Monday, December 26, 2011

How To Help Cats Lose Weight?

Cheap dry cat food has sparked an obesity epidemic among cats in countries where high-carbohydrate pet foods are readily available.
Obesity presents serious health risks to cats, but a weight loss program will only work if the changes are maintained for the rest of the cat’s life. Crash diets don’t work with cats any better than they work with people. The cat simply experiences feelings of starvation and either fails to lose much weight or loses weight rapidly and then puts it back on when the diet is over. Permanent lifestyle changes are required to maintain a healthy weight for life.
Causes of Obesity in Cats
  • Risk factors for obesity in pets include:
  • Genetic predisposition to large appetite and/or slow metabolism (some breeds are more inclined to become obese than others)
  • Certain health conditions and medications
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Laid back personality (high-strung animals tend to get more exercise)
  • Being fed and given treats by many different people in a household
  • Free feeding, particularly if using large food bowls
  • Having the opportunity to steal food from other pets
  • Being fed a high-carbohydrate diet
The latter factor is probably the most common cause of obesity in cats. A diet of cheap, dry kibble is not really a bargain, as it can have serious health consequences in the long run.
How to Tell if a Cat Is Overweight
Answering the following questions will help to determine whether a cat is overweight to an unhealthy degree:
  • Is the cat relatively sedentary? Does he have trouble running, jumping, and climbing?
  • Do the sides of his body form straight lines when viewed from above, or does he bulge out at the sides?
  • When viewed from the side, does his belly form a straight line that runs parallel to the floor, or does it curve downward?
  • Can you feel his ribs with your fingers, or is there a lot of fat overlying them? His ribs shouldn’t be visible, but you should be able to feel them.
A veterinary consultation is necessary before embarking on any weight loss program because health issues must be taken into account when determining the best and safest approach.
Health Problems Associated with Feline Obesity
Being overweight and sedentary can have serious health consequences for cats, including increased risk for:
  • Arthritis and other joint and mobility problems
  • Bladder infections (if obesity makes it difficult to groom properly)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Decreased immune function
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension
  • Incontinence
  • Liver disease
  • Lower urinary tract disease
  • Surgical/anaesthesia complications
  • Weakened immune system
Existing kidney and heart disease may also be accelerated by excess weight.
How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
Helping cats lose weight requires reducing daily calories and increasing exercise levels. To reduce food intake:
  • Don’t free feed – provide a measured quantity of food at each meal.
  • Have one adult or responsible older child take charge of feeding all pets, and don’t allow other members of the household to offer food between meals.
  • In multicat households, feed each cat in a separate room with the door closed to prevent food stealing.
  • Offer calorie-free treats such as catnip, or provide attention and affection in place of extra food and treats.
Unless your cat has a medical condition that makes walking, running, and other forms of exercise painful, the following approaches can be used to increase his daily activity levels:
  • Play with the cat daily so that he can make use of his hunting skills.
  • Feed the cat in a remote area of the house, making it more work to take a trip to the food bowl and thus forcing the cat to expend more energy to get his food.
Weight reduction programs require veterinary supervision. Be sure to take your cat in for regular progress assessments and health checks.
What to Feed Cats for Weight Loss
Cats that need to lose weight should be fed a high-protein diet. While low-fat, high-fiber diets are often recommended for fat cats, not all cats lose weight on these diets, and many develop dry, flaky coats, and in some cases, more serious health problems.
Fiber suppresses appetite to some degree in people, but it doesn’t have this effect on cats, because while people are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats on high-fiber diets eat more in an attempt to satisfy their protein requirements, or suffer feelings of starvation if fed controlled portions.
The best way to promote healthy weight loss for cats is by feeding high-protein canned wet food. Cats feel full without eating as much because their protein requirements are met, and the water content of the food means that the same portion contains fewer calories. Look for foods for which meat (not wheat, rice, corn, or by-products) is the first ingredient listed on the label.
See High Protein Diets for Cats for information on how to calculate the protein content in cat foods and choose the best protein sources for optimum health.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's The Habits Of Zbra?


In the wild, plains zebras (equus burchelli) can walk approximately 40 km per day, which provides natural wear to their hooves. In captivity, however, animals are limited by the size of their enclosure and must rely on substrate for hoof maintenance. Exacerbating the problem, the diet provided in zoos is typically of a much higher quality than wild forage, which can lead to overweight animals and has been surmised to contribute to hoof overgrowth.
At the Three Ring Ranch, a small sanctuary in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, three resident plains zebra are housed in a 1350 m2 enclosure. The enclosure substrate, like most of Hawaii, contains several large outcroppings of textured lava. During the creation of the enclosures, it was decided Oreo, a senior mare, whose hooves have never been trimmed. to leave these higher outcrops so that the animals would have elevated lookout points as enrichment. As a side benefit, we discovered that by walking on the rough lava outcroppings, all of the zebra self-maintained their hooves.
The facility layout is made up of two bedroom areas and a larger pasture space. Within the bedroom area for the two younger zebras is a large lava ridge that the mares walk around and over, often standing on it to sunbathe (see photo below). After the zebras exit the bedroom enclosures, they walk or trot over another flat lava shelf to get to the outer pasture. The entire pasture has green areas divided by small hills and ridges, which provide additional natural hoof maintenance.
For years, modern zoos have worked to provide a natural environment for their animals, avoiding the use of concrete; instead using natural substrate and planted areas. However, those surfaces do not provide adequate abrasion for the zebra hoof. An alternative solution to manual hoof trimming under anesthesia, based on the experiences here at the Three Ring Ranch, is to create low cost, low maintenance hoof filing platforms.
These raised platforms could be constructed of rock or dyed, roughened concrete, upon which various objects could be placed to encourage the zebras to frequent them.
These platforms can be as simple or as elaborate as the individual facility chooses. They can be made to resemble natural habitats or left as an inexpensive, functional pad. Objects placed on them might include salt/mineral blocks, water, scratching posts, feed, or hanging browse dispensers (such as a hay net rotating on a pole). An elaborate scratching post can be created by reinforced concrete sculpted to mimic a termite nest. A cement model of a termite nest (Hediger) has been in daily use in the Zurich Zoo since 1955 due to the zebras’ enthusiasm in using it for grooming. This false termite mound could also be used as a trace mineral block dispensing station to further encourage the animals’ regular visits to the platform.
The addition of concrete to an enclosure contradicts many zookeepers’ idea of a natural environment. Yet, the benefit to the animals’ health should outweigh the aesthetic element. Also, the use of educational materials outside of the enclosure would be helpful in educating the public about the important service these surfaces provide. By placing these hoof maintenance stations on either side of the enclosure, the animals will be encouraged to ambulate more, increasing activity level and visitor enjoyment while also decreasing the risk of obesity.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Golden-crowned Flying Fox

Flying foxes or fruit bats are forest dwellers, which subsist mainly on forest fruits. They are known locally by various names such as paniki, kabag and bayakan. Eight species of large flying foxes have been documented in the Philippines. Of these, the Golden-crowned flying fox (Acedoron jubatus) and the Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat (Nyctimene rabori) are considered endangered, and the Negros naked-backed fruit bat (Dobsonia chapmani) extinct. The Acedoron jubatus is the largest bat in the world weighing almost 1.1 kg (Heaney and Heideman, 1987). Deforestation and extensive hunting and collection have largely depleted their population. In the late 1800s and early 1900s one readily encounters colonies of Golden-crowned flying fox numbering 100,000 individuals per colony but nowadays bat colonies of that size are hard to find. Colony size has dwindled to 5,000 bats per colony.

Fruit bats are usually hunted for food and as pets. Because of prevailing poverty in rural areas exotic food such as bat meats are cheap source of animal protein in the diet. Fruit bats are also favorite finger foods or pulutan among rural folks during drinking sessions. Selling fruit bats is also a source of additional income for the people. In some parts of the country, skinned or live fruit bats are sold openly in public markets. Even in other countries such as the Pacific Islands, fruit bats are considered a delicacy.

For example the Chammoro people of Marianas Islands consider fruit bat the most important of the local delicacies and is always served during special occasions (Payne, 1984). There is also a demand for bats as sources of ingredients of traditional medicine and aphrodisiacs. According to Morgan (2000), folk medicines such as the traditional Chinese medicine are endangering the survival of a growing number of wild animals and plants. The traditional Chinese medicine alone has been reported to be worth $ 6 B to $ 20 B. Derivatives of wildlife species are not only used in traditional medicine but are also used as raw ingredients in the preparation of modern medicine.

The extinction of the Negros naked-backed fruit bat has been blamed to guano mining, hunting and forest destruction. (Heaney, 1997). The relationship between fruit bats and forest is a symbiotic one that is they protect each other. Bats are economically beneficial animals in pollination of fruit trees, dispersal of seeds of fruit and forest trees, and as a source of guano fertilizer. As seed dispersers, Tuttle (1983) cited a recent West African study, which showed that bats are more effective seed dispersers than birds. A more effective conservation measures could be implemented if basic information such as reproductive physiology and health management aspects of this species are understood. However, there are only few studies conducted on Philippine bats.

These included the work by Guico and Maala (1994) on the histological and histochemical description of the fundic gland region of the stomach of insectivorous Hipposideros diadema bat and frugivorous Rousettus amplexicaudatus bat. In Japan, Yamada et al. (1988) reported the presence of cholycystokinin, gastric inhibitory peptide, motilin, neurotensin and bovine pancreatic polypeptide immunoreactive cells in the stomach of two species of insectivorous vespertilinid bats. In a study on five North and Central American bats, Rouk and Glass (1970) reported that the stomach of T. brasiliensis, N. velifer and A. pallidus do not differ histologically from each other. They observed however that there are only a few chief cells in the stomach of L. sanborni.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Indonesian Rhino

The Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino is the smallest rhino species and the only Asian rhino with two horns. Also called the lesser two-horned rhino or hairy rhino, it once ranged from north-eastern India through Indochina, Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, andMalaysia). Their numbers are thought to have at least halved between 1985 and 1995. Today, the population is estimated at less than 300 individuals in small pockets of Sumatra, peninsular Malaysia, and Borneo, making it the most threatened rhino in the world. The Borneo population is considered a distinct sub-species, numbering perhaps fewer than 25 animals.

Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned rhino is enjoying the greatest conservation success. Its original range extended from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. However in 1975, only 600 remained. By 2002, conservation efforts resulted in the swelling of greater one-horned rhino populations to 2,400 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal, northeast India. This success aside, however, the greater one-hornedrhino is still listed as Endangered as only two populations number more than 100 individuals.

The Critically Endangered Javan rhino is also known as the lesser one-horned rhino, and is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world. No more than 60 individuals are thought to survive in the wild, and there are none in captivity. The Javan rhino historically roamed from north-eastern India through Myanmar,Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and the islands of Sumatra and Java (Indonesia). Today, just 28-56 are estimated to remain in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, and no more than eight survive in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. Both groups belong to distinct sub-species.

The greatest threat by far to Asian rhino populations is poaching. Although there is no scientific proof of its medical value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, where it is ground into a fine powder ormanufactured into tablets as a treatment for a variety of illnesses such as nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, and fevers. As a result, poachers continue to kill the animals to take the horn, despite increased surveillance and protection.Habitat loss and conflict with humans over living space is a significant problem for all three Asian rhino species. Thanks to conservation efforts, the greater one-horned rhino population has grown from 600 to 2,400 since 1975, with the largest population, 1,700 individuals, in India’s Kaziranga National Park. At the same time, tree growth has reduced the rhinos’ grassland habitat, and concurrent human population growth has led to conflict with rhinos over the remaining available non-forest areas. In this reduced living space, rhinos have destroyed farm crops and caused some human casualties, and humans have retaliated against the animals.

The same problem exists for the other two species, with slightly different parameters. The issue leading to conflict with humans is not that trees are reducing grassland, but that defoliation and land-clearing are reducing the rhinos’ tropical forest habitat. In southern Vietnam, over a quarter of a million people live in the bufferzone around Cat Tien National Park, home to the last three to eight Vietnamese Javan rhinos in the world. The area was badly defoliated by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to lose natural forest cover at a shocking rate. Similarly, deforestation for farming and plantation crops is severely threatening Sumatran rhino habitats in Indonesia.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bush Dog Is Characterised By An Elongate Body

The bush dog is characterised by an elongate body, a short and sometimes stubby tail, broad face with short muzzle, small rounded ears, brown eyes, and short leg. Head and neck are generally reddish/tan or tawny, gradually darkening to black or dark brown hindquarters and legs. The underside is also dark and some individuals may show a pale white throat or chest patch. Coat patterns can, however, be highly variable, ranging from almost all black to very light blonde. Feet are partially webbed and tracks are nearlyidentical to those of the domestic dog. Bush dogs are one of three canid species with trenchant heel dentition, a unicuspid talonid on the lower carnassial molar that increases the cutting blade length. Dental formula is 3/3-1/1-4/4-2/2=40.

The bush dog is accepted as the sole extant representative of the monotypic genus Speothos. Speothos pacivorus Lund, 1839, an extinct species, is known only from fossil deposits discovered at the Lagoa Santa caves in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and may not have existed past the Holocene (Berta 1984). This is the same site for the type locality specimen of S. venaticus. The two species are distinguished by several dental features, including the presence of a metaconule and hypocone on M1, a large, double-rooted M2, as well as the larger size of S. pacivorus (Berta 1987). A third species, S. major (Lund 1843), is now considered synonymous with S. venaticus.

The taxonomic relationship of bush dogs to other canids remains debatable. The presence of a unicuspid M1talonid led to the inclusion of the bush dog in the subfamily Simocyoninae, along with two other species that share this characteristic, the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), and dhole (Cuon alpinus). Berta (1984, 1987) suggested bush dogs are most closely related to small-eared dogs (Atelocynus microtis), and members of the Cerdocyon clade (one of four monophyletic groups of South American canids). This group includes the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). Berta (1987) suggests a single ancestor for this group, ranging over Eurasia and North America, with isolation of the raccoon dog occurring when the Bering Land Bridge disappeared. Recent molecular analyses, based on mitochondrial DNA, suggest bush dogs and maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) constitute a monophyletic group distinct from other South American canids.


Bush dogs are reported to be a habitat generalist by indigenous peoples, within the context of occurring generally near water sources, particularly small streams, and near available prey populations, especially Agoutipaca (O. Carrillo and M. Swarner pers. obs.). Bush dogs have been observed in lowland (below 1,500m a.s.l.) forested habitats including primary and gallery forest, semi-deciduous forest, and seasonally flooded forest (Aquino and Puertas 1997). Observations have also been recorded from cerrado habitat in Brazil(Silveira et al. 1998; C. Brady pers. comm.) and Paraguay (Zuercher and Villalba 2002) and pampas (wet savannah) edge/riparian areas (Strahl et al. 1992; Emmons 1998). In some cases, they have been observed as far as 5,700m from forest habitat (Silveira et al. 1998). The species is also occasionally reported from secondary forest, ranchland (M. Swarner pers. obs.) and fragmented cerrado ranchland (L. Silveira and A. Jácomo pers. comm.).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

White Tiger In India

Multiple sightings of the white tiger, a colour variant of Panthera tigris tigris, from central India to Assam have been reported1. White or partially white tigers are not uncommon in some of the dry open jungles of central India Authentic records of white tiger from India include the report of the first white tiger that reached England in 1820 and was exhibited alive in the Exeter Change (Exchange) menagerie at the tower of London. A second one was killed at Poona about 1892. In March 1899, a white tiger was shot in Upper Assam and the skin was sent to Calcutta.

These reports are found in the Game Animals of India. A record of a white tiger from Poona was published in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in 1891. Shooting of awhite tigress was also reported in the Indian Forester, May 1909. Records of cases of white tigers of the last 50 years prior to 1959 in the diaries of Rewa including a two-year-old male captured in December 1915 are available.A description of this tiger appeared in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. It recorded not less than 17 white tigers shot in India between 1907 and 1933. A white tiger that was shot in the Bilaspur District of the then Central Province at about 6 years prior to 1916 was also described6. E. P. Gee recorded accounts of 35 white tigers from the wild up to 1959. Thus, shooting of white tiger was common between 1892 and 1922 in Orissa, Upper Assam, Bilaspur, Cooch Behar and Poona.

The history of white tiger in India can be traced in some of the paintings, which were drawn and recorded after 27 years of an incident in 1561 AD . However, the earliest authentic report of shooting of a white tiger in India is stated to be in 1907. Reports of white tigers in Assam are available. In Sivasagar District, Upper Assam, there is a tea estate called ‘Bogabagh’ meaning ‘white tiger’ in Assamese, and refers to two white tigers found there in the early 1900s.

Also, a report exists of the killing of a white tiger in Assam in March 1851. The unnoticed report is a much earlier record of the killing of a white tiger in India. According to The Orunodoi, a white tiger was beaten to death in Dibrugarh District, Assam and its head and skin were brought to ‘Shrijut Doctor Sharlok Sahab’. The fur of the tiger was long and completely white without any spots10. The report is also supplemented with a drawing of the tiger. This may be the earliest authentic report of killing of a white tiger in India.

As a signatory of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001), the Indian Government was compelled to restrict the production and use of industrial chemicals and pesticides. However, the present situation is not encouraging. This may be due to the following reasons: Lack of awareness, information and education about chemical hazards and international treaties related to chemicals. Higher rate of illiteracy plays a major role in this context. Absence of regulatory mechanisms to monitor chemical production and disposal. Lack of a database to measure chemical impacts on health and environment. Lack of on-site disaster management plan in small-scale and medium-sized chemical industry.

With respect to legislation regarding chemical management, India is well placed. In such a large country like India with its diverse spectrum of chemical manufacturing and consumption, laying of legislation is not an easy task. Proper execution is also required. This can be achieved by educating the people about chemicals and their impact on health and environment. Proper knowledge about pesticides and their effects on groundwater can prevent groundwater contamination. Increment of the inter-industry interaction and collaboration in discussing emerging scenarios after chemical release, environmental impacts, expectation, and roles and resources pooling will prevent on-site chemical disaster. The thrust areas should be groundwater quality, chemical residue in food, public and occupational health, storage and disposal of obsolete chemicals, chemical poisoning and chemical accident during transportation.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Tasmanian Devils Paradise

This time two months ago, I was in Tasmania - and I saw my first Tasmanian Devils up close. While generally deeply interested (perhaps obsessed) by wildlife, encountering Tassie devils was high on my list - and these photographs are the fruits of my labours. Now, a Tasmanian devil superhero named Cedric has made news this week, after scientists found that his genes may save the species from extinction.

This time two months ago, I was in Tasmania - and I saw my first Tasmanian Devils up close. While generally deeply interested (perhaps obsessed) by wildlife, encountering Tassie devils was high on my list - and these photographs are the fruits of my labours. Now, a Tasmanian devil named Cedric has made news this week, after scientists found that his genes may save the species from extinction.

Tasmanian Devils - now the largest carnivorous marsupial following the apparent demise of the thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger - are threatened by the bizarre and distressing Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which appears to be a contagious viral cancer - only one of three such cancers known. Tumours grow around the animals' faces, making it impossible for them feed; they starve to death.

All over Tasmania, there has been a 53% decline in average sightings of devils between surveys done in 1992-95 and 2003-06, and the disease is found in 59% of the island. All kinds of theories abound on the cause of the disease - everything from use of toxic sprays to lack of natural genetic diversity.

Things were looking pretty glum for the devils, although remedial work was taking place. When I was in Tasmania in February, I met the "Devil Woman", scientist Chrissy Pukk, who was working on the Forestier-Tasman Peninsula, driving a project to suppress the disease. The Tasman Peninsula is ideal for controlling the population, as it's isolated from the rest of Tasmania thanks to the Denison Canal - making it almost an island in itself. When I visited, Chrissy had two young devils, Mozart and Tosca, in a pen near her house, that had been separated from their diseased parents. She was teaching them how to fend for themselves, in preparation for a "soft release" back into the wild, away from diseased populations.

Cedric, however, was in the news this week because he's the first devil to display immunity from the disease. Scientists injected Cedric and his half-brother, Clinky, with dead facial tumour disease cells; Clinky produced no anti-bodies, but Cedric did. This is creating hope for the devil population, through Cedric's resistance to the disease. One of the theories surrounding the disease is that was created by cell mutation in just one animal, which then passed like wildfire - so maybe Cedric is the one animal who can stop put a halt to it.

Two months ago the two animals were infected with live cells. Scientists expect that Clinky will contract the disease but Cedric, with his different genes, will not. It's still too early to tell for sure - DFTD can have a six-month incubation period.
I realise, banging away on my keyboard here, that many readers may not know much about the Tassie devil. Well, picture this - it's a small meat-eating, scavenging animal, about the size of a Jack Russell dog. It's got bluish black hair, a huge damp nose, wiry whiskers, very red ears, and some fine claws. There's usually a white stripe on the chest and hindquarters, and they make a god awful sound when they howl their blood-curdling scream. It's this noise that apparently led the early European arrivals in Tasmania to name it the "devil", although its red ears probably didn't help.

The devil also has a fearsome mouth - its jaw can exert four times the bite of a dog the same size. When Tasmanian farmers lose a cow to a natural death overnight, if there's devils around, there will be very cow left in the morning - if anything at all. In fact, they can swallow, and, to some extent, digest, every bone in the human body. They will eat through fences, cages, you name it. Even each other!
This isn't to say they go out of their way to attack cows or humans - they don't. However, you've got to watch those nasty little gobs should you have to handle one, and they're impossible to really tame. I spoke to one man, who some years ago, spent several months fostering a young orphan. One day it, unexpectedly, it turned around, and sank its teeth in to his arm, breaking the bones. I watched some of his current charges fighting over a wallaby carcass - there are no table manners or etiquette at the devil table - they seem as likely to bite each other as the meat.

This devil pugnaciousness when feeding, mating, or just playing, has aided the spread of the disease, which can also be spread through shared eating. One evening in Tasmania, I took a high-speed road trip with Chrissy Pukk as she looked for fresh roadkill. The dead wombats, wallabies, possums and bandicoots picked up and fed to captive devils have to be "unadulterated" - no other scavenger can have taken a chunk from it. The saliva or blood of diseased devil could easily be spread this way. Later, I had a chanced to photograph Chrissy's roadkill collection, and her feeding a dead wallaby to the hungry little devils.

So - enjoy the devil photographs, and maybe say a prayer to the Prince of Darkness that his subjects recovered from this nastiness. And maybe, like me, you can dress up like a Tasmanian devil, as part of the ritual...