Since childhood I have been fascinated with the animal kingdom. In my youth I devoured programs like “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” “Animal Kingdom,” “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and the like. My grandparents lived within blocks of the world-renowned Bronx Zoo and I spent many happy hours there feeding mountain goats with pellets provided by the zoo. Sadly I also saw many beautiful creatures pacing unhappily in their cages. The Bronx Zoo has fortunately made much-needed changes and now provides open plains and large bodies of water for many of the larger animals. There are still, however, cages and smaller enclosures so it is still a work in progress.
As an adult I continue to binge watch animal documentaries, the most recent being Sir Attenborough’s Seven Worlds, One Planet. If you haven’t seen this 8 part series – please do- it’s photography and stories represent the apex of nature films.
Back to my love of animals. I luckily have been able to travel all over the world to see countless animals in their natural wild habitats. My readers have hopefully enjoyed my discoveries through my posts and photography.
“Discoveries” is the word of the moment. I admit I was once smug about my animal knowledge – but that notion has been summarily squashed – I will NEVER know all. And that is wonderful. I have touched on this never-ending education before but let me update it and see if you recognize any of these creatures
HYRAX – This little fellow could often be found catching rays or absorbing the warmth of a big rock as in the top photo. They often begged for treats (which you NEVER give them – it is a wild animal after all and should never become reliant on humans for sustenance) right at our feet during my safari adventures in Kenya and Tanzania:
Despite looking like a large rat or gopher, the hyrax is actually the closest living relative of the ELEPHANT! Take a look at these family trees:
The order that includes the hyrax has fossils dating back 37 million years ago. Some were tiny, mouse sized creatures. Others grew to be the size of a small horse. Some took to the water and that group gave rise to both the elephant, manatee and dugong.
The hyrax may not look frightening, but they have a surprising talent – their vocalizations can sound like a person screaming bloody murder. Imagine hearing this in the middle of the night while you are sleeping in a tent in the middle of a vast African wild habitat:
Play this with your volume up!
Elephants have another unusual relative as you can see from the above family trees – the manatee.
MANATEE – Otherwise known as the sea cow, these mammals are typically found in warm, shallow coastal areas and rivers where they feed on sea grass, mangrove leaves, and algae, yet despite this greens diet they can obtain weight of up to 1,200 pounds. In comparison an adult elephant can weigh between 2.5 and 7 tons, while hyraxes top off at 7 lbs.
Manatees are unique in that their back molars constantly grow, and as the front teeth get ground down and fall out during their 60 years or more in the wild (if they can avoid speedboats) the molars emerge pushing the new teeth forward
I haven’t yet had the fortune to see a manatee in the wild, so these pics are from the internet.
More fascinating and sometimes strange creatures coming up!