Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wildplace 2: Common Eland

Sharing the zebra paddock are two young male Common Eland, Taurotragus oryx. There are three subspecies – I am not sure which the Wildplace animals are, but probably the southern subspecies T.oryx oryx. The only other species in the genus is the Northern or Giant Eland, T. derbianus. Also closely related are the eight species of Tragelaphus, including Kudu and Sitatunga. These are placed in the subfamily Bovinae of the family Bovidae, which means that although commonly called “Antelopes” they are actually more closely related to cattle than to the smaller members of the family which are often generically referred to with the same English name.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Wildplace Project Animals: Plains Zebra

Plains Zebra
A year ago Bristol Zoo finally opened its long planned development at Wildplace, located at Hollywood Towers Estate near Bristol by the M5. A lot of the site is old woodland, which makes it a good site for birders to visit, especially in the spring. Butterflies are also plentiful.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Hornbills 4: Von der Decken's Hornbill

Von der Decken's Hornbill (male)
The only African hornbills in the collection are rather smaller than the species I have covered up to now, and occupy a very different environment. The Von der Decken’s Hornbill, Tockus deckeni, is an aridland species associated with thorn scrub and similar habitats in East Africa, along the rift valley from Ethiopia south into Tanzania. In this habitat food is harder to come by than in Asian rainforest, and they feed mainly on the ground, taking fruit, seedpods, insects, and small vertebrates. With such a large range, and a lifestyle that makes it a bird that is opportunistic when it comes to taking advantage of resources that must be variable in location and availability, they seem to be surviving well at present, and are evaluated as Least Concern by the IUCN. The most likely threats are destruction of potential nesting trees and habitat fragmentation.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Hornbills 3: Tarictic Hornbill

With an estimated world population of only 1800 birds, the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill Penolopides panini is probably one of the rarest hornbills in the world. Already one subspecies, P.panini ticaensis from the island of Ticao is extinct as a result of deforestation, despite being describes as “abundant” in 1905, which makes it the first known extinction in historic times of any hornbill taxon. Complicating the picture is that the species formerly included at least five other closely related species which have since been split. Unfortunately, before this was realised some had been crossed in the captive population, resulting in hybrids which were useless from a conservation point of view.