Fascinating Facts

Fascinating Weasel Facts

The The African striped weasel is a type of weasel that belongs to class Mammalia, family Mustelidae, and genus Poecilogale.

There are approximately seventeen extant species of the weasel family, which include species of ferrets and polecats, as well as the mink and the ermine.

The African striped weasel is also known as “Muishond”. African striped weasels inhabit much of Africa south of the equator, and can be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and in southern South Africa.

They are most common in savanna habitats, but can also be found in forests and grasslands.

They are one of the smallest mammalian carnivores in Africa, and have a long slender body and short legs.

Adults have a body length of anything between 27 to 33 cm, with the tail adding a further 15 to 20 cm. Males are larger than females, weighing an average of about 250 to 350 grams. Females weigh in at anything from 230 to 290 grams.

The African striped weasel’s fur is mostly black, with four white-to-pale-yellow bands running down the back, a white patch on the top of the head, and a white bushy tail.

Weasels have small flattened heads, long flexible necks, and short limbs with short dense fur. They have small eyes, a short broad snout, short ears, and long canine teeth. The African striped weasel has well-developed scent glands that can spray a noxious fluid when the animal feels threatened by something like a predator. They have five toes on each foot end, and sharp curved claws.

The African weasels lead mainly solitary lives. They are effective diggers, and individuals sometimes pair up to dig burrows. They may sometimes rest in natural cavities such as rock crevices or hollow logs.

A male can become aggressive when they encounter another male – making short cries and fake charges, which can escalate to fighting if neither male retreats. They are well known to leave dung in well-defined locations, possibly as scent marking.

According to a couple of studies, African striped weasels have been identified as making six different calls. They include: aggressive, distress, warning, surrendering during a fight, greeting, and lastly a call that signals submission of a retreating male.

The average African striped weasel’s life expectancy is five years, but that all depends on their diet and habitat. An African striped weasel is predominantly a carnivore.

They are nocturnal hunters, and they generally hunt alone. They mainly hunt small mammals, reptiles, and insects, but feed almost entirely on rodents of their own size or smaller. They like feeding principally on mice, voles, rats, and rabbits, but they also eat frogs. They also occasionally feed on birds and eggs.

Weasels are famous for raiding chicken coops. Because of their small and narrow bodies, weasels can capture and pursue rodents in their burrows, chasing them through holes, under dense herbage, up trees, or into water. Weasels hunt primarily by scent, attacking the prey with a sudden lunge and striking at the back of the neck.

They sometimes store prey in their burrow instead of eating it immediately. Although they generally have a solitary lifestyle, they do live in small family groups of two to four during mating season. Mating or reproduction normally occurs between the spring and summer seasons in South Africa.

Females give birth to a single litter of two or three young per season. The young are born in a burrow and are initially blind and hairless. They weigh around 4 grams each. The young develop canine teeth at five to six weeks, and their eyes open after six to seven weeks.

They reach the full adult size at twenty weeks, and are sexually mature at eight months. Although the offspring are grown at twenty weeks, they start killing their own prey at thirteen weeks. African striped weasel has a few threats, including foxes, owls, eagles, snakes, and hawks.

The exact population of the African striped weasel in the world is not known. Currently, they are classified as a Least Concern species by the IUCN Red List. African striped weasels are also known to help keep the rodent population under control. There’s an expression, “A weasel’s nose is not to be trifled with.” According to African folklore, if one cuts off the nose of a weasel, it will grow back two shades lighter in colour, but it will bring misfortune to the family, and lead to a poor harvest.

Fascinating Koi Facts

The koi fish’s popularity is increasing daily due to its gorgeous colour patterns, and that they are easy to care for. A koi is a freshwater fish of the cyprinidae family and belongs to the actinopterygii class of animals. Koi fish are descendants of the hardy carp and can be found all around the world. Goldfish and koi fish are distant cousins, as they are both descended from the carp. The word koi comes from Japanese, meaning “carp“.

Koi fish were developed by farmers who noticed the bright colour patches on carp, and bred them to get the beautiful appearance of the species we have today, via selective breeding. Koi fish were originally brought to Japan as a food source.

Koi fish were originally brought to Japan as a food source. Koi fish domestication began around the 19th century in Japan, and they were then kept as pets, instead of food.

There are more than 100 varieties of koi created through breeding, and each variety is classified into 16 groups, according to Zen Nippon Airinkai (a group that leads the breeding and dissemination of koi in Japan).

The most popular koi fish colours include white, cream, blue, black, yellow and red. The koi is a pretty large fish, the size of the fish depending on the environment the koi is raised in; diet, genetics and appropriate water temperatures.

An average koi can grow from between 60-91 cm in length. Koi fish can weigh an average of anything between 13-15 kg. The largest koi fish ever recorded weighed in at a whopping 40.8 kg and was 1.2 meters long.

Koi fish are gentle and will typically not act aggressively towards humans. A koi fish may nibble your finger, which will feel more like pressure than a painful bite. Female koi are more playful and have great personalities and lots of body movement compared to males, according to some studies.

Male and female species of koi are simply called male koi fish and female koi fish. Koi fish enjoy having other koi fish around and are very social.

Koi fish use sounds, vibrations, impulses, motion and various smells to communicate with each other. Koi have been known to bully other types of fish, or non-koi fish, in a pond. Koi fish don’t tolerate drastic or rapid changes in temperature and prefer water temperature that range from 15°C to 25°C. Koi fish are sensitive to the sun and may even get sunburnt if there’s not enough shadow in the pond. In winter times, koi go into a sort of dormancy, using less oxygen and settling to the bottom of the pond where the water is warmer.

Koi are unbelievably powerful swimmers and can swim at a speed of anywhere from 1.6 to 4.8 km per hour.

Koi fish are known as intelligent animals and can recognize the person who regularly feeds them. Koi fish have a row of teeth at the back of their throat known as “Pharyngeal teeth”, which is actually common to other freshwater fish.

These Pharyngeal teeth are used to grind food like shells and insects they find at the bottom of the pond. Koi fish have a typical life span ranging anything from 25 to 60 years. Koi can survive for more than 100 years if they receive proper nutrition, their water is kept clean and filtered, and if kept under good conditions.

The oldest koi fish was a koi named Hanako, who according to history, hailed from Japan and lived to be 226 years old. Koi are omnivorous (consume both plants and animals) and will eat a wide variety of foods including fish food, insects, small bugs, snails, worms, algae, shrimp, rice, peas, apples, bananas, berries, lettuce, and even watermelon.

In the wild, if they’re hungry enough, they will sometimes consume different kinds of fish and their eggs, that are smaller than they are.

Koi fish reproduce through spawning, like most fish, in which the female lays a number of eggs and one or more males fertilize them. Female koi fish can lay anything between 1,000 to 50,000 eggs during one breeding season. Only half of the fertilized eggs typically survive.

A baby koi is known as a fry or fingerling. Koi continue to grow until they reach maturity at around 3 years of age. Koi fish attracts several predators, such as otters, raccoons, snakes, birds of prey, badgers, cats and even dogs.

Koi increase in value on several factors, including the size and the specific breed, by age, length and weight, patterns and colours. The Japanese believe that the koi fish symbolizes strength, courage, wealth, success, good fortune, fertility, determination, perseverance and persistence. Koi fish were brought to the attention of the world after one was given to the Japanese emperor as a gift, in 1914, to grace the imperial palaces’ moat.

The koi fish is a popular tattoo design. Once released into the wild, the koi revert to their natural colouration (that of the common carp) within a few generations. The conservation status of koi fish is currently of Least Concern, although the exact figure of their population is not known.

Fascinating Giraffe Facts

The scientific name for a giraffe is Giraffa camelopardalis, and it comes from the ancient Greeks’ belief that it looked like a camel wearing a leopard’s coat.

There are four distinct species of giraffe – the Masai Giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi), the Southern Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), the Northern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) and the Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata).

Giraffes are found in the dry savannahs of Africa, where they roam among the open plains.

The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world. An adult male (called a bull) grows to around 5.5 meters. The tallest giraffes ever recorded have been up to 5.9 meters.

Even new-born giraffes are taller than most humans. These gentle giants are well known for their long necks. An adult male giraffe can weigh anything from 1200 kg to 1900 kg.

Females (called cows) are smaller and grow up to 4,3 m and weigh 830 kg on average.
A giraffe’s height is helpful for keeping a lookout for predators, such as lions and hyenas.
Their excellent eyesight, too, allows them to spot predators from far away.

A giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground. To drink water, a giraffe first will have to spread its forelegs and/or bend its knees to reach the ground for a drink of water.

Despite their long necks and being tall, giraffes still only have seven vertebrae in their necks – which means that a giraffe’s neck has the exact same number of bones as a human neck. Each individual vertebra is super-sized, measuring up to 25 centimetres long.

The giraffe’s spots on his body are much like human fingerprints or snowflakes, no two giraffes have exactly the same pattern.

Both male and female giraffes are born with two, hair-covered horns called ossicones.

These horns, or ossicones, lie flat and are not attached to the skull to avoid injury at birth. They only fuse with the skull later in life.

Male giraffes engage in a ritualized display of dominance called “necking” that involves head-butting each other’s bodies to see who is the stronger.

These fights aren’t usually dangerous and don’t normally result in any injury, and end when one bull admits defeat and walks away. Giraffes very rarely fight and are very peaceful animals.

Giraffes spend most of their lives standing up and even sleep and give birth standing.

They usually stay upright while sleeping, only needing 6 to 30 minutes of sleep in a day. They often take quick naps that may last only a minute or two at a time.

It was previously thought that giraffes are quiet animals that don’t make any sounds, but research now suggests that giraffes, in fact hum, mostly at night, with the occasional snort, hiss or grunt, as well as make low pitched noises that are beyond the range of human hearing.

A giraffe’s foot has a diameter of approximately 30 cm. These huge hooves prevent giraffes from sinking into loose sand despite their great weight.

Giraffes’ tongues are darkly bluish-purple and can be up to 45cm long.

This extra length allows the giraffe to use their tongues to grab and hook leaves from hard-to-reach trees.

A giraffe heart can weigh up to approximately 11 kilograms and is the biggest of any land mammal.

This huge heart is used to pump 60 litres of blood around its body every minute, at a blood pressure of twice that of an average human.

To protect the giraffe’s brain from sudden changes in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink, the jugular vein has a series of one-way valves to stop the backflow of blood, and elastic-walled vessels that dilate and constrict to manage the flow.

Giraffes are not completely defenceless, although they’re more likely to run from danger than fight back. A swift kick from one of their long legs can do serious damage to any predator.

Giraffes can run up to 55 km/h at full speed, but only over short distances.

Unlike most other four-legged mammals (like horses), giraffes walk by moving both legs on the same side of their body together. This movement or walk is known as “Pacing”.

Strangely enough, when a giraffe breaks into a gallop, its odd walk disappears, and it runs in a more ‘normal’ way.

Giraffes are very social animals and roam around in groups, called towers.

These groups, also called a herd of giraffes by some, typically have around 10 to 15 members and are led by an adult male. The other members are normally females and young males.

Giraffes in the wild tend to live between 20 to 25 years. In captivity, they can live longer and have been known to reach 40 years old. Giraffes only need to drink water once every few days, even when the water is available. Despite their size, the giraffe has a plant-based diet, and they mostly enjoy eating fresh leaves and twigs from the tops of trees. Most of their water source comes from their plant-based diet

.Giraffes require over 44 kg of food a day, so they spend most of their time eating.

Female giraffes can become pregnant at around 5 years old and will carry a baby for 15 months. Studies suggest that some female giraffes often return to where they were born to give birth. Female giraffes give birth standing up, which means that these new-borns will fall about 1.5 meters to the ground. Luckily, baby giraffes can stand up and even run within an hour of being born. A baby giraffe is called a calf. Calves are about 2 meters tall and weigh approximately 70 kg. Within a week, the giraffe calf will start to sample vegetation. Studies suggest that in some populations, over 50% of all giraffe calves do not survive their first year. Despite attempts from the mother to protect the young, many calves are killed in their first few months as a result of predators like lions, hyenas, wild dogs and even leopards. Giraffes are probably one of the biggest pollinators in the world, thanks to their great height. As they are feeding on trees and walking around, they inadvertently transfer genetic material on their muzzles from the flowers of one tree to those of another.

While giraffes are under less of a population threat than some other animals, their population has declined 40% over the past 5 decades.

Two of the biggest factors in the decline of the wild giraffe population are poaching and habitat loss. The first giraffe to make its way to Europe was brought there by Julius Caesar from Alexandria in 46 B.C. as part of a triumphant return to Rome after years of civil war.

Fascinating Gecko Facts

There are over 1,000 species of geckos and they all possess some similarities, including a short stout body, a large head and, typically, well-developed limbs. Geckos are found on every continent except Antarctica.

They are mostly found in warm climates and have adapted to habitat ranges from rain forests and jungles, mountains, grasslands and even deserts. Geckos can vary greatly in length, with some of the smallest species that are under 2 centimetres, while some species can grow up to 60 centimetres.

Geckos have a lens within each iris that enlarges in darkness to let more light in, making their eyes over 350 times more sensitive to light than a normal human.

Most geckos lack eyelids and, instead, have a transparent membrane, which they keep clean by licking it with their tongues.

Geckos use their tail for different purposes, such as to act as fuel tanks to store fat and nutrients, to maintain balance with certain obstacles, like climbing a branch, and add camouflage to help them to blend into their environment.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, have reported that when a gecko falls, it twists its tail to the right angle to enable it to land on its feet.

They are also able to shed their tails if a predator grabs them, as a last escape effort.

They then regenerate their tail.

When the gecko sheds its tail, it continues to wriggle as if it is still alive, which hopefully is enough of a distraction so that the gecko can escape the predator.

Geckos are known for their sticky feet that gives them the ability to crawl across smooth or even horizontal surfaces (such as ceilings) without falling.

This is possible because their toes have tiny hooks which act like suction cups during walking. Teflon is the only material to which a gecko cannot climb or walk without gliding. Geckos occur in various patterns and colours, usually brightly coloured, while some species can even change their colour and may be lighter at night time.

Most species of geckos are brown or grey, depending on their environment. These camouflaging colours help the geckos to blend in and to hide amongst rocks, dirt and sand from predators. All geckos shed their skin at regular intervals, with some species differing in timing.

When shedding begins, the gecko will detach the loose skin from its body and will start to eat the shed skin.

Most geckos are nocturnal, which means they are awake at night and sleep during the day. Nocturnal gecko species have an excellent night vision. Their colour vision is 350 times more sensitive than that of a human’s colour vision. Many geckos, especially young ones, make noises to communicate when they are upset or defending their territory, or even to attract a mate. Geckos have an excellent sense of hearing. Studies suggest that they are capable of hearing tones higher than those detectable by any other reptile species.

Geckos are polyphyodonts and are able to replace each of their teeth every 3 to 4 months, depending on the species type. On average a gecko will live up to 8-10 years, but a number of species will live to double that. Geckos typically eat fruits, insects, such as crickets, worms and grasshoppers and flower nectar. Geckos will also consume spiders, centipedes and small scorpions, and they will even eat other hatchling geckos. Geckos mate several times during the year. Mating habits vary amongst gecko species, but most may include posturing, movements, vocalizations and even physical nipping and nudging.

Female geckos give birth by laying eggs in protected locations under rocks, logs or tree bark. The eggs are sticky and white, and have soft, pliable shells that gradually harden once they’re exposed to air.

Depending on the species, the eggs incubate anything from 30 to 70 days before the fully formed baby geckos emerge. Females do not take care of the eggs. The newly emerged babies are called hatchlings.

After hatching, it will be a year before the baby geckos are mature and ready to meet and mate. Depending on the species and location, their endangered status can range from least concern to critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Some gecko species are endangered due to habitat loss and because of the introduction of new predatory species into their environment.

Due to their small size, geckos are often preyed by snakes, large spiders, birds and some mammal species. Geckos are often kept as pets by humans around the world. In some regions of the world, geckos are allowed to be indoors as they can help rid the house of unwelcome insects like mosquitos.

Fascinating Rat facts

Rats are known as being social and affectionate animals. They enjoy the company of other rats, while domestic rats love being with humans.

Rats are mammals, referred to as “rodents”, because they belong to the scientific order of Rodentia. Rodents can be described as a group of small, non-flying mammals with large, sharp front teeth. There are over 52 species of rats that have been discovered.

Some rats live in communities in which they groom each other, sleep together and even play.

Rats are territorial, so they can turn aggressive toward unfamiliar rats. A group of rats is called a “mischief”.

Male rats are called bucks, while female rats are called does. Rats are mainly nocturnal (active at night) and live mostly underground. Antarctica is the only continent uninhabited by rats.
There are rats who live in the wilderness, such as forests and woods, and others in fields and meadows. Some rats, like the wild tree rat, live on tropical islands. Rats can thrive in a multitude of environmental conditions and adapt their diet to their resources. Rats are colour blind and have very poor eyesight but have an incredibly strong sense of smell. According to some studies, rats have excellent memories and can memorize a route after having navigated it once. When a rat is happy, they chatter or grind their teeth. Rats can regulate their body temperature by expanding and contracting the blood vessels in their tails. A rat’s tail also helps them to balance. Rats communicate through body language, touch, smell and sound.

They’re also great swimmers and can hold their breath for several minutes. Rats’ teeth can grow up to 12 cm per year, so it’s important for them to chew on things to wear them down. The tooth enamel of rats is said to be very strong, with some people believing it to be stronger than steel. The maturity of rats can be shown by their yellow teeth, while baby rats, initially, have white teeth. A rat’s eyes are on either side of their head and can move in opposite directions.

Rats can hear extremely well, picking up sounds that are too high-pitched for humans to hear. A rat’s whiskers are very sensitive. They will brush the long hairs against any objects, helping them build up a detailed picture of their environment. Although very curious animals, rats are also shy. They would rather run away from than confront a potential threat. Rats will spend several hours every day grooming themselves and their group members. They wash themselves by constantly licking their fur. Rats take care of sick and injured members of their group. Without companionship, rats tend to get lonely and depressed, according to some studies.

The life span of a rat varies between species, but the average lifespan of a rat in the wild is one year (due to predators).

A rat can go longer than a camel without having a drink of water. Their ideal diet consists of a good amount of vegetables and fruits. Like hamsters stuffing their cheeks, rats hoard food for later. Rats cannot go for more than 4 days without food. In the wild, rats will eat things like fruit, seeds and plants, and are more likely to be vegetarians. City rats like to eat garbage. They will consume things like pet food and any human food that they come across, even meat.

One of the familiar facts about rats is their ability to breed in a short time span. A female rat can reproduce approximately every three weeks. When she gives birth, the litter typically contains anything from 6 to 20 babies. These baby rats become sexually mature when they’re three to four months old.

Some female rats can go into heat as quickly as 10 to 24 hours after giving birth – this phenomenon is known as “Postpartum Estrus”.

A female rat can mate as many as 500 times.

Baby rats are born with their eyes closed and are helpless without parental care. Their eyes open between 12 and 17 days after birth, and they are independent by 21 days.
Infants, or baby rats, are called pups or kittens.

In addition to material such as wood, rats can also gnaw through lead, cinder blocks, soft concrete, plastic and aluminium sheeting.

According to some studies done by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rats and mice can spread over 40 diseases, including the bubonic plague, typhus and leptospirosis. They were responsible for an outbreak of monkey pox in 2003. Rats destroy about 20% of agricultural products worldwide each year.

Rats can be trained to do several tricks, and will also learn their name. Scientists have identified that some rats might have dreams. Because most rodents are small, rats are the perfect bite-size meal for birds of prey (like hawks and owls), felines (cats), reptiles (snakes), dogs, and other carnivorous animals.

Fascinating Tarantula facts

The term tarantula is usually used to describe members of the family Theraphosidae.

Tarantulas are the largest spiders living on Earth today. There are over 900 species of Tarantulas (in the family Theraphosidae) and can be found all over the planet including North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe- except Antarctica. These large spiders like to live in many different climates, but generally prefer to stay in warm environments. They can be found in forests, deserts, and jungles. Some Tarantulas live in the ground while others live in the trees.

If they live in the ground, they make a burrow to live in which they line with their silk or web. If they live in trees, they make a tube tent out of their silk to live in. A Tarantulas’ size, colour, and behaviour can vary wildly depending on the location and species.

From front right leg to rear left leg, tarantulas range from 11.4 cm to 28 cm in length. They can weigh anything from 28.3 grams to 85 grams and have strong jaws and fangs.

The fangs of the tarantula are distinctive, as they are positioned parallel to each other and face downward. A Tarantula’s jaws move up and down, while most spiders will have a common side-to-side motion.

Some tarantulas are dull brown or black, while some species are striped or even coloured. They have 8 tiny eyes that will pick up on the slightest movement. Tarantulas have two body parts- the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Like all spider species, the tarantula has eight legs. The legs and body are covered with hairs, which are extremely sensitive to vibrations. Although this looks like hair and is commonly described as such, spiders and other arthropods do not have true hair like mammals do. Mammalian hair is mainly made of keratin, while arthropod setae consists largely of chitin. Tarantulas are nocturnal hunters, which means that they are only active during the night and sleeping during the daytime hours. They will normally wait for their prey to come close enough to grab. They kill their prey with a bite from their fangs, which then release venom that kills their victim Their jaw is also strong enough to crush certain prey. Tarantulas are extremely sensitive to vibrations on the ground that may indicate the presence of prey or danger. As a way of self-defense, some species simply lean back on their haunches, raising their head and 2 pairs of legs in the air and exposing their curved fangs in an intimidating display that will give the impression that they are larger than they really are.

Some species of tarantula use their legs to scrape off the fine hairs from their abdomen, called urticating hairs, and throw this to an enemy to cause irritation if it comes in contact with the eyes or skin of a predator.

Tarantulas are all venomous, but how dangerous they are to humans varies from tarantula to tarantula. Many are harmless to humans and rarely bite if they are not feeling threatened. Some bites to a human are similar to a bee sting, with only temporary pain and swelling. Some African tarantula bites have been reported to cause moderate illness, but there have been no severe cases with human deaths due to toxicity from a tarantula bite.

The venom itself may not be dangerous to humans, but it can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Tarantulas are cold-blooded animals. They are unable to regulate their internal body temperature. Tarantulas will shed their skin from time to time because they have outgrown their old exoskeleton and need more room to grow. Tarantulas are known as long-lived spiders, although their life spans vary by sex as well as species.

Male tarantulas can live for as long as 10 to 12 years, but once they successfully mate, they usually die within a few months. Female tarantulas can live twice as long as some males, and some recorded reports have documented females to have lived for 30 years. Tarantulas are ambush predators, pouncing on prey rather than trying to use a web to trap its prey like other spiders. They do however spin a tripwire to signal an alert when something approaches its burrow. A Tarantula’s diets vary depending on the species’ size and habitat. They feed primarily on insects like beetles, grasshoppers, and other small spiders. Some larger tarantulas are known to prey on small vertebrates like lizards, frogs, toads, and even rodents. When prey comes close, tarantulas ambush it, grab it with their legs, inject paralyzing venom, and then kill it with their fangs. They would also inject a fluid that breaks down the victim’s tissues that turns the prey into a soft pulp, which can then be eaten. Mating between tarantulas takes place at various times of the year. In some species, the male performs a courtship dance to encourage the female to become receptive.

After mating, the female normally carries her eggs in a silken cocoon attached to her body. Depending on the species, a female can lay anything from 50 to 2000 eggs at a time.

They do not take care of their babies at all and, instead, mothers would leave them to fend for themselves. The growth of a newly hatched spider into a mature spider is a long process and can take up to ten years. Some of the more popular and colourful species of tarantulas are now threatened due to collecting for the exotic pet trade. A South American tarantula known as the goliath birdeater is widely considered the most massive spider alive today, growing up to 28 centimeters in diameter. Despite its name, it only rarely preys on birds, instead of feeding mostly on earthworms, insects, and other invertebrates. Predators of tarantulas include snakes, lizards, frogs, spider-eating birds, raccoons, and skunks as well as mammals such as coyotes, mongooses, and foxes.

Fascinating Ostrich Facts

Ostrich Facts: The scientific name for the common ostrich is Genus: Struthio and specific name: camelus.

This makes the binomial name for the ostrich Struthio camelus. Loosely translated from ancient Greek, the scientific name means thrush / sparrow camel. Ostriches could be found roaming in Asia, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but today they’re limited to the woodlands and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. There are two species of ostrich; the common ostrich and Somali ostrich

The ostrich, which is flightless, is the world’s largest bird. An ostrich can weigh anything between 70kg and 140kg, and measures between 1.2m and 2.7m in height.

An ostrich has a long, bare neck, long sturdy legs and a bulky body that is covered with feathers. The male ostrich is called a rooster and the female ostrich is called a hen. Males and females have different coloured feathers – males have black feathers with white tails, and females are mostly between grey and brown, which is perfect for camouflage when sitting on the nest. Both sexes have small heads, short, wide beaks and big brown eyes, protected by long, dark lashes. These long, dark eyelashes help shield their eyes from the sun. Ostriches can’t fly (being so heavy), but rather use their wings for cooling and balance.

Ostriches’ wings reach a span of about 2 meters and are used in mating displays and to scare off predators. Ostriches also use their wings as rudders for maneuvering their bodies and changing direction as they travel at high speeds. When turning, braking or running in a zig-zag, ostriches rely on their wings to stay balanced and in control.

A group of ostriches is called a flock of ostriches. Ostriches have three stomachs. The ostrich has the largest eyes of any land animal, measuring almost 5 cm across. One eye can weigh about 60 grams. They have brilliant eyesight which means they can see an object as far away as 3,5km during the day, which makes it perfect in allowing predators and any threats to be seen from a great distance. Unlike all other living birds, the ostrich secretes urine separately from faces.

Whereas most birds have three to four toes on each foot, ostriches are unique in that they only have two on each foot. The big toe is on the inside and has a big, sharp nail for protection. The smaller toe is on the outside for balance. Ostriches are the fastest runners of any birds or other two-legged animal, and can sprint at over 70 km/h. When running at full tilt, it takes strides of up to 3 to 5 meters. When threatened, an ostrich would normally run away.

If running away from danger is not an option, ostriches will use their powerful legs to kick. With a 10 cm talon on each foot, their downward kicks can cause serious harm to potential predators.

Groups of ostriches will often graze among other animals like giraffes, zebras and antelopes. Their presence is useful, because they alert other animals when danger is near. In the wild, ostriches live an average of 30 to 40 years, but in captivity they’re able to live anything from 50 to 70 years and, will continue to breed well into old age.

Ostriches are mainly vegetarian, eating anything from grass, plants, fruit, roots, leaves, flowers and seeds. They will also eat insects and reptiles and other small creatures. Ostriches can’t choke on their food. Since they lack teeth, they swallow small stones to grind and crush the food they take in. This is done in a part of the throat called the gizzard. An adult ostrich carries nearly 1kg of pebbles in its stomach, which helps with food digestion. Ostriches can go without water for several days, as they can source metabolic water from the plants they eat. Ostriches drink by scooping up water into their gular pouch and then lifting their heads to let the water move down their throats.

They enjoy water and frequently take baths where possible, and will drink a fair amount of water when available. During the mating season (normally between June – November) the male ostrich’s beak and legs turn red/pink to attract the female for mating. Male ostriches do a mating dance for females to impress her. If the dance is good enough a female will mate with the particular male. All of the herd’s hens will place their eggs in the dominant hen’s 3m-wide nest, though her own are given the prominent center place. Each female can determine her own eggs amongst the others.

The dominant female may lay up to 11 eggs, and the other hens lay between two to six eggs. The communal nest may end up containing as many as 60 eggs.

The alpha male and dominant female will take turns looking after the nest.

Males compete with one another for control of several females (or hens), and the winner becomes the leader of the herd. An ostrich’s eggs are the largest of any bird – at up to 15cm long and weighing up to 1.4kg. The ostrich’s egg might be the biggest in the world, but interestingly enough, it is the smallest egg in the world when compared to its body size.

The eggs are incubated by the dominant female by day and by the male by night, using the colouration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the dark. When the eggs hatch after 35 to 45 days of incubation, the male usually defends the chicks or hatchlings and teaches them to feed, although males and females cooperate in rearing chicks. Although chicks can run as fast as 55 km/h at one-month-old, they are still vulnerable to predators like lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards and hunting dogs.

When confronted, adults will try to distract predators or lure them away from the young. Within days, the chicks leave the nest to follow their parents, who protect them from the hot sun or rain by keeping them huddled under their body or outstretched wings. Chicks are born with a spiky, greyish-brown down. They grow brown feathers after 4 months. By the time the young ostriches are 18 months old, they are fully grown. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. The ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its decorative feathers (feather dusters) and also for its meat, which is marketed commercially, and its skin which is used for leather products.

They are also threatened by habitat loss due to human development and agriculture. The wild ostrich population has declined drastically in the last 200 years, with most surviving birds in game parks or on farms. One ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 hen’s eggs. A single ostrich egg can take up to 1, 5 hours to boil.

Fascinating Otter Facts

Otters are carnivorous mammals in the subfamily, Lutrinae.

Lutrinae is a branch of the Mustelidae family, which also includes skunks, weasels, badgers, mink and wolverines, among other animals.

There are thirteen different species of otters that exist around the globe, ranging from the small-clawed otter to the giant otter. Most otters live in freshwater rivers, lakes and wetlands. The sea otter and the smaller marine otter are found in the Pacific Ocean.

As predators that are near the top of the food chain, otters are hugely important for keeping their environments balanced.

Most otters are small, with short ears and noses, elongated bodies, long tails and soft, dense fur. Otters have webbed feet and powerful tails, which act like rudders, that make them strong swimmers to enable them to catch fish and fight the flow of streams. Their nostrils and ears close to keep water out, and waterproof fur keeps them warm. River otters are much smaller than sea otters, (averaging from 4kg to 14kg) with a cylindrical body and small head.

Sea otters weigh more (averaging from 20kg to 40kg) with large, furry faces.

Sea otters have the densest and thickest fur of any animal— Their fur contains between 600,000 to 1,000,000 hair follicles per square meter. There are two layers of fur – an undercoat and then longer hairs, that are visible. The layers manage to trap air next to the otter’s skin, which keeps the otters dry and warm, and helps with buoyancy. They must carefully groom their fur and furry undercoat to keep them clean and sealed off to water, because they’re not covered in the fatty layer that other sea creatures have.

An otter’s lung capacity is 2.5 times greater than that of similar-sized land mammals. Sea otters have been known to stay submerged for more than 5 minutes at a time, while river otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes. The increased time underwater improves otters’ opportunity to sense prey and forage for food. Otters have strong teeth and a powerful bite.

A sea otter’s tooth enamel is much tougher than that of humans, helping to prevent their teeth from being chipped when cracking into the prey using their high bite force.

Research suggests that the sea otter’s bite force may not be sufficient to open the hardest-shelled prey items, such as marine snails and thick-shelled bivalves, and they often make use of tools. They typically use a rock as an anvil and repeatedly bash their prey against it until the shell cracks open, then extract the meat from the shell with their canines. Sea otters are one of the few mammals (apart from primates) to have developed tool use. They have a loose patch of skin under their armpit to store both the food they’ve foraged, and their rock to crack it open.

Otters love to rest in groups. Researchers have seen concentrations of over 1,000 otters floating together.

Generally, a group of otters on land are known as a romp, while a group hanging in the water is called a raft. Sea otters will wrap themselves up in seaweed, forming something that resembles a raft – hence the word raft. Sea otters spend the majority of their lives on their backs, only flipping over onto their fronts when greater speed is required. Sea otters can reach up to 9km/h underwater, while the maximum speed of the giant river otter is an impressive 14km/h. Sea otters are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen.

A daily food intake of 15–20 percent of body weight is key to survival for sea otters.

They adapt their patterns of predation and hunting behaviour to make the most of the prey available during the leaner months. Sea otters’ diet includes fish, sea urchins, crabs, mussels, clams and crustaceans. To find food, sea otters may occasionally dive as deep as 70 meters and will use their sensitive whiskers to locate small prey inside crevices or their strong forepaws to dig for clams.

When it’s time to nap, sea otters entangle themselves in kelp, so they don’t float away.

They also sometimes intertwine their feet with another sea otter, so that they stay together. River otters are especially playful, gambolling on land and splashing in rivers and streams. Baby otters are called pups or kittens. Sea otters can have a pup any time of the year.

Southern sea otters breed and pup year-round, while northern sea otter pups in Alaska are usually born in the spring.

A new-born pup needs constant attention and will stay with its mother for six months until it develops survival skills. Most otter species come ashore to give birth in dens, which sometimes have been used by other animals, such as beavers. Sea otters give birth in water, with females having only one pup at a time. The mother will produce milk, hunt, and teach the pup how to dive for food until the youngster is five to eight months old and can fend for itself.

They learn to swim when they are about two months old, when their mother pushes them into the water.

Otter families are usually limited to pups and their mothers, and these duos will spend most of their time either feeding or sleeping. River otters don’t breed until they’re at least five years old. Otters might look soft and cuddly, but remain dangerous wild animals. Otters and their mustelid relatives were once hunted extensively for their fur, many to the point of near extinction. Despite regulations designed to protect them, many species remain at risk from pollution and habitat loss. The sea otter is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, pressured by pollution, pesticides and conflicts with fishermen who kill them for eating their fish. Asian otter species also face threats from the illegal pet trade.

Fascinating Pig Facts

  • Pigs are mammals in the Suidae family (genus Sus) of even-toed ungulates.
  • The Suidae family includes eight genera and 16 species of pigs.
  • Among these species are wild boars, warthogs, pygmy hogs and domestic pigs.
  • Pigs, like all Suids, are native to the Old World.
  • Some historians theorize that pigs were domesticated about 6000 years ago – one of the first animals to be domesticated!
  • Pigs exist on every continent except for Antarctica, northern Africa, and far northern Eurasia, according to the Encyclopaedia of Life.
  • Wild pigs typically live in grasslands, wetlands, rain forests, savannas, scrublands and temperate forests.

  • Pigs are very intelligent animals according to studies, and it is even said that they are the smartest animals on the farm.
  • They rank third, in studied intelligence, behind apes and dolphins.
  • They are curious and insightful animals.
  • Today there are tiny pigs, fluffy pigs, wild boars, and, the most common, big, pink-skinned domestic pig.
  • A female pig is called a sow, while the male  is called a boar. A number of pigs together is called a herd.
  • All pigs have small eyes and poor eyesight.
  • Pigs can see things along the sides of their head, which is useful for spotting food, other pigs and potential predators, but they’re not great at seeing what’s right in front of them.
  • They make up for this lack of frontal vision with an excellent sense of smell.
  • They can use their snouts to detect food and, thanks to a little extra muscle that gives it flexibility and strength, the snout can also root out food in the ground.
  • Compared to humans, a pig has 15,000 taste buds while humans only have 9,000.
  • Pigs can drink up to 52 litres of water every day.
  • According to studies, a pig’s squeal can range from 10 to 115 decibels whereas a Concorde jet emits less than 112 decibels.
  • In comparison to their body size, pigs have small lungs.
  • Pigs are not really a dirty animals. Pigs do not have functional sweat glands, that’s why they roll in mud to keep cool, and it helps them to regulate their body temperature.
  • Mud also provides the pigs’ protection against flies and parasites, apart from being used as a form of sunscreen, which protects their skin from sunburn.
  • Pigs usually weigh between 140 and 300 kilograms, but domestic pigs are often bred to be heavier.
  • Pigs have 4 toes on each foot, but they only walk on 2.
  • Pigs have excellent memories. They can remember things for years and can recognize and remember objects
  • A mature pig has 44 teeth.
  • These canine teeth, called tusks, grow continuously, and are sharpened by the lowers and uppers rubbing against each other.
  • In their natural surroundings, pigs spend hours playing, sunbathing, and exploring.
  • Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction and are known to have found their way home over great distances.
  • Pigs communicate constantly with one another using a variety of grunts and squeaks.
  • Pigs are very peaceful animals, rarely showing aggression. The exception, as with many animals, is when a mother (sow) with her young offspring is provoked or threatened.
  • Pigs snuggle very close to each other and prefer to sleep nose to nose.
  • To keep warm, pigs may cuddle up with one another.
  • Like humans, they also dream, according to some studies.
  • Pigs can run at speeds of almost 20 km/h.
  • On average, pigs live for between 15 and 20 years (Wild pigs live 5 to 20 years).
  • Pigs, boars, and hogs are omnivores and will eat just about anything.
  • Domestic pigs and hogs are fed feed that is made from corn, wheat, soy or barley.
  • Sow’s pregnancy lasts 114 days.
  • Female pigs, called cows or sows, give birth twice a year to litters of around 6 to 12 young.
  • The baby of a pig is called a piglet.
  • At birth, piglets weigh around 1.1 kg to 1.5kg, and within a week, most piglets will double their weight.
  • When they are two to four weeks old, the piglets are weaned.
  • Baby pigs are very aggressive when competing for milk from their mothers.
  • Newborn piglets learn to respond to their mothers’ voices, and mother pigs communicate with their babies through grunts while nursing.

  • In Denmark, there are twice as many pigs as people.
  • Wild pigs play an important role in managing ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity. By rooting, and thus disturbing the soil, they create areas for new plant colonization. They also spread fruit plants by dispersing their seeds.
  • The pig is the last of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac and is seen to represent fortune, honesty, happiness, and virility.
  • People with allergies sometimes have pigs as pets, because they have hair, not fur, and they do not shed.
  • Pigs are incredibly social. They form close bonds with each other and other animals.
  • Pigs are easily trained to walk on a leash, use a litter box and even do tricks.
  • Soldier pigs have gone to war, using their snouts as mine sniffers.

Fascinating Eagle Facts

  • The eagle has long been considered “The King of Birds”, on account of its great strength and rapidity, its elevation of flight and natural ferocity.
  • Eagles are birds of prey in the Accipitridae family and, generally, larger than any other birds of prey.
  • There are approximately 60 different species of eagle, most of them from Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
  • The majority of eagles are found in Eurasia and Africa.
  • Eagles are informally divided into four groups: Sea eagles or fish eagles (a large part of their diets consist mainly of fish), Booted eagles (feathers grow down the legs and cover the toes), Snake or serpent eagles (adapted to hunt reptiles) and Harpy eagles (inhabit tropical forests).
  • Eagles are generally found in pairs, but it’s been documented that they live in groups during extreme weather or areas with very abundant food.
  • Eagles (like all birds of prey) have very large, hooked beaks for ripping flesh from their prey, strong muscular legs, and powerful talons.
  • Like all raptors, eagles kill their prey with their talons.
  • An eagle’s beak contains keratin, which means that it grows continuously, just like human hair and fingernails.
  • An eagle eye is among the strongest in the animal kingdom, and sight is the strongest of all the eagle’s senses.
  • Eagles’ eyes have a million light-sensitive cells per square mm of the retina (a layer at the back of the eyeball), 4– 6 times stronger than that of the average human, and it is said to be able to spot a rabbit 3.2 kilometers away.
  • Eagles can see five basic colours compared to our three and can detect UV light.
  • Eagle eyes are angled 30 degrees away from the center of the face, which gives 24 eagles a greater field of view.
  • An eagle can rotate its head about 270
    degrees, just like an owl can, to look around.
  • Eagles also have a clear eyelid that protects their precious eyes from dust and dirt.
  • Although some eagles may only weigh around 4.5 kg, their eyes are roughly the same size as those of a human and can take up almost 50% of the head.
  • In most eagle species, females are larger and
    stronger than males.
  • A typical adult male eagle only weighs around 4.1 kg, despite its strength and large size.
  • Eagles have up to 7,000 feathers that
    account for about 5% of their body mass.
  • Eagles vary in sizes, with the little eagle (native to Australia) measuring 45–55 cm in length and weighing 815 g.

  • Philippine eagle (also one of the rarest birds, as it is critically endangered) is considered the largest and strongest species of eagles in the world in terms of length and wing surface, measuring up to 102 cm in length. It may weigh up to 8kg.
  • Eagles are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day and sleep at night.
  • Some eagles, such as the martial eagle, use thermals (columns of hot rising air) to soar for long hours without a single wing beat.
  • Eagles have a specialized mechanism in their feet that allows them to lock in position, so they can sleep while sitting on a branch – similar to horses, who can sleep while standing up.
  • The golden eagle is the fastest eagle in the world with a maximum airspeed of 320 km/h (and second fastest in the world behind the peregrine falcon, which can fly as fast as 389 km/h).
  • Some eagles are built with short wings and long tails, enabling them to hunt in the tight confines of a forest, while others have short tails and broad long wings allowing them to soar high above open plains and water.
  • Eagles have a lifespan of between 14 and 35 years in the wild, depending on species.
  • Although eagles can get older than 35 years, they normally become weaker towards the end of their lives, unable to hunt as they used to.
  • Eagles are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the food chain.
  • What eagles eat depends upon the species and the food that is available to them, but the vast majority of eagles are carnivorous and live on a diet of meat and/or fish.
  • They mostly hunt their prey.
  • Prey includes fish, rabbits, marmots, hares, ground squirrels, mice, and, sometimes, slow-flying birds, reptiles, foxes and even deer.
  • Some species of eagles are scavengers, and primarily eat fish and animals that are already dead.
  • Some eagles can fly hundreds of kilometers while foraging for their food.
  • Eagles do not need to eat every day, instead, they have a special digestive organ known as the cr which stores food, until there is room for it in the stomach.
  • Their digestive system allows them to store a large meal until it is later needed, and prevents the eagle from growing weak if food is scarce for several days or weeks.
  • Eagles are monogamous, so the generally mate for life.
  • They have a strong site a mating pair tend to reuse the same nest year after year or build a nest in the same spot.
  • Nests, composed of sticks, vegetation, and downy feathers, are built by both males and females. This activity is part of their pair bonding.
  • The nests, called eyries, are normally built in tall trees or on high cliffs.
  • The location of the nest varies with species. Bald eagles, for example, most likely nest in tall trees, whereas golden eagles prefer cliff faces or more open areas.
  • The number of eggs laid will depend upon species, but many eagles lay between one and three eggs.
  • The female eagle will spend most of the days keeping her eggs warm, while the male ensures food is brought to the nest.
  • Both males and females share incubation responsibilities, but the female typically spends more time on the nest than the male.
  • It takes around 35 days for eagle eggs to hatch, depending on the eagle species.
  • A young eagle is called an eaglet.
  • It takes a number of years for a baby eagle to grow its talons fully.
  • Eagles are an exceptionally common symbol in heraldry, and being in contrast to the lion (“King of Beasts”).
  • When a bald eagle loses a feather on one wing, it will lose a feather on the other, in order to keep its balance.
  • Relative to their size, eagles’ wings actually contain more power and strength than the wings of an airplane.
  • Eagles have been used in the police and the army several times.
  • In the Netherlands, eagles were trained to help control drones.
  • Eagles are admired all over the world as living symbols of power, freedom and transcendence.
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