SPECIES: Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii)
CURRENT RANGE: Only found in the wild in the Australian state of Tasmania
CURRENT THREATS: Devil face tumor disease, dingo attacks, the threat of iron ore mining in Tasmania
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: In all forms of habitat in Tasmania, but primarily wooded forest areas
What are they?
Most of us will be familiar with the Tasmanian Devil that whirled across our TV screens in the Looney Tune cartoons we watched as children, but Tasmanian Devils are far from fictional. In reality, it’s the last surviving carnivorous marsupial, easily recognized by its short, stocky build, with black fur and white markings, and long, thick tails. Males have an average body length of just over 65cm and weigh on average 8kg, while the females measure just over 57cm and weigh on average 6kg. They are nocturnal animals that hunt at night with their incredibly powerful jaws and teeth, which are often compared to that of the hyena. Tasmanian Devils are very defensive when it comes to food, and will let out a blood-curdling scream when they feel that their food is being threatened by another Devil.
SPECIES: Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) & Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus)
CURRENT RANGE: Sumatra (Indonesia) & Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia)
CURRENT THREATS: Deforestation, poaching
CONSERVATION STATUS: Critically Endangered (Sumatran) and Endangered (Bornean)
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: All over Malaysia and Indonesia, in the wild or at a rehabilitation center.
What are they?
The word “orangutan” means “man of the forest” in the Malay language… which makes sense when you consider that orangutans share 96.4% of our genes. They have grasping hands at the end of long arms, which allows them to swing through trees from branch to branch. They can grow to be between 1.25 and 1.5 metres tall; females weigh in at 30-50kg, and males at 50-90kg. We can easily identify orangutans by their red hair, but another distinguishing physical feature in males can be specified as “flanged” or “unflanged.” The flanged males have prominent cheek pads and a throat sack for long calls, whereas the unflanged orangutans do not have such features. They eat wild fruits such as lychees, mangosteens, and figs, and extract water from holes in trees by slurping it up.
If you’ve followed wildlife conservation with even a cursory interest over the past decade, you know that Asia is the major hotbed for illegal activity in the wildlife trade.
Rhinos are being slaughtered at a horrific rate to meet the “need” for their horn. Elephants are murdered for their ivory. Tigers are hunted for the alleged aphrodisiacal powers of their penis. Millions of sharks are mutilated– their fins hacked off while they’re still alive– to make shark fin soup. And thousands of Asiatic black bears (a.k.a. moon bears) are kept in cramped cages, with machines sucking out their bile for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It was the latter practice that inspired British-born Jill Robinson to create the Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong-based charity whose mission is to end cruelty to animals in Asia. Awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in 1998, and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries award for world’s best sanctuary in 2011, Robinson has worked tirelessly to end the barbaric practice of bear bile farming, improve animal welfare in Asia, and educate China’s government and general public on the importance of wildlife consrvation.
It was an honor to speak with Robinson about the Animals Asia Foundation mission, the challenges facing wildlife conservation in Asia, and what she sees as signs of hope for the future.
SPECIES: Slow loris (genus Nycticebus)
CURRENT RANGE: Tropical evergreen rainforests across Southeast Asia
CURRENT THREATS: Deforestation and the illegal animal trade
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: In Southern Asia (from India east to China and the Philippines) and zoos all over the world
What is it?
Slow Lorises are a group of several species of primates, varying in colour from grey to white depending on their range, with dark rings around their eyes and a stripe running down their back. There are eight valid types of Slow Soris, each with their own variation in colour. Their strong grasp (with both hands and feet) make them accomplished climbers, albeit unhurried. They can grow up to 38cm tall and range in weight depending on the species, from 250g to 2 kilos. Because they’re nocturnal and live in trees, during the day you’ll usually find the slow loris curled up in a tight ball high in the branches, with their head between their thighs. They stir around sunset and walk slowly on all fours, usually alone, through the forest, the males having a larger range than the females. They’re the only primate in the world with a venemous bite, releasing a flesh-rotting poison that can be fatal to humans.
SPECIES: Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
CURRENT RANGE: Forests and lowland swamps of Central Africa
CURRENT THREATS: Poaching for bushmeat, disease, and human settlements encroaching on gorilla space
CONSERVATION STATUS: Critically endangered
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: In the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas in the Central African Republic. In the future, tourists will be able to see them at Ntokou-Pikounda National Park in the Republic of Congo
What is it?
The Western Lowland Gorilla is an endangered species slightly smaller than their cousins, the Mountain Gorilla, with shorter brown-grey coats and auburn chests. Other distinguishing features include longer arms, smaller ears, and more pronounced brow ridges. The average standing height of a western lowland gorilla is 4-6 feet, and their weight can lie anywhere between 150 and 400 pounds. Settling in the rainforests of central Africa, these gorillas are usually found in communities (or ‘troops’) of up to 30 individuals, which are split off into families of around 4 to 8 members, making them the smallest family groups of all gorillas. The home range of Western Lowland Gorillas can be anywhere between 3/4 of a mile to 16 miles, and the leader of the troop organizes activities such as eating and nesting within this range. Their diet tends to consist of roots, shoots, fruit, tree bark and pulp, which can be found in abundance in their regions in Africa.