Category Archives: Endangered Animals

World’s Oldest Orangutan Celebrates 62nd Birthday

PAY-PROD-WORLDS-OLDEST-BORNEAN-ORANGUTAN-CELEBRATES-62ND-BIRTHDAY62 is an age of seniority among all human cultures. It is a time for retirement, a time for grandchildren, and a time for leisure. Most animals will never make it to this age, and in that way humans are unique. However, on occasion there is time to celebrate the rarity of such a long life span in an animal; in this case let’s meet the world’s oldest Bornean Orangutan Gypsy Chan.

Gypsy Chan just celebrated making it to 62 years old at the Tokyo Tama Zoo in Japan. To mark the occasion, the playful grandmother ape shoved her two-year-old grandson’s face into her birthday fruit cake. Who says that age defeats humor?

Bornean Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures who share 97% of their DNA with humans. They typically weigh around 66-220 pounds depending on age and sex. In the wild they normally live about 35-45 years, so this makes Gypsy Chan’s age all the more reason to celebrate. Bornean Orangutans are endangered, with only 54,500 left in the wild.

Gypsy Chan has been a wonderful ambassador for her breed, and is a well-known peacekeeper. She has amazed scientists by breaking up fights between other apes. Orangutans spend most of their time alone in the wild, so this behavior is all the more interesting!

May you continue to go strong in 2017 Gypsy Chan!

The Last Tigers  


As we face more and more alarming numbers and statistics related to our endangered animals we face not only the loss of flora and fauna, but the loss of a country’s icon. Let’s look to Malaysia, a neighbor of Indonesia and a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural powerhouse. This country not only has a diverse population, but also is a megadiverse bio-climate with a high number of species and high levels of endemism. For their part Malaysia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993 and produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention in 1998. However, they are not exempt from the trend of wildlife extinction. A prime example of that is the national animal of Malaysia; the Malayan Tiger.

The Malayan Tiger is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 2015, and in a count in 2013 researchers only found around 250 mature breeding individuals. This animal is important to the country: there are two of these tigers depicted on the coat of arms of Malaysia and it appears on many other heraldries of Malaysia. It is prominent in local folklore and the nickname of the Malaysian national football team. Overall it holds a strong place in the history and memory of the Malaysian people.

Malayan Tigers themselves are smaller than their Indian cousins, but still are magnificent predators. They prey on local deer and boar mostly, and like many other troubled carnivores occasionally take livestock as meals.

Their main threats are commercial poaching and infringement on their natural territories. While all states in which the tiger lives have banned domestic trade of tiger parts the practice continues. Their attacks on livestock leave people hunting down problem tigers. If their habitat loss and hunting doesn’t stop Malaysia will lose this important national symbol.

So what is being done? There are many success stories when it comes to endangered animals and scientists are hoping the Malayan Tiger will be one of them. First there is an effort to mitigate human-tiger conflict through better livestock management. By helping farmers have secure cattle sheds, tigers will reduce their predation leading to less needs to eliminate problem tigers. Next is land-use planning, that will lead to tiger-friendly choices and ensure protection of tiger habitats. Last is community outreach that will teach the people the importance of Malayan Tiger survival, and hopefully curb poaching. So, it isn’t all over for the tigers of Malaysia. As with anything there is hope and there is a will to allow these important creatures to survive.

The Giant Panda: No longer endangered but still vulnerable

cover-adapt-1190-1Sometimes it is hard to look at the news, it is often filled with disheartening information about our environment and animals. However, every so often we are met with thrilling news; recently the Giant Panda was officially taken off the endangered species list.

For over a half a century an intensive worldwide effort has been made to save these iconic black and white bears native to China. China has long treasured the Panda as an international symbol of its country, and they have been at the forefront of the effort to bring back up the Giant Panda’s numbers. Many breeding centers have been founded, and training methods and styles have been formulated there to help give these captive born bears a higher chance of successfully living out in the wild.

While their native range was wide and expanded past the borders of China, the Giant Panda now only lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in Shaanxi and Gansu. Nonetheless the Giant Panda populations in the wild have risen by 17 percent in the past decade, and a few Pandas have even been found outside of their current range.

While no longer listed as endangered they are certainly still vulnerable. Pandas are at risk due to climate change, which will limit their environment and food source as well as contribute to disease. Now only time will tell if we will be able to come together and preserve the hard work that has already been done to save these treasured animals.

An Orangutan Baby Boom!

I was so excited to hear about the birth of two baby orangutans in two months at the Lowry Zoo in Florida, bringing the total number of endangered orangutans at the zoo to seven. These arrivals remind me of the excitement around the orangutan births at our very own Como Zoo in Minnesota and all the hard work the zoo has put into keeping them safe and healthy. Any increase in the number of orangutans is something to be celebrated, whether it is a new birth, an orangutan saved from starvation or poachers or returned home after being smuggled out of its native habitat. Unfortunately these are all very real dangers facing the orangutan on a daily basis.

In order to make as much headway in the protection and expansion of the species as possible, the Tampa Patch reports that the Lowry Zoo is also active in the Bornean Orangutan Species Survival Plan, working to support the conservation of certain endangered animals that are at risk for extinction. The survival plan for the species includes treating the “entire population of animals as a single unit in order to maximize retention of genetic diversity and to promote cooperation among holding institutions to ensure long term survival of the species in supervised care.” It is amazing to see such a long term, cohesive plan in place to help protect and propagate the species.

Fighting for Survival

It’s been great over the past few weeks to see so many reports of increases in the numbers of multiple endangered species around the world.

With less than 150 birds left, and only 26 pairs of the animals of breeding age, the Taiko bird, one of New Zealand’s most endangered animals, hatched 26 eggs this season, almost double the number of chicks that hatched last season. While these numbers may not seem huge, every little bit counts, especially with animals that have so few numbers to begin with.

It looks like things are also on the uptick for the Hawaiian Monk seal, whose numbers have been declining since the 1950’s. Reports state that the survival rates for new pups are among the highest they have been in decades, and organizations are working hard to spotlight the preservation of the Monk seal and take action to protect them from contact with humans, which can result in everything from disease to entanglements with fishing nets and hooks.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 11.41.12 AMPhoto Via vivtony00

The Edinburgh Zoo has announced that it is building a new enclosure for their Sumatran tigers. The hope is that one of the results of this new enclosure will be the entry of a new generation of this endangered animal into the world.

While there is a lot of good news coming from organizations working to protect endangered species, there is still a lot to be done. So many animals are battling extinction and they need all the support we can give!

Largest Rhino Airlift Planned

Trapping, blindfolding, and airlifting a Rhino may sound ridiculous–but what Rhinos Without Borders aims to do is anything but. The two-and-a-half ton animal’s plight has become desperate. Their numbers are dropping daily due to poachers and encroaching land development, among other pressures. Currently, there are 4,000 to 5,000 Black Rhinos and 20,000 White Rhinos left in Africa. Their beautiful horns have proved to be their downfall in recent years; they’re prized on the black market and are sold as cure-alls in China and Vietnam. On the street, a rhino horn can sell for $65,000 per kilogram.

The plan is to move a hundred of these animals over the next two years from their current location in the high risk poaching area of South Africa, to a low risk area; a protected park in Botswana. The operation will cost $45,000 per animal, but the payoff of a rise in these endangered animals numbers would be worth it.


Image via Londolozi

This is not the first desperate measure conservationists have taken to try and help the rhinos. Other methods that have been tested to slow down the effects of poaching include cutting off the horns of rhinos, flooding the black market with fake rhino horns, dying their horns pink, injecting rhino horns with toxins that–though safe for the animal–would cause illness in humans who consume any bit of the horn, and 24 hour a day observation of wild rhinos by guards. So far none of these methods have halted the killings, so that begs the question of how this new idea will pan out. Hopefully it will, but only studies long after these rhino’s move will tell. Wishing the team and this project all the best!

James Askew Listens for the Call of the Orangutan

A quick scroll through my blog makes it apparent that I care deeply about protecting orangutans. I recently shared a blog by James Askew about the struggles of an orangutan mother in Northern Sumatra. After a little more reading, I learned immediately that Askew and I are (somewhat) alike in our fascination with these remarkable animals.

Askew is so fascinated, in fact, that he’s spent the last year in South East Asia studying the primates in their natural habitats. He’s a PhD candidate in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Southern California Jane Goodall Research Center. At the moment, he’s running field experiments in the jungles of Sumatra. Askew’s overarching goal is to further our understanding of the orangutan’s long call and how it plays a role in intersexual relationships. Put differently, he’s researching how a specific kind of communication influences the social and reproductive relationships between males and females. What’s more, he’s been using some cool technology, like drones, to track the animals and has been charitable enough to share his experiences in a series of blogs.

Askew planned his expedition to span eighteen months and he left sunny Southern California in March last year. That means about six more months of fieldwork remain. His last post introduced some of his speculations about the importance of play for young orangutans. It’s a great read! You can find the complete list of his blogs here. I’m certainly curious to hear how the jungle will treat him over the course of the last leg of his research and I wish him the best of luck!

The Plight of being Ugly and Endangered

The phrase “endangered animals” brings various images to mind. Tigers, pandas and the other endearing poster children for dwindling species likely spring up. We admire these animals for their attractive qualities and those traits are often used in campaigns for their benefit. Sleek cats and cute bears adorn fliers and other media that speak to the cause. What happens, however, when the endangered animal isn’t cute? Frankly, what happens when the endangered animal is just plain ugly? They’re certainly no less worthy of saving and no less important to our world, but they just don’t have the appeal of their majestic counterparts. How do we include them in our efforts to save animals on the brink of extinction?

In light of this issue, increasingly more campaigns and societies are coming forward to stop those not-so-cute creatures from disappearing. The World Wildlife Fund, a powerhouse in terms of raising funds for conservation, put this issue in perspective for Bluefin Tuna in their 2011 campaign. Fish might not be the first animal you think of when you consider endangered animals. Nevertheless, their numbers are quickly dropping as a result of overfishing. The campaign uses the face of popular endangered animals as masks on the Bluefins, asking the question, “Would you care more if I was a … ?”

wwf-tunapandaVia WWF

Is it true? Would we care more if these fish were cuter, or if they just weren’t fish? Who will stand up for the “ugly” creatures? There is someone:  Simon Watt and his Ugly Animal Preservation Society. The society was set up to shine a light on those less than attractive animals who need our help. You can find this community–and a book published under the same name–at By hosting gigs with comedians and otherwise spreading the word, they’re reaching out to speak for animals that just don’t strike the cute chord, like the Purple Pig Nosed Frog or the Blobfish. In their words, “we can’t all be pandas”.

We need to remember these less than cute creatures and their importance in the world. They deserve our attention, too.



The Largest Single Marine Reserve Created


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With its bright blue waters, some might consider the Pitcairn Islands to be one of the most pristine settings on Earth. It’s for good reason, then, that it’s on it’s way to becoming the largest single marine reserve on the planet. The islands are located squarely between South America’s west side and Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. The new reserve will be larger than the state of California and is being funded by the UK government’s 2015 budget. The protected area will help over 80 species of aquatic life, and it will be illegal to fish or mine in the reserve around the Islands unless you belong to the local population. The latter will be permitted to fish the waters in accordance with their traditional practices.

 The reserve will be dependent on partnerships with non-governmental satellite monitoring.

 Our oceans have been subjected to harsh treatment the past few hundred years, from overfishing to pollution. They’ve been both neglected and overlooked. The Guardian’s Adam Vaughan summed up the importance of this new marine reserve and ocean conservation: “What has happened in our oceans is a biodiversity tragedy, but it is a humanitarian issue too. Nearly a billion people depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and nearly a quarter of a billion depend on fish for their livelihoods.”


The Como Zoo Welcomes a New Member


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On February 22nd, a Western Lowland Gorilla named Dara gave birth to her first child, a beautiful baby girl, Arlene. She was named after the late Arlene Schenemann, a longtime zoo volunteer. The healthy baby was born weighing 5 pounds, and while nursing was a bit of a concern for this first time mother, Dara is now taken up the role of mother wonderfully. The Como Zoo continues to monitor the gorillas to ensure that the baby is fed regularly.

The Western Lowland Gorilla is the smallest of the two subspecies of Western Gorilla. But don’t let that fact fool you; males standing erect can be up to 6 feet tall and weigh up to 600 pounds! However, little Arlene will probably only get to around 5 feet tall and weigh half as much as her male counterparts. For now, she’ll be carried around by her mother and Dara will continue to carry her until she’s about is 2 or 3. Childhood will last until she is 6 or 7 years old and she’ll reach sexual maturity around 8 years old. In the wild, these Gorillas live to be around 35 years old. Females usually remain with their family group for the duration of their lives and cultivate strong familial relationships within their group.

Her birth is a great step for the species, who have been in decline for decades due to human development encroaching on their range, illegal poaching for bushmeat and ebola. At this point, the Western Lowland Gorilla is listed by the WWF** as critically endangered.

Arlene and Dara will make their first public appearance in late March, so make sure you get out and say hi!