A large ape, large males rival gorillas in size. The arms are distinctly longer than the legs, a male’s armspan is often over 7 feet. The face is bare and males have fibrous-tissue cheek pads, the function of which is not entirely understood. There is an inflatable throat-pouch that is especially large on males but is seldom visible except as folds of loose skin. The hair is long, coarse and somewhat sparse.
Orangutans inhabit Northern Sumatra and most of lowland of Borneo, frequenting the tropical rainforest, flood-forests and peat-swamp forests.
- Wild – Largely frugivores (over 500 plant species identified), flowers shoots, some insects.
- Zoo – Monkey chow, oranges, apples, bananas, plus other fruits, vegetables and browse.
The hair is red, bright orange in the young to maroon or dark chocolate in some adults. The face is dark, but young eyelids and muzzle are pinkish.
Orangutans are rather shy, solitary animals. Adults travel and forage independently, each animal occupying an individual home range of several square kilometers. Home ranges do overlap considerably. Research has shown that Orangutan density varies between 1 and 5 per square kilometer, depending on habitat quality. They show almost no social interaction when meeting at a major food source. Most of the day is spent searching for food. Youngsters must learn pathways thru the forest canopy that will take them to hundreds of fruiting trees at the correct time. Their mental map, of flowering and fruiting times and places, is incredible. They are very slow and deliberate, because of their great size. Although they do not eat as much leaf material as gorillas, they do take tender shoots and leaves, and have the enlarged stomach necessary for digesting cellulose. In the wild, they have been observed making tools to reach food, to break open hard nutshells and to club snakes. Each night a new nest is built for sleeping.
The feet and hands are long and narrow, in fact the palm is twice as long as the fingers. An entire adult human hand will fit on the palm of a male Orangutan. The thumbs are short to facilitate the hook-like function needed for brachiation (arm-swinging). Their feet are like hands, with an opposable “thumb” (the great toe). Orangutan hips are a ball-and-socket very similar to the shoulder and they, essentially, have four arms. They can reach in any direction with arms OR legs. They are so large, they can take no chances of a fall and must be sure of each branch hold before releasing from the previous one. Most of their way is made by swaying saplings and branches back and forth until they can reach.
The sway poles in Chaffee Zoo’s exhibit are put to good use.
Protruding incisors come in handy when dealing with large, tough-skinned fruits. Slightly elongate canines make it easier to grasp large fruits in the mouth, freeing the hands for brachiation. Orang-utan tooth enamel tends to be brown, but no reference as to why was found.
Males are twice the size of females and their body hair is continuously growing – the only other mammals with continuously growing hair are humans and some domestic horse manes/tails. The hair enhances aggressive displays between rival males. The coarseness and length of the hair also helps to shed water. Orangutans regularly pick a large leaf to use as an umbrella.
The male voice, enhanced by the inflatable throat pouch (similar to Siamangs), sounds like a loud roar, which plays an important role in male rivalry and in attracting sexually receptive females. The territorial roar is called the “Long Call.” A recent study (1981) suggests that the cheek pads may act like parabolic reflectors to locate other callers.
Breeding & Growth
Females become sexually mature at about 10 years and cycle regularly. During these periods of sexual receptivity, they will consort with adult males for several days at a time, even over several months, until they become pregnant. Gestation is 245 days and they live alone to bear and rear the infant. It rides on the mother and is not weaned for three years. It will sleep in her nest until she has another 3 – 3 ½ pound infant. The birth-interval is usually 6 – 8 years. Orangutan wild life-span is about 35 years and to 50 years in captivity. Chaffee Zoo’s old male, Sumac, was 42 years old at his death in 1994, the oldest known living male in captivity at the time. There was a female at another zoo that was 43 at Sumac’s death.
Dragons were first recorded by Western scientists in 1910. The Dutch recognized that there were limited numbers of the lizards and outlawed sport hunting and extensive killing for scientific study (the method of the day). Collecting expeditions stopped abruptly with World War II, but resumed in the 1950s. A mid-60’s expedition for a long-term study of the Komodo Dragon (feeding behavior, reproduction, body temperature, etc.) was undertaken by the Auffenberg family, who stayed on Komodo Island for 11 months in 1969. During their stay, Walter Auffenberg and his assistant Putra Sastrawan captured and tagged more than 50 Komodo Dragons. Research from the Auffenberg expedition would prove to be enormously influential in raising Komodo Dragons in captivity. Continued research has shed even more light on the nature of the Komodo Dragon. The IUCN lists the Dragon as Vulnerable and CITES Appendix I.
Saliva samples were analyzed by researchers at the University of Texas. They found 57 different strains of bacteria growing in the mouths of three wild Komodo Dragons including E. coli, Staphylococcus sp., Providencia sp., Proteus morgani and P. mirabilis and Pasteurella multocida.
The rapid growth (and therefore viurlence) of these bacteria was noted by one researcher, Doctor Fredeking, who said: “Normally it takes about three days for a sample of P. multocida to cover a petri dish … [the sample from the Komodo] took eight hours. We were very taken aback by how virulent these strains were.” This study supported the observation that wounds inflicted by the Komodo Dragon are often associated with sepsis and subsequent infections in prey animals. The Dragons will trail bitten prey for days, the sepsis ultimately killing the animal … a Dragon meal with little concern for injury in the kill. How the Komodo Dragon is unaffected by these virulent bacteria remains a mystery.
It was noted that while the pathogens found in the mouths of wild Komodo Dragons disappear from the mouths of captive animals, due to a cleaner diet and the use of antibiotics. This was verified by taking mucous samples from the external gum surface of the upper jaw of two freshly captured individuals.
The gape is capacious and large adults can swallow large chunks of prey. The tube at the front of the jaw (visible in the above photograph of the gaping Dragon) is the glottis and cartilaginous bronchial tube that pushes forward while the lizard swallows something large. This allows the animal to continue breathing while swallowing … in the same manner as snakes.
This breathing tube in association with the tongue mechanism, is often visible next to the prey item during the labor-intensive swallowing action. After eating up to 80 percent of its body weight in one meal, the Dragon drags itself to a sunny location to bask and speed digestion, as the food could rot and poison the Dragon if it sat undigested in the stomach for too long. Because of their slow, ectothermic metabolism, large Dragons can survive on as few as 12 meals a year.
At a large kill, the largest Dragons eat first, while the smaller ones follow a hierarchy. The largest male asserts his dominance and the smaller males show their submission by use of body language and rumbling hisses. Dragons of equal size may resort to “wrestling.” Losers usually retreat, though it is known that they are sometimes killed and eaten by victors. Komodo Dragons eat by holding the carcass down with their forelegs, tearing off large chunks of flesh and swallowing the chunks whole. The contents of the prey’s stomach and intestines are typically rejected. For smaller prey, up to the size of a goat, the Dragon’s loosely articulated jaws, flexible skull, and expandable throat and stomach allow them to swallow the prey whole. Copious amounts of red saliva that the Komodo Dragons produce help to lubricate the food, but swallowing can still be a long process (15–20 minutes to swallow a goat).
The Komodo Dragon does not have good hearing, and is only able to hear sounds between 400 and 2000 hertz. It is able to see as far away as 300 meters (980 ft = 3 football-fields), but has poor ability to identify objects that are not moving (stationary). The Komodo Dragon is able to see in color and, because its retinas contain only cones (eye-cells that see only color), it probably has poor night vision, like humans. Its scales have sensory plaques with nerves that facilitate (help) the sense of touch. Each scale around the ears, lips, chin, and soles of the feet may have three or more sensory plaques.
Even though young Dragons spend much of their time in trees, as the Dragon matures, its great size makes climbing impractical and then impossible. Its claws are used primarily as weapons and as grappling hooks to hold large prey for dismemberment. For a night-shelter, a Dragon, using its powerful forelimbs and claws, digs holes that can measure from 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) wide. Because of its large size and habit of sleeping in these burrows, it is able to conserve body heat throughout the night and minimize its basking period the morning after. They usually hunt in the afternoon, staying in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Special resting places, usually located on ridges with a cool sea breeze, are indicated by lots of droppings. Because of constant use and the lizard’s large size, these resting places are usually clear of vegetation. The elevated resting places serve as observation posts and strategic locations from which to ambush prey.
After digestion, the Komodo Dragon regurgitates a mass of horns, hair, and teeth (known as a gastric pellet – in the manner of raptors like owls), which is covered in malodorous mucus. After regurgitating the pellet, it rubs its face in the dirt or on bushes to get rid of the mucus.
Komodo excrement (left) is mostly white, similar to Hyena droppings (Crocuta crocuta), because of the amount of bone that is eaten. The bones are broken down, but calcium is not completely digested and passes as a white powder. [Many animals, in Africa, eat Hyena poop in order to fill their own calcium requirements. It is likely the same with the Komodo Dragon’s poop.]
The Dragon’s wide-ranging diet includes invertebrates, other reptiles (including smaller Komodo Dragons), birds, bird eggs and mammals from rats and monkeys to wild pigs, goats, deer, horses, and water buffalo. Young Komodos will eat insects, eggs, geckos, and small mammals. Occasionally Dragons consume humans and human corpses, digging up bodies from shallow graves. This habit of raiding graves has caused the villagers of Komodo to move their grave-sites from sandy to clay ground and pile rocks on top of them to deter the lizards. The Komodo Dragon may have eaten the extinct dwarf elephant Stegodon that once lived on Flores, according to evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond.
The Komodo Dragon does not seem to be able to suck water when drinking, as other lizards do, nor can it lap water with its tongue. In a manner similar to birds, it drinks by taking a mouthful of water, lifting its head, and letting the water run down its throat. Mammals are the only animals with a diaphragm (and lips) and are able to drink by sucking liquid into the mouth. Lizards other than Dragons – plus snakes and turtles – pump water into their mouths and down their throats by raising and lowering the floor of the mouth [lowering the tongue and the ‘floor’ of the mouth causes the water to flow into the mouth, and then the floor of the mouth is raised in the front first, pushing the water to the throat]. Pigeons do the same, but most birds drink by tipping their heads back, like the Komodo.
Breeding & Growth
Mating begins between May and August. During this period, males wrestle over females and territory by grappling with one another upon their hind legs, with the loser eventually being pinned to the ground. These males may vomit or defecate when preparing for combat. The winner of the conflict will then flick his long tongue at the female to gain information about her receptivity. Females are antagonistic and resist with their claws and teeth during the early phases of courtship. Courtship displays include males rubbing their chins on the female, hard scratches to the back, and licking. The much larger male fully restrains the female, during coitus (achieved by inserting one of his hemipenes into her cloaca), to avoid being hurt.
About twenty eggs are laid in September. They are deposited in abandoned Megapode* nests or in a self-dug nesting hole. [*Megapodes, a.k.a. Brush Turkeys or Mound-Builders, are Galliformes, Megapodiidae]. Dragon eggs incubate for seven to eight months (the decomposition of the leaf matter and detritis in the mound – the heat of which incubated the Brush Turkey eggs – aids in the incubation of the Dragon eggs). The eggs hatch in April, when insects are most plentiful.
Hatching is an exhausting effort for the neonates, who break out of their leathery eggshells with an egg tooth that falls off soon after. After cutting their way out, the hatchlings may lie in their eggshells for hours before starting to dig out of the nest. They are born quite defenseless and are especially vulnerable as they come out of the nest. Young Dragons immediately head for the trees, safe from predators and cannibalistic adults. Many are eaten by awaiting predators. Survivors may take eight to nine years to mature, and are estimated to live an average of 30 years. They may live up to 50 years.
Young Dragons spend much of their first few years in trees, where they are relatively safe from predators. Those cannibalistic adults make juvenile Dragons 10% of their diet. According to David Attenborough, the habit of cannibalism may be advantageous in sustaining the large size of adults, as medium-sized prey on the islands is rare. When the young must approach a kill, they roll around in fecal matter and rest amidst the intestines of eviscerated animals to deter these hungry adults.
An interesting and unexpected occurrence has recently renewed scientific focus on Komodo Dragons. In late 2005, a Komodo Dragon at London Zoo (named Sungai) laid a clutch of eggs after being separated from male company for more than two years. Scientists initially assumed that she had been able to store sperm from her earlier encounter with a male (delayed fertilization).
However, on December 20, 2006, it was reported that Flora, a captive Komodo Dragon living in the Chester Zoo, in England, became the second known Komodo Dragon to have laid unfertilized eggs: she laid 11 eggs, and 7 of them hatched, all of them male.
Unlike other bears, Sloth Bears are lanky and have long, shaggy coats. The hair, which has little or no undercoat, is longer around the neck, forming a mane. The round ears are fringed with hair, giving them a large and floppy look. The claws are long and sickle-shaped on strong toes. The muzzle looks too long for the face, but accommodates the long tongue and the specially adapted palate and lower lip. The center, upper incisors are missing. The tail is quite long, for a bear, and (like all bears) Sloth Bears are plantigrade, with bare soles. Sexual dimorphism is only size.
Sloth Bears were once found across much of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and southern Nepal. They have been eliminated from large areas by human activity, including hunting. As a population, the Sloth Bears on Sri Lanka are obviously smaller and are considered a subspecies. Sloth Bears are found in monsoon and dry forests, as well as some grasslands where there are boulder piles, brush and some trees for shelter.
- Wild – Sloth Bears are insectivorous, specializing in termites. They also take other insects and fruits, favorites being mangoes, figs, ebony fruits and jack-fruit. They particularly like honey and the comb.
- Zoo – The Sloth Bears are given insects like mealworms, and crickets, as well as such fruits as pears, melons, oranges, and grapes.
Sloth Bears are shiny black, with a large cream to white ‘V’ on the chest (often absent in Sri Lankan bears). Their claws are bone-color. The muzzle is usually yellowish-white to the eyes, sometimes including the eye-lids. The nose-pad is dark. The bare foot-soles are brown, as are the eyes. Brown to rust-color coats do occur occasionally.
The Sloth Bear is the most nocturnal of all bears. It is solitary (like all bears), but one source said that a female is much more tolerant of a male than most bears. Generally a Sloth Bear goes about its business in a slow and easy manner. It may appear slow and clumsy, because of the way it shuffles, but the Sloth Bear can easily climb even smooth-barked trees, and is quite agile if on the move. It can and does occasionally hang upside down in a tree, while getting food, which may have added to their miss-identification early on. It will not climb a tree to escape a predator – leopards can climb. They do, however, rest in trees, often making day-beds out of broken branches.
The Sloth Bear is one of the most aggressively confrontational of bears, standing up to tigers and leopards and humans if it feels threatened. Tigers will eat Sloth Bears, but will often back down if the bear becomes aware of them before the attack is begun. The Sloth Bear’s claws can deliver serious wounds. The bold chest ‘V’ on Sun Bears and Asian Black Bears as well as Sloth Bears is thought to be a threat-display mark of warning, since all 3 are sympatric with tigers.
Sloth Bear fossil-remains have been found in Pleistocene deposits. This is the prehistoric time of bear specialization and dispersal. During this time, in a process called convergent evolution, Sloth Bears developed the specialized characteristics for eating termites. The elongate palate, muzzle and tongue aid in harvesting the termites (and ants), but the ability to close their nostrils, the absence of two center incisors, and their ability to form a vacuum nozzle with their lips is key. They rip the termite mounds open with powerful arms and very strong claws. They blow away dust and then noisily slurp termites out of their nest. Because they eat insects and very little tough vegetation, their premolars and molars tend to be small, and they tend to wear down early because of the amount of grit taken in with the termites.
Sloth Bears have a superior sense of smell and can detect grubs 3 feet underground and bee hives in the tops of trees. Despite the temperate climate in which they live, the Sloth Bear coat looks too thick. There is, however, very little undercoat, so the shag is not so much for warmth as it might be to shed water and to prevent stings from bees whose hives they often raid. They regularly climb trees to knock down hives. They indulge in the hive contents (honey and honey-makers alike) when on the ground, and this fondness for honey has given them the nickname of Honey Bear.
Breeding & Growth
Sloth Bears are quite vocal when they breed, in early summer. After 7 months gestation, the sow gives birth in early winter, usually in an under-ground den. The 2 (sometimes 3) altricial cubs open their eyes after 4 weeks and stay in the den for a couple of months. When feeding cubs, sows are reported to regurgitate a mixture of partially digested fruit and pieces of honeycomb, a substance that hardens into a sticky, bread-like mass. This ‘bear’s bread’ is considered a delicacy by some of India’s natives. When the cubs do venture out, they often ride on mom’s back, an unusual behavior for bears. The cubs squabble over riding position and may even cling to her long hair while she climbs trees. The cubs are indepen-dent in about 24 months and are of breeding age by 3 years. Captive longevity is to 40 years.
Felids are divided into two main groups. The purring cats are genus Felis and the roaring cats are genus Panthera. Felis is Latin for “cat” and panthera is Greek for “cat.” All tigers are subspecies of Panthera tigris. Of the now nine subspecies, the Balinese, Javan and Caspian are extinct. Only 200 Siberians were known in the wild before the fall of the Russian Government and only 200-300 Sumatrans are known. 2000-3000 Indian (Bengal) Tigers are known in the wild.
The Siberian Tiger is the largest of all extant cats. The Sumatran is the smallest extant tiger. Malayan and Indo-Chinese are intermediate between these and the Bengal.
The Indo-Chinese Tiger is in Thailand and its neighbors. The Malayan is found in two small regions of Malaysia. The Sumatran is on that Indonesian island. The Bengal uses scrub forests, especially “elephant grass” habitats in India. The Amur is currently only found in the Amur-Ussuri region of far-eastern Siberia.
- Wild – Deer, peafowl, wild pig or whatever it can catch.
- Zoo – Spectrum Feline Diet (5 days), one day fasting, one day muscle meat and bone.
The underside of all tigers is whitish, but the background color varies from light reddish-yellow to rust brown. The stripes are black, or a very dark brown and are wider in some subspecies than in others. The ears are black with white spots on the back. The cheek-hair of some subspecies is long and white, but, in other subspecies, it is no longer than the body hair and orange. The relatively short neck-mane is shortest in the Malayan and Indo-Chinese. Siberians are the lightest, being pale yellow in winter and light orange in summer. Melanistic black forms are known, but not nearly as common as the recessive white (non-albino) form, specially-bred in captivity. White Tiger survivability in the wild is very low as they are too visible when they hunt.
Tigers usually attack prey from ambush and from the side or rear. After a kill, a tiger will drag prey into dense cover where it will continue to feed at its leisure. Tigers drink frequently during a meal, so the prey is often hidden near water. All Tigers readily enter water and, during the hot dry-season, Tigers spend much of the day resting near streams, often lying or standing in quiet water to keep cool. Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Tigers do the same thing.
Tigers are powerful hunters with forearms as big as a man’s thigh. With a typical cat build, the hind legs are slightly longer than the front, providing jump-power. The impact of a tiger’s charge is tremendous. Tiger stripes blend into the vertical shadows of their habitat’s moderately dense cover, often tall grasses. The white under-tail and ear spots are often called “follow-me spots” because they are the only things really visible to the cubs as they follow their mother.
Breeding & Growth
Tigers are solitary, except for mating season. Females will only be with offspring. Loose female territorial boundaries blur. Male Tigers have large, defended territories that over-lap several female territories. Gestation is about 3 ½ months and 3 or 4 altricial cubs are born, each weighing about 2 pounds. They are totally dependent on the mother for 18 months, usually staying in her range for 2 ½ years. They reach sexual maturity by 3 – 4 years of age. Longevity in the wild is to 15 years, with captive animals living to 20 years.