Monday, January 9, 2017

King Vulture

Species: King Vulture
Habitat: Rain forest of South and Central America
Status: Least Concern
DAK Locale: Flights of Wonder

The beautiful king vulture can be found in the lowland rain forest from Mexico to Argentina. Like all vultures, their head and necks are bald to avoid infestation when eating rotten meat. But these birds do make up for it with vibrant coloration. They also have a very pronounced fleshy piece on their beak called a caruncle. 

The king vulture can soar for hours at a time, rarely beating their wings and conserving energy. Wing beats are deep and strong, and you can that at the Flights of Wonder show, as seen below. They are relatively unassuming at a kill and do not fight and bicker nearly as much as many other types of vultures. As you would have guessed, they eat mostly carrion but have been known to kill injured animals before feasting. 

The king vulture is one of the most common animals seen in Mayan art and codices. It was thought to carry messages between the gods. Today, it is still quite common with as many as 100,000 birds living the wild. Although it is listed as of least concern, numbers are declining in large part due to deforestation. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Water Buffalo

Species: Asian Water Buffalo
Habitat: Throughout the world
DAK Locale: Maharajah Jungle Trek
Status: Domesticated

There are over 170 million water buffalo in the world, and nearly 96% of them are found in Asia. It is a domesticated species most likely related to the wild water buffalo of south east Asian jungles. It seems they were first domesticated in India about 5000 years ago and there are nearly 98 million head there today. Another species were domesticated in China about 4000 years ago. 

Today, more human beings depend on the water buffalo than any other type of domestic animal. Their milk is rich in protein. They are also quite suited to tilling rice fields.

By Safari Mike 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Marabou Stork

Species: Marabou Stork
Habitat: African savanna
DAK Locale: Animal Kingdom Lodge
Status: Least concern

This stork is huge, reaching a height of 5 feet in some instances, with a wingspan reaching up to nearly 12 feet.  It is also called the undertaker bird, not only for its appearance but due to its propensity for eating carrion. This diet is also one reason it has adapted to having a bald head like the vultures.  

It is a colonial breeder. During the savanna's dry season, they will nest in treetops, laying 2 or 3 eggs. It is not very vocal, but does engage in bill rattling displays. It is a wading bird, like other storks, but while common around lakes, will also be found in the more arid areas of the savanna.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Guinea Masked Plover

Species: Masked Plover
Habitat: Open ground of Australia and neighboring islands
DAK Locale: Maharajah Jungle Trek
Status: Least Concern

The masked plover, or the masked lapwing, is found on the islands of New Zealand and New Guinea, as well as Australia. At the park, it is often found standing near the main pond in the aviary. Although, it can fly, it spends nearly all of its time on the ground in search of insects and worms for food. It also nests on the ground and is not shy about nesting in high traffic areas like parks or even supermarket parking lots and the roof of a suburban home.  

The bird is highly territorial, especially during nesting season. Using loud calls and aggressive dives to drive off potential predators of a chick or egg. They even use distracting displays such as pretending to have an injured leg to attract would be predators from the nest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Indian Pygmy Goose

Species: Indian Pygmy Goose
Habitat: Freshwater lakes of Indian and SE Asia
DAK Locale: Maharajah Jungle Trek
Status: Least Concern

The Indian pygmy goose is also known as the cotton pygmy goose. It is found throughout India, Sri Lanka, Southern China and Southeast Asia, wherever is a large body of open water. It mostly feeds on aquatic vegetation. 

Like many birds, the male is more striking than the female. While the female is a drab off white, the male is a striking combination of grey, white and black. The wings have an iridescent look. A breeding pair will lay as many as 12 eggs and will stay close to the young as they grow.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Great Argus Pheasant

Species: Great Argus Pheasant
Habitat: Malaysian Forest
DAK Locale: Maharajah Jungle Trek
Status: Near Threatened

Not as brilliantly colored as some other pheasants, this large ground bird is mostly dark brown with the males having light blue heads, The one pictured below is a female. The males make up for its lack of color with tremendous displays in an attempt to attract females. Loud calls are accompanied by fan-like feathers that appear to have numerous eyes.

The bird is now listed as near threatened. Habitat destruction of its forest home is a major conservation for the bird. Also, locally it has been hunted for food and for its feathers. 

By Safari Mike

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Northern Pintail Duck

Species: Northern Pintail
Habitat: Open wetlands of North America, Europe and Asia
DAK Locale: Oasis
Status: Least Concern

This ducks species is quite widespread being found throughout the northern half of the globe. It is migratory, flying south to the equator for breeding season. In some areas the population is in decline, but overall it is estimated that there are at least 5 million pintails across its range.

It will live near open wetlands and will nest on the ground, although some distance from the water. Nests are frequently preyed upon by foxes and raccoons. It is a dabbling duck, feeding mostly on aquatic plants. It does have a longer neck than other dabblers, allowing it to feed a bit lower in the water than most.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Naked Mole Rat

Species: Naked mole rat
Habitat: African underground
DAK Locale: Pangani Forest
Conservation: Least Concern

Underneath the arid grasslands of Eastern Africa lives a very remarkable animal, the naked mole rat. It is incredibly adapted to live in the tunnels they call home. Their eyes are small leaving them virtually blind. Their legs are also small being built to move quickly through tunnels both forward and backward. They have very small lungs and their blood is rich in oxygen which helps them breathe in their limited oxygen homes.

They also do not regulate their body temperatures like other mammals. Their body temperatures are influenced by the environment unlike other "warm blooded" mammals. They will huddle together in tunnels to warm up and if their temperature gets too high, they will retreat to the colder, deeper tunnels.

For its size, the naked mole rat lives an incredibly long time, up to 30 years. They are also apparently virtually immune to cancers.

Perhaps the most unusual characteristic is the social structure which resembles those of ants and termites. There is a queen as well as one to three breeding males in every group. There are workers, who are sterile. When the queen dies, a worker female becomes sexually active. All naked mole rats are involved with the care of the young born to the queen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spider Tortoise

Species: Spider Tortoise
Habitat: Coast of Madagascar
DAK Locale: Pangani Forest
Conservation: Critically Endangered 

We have mentioned on the show how bad things are in Madagascar as a whole. Well over 90% of the land animals (such as reptiles) are endemic to the island. That is, they are found nowhere else in the world. When that fact is combined with the fact that the island nation is one of the 10 poorest nations in the world and habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate, things are critical for many of the species such as this small tortoise.

The animal is named after the spider web like pattern on the male's shell. In fact, it has become a popular victim of the illegal pet trade as many are captured and sold as such. It is critically endangered.

In the wild, it lives in the sandy coastal areas of Madagascar where they live mostly on vegetation. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Eld's Deer

Species: Eld's Deer
Habitat: Forests of SE Asia
Status: Endangered
DAK Locale: Maharajah Jungle Trek

The Eld's deer is an endangered species located in Asia with three different subspecies found in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. It is also sometimes called the thamin or the brow-antlered deer.

The Eld's Deer has been at the Animal Kingdom since the Jungle Trek opened in 1999, like this male

The species is generally found alone or in pairs. However, during mating season, a bull male will try to create a harem of several breeding females. He will spend a large portion of the time attempting to fight off rivals for his females. There is usually a single calf born which like many other types of deer have spots as camouflage for the broken light of the forest floor.

They are endangered. As a large deer species with impressive antlers, they are a popular game prize. They are also a favored prey for local hunters. In times of war, they would be slaughtered in mass to feed armies. In many areas, there is very little suitable habitat left thanks to deforestation.

By Safari Mike