Meet the animals

Meet the animals

Credit: Keith Lovett / Palm Beach Zoo

Meet the animals


Posted on March 31, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:34 AM

Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)

Range and Habitat - The Malayan tiger is endemic to southern and central Malay Peninsula. This includes only peninsular Malaysia and its border area with the southern tip of Thailand. On the Malay Peninsula, streams and rivers cut through vast tropi-cal and sub-tropical rain forests which extend from lowlands to over a mile high. The heat, humidity and rainfall promote high diversity of life including many tiger prey species. While mangrove swamps line the west coast of the peninsula, the Malayan tigers mostly inhabit the lowland forests.

Physical description - Length from head to tail: 7 - 8 feet (2 - 2.4 m). Adult weight: average male 260 pounds (118 kg); female 220 pounds (100 kg)

Life Expectancy - In the wild around 15 years ; 18 to 20 or more in zoos.

Diet - In the wild: Carnivorous. The prey base in the Malay Peninsula includes sam-bar and barking deer, wild boar and bearded pigs, sun bear, tapir, elephant calves and domestic livestock. At the zoo: Meat from beef, mutton, chicken, rabbit; beef knuckle bones; commercially prepared feline diet. Treats of trout, chicks and turkey.

Hunting - Built to kill - Tigers possess excellent hunting characteristics. Longer hindlegs power long distance leaps and charges. Heavily muscled forelimbs and shoulders, and paws equipped with long retractable claws enable tigers to grasp prey. The tiger’s weight combines with a charge’s mo-mentum to take down large animals. Powerful jaws and long canines deliver killing bites. Throat holds on bigger animals cause suffocation, while bites to the nape of smaller ones snap vertebrae. Tigers have keen eyesight and acute hearing useful in hunting during dawn, dusk or night.

Tiger hunting strategy depends on stealth and dense cover. Superb striped camouflage combined with great patience and silent stalking allow a tiger to creep within 30 to 35 feet of prey. Tigers attain speeds of up to 35 miles an hour but are capable of short charges. The final lightening rush only results in success of one out of 10 to 20 attempts. After a kill, the tiger eats after dragging the carcass to a secluded area. Tigers can consume up to 90 pounds (41 kg) of meat; how-ever, 36 pounds (16 kg) make an average meal. Afterwards, they cover the carcass to conceal it from scavengers, and return for later feedings. Sandpaper-rough tongues enable tigers to clean all flesh from bones. Typically, they make kills once or twice a week.

Conservation Connection - All tigers are listed as endangered; as few as 3,000 to 3,900 tigers remained in the wild. Expansion of human activities, such as agriculture, logging, and road building, both reduce and fragment tiger habitat. Habitat loss reduces the tiger prey base resulting in increased human-tiger conflict. Persecution due to livestock loss, hunting for trophy items, and poaching for tiger parts seriously add to the problem. Body parts of over 1,000 tigers entered the tiger parts trade in the past 10 years. Groups are taking action now to restore tiger habitat and reduce human-tiger conflict and poaching. Ma-laysia aims to triple the tiger population from the current 500 to 1,500 by 2020.

Woodland Park Zoo will participate in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Malayan tigers. SSPs are cooperative breeding programs to help ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability of endan-gered species in North American zoos and aquariums. SSP programs also involve a variety of other collaborative con-servation activities such as research, public education and international field projects.


Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)

Range and Habitat - Sloth bears are found in the lower elevations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Their habitat varies seasonally due to weather and climate; in-cludes forests, grasslands, thorny woodlands and wet tropical regions.

Physical Description - Adult male: up to 6.25 feet (1.9 m) long, up to 36 inches (92 cm) tall, 200-320 pounds (91-145 kg); adult female: 121-210 pounds (55-95 kg); females and males do not differ greatly in height or length.

Life Span - Life span in the wild is unknown; up to 40 years in captivity.

Diet - In the wild: Sloth bears are omnivorous, but their diet depends greatly on the local habitat and season. Diet can consist of termites or other insects, grubs, raiding of cultivated crops, grass, honey, eggs, carrion, fruits, berries and flowers.
At the zoo: Omnivore chow, insects, honey, browse, eggs, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Sloth or Bear? These animals were initially classified as bear sloths, due to their slow gait and ability to climb trees. Not until 1810 did the classification change; for sake of simplicity, the name was switched to sloth bear.

Sloth bears have a long, rough and shaggy coat of thick, reddish-brown to black fur. Similar to other species of Asian bears, they have a white or yellow mark on their chest shaped like a U, V or Y. There is little hair on their underbelly. Some sloth bears also have a white muzzle and white paw tips. Sloth bears prefer to forage at night, in a solitary fashion, when temperatures are cooler. However, females with cubs forage during the day, so as not to compete with other bears or nocturnal predators for resources.

Huff and Puff! - Perhaps another reason that sloth bears were thought to be sloths was their massive consumption of insects, especially termites. Because termite and ant colonies are an abundant and consistent source of food for sloth bears, they are the only bear specifically adapted for feeding on insects. Sloth bears dig out insect mounds with their sharp, 3-inch (7.6 cm) long claws. Then, they blow away the dirt and debris with their long, mobile lips. Finally, with a huge breath, the sloth bear sucks out the termites. Since sloth bears lack their two front incisors and have a hollowed palate, they can quickly remove the insects like a high-powered vacuum. Sloth bears also love honey, and they will easily climb up to 26 feet (8 m) into the trees or hang from branches to raid honeycombs.

Conservation Connection - Sloth bears are an endangered species. Less than 10,000 remain in the wild. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, competition with other animals (particularly humans) for space and food, deforestation, and the bear parts trade for use in traditional Asian medicines. Although protection has improved for sloth bears, some Asian countries still allow hunting of sloth bears and unrestricted trade of bear parts. Even in the USA, some states allow the sale of bear parts taken through hunting. For all bears, their long-term survival requires large, remote and protected areas of habitat, together with the elimination of the bear parts trade. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) has a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the sloth bear. The SSP is developing an in situ conservation program for the sloth bear, as well as spon-soring participation in bear research programs. Woodland Park Zoo participates in SSP captive breeding programs and research.


Asian Small-Clawed Otter (Anoyx cinerea)


Range and Habitat - The Asian small-clawed otter ranges throughout India, Indo-nesian islands, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, southern China and Palawan in the Philippines. While most inhabit tropical or subtropical regions, others live in submontane streams in the Himalayan foothills. They use natural habitats of ponds and lakes, rivers and streams, coastal tide pools and estuaries, freshwater and mangrove swamps, and also human habitats, especially rice fields.

Physical description - Length from head to tail: 2 – 3 feet (0.6 – 0.9 m); tail 8 – 12 inches (0.2 – 0.3 m); Weight: 2.2 – 11 pounds (1 – 5 kg)

Life span - In the wild up to 10 years; around 11 years in captivity.

Diet - In the wild: Carnivorous. Invertebrates such as crabs, mollusks and snails comprise major food sources along with small fish and amphibians. Diet includes insects, birds and bird eggs, rodents, snakes and worms.

Lifestyle - Life in a lodge - A group of otters comprise a “lodge.” With large families, Asian small-clawed otters are more social than most otter spe-cies. They are also more vocal with at least 12 different vocalizations. Each whistle, buzz, twitter, chirp or staccato chuckle has distinct meaning, such as alarm, distress, greeting or mating calls.

Otters live a high energy life style. Very high metabolism rates help keep their bodies warm in cold water. This requires frequent eating and multiple hunting sessions each day. Otters are fast, flexible swimmers and can remain underwater five minutes or perhaps longer. Asian small-clawed otters prefer shallow waters where they probe in mud and under rocks for prey. Their long, sensitive whiskers and short but nimble fingers detect prey. Their large, broad back teeth crush hard shells of crabs and snails. Asian small-clawed otters spend more time on land than most otters. On banks or back at the den, they dry their fur by rolling or rubbing, groom to maintain the fur’s insulation, and rest. Otters can be ag-ile and quick on land, allowing them to flee to water for safety.

Conservation Connection - Of the 13 species of otters, eight are either Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened; one is Data Deficient; with only four listed as Least Concern by IUCN Red List in 2011. With rapidly declining habitat, range and population, the Asian small-clawed otter moved from Near Threatened status in 2004 to the more serious Vulnerable category in 2008. The population in the wild is unknown with some estimates at 5,000 and others at far fewer. Once common, Asian small-clawed otters are locally extinct in Hong Kong, Singapore and in India’s Sunderbans and East Calcutta. While all otter species have “Protected Status” under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and killing is prohibited in most range countries, enforcement remains very limited.

Habitat loss presents otters the gravest threat. As southern and southeastern Asian populations grow rapidly, human activities expand into otter habitat. Deforestation, drainage of wetlands and growth of plantations drastically reduce suita-ble habitat. Housing areas with accompanying sewage and trash, agriculture and aquaculture, plus industry and mining all introduce pollutants. Pesticides, heavy metals and wide-spread use of PCBs (an organic compound) seriously impact otter health. The otters’ prey base also suffers and declines. Other otter species (smooth-coated, Eurasian and hairy-nosed) share ranges with Asian small-clawed otters, as well as many, many other endangered species including Ma-layan and Sumatran tigers, elephants, orangutans and tapirs.