The Territory, Wild Animals and Plants of Nicaragua

107Located in center of the American continent, Nicaragua is the largest Central American country. Nicaragua is home to very rich biodiversity, a truly stunning array of flora and fauna. There are forests of different types, subtropical dry forest, tropical rain forest, mangrove forest, wetlands, grass savanna and tree savanna. On the Pacific side there is mostly tropical dry forest and savanna. In the north, in the mountainous regions, there are cloud forests and pine forests. The two longest rivers in Central America run along the borders of Nicaragua. The Rio Coco (the longest at 680 km or 423 miles) runs along the northern border with Honduras and the Rio San Juan runs along the border with Costa Rica in the south. The Rio San Juan area has both tropical wet forests and rain forests. There are many miles of coastline and beaches as well.

The Pacific Basin is dotted with innumerable volcanoes, lagoons and lakes. The two great lakes are Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua and there are also 15 crater lakes. In the middle of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and 21st largest by area in the world, is Ometepe Island formed by two volcanoes.

The climate (always hot) and the minimal altitudinal variation have created an environment where diversity has bloomed. There are about 250 species of amphibians and reptiles, about 250 species of mammals, 700+ species of birds, 640+ species of fish, 350+ species of trees, 12,000+ of species of plants (as many as 600 orchids alone) and perhaps more than 250,000 types of insects. There are many creatures as yet undiscovered in the wilds of Nicaragua.

Some standout species are the jaguar, puma, ocelot, tapir, deer, anteater, macaw, quetzal, harpy eagle, and toucan. There are diverse types of monkeys including spider, howler and capuchin monkeys. There are also many types of lizards and snakes, including boas. Plus birds, bats, frogs, crabs, spiders and crocodiles. There are sea turtles on both coasts and a species of shark, the bull shark, which can tolerate the fresh water of Lake Nicaragua.

All these species are distributed in the different biomes from the country. There are a number of protected areas with nearly 20 percent of the territory listed as protected. The Reserve of Bosawás is the third largest reserve in the world and has the second largest rain forest in the Americas after the Amazon. There are other vast reserves such as the Guatuzos and Indio-Maize Reserves and the central part of the country is sparsely populated. This has helped preserve the biodiversity but logging and deforestation are still a problem. Agriculture abounds in more populated regions. Agricultural products include coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soy and beans. Animal products include beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products, seafood, shrimp and lobster.

In Nicaragua, locals and tourists enjoy volcano hiking, surfing in the pacific, diving in the Caribbean on Corn Island and wildlife viewing along the Rio San Juan and in many other parts of the country.

Impact of Evolution on Wild Animals and Their Lifestyle

106Nature can be very misleading for a visitor to the Kenyan Game Parks. Herbivorous animals, such as zebras, antelopes, wildebeests and giraffes, grazing in close proximity to sleepy lions, give an impression of peaceful co-existence. Even the deadly, aggressive crocodiles in the Mara river, in the Mara Game Park, may appear to show no interest in the wildebeest swimming across. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Life in the Wilderness is a constant struggle for survival. This basically narrows down to two main challenges, namely eat and avoid being eaten. It is one thing to find food but quite another to collect and capture it. In the battle for survival, evolution has created a deadly amour of offensive and defensive weapon systems, which, when used in combination, provide strategies that make survival in the wilderness a real nightmare for both predator and prey. This article discusses some of these survival strategies used by animals found in the Kenyan National Parks:

– Stealth, Ambush and Speed: Most predators that are talented with speed, lack stamina to sustain it for more than 200 meters or so. They must therefore get as close as possible to their victims, unseen, before they attack. The leopard, a member of the cat family, for example, is an expert in this. Hunting alone at night, it stalks its victim to within a close range. Then with a short, fast rash, it attacks. The lions have perfected this strategy by using co-operative hunting. They hunt as a team in a very carefully planned ambush. In this strategy, a lone lioness makes her way unseen to the far side of a herd of zebra or wildebeest while the rest of the team hide in the savanna grass. The latter identify a target, usually a young old or weak victim. Keeping their eyes locked on their victim of choice, they slowly approach the victim to within 30 meters (100ft) or so. Then suddenly, bolting from cover, they drive the chosen victim towards the lone lioness who promptly busts form hiding to grab the prey. The rest of the pride then offer assistance to finish off their victim. Although a lioness can sprint up to a speed of 60km/hr (37mph), the prey can ran faster, hence the importance of the lone lioness in this strategy. Stealth and surprise are vital weapons in this attack. The cheetah, on the other hand, capable of accelerating from standing start to 72km/hr (45mph) in 3 seconds and reaching top speed of 97km/hr (60mph) does not need team work and hunts alone. With fewer mouths to share the meal , it can concentrate on smaller, easier to catch animals and still certify its appetite. For the safety of its food, the cheetah avoids competition with its nocturnal predators by hunting during the day, at dawn or dusk.

– Stamina: That spotted hyenas are notorious scavengers and will steal anything edible is true but they also are efficient hunters, using their enormous stamina. As an example, a hyena, with its powerful jaws and strong teeth,can chase a wildebeest for 5 km(3 miles) at 60 km/hr(37 mph) and kill it alone. They do not need stealth. Similar strategy is used by African Hunting Dogs, hunting in relay teams, to exhaust their victims to submission.

– Camouflage and Speed for defense: Even with these sophisticated hunting weaponry and strategies, the chance of failure is very high. Just as the predators use camouflage to kill, the hunted use it to avoid drawing attention to themselves. The black stripe on each side of a thomson’s gazelle and the zebra’s stripes, break up the outline of individual animals when they are in a herd, making it hard for the predator to pick up a single animal. Besides, speeding predators and prey try constantly to outdo each other in a race that means life or death. To their advantage, zebras and gazelles have more stamina than their hunters. Some antelopes have another trick up their sleeve in their behavior called pronking. They jump high into the air and bounce on their four legs repeatedly before dashing off at high speed in a drama meant to convince the predators that they are all fit. This makes it harder for any weak animal to be noticed by the predator.

– Defensive Daggers: The African porcupine fends off its enemies using quills. Each quill is cylindrical, formed of long, tough fibrous hairs, ending in a tip that is as sharp as a needle. Loosely attached to the porcupine’s skin, it measures about 50 cm (20 inches) long. Contrary to the common belief, a porcupine cannot fire its quills through the air but uses them to teach its enemies a painful lesson. When threatened, the porcupine makes its quills stand on end, pointing backwards. It then rattles its quills and stamps its feet to warn the enemy. If this does not work, the porcupine suddenly reverses into its enemy’s skin. The barbs on the quills lock them in once in the predators body and this may cause infection to the victim. As long as it keeps its back to the attacker, therefore, the porcupine has a high chance of escape. The horns of the African rhinoceros are another example of deadly daggers.

– Pretense: The crocodile, floating just below the surface, looks nothing more than a piece of wood. Only its nostrils and eyes remain above the water as it watches and waits near the edge of the river for the animals to come to drink. Then suddenly, the crocodile bolts out of the water so fast that the victim has no time to escape. It quickly kills it by drowning.

Endangered Wild Animals in Africa

105The wildlife across the continent of Africa has always fascinated people. Many people visit Africa, especially Kenya and South Africa, to go for safaris so that they can watch the unique animals of Africa in their natural habitat. Scientists and wildlife lovers are equally attracted to Africa for its variety of species. However, the wildlife in Africa is in danger. Owing to the unstable political situation in many of the countries across the continent, poachers are having a hay time. The animals are being killed to mercilessly and as a result many of the species have made their way to the endangered list.

Here are some of the endangered wild animals of Africa:

Unfortunately the agile and fast cheetah is high on the list of endangered animals. The mortality rate among cheetahs is high due to inbreeding and also because it is hunted by other prey animals like the hyenas and lion. As per recent estimates, there are just 12,400 surviving cheetah in the wild.

The white rhinoceros has been hunted for decades for its horn. The horn fetches an unbelievable price in the black market. As a result the white rhino has reached the brink of extinction.

The Cuvier’s gazelle is the smallest species of gazelle in Africa. In the beginning of the 20th century, this gazelle was hunted not just for its meat, but also for its skin. Many of the pastures that the gazelle fed on in the wild have been destroyed due to wars and human encroachment. As a result the Cuvier’s gazelle is facing starvation. Today, there are less than 500 of these gazelles in the wild in Africa.

The African elephant with its beautiful and magnificent tusks have always been admired by people. However, it is these same tusks that have caused them the maximum problem. These elephants are hunted and killed for ivory. In 1970, the African elephant’s population was about three hundred thousand, and in the year 2006, the population fell to just ten thousand. It is still decreasing. The two subspecies of African elephant found are the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant.

The other endangered animals of Africa include the chimpanzee; leopards; addax, which is a kind of antelope; African wild dog, Ethiopian wolf; the striped hyena; ostrich; geometric tortoise and African slender snouted crocodile.

How Chinchillas Are in Their Wild Habitat

104Chinchilla habitat is a dry and almost desert-like place, covered with rocks and succulents. Located in the arid areas of the Andes Mountains, rain does not visit too often. And though the rocky terrain may seem lifeless in the day, aside from the various plants that cover the region, chinchillas are among the many animals that actually hide underneath rock crevices and borrow on succulents or underground. They usually stay in and sleep during the daytime, and come out mostly either during dawn or dusk when the environment gets cooler. They also take advantage of the low light during such times to go about their activities and to evade predators.

The daily routine of wild chinchillas includes rummaging through the terrain for food, grooming, mating, taking dust baths in fine sand or volcanic ash present everywhere in the area, and even playing with natural objects scattered about. With such an active lifestyle, not only do pet chinchillas need a large enough cage, they also need to be let out from time to time.

Chinchillas in the wild have been observed to eat a diet that is generally composed of tiny insects, fruits, seeds, and plants; usually feeding on succulents to get the water stored in their flesh. For pet owners, it is important to note that though their chinchillas’ wild cousins feed on such a diet, it may cause harm on their pets. Chinchillas have been domesticated, and have very delicate digestive systems. It’s best to only feed them hay, some seeds, or those specified for chinchillas in pet stores.

At home, pet chinchillas may only deal with cats, dogs, and rats as threats to them. In the wild, they are always on the watch for predators. This includes cats, dogs, birds, and even snakes. Compared to other animals, chinchillas have higher sensitivity to sound, a keen sense of smell, and see well in the dark. Since chinchilla habitat is all rocks they leap well and are swift runners. They use these characteristics to help them successfully evade danger, scampering away quickly and hiding. In the event of a confrontation with a predator, chinchillas can release fur and spray urine as a defenses During such occasions, they stand on their hind legs and chatter their teeth.

There is obviously more safety in numbers. Chinchillas are social creatures and will gather in groups of up to more than 15. While together, activities include mutual grooming and mating. They do not have any specific season to mate; males often ready to do so with any female at her sexual peak. The mating ritual between chinchillas has been observed to include the male wagging its tale or both chinchillas rubbing their chins on the ground. Aside from a variety of sounds used to communicate with each other, they also rub noses. These groups, known as “herds”, keep chinchillas safe. They give alarm calls to one another to alert the approach of a predator. This can either be heard as a set of loud squeaks or a short burst.

Learning about chinchilla habitat and how they interact with their environment is important in understanding how they can be as pets. Knowing about their activeness, their usual natural activities, what they fear or avoid, and how they interact with fellow chinchillas will be of great help for owners in providing the proper needs for their pet chinchillas.

How To Tell If Your Pet Reptile Likes You

103I would say that most herpetologists may not be too concerned about whether or not their reptile likes them. They usually have quite a collection of snakes, lizards, turtles and even frogs. They may appear to be well cared for on a physical level and neglected on a personal level. Reptiles are also known as “exotic pets.”

The reptile trade is appalling and many people including myself do not support this trade. Around ninety five percent of animals will die being poorly transported and insufficiently cared for on their journey to and from different countries.

Like children, animals are a reflection of their home life, and their happiness and contentment will depend largely on the quality time you are prepared to give them. Reptiles are very ancient creatures they go back a very long way in history. All reptiles are ectothermic’s therefore they display affection a little differently than a cat or a dog. In the wild they can almost stop their heart from beating. They have the ability to slow down their metabolism in winter to hibernate, this is also known as brumation.

I have had a pet lizard since he was only two weeks old, he is a happy and contented naughty twelve year old. He behaves similar to a dog in slow motion. He has been domesticated, for example when I call him he will normally respond by turning his body around and looking in the direction of my voice. I need to call his name several times before he comes ambling over to me. Reptiles do not require to be fed daily. They can go for weeks on end without food especially if they are in hibernation mode. How do you know your reptile likes you?

They will feel comfortable around you. If you have built up a truly successful bond they will allow you to feed them by hand without biting you. This is the strongest indication that they have accepted you as their trusted friend.

When my pet wants attention he will stick his head out of his enclosure indicating that he wants to come out for a run around. He has now decided that he wants to eat his mashed veggies from a plastic spoon once a week. This unusual habit occurred after he underwent a belly operation two years ago to remove a fatty tumour. He looks forward to being spoon fed and he know’s when I am preparing his food. One would think he was almost psychic.

My snake “Tilly” used to pull my glasses off when she wanted my attention smooching my face similar to what a cat does. She would always pick the most awkward time to do this. I never shunned her away. I loved their cold blooded affection and I felt honoured that my pet’s had allowed me to become so bonded to them. Not many reptile handler’s can say they have been this close to a reptile. Building a trusted bond between you and your reptile takes time, patience and consistency especially with reptiles. These cold blooded beauties have fascinated me for many years. I have watched their antics in the wild marvelling at their uncanny ability to change colour so quickly and often due to their moods and differing temperature’s of the day. They are very diverse animals and well adapted for survival in the wild. As a reptile handler I have learned that you can never own them, You share your time and enthusiastic passion you have with them. I have a wonderful bond with my pet lizard Abbott.