Tag Archives: the wildlife journalist

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.

Bobcats have tails!

Bobcats have tails!

That might not seem worthy of the exclamation point there but it needs to be said emphatically.

Over the last year I have examined at least a dozen bobcat photos people thought were cougars because the tail was longer than they expected.

The video below shows a bobcat captured on a game camera by friends of mine in Orange County, TX.

This particular bobcat has a tail longer than just about any I have seen but there are many of them out there with tails close to this. Some have little powder puff looking tails but most stretch out 3-4 inches. This one is probably 8-9 inches in length.

That is long for a bobcat but nearly as long as a cougar which has a tail nearly as long as the body.

I have no scientific way of estimation but I daresay 75 percent of alleged cougar sightings in the eastern half of the United States are bobcats.

I know for a fact there are cougars there too but bobcats are far more numerous and I know from personal experience how many people think they have a cougar photo but find out it is a bobcat instead.

This is no fault of their own. Wildlife identification studies are not a priority at schools and in fact game wardens even get very little wildlife identification education during their formal training.

I appreciate any and all game camera photos and if you have some you would like to have evaluated email chester@kingdomzoo.com.

Bobcats are one of my favorite animals and I have had the pleasure to work with them in captivity, photograph them on many occasions and have probably seen 200 plus in the wild.

In fact on a peace of property near the set of John Wayne’s “The Alamo” near Bracketville, TX I saw five bobcats in one day.

Seeing them is fairly common for me but I always rejoice knowing I caught a glimpse of one of America’s most successful predators.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Playing Jim Fowler

Growing up I always thought television talk shows were boring.

Johnny Carson made me laugh  when I talked my parents into letting me stay up late enough to watch but his guests did not impress me as a youngster.

That is unless that guest was Jim Fowler.

Fowler, the co-host of my favorite television program growing up “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” and brought wildlife to the masses for decades via his relationship with Carson.

As I walked onto a stage in front of 3,000 kids at the Global VBS at Cornerstone Church last summer, I felt like I was getting to play Jim Fowler.

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The program is called “Cheeto Talk” and it is a late night television talk style show but hosted by a puppet operated by my friend Pastor Brett Own of San Antonio, TX.

During the course of an hour we brought out all kinds of animals for Cheeto to interact with and we had an absolutely great time.

From “Reverend Sweets” one of the guests almost having a legitimate panic attack over our rosehair tarantula to the kids collective “awww” when they saw our short tail opossum it was tons of fun.

The highlight for me was having the Kingdom Zoo kids bring out the animals and interacting with the crowd.

During the last segment Rachel brought out “Rowdy” our coatimundi who was only 10 weeks old at the time. He behaved well in front of the huge crowd and commanded their attention.

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At the end Pastor Owen asked me to close in prayer and at this point “Rowdy” climbed on top of my head.

Not that there is much competition in this category but I have a feeling I hold the record for the only prayer with a coatimundi on one’s head while leading  a prayer.

And I got to play Jim Fowler for an hour. I hope the performance would make him proud.

Click here to watch Cheeto Talk with special guest Chester Moore.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Follow the nose…

There was something about those 1980s Fruit Loops commercials.

The debonair sounding “Toucan Sam” was and is a memorable icon of pop culture and was what initially got me interested in toucans.

After seeing them on my cereal box in the mornings I started looking them up in the personal wildlife book library I had accumulated and found them fascinating.

Fast forward to 1999 and I found myself in the rainforest of Venezuela and five feet away from this white-throated toucan on the shores of the massive Lake Guri.

I was mesmerized as I snapped this photo.

The unique design and beautiful contrast of light and dark was in my opinion the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.

Sure, cardinals and red-headed woodpeckers had more standard beauty but there was something special about the toucan-all toucans.

When we founded Kingdom Zoo in 2012 me and my wife Lisa knew we wanted at toucan.

We searched high and low to no avail so we did what we should have done to begin with. We prayed.

We also gave away plush toucans to needy children in the community as a way of showing Christ’s love but also believing that he who gives us given unto.

We recently had the opportunity to purchase a gorgeous male green aracari toucan. We named him “Papaya”.

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This friendly and very active bird had his official debut last weekend at the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center and seeing people’s reactions was special.

Most have never seen a toucan up close, only on the cereal box or perhaps in a distance enclosure at a zoo. Our micro zoo provides close interactions with animals and “Papaya” has become our number one bird ambassador.

He is a true treasure and I could not be happier.

Dreams do come true. Sometimes they come after profound revelation. Sometimes they are passed down from family members.

And sometimes they can even be founded gazing at a cereal box excited about the sugary snack inside.

And don’t give me any flack about GMOs and refined sugars. You know you were eating them too.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Aoudad are here to stay

The aoudad (barbary sheep) is now a part of the Southwestern landscape that will never leave it-at least not until something cataclysmic like a worldwide flood or giant astroid strikes the planet.

I’m serious.

Imported from north Africa for hunting more than 60 years ago in Texas there are now large feral populations in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The aoudad is rufous tawny in color according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

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Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

“The insides of the legs are whitish. There is no beard, but there is a ventral mane of long, soft hairs on the throat, chest, and upper part of the forelegs. The horns of the male sweep outward, backward, and then inward; they are rather heavy and wrinkled, and measure up to 34 inches in length. Females also have prominent horns although they are not as large as those of the male.”

According to Wikipedia aoudad are fond of mountainous areas where they both graze and a browse.

They are able to obtain get all their moisture from food, but if liquid water is available, they drink it and wallow in it. They are crepuscular which means they are active in the early morning and late afternoon and resting in the heat of the day. They are very agile and can achieve a standing jump of over seven feet and will flee at the first sign of danger.

“They are well adapted to their habitats which consist of steep rocky mountains and canyons. When threatened, they always run up and bounce back and forth over the tops of the mountains to elude predators below. They stay in rough, steep country because they are more suited to the terrain than any of their predators. Aoudad are extremely nomadic and travel constantly via mountain ranges.”

One rancher had a 640 acre tract in Real County that was high fenced and had aoudad on it when he bough it. If you were to take all of the surface acres with canyons, hills and caves it is probably more like three times that size, at least it feels that way when I have been there.

Aoudad have rarely been killed there although herds as large as 30 have been seen.

The author snapped this rare photo of a baby aoudad on a tract of land in Texas in 2012.
The author snapped this rare photo of a baby aoudad on a tract of land in Texas in 2012.

He came across an aoudad ewe at a game sale and had the idea to fit her with a bell around her neck. When she got with the herd, he could hear the area they were in on the ranch. It is often extremely quiet out there.

The herd completely rejected her.

Another ranch had an aoudad in an acre pen that had grass grown up several feet high. They went to find the animal to try and lead it into a chute to put in a cage for the sale. It took them an hour to find the aoudad in an acre pen. They animal kept quietly crawling around on its knees.

These animals are survivors but are extremely elusive. Even in areas where they are common aoudad are far more shy than any of the native North American sheep.

Wildlife managers believe they outcompete native sheep for food and water but there are opposing viewpoints out there. We will discuss some of those in coming posts but either way the aoudad is here to stay.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Blue Deer

For years I have heard about strange whitetail deer that have a blue tint to their coats.

My father even reported seeing some of these deer on a hunting lease near San Saba, TX in the mid 1970s.

This of course was well before the era of cell phone cameras and game cameras so no photos were taken.

A reader sent in this photo of mysterious blue whitetails taken on his  game camera in an undisclosed location in the Pinewoods of East Texas.

Some parts look blue, others purple but this is not a an Adobe Photoshop rendering.

Have you seen any deer with unusual colors? If so e-mail wolf@wolfandlambmedia.com

We would love to see them.

Alligator eating donuts (Video)

Outdoor photographer Gerald Burleigh is known widely in his home state of Texas for his whitetail deer photography as well as his images of the life cycles of waterfowl.

While setting a game camera to lure in feral hogs on a stretch of property near the Neches River in Southeast Texas, he came across something interesting.

An alligator found his bait pile and came in and ate corn and gorged itself on some old donuts.

Alligators are carnivores that will eat virtually anything that swims in front of them but mainly eat fish and turtles.

This one apparently has a sweet tooth.

Something else interesting about this video is the camera is not set directly by the water. This alligator had to walk a pretty good way to find the food.

Alligators will actually cover long distances during the mating period and some of the very largest alligators are found in ponds far from the main waterways where they have set up after arriving there to find no mates during breeding season.

These areas house some of the very largest alligators because they are detached from their main habitat. The biggest alligators are targeted during the alligator hunting season so many of the largest specimens are those that have forsaken coastal marshes, main river channels and other spots close to civilization.

Alligators can grow to impressive sizes but it takes the correct genetics, available food and cover and the ability to live their maximum life cycle which can be upwards of 80 years.

Hunting pressure targeting the very largest alligators takes away the largest adults so truly large alligators (over 11 feet) are become increasingly rare.

Alligator populations themselves are high but those of maximum size are not as common as they used to be.

This one looks as if it might not make it too much longer. Any alligator that is willing to gobble up donuts would no doubt had a hard time resisting a chunk of rancid chicken dangling over the water.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Desperate Measures Needed to Save Tigers

The clocking is ticking toward extinction for tigers.

All subspecies of Panthera tigris are critically low and with the threats like habitat loss and poaching for the traditional medicines on the upswing, radical action must be taken.

And it must be taken now.

All measures taken to help tigers in the wild have failed so it’s time to try some things that will certainly (and have in some cases) ruffle feathers and might seem far-reaching.

The fact is with less than 3,000 tigers throughout all of Asia the far reach is the only one left.

The following are some ideas that need serious examination and thought from those interested in seeing this great cat saved from nonexistence.

#Island Tiger Preserves-There are enough small to medium uninhabited islands scattered throughout distant areas of the Pacific to create tiger preserves that would not be cost effective for poachers to hit. Many of these islands have populations of wild pigs and could be stocked with abundant deer. Problem tigers (human and livestock killers) could be recaptured and place on these islands with the idea of setting it with just enough male/female ratio to create a breeding population. In some cases that might be two tigers but if two can breed and raise young in the wild, then we’re gaining ground.

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#Pick a Species-If several large conservation organizations could pick one subspecies of tiger and focus on a moon mission sized goal of purchasing X amount of acres of critical habitat and accompanying that with full time scientific staff and game wardens then we might be able to rally the troops enough to keep a solid gene pool going for a particular variety. Small efforts by large, well-funded organizations could go to one huge project with smaller groups taking up smaller needs and other varieties.

#Rewilding-It has already been tried with limited success but at some point rewilding captive tigers needs addressed. The Island Tiger Preserve project might be a way to accomplish this but if tiger viability will go beyond 2025, rewilding will have to be a part of the process.

#Zoo, Private & Sanctuary Cooperation-The captive gene pool of tigers must be analyzed from the biggest zoos to private owners. Cut all of the political mess out of the way and take personal opinion of sanctuary and personal ownership around the world and get real-the gene pool is getting narrower and captive populations could be part of the solution.

All things must be on the table if we are to save what I consider the most beautiful creature God created. We’ll be talking about the great cats frequently in 2015 and tiger conservation will be an important part of that.  Conservation means the wise use of resources and now the wisest thing we can do about tigers is throw preconceived notions out the window and make some things happen.

Sound desperate?

It is.

We’re a generation away from the old “lions, tigers and bears…” saying missing a key component.

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.

Helping Holy Land Deer

Fallow deer are one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet.

With coats ranging from chocolate brown to snow white and with the bucks sporting heavy, palmated antlers, they are an extremely striking animal.

Did you know that fallow deer are native to Israel and much of the Middle East?

A Persian Fallow Deer in Israel, fitted with a radio transmitter.
A Persian Fallow Deer in Israel, fitted with a radio transmitter.

The endangered Persian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) is the indigenous variety and I was happy to find out that the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens  in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Biblical Zoo) is involved in a captive breeding and wild restoration program of these majestic creatures.

A conservation program to achieve lasting conservation of the  and its habitat. This is a long-term conservation program aimed at re-establishing this species in the Nahal Soreq area of its former range (near Jerusalem in southern Israel) from a breeding core at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem.

In Israel there were approximately 200 individuals in the north of the country (Nahal Kziv area) by 2005 and today this is the world’s largest stable wild group. In addition, a wild group of around 45 individuals now exists in the south of the country (Nahal Soreq area). Captive populations also exist in Israel – 65 individuals at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem and around 150 in the Hai Bar Carmel Mountain Reserve in central Israel.

Here at Kingdom Zoo, we will do a series of articles on this unique project, but there’s more. We will be donating a portion of our donations to help restore these animals that undoubtedly lived in the Garden of Eden to God’s chosen land.

Workers transporting a sedated Persian fallow deer.
Workers transporting a sedated Persian fallow deer.

We are collecting change for the Persian Fallow Deer. All of the funds from the change collected, will be given to the Tisch Famiy Zoological Gardens, earmarked for their fallow deer project.

You can also help with this project. Click here to donate.

Look for more on this unique conservation initiative as we updates from Israel.

Chester Moore, Jr.