Wierd and wonderful: Grandidier’s vontsira

face of mongoose-like carnivore, Grandidier's vontsira

I’m enjoying my high-definition BBC feed while I still have it. Recently, I enjoyed a documentary about Madagascar narrated by Sir David Attenborough. He mentioned a rare carnivore called Grandidier’s vontsira (BBC, Island of Marvels, Part 3. YouTube clip, 0:12:08–0:13:24). I had never heard of it, and no wonder. It’s a rare mongoose found only in a tiny part of Madagascar. It’s like the mammalian equivalent of a snail darter, a tiny fish found only in certain rivers.

striped mongoose-like carnivore, Grandidier's vontsira

It took a little while for me to find out more. It’s more commonly called Grandidier’s mongoose. It was named only in 1986 and little is known of its life. It’s adapted to an arid climate, eats small prey and insects, and pairs off to have one offspring. If you watch the video clip, you’ll hear its voice, distant whistles and then a cross between a mew and a coo.

striped mongooses with plumy tails, Grandidier's vontsira

Most of the prey items caught are insects but the greater biomass, 57% – 80% depending on the season, comes from small animals.

The range map for Galidictis grandidieri is from Wikipedia, and ultimately from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, species assessors and the authors of the spatial data.

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Meerkat camouflage

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I first saw meerkats several years ago at a zoo. They looked comical in the way they kept popping up to attention, watching the zoo visitors. It wasn’t until much later that I realized their enclosure was too small and they were constantly at full alert because of the people wandering into their warning zone.

A few years later, the television show Meerkat Manor became popular as it followed the ins and outs of meerkat rivalries and inter-clan strife. Eventually I learned that meerkats are a species of mongoose.

Their mottled coats act as camouflage that helps them blend into their dry, grassy surroundings.

Coyote attacks on toddlers

Coyotes are getting more urbanized and more used to people. They are adding small children to their potential menu.

Southern California:

  • A coyote grabbed a 2-year-old girl by the head and tried to drag her from the front yard of her mountain home
  • On Friday, a nanny pulled a 2-year-old girl from the jaws of a coyote at Alterra Park in Chino Hills, a San Bernardino County community about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. The girl suffered puncture wounds to her buttocks.
  • A coyote came after another toddler in the same park Sunday. The child’s father kicked and chased the coyote away. That incident prompted Fish and Game officials to temporarily close the park, which is near Chino Hills State Park, a natural open space of thousands of acres spanning nearly 31 miles.
  • Eleven-year-old rescues toddler from coyote. State wildlife officials are saying it could be the first coyote attack on a human in New Jersey. ..when it grabbed little Liam Sadler, [Ryan] Palludan instinctively sprang into action, yelling and kicking at the attacker which was later determined to be a coyote.

Across the country coyotes are moving into cities and suburbs showing up in unusual places – like the one that wandered into a Chicago sandwich shop last year. And in April, 2007, a coyote caused a stir in downtown Detroit, running loose for about one hour before being captured by local animal control officers. The advice for people who encounter coyotes in the city or anywhere else is to make plenty of noise – that should scare them away.

Lion cub recaptured in Quebec

lion cub, 6 months old, back in captivityOh, to be a fly on the wall for these discussions. It seems that Dennis Day of Cobden, Ontario, who has two small children, acquired a lion cub as well. When it was six months old, he got word that the Children’s Aid was concerned about the safety of his children and was thinking of taking them away. So he gave the lion cub to a friend on an Indian reserve  near Maniwaki, Quebec, for safe-keeping. Then he could tell Children’s Aid that the lion was gone. But the person he gave it to didn’t keep the animal secure and it wandered off. It was seen crouching in a ditch by the highway. Police put a rope around its neck and encouraged it to climb into the back seat of a police cruiser. The young lion spent the night in a jail cell. It will be sent to Granby Zoo.

What were people thinking? The ones who got the cub in the first place (and no one knows whence) thought it would be just fine to raise a lion in the house. The people on the reserve seem to have thought they could just let the cat out? And the police: “Here, kitty, kitty?”

Cream of tiger soup

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…stir carefully!

Bears in Romania


Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail has been writing dispatches from Romania. The article linked to in the title refers to the large population of black bears there. The black bear is more or less extinct in Europe—except in Romania where, according to Saunders, they’re something of a menace.

Indian tiger population continues to drop

I’m tempted to say, “…like a falling cat.” But that would be just gallows humor.

Bengal Tiger in Rhanthambhore National Park, taken by J. Scott Applewhite

The Guardian has the article:

  • In five years, the tiger population has fallen to 1,400, less than half the previous estimate.
  • Poachers have wiped out the tigers in some reserves.
  • Other reserves suffer from habitat destruction as villages crowd forests.
  • Experts say that not enough is being done to fight poachers.
  • Laws against selling tiges’ body parts are being openly flouted.
  • In a few years it will be too late.

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