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Archive for November, 2012

Living Fossils – A video of Asian tapir

Thursday, November 29, 2012 posted by Bruce 12:56 PM

Rare daytime footage of Asian Tapir

Tapir are considered living fossils as the genus has been traced back as far as Early Oligocene times. These remarkable mammals have been on the planet for about 40 million years. The first tapirs are named Miotapirus judging from fossil evidence found in North America. Tapiridae, a sub-family belong to the Order Perissodactyls, or odd-toed ungulates that goes back to the Late Paleocene 55 million years ago including rhinoceros-like creatures evolving in North America and eastern Asia from small animals similar to the first horses.

The Asian tapir Tapirus indicus, also called the Malayan tapir, is the only one native to Southeast Asia. It has an unmistakable black and white two-tone pattern distinguishing it from the other three tapir species of Central and South America. The Asian species is the largest, and is the only ‘Old World’ tapir with the females usually slightly larger than the males. They live in the rainforests of Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Sumatra.

This old male and female tapir visited this site more than once over two days. Most of the footage was captured by a Bushnell HD Trophy Cam, and the IR clip by a Ron Davis DXG 125v IR homebrew cam.

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African wildlife in Southern Kenya

Monday, November 26, 2012 posted by Bruce 5:01 PM

African Safari in May 2012 – Part Two

Africa is not just about the ‘Big Five’. It’s also about all the other amazing creatures and ecosystems that make up the tremendous biodiversity of flora and fauna found here.


Bull elephant just after a rain in Amboseli National Park

It can be said that Kenya is one of the most diverse and best-protected wildlife habitats anywhere in the world where tourists and photographers alike can consistently see and photograph wild animals up-close for the most part.

Striped hyena in Tsavo (East) National Park

However, some of Kenya’s wildlife is not that easy to spot like the rare striped hyena or sable antelope, while others are downright easy such as elephants and buffalo for example.

Sable antelope male in the mist at Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

Some species have become so habituated to safari vehicles and its occupants, especially lion and cheetah. Most times the big cats simply ignore you. But not all these animals are that tame like the elusive leopard, or even antelope like eland.

Eland bull in Nairobi National Park

Some creatures flee at the first sight of a vehicle and man (years and years of poaching pressure) knowing very well that retreat is the only safe course of action, and humans are not to be trusted.

Bat-eared fox near dusk in Amboseli

Hence, it is not always that easy as some might surmise. It’s about luck too. Some days are stellar while others are just mediocre. But for the most part, it is a photographers dream come true..!

Rock hyrax in Tsavo (West) National Park

While on safari, I shoot everything I see (through the lens of course) until I’m satisfied I have the shot, or the animal has left the scene.

Rock hyrax family in Tsavo

Over the past three years, I have made three trips to the ‘Dark Continent’ and you could say I’m addicted to the place. This trip I visited Amboseli and Tsavo national parks near Mount Kilomanjaro, Taita Wildlife Sanctuary nearby and Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary near the southern coastal city of Mombassa plus Nairobi National Park over two weeks.

Lioness during late afternoon in Tsavo (East) National Park

I traveled some 3,00o kilometers with my good friend and guide/driver, Patrick Mjoroge, a Kenya national. With more than 25 years of experience, he has been an important asset in my photographic quest. 

Lioness on the run after prey in Tsavo in Nairobi have also been very helpful in setting up my trips. They are truly one of Kenya’s best safari companies and I recommend them to anyone interested in going.

Another giraffe male in Tsavo (East)

I now have accumulated quite a lot of photographs for an up-coming book project about wildlife in Asia and Africa showing  a comparison between the two continents.

Giraffe during late afrternoon in Shimba Hills

At the end of the day, the game of wildlife photography is all about how lucky you are. What is around the next bush or bend in the road is the big question?

Zebra taking it easy in Amboseli

I have been very fortunate to visit Kenya but consistency, good photographic technique and equipment plus determination is the real secret to successful wildlife photography, whether it’s in Africa, Asia or the U.S. for that matter.

Thompson’s gazelle in Nairobi

Shortly (December 5th), I leave for Kenya once more (3-week trip) and hope I can close out a few more species still not in the bag like kudu and wild dog that have been very elusive.

Hippo mother and calf in Amboseli

It is hoped all will take pleasure in this photo essay as much as I have writing and photographing it. Enjoy…!

Additional photos while on safari in May:

Nile crocodile in Tsavo (West)

Cheetah on the prowl in Amboseli

Cheetah family in Amboseli

Cheetah on the run in Amboseli

Red hartebeest in Taita Wildlife Sanctuary

Thompson’s gazelle in Amboseli

Black-headed heron in Amboseli

Sacred ibis in Nairobi

Bateleur pair in Tsavo (East)

Glossy ibis in Tsavo (West)

Ostrich in Nairobi

Marabou stork in Tsavo (West)

Grey-headed crane in Amboseli

African fish eagle in Amboseli

Ground hornbills in Tsavo (West)

Sable male in Shimba Hills

Sable female and calf in Shimbe Hills


Cape buffalo in Nairobi National Park

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Spiders: The Ultimate Predator

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 posted by Bruce 11:36 PM

Thailand’s 8-legged arthropods

Lawn wolf spider in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary

It is said arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders is common among people around the world who have an inherent trepidation of these creepy crawlies. Just the thought of coming in contact with one is something most of us dread.

But there are few souls out there who love them and even keep spiders as pets. However, the vast majority of us tend to just stay out of their way. Some spiders can give a nasty bite although fatalities are rare.

Like all living things, spiders have to face life’s difficulties such as finding food and mates, producing offspring, and fending off danger. However, spiders are the ultimate predator, and have been on the planet for a very long time.

Ornamental spider female and smaller male in Lampang province

The ancestry and anatomy of spiders are different from those of insects. Spiders have eight legs not six, and their bodies are divided into two parts rather than three. Many people mistake spiders for bugs.

The family tree of spiders is as follows: Jumping spiders, the largest and most highly evolved family, with hunting spiders and web spinners making up the main group. Tarantulas and trap-door spiders and others in this group plus ‘six-eyed’ spiders make up modern-day spiders.

Spiders are an ancient group that first appeared during the Devonian period, almost 400 million years ago. By the Carboniferous period (300 mya) when insects were still relatively little developed, many highly evolved spiders already existed. These arthropods appeared about 100 million years before the first back-boned animals.


Green linx spider in Lampoon province

Scientists have identified some 43, 244 species around the world. More than 230 species have been recorded here in Thailand with many more to follow. There are just a few people researching spiders and hence, knowledge is bit limited.

Dr Patchanee Vichuitbhun and Prasit Wongprom working out of Kasetsart University in Bangkok are the country’s leading arachnologists. Some five other graduate students are also working on spiders.

Together with their eight-legged relatives, the scorpions, harestmen, mites and ticks, spiders form the class Arachinda. Spiders alone represent the order Araneae and are classified in a family tree that numbers three suborders and 111 families.

Bird-eating spider in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Spiders are found virtually everywhere: in the house, in the garden, in forests, in caves, and in most other terrestrial habitats throughout the world. A few species live under water and some even in the marine tidal zone. The only place with no spiders is Antarctica.

While the greatest diversity of species occurs in tropical rainforest, spiders are also very well represented in temperate woodland and grassland. Spiders thrive wherever there is rich vegetation and plenty of insects or other arthropods.

Thailand has plenty of big scary-looking spiders but only a few species will actually bite a human being. Luckily, deaths from spider bites are very rare-less than 3 per year across the whole world and these are generally a result of allergic reactions.


Decoy spider in Chiang Mai province

Although virtually all spiders possess venom, only a small number of species, probably fewer than a hundred in the world, have a sufficiently potent and effective bite to be of medical importance. Spiders use venom to quickly immobilize or kill their prey. It is also used in defense against animals, including man, but this is only a secondary purpose.

Thailand is home to very few spiders that are dangerous to people. However, the brown widow is the most venomous. Tarantulas and golden orb weavers attract notoriety more for their size than their bites. Monitor all spider bites carefully to avoid the development of secondary infections.

The spiders of medical importance in Asia include widow and cupboard spiders (also called brown house spiders or false widows (family Theridiidae) which venom contains neurotoxins. Though not especially venomous, a number of Asian tarantulas or bird-eating spiders can also be regarded as potentially dangerous.


Orb-web spider in Ankor Wat, Cambodia

In many countries around the world, the practice of keeping spiders as pets seems a bit on the extreme to most of us, especially if it is highly poisonous. A few years ago, a brown widow escaped from someone and it made front-page news in some newspapers here in Thailand.

A trip down to Chattuchak Market at the pet section can provide one with a spider. There are rows and rows of shops catering to anyone who wants one. Most species on display are tarantulas from South America but there are some Asian ones too.

The pet trade is alive and well here in a business as usual atmosphere. It seems most of these shops act with impunity and no matter how many raids the Department of National Parks makes, they just pop back up and carry on. It is really disheartening to see how these mafia-type groups continue to operate.

Orb-web spider in Chiang Mai province

 Most people are not aware the dangers of keeping a tarantula that will flick off barbed hairs when alarmed causing imbedded hairs in the eyes and hands of the pet owner. Eye surgeons might be able to remove some hairs from an eye but many are likely to remain causing a serious medical ailment.

Something else the public needs to worry about is the brown widow, an invasive species from North America related to the very famous and notorious black widow. The brown species is now confirmed in 20 provinces in Thailand, and probably came over on ships. The bite from one of these is extremely painful but there have been no fatalities here yet. There is no anti-venom for this species.

The most remarkable thing about spiders is the silk they make. We humans have not produced anything as strong, light and elastic. Spider silk is twice as strong as other silk producing insects like the silkworm moth.


Argiope sp. spider in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary

Besides the construction of webs, spiders have many other uses for their silk such as making nests, attach trapdoors, furnish burrows, and construct egg cocoons. Other uses are to wrap up and mummify their prey. It truly is some amazing stuff.

The coupling of two predatory and often shortsighted creatures can be a hazardous affair, particularly for the smaller male. In spiders, the battle of sexes is very intense and in some species, the male ends up being eaten after mating with the female. The size difference between the male and female can be seen in the photograph of the ornamental spider.

Spiders are extremely important in the balance of nature and play a big role in the elimination of vast numbers of pest insects. These unique creatures are allies of farmers and growers. Yet even if they were not useful, spiders would still deserve our whole-hearted respect as one of the most diverse and fascinating groups in the natural world.


Argiope sp. spider in Chiang Mai

Some people may disagree but if you bump into a spider, please let it go. These ancient creatures need our love and protection.

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Thailand’s mega-fauna caught on video

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 posted by Bruce 1:04 PM

A Bushnell Trophy Cam set to video (IR capture at night) catches mega-fauna at night (wild elephant, gaur, banteng, sambar and Indochinese tiger) walking up a game trail in the heart of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a World Heritage Site situated in Western Thailand. Interestingly, a female tiger fitted with a radio collar is caught twice during the one month stint. All these animals are thriving very well in this amazing protected area, and is a tribute to Thailand’s natural heritage.

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