Coati, or coatimundi, in Les Mammifères by Louis Figuier. 1879. 140 years ago. One of the many old books that gather dust on my shelves. That one fell apart. Had to restore it completely, all the while thinking I could make a buck cutting off the engravings and selling them for 10 euros a piece on the banks of the Seine. But no. Over my dead body. That – and other books – are a testimony to the wildlife that is disappearing at an alarming rate.
Coatimundi, Villahermosa, Mexico. c. 1992. Those little pests are in fact thriving. Like raccoons, they have adapted to human habitat and can be found in large flocks around tourist areas. Experts at finding food, they will launch at any plastic bag you may carry. (All the more reason to ban plastic bags). They look cute? Don’t try to grab them. Sharp teeth. 🙂
Cabiai or capivara, 1879. Three feet long, can weigh 100 to 180 pounds. The largest rodent on earth. Swims very well, lives in groups, the adults caring for the small ones. They live in many parts of South America, on the Amazon and other main rivers. Conservation status: LC, Least concern.
Brenda, the capivara, on the Peruvian bank of the Amazon, near “Three borders”, where Colombia, Brazil, and Peru converge on the Amazon. c. 2006. It’s called chigüiro in Colombia. Brenda was a very large and gentle pet. Loved to be scratched under the chin. Whistled with joy. Guinea pigs are her closest cousins.
Striped Hyena, 1879. One must remember that there were few photos then. Explorers went out to the heart of Africa or elsewhere with a sketch book. Completed the sketches on their return, handed the job to the engraver, and that’s what the public saw.
Spotted hyena, Maasaï Mara National park, Kenya, 1988. Hyenas have a bad reputation as scavengers. But they also hunt in packs as Jane Goodall demonstrated in one of her books. And play an important role in “cleaning” up the dead animals. Their cubs are very cute. Saw a “nest”, dug in the ground at Amboseli, later in the trip. No pix. Just video I need to digitalize… Conservation status: Least threatened.
Paresseux, sloth. 1879. Lives in South America tropical forest. The destruction of its habitat is a major source of concern.
Sloth, 2006, on a hike in the Amazon forest, near Leticia, Colombia. The rain forest doesn’t have much wildlife. Lots of mosquitoes, monkeys, the occasional tapir, or the elusive Jaguar. Snakes. Butterflies. Colourful – and venomous – frogs. We were very lucky when we spotted this sloth moving ever so slowly from one tree to the other. Took it about 30-40 minutes. Conservation status depends on the species from vulnerable to critically endangered.
Bubale, 1879. A large antelope once present across most of Africa, can now only be found in Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. The few countries that still maintain a strong conservation policy. There still are in South Africa too. (“Kikipedia” does not mention it, another evidence that it is not very reliable…) Conservation status: Least concerned.
Topi, Kenya, 1969. I’ve heard many names for that antelope: Bubale, Topi, Hartebeest. I would call it Kongoni, which is the Swahili name. On occasions one can see a member of the herd on top of a small mound, as a sentinel watching out for predators, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs.
*The last of the wild is a photo book by Eugen Schuhmacher I bought in 1967 on Kimathi Street in downtown Nairobi. (Still remember the bookshop) Even then there was mounting concern about the preservation of Nature and wildlife. Still have the book. But the wildlife?
Last but not least, the pangolin. 1879. A toothless insect eater, it is a mammal that developed scales for protection. Scales that have now become its doom. It can still be found in tropical Africa and South-East Asia. The body measures between one to three feet, with an even larger tail. The giant pangolin is about 4 to 4.6 ft. They eat ants and termites with their one foot long tongue. Some live in the trees, other species dig holes for sleeping and protection. When threatened, the pangolin can curl up as a hedgehog or armadillo, the scales forming an armour.
Granary door, Senufo tribe, Ivory coast. c. Mid 20th century. I’ve never seen a pangolin in the wild, though there were some in West Africa. All I have is this old granary door on a wall. Many African traditional cultures stored grain in clay granaries, with a small door at the top, to protect the grain against rodents or insects. But I’d never “seen” a pangolin. Until a few days ago in the blog of a dear E-friend:
Pangolin, South Africa, 2019. (c)ourtesy Dina Van Wyk. Dina was born and lives in South Africa. She is a great photographer and an ardent lover of wildlife. Do visit her blog at:
See the long claws? Useful to dig out termites. The small head and eyes. The scales are the pangolin’s doom. Conservation status: critically endangered for several species. Why? The scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Yes, like Rhino horns. To cure anything from acné to rheumatism to cancer… (Seriously?) The meat is also considered a delicacy. According to some reports, 1 to 2 million pangolins are poached every year. For scales that are nothing more than keratin. Our nails are keratin. Save your nail clippings. And sell them.
I was told in Paris that a rhino horn can fetch up to a million dollars on the black market. In comparison, the pangolin is cheap. One kilo (2 lbs) of pangolin scales is worth 3,000 bucks. 120 tons of pangolin and pangolin parts were seized between 2010 and 2015 worldwide (source: Guinness World Records). If we assume only 10% of illegal substances are seized, we’re talking 1200 tons of global pangolin traffic during that period. 240 tons a year at 3 million dollars a ton? Do the math.