The Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) is a large bird in the Bucerotidae family of hornbills. It is also known as the Concave-Casqued Hornbill, Great Indian Hornbill, and Great Pied Hornbill. It is categorized as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since 2018. 

The Great Hornbill has a massive beak or bill, and the top part of the beak is yellow, whereas the bottom part of the beak is white. On top of the bill is a bright yellow and black casque (a boney structure) – the casque is hollow, concave and U-shaped with two ridges. The female has bluish-white eyes and pink skin around the eyes, and the male has red eyes. The male and the female have long eyelashes.

It has black feathers with yellow and white markings. Its long tail is mainly white with a black band.

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The problem-solving skills of the Striated Caracara

The Striated Caracara can solve problems just as much as Cockatoos can, reports the New Scientist magazine in November 2023 about a study at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria. The Johnny Rook Project was conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Marine and Coastal Research at the National University of Mar del Plata in Argentina and the Austral Scientific Research Centre in Ushuaia in Argentina. It was funded by the Austrian Science Fund.

Researchers at the Comparative Cognition Unit at the University of Veterinary Medicine (VetMedUni) Vienna, led by cognitive ecologist Katie Harrington, conducted studies on the problem-solving skills of the Striated Caracara in the Falkland Islands. 

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Gilles Aillaud’s “Encyclopedia of All Animals including Minerals

An exhibition of Gilles Aillaud’s artworks is presented at the Librairie Galerie Métamorphoses in the 6th arrondissement in Paris. 

Gilles Aillaud (1928-2005) was an internationally known French artist, set decorator, and scenographer. The exhibition is the artwork from his book “D’après nature – Encyclopedie de tous les animaux y compris les mineraux” (According to Nature – Encyclopedia of All Animals including Minerals). The current edition was reprinted in 2010 by editor Andre Dimanche. 

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China-America Giant Panda program ends after 50 years

The China-America Giant Panda program at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC has come to its natural end after 50 years. But maybe a new China-America loan program will commence and continue America’s love affair with the Giant Panda. 

The Atlanta Zoo in Georgia still has its Giant Pandas, although the loan program expires in late 2024. 

The agreement for the loan was that all offspring of any Giant Panda in America, or any other country, are required to travel home to China when they are of travel age. The Atlanta Zoo’s Giant Panda couple Lun Lun and Yang Yang have had five offspring returned to China. There are two offspring still in Atlanta – Ya Lun and Xi Lun. All four of them – the parents and the two cubs – will return to China at the end of 2024.

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Red-Billed Blue Magpie

The Red-Billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha) is a bird in the Corvidae family of crows and magpies. It is a corvid. 

The Red-Billed Blue Magpie has a black head, black neck, and black chest with bluish spots on its crown. Its shoulders and rump are duller blue and its underparts are greyish-cream. Its long tail is bright blue with a broad white tip. Its beak is bright orange-red. Its legs, feet, and eye-rings are also orange-red. 

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White Rhino rewilding project in Africa

Two thousand White Rhinos will be released into wild reserves, due a conservation project organized by African Parks. 

African Parks, a conversation group that co-manages protected areas in several African countries, acquired a large captive herd of the Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) from a private estate in South Africa. This represents about 15% of the total population of the species, according to the New Scientist magazine (7 September 2023). 

The herd mainly consists of wild-caught rhinos, and rhinos born in captivity.

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Migratory Locust – a Short-Horned Grasshopper

The Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria) is an insect in the Acrididae family of Short-Horned Grasshoppers.

The Migratory Locust varies in colour from black to brownish to yellowish and green, depending on the colour of the vegetation. Generally, it has a blackish-brown back and light-brown belly and face. It has short antennae. It has long wings and long legs.

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Lyle’s Flying Fox

The Lyle’s Flying Fox (Pteropus lylei) is a mammal in the Pteropodidae family of bats. It is categorized as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. It is also called a Fruit Bat.

The Lyle’s Flying Fox is a medium-sized furry bat with a long snout, large eyes, pointed ears, and a fox-like face. It upper parts are mainly black, with a wide collar of orange fur. It sometimes has a dark-brown or yellowish-brown lower body. Its wings are black or dark-brown. The underparts of its wings are dark-brownish black. It does not have a tail. It has sharp, curved claws on its toes. 

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Giant African Land Snail

The Giant African Land Snail (Lissachatina fulica) is a large mollusc in the Achatinidae family. 

It is regarded as an environmental and agricultural pest (an invasive species) when it is introduced into other countries in other continents. The photographed snail was found in south-east Asia, in Cambodia. It is a pest because it damages agricultural crops and native plants. It is listed in the top 100 invasive species in the world.

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Cambodia’s oldest elephant, Sambo, dies aged 63

Cambodia’s oldest elephant, Sambo, died on 19 October 2023, and the country is in mourming. 

She was the oldest elephant in Cambodia, aged 63, and survived the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. When the Khmer Rouge took power, Sambo’s owner Sin Sorn had to hand her over to the Khmer Rouge authorities, with five other elephants. They all died in the poor living conditions, with Sambo the only survivor.

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Common Mud Dauber Wasp

The Common Mud Dauber Wasp (Chalybion japonicum) is an insect in the Sphecidae family of blue mud dauber wasps. It is also known as the Japanese Mud Dauber Wasp, Japanese Mud Wasp, and Japanese Dirt Dauber.

The Common Mud Dauber Wasp has a long, blue-black body with a very thin, long, waist, and a large head and abdomen. It is known as a thread-waisted body. Its wings are translucent. Its six legs dangle downward when it flies. Its eyes are large. Its antennae have 12-13 segments. It has a stinger, but stings to humans are rare.

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Slender Green-Winged Grasshopper

The Slender Green-Winged Grasshopper (Aiolopus thalassinus thalassinus) is an invertebrate insect in the Acrididae family of grasshoppers.

The Slender Green-Winged Grasshopper can be brown to dark-brown with lime to grass green on its head and thighs. It is paler on its underbelly. It has large eyes, medium-sized antennae, and an elongated body. Its legs have three segments, ending with small claw-like appendages. Its back legs are enlarged, which enable it to jump long distances. The male has a pair of wings and can fly, wheres the female has basic wings and cannot fly well. The wings are green.

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Asian Wrinkled-Lipped Free-Tailed Bat

Phnom Sampeau (Ship Mountain) is a limestone mountain along National Road 57, about 12 kilometres (7 miles) from the city of Battambang in Cambodia. The mountain is 100 metres (328 feet) high with three natural caves, famous for its colonies of over one million Asian Wrinkle-Lipped Free-Tailed Bats. There are 13 known colonies in Cambodia with a total of 6.5 million bats.

The Asian Wrinkle-Lipped Free-Tailed Bat (Chaerephon plicatus) is a flying mammal in the Molossidae family. Plicatus means ‘folded’ because the upper lips and the ears of the bat look folded and wrinkled.

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South Sudan House Sparrow 

The South Sudan House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a small bird in the Passeridae family of sparrows.

The South Sudan House Sparrow is small with a short, thick greyish-black beak, light beige legs, and a short tail. The male has black, white, and brown feathers, with grey underparts. The female has more grey feathers on her back than the male. The male has a dark-grey crown and a black patch on its throat. The female has no black markings or dark-grey crown. The female has a V-shaped mark on her chest that looks like necklace.

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RESEARCH: City birds are braver after pandemic lockdowns

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, humans stayed inside. This period was called the ‘anthropause period.’ This gave researchers an opportunity to study the behaviour of urban (city) birds when humans were not around. 

During the anthropause, in cities, there were fewer people, fewer vehicles, less pollution, and less noise. In a study published in the Science journal in September 2020 by researchers in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in America, it was found that White-Crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) changed their songs – with less noise to compete with, their songs became louder. 

When lockdown finished, researchers were interested in how birds behaved when humans resumed their usual acitivities.

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Claws of the Tasmanian Devil 

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a marsupial mammal from Tasmania, Australia. It is a dasyurid.

It is the size of a small dog, but it is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. It grows to about 65 centimetres (26 inches) long. 

Similar to a hyena, its front legs are slightly longer than its back legs. Its jaws and teeth are similar to a hyena’s jaws – very strong and powerful, enabling it to crush bones and tear meat from its prey. It eats small kangaroos, wombats, possums, sheep, birds, fish, reptiles, vegetation, and carcasses (the bodies of dead animals).

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Ragdoll Cat

The Ragdoll Cat (Felis catus) is a breed of domesticated cat in the Felidae family. It is called Ragdoll because it goes limp (floppy) and relaxed when it is picked up. It is often known as an ‘apartment cat.’

The Ragdoll Cat has a semi-long, silky, soft coat of hair. It has blue eyes, thick limbs, a soft body, and a long, bushy tail. It has a wide space between the ears. Some have upside-down V-shaped markings on their forehead. 

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