. This can happen quickly, with not that many people going there.

Below is a video for each, below that is a list of any articles which mention this fascinating creature, and below that, we will add any links that  will help you see these animals in the wild.

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Indian Greater one horned rhino

Indian greater one horned rhinoceros

Native to the Indian sub-continent, it is listed on the red list, and is only found across 20,000 square kilometres, or 7,700 square miles This is a smaller area than the size of Wales. Unfortunately, as you can see, the rhino does not roam this whole area, to the contrary, it is only found in a few small areas.

At the last full assessment (August 2018) the population was estimated to at 3588 individuals (recent estimates suggest a population of over 4000, but I will use the numbers from 5 years ago, as it is unclear how this growth has been split within the sites). Of this number 2939 were in India, witht he rest in Nepal. In 2009 2048 of these rhinos lived in Kaziranga national park. 

Other places include translocated 18 rhinos from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Assam’s Manas National Park on the India-Bhutan border. As of 2017, Manas was home to 29 rhinos.

As of August 2018, the global population was estimated to comprise 3,588 individuals, including 2,939 individuals in India and 649 in Nepal Kaziranga National Park alone had an estimated population of 2,048 rhinos in 2009. Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam has the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world with 84 individuals in an area of 38.80 km(14.98 sq mi) in 2009.

Primate family tree main and great and lesser apes

Primate family tree

The primates are in some ways one of the most successful families. It is true that many are now endangered, however, unfortunately, that is as a result of the run-away success of the most successful member of the primate family us! Having left the rainforests behind, we have been reducing their coverage dramatically over the last few centuries. 

The sad thing, is that while we have pushed many of our closest cousins towards extinction, the loss of forests may well cost us dearly in the future as well. As a species, we need to pull together to meet this challenge. in order to jump to the various families, click on the family of interest above – though all can also be reached by scrolling down.

Great Apes

Great ape Family split is thought to have split from its nearest relative – the gibbon family, around 17 million years ago.

4 million years later the Orangutan family split from the gorilla line and the human/chimp line.

3 million years after this (so around 10 million years ago) the gorilla family split from the Homo (humans) and Pan

Finally the human line (homo) split from the Pan line 5-6 million years ago.

It should be noted, that chimpanzees and Bonobos split from a common ancestor just 1.8 million years ago. This occurred as the two populations ceased to be able to have contact with each other – the Congo rive formed between 1.5 and 2 million years ago.

For more information on each species, click on their photo and this will take you to their page

It should be noted that while I have grouped eastern western and skywalker gibbon together, there is some contention that the skywalker gibbon should be in its own genus, having diverged around half a million years aog

Gibbons

4 horned antelope

4 horned antelope

This is a small species of antelope that is found in India and Nepal. the sole member of its genus Teracenus (and only sharing its tribe Boselaphini with the Nilgai). First described in 1816, it has 3 recognized subspecies. It is quite hard to find, but feeds on grass shrubs herbs foliage flowers and fruit.

 

They tend to hide in long grass, and the undergrowth, which is why it is only areas like this that they are usually found in.

 

Population estimate in 2001 was put at 10,000. While they are wide spread, they live at low densities (0.7 per square km is considered healthy).

Below is a video of this species, and below this is a list of articles on this species; this is a relatively obscure antelope, but should it be written about, you will find all these articles listed here.

There are a variety of reserves where they can be seen. including Pench Kanha and Gir to name just a few. As the website grows, we hope to link to many of these places. These will all be listed at the bottom of the page.

 

The Bengal fox

The Bengal fox (also known as the Indian fox, and is found from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north through Southern India, and from eastern Pakistan to eastern India and South-eastern Bangladesh.

Bengal fox

They are smaller than red foxes, and is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It has been recorded 1500m up in the mountains (at almost a mile above sea level). Generally crepuscular (active in early mornings and late evening) as well as nocturnal.

As with other foxes, generally, they are thought to pair long-term, and then live together, and that this is the standard social structure in this species. However, often pups will stay around after they are capable of living alone. There have also been groups of up to 4 adults have been recorded sharing the same den.

Although found across a large area, they tend to live at very low densities, which means that they can quickly disappear from an area, in Southern India less than 2% of bengal fox habitat is protected. They are hunted for both skin and flesh Narikuruva tribes hunt them and have done for a very long time – however, with the increased number in these tribes, and other pressures on the fox, we need to keep an eye on this situation – otherwise it could rapidly become endangered.

Snow Leopard

A snow leopard in its element

Snow Leopard

Snow leopards are not actually closely related to leopards. In fact they split from tigers more recently. Their worldwide wild population is thought to fall between 4000 and 6500, though as they are incredibly hard to see it is hard to count these cats accurately. Currently found only in a small part of its original range (as you can see from below).

This map shows the former and current snow leopard range. Unfortunately the red is the former range

They are found throughout the Himalayas,  including Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. However, remember that generally the snow leopards are free to cross borders, so their range is likely to be spotty.

It is hard to get accurate figures or indeed locations of where snow leopards are found, should you be looking at going on a snow leopard tour, they will know where snow leopards are currently found. As we link with people we will add these below. our news section – please get in touch we are keen to help people find you. These will be listed below the new section which is found directly beneath this article.

 

Rusty Spotted Cat

Rusty spotted cat

The rusty spotted cat is one of the smallest cats in the world, and can be found in India and Sri Lanka. In recent times it has also been recorded in Nepal!

It is thought that this species has around 10,000 individuals in the wild and are classified as vulnerable

We hope to be able to help you find places to see these cats in the wild, in the near future. Any links will appear below the news section and the video below this text

Marbled cat

Marbled cat

With a distribution from the Eastern Himalayas through to South-East Asia, it inhabits forests up to 2500m elevation. Its size is similar to a domestic cat.

Hunting is prohibited in Bangladesh , Cambodia , Yunnan province (China), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, and Thailand. Hunting is regulated in Laos and Singapore. In Bhutan and Brunei, the marbled cat is not legally protected outside protected areas. The legal state in Cambodia and Vietnam is unclear. Indiscriminate snaring in its range threatens its survival in places. It is valued for its skin meat and bones, though rarely seems to feature in the illegal Asian wildlife trade.

It is closely related to the Asiatic Golden Cat, and the Borneo bay cat

Asiatic Golden Cat

An Asian Golden cat Photo credit Karen Stoll Wiki Commons

Asiatic golden cat

The Asian Golden cat is found across Tibet, Nepal, and Sikkim through southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. Having said this, they are rarely seen in the wild, which makes assessing their status rather hard, however it is classed as vulnerable. It is a mid-sized cat.

It is considered near threatened. Of course, were this to change it would be hard to do anything about it, given how rarely it is seen. On the other hand, this secretive behaviour does also make it a very hard animal to target directly.

Being only a mid-sized cat, it is not capable of taking on large prey. However, they are effective hunters, and in places where they are farmers in their road, they are not above taking chickens.

 

It is closely related to the Borneo bay cat, and the Marbled cat

Below here is a video of the species, and below that is a list of all blog articles which include mention of this species.

Below that we will include any links that will allow you to see this species in the wild (it is rarely seen, so even being in the right place does not guarantee you a sighting). Never-the-less, visiting the area, will help save this species, and there is always a chance that you might spot it.

 

Red panda awareness day

Today is red panda awareness day. Many people are not particularly sure what a red panda is. Indeed, when I volunteered in a local zoo, I often found myself standing by the red pandas as so many visitors walk past without giving this little animal a proper look.

It was once considered a member of the bear family, but recent analysis has shown that while it is in its own family Ailuridae, They are carnivores and have been found to be most closely related to the group that includes Skunks raccoons and weasels.

Although now considered the lesser panda, the Red panda was the original – indeed the giant panda was discovered later, and named because of similarities that they share. Panda is thought to come from the Nepalese words: “nigalya ponya” , which means bamboo eater.

Continue reading “Red panda awareness day”
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