War and Wildlife

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The human tragedy of war is horrific. It must be the first concern in any conflict.

The cost to wildlife however can often be tremendous as is noted by a recent story in Yahoo News regarding wholesale wildlife slaughter in warring Sudan.

Nairobi (AFP) – Warring factions in South Sudan have slaughtered, poached and eaten “alarming” numbers of endangered wildlife, devastating one of Africa’s largest migrations, conservationists warned Wednesday.

Government and rebel troops, locked into a war marked by widespread atrocities in which tens of thousands of people have been killed, are pushing elephants to the brink of extinction in the young nation, said Paul Elkan from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks, while giraffe and antelope have been mowed down with machine guns for meat to feed the tens of thousands of soldiers and rebels battling each other since December.

“It is a tragedy, the conflict is having a terrible impact,” Elkan told AFP from Juba, where he works with the government to set up parks and protect the wildlife.

“South Sudan’s war weary elephants are now at a precipice, and the ongoing fighting threatens to push them ever closer towards national extinction.”

As stories from around the world announce extinctions and threats to wildlife, pay special attention. Wars are a growing reason and make wildlife conservation efforts virtually impossible.

It’s an area that needs serious prayer-for the people and also for the wildlife.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Gentle Giants-On the Move?

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Manatees are on the move-at least along the Intracoastal Waterway corridor in Louisiana.

A recent verified sighting near Lake Calcasieu near the Texas-Louisiana border shows that this winter all of these amazing creature are not near the warm springs in Florida. Some of them are far from their home base.

This happens more frequently than we realize.

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My Dad, Chester Moore, Sr. a friend were fishing the Intracoastal Canal near the Louisiana border back in the late 1960s. The fishing was slow and the two were getting bored—until, that is, something strange and very large materialized next to them.

“This big animal came up that was nearly as long as our 12 foot aluminum boat,” Dad told me. “It came up right beside us and just sat there. It was so big and ugly we got scared, pulled anchor, and left.”

After reporting the sighting to a game warden, they became a little embarrassed. Turned out the strange creature was a gentle manatee the warden had under observation. Manatees rarely appear in Texas.

“He told us the manatee had been seen around that area and they were keeping an eye out for it to make sure poachers didn’t’ get it,” Dad said. “We didn’t know what a manatee was, but once he explained to us what they are, we turned a little red. They’re not exactly vicious, dangerous creatures.”

A correct assessment, for sure. My wife, Lisa, and I have snorkeled with them in Florida’s Crystal River back in 1999, 2005 and 2014  and found them gentle, playful creatures.

Chester Moore, Jr.

East Texas Bear

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Kingdom Zoo reader Jimmy Sligar got the game camera photo of a lifetime a few weeks ago.

He got this shot of a black bear looking right at the game camera he had set near his feeder. It is not the clearest shot but it is definitely a bear and shows these iconic animals are indeed returning to the Pineywoods of East Texas, an area that has had very sparse bear populations for the last 50 years.

This shot was taken in Leon County.

Chester Moore, Jr.

east texas bear

World’s Scariest Animals Pt. 2

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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.”

Be careful out there tonight and remember Christ doe not give us a spirit of fear.

Creature Feature: Tarantula!

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On this week’s episode of The Creature Feature we profile a chaco golden knee tarantula. Enjoy!

Creature Feature: Hairless Rat from Kingdom Zoo on Vimeo.

World’s Scariest Animals Pt. 1

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This week, I thought it would be fun to check out some of the animals you would least want to encounter on a cool, autumn night when the wind is howling and the moonlight barely illuminates your surroundings.

Polar Bear—Most bear species kill people out of territorial instincts or to protect their young but polar bears often”do so for dining purposes. Yes, polar bears are maneaters. There aren`t many easy meals in their icy habitat so any human showing up is fair game. Arcticwebsite.com has a great article called “How to Survive a Bear Attack” and it does a great job summing up why the polar bear is so scary.

“The polar bear is the most deadly of all. While his normal food is seal, they have been known, for centuries, to attack humans. Until the introduction of firearms, the native people of the north have lived in fear of them. Many early explorers have told horror stories of polar bear attacks. These bears are known to stalk and hunt humans. If you are in polar bear country carry a firearm or avoid the area.”

Cape Buffalo—Any animal that routinely beats down lions and charges vehicles, hunters and anything else it feels like is scary. These truly bad-ass bovines will actually lie in wait for the hunters who have shot them and according to some professional guides, they have an uncanny ability to pick the shooter out of a group. I once had a run-in with a cape at a 40,000-acre game ranch in Central Texas.

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My wife and I were driving out of the ranch and spotted a herd of zebra feeding in a meadow, so I grabbed my camera and tried to sneak up for a closer shot. When I came up to a patch of cedar trees, I heard something moving through the brush toward me. I was hoping it would be a zebra so I could get a point blank shot, but as it turned out, the animal was a Cape Buffalo! I had no idea they had any on the ranch, but I was looking at one at a distance of 10 feet and the car was about 75 yards away. I`m here to tell the story, so I obviously made it out safely but the buffalo followed me toward the car and made me question my mortality. Scary, indeed!

King Cobra—The king cobra is the world`s longest poisonous snake, reaching lengths of up to 18 feet and can inject enough of its deadly venom to kill an elephant within three hours it strikes it in the trunk. On top of that when coiled up in a strike position, a maximum size specimen can look a grown man in the eye. If that`s not enough to scare you, consider that snake experts consider it the most intelligent of snakes that can recognize their caregivers and according to legend send out distress calls for other cobras to help it in moments of danger. True or not, that is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Candiru Fish—Ever heard the stories of the tiny catfish that can swim up a stream of urine into the bladder? Did you think that was a myth? Well, it`s at least partially true. There have been a number of documented cases of this tiny parasitic fish entering both men and women through openings in the body. They can`t swim up a stream of urine but they can and do get into people`s bodies. The good news is they can`t survive long there.

On second thought, that isn`t much of a consolation, is it?

Creature Feature: GIANT toad!

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On this week’s episode of The Creature Feature we profile a giant Suriname marine toad. Enjoy!

Creature Feature: Giant Toad! from Kingdom Zoo on Vimeo.