Bites at Animal Planet

9 Aug

RARE Wild Animals - Part 2



Here is part two of my highlight on some of the rare wild animals the conservation organization Rare works to protect.  (See part one here.)

Yellow Eared Parrot
The population of the yellow-eared parrot is only about 1,000 since its rediscovery in 1998 near Roncesvalles, Colombia.  It is bright green with yellow ear patches and a dark, heavy bill. Considered critically endangered, it nests and lives among wax palms in a few areas of Colombia where it nests in the hollow trunks of the palm trees in cloud forests about 1800 – 3000 meters above sea level.  Its main food is fruit of the wax palm, which is itself an endangered species.  The yellow-eared parrot has declined dramatically in the face of hunting for food and habitat destruction for farming and cattle.

Here's more on this rare parrot species:


The bird’s habitat and survival are now better protected because of a Rare Pride campaign.  Water agreements have been forged between the government of Roncesvalles and the utility company, for watersheds supplying the town and several downstream locations. Water users pay a voluntary fee in their water bill that goes toward a water fund that provides an incentive for long-term owners to conserve the wilderness, forests and endangered yellow-eared parrot found in the area.   

Harlequin Frog
Colorful harlequin frogs are found in neotropics from Costa Rica to Bolivia. They belong to the genus Atelopus and include about 80 species.  Most live in forested mountains where rainfall is abundant, and most have only a small range or area where they live. Night-owls as well as daytimers, they are active 24/7.  Harlequin frogs are small-to-medium size amphibians (20-60 mm from the tip of the nose to the vent) with females always larger than males. Rising temperatures, habitat destruction, and the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus have wiped out dozens of species of harlequin frogs in recent years. Further, most of the harlequin frog species are listed as critically endangered.  


Harlequin frog Photo by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons. 

For several years Rare worked to protect water sources in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, which feed the urban and rural systems of water from different parts of the city of Cuenca and provide habitat for endangered species such as the frog Atelopus Nanay, commonly known as the harlequin frog Jambatu Black Boxes.  Nanay means sadness in Quechua, deriving from the extinction of many species of frogs in this region. 

The local utility started a small water fee to support conservation projects upstream.  The Pride campaign aimed to show creating such water agreements are a “win-win" for people and conservation.  Some of the Andes’ most valuable ecological indicators and most threatened inhabitants are myriad frog species whose populations are so imperiled that numbers do not even exist in science.  Rare developed strong relationships with the Cajas National Park to work together in the reproduction of the species of harlequin frog Jambatu the Black Boxes, including a plan for reintroduction in riparian forest areas once they achieve an appropriate degree of recovery.


Harleguin frog photo by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons.

Pride campaigns use proven marketing techniques to move the hearts and minds of local communities, accelerating the adoption and increasing the sustainability of the solutions. Rare has conducted over 250 Pride campaigns in more than 50 countries, empowering local communities across geographies and cultures to shift from resource users to become natural asset managers.

To see Rare’s work all over the world, click here.


7 Aug

The Internet Cat Video Festival Is Every Cat Lovers's Dream!

You read that right, there is an Internet Cat Video Festival! On Thursday, August 14, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, to be precise! It's every cat lover's dream as attendees sit together and enjoy 75 minutes of the best cat videos the Internet has to offer. Oh, and did I mention there may be some surprise kitty celeb guests in attendance?

This year, one lucky kitty will receive the Golden Kitty, or the Viewer's Choice Award. Check out all of the finalists here, but here's a little taste of what's to come:

Can't make it to Minneapolis? Never fear, Animal Planet has you covered! We will be covering the entire event, from the pre-event activities to the actual show, via live stream. Starting at 7 pm EST on August 14, you can experience every purr-fect moment from the comfort of your own couch!

Don't want to wait until then? Well, we have highlights and clips from the previous festivals waiting for you! You can also get updates about the festival on Twitter!

Get excited, just like Ohagi here:











Don't forget to check out some of the fan photos from the 2013 Internet Cat Video Festival!


Oh, and the kitty cuteness doesn't end at the festival! Too Cute! Pint Sized airs two days later on Saturday, August 16 at 8/7c!

7 Aug

Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You- A Fresh Look at the World Around Us

Our world is filled with living things that want to eat us, poison us, or make our bodies their homes. Dan Riskin, Ph.D., however, shows us how these organisms are actually some of the most fascinating parts of nature in his new book, Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You. Riskin is an evolutionary biologist and was host of the show Monsters Inside of Me. From his many adventures and studies, he has learned a lot about the predators, parasites, and decomposers that our modern, Westernized society often overlooks.

Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You

Photo Courtesy of: Touchstone Books, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

The book takes you on a journey using the seven deadly sins as a road map to share the many morally questionable behaviors that can be found in nature. From birds that impale their prey onto barbed-wire fences, to blue whales that consumer more than 500,000 organisms per day, readers are sure to gain a new perspective on the way we perceive nature. While the many examples could be considered gross, they are eye-opening and fascinating at the same time.

As Riskin points out, we often don’t get the whole picture when we think of the natural world because of the image advertising and marketing has created for us. When you finish reading however, you will be compelled to appreciate not only the beautiful parts of nature, but also the gross, freaky, and scary parts, as well as work to create an environment of sustainability for all organisms.  Pick up your copy of Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You today, and we promise the natural world won’t be the same to you again!

Dan Riskin (credit Vanessa Heins, used with permission of Exploration Production Inc)

Photo Credit: Vanessa Heins, used with permission of Exploration Production Inc

6 Aug

Meet Rollie: The World's Cutest Armadillo

Rollie is a southern three-banded armadillo who truly lives up to his name. An intern at the NEW Zoo and Adventure Park, in Green Bay, WI, was able to capture this playful little guy in action, and he has taken the internet by storm! Rollie has gained the attention of over 1.5 million internet viewers since May.


Here at Animal Planet, we were particularly impressed by Rollie's ability to sneak up on his little pink friend and follow through with a tackle all the way into a well tucked roll. And just when the little bear thinks he has escaped, Rollie is back for another full fledged charge...or is it just a huge hug? Either way, it's adorable.

Three-banded armadillos typically eat larvae, ants, and termites in the dry season, and when the rain has made them more available, they like to feast on plants and fruits. Rollie is particularly a big fan of meal worms.

The NEW Zoo and Adventure Park pointed out that Rollie's species is considered a new threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means that they are likely to become endangered, especially if efforts are not made to protect them.

 To see a mother armadillo taking care of her newborn baby, watch the video below!


6 Aug

Man's Best Friend Is Also Man's Best Hero

Ace Collins is known for his exceptional storytelling abilities, and his new book is no exception. Man’s Best Hero tells the stories of 13 exceptional dogs who went to great lengths to help their owners and others.


Collins explains that dogs are looking for a calling, just as people do, and have a strong desire to find and fulfill their potential. With stories that have titles such as Tenacity, Determination, and Fortitude, readers know that the dogs they are about to learn about are nothing short of extraordinary.

The book tells the stories of Sadie, an English setter who dragged her owner home after he suffered a heart attack in the woods, and therapy dogs Dakotah and Custer, who helped bring joy to hundreds of people from those who were affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks, to those fighting cancer. Dogs of all different breeds and sizes are out there every day saving lives, teaching great lessons, and bringing inspiration.

Each story will leave you with an even greater sense of appreciation for these animals. To purchase this book, visit Ace Collins’ website here.

Photo Courtesy of: Abingdon Press

6 Aug

Black Bear Does Bigfoot Impersonation




 I'm certain that local Bigfoot hunters are going to get lots of calls about this one.

Creepy black bear walking on two legs - Imgur










This animal is of course not a Bigfoot, but an American black bear. Black bears are indeed able to stand on two legs, but they almost never walk around that way. I'm not sure what's up with this particular bear. It's possible that its front paws or legs could have been injured, forcing it to adapt its method of locomotion.

Much more troubling than the bear moving about bipedally is the fact that it's hanging out in suburbia checking out the trash cans for food. A bear that is so habituated to humans, and sees our trash as a food source, is a dangerous one.

Here are some tips to avoiding conflict with black bears in our cities and towns:

  • Never feed a bear. Bears that associate people with food are likely to approach humans, which usually ends up with a dead bear.
  • Don't put your trash cans out until the morning of trash collection to avoid tempting bears.
  • Don't feed pets outside, or store their food outside, which is likely to attract bears to your property.
  • If bears are eating from them, you need to take your bird feeders down. You can put them back up in the late fall when bears go down for hibernation. If you have lots of native plants in your yard, the birds will have plenty to eat in the form of berries, seeds, nuts and insects. 
  • Learn more about predators living in our cities and towns from this article from National Wildlife magazine


5 Aug

RARE Wild Animals


Long time readers know that I'm a naturalist National Wildlife Federation, one of Animal Planet's R.O.A.R. partners, and I sometimes highlight NWF's work in my Animal Oddities posts. In this post I want to give a shout out to a fellow conservation organizations, Rare.  Rare looks for proven conservation solutions and trains local leaders to inspire communities to adopt them and make them their own through its signature Pride campaigns. They are pretty awesome. 

And it just so happens that a lot of the species Rare works to protect through these campaigns are pretty odd. Here are two of the most unusual species they work with:

Leaf Cutter Ant
The Leaf Cutter ant is considered a delicacy in parts of South America.  During its reproductive season the Leaf Cutter ant’s abdomen swells and it flies around in a sexual flurry only to be caught and grilled by the local people.  An average nest of leafcutter ants contains over 5 million ants.  They are also known as 'parasol' ants because of the way they carry leaves above their heads.  The ants can carry over 50 times their own body weight.

Here's Jeff Corwin exploring these awesome ants.

Continue reading

4 Aug

How to Help Villalobos Rescue Center


As you may know, Villalobos Rescue Center is the largest pit bull rescue facility in the world, housing 400 dogs on any given day. With that many dogs, costs begin to stack up, from food (they go through about 3,500 pound of dog food a week!) to general upkeep of the facility.  In fact, it costs about $1000 a day to run Villalobos. So how can you do your part to help the facility? Here’s how:

Monetary Donations

Villalobos is always accepting monetary donations through their web site or by mail. Even better, all donations made to the rescue are 100% tax deductible. You can also make special donations in honor of a birthday, special event or in memory of a loved one.

Donation of Supplies

Villalobos has extensive wish lists on both Amazon and You can also help them through Amazon Smile! It’s still good ol’ Amazon, you’re still shopping and ordering products to your home, and the prices are the same; the only difference is a portion of the purchase price goes to the charity of your choice. So, if you choose Villalobos as your charity, .5% goes to their funds. It might not sound like much, but every little bit helps! You can even donate to the facility through Amazon Smile.

Sponsoring a Dog

You can also sponsor specific dogs that live at Villalobos. That pit bull you loved on the show but can’t adopt? You can send him or her any amount of money you want either per month or one time only to help with their day-to-day lives. As a sponsor, you can even come out to visit the dog and spend the day with them!



Villalobos is always looking for volunteers, especially dog walkers. One particularly great program is the Nightwalkers. You go out on a group or “pack” walk in the evenings with special needs dogs from 7 – 8:30 p.m., rain or shine. Then, there is Bully Boot Camp where you can get the full Villalobos experience over a 5-day period. You walk dogs, clean kennels, pick up poop, and help around the facility. You really get a feel for what it’s like to work at Villalobos. Lastly, there are various special projects you can volunteer for, from flood clean up and control to minor construction projects. Remember, their facility in is New Orleans and they won’t provide travel or accommodations.

Think about how you can give back, and keep checking in on the Villalobos Rescue Center and Pit Bulls and Parolees Facebook pages for the latest! And don’t forget to tune in for the season premiere of Pit Bulls and Parolees Saturday, September 27 at 10/9!

30 Jul

Gator Boys: All New Season!

This Sunday, August 3rd, the wait is finally over! The Gator Boys are back for an all new season and it's all being kicked off with a special two part season premiere beginning at 8PM E/P! This season will be sure not to disappoint as the team continues their work to capture gators, move them to more suitable homes, and educate the public about these fascinating creatures.


Sunday's two-part premiere will also mark a Gator Boys first as the team travels to Mexico. Gator Boys leader, Paul Bedard has been asked to help an aquarium in Mazaltan start up thier own no-kill crocodile resuce and also to help with the hunt for  the legendary monster-croc, "El Diablo,"  which has terrorized the locals for quite some time now.

The adventure never stops for the Gator Boys, so be sure to tune in every Sunday at 8 PM E/P to find out what Paul, Jimmy, and the rest of the team are up to. Until then, take a look back and enjoy this compliation of some of the team's best catches!

29 Jul

Tigers in our Backyards

Contributed by Leigh Henry, Senior Policy Advisor, Wildlife Conservation Program, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

There’s a shocking fact to share today, on Global Tiger Day: there are more tigers living in American backyards than in the wild.

It is estimated that 5,000 captive tigers are kept in the U.S. — compared with as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild.


Research has shown that the majority of these tigers are owned by individuals, not zoos.  What’s even more shocking is that of those people who privately own tigers here in the U.S., most are not trained to care for animals in general, let alone a tiger.

Even worse, there is no complete record of captive tigers in America. The exact number of tigers living in captivity outside of zoos and accredited institutions in the U.S. isn’t clear — some say it could be double what is estimated. No one knows how many there are, where they are, or what happens to them when they die. 

What we do know is that it is significantly more than the number of wild tigers in Asia, and that needs to change.

Currently, poaching is the biggest threat faced by wild tigers. Every part of a tiger — from its whiskers to its bones — are traded in illegal wildlife markets. Tiger parts are used for traditional medicine, folk remedies and are increasingly being seen as a status symbol in some Asian cultures.  Tiger skins are also used for rugs and other ornamentation.

If parts and products from the estimated 5,000 tigers in the United States are allowed to filter onto the illegal market, this will only serve to perpetuate that market and sustain the demand for tiger parts.  This demand, in turn, perpetuates the main threat to tigers in the wild — poaching for illegal trade.

In looking at the issue here in the U.S., captive tigers are also a matter of public safety. Remember the Zanesville case? In 2011, local authorities in this Ohio town were forced to shoot more than 10 captive tigers and other exotic animals after their owner let them loose into the community. In some instances, with the current loopholes in regulation, it can be easier to buy a pet tiger than adopt a dog from a shelter.

At World Wildlife Fund (WWF) we seek to be the voice for those creatures who have no voice and that means conserving tigers and their habitat in the wild, where they are meant to be.  It’s also important to call on the U.S. government to implement regulations that keep U.S. captive tigers from being a threat to their wild counterparts and regulate private ownership of tigers. You can do your part by signing WWF’s petition to keep tigers out of American backyards here!



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