SLENDER LORIS – TINY YOGIS OF THE RAINFORESTS

Inhabiting the tropical monsoon forests of Sri Lanka and the inter-monsoon forests of the Western Ghats and Tamil Nadu are the demure creatures, the Slender Loris. As prim and proper as they may be, they are well known for their bizarre habits and at the same time are known to be one the most threatened beings of the animal kingdom. Having a height of about 7 to 10 inches and weighing just about 350 grams this creature beguiles the spectator (read animal lover) with its out-of-the-world flexible manners and social behaviour skills. One cannot but wonder how these beautifully designed creatures thrive so close to yet are on the verge of extinction.

They are primarily arboreal using branches of trees to journey through the forest as they seldom leap or jump which are made possible with the kind of toes they are born with, helping them to grip on branches easily. Being nocturnal creatures they hunt during the night, alone in search of insects or birds’ eggs, and are known to consume every part of their prey for that added boost of protein that make them so dexterous. However, their only social activity includes sleeping during the daylight in groups on branch tangles, at times curled up in a ball with their head between their legs. It wouldn’t be harmful to christen them as “tiny yogis of the rainforests”. The more you come to know these forest babies as they are nicknamed by the natives, the more intriguing they become. Their clan has dominating females and promiscuous males who engage in mutual grooming and wrestling for sport, while both the sexes tend to the infants of the clan. The females do not interact much with the other females except for the ones within the family thus giving them an exclusive status quo.

Their skilful hunting and consuming of the prey concludes with a quirky habit of using their own urine to wash off their face and hands that reek of the sting of the insects. They also use the scent of their urine to communicate and advertise their reproductive status to others. This animal is a gifted defender and is gutsy enough to stare at its attacker with its large glowing-in-the-dark eyes, emitting an obnoxious odour from its armpits thus confirming the existence devilish charm that hovers around it.  

Overwhelmed are you? I was too. Mind-boggled was I when I comprehended the reason of their extinction. Devastatingly a hundred of them are left in the wild. And why is that so?  It is solely because of Man’s barbaric nature. Man’s submission to the chains of slavery to the ever-compressing system of civilization. The continuing cycle of hate and vengeance has cost many a lives of the Slender Loris by sacrificing them in black magic rituals. During the rites it is believed that whatever is inflicted upon the creatures, will in turn happen to the enemy. Ironically, the animal is crushed brutally and all of its body parts are eaten and used to make traditional Asian medicine and tonics (to the natives of course) to cure leprosy, gain strength after childbirth. Its tears, used in love potions and teeth removed to avoid toxic bites to quench the thirst for illegal pet trade (for the so-called civilized masses).

Rousseau’s words echoes through my ears, “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”. It sets me to thinking if civilization has brought out Barbarism in us or if we were more civilized when we were barbaric. I guess we were created on the same plane wrapped up in innocence, living in harmony with the animal kingdom till we rose to our Fall from righteousness and freely indulged selfish exploits. How can we let innocence die for our immoral lifestyles? If this is what civilization is would it be right to say that we were better off living uncivilized? There are no compunctions for what we continue to do as we just do them just to stay slaves to our system. We deplete our ecosystem, making the lovely creatures existing in it bear the brunt of our iniquities.  Our earth is a family. We are the caretakers of the lesser mortals constituting the animal kingdom. It is peak time we behave the same.

SLOTH BEARS – THE  BALLUS IN THE JUNGLE

An ideal way to explore the nature is a true getaway in to the woods. As I was on my vacation visiting Hampi, the magnificent temple town in Karnataka. With splendid temples and rock sculptures that borders the river Tungabhadra Hampi was a true pleasure to visit. To the southeast of Hampi was the home to Sloth bears – Daroji Bear Sanctuary. As we moved on from the temple town approaching the sloth bear forests, kids were all excited. The area seems to be open but during the day light, the bears were not seen. Plenty of deer were on the road grazing on their way home.

On the way we spotted a few peacocks, wild boars etc., which were an added attraction and an add on to our vacation. The bears were almost hidden inside the shrubs covered caves, so it was quite hard to find them. As we reached the area, we could spot the rocky terrain clad with sugar cane, Mahuva, ber fruits and many other crops that the bears were fond of. As these are honey-lovers, sugar was seen in plenty. To get a better view we climbed on to the top of a tree-house, where they provided binoculars. Kids were all excited and were in a hurry to spot the first bear.

“Mamma, see that is Ballu “, I looked at her quite surprisingly and scanned the area myself. To my delight I too found the bear and yes exactly like the one seen in the Jungle Book movie. I smiled and said “Yes, Its Ballu “.

Sloth bears are in the verge of extinction and they are quite fascinating creature on the earth. Unfortunately, only a few areas in the world protect these endangered species. Sloth Bear park in Bellary is one such space which is home to these honey-loving sloth bears.  We were privileged to see these sloth bears hang around for a while and enjoying the summer sun. Most of these were hiding under the shady leaves and inside the caves, hence we had to wait quite longer to spot a few. To enchant us in a while, there were jackals and beautiful bird species that were visiting in between.

Facts about Sloth bears

  1. They have a huge coat like fur on them that even covers the cute little faces.
  2. They have small eyes and ears hence they are not quite good in listening or even sighting, but they have a strong niche for smell. Sloth           Bears are excellent in closing their nostrils as they raid into the beehives or even while feeding on termites . 
  3. The bears are quite good in climbing the trees even with a heavy body.
  4. They are giant and huge.
  5. They hunt during the late evening and take rest the whole day.
  6. They are the only ones who carry their young ones on their back regularly, which shows their emotional attachments to their young-ones. 

Daroji Sloth Bear park is maintained well under the Karnataka Forest Department. The bears are protected in their own habitat. The forest department ensures that the safety of the inhabitants in and around the park.

AYE-AYE MADAGASCAR

Aye-Aye! No, I am not talking in naval language, but talking of the world’s largest nocturnal mammal- Aye-aye. Found in the East Coast of Madagascar, these lemurs have some key distinct features. 

When you think of the nature’s bounty, you get spell- bound by the unique surprises it has  in store. Nature has made vivid creatures, each distinctively​  featured. Some creatures have long legs, some have long tongue, some have long tail, some change colors, the list is endless. 

Aye-Aye lemurs have a typical elongated middle finger. They tap on the tree trunks to find chambers. They use their sensorial powers  to listen to the sound  echo inside. When a chamber is detected, they nibble a hole in the trunk, similar to a woodpecker. With the help of their skinny long finger,  they pick out grubs from the holes. 

It is believed that aye-ayes spend most of their time in hunting food. And we humans skip meals, hunting for money for our entire lives!

Though I found these lemurs to be cute, there are many people who believe Aye-aye as a bad omen. They are killed instantly the moment they are spotted. I wonder why people are still living in the stone age. All the creatures are made by God. How can any one of them bring bad luck to others? If the poor lemur points it’s finger to any, it’s believed that the person will die soon. How obnoxious can this belief be! The finger which provides the Aye-aye it’s food, is considered as a bad omen for the people.

Because of this superstition​, Aye-aye was declared an endagered species in 2014. 

“A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere”- Groucho Marx.

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It’s high time we should wake up and save the beautiful creatures of nature, because without them, our ecosystem will also be endagered.

Live and let live. Till then, Aye-aye!

PUFFER – AN ARTIST ON SEA BED

According to the 17th March 2015 Business Insider publication, there are 228,450 known species in the ocean and as many as 2 million more that remain a total mystery. Among this there is small number of a small looking scaleless fish which grows up to 3ft is commonly known as “Puffer Fish” (Tetrodontidae). Puffer’s are widely known for their excellent eyesight with highly defensive mechanism against predators and they are also nature’s greatest romantic artist. Puffer fish has also given a significant identity to Japanese Culture and Cuisine.

Biologists think Puffer fish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflate-ability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. Puffer fish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly take in huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spikes on their skin to make them even less palatable. There are more than 120 species of Puffer fish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment. Almost all Puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one Puffer fish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

(Watch how Puffer fish puffs up)

Amazingly, the meat of some Puffer fish is considered as Japanese delicacy called as Fugu in Japan. “Sashimi” and “Chirinabe” are the dishes in which Fugu is served. It is extremely expensive and is prepared by well-trained, licensed chef who knows that one bad bite can cost their customer’s life.

Another interesting fact about Puffers is, they are the nature’s greatest romantic artist and skillful in parenting. To grab a female’s attention a male Puffer does something which almost unbelievable. With his two fins and perfectly tuned mathematical brain, he ploughs the sand breaking its particles and designs an extremely beautiful and finest art deep down on the ocean bed. The biggest challenges for him are to design this finest art, attract the female partner, guarding the eggs until they hatch as soon as she releases them by fertilization, carefully blowing water over them regularly to keep the eggs healthy and his time limit to do all these things and produce the next batch of generation within 7 days.

Isn’t it so amazing and intrinsic to us?

Every great design has an intelligent mind behind it…”

The Bible says,

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

 Keep thinking…

(Source of Information: Wikipedia, National Geography & YouTube)

THE WONDROUS BEAUTY CALLED LEAFY SEADRAGON

Australia is popularly known as Island Continent as it is surrounded by water from all sides. And the coastal area of Australia has wondrous treasures of oceanic beauty. Each and every species has its uniqueness as created by God.

There is one species that is seen exclusively in the southern Australian waters, from Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria at the eastern end of its range, westward to Jurien Bay, 220 km (136 miles) north of Perth in Western Australia. The scientific name of this species is Phycodurus eques.

This species looks like a miniature dragon and it is covered with long, leaf-like protrusions. And that is why they were commonly known as Leafy Seadragon. The adults grow up to 20 – 30 cm long.  

The leaf-like protrusions serve only as mask to disguise its predators. They are lobes of skin and give the cutie dragons the appearance of seaweed. To propel itself, the leafy seadragon uses a pectoral fin on the edge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back, closer to the tail end. Both these fins are very small, almost completely transparent and difficult to see as they undulate minutely to move the creature sedately through the water. Leafy sea dragons can change their color to blend in. They are usually yellowish-brown to green in color. However the ability of changing colors depends on the seadragon’s diet, age, location, and stress levels. Because of this ability and the physical appearance of the Leafy Sea Dragon they don’t really have any natural predators in their environment. They blend in to the surroundings so amazingly well that they aren’t detected as a food source even when predators are right there in front of them.

The funny part is the males are usually the ones that will be carrying the young until they are born. They are usually isolated and timid but when it comes to mating they become aggressive searching for a female. They fight with each other for the right to mate. When a female is ready to mate she will spend several days with the male and mate in between. The tail of a male leafy sea dragon will turn bright yellow when he is ready to mate. During this time the female deposits the eggs into the pouch on the male’s abdomen with well timed movements between both the sexes. The eggs are usually of light pink color and they are very small. There can be as many as 200 of them that she places into the pouch of the male. He will carry them for about 9 weeks till the baby Leafy Seadragons take birth out of those pouches. The young ones are very small when they arrive and they have to care for themselves. That is a startling feature in this particular species. They don’t get any help from the male or the female parents leaving a lesser chances surviving till the age of maturity. Most of them will become prey for various other creatures that live in the same bodies of water.

The real threat for these species comes from humans. The fact that there is so much pollution in the water makes it very difficult for them to survive in their natural environment. In many locations they end up in fishing nets and captured for commercial use. The goal is for them to be sold in the pet trade. Due to the great unique look of the Leafy Sea Dragon there is quite a market for it.

The longevity of leafy seadragons is unknown, but they may live 7 to 10 years but that also look grim when the crown of creation destroy these beautiful species for their pleasure.

The Bible says, 

God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds… And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas…”

But unfortunately we have failed to take care of them rightfully. How beautiful they look! How amazing its behavioural pattern is! We can’t even imagine of creating such a thing ourselves yet we never care for protecting them. Let’s be responsible to protect this species to be extincted from our beautiful earth, from our beautiful creation created by God.

Stay Blessed!