Category Archives: endangered species

Biodiversity challenge – Umbrellabird

Canopy slyness

Rainforest quiz:
Is there a way of staying dry?
How do you solve
The daily downpour problem?
Here’s a thought:
Why not evolve
To sport a built-in brolly?
Golly, well I never.
Jolly clever.
Wattle they think of next?

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Species profile: Umbrellabird

IUCN Red List: Endangered

Umbrellabirds live in the rainforests of Central and South America. They are among the largest passerines (perching birds) in the world. Distinctive features include their almost totally black plumage, a conspicuous, umbrella-like crest on their crown, and an inflatable wattle on their neck, which amplifies their booming calls when the males gather at ‘leks’ to attract a mate. The long-wattled umbrellabird is endemic to the Chocó rainforest along the western slopes of the Andes in Colombia and Ecuador. The bare-necked umbrellabird, which has a bright-red throat pouch and wattle, is restricted to Costa Rica and western Panama. Both these species are threatened by deforestation, habitat conversion, and hunting to supply the caged bird trade.

Biodiversity challenge – Mangrove finch

Swamped

Darwin’s darling,
One foot
In the tomb.
The famous finch
One inch
From doom.
Oppressed by
Uninvited guests,
One hundred
Beaks unique
To Isabela’s
Salty womb
Hunker down
Inside their
Hundred hectare
Panic room.
A wing,
A prayer,
One square
Kilometre of light
Amid the gloom.
One final fling:
Bring on the
Baby boom.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Biodiversity challenge – Kagu

Grey spirit 

Phantom of the forest,
Ghost of Caledonia past,
Caught yapping.
Earthbound, hapless
Headdress chicken,
Easy meat.
Not flying, but flapping.
Feral future lapping
At your coral feet.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Biodiversity challenge – Floreana mockingbird

To save a mockingbird

Ground zero
For a scientific superhero,
Far-flung Floreana,
Former mockingbird nirvana.
Here the chosen one
Dropped anchor,
Found the inspiration
For his show and tell,
Sailed home and
Dropped his bombshell,
Blew a crater in creation’s well
Of wishful thinking.

Gone, long gone,
The great man and his Beagle,
Gone without a trace
The bird that spurred him on;
Displaced by space invaders,
Banished to a brace of
Offshore dots no bigger than
A giant tortoise carapace.

Time to pull a rabbit from the hat,
Restore the habitat,
Depose those reigning
Cats and dogs,
Deport the greedy goats,
Repair the prickly pear,
Remove the rats,
Kick out the new kids on the block,
Turn back the clock,
Return the mock.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Species profile: Floreana mockingbird

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

The Floreana mockingbird was once common on the island of that name and, along with two other mockingbird species on neighbouring islands, played a pivotal role in the theory of Natural Selection that Charles Darwin proposed after visiting the Galapagos archipelago. Within 50 years of Darwin’s departure, the mockingbird had disappeared from Floreana, driven out by invasive black rats and loss of habitat. The species now clings to survival on two tiny, predator-free nearby islets. It is one of the rarest and most endangered birds in the world. A ten-year rescue plan is under way to eradicate all introduced species from Floreana, restore the degraded habitat, and reintroduce the mockingbird to its former home.

Biodiversity challenge – Mallorcan midwife toad

Midwife crisis

No strings attached,
She said.
Now see how
Sticky shackles
Cramp his style
More than a tad.
Her long-term plan
Already hatched;
Not so, his heavy load.
Her fate, the open road,
No fixed abode,
A rolling toad;
Her mate, a little flat.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Species profile: Mallorcan midwife toad

IUCN Red List Category: Vulnerable

Found only on the island of that name, the Mallorcan midwife toad was believed to have gone extinct 2000 years ago until several populations were discovered in remote mountain brooks in 1980. Like others in its genus, this toad has an unusual breeding strategy in that the females fight over the males, and the males carry the developing eggs, wrapped around their ankles in strings, until the tadpoles emerge. This declining species is down to around 500 breeding pairs and faces numerous threats to its survival. These include introduced predators like the viperine snake, and habitat loss resulting from pressure on water resources due to the growing numbers of tourists visiting the island.

Biodiversity challenge – Cuban solenodon

Fading star

*
Dwindle,
Dwindle,
Cuban star
Someone left
The door ajar.
Feral peril runs amok
Plundering the local stock.
Native mammals
Largely gone.
Can we save
Solenodon
?

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014

Species profile: Cuban solenodon

IUCN Red List Category: Endangered

The Cuban solenodon or almiqui is a small insectivorous mammal that superficially resembles a shrew on steroids. In fact, solenodons diverged from all other mammal species an incredible 76 million years ago. This is one of only two solenodon species left on the planet. Solenodons are the only mammals known to subdue their prey using toxic saliva. Formerly among the dominant native predators in the West Indies, they are now threatened with extinction as a result of falling prey to introduced predators such as mongooses, dogs and feral cats.

Biodiversity challenge – Hairy babirusa

That’s why they call me swine

When I was young they christened me the babirusa kid,
But once I started sprouting tusks, the jokers made a bid
To change it ’round to ‘Antler Face’; I was ‘Spikehead’ for a while,
Then ‘Ugly Mug’ and ‘Tooth Medusa’ used to make ’em smile;
And then, thanks to the scientists, I learned another term
When someone shouted: ‘Fellas, hey! A porcine pachyderm!’
But I don’t give a fig. I’m an extraordinary pig:

Well, just because my teeth are curly,
And just because my frame is burly;
Just because I always keep them guessing,
Wear my genes like a pig of means
(He’s visually unprepossessing);
Just because I’m happy wrinkled,
Drink mineral water, never wine;
Just because my body’s hairy,
– Visage slightly scary,
That’s why they call me swine.

(With thanks to Cecil Mack)

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014