February 2010


Via Matthew Cobb’s fantastic z-letter mailing list, I came across this video of an epic showdown between sloth and jaguar. No spoilers, but it’s well worth watching the clip. If you don’t believe me, here’s a tantalizing screenshot (sloth above, jaguar below):

sloth versus jaguar

Sloths are one of my favorite animals. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of feeding apple slices to a baby two-toed sloth. On my recent trip to Peru, I searched in vain for a sloth among the canopy, but they’re excellent at hiding and are seldom seen by tourists. That’s why, when I saw this BBC slideshow of 12 images from sloth researcher Bryson Voirin, I was completely smitten.

Sloths can swim much better than they can walk, and apparently, they also like to ride on boats. For more amazing swimming-sloth photos, visit the slideshow.

Voirin and other researchers recently were startled to discover that one of their research subjects had been killed by a spectacled owl. Spectacled owls are quite small in relation to a sloth, so this was a surprising discovery, emphasizing how vulnerable sloths are to predation when they venture down to the forest floor. The full analysis [PDF]was published in Edentata, the journal and newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is distributing free “endangered species” condoms, to raise awareness of the effects of human overpopulation on endangered species. Six different package designs are available, highlighting endangered species such as the polar bear, spotted owl, and jaguar. If you’d like to help distribute condoms (and probably keep some for yourself), they’re still looking for volunteers. You can even enter to win a lifetime supply of free condoms!

[via]

Have you heard of the Kihansi spray toad? I’ve got a trip to New York planned this summer, and seeing these cute little guys is now at the top of my list of things to do.

…And New York is pretty much the only place in the world you can see them now, sadly. They’re extinct in the wild, which is unsurprising considering their native habitat is made up of just two hectares along the Kihansi Gorge in Tanzania. When a dam blocked 90% of the water flow to their waterfall habitat, the Kihansi toad population crashed. An outbreak of the amphibian dread-disease chytrid fungus cut the remaining population down to critical numbers, prompting the Wildlife Conservation Society to swoop in and rescue 499 of the tiny toads and whisk them back to the Bronx.

Although some of the toads were sent to five different zoos in the US, only the Bronx Zoo and the Toledo Zoo managed to keep them alive. As it turns out, evolving in such a specific area left the toads with very specialized needs, and the zoo has set up pure mist sprayers from filtered water, halogen lamps, and disease-free specially-bred insects for food. Now that they’re able to keep the toads alive and breed them successfully in captivity, WCS is working towards a re-introduction plan that involves an artificial mist system and the eradication of invasive plant species.

For now though, you can see them at the new World of Reptiles exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. Kihansi spray toads are unusual, charismatic amphibians — mustard yellow in color, and tiny enough to sit on the face of a dime. Unlike most amphibians, they also give birth to tiny, purple-ish live young, small enough to sit on the head of a pin.

If that’s not a poster child of cuteness for conservation, I don’t know what is.