Saturday, 28 July 2012

Miscellaneous Mammals 7: The Kowari

Just gone on show in Twilight World is the first marsupial we have had for several years: the Kowari Dasyuroides byrnei. It is a fairly typical member of the Dasyuridae, the diverse family of marsupial carnivores whose largest living member is the famous Tasmanian Devil, Sarcophilus harrisi. Most members of the family are shrew to rat-sized, but the various species of Quoll grow to about the size of a domestic cat. Unfortunately, with the introduction of true cats into Australia, plus other predators and competitors, has been very bad news for the dasyurids, and most are considered at least Near Threatened in the IUCN Red List.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Turtles 9: New Arrival

Just gone on show in one of the pools in the Reptile House is one of the rarest and most endangered of all turtles, the Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle, Chelodina mccordi. Originating from an island near New Guinea, it was only split from the more widespread New Guinea Snake-Necked Turtle in 1994. Sadly, collection for the international pet trade for this endemic species has placed it on the Critically Endangered list, and today it is only known from a few sites on the island with a total area of 70km2.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Turacos 4: Violet Turaco

Last of the three turaco species we have at Bristol is perhaps the most beautifully coloured of all, the Violet Turaco Musphaga violacea. With a home range of over 2 million square kilometres north of the Gulf of Guinea, stretching from Guines in the west to Nigeria in the east, it is not currently considered threatened – in fact it is locally common in some areas. Further east all across Africa south to Botswana it is replaced by the similar, but even more impressive, Ross’ Turaco, M. rossae.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Turacos 3: Red-Crested Turaco

The other member of the ‘typical’ green turaco genus Tauraco that we have at Bristol is the Red-Crested or Angolan Turaco, Tauraco erythrolophus. With a range extending through most of West and Central Angola, and a reasonably high, but declining, population, it is currently listed by the IUCN as a Least Concern species. Given ongoing deforestation in its range, the risk of populations become locally extinct or fragmented must however be quite high. It is very similar to the Endangered Bannerman’s Turaco, which is found much further north in Cameroon. Bannerman’s Turaco may have as few as 1500 adults left, and it is now only found in a few fragments of forest, most of its original habitat having been felled for farmland.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Turacos Part 2: Fischer's Turaco

Living in coastal forest from northern Tanzania to southern Somalia is one of the most spectacularly coloured birds in Africa, Fischer’s Turaco Tauraco fisheri. Unfortunately, as a result of habitat loss from deforestation, capture for the pet trade, and some hunting, it is one of the world’s more threatened birds, with an estimated population of under 10,000 and possibly as few as 3,000. As a result, the IUCN Red List puts it in the Near Threatened category. The population in Somalia, where perhaps under 50 birds remain as a result of forest clearance, is particularly threatened and likely to die out in the near future.