About the Project

The ZooTrophy Animal-a-Day project began on October 15th, 2013 as illustrator Angela "LemurKat" Oliver began working her way, systematically but selectively, through the alphabet and presenting, via social media, an illustrated animal to the world. Daily.

All pieces are drawn as 2.5 x 3.5 inch collectible cards, using a combination of polychromos and prismacolor pencils, along with other art materials. Many are still available for purchase ($10) or trade, so drop her an email if anything captures your eye or if there is an animal you wish to request.

It is predicted this project will take her at least two years to complete - with approximately 36 animals being drawn for each letter. She has also used the images to create a collectible hardback encyclopedia series, playing cards and a desk calendar, as well as the ZooTrophy collectible trading card game.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Creature Feature #438: Lyrebird

The Lyrebird might resemble a pheasant, but he is a member of the songbird family. And quite the songbird he is! Male Lyrebirds are superb mimics, constructing elaborate performances to attract a mate. These include the mimicking of other birds, different mammals and even human noises - like chainsaws - interwoven with his own vocalisations. The male is also characterised by his dramatically long tail feathers, which resemble a lyre, these make up part of his courtship display. After luring and mating with the female, she is left alone to lay a single egg within a large, untidy nest, incubate it for 50 days and raise the chick alone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Creature Feature #437: Lynx

There are four species of Lynx, a medium-sized feline found in North America and Eurasia. She is characterised by her tufted ears and short tail. The more northern species have a thicker pelt and larger paws - adaptations to the colder climate - and her fur is lighter, allowing her better camouflage on the more open, snow-covered landscape. She is solitary in nature, hunting alone for small mammalian and avian prey. The Canadian species feeds almost exclusively on snowshoe hares, whereas her southern cousin, the Bobcat, follows a more varied diet.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Creature Feature #436: Lungfish

Lungfish are freshwater fish which retain some primitive characteristics: such as the ability to breathe air and their lobed fins. They are found in Africa, South America and Australia. Of the six extant species, this Queensland Lungfish is the most primitive. His species has changed very little in over 100 million years. He is capable of surviving out of water for several days, but must be kept moist - other species can survive periods of total water depletion. He is long-lived species, with males reaching sexual maturity at 17 years, females at 22 years.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Creature Feature #435: Lovebird

Lovebirds are small parrots native to Africa, with one species found in Madagascar. These charming birds gather in small flocks, foraging on fruit, vegetables, grass and seeds.   Pairs form longterm monogamous bonds within the flock, and will perch together. There are nine species and various colour mutations. The female peach-faced lovebird gathers nesting material by tucking it into her rump feathers to carry it to the nesting cavity, Lovebirds are popular in the aviculture industry and feral populations can be found in several US cities.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Creature Feature #434: Loris

Loris are nocturnal prosimians, found in the tropical rainforests and woodland of Sri Lanka, India and Southeast Asia. There are two Genera: the slow lorises and the slender lorises. Both use a slow and cautious method of locomotion, making their way through the trees and methodically stalking their prey. Generally insects are preferred, but other invertebrates, fruit and leaves may be included. Infant Lorises are left in a nest while the mother forages. To protect her infant from predation, she first licks her inner elbow - which contains a mild toxin - and then bathes the youngster in saliva, thus rendering it unpleasant to eat.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Creature Feature #433: Lorikeet

Lorikeets, and their close cousins the Lories, are arboreal parrots characterised by their brush-tipped tongues. These are specialised for a nectar diet. Various species are scattered throughout the Australasian region and one of the most well-known is the Rainbow Lorikeet. Widespread across the east coast of Australia, the Rainbow Lorikeet is sociable and noisy, gathering in large flocks to roost in the evening. During the day they disperse, foraging in pairs. Common in the aviculture industry, captive birds have escaped and  become a pest in western Australia. Fears that they will establish in New Zealand have led to eradication and trapping programs in some regions.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Creature Feature #432: Loon

Loons are diving birds, with species spread throughout North America and Eurasia. He is an excellent swimmers, with his feet placed further back, towards his tail. This enables him to swim fast and dive deep, but his is clumsy on land. Hence his common name of "loon" (derived from either the Old English Lumme or Scandinavian Lum). His favoured diet is fish, along with the occasional crustacean or amphibian. These are stabbed with his sharp bill, swallowing it headfirst and whole.

This fellow is a black-throated loon, of Eurasia and West Alaska.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Creature Feature #431: Loggerhead

The Loggerhead is a large sea turtle, found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. She is omnivorous, her diet consisting mostly of bottom-dwelling invertebrates. The only time she comes ashore is to breed, hauling herself up the beach and scraping a pit into which to deposit her eggs. She will lay over 100 eggs. These hatch about 80 days later, with the youngster digging their way out during the night. They must then make the perilous journey to the sea, following the glow of the moon upon the horizon.

Loggerheads are endangered due to habitat destruction/disturbance, getting captured in fishing nets and drowning, ingesting plastic debris, and also climate change - the gender of the offspring is determined by the temperature of the eggs, meaning that gender skews are likely.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Creature Feature #430: Lobster

The Lobster is a marine Crustacean, with a long body, muscular tail and equipped with an impressive pair of chelae (claws).* He lurks in burrows or crevices on the sea bed, feasting on live prey such as molluscs, annelids, fish and occasionally plant matter. Cannibalism is not unknown, especially in captivity. Lobster are long-lived, and may reach 70 years of age, growing in size as they age. Older Lobsters may be more fertile than younger ones. Lobster are highly valued as a food source by humans, although the eating of them was considered a mark of poverty until well within the twentieth century when they suddenly became regarded as a delicacy.

 This is a European Lobster.

* The clawless Spiny Lobster are not closely related and shall be dealt with independently.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Creature Feature #429: Loach

 Loaches are bottom-dwelling, scavenging fish that are popular in the aquarium industry. This species is a Clown Loach. He is native to Indonesia, where he favours clear streams but occasionally ends up in the murky waters of the flood plains. He is a schooling fish, usually forming shoals of 5 or more, and sometimes schooling with other species, especially in aquariums. Alert and watchful, he generally lurks near the bottom, foraging in the substrate for snails and anything else edible.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Creature Feature #428 Llama

The Llama is an entirely domesticated species of Camelid. She is used as a meat and pack animal in South America. She is now farmed over much of the world for her woolly fibre, which is soft and lanolin-free. In the early 1980s, farmers in North America began to use a Llama to guard their sheep. A single Llama - a castrated male or unbred female - is added to the sheep flock, and he becomes protective of them - especially the lambs. The guard Llama keeps watch, warning the flock, and may approach the predator (often a coyote)  and intimidate it - sometimes even attacking it - or lead the flock to safety. Studies have shown a significant decline in stock predation when a guard llama is present.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Creature Feature #427: Lizardfish

The Lizardfish are several species of bony fish, found in shallow coastal waters. He is generally small - although the largest species can grow up to 60 cm - and his head superficially resembles a lizard. An ambush predator, he buries himself in the substrate so that only his eyes are visible, and waits for prey to swim past. He is equipped with many teeth, which even grow upon his tongue.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Creature Feature #426: Lionfish

The Lionfish are a Genus of venomous marine fish, native tot he Indo-Pacific, with this Red Lionfish now invading the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. He is characterised by their ornate beauty and elaborate array of venomous spines. He is a skilled hunter, riding the water columns in pursuit of his prey, shooting jets of water to disorientate it. Once he has it cornered, the Lionfish spreads his fin and consumes it in a single mouthful. His favoured food is small fish, invertebrates and molluscs. His venom causes intense pain, vomiting, convulsions and other horrible symptoms and can result in temporary paralysis or death.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Creature Feature #425: Lion

The Lion is a  large predatory cat, found in Africa and parts of Asia. Unlike other felines, Lions are social carnivores, living in family groups called "prides". These prides consist of a group of females and one or two males. Male cubs leave the pride when they reach maturity. The male Lion is characterised by his mane which is linked to his testosterone production. The darker and bushier his mane is, the more powerful (and therefore desirable to the females) he is. The Lionesses do much of the hunting, although they are also inclined to steal prey from other carnivores such as hyena and cheetahs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Creature Feature #424: Linsang

There are four species of Linsang, agile carnivores found in both African and Asia. Once the four species were considered to be closely related, but now studies have shown that the African species are more closely related to genets and the Asian species to felines. This sleek specimen is a Banded Linsang, of the Asian lineage. She is solitary and nocturnal, leading a largely arboreal existence. Her tail is nearly as long as her head and body combined, this is used for balance as she stalks through the branches in pursuit of rodents, small birds and reptilian prey. Very little appears known about her behaviour.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Creature Feature #423: Limpkin

The Limpkin is related to rails and cranes, his range extending from Florida down to Argentina. He is characterised by his heavy, down-curved bill. This acts like a tweezer, and is used to pry apple snails from their shells. His widespread toes allow him to stand on floating plants, and he will partly immerse himself in water, or even sim in pursuit of his prey. His deliberate, high-stepping gait gives the appearance of limping and contributes to his common name. Once prey has been located, he will carry it to the shore or shallows, turn it so that the opening is facing upwards and use his beak to pry out the contents.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Creature Feature #422: Leopard Shark

The Leopard Shark is a slender, relatively small shark, found along the Pacific Coast of North America. He is harmless, favouring a diet of sea life such as clams, crustacean and fish. Suction is used to capture his prey. Shark eggs hatch within the uterus of the female, the youngsters sustained by a yolk until she will give birth to as many as 37. These youngsters take many years to mature. Although currently classified as "least concern", Leopard Sharks can experience local declines, due to their slow maturation rates. They are occasionally caught by recreational fishermen and make excellent eating, but due to mercury and other pollutants, it is inadvisable to eat them too frequently.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Creature Feature #421: Leopard Gecko

The Leopard Gecko can be found in the deserts of Asia, Pakistan and India. Unlike most Geckos, he possesses eyelids and therefore can actually blink, this is likely an adaptation to his dry, dusty environment. He is terrestrial and crepuscular in nature, preying on insects and other invertebrates. These he stalks, tail swishing, in much the same manner as his namesake - the Leopard. Leopard Gecko are popular in captivity and have been bred to enhance the golden colour. Wild specimens tend to be duller. His skin is very durable and shed regularly, with the old skin being consumed.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Creature Feature #420: Leopard Cat

The Leopard Cat is a small feline of South and East Asia, named for his spots.Twelve subspecies occur, including the Critically Endangered Iriomote Cat. Like most felids, they are solitary in nature, nocturnal and hunt both on the ground and in the trees. A high percentage of his diet are birds and thus he does not play with his food, instead dispatching it with a pounce and bite. These Cats have been hybridised with domestic cats to produce the Bengal Cat breed.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Creature Feature #419: Leopard

The Leopard is one of the five big cats, and possibly the most adaptable. She makes her home in habitats as diverse as desert and rainforest with her range extending across parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia. An opportunistic hunter, she will prey on anything she can catch - from dung beetles up to chimpanzees and even small gorillas. Solitary in nature, she generally follows nocturnal hunting patterns, although rainforest Leopards are more likely to hunt during the day. To protect her kill from scavengers, she drags it up into the branches of a tree. Sometimes this kill can weigh more than the Leopard herself. Leopards display a range of vocalizations, including purring, which dissudes the factoid I had read somewhere (to be fair, it was probably Willard Price, back in the 1960s) that big cats cannot purr.

If you like Leopards and Africa in general, here's a great comic strip from a very talented illustrator:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Creature Feature #418: Lemur

There are over 100 species of Lemur, all confined to the island of Madagascar. They are an example of divergent evolution, in which a small ancestral population lead to a wide diversification and adaptation to the environment. Many species are small and nocturnal, but the most well known are the diurnal species, like this Ringtail Lemur. Lemurs are one of the few mammals with a matriarchal structure: females are dominant to males (in most species). Most are social, and live in family groups, following a vegetarian or omnivorous diet.

Ringtailed Lemurs, despite being the "poster boy" for the Clade as a whole, only live in the dry forests of southern and south-west Madagascar. They are highly social, with a rigid hierarchy. Males compete with one another in "stink fights" in which they rub scent from their wrist glands along their tails and wave these at one another. Seldom to these demonstrations turn to actual violence. Other uses for the ringed tail include balance as they leap through the trees, and to communicate with other members of their troop as they forage.

Due to a combination of deforestation (Madagascar is 90% deforested) and hunting, 90% of Lemur species are endangered and 10% of those are critically endangered, meaning that there is a very high chance of extinction. With Madagascar being one of the poorest countries in the world, it will be a struggle to save these amazing creatures (and the many other unique species found on the island) but luckily there are dedicated conservation teams from all over the world working with the locals to help protect, and even restore, where they can. So, we can but hope.

If you wish to help the lemurs and the people of Madagascar, here is a list of a few of the agencies that have various projects on the island:

Azafady: http://www.madagascar.co.uk/index.htm
Duke University Lemur Centre: http://lemur.duke.edu/
Aspinall Foundation: http://www.aspinallfoundation.org/
Durrell Wildlife Consevation Trust: http://www.durrell.org

And here's another list with more:

I am very passionate about lemurs, and about Madagascar (having visited there in 2007) and her people. the thought that many of the species I saw, or didn't see (like the elusive Bamboo Lemur) could become extinct within my lifetime is heart-breaking.

If you do donate to any of these above, let me know and I'll send you a free ebook of my novel "Fellowship of the Ringtails" (for Kindle or epub). It's epic fantasy, with lemurs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Creature Feature #417: Lemming

The Lemming is a small rodent of the Arctic tundra. She follows a vegetarian diet of leaves, shoots and grasses. Her teeth grow constantly, allowing her to consume toughier foliage. Despite her habitat, she does not hibernate, instead storing large quantities of vegetation for the leaner months. Whilst generally solitary in nature, she is a fast breeder. Populations can swell dramatically, leading to mass dispersal and migration into individual feeding grounds. This can lead to the crossing of waterways - Lemmings can swim - but may result in the death of some individuals. Unlike most rodents she is conspicuously coloured, and will behave aggressively towards predators.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Creature Feature #416: Leech

Leech are blood-suckling annelids, generally found in rainforest or water. Currently 700 species are recognised, of which around 12% are terrestrial. This species, the Tiger Leech, is a terrestrial species,  found in the moist forests of Borneo. Leeches are characterised by their anterior and posterior suckers. The posterior ones anchor the creature to a surface, as they wait for prey to brush past.  With the blood-scuking species, the mouth connects with the prey and attaches using suction. A mucus secreted into the host's bloodstream prevents the blood from clotting and numbs them to recognition. Not all species are capable of biting - some require a wound to be already present - and others do not drink blood at all, but instead devour invertebrate prey whole. The leech will remain attached until it becomes engorged with blood, at which point it will drop off, although the wound may bleed for a time afterwards.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Creature Feature #415: Lechwe

There are three species of Lechwe - and several subspecies -  all found in the Kobus genus and generally found near wetlands and marshes. This species is the Nile Lechwe. He inhabits floodplains in Ethiopia, Sudan and Southern Sudan. He feeds both on land and in the water, grazing on water plants such as wild rice. Whilst he generally wades through the water, he is also a capable swimmer. Considered a highly prized hunting trophy, the species is now classified as Endangered.

Creature Feature #414: Leatherback Turtle

The Christmas "silly season" must be getting to my brain - I've been so busy drawing these Animal-a-Day critters, I've forgotten to actually upload them! No, wait, this blog is actually set to Pacific Standard Time. I didn't forget on saturday - just yesterday!

The Leatherback Turtle is the largest living turtle - specimens have been found up to 3 metres long. Unlike other turtles, she lacks a bony carapace; hers is instead covered in skin and oily flesh. She is extremely hydrodynamic, using her long flippers to propel herself through the open ocean. In this manner she is capable of reaching speeds up to 35 km/hr. The adult Leatherback feeds almost entirely on jellyfish, although other soft-bodied sea creatures - such as squids - are sometimes taken. Unfortunately, a plastic bag floating in the ocean can resemble prey, and up to a third of Leatherbacks are thought to have ingested plastic. This can obstruct her digestive system or remain in her gut, undigested which inhibits her feeding, and thus her growth and rate of maturity.

She is Vulnerable to extinction.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Creature Feature #413: Leaf-tailed Gecko

Not just any Leaf-tailed Gecko either - this is the SATANIC Leaf-tailed Gecko.

Leaf-tailed Geckos are a Family of Gecko, endemic to Madagascar. Here his cryptic colouration (generally shades of brown and black, with hints of purple) allow him to all but disappear against the bark of the tree.

Seriously, they are all but impossible to see, here's a photograph I took of some:

How many can you see?

There are numerous species of Leaf-tailed Gecko. This fellow lives in the eastern rainforests (despite the tsingy in the background - oops). He follows a nocturnal lifestyle, venturing out at night to capture insects. If threatened he will also flatten himself against the bark to reduce his shadow and, if that fails, opens his mouth wide to expose the bright red inner. He is also capable of shedding his tail. Leaf-tailed Gecko are threatened by habitat loss - many of the species are vulnerable to extinction - and also by poaching. Due to his impressive appearance, he has become desirable in the pet trade and certain numbers of some species are allowed to be exported every year.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Creature Feature #412: Leafy Seadragon

The Leafy Sea Dragon is a delicate and bizarre fish, a member of the Sea Horse Family. He can be found around the southern coasts of Australia, where his leaf-like fins allow him camouflage amongst the seaweed. His prefered diet is zooplankton, which is sucked up through his pipe-like snout. He is solitary except during breeding season, when the female will deposit her eggs - up to 250 - onto his tail. Here they remain for 9 weeks, when he will help them to hatch by rubbing his tail against seaweed and rocks. Young are independent from hatching but only 5% survive to adulthood.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Creature Feature #411: Leafbird

The Leafbirds are a Family of birds found only in the Indomalaya ecozone. Their vibrant green plumage gives rise to their common name. Females are generally duller in colouration, although this species - the Philippines Leafbird - does not display sexual dimorphism. Leafbirds favour forests, gleaning the canopy for insects. Nests are generally built high in the trees, on the ends of branches. Most are common and widespread, but the Philippines may now be extirpated from parts of his former range and is classified as vulnerable to extinction.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Creature Feature #410: Leaf Beetle

The Leaf Beetles are a huge Family of beetles, containing over 30,000 species and with many representatives across an array of Genera. Their preferred diet is leaves, and some species - like this Lily Leaf Beetle - are considered pests. The Lily Leaf Beetle is native to parts of Asia and Europe. It was introduced to North America in the 1940s, probably through the importation of plant bulbs. It is the larvae that are the most destructive, moving along the leaf of their lily host and devouring the rest of the plant. They then burrow into the ground to pupate and hatch out as adult beetles.

And here's an unidentified species of Leaf Beetle that I drew first, because it was rather pretty.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Creature Feature #409: Lark

Larks are small-to-medium-sized passerines, characterised by their relatively dull, cryptic colouration and trilling song. Terrestrial in nature, Larks spend much of their time foraging in the grass for seeds and occasionally insects. His rear claw is longer than that of most birds, increasing his stability. To defend his territory, the male Lark soars directly upwards in a display flight, trilling his melodious call.

This fellow is a Sidamo Lark, a species with a very restricted range within Ethiopa (about 36 square kms) and under heavy threat from agriculture. Due to nest predation of the females, the population is heavily skewed towards males. It is classified as critically endangered, with probably less than 256 adult birds surviving.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Creature Feature #408: Lapwing

Lapwings are crested members of the Plover family. There are a number of different species, spread across the world. This fellow is the only crested plover found in South America. He has benefited from the transformation of forests into grasslands, as it provides him with plenty of territory upon which to forage. His favoured diet is insects and other invertebrates. These he hunts using a wait-and-run technique and much of his foraging is done at night.

Here's his ZooTrophy card. These things are addictive to make - here's hoping they will also prove fun to collect!

(He's a dual waterways/grasslands.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Creature Feature #407: Langur (or rather, Lutung)

Langur, also known as leaf monkeys or lutungs, are a subfamily of monkeys spread across Asia. In habit they are diurnal, folivores (dine on leaves) and gregarious. Whilst some species - like the grey langur - are common and interact readily with humans, others such as the golden-headed langur or this Francois' Langur are endangered. As their diet is high in fibrous materials, but low in energy, Langur (or Lutung) have a multi-chambered stomach - more akin to that found in ungulates. Family groups mostly consist of a male and his harem of females and their offspring. If a new male takes over the harem, he will likely kill any infants.

You can tell this fellow is actually in the Lutung genera, on account of his very fine quiff.

And, here's his ZooTrophy card:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Creature Feature #406: Lancetfish

The Lancetfish is a large, pelagic fish inhabiting every ocean except the polar seas. They are predatory in nature, with relatively poor muscle tone that indicates they ambush their prey.  Investigations of their stomachs have found traces of crustaceans, squid as well as other fish - including other lancetfish. Little is known about their reproduction, but juveniles are repoted to be hermaphrodites, suggesting that gender may come as they mature. They are frequently trawled up as bycatch but their meat is watery and undesirable.

(Least concern)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Creature Feature#405: Lamprey

Despite his reputation, not all species of Lamprey are blood-sucking parasites. This one, the Sea Lamprey however, is. Lamprey are primitive, jawless fish, who instead of a mouth are equipped with a tooth-rimmed suction-cup and a sharp tongue. Once he locates an appropriate host, he latches on and begins to scrape away at the skin with his tongue and teeth. He secretes a substance that prevents the host's blood from clotting and it will eventually succumb to infection, if it doesn't die of blood-loss first. This fish spends his early days in freshwater, moving into lakes or a marine environment to feed parasitically for a year, before returning to the river to spawn and die.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Creature Feature #404: Lammergeier

The Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, is found in the high country across southern Europe, Africa and India. She typically is found above the tree line. Her diet is carrion, although she favours bone marrow over flesh - the only bird species specialised for this diet. Her digestive system quickly digests the bone and she can crush pieces up to the size of a lamb's femur. Larger pieces are carried up into the air, then dropped onto the rocks until they splinter and crack open, allowing her access to the somewhat juicier interior. This is a learned behaviour, and it can take her seven years to master it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Creature Feature #403: Ladybird

There numerous species of Ladybird - over 5000 -  found all over the world. Most are characterised by their colourful elytron (wing covers) which in many species are spotted. Some species are vegetarian, and have become something of a pest in agriculture, but most species favour a carnivorous diet with a particular fondness for destructive insects such as aphids.  As such, they are generally regarded as the gardener's friend. Although, introduced Harlequin Ladybirds are currently engaged in a full-on invasion of the United Kingdom, where they are spreading at a rapid rate and out-competing their native species.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Creature Feature #402: Lacewing

Lacewings are small insects named for their delicate wings, which are cross-veined and resemble lace. She is nocturnal or crepscular in nature and feeds on pollen, nectar and honeydew, as well as the occasional tiny arthropod. When handled, some species will release a vile stench from their prothoracal glands. This has earned her the name "stinkfly". The spiny nature of the larvae attracts grime and sand, providing the juvenile with an element of camouflage.  Larvae are voracious predators, attacking any arthropod of appropriate size and even biting humans. To feed, she injects her prey with venom, liquifying its insides and allowing them to be sucked out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Creature Feature #401: Feral Cat

Today's critter is more-or-less by popular request, and also because I needed an "invasive pest" to introduce into the forest portion of my TCG. Hence why we are dropping out of the alphabet, temporarily.

A Feral Cat is not just a domestic cat that is living wild, and it is not a stray - when a cat truly "goes feral" she is like an actual wild animal. She has never been socialised with humans. This probably means that her ancestors were strays. Feral Cats can be found in urban environments, as well as woodlands, temperate forests and open countries - anywhere there is relevant prey. Whilst in urban areas and some suburban, she can do little harm, it is isolated habitats that suffer the most impact from her introduction. Many islands are home to birds and small mammals, but may lack in mammalian predators, and for these the addition of this feline - an apex predator - spelled disaster. The extinction of six New Zealand bird species can be attributed to cats. The most well known of which is the Stephen Islands Wren. A tiny bird, almost flightless, and the entire population lived on one small island. There are tales that suggest one cat was responsible, but it is more likely that it was a plague of feral cats, some related to the lighthouse keeper's cat who was probably not called Tibbles) or otherwise dumped on the island. Within a few months the birds were gone.

Domestic cats are interesting in that they are one of the few sociable cat species. Unlike their ancestors, the European wild cat, they will share territory, although unneutered males will fight for dominance. A colony of cats is called a clowder. In some countries, like New Zealand and Australia (where the felines have had a detrimental impact on native mammals) there is talk of banning cats, and hunting ferals is encouraged. However, many people adore our feline companions, even the ones that utterly shun human contact, and the idea of killing cats is anathema. Some countries, including New Zealand, run a trap-neuter-release program, in which ferals are captured, neutered and then returned to their initial habitat. This means that the cat can no longer breed, but can still kill millions of birds, reptiles and bats before eventually sucuumbing to disease, injury or death-by-auto. Sometimes feeding stations are set up in which volunteers feed the half-starved felines. Needless to say, there is a lot of controversy surrounding such projects.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Creature Feature #400: Kusimanse

Today is the 400th "Animal a Day"! How exciting is that? It is also the last of the Ks. Tomorrow we have a special random entry and then on tuesday the 25th, one month from Christmas, the Ls shall begin.

Meanwhile, here's a dwarf mongoose:

This is the Kusimanse, one of several Dwarf Mongoose species. He is a diurnal forager and an excellent digger, hunting for insects, rodents, crustaceans and other small prey.  Groups consist of related Kusimanse and follow a strict hierarchal structure. Only the primary members are permitted to breed. If subordinates produce offspring, these will be killed and eaten.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Creature Feature #399: Kultarr

Keeping up the trend of adorable mammals with long hindlegs, I present the third (or fourth if you count "kangaroo") that begins with K.

The Kultarr is a tiny marsupial, related - but not closely - to the Kowari of two days ago. She makes her home in the arid interior deserts of Australia, inhabiting gibber plains and sandy deserts. Here she hunts alone, at night, for insects and other tasty invertebrates. During the day she hides away in soil cracks or burrows made by other creatures. Her long hind-legs enable her to move in hops and give her a superficial resemblance to jerboas and hopping mice.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Creature Feature #398: Kudu

The Kudu are two species of large woodland antelopes. The Greater Kudu can be found in eastern and southern Africa. Here the females form herds with their calves, whereas the bulls lead a more solitary existence. Only the male sports the long, curling horns and these are used for disputes over mating privileges. Generally the two males will lock horns and wrestle until one surrenders but on occasion they will become trapped together. If this happens they will either starve to death or be killed by a hyena or other large predator.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Creature Feature #397: Krill

Krill are tiny crustceans occuring in every ocean, worldwide. They play a critical role in the ecosystem. Krill feed on phytoplankton, and occasionally zooplankton. In turn they are preyed  upon by fish, mammals, birds, cephalopods and other arthropods. During the night they migrate towards the surface, sinking deeper into the depths during the day. More than half the population is predated each year, requiring a fast and fecund life-cycle. Climate change poses a threat to Krill populations, as can other disturbances.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creature Feature #396: Kowari

Although it somewhat resembles the Kangaroo Rat from several weeks ago, the Kowari is not related to it (although it is related to the Kultarr I will be uploading within the next week). She is a marsupial from central Australia, where she makes her home in grasslands and deserts.  She is a voracious predator, devouring mostly insects and spiders, but also birds, rodents and reptiles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Creature Feature #395: Kouprey

The Kouprey is a species of wild cattle, once found throughout Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Alas, uncontrolled hunting led the population into sharp decline and the last living specimens were seen in 1988. It is classified as critically endangered, possibly extinct. There is no captive population. In the wild, his natural habitat is forested areas. The cows form herds, led by a dominant female, and the bulls join them during the dry season.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creature Feature #394: Kookaburra

The Kookaburra of Australia and New Guinea is one of the world's largest Kingfishers. He is noted for his raucous laughing call, which rings out with frenzied excitement as he marks the boundaries of his territory. Families tend to stay together, the young from previous broods helping to defend their home range from intruders. His habitat is versatile, and he is as likely to be found in forest, arid grasslands or urban parks. He follows a carnivorous diet, and will eat almost anything he can gobble up - from lizards, rodents, baby birds, and he is may steal koi fish from zoos and ornamental pools.