February 24, 2009 --
While we suffer through Arctic weather, it's fun to dream of warm, tropical places. So several animal ambassadors from Discovery Cove in Orlando have come to visit and bring us a little feel of sunny Florida. They'll also teach us something about the tropical lands that they call home. Red-Ruffed Lemur (Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay) Active, tree dwelling primates with catlike nose and whiskers; fur is soft and coloration is reddish brown with black markings. Their diet is predominantly vegetation such as flowers, fruit, seeds, nectar, and leaves They reach sexual maturity at 20 months old They live to be at least 18 years old Found in the tropical rainforest of Northwestern peninsula of Madagascar Their status is listed by USFWS and IUCN as endangered; protected by CITES Appendix I
Lemur Ecology and Conservation:
Lemurs fill an important ecological role of Madagascar. These primates often feed on an assortment of seasonal fruits and as they travel throughout their environment, they disperse undigested seeds in their manure. The seeds soon sprout to replenish the vegetation that sustains Madagascar's unique inhabitants. This is very important on an island where over 80% of the original habitats have been lost to logging and agriculture. The Malagasy people struggle to save their country's dwindling biodiversity. They maintain national parks to protect wildlife, support the ecotourism industry, and search for less damaging methods of farming.
Kinkajou (Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove) Kinkajous are found throughout Central and South America from southern Mexico to southern Brazil. Being nocturnal and arboreal creatures, kinkajous spend most of their lives foraging for fruit and flowers under the cover of darkness high in the rainforest canopy. The kinkajou is classified as a carnivore because of its physiology, but has a mainly frugivorous (fruit-eating) diet, eating only the occasional egg, frog and insect. They will eat honey, tender green shoots and flowers. They drink very little water, with the main source of hydration being fruit. Because of their long tongues, kinkajous can get to nectar in the deepest flower (like the balsa). The kinkajou is threatened due to deforestation and fur hunting.
Golden conures (Discovery Cove) Found in South America (Brazil) Life span is 40-45 years They reach sexual maturity at 3 years Breeding period is from Nov-Feb Their diet consists of exotic fruits, flower buds, cultured maize Their status is endangered Also known as Queen of Bavaria's Conure Golden Conures are the largest species of conure
Laughing Kookaburra (SeaWorld and Discovery Cove in Orlando) Kookaburras are native to Australia and are typically found in savannah areas near water. They are very territorial. Some believe that the unusual sounds made help distinguish the hierarchy among a group of birds. Their diet consists of bugs, small rodents such as mice, small lizards and small snakes and fish. Kookaburras are the largest member of the kingfisher family. These birds nest in the cavities of trees. Older chicks typically assist with the rearing of new ones. Adult kookaburras measure about 6-7 inches in height and weigh just under one pound. Males typically have a blue tint on the rump. Interesting fact: Since the birds can't pass fur and bones, they regularly "cast pellets" -- or spit up chunks of indigestible stuff including fur and bones
For more information on these animals, visit www.worldsofdiscovery.com.