Endangered Species 101
In recent years, there has been much attention paid to conservation and preservation of endangered species like those featured on today's show.
Bobcats are one of the few cats in the wild that have survived among humans. Native to North America, they are solitary animals whose young leave their mother before the next litter is born. Bobcats have been able to survive in urban and suburban environments, such as golf courses, because they are small predators and nonthreatening. They can live in any type of cover and are quite secretive, surviving on rabbits, rats, mice, and birds, all of which are plentiful. If there is no prey base, they won't hang around.
One of the largest small cats in Africa, Caracals, although managing to survive as a species, are very much in decline. Caracals are nocturnal animals, with eyes designed to spot prey in low-light conditions. Scientists think the cuffs on the ends of their ears help them determine the direction of sound.
Servals are related to caracals, but have a much different fur pattern. Spotted gold and black, they have big ears but no cuffs, and are among the fastest species of African cats.
Fly River Turtle
The Fly River turtle is a soft-shelled turtle native to Australia and New Guinea. Also known as the "pig-nosed turtle" because of its distinct piglike snout, the Fly River turtle resembles a sea turtle with its smooth shell and flipper feet. In some countries, adult Fly River turtles and their eggs are considered a delicacy.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Found in the southeastern United States, the alligator snapping turtle has very pronounced physical features. Often referred to as the "dinosaur of the turtle world" because of their spiked shells, beaklike jaws, and thick, scaled tails, they are the largest freshwater turtle in North America. The males average 175 pounds, although they've been known to exceed 220; the females are much smaller, with an average weight of 50 pounds.
Named for their beautiful diamond-patterned shell and intricately spotted body, the diamondback terrapin lives in brackish water along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In the early 1900s, it was considered a delicacy. (Terrapin soup was quite popular). Today, it faces significant new threats, including estuarine pollution, highway mortality, and drowning in crab traps.
Macaques are native to Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Primates with highly expressive, almost humanlike faces, macaques look like baboons, live in trees and on the ground, and eat any type of vegetation. Macaques are used in medical experimentation, and are increasingly vulnerable because of construction and logging in their habitat.
Found mostly near Chile and Peru, Humboldt penguins breed year-round; their eggs incubate for 40 days before hatching. The young eat food regurgitated from parents and swim at 3 months. Humboldt penguins adapt to both cold and hot weather, and have areas on their bodies without feathers so they can keep cool. The most threatened penguin species of all, they are rapidly losing breeding areas and are affected by the decreasing availability of fish due to global warming.
The puffin is the northern hemisphere relative of the penguin. Once hunted to near extinction, they are no longer endangered, thanks to conservation projects that have helped boost their numbers, especially along the coast of Maine. Conservation projects physically took birds and placed nearly 1,000 of them on an island. Conservationists had placed decoy puffins there to make the birds think it was a colony so they would feel comfortable enough to breed there. Now there are protections in place and projects where agriculturists help restore the nesting colonies.
A species of rodent that is native to South America, chinchillas have been threatened in their natural habitat by the fur industry. Their fur is so dense that up to 60 hairs can grow out of one follicle, but well over 100 chinchilla pelts are needed for one fur coat. Today, there are only a few thousand chinchillas left in the wild. Domesticated chinchillas can be kept as pets; however, they are typically sensitive nocturnal animals that do not enjoy being held.