Category Archives: Spotlight

The Greater Mekong

Photo: Allie_Caulfield
Photo: Allie_Caulfield

In the first of a new spotlight series, I’ll be profiling our planet’s most biodiverse regions.  The 2,700 mile Mekong river and its surrounding areas make up the Greater Mekong region and spans across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and the southern province of Yunnan in China.  Since 1997, over 1500 new species have been discovered by the scientific community, as previously unexplored areas were studied.  The variety of habitats it contains are every bit as rich as the wildlife, with ecosystems as diverse as: lush rainforest, dry savannah, wetlands and swamp.

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The Tiger Quoll

Also known as the Spotted-tailed Quoll, this voracious predator is endemic to Australia and Tasmania where it’s classed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN. It’s immensely strong for its size and is equipped with carnivorous teeth which enables it to prey upon creatures such as Possums, Bandicoots, Pademelons, Gliders and rats. It also feeds on reptiles, birds and insects and is known to take carrion. Predation is carried out on the ground and in the trees.
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THE SPOTTED LINSANG

This week, the spotlight falls upon the smallest member of the Civet family, which resides throughout south-east Asia.  It’s a greatly under-reported species and consequently, little is known about its ecology.  It adopts a semi-arboreal, nocturnal lifestyle which has made documenting it a challenge, especially using modern methods such as camera traps.

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THE MARGAY

This week’s look at a mammal species you often don’t see covered in wildlife documentaries is found from Northern Mexico, through Central America and into South America, reaching as far south as Argentina and Uruguay.  Similar feline species include the stockier Ocelot and the smaller Oncilla.  It spends virtually all its time in a variety of forest habitats and is an expert climber, spending much of its time in the trees.

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THE DINGISO

This week’s spotlight star is a mysterious member of the Tree Kangaroo family, which was only discovered in 1994.  It’s only known to exist on the Indonesian side of New Guinea, occupying the most remote and precipitous mountain forests between 3,250 and 4,200 metres.  Little is therefore known about its ecology or biology. Despite spending most of their time tree-dwelling, they’ve also been observed spending time on the ground.  Unusually, they’re active during the day and night- feeding on leaves and fruit.

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THE FALANOUC AND FANALOKA

This week’s spotlight on obscurity falls on two of Madagascar’s least known and most elusive mammals.  I’ve chosen to put them together primarily to clearly differentiate between them, as they can be easily confused – even by experts and mammal enthusiasts like myself.  Also, they’re both Malagasy carnivores and do have some morphological and behavioural similarities.  Both have given taxonomists a headache for years, but in simple terms; the Falanouc is mongoose-like, whereas the Fanaloka is more closely related to the civet family and has a fox-like appearance.

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THE VAQUITA

In the third instalment of my look into our lesser known mammal species, the spotlight falls on the smallest species of porpoise.  It also carries the unfortunate title of being the world’s most endangered marine mammal, with fewer than 100 thought to be left.  One of the main continuing threats to this cetacean are illegal fishing practices utilising gillnets, which often trap and drown them across their only range in Mexico’s Gulf of California – see video below.  We could be on the verge of loosing a creature that was only discovered in 1958.

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THE CACOMISTLE

Here’s the second instalment of my weekly look into the lesser known mammal species, followed by some footage of one feeding in the wild.

A member of the family, Procyonidae, which includes species such as the Crab-eating Raccoon, Mountain Coati and Olingo; it’s found from southern Mexico to western Panama.  Nocturnal, solitary and tree-dwelling with a sparsely distributed population, it is rarely seen in the tropical rainforest and montane habitats it favours.  Being an omnivore its diet is varied, mainly comprising of fruits, insects, reptiles, amphibians and small rodents.

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THE BINTURONG

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Recently I published a post- Sticking Up For The Obscure – in which I voiced my misgivings about there being a bias of coverage towards the more iconic species in wildlife documentaries and the media in general.  So here’s the first of a new weekly series looking at the more unusual and lesser known mammal species that you may not have come across before.

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