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Three Foxes (A Camera Trap Post)

So here is a post based on what the blog is named after, a camera trap in Cornwall. I had a lot of chicken pieces left over from dinner and...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Round Island Boa: Animal Fact Series Part 2

The Round Island Boa:

So the Round Island Boa is up next. This is a snake endemic to Mauritius and only found there on the tiny offshore island named Round Island. I worked with these snakes in 2015 while the warden of Round Island for the Mauritian Wildife Foundation (MWF).  So lets get some basic facts down.

Common Name: Round Island Boa
Other names: Round Island Keel-scaled Boa
Latin name: Casarea dussumieri
Location: Round Island, Mauritius
Habitat: Rocky areas and palm savannah
Status: Endangered
Population: 500-1000

So as I said this snake is only found on Round Island but it has recently been reintroduced to the nearby Gunner Quoin with plans to expand to other islands. They were once found all over but have been killed off by the arrival of humans and pests such as rats and other reptiles mainly from Madagascar.

The young, as pictured above, are a bright orange colour but as the grow they become a much darker grey colour. Interestingly the adults have the ability to change colour. During boa survey the snakes colour was recorded to help identifify individuals. However once PIT tagging began the snakes were captured and placed in bags. On removal the researchers became confused at having a different snake in the bag. This method of idntification was then realsied to be no much use.

Interestingly despite being a small island at just 159ha and with a constant warden present doing island wide surveys no boa eggs have been found in the wild so no one knows where they lay their eggs. The only recorded case of boa eggs was when a female was PIT tagged. On release they found eggs in the bag.

The snakes feed on reptiles and the ocassional seabird chick. The main food source is the telfairs skink. The reptile is very round so the snake has a special feature. It has a diuble hindged jaw to wrap around the body of the telfair.

The snake is an incredible docile one. I had never handled snakes before becoming the warden but was surpised how easy they are to handle. You can liteally just pick them up and they do nothing. They are like sticks. I was not bitten during my time there.

I have been woken by these snakes many times as they are at home in the wardens station. They crawl over you as you sleep and I even found one youngset using my pillow.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Bonobos: Animal Fact Series Part 1

So as promised in my last post I am starting a new series of posts here. This series will be on wildlife and more specifically the wildlife I have worked with. I will be giving you facts about these species as well as some of my own observations. So without further ado lets begin.

The bonobo:

Where better to begin than with my old favourite the bonobo? For those of you who have not heard of a bonobo, they are Africa's fourth great ape after chimps, mountain gorilla and lowland gorilla. I worked with these amazing animals back in 2013 for nine months in Lui-Kotale for Max Planck.
The bonobo is endemic to the Democratic republic of Congo (aka DRC). So let's get some basic facts down.

Common Name: Bonobo
Other names: Pygmy chimpanzee, lesser chimpanzee, gracile ape.
Latin name: Pan paniscus
Location: Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
Habitat: Rainforest
Status: Endangered
Population: 30-50,000

So that's the basics covered. Now let us get down to some facts. so where did the name come from? Well In 1928 a scientist named Schwarz was measuring the skull of what was thought to be a juvenile chimp, but turned out to be an adult bonobo. He then named it the pygmy chimpanzee, until an official name change to bonobo in 1954. However Heinz Heck, the man who later officially named the species, used the name bonobo back in 1939 in a paper, but it was not officially adopted at that point. This was thought to be after a village in the Congo named Bolobo, from where a shipping crate containing bonobos had been sent in the 1920’s.

Bonobos have a tendency to be thought of as peaceful loving apes and well that is not quite true. Sure they are less aggressive than chimps having never been observed killing a member of their own species in the wild but they can still be nasty. In captivity, they have been known to bite fingers off others in the enclosure. While I never saw this behaviour in the wild I did see that a few of the bonobos I was with had missing digits. It was also interestingly enough the lower ranking individuals I saw this in.

In captivity, the species mates a lot. An unnatural amount actually as captivity often exaggerates behaviours. They do have sex a lot in the wild but not on the scale of captive ones.

They also hunt. Once thought to only occur in chimpanzees I have witnessed them killing and eating duiker (a small antelope) a monkey and a squirrel.

No tool use has been observed in the wild but they do make nests. In captivity however, they are excellent tool makers. The most intelligent non-human is Kansi, a bonobo.

They are very inquisitive, especially the juveniles who would often stare at me. Some would even come closer. One little one, Evea, took this to the extreme and hit us with some dangling vines.

If you want any more information on bonobos leave a comment or click the contact tab at the top of the page. If there is an animal you would like featured just let me know.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Free Book Preview

So as my loyal readers will be aware I have recently published a book about my time in the congo with bonobos. I found out this morning that I can share a preview of the book here on my blog so I thought why not. Below is a preview from Amazon. just click the image or the preview button below to start reading without needing to download. I will stop posting about my book now as I realise that's not what you all come here for. Instead, I have a planned series of posts coming up about wildlife. For now, I hope you enjoy this free preview.

(It starts in the middle of the preview for some reason so click back a few pages when you open the preview up to get the full preview.)

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bonoboalive: Protecting Bonobos in the Wild

I don't usually post anything like this but felt like I needed to. After seeing all the news about rhino poaching finally on the UK news it felt the public was becoming more aware of the dreadful poaching crisis sweeping the planet. However while it is great news its broadcast now to a wider audience and i'm glad that more people are aware it feels like its reserved for the bigger animals. I'm not complaining here and I hate poaching of all sorts but I just wanted to let people know about a lesser known group working to protect a species close to me. The bonobo.

As followers of the blog will know I have a special place for bonobos having worked with them in the wild for nine months. Its sad to think that these apes are being hunted for bushmeat and the young sold as pets who usually die anyway. I always worry that my favourite bonobo Pembe will be harmed and cannot imagine poor little Pan as someones pet. Lola-ya-bonobo in Kinshasa does amazing work with these orphans but thats not who I wanted to talk about.
Pembe and Pan
Bonoboalive is an organisation dedicated to keeping these amazing animals safe in the wild. What makes it special to me is the main focus is on Lui-Kotale area where "my" bonobos live. The organisation is run by bonobo researchers and aided by the congolese government. They do great work with anti-poaching. Now I can vouch for the fact that they actually do send anti-poaching patrols out as I have paid one of these patrols myself when I was temporarily in charge of finance for Lui-Kotale camp. So far no poaching of bonobos has occurred in Lui-Kotale after bonoboalive began. Not only do the bonobo get protection but so to do the elephant, leopard, bongo and myriad other wildlife. The patrols are very effective and quick to act. We needed an emergency patrol once and they were out in the forest at a moments notice.

You can help in many ways. Vistit the site bonobo-alive.org. You can become a member, buy a t-shirt or  donate whatever you can. You can also buy my book on amazon which helps with 20% of proceeds going to bonoboalive. Ever since I began writing it I knew I wanted it to be used to help protect the bonobos I know and love. I hope this has given you a little insight into bonobos and what can be done to help them.

Bonobos of Lui-Kotale
Below is a video narrated by Lambert who, if you read my book, you will know is a bonobo worker at Lui-Kotale.

Thank You

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Illustrations From My Book

Below are some illustrations from my latest book: A Zoologists Stumblings in Africa: How to Habituate a Bonobo. These images appear in the printed edition of the book but unfortunately would not work with the kindle edition. For those of you who have bought a kindle edition here is a little something that you missed out on. For everyone else take a look. If they pique your interest why not check the book out? The kindle edition is now reduced to £1.99/$2.99/€2.99. I hope you enjoy these illustrations relating to different chapters. My book is available now on Kindle in all Amazon stores and in paperback in UK, US and Europe with Canada and Australia coming soon. Click here to go there now.

The leopard I bumped into. From chapter: Leopards in the Night

Bee-eaters in Iyaka. From the chapter: Iyaka, a Birders Paradise
A bonobo. From the chapter: What Exactly is a Bonobo?
A driver ant. From the chapter: Insects and Such

Lui-Kotale Research camp. From the chapter: Life in Camp
Mangos Machete fishing: From the chapter: Mangos, the Man not the Fruit.

Map of DRC From the beginning of the book
The transects of East side

A red River Hog. From the chapter: Animals of the Congo
A scared bonobo: From the chapter: The Southerners

Elephant skull.From the chapter: Poachers
A Que-fon-gooFrom the chapter: Cold Blooded Wonders

Me in a tree in a storm.From the chapter: A Bad Time to be in a Tree

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Desert Horses of Aus

The Namib Desert Horse is a rare feral horse found in the Namib Desert of Namibia, Africa. It is probably the only feral herd of horses  in Africa, with a population between 90 and 150.The origin of the Namib Desert Horse is unclear, although it is most likely they are from German riding  and cavalry horses released from various farms and camps in the early 20th century, especially during World War I. The horses eventually congregated in the Garub Plains, near Aus, Namibia, the location of a man-made water source.

I was Lucky enough to see these incredible horses on my trip to Namibia and managed to get some footage as you can see below.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Starling Murmuration thermal camera

I have recently bought a seek thermal camera for iphone (link here) and been testing it out. The starlings are flocking and creating murmurations now. I thought I would see if much heat comes out. It resulted in a murmuration as not before seen. You can see the heat from the murmuration against the background. The temperature reading in the second half doesn't register the starlings as they are flying too fast too pick up.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Mole Underground

Here is a quick video from my latest trip to South Africa. On the lawn a huge mole hill appeared. I decided to stick my snakecam (click here to see which one) down the hole. Its only a short clip but great to see a cape mole rat underground in the wild. Its special as only recently, in the last two years,the european mole was filmed underground for the first time. If you don't want to watch the video an image is below. 


Cape Mole Rat

Friday, 4 March 2016

Available Now: A Zoologist's Stumblings In Africa: How to Habituate a Bonobo

Its finally ready! My book is now available to buy in paperback, kindle and non-kindle ebook. Here is the link to the uk amazon paperback and kindle. http://amzn.to/1RtijVK
It should be on all the other amazon country sites too.

Amazon (UK)
Amazon (USA)
Amazon for other territories: DEFRESIT
Createspace (USA)

Kindle (UK)
Kindle (US)
Kindle for other territories: DEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

"Enter Lui-Kotale in the Democratic Republic of Congo and meet some amazing primates, the bonobos. Get to know the least know great apes at a personal level as well as many other species and people. From bonobos in the day to leopards in the night being a bonobo habituator is far from dull. During nine months following a wild group of bonobo, meat eating, wading and urinating on researchers, were some of the many amazing things these apes did. There were also the elephants, driver ants, snakes, poachers and local villagers to deal with. This is the side of Africa's dark heart you have never seen before, the warm heart."

20% of proceeds will go to bonoboalive to help protect wild bonobos.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Book Proof Copy

Readers of this blog may be familiar with the fact that I have recently written a book about bonobos and the Congo. Today my proof copy arrived in the post. Once I have checked it over it will soon be available to buy in paperback and ebook. Take a look at the paperback below.