Thursday

How to keep lions out of your garden



And why would you need to? 


Imagine yourself in Africa. Mozambique, to be exact. Bush pigs are raiding your veggie crops at night. 


You hear them in your garden and go out in the darkness to rescue your food and...oops!  There's a lion stalking those pigs and it's ready to attack...you! 


What can you do?


You need a fence.  Chain link?  Hard to find in the African bush.  Barbed wire?  Too easy for a lion to get through or over.  What, then?


How about this:

  • First, you find the thorniest native plant in all the land ~ African Myrrh!
  • Then, cut branches off a living bush
  • Plant them densely around your garden
  • Allow them to grow!
The photos below show the hard bone-like thorns of the African myrrh and real thorn fences used in Africa...to keep the lions (and the bush pigs) out!


Thorn fences are reducing crop damage and even deterring elephants.  They also save human lives...pretty smart!


For more about this lion fence project, go here: Niassa Lion Project
Thorn fence photos courtesy of Mike Glier at www.antipodes.us

Tuesday

Know your penguins...a test


This little test has all types of penguins in it:

  • Little penguin
  • Banded penguin
  • Crested penguin
  • Brush-tailed penguin
  • Big Diver penguin (rarest)
  • Great penguin

Can you identify all of them?  


Hint:  there are two examples of one type of penguin


So, when you have figured it out, scroll down for the answers!
















How did you do?  Do you know your penguins?  

Leave a comment and let me know!

Monday

The rarest penguin of them all...





Have you ever seen this bird before?  No?  That's not surprising; there are only about 4000 in the world.


The Yellow-eyed penguin. It lives in and around New Zealand, where it lays its eggs in forest or shrub. 


And no huge penguin colonies for these guys...they nest out of sight of other penguins!


1st IK: Yellow band from the eyes and around the back of the head


2nd IK: Yellow face & top of head


3rd IK: Yellow eyes




Below are normal and leucistic Yellow-eyed penguins:


Stay tuned for a final test on all the different types...will you know your penguin?



*Identification Key, or IKs, are characteristics used to identify an animal. (More about identification keys here.)

Wednesday

The classic tuxedo penguin...in blonde!


Here are the ones everyone recognizes...the classic black and white penguins!


Didn't know they are called Brush-tailed penguins, did you? They have long stiff tails that give them their name.


These are the most common of all penguins, found in the Antarctica and the islands surrounding. But all of the Brush-tailed penguins require a snow-free nesting area where they build a nest encircled by stones.


1st IK* - Black head, white belly (the Chinstrap penguin has a black top head and a black strap around its chin...like a helmet!)


2nd IK - Long stiff tail


3rd IK - Pink feet

Take a look at the picture below... here's the tuxedo in blonde! 


And try to answer these two questions:
  • What kind of penguins are these?
  • Is that an albino or a leucistic penguin?


*Identification Key, or IKs, are characteristics used to identify an animal. (More about identification keys here.)

Monday

Funny faces of the penguin world



Introducing....the Crested penguins!  


These guys have some fancy feathers on their heads that make them look like, well... tropical birds. But that's okay...they live off the warmer jungle islands south of New Zealand.


Here's how you know you're looking at a crested penguin:


1st IK*: Yellow crest


2nd IK: Red beak and eyes


Not too hard to remember. So which crested penguin is in the photo below?  Leave a comment with your answer! 

Hint: Look at the face color to help you!

Thursday

Do you ever feel misunderstood?



The Banded penguins sure do.  These penguins have never lived in the snow; some can even be considered tropical birds!


Banded penguins live in the temperate waters off the coasts of South Africa, South America, and the Galapagos Islands.


There are four types:
  • Humboldt penguins
  • Magellanic penguins
  • African penguins
  • Galapagos penguins

And there's one sure way of identifying them from all other penguins:


1IK*: A single or double band of black across the chest!




So next time you see a penguin, don't just assume it's from the Antarctic.  And if you see a band across the chest? Well, its home might be warmer than yours!


Check it out: Can you identify which type of Banded penguin is swimming in the first photo?


Tuesday

When penguins turn blue...

We are taking a closer look at penguins, starting from the smallest to the biggest.


So today, we will look at Little Penguins. Funny thing about them...they're blue! There are two types:


 The Fairy penguin (smallest penguin in the world):
  • 1st IK*: Gray-blue feathers on back, white underside.
  • 2nd IK: Flippers have white on trailing edges
  • 3rd IK: Pink on top of feet

  The White Flippered penguin:
  • 1st IK: Gray-blue feathers on back, white underside.
  • 2nd IK: Flippers have white on leading and trailing edges
  • 3rd IK: Pink on top of feet
Little penguins are particularly susceptible to oil in their native waters. When rescued from oil, however, there's a unique way to keep them from dying; penguin sweaters!







For more details on how sweaters save Little Penguins, click here!

*Identification Key, or IKs, are characteristics used to identify an animal. (More about identification keys here.)

Monday

Funny birds!



Penguins can't really fly, but they ARE birds.


After my last post showing computer-generated "flying" penguins, I hope you will remember forever that they are birds. Why? Because 40% of people surveyed thought they were mammals! So the answer to my post Can you tell a mammal from...something else?,  is two birds, four mammals.


Penguins are fun to get to know, so we'll look at some interesting ones in my next post!


Thursday

Can you tell a mammal from...something else?



40% of students tested couldn't!  Let's see if you can.


Just remember that mammals usually:
- suckle their young
- possess hair or fur
- breathe air


Check out the animals below...how many are mammals?


Last post's answers from Can you tell a pangolin from a pillbug?: pangolin (vertebrate), armadillo lizard (vertebrate), pillbug (invertebrate), armadillo (vertebrate).

Tuesday

Can you tell a pangolin from a pillbug?



A lot of people can't. 


Actually, 41% of students tested couldn't distinguish animals with backbones (vertebrates) from animals without backbones (invertebrates).


Vertebrates include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and birds.


Invertebrates are such creatures as insects, crabs, jellyfish, and worms.


An easy way to think about it is this: imagine what would be left if an animal died:
- skeleton of bones?  (vertebrate)     or
- shell, husk, slime, or nothing?  (invertebrate)


Check out the sheet below. How many of these creatures are vertebrates and how many invertebrates?

And, can you name each creature?

Next post, find the answers and read about another trouble spot for students in animal identification...and see how good you are!

Friday

For fun...skunks can be beautiful



So why skunks? They are pretty easy to identify, thanks to Bambi's friend Flower. And they are pretty easy to smell, too. But they have lovely coat patterns that are worth seeing.


Asia has its own skunks, called stink badgers. It's now thought that these aren't badgers at all, but skunks...though who knows what they'll be classified as tomorrow? So I have included them on our skunk sheet.


Not included is a skunk that was being cared for at Wildlife Waystation in California, where I worked for awhile. That skunk was, believe it or not, white with black stripes!  Wish I had a picture of him to include.


So enjoy the skunks; they are beautiful, too!


And yesterday's creature was a leucistic raccoon...only one respondent figured it out. Congratulations, Eliza.