Category Archives: Wildlife of the World

Snow leopard de-listing. What’s the real story?

Recently I received news that one of the most mysterious and beautiful creatures on the planet was being taken off the endangered species list.

I am talking about the snow leopard.

Listing and delisting a species can come with a lot of confusion as subjects like this one deal with everything from extremely difficult population analysis to its interpretation.

Snow_Leopard_in_Hemis_National_Park
Public Domain Photo

In this special case I turned to someone I trust and respect my friend from the other side of the world Dr. Natalie Schmitt who as you will see is doing some great work that will benefit snow leopards and other wild felines.

Here is the transcript of the questions I sent her and as always she answered with great detail and honesty.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 Do you feel the delisting of the snow leopard is justified?

I think the decision by the (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) IUCN assessment team to downgrade the snow leopard’s conservation status from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ is justified as the species needed to meet very specific criteria to maintain that status.

A continuation of the ‘endangered’ classification for the snow leopard would have required two criteria to be met, 1.) a population consisting of less than 2,500 adults, and 2.) a rate of decline exceeding 20 percent over 16 years. The expert assessor team (consisting of five respected international experts), using the best information available, determined that the snow leopard currently meets neither criteria.

Nat-In-Tropics
Dr. Natalie Schmitt

Although recent studies suggest that snow leopard numbers are likely higher than previously thought, the assessment team took an exceptionally precautionary approach, including using the lowest widely accepted global population size (4,000) when determining if the ‘endangered’ threshold could be met.

Although we still have only very crude estimates of snow leopard abundance based on sightings, camera trap recordings and interviews with local people, more accurate estimates are likely to not have any impact on the conservation status according to the expert team. However, my personal concern is that the decision has been made prematurely before broader-scale surveys are conducted with more accurate counting methods, to know for certain. In fact, in the full report on the snow leopard, the IUCN noted that population numbers could be partly speculative, given the difficulties in collecting accurate data on the elusive species across its full range from Afghanistan through to China.

What has been the main contributing factor to an increase in population?

Conservation efforts have been pinnacle in helping to prevent snow leopard extinction, particularly efforts to stop poaching and cutting off illegal trafficking routes however, as far as we are aware, the population is still decreasing, just not as rapidly as we once thought.

What are some negatives that could come from de-listing the snow leopard?

The biggest concern about the recent downlisting is that the lower status may weaken conservation efforts in range countries and the ability of local governments to stop the major threats to their survival. Some funding sources are also restricted to Endangered or Critically Endangered species, so there may be less funding opportunities for the species.

Tell us about your invention for tracking species like the snow leopard?

This invention has become the biggest life sacrifice for me, because I believe in its value so much! With the help of biomedical experts from McMaster University, the Centre for Molecular Dynamics in Nepal and Panthera, we aim to develop a simple, inexpensive, accurate, sensitive and portable DNA detection kit that can be used by non-experts for the rapid detection of species from the evidence they leave behind.

Through the identification of animals from their droppings we can gain an accurate estimate of population abundance, and the kit will be particularly useful for the detection of rare and elusive species where scats are difficult to identify morphologically. The portability and affordability of the kit will also make it easier for detecting species inhabiting challenging terrain, and in developing countries where conservation funding is limited. Once identified, those samples can then be taken back to the lab for further analysis of diet and disease.

The kit can also be used by customs officers to rapidly identify the remains of illegally trafficked species such as skins and bone. It is the lack of ability to be able to distinguish between legal and illegal wildlife products that represents the biggest issue in the enforcement and prosecution of wildlife trafficking. By improving our frontline detection methods we can identify poaching hotspots and trafficking routes, determine the geographic origin and age of the product, as well as assist law enforcement officers to prevent future crimes.

Finally, the simple design will allow the detection kit to be used by non-experts such as local communities and for citizen science initiatives. The usability of the kit will help local people to be directly involved in identifying and mitigating threats to wildlife, thereby expanding conservation outcomes.

We’ve already made significant headway and with the support of people and organisations who believe in the value of this idea too, we’ll get there.

To subscribe to regular updates on the project and to make a donation, please visit https://www.natscatsdna.com/

What are the greatest challenges for the species moving forward?

Despite the IUCN downlisting of the species, snow leopards are still considered at high risk of extinction from habitat loss and degradation from mining and infrastructure development, declines in prey populations and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. It is so important that we don’t become complacent in our efforts to preserve this important apex predator.

The snow leopard plays a crucial part in maintaining the health of the Himalayan ecosystem.

High school sisters want to #Save the Vaquita porpoise

Rachel Rose loves dolphins and porpoises.

As long as she can remember they have been her very favorite animals and she has encountered them both in the wild and at marine parks.

Her twin sister Abby loves marine mammals too but her favorite pastime is photography.

Together these two Texas ninth graders want to do something to save the vaquita.

The “what” you ask?

The vaquita is a type of porpoise, the world’s smallest in fact and also the single most endangered marine mammal. There are only 30 estimated left on the planet.

Living in the upper reaches of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), these small, strikingly-marked cetaceans are the very definition of critically endangered.

save vaquita abby rachel
The girls are sporting the #savethevaquita shirts with the hashtag program on front and Dr. Guy Harvey’s artwork on back. Harvey has partnered with Sea World to raise funds for Vaquita CPR an international effort to save the species by creating a “Save the Vaquita” line of items that will be sold at Sea World Parks and through Dr. Harvey’s properties in which 15 percent of proceeds go directly to conservation efforts. They are holding the vaquita print also available for sale.

“It’s so sad that that such a beautiful creature could go extinct. It’s time we do something about it. We support what Dr. Guy Harvey and Sea World are doing with #savethevaquita,” Rachel said.

The girls have grown up working with our Kingdom Zoo outreach and had an encounter with a wild pink albino dolphin on one of our expeditions in 2013.

“I loved dolphins before but I really loved them after that and it made me appreciate marine mammals. We want others to appreciate them and contribute to saving the most endangered species of all-the vaquita,” Rachel said.

They will be helping with two events to help raise funds for vaquitas, a food fundraiser called “Fajitas for Vaquitas” which will take place at the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center in Pinehurst, TX (Orange area) Sat. July 29 and Kingdom Zoo will be auctioning off prints of some of Abby’s wildlife photography.

“I love shooting photos of animals and I am excited that some of my photos can help raise money for the vaquita. They are one of God’s special creations and we are so excited to help them in any way. We have our #savethevaquita shirts and are inspired by Dr. Harvey’s amazing artwork,” Abby said.

The girls know saving the vaquita is a big task but that great things happen when people come together in the name of wildlife conservation.

“We can all do something,” Rachel said.

Indeed.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Saving the Vaquita

“30”

That is the number of days in an average month.

There are 30 teams in the NBA.

And there are 30 tracks on The Beatle’s The White Album.

It is also how many vaquitas scientists believe exist on the planet.

The vaquita is a type of porpoise, the world’s smallest in fact and also the single most endangered marine mammal.

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© Thomas A. Jefferson/VIVA Vaquita

Living only in the upper reaches of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), these small, strikingly-marked cetaceans are the very definition of critically endangered.

A gill net fishery that is now heavily centered on another endangered species-the totoaba (fish), vaquitas often end up tangled in the nets and either killed or left to die.

“The issue facing the vaquita is emblematic of larger impacts that humans are having on our oceans,” said world renown marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey.

“From unsustainable fishing practices to marine pollution to changing ocean chemistry, human behavior is negatively affecting ocean health. As the human population continues to increase, we will depend on our oceans even more and need to ensure that we are using these resources in a sustainable manner to benefit future generations.”

Harvey has partnered with Sea World to raise funds for Vaquita CPR an international effort to save the species by creating a “Save the Vaquita” line of items that will be sold at Sea World Parks and through Dr. Harvey’s properties in which 15 percent of proceeds go directly to conservation efforts.

“I was proud to paint my first ever vaquita porpoise in support of SeaWorld and VaquitaCPR’s efforts to save this species that is on the brink of extinction,” Harvey said.

In addition Sea World has donated an additional $120,000 to the project.

“The plight of the vaquita porpoise illustrates the devastation the illegal wildlife trade can inflict on a species,” said Dr. Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s Chief Zoological Officer.

“We are proud to partner with Guy Harvey to help educate people about this crisis and raise money toward a solution. The Vaquita CPR effort is an extraordinary, last ditch attempt to prevent the extinction of a porpoise species that is only found right here in North America. We at SeaWorld care deeply about the ocean, and we care especially about the animals that live there. We can not sit idly by as another animal goes extinct.”

vaquita image 1
© Thomas A. Jefferson/VIVA Vaquita

According to Vaquita CPR which is spearheaded by the National Marine Mammal Foundation the Mexican government has determined that emergency action is needed to temporarily remove some of the remaining animals from their threatening environment and create a safe haven for them in the northern Gulf of California.

An emergency conservation plan has been developed by an international team of experts, with field recovery operations set to begin in May 2017. Catching and caring for vaquitas may prove impossible, but unless we try, the species will likely vanish.

A project like this might indeed seem impossible. After all, is there any hope for a species that only has 30 representatives?

In 1987 there were only 22 California condors. Now there are more than 400.

The black-footed ferret was thought extinct in the early 1980s and then a population of a few dozen was found. Now, thanks to captive breeding and active monitoring efforts there are around 1,200 in the wild.

Yes, the fact vaquitas are ocean dwellers complicates things but there is still hope. The common denominator for all endangered species success stories is people taking action.

And that is what a coalition of people are doing right now.

Let’s do what we can to help the vaquita by supporting those who are supporting efforts to save this beautiful, severely endangered marine mammal.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Wild boars kill ISIS fighters! For real

A stampede of wild boars killed three Isis Jihadi fighters in Iraq recently.

According to the Times of London the large group of boars were living in the dense reeds in the al-Rashad region on the edge of agricultural fields. In other words prime hog habitat.

“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti-ISIS forces, told the Times of London.

Details of the attack are sketchy but what we do know is that boars in some form or fashion killed Isis fighters.

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It might seem strange for there to be wild boars in Iraq as the Western idea of the Middle East is large tracts of sand with no life. The fact is there are arid forests and even pristine wetlands in the war-torn country. The Eurasian boar is one of the numerous native mammals and there are animals in the country that we would call “feral hogs” that are a mixture among domestic breeds and Sus scrofa the Eurasian boar.

The native hogs are likely the subspecies Sus scrofa attila that taxonomists believe extend from Hungray all the way into the Mesopotamian Delta in Iraq and possibly Turkey and Iran as well.

Although this is the first time we know of hogs being involved in the war on terror, over the years I have documented numerous cases of hogs attacking people.

The Pineville Town Talk tells the story of a Pineville, La. man who had a pig enter the house he was visiting.

“Boston Kyles, 20, of 497 Pelican Drive told deputies he was visiting his sister’s house at the time of the incident. He said he had gone there to clean fish and was sitting in the house’s front room when the pig entered through the front door. Kyles told deputies he stomped the floor to try to shoo the pig out of the room, but the pig charged him, Maj. Herman Walters said.”

“Walters had heard of pigs attacking people in the woods but said this was the first time he had heard of a pig going into a house and attacking someone.”

An Edgefield, South Carolina man experienced one of the scariest hog attacks I could find occurring in the United States.

The Edgefield Advertiser reported, “A man was hospitalized recently after being attacked by a wild hog at his home on Gaston Road. The hog, which eyewitnesses estimated to weigh upwards of 700 pounds, materialized in Fab Burt’s backyard while he was working in his garden.”

“It came out of nowhere and attacked me. It had me pinned on the ground and was mauling me.”

Fortunately, Burt’s seven-month-old German shepherd, named Bobo, was on hand to help him fend off the hog.

It looks like the Isis terrorists did not have any “Bobo” to save them. In a strange case from what is a brutal, ugly war, nature struck back-with a vengeance.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog to keep up with these kinds of stories enter your email address in the form to the top right of this page.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Jaguars in America: 5 Things No One Reports

Jaguars captured on game cameras in New Mexico and Arizona have captured a fair amount of media attention over the last decade.

A majestic species generally affiliated with the Amazon, jaguars are highly adaptable cats that fare just as well in desert mountain regions as they do as they do in dense rainforest.

The idea of jaguars crossing into the American Southwest seems odd for those with little understanding of the species which brings us to the first of five points never mentioned in media coverage.

    Jaguar Range: The historical range of jaguars goes all the way into western Louisiana and bleeds over into California to the West. As you can see looking at this map by cat research specialists Panthera (not to be confused with defunct metal band Pantera), that range has decreased dramatically.

jaguar range

    Rivers No Barrier: The jaguar is a water-loving cat and is arguably more comfortable in the water than even the tiger which has been portrayed as the world’s top water-loving large cat. Jaguars have been encountered swimming large stretches of the Amazon River and are regularly documented feeding on caimans (a type of crocodilian) in the water with a bite to skull nonetheless!
    Jaguars are “Black Panthers”: The term “black panther” is thrown around indiscriminately and in my 25 years as a wildlife journalist I have found most Americans relate it to black cougars. The problem is black cougars most likely do not exist or at least have not been proven to exist. There is however an American cat that produces black offspring and that is the jaguar. The condition is called “melanism” and it is not uncommon in jaguars. The large black cats seen in zoos, on television programs, etc. are other melanistic jaguars or leopards which can also have melanistic offspring.
    Size Matters: Jaguars are the world’s third largest cat behind the tiger and lion. Their size varies greatly throughout their range with the largest specimens living in parts of Brazil averaging 220 pounds. The largest on record was a male that weighed 326 pounds with an empty stomach. That is about the size of an average Bengal tiger.
    Texas Sightings: Over the last decade I have gathered several alleged jaguar sightings from Texas along the Rio Grande River region and into the Trans-Pecos. These sightings are under investigation but unlike New Mexico and Arizona there are no official trail camera programs attempting to study any possible movements into Texas. The Trans-Pecos is a huge area and is vastly uninhabited so it is possible there are jaguars touching Texas soil no one has seen.
    In terms of anecdotal evidence, I have two specific reports that after interviewing eyewitnesses lead me to believe they were most likely telling the truth.
    We will be doing numerous articles on jaguars this year and always appreciate reader feedback.
    For now check out this great clip from the World Wildlife Fund of a melanistic jaguar crossing the Amazon.

Chester Moore, Jr

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Rhinos in Texas

It is the most valuable wildlife commodity in the world.

Fetching up to $60,000 a pound on the black market, the rhinoceros horn is coveted greatly by millionaires in Asia who use it as a status symbol or grind into traditional elixirs as a aphrodisiac or folk cures for various ailments.

By comparison ivory from poached elephant tusks are going for about $1,500 a pound. That’s chump change compared to rhino horn.

Large-scale poaching of the now critically endangered black rhino resulted in a dramatic 96 decline from 70,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,410 in 1995 according to Save the Rhino, a strictly rhinoceros-based conservation organization.

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“Thanks to the persistent efforts of conservation programs across Africa, black rhino numbers have risen since then to a current population of between 5,042 and 5,458 individuals.”

“The overwhelming rhino conservation success story is that of the Southern white rhino. With numbers as low as 50-100 left in the wild in the early 1900s, this sub-species of rhino has now increased to between 19,666 and 21,085.”

But poaching has increased dramatically.

In 2007 there were 13 rhinos poached in South Africa. That number skyrocketed to 83 the next year and by 2015 there were 1,175 rhinos poached. That means one out of every five rhinos was killed drive by the aforementioned Asian market.

There is no end in site to the killing. Despite the use of surveillance drones, shoot to kill policies on poachers in some area and increase awareness, poachers are hitting rhinos and they are hitting them hard.

Some believe the solution to saving the species involves bringing them to Texas.

Hundreds of orphaned baby rhinos could be moved into Texas where they could be kept far away from poachers on highly managed private ranches. The thought process is the gene pool could be preserved while conservationists figure out what to do with the problems in Africa.

I will have a full feature article on this project in the May edition of Texas Fish & Game. I am very excited about the project and the article. In fact, I was so excited I had to tease it a little bit here.

This rhino project has many challenges and we will be covering it in-depth fashion not only in that article but also here.

Chester Moore, Jr. 

 

 

 

Banteng

It must be the Texan in me.

I love cattle especially wild ones. There is something powerful and majestic about the bulls in particular.

Numerous species exist around the world but my favorite is the banteng of Southeast Asia.

Public Domain Photo
Public Domain Photo

I first learned of these while in college doing some studies on Australia’s wildlife. Banteng were introduced there in the 1830s and there are about 10,000 of them dwelling Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.

That is actually the largest population of wild banteng found anywhere. In their native Southeast Asia their numbers have dwindled.

There is a domesticated strain of banteng idenfited as “Bali cattle” and there has been some introducing them into the gene pool to help bring some diversity.

A study entitled Rapid development of cleaning behavior by Torresian crows on non-native banteng in Northern Australia (That’s a mouthful, huh?) shows some positives of their introduction

In this paper we report the observation of a rapidly developed vertebrate symbiosis involving ectoparasite cleaning by a native corvid of northern Australia, the Torresian crow, on a recently introduced bovid ungulate, the banteng. On three separate dates we observed a total of four crow individuals eliciting facilitation behaviours by a total of ten female banteng to assist in the removal of ectoparasites.

Most exotic introductions are considered a negative although in reality people would be shocked with which animals in their country are actually native. This one is at least proving interesting scientifically and benefiting a native species.

One of the animals we plan on acquiring for the next phase of the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center is a banteng . If anyone has any contacts here in the states please contact us.

And don’t worry. As much as I like beef, banteng will not be what’s for dinner.

Chester Moore, Jr.

All hail the King (Cobra)!

“Snakes can’t count.”

I uttered that under my breath as an 11 foot long king cobra scanned the room.

Owned by Andy Maddox of Pets-A-Plenty: The Ultimate Reptile Shop, the impressive serpent paid attention to everything happening in the room.

We were shooting a clip for my Kingdom Zoo television broadcast on GETV Kids and although I said they can’t count I was beginning to believe this cobra could.

Every time someone in the room moved, it marked them.

I have handled snakes thousands of times. At the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center we have 25 species and never have I had a snake pay so much attention to its surroundings.

Not even close.

Then it happened.

Me and the cobra (safely held on snake hooks by Eric Haug and Maddox) looked me in the eye. Square in the eye in fact and I could see there was something going on there.

This was an intelligent being, certainly by reptile standards and it had an awareness unlike any other snake I had encountered.

My first look at a king cobra came at the Houston Zoo when I was six years old. In what I have come to know is a super rare experience, a 14 footer there hooded up at me and my mom as I pressed close to the glass.

Mom literally ran out of the room and drug me away kicking and screaming. I wanted to stay and watch!

Since that visit I have acquired some interesting information on king cobras and other varieties of the iconic snake we will be writing about here at The Wildlife Journalist.

It has been quite a learning experience for me and an exciting one as it hearkens back to my childhood of playing with rubber cobras in the backyard and seeing these magnificent animals at the Houston Zoo and Sea Arama in Galveston, TX.

Stay tuned and check out the video outtake from the encounter described above.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Snakemaster Speaks: A Conversation with Austin Stevens

No one knows snakes like Austin Stevens.

When his program Austin Steven’s “Snakemaster” debuted on Animal Planet a decade ago, wildlife enthusiasts around the world were mesmerized not only with the serpents he encountered on film, but of Steven’s deep passion and knowledge of the subject matter.

Stevens has just released his latest book Austin Stevens: Snakemaster-Wildlife Adventures with the World’s Most Dangerous Reptiles.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Stevens who is currently residing in Australia. From here in the swamps of East Texas to the great expanse of Down Under we have traded emails, exploring all things snakes.

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A recent proliferation of cottonmouth photos on social media as well as a well-publicized incident with a young man being bitten while talking a “selfie” inspired a question about this infamous southern species.

“The cottonmouth, or water moccasin as it is also known is indeed reputed to be a bad-tempered snake when approached. Generally speaking I have found this to be true, though one must also take into account that though a species may have earned a particular reputation, individual snakes may differ within a species,” Stevens said.

“In Florida, in one morning, I came across two specimens within 50 feet of each other. The first immediately deployed the typical defense strategy, with head pulled back into its body coils, mouth wide open with tongue flickering in and out while its tail vibrated noisily amongst leaf litter, producing a sound almost like a rattler. Moving closer with my camera, the snake immediately responded with numerous short, quick strikes in my direction.”

“Not 20 minutes later and just a little further along, I came across a smaller specimen of the same species, basking on a log. This cottonmouth showed little interest in my approach and only moved when I attempted to pick it up with my snake tongs, which I eventually did with little complaint on the part of the snake. Two completely different displays of attitude, but generally speaking, cottonmouths are quick to show their displeasure when approached.”

 

Another common social media-fueled controversy are photos and videos purporting to show massive anacondas and reticulated pythons-usually dead ones. While it is commonly known these are the planet’s largest snakes, the size of specimens living today is open to debate.

“The largest anaconda I have ever come across in the wild was close to 18 feet in length, and the largest reticulated python I have ever come across in the wild measured around 21 feet. The longest reticulated python I have ever seen, however, was a 24 foot specimen raised in captivity. This was a true monster of a snake,” Stevens said.

 

He went on to explain there have over the years been numerous reports of these giant snakes found to be much bigger than this, but no proof has been offered, other than, in a few cases, poorly faked photographs.

“As mentioned before, snakes grow throughout their lives, thus allowing for the possibility that there might be some larger specimens yet undiscovered deep in the jungles of Borneo, or the tributaries of the Amazon. It is unfortunate that such specimens might only be discovered when humans encroach deeper into wilderness regions and the result is usually to the detriment of the snake.”

Stevens is a world-renowned wildlife photographer and has used his skills to show the beauty, behavior and unique attributes of snakes. His favorite species is a bit of a show-off.

“I have a special fondness for numerous snake species, but the one I most enjoy, especially from a photographic point of view, is the black and yellow Asian mangrove snake,” he said.

“This snake grows up to 8 feet in length, is brightly colored in shiny black and startling yellow, and is ever ready to enthusiastically display its discontent when approached. This snake is a photographer’s dream, as it dramatically inflates its throat, opens its mouth wide and coils its body into a series of S-bends in preparation to strike out in self-defense if the need arises”.

 

The mouth is kept wide open for long periods, showing a pure white interior, allowing for plenty of time to trigger off a number of impressive photographs. The snake is back-fanged, but in spite of its size, not considered dangerously venomous to humans,” he added.

Stevens said habitat destruction through agricultural development, urbanization, mineral extraction, erosion, and pollution, are amongst the most important causes that have brought about a decline in reptile species on top of persecution based out of fear.

A prime example is the case of the timber rattlesnake, a species that is on the threatened list in Texas and numerous other states.

“Probably the first snakes encountered by America’s Founding Fathers, and a symbol of defiance ever since, the timber rattlesnake has been persecuted throughout much of its range in the USA,” he said.

In the broader picture, Stevens said if a single person throws down a piece of paper it’s of little consequence. When a million people each throw down a piece of paper it is pollution.

“So, with this in mind, if just one conservation minded person starts the ball rolling, millions can follow, and conservation of the planet as a whole could be achieved,” Stevens said.

“Nature and wildlife education and awareness plays a key role and should be included in the curriculum of every school around the world.”

And what would a world be without chances to encounter amazing animals? At the end of the day that is what Stevens brings across in his broadcasts, writings and photography.

The finest example from his experience is his now famous encounter with a massive king cobra.

“When confronted by this 14 foot specimen in India, it became immediately apparent to me that it possessed a higher intelligence. By comparison, it was like facing an adult, where all snakes before had been children,” he said.

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“At first the snake had charged at me with hood raised, ready to defend its territory, stopping just short of me, where it eyed me out with some apparent curiosity. This curiosity became even more evident when I slowly lowered my camera bag from my shoulder, and the snake did something I had never seen before with any other snake.”

“It focused its eyes on my movement as I bent down to drop the camera bag and it tilted its head, not forward but to the side, at an angle, as though directing its nearest eye for a better look, much like a hawk might do when taking note of potential prey. Carefully it watched my movements, and, when once again the snake looked up directly into my eyes, I realized without any shadow of doubt, as far as snake species were concerned, I was in the presence of higher intelligence.”

Stevens said although he was clearly within its domain, and within striking distance, with every movement being watched and calculated by this giant cobra, it never advanced towards him.

“Instead it released a long, almost continuous rumble from its throat, as though a gentle warning not to push my luck.”

“And when a short while later, while attempting to photograph the snake from multiple angles, I tripped and fell crashing to the ground, startling the cobra into thinking it was under threat, it immediately reacted by lunging forward raising its head to loom over me where I lay in the leaf litter on the forest floor,” Stevens said.

“When it realized that I was in fact not threatening it, it simply gazed down at me with tilted head, more, it seemed, out of curiosity than anger. And as I slowly raised myself up again, the great snake slowly moved back to allow me space. I have never experienced anything like it before.”

These are the kinds of encounters that make Austin Steven’s accounts in his new book a must read for wildlife enthusiasts and that inspire others to respect nature.

Yes, even its most feared and misunderstood creatures.

To purchase the book click here.

You can follow Austin Stevens on Facebook here.

World’s Scariest Animals Pt. 2

A few days ago we looked at some of the world’s scariest animals and the response was great, so I thought it would be fun to look at some more creatures that inspire goosebumps.

Spotted hyena—Hyenas have a reputation of being sort of a “funny” animal with their strange, “laughing” vocalizations. In reality, however, hyenas are dangerous predators that will gather in packs and taken on animals as large as lions and will attack people.

Hyenas have extremely powerful jaws that can snap bones in a single bite and will eat every single piece of an animal. When a pack of hyenas gets through with a carcass, there is only some blood left and most of the time they lap that up.

Photo courtesy Wiki Commons
Photo courtesy Wiki Commons

Parts of Africa, particularly Somaliland, are seeing a huge increase in hyena attacks on people according to Softpedia news.

“People have become so afraid of them, that families in Ainabo district, situated 300 kilometers away from the Somaliland capital, Hargesia, have been sleeping with guns near to them in order to protect themselves and their relatives. Officials have added that hyenas live in tremendously large packs in this district and have launched attacks on livestock in the past, but moved to humans, mostly women and children, in the last few years.”

”People from Eritrea, also situated in the Horn of Africa, have also reported the fact that large packs of hyenas have made several attacks within the capital, Asmara, which prompted people to form committees to develop a plan to defend themselves and the city against what seem to be predator hyenas,” they reported.

Tiger shark—Garnering its name from the faint stripes that line its body, the tiger shark has more in common with its namesake than coloration. According to the 1961 book, Dangerous Creatures of the World’s Oceans, tiger sharks like the feared cats of the Asian jungles are actual man-eaters.

“Tiger sharks kill a greater proportion of their human victims than do great whites. Whereas whites often spit out their prey after they realize it’s not a seal or some other natural prey, the tiger shark will be quite happy with eating a person and in fact seem to relish it.”

Tigers are second only to great whites in the size department among predatory sharks. There is great dispute among shark experts about the size potential for the species. Most texts list the species as growing up to 18 feet in length and weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Still, there are figures all over the board for their size, including one I found that said “Tiger sharks range in size from 8.8 to 24 feet long. The largest found weighed 6,800 lb.”

That figure seems a bit high as the International Game Fish Association lists a 1,780-pounder caught by Walter Maxwell off the coast of South Carolina in 1964 as the largest caught by an angler. That far shy of the above estimate, but still massive for an oceanic predator.

Fans of the movie “Jaws” will remember the scene where actors Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider’s characters dissect a big tiger shark caught by angler seeking the reward for the man-eater that had terrorized their community.

They pull out a mackerel, a small tuna and a Louisiana license plate that says “Sportsman’s Paradise”. That was a very accurate portrayal of the tiger shark’s eating habits. They are the garbage collectors of the ocean and will eat anything, including people sometimes. And yes, I do mean eat people. Many shark species attack people but tiger sharks are known for actually eating the humans they occasionally attack.

Saltwater crocodile—These super aggressive reptiles were made famous by “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin who frequently tangled with them in his native land of Australia.

Size alone makes these creatures scary as the largest on record according to National Geographic is 28 feet long and was killed by a schoolteacher in 1958. Specimens over 20 feet long are fairly common among the 200,000-300,000 known to exist in the Pacific region.

According to National Geographic, “Classic opportunistic predators, they lurk patiently beneath the surface near water’s edge waiting for potential prey to stop for a sip of water. They’ll feed on anything they can get their jaws on, including water buffalo, monkeys, wild boar, and even sharks. Without warning, they explode from the water with a thrash of their powerful tails, grasp their victim, and drag it back in, holding it under until the animal drowns.”

Chester Moore, Jr.