Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Another loss Reunites Traveling Buddies

At the risk of making this the saddest place on the internet, I have another memorial post for another pet. Five weeks to the day of losing Amelia, we lost our hedgehog Molly. We got her when she was around one year old. The girl that had her had recently gotten a kitten that spent its free time attacked Molly's cage. She was also a smaller hedgehog with a little crooked nose, she was most likely the runt of a litter.

She lived by herself in a huge cage, but was nice enough to share her space if the need arose--which it did from time to time. She shared her housing with Amelia, the guinea pig that we last a few weeks ago. They shared the hut all the way from Texas to Oklahoma. After that they would hang out a little from time to time.
Molly is sleeping in the back as her and Amelia ride out our move. 

Always a happy little hedgehog unless you work her up during the day, then she would grumble, rumble, and curl up. Our dog would always run to where her cage was before we went to bed to tell her good morning and make sure we fed her. Her reaction to losing her was almost as sad as losing Molly.

A few days ago, Molly got sick, we tried to get her feeling better and eventually took an emergency trip to the vet. She was losing weight, slightly dehydrated, and not eating. The Vet gave us some quick weight gain stuff, antibiotics, and a baby food hourly feeling.

Attentively every hour, I gave her a little baby food with a syringe. She was showing some improvement by 4 yesterday morning, which was worth a little hope. Unfortunately, she was not to recover. I fed her at 11 last night, got her cleaned up from the residual baby food and she smacked down and seemed to like. I was on the couch next to where we had her wrapped up and decided to get her up and see how she was doing. She grumbled a little, but relaxed and let me scratch her belly.

She was on my chest when she stopped breathing. It took awhile to be able to go upstairs and wake up my wife. Our dog had to get on the couch and look into the little box where we had put her. Her reaction delayed us leaving for a few more minutes. So, in the middle of the night, we took her and laid her to rest next to her traveling companion.

Another tale of a rescued pet living out its life with us in comfort that is not meant to sadden but to reflect on what small pets can mean to people. It is especially difficult when you work so hard to help them get better, only to have them not make it. Being there when life disappears from a body, has been the one thing that I have never hardened myself to. But, I was with her until the end and she was comfortable, which I guess is the best you can hope for in such a situation. She was resting peacefully when she died, and I hope that she will continue to be so.

Hopefully, Molly's passing will be the last one for a while, another problem we have is that most of our small mammals are the same age, so they will all be getting old and infirm at the same time. Most of them probably wouldn't have lived as long as they have elsewhere, but that is little comfort when they do pass.

That being said, don't get small pets to teach children responsibility, give them chores or a job, or something. For some they are just pets, expendable, exchangeable. But for us, they are a part of us, a part of life, and when that life is extinguished, by illness or old age, there is an unspeakable loss that logical thinking deems silly, but emotional responses claim otherwise.

I cannot express how physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted I am. My wife went in to teach her class today and I went in to work for a bit, but this has been taxing on both of us. Knowing she is with Amelia is about as much comfort as we have--and that is better than none. Definitely makes one think about what Hope was doing in Pandora's box with all those other horrible things---to have it and have it shattered--is that worse than not having any at all? At the time, maybe not, but it's still painful--and there are so many cute pictures of happy hedgehogs that go around facebook, it's going to hard to avoid.

Goodbye Molly, we love and miss you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pangolins: The Armored Among Us

  Any time a documentary or nature channel wants to show viewers how weird nature can be the pangolin is bound to make an appearance. The only mammal with scales always shows up in an extreme mammal montage complete with requisite cute video of them rolling into a ball to protect itself.

          As usual, there is more to the story than that. The 8 species of  "scaly anteaters" are equally distributed across the tropics with 4 species in Africa--The Cape of Temminck"s ground pangoling (Manis temminckii), Tree of African white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), and the Long-tailed or black bellied pangolin (Uromanis tetradactyla)
and 4 in Asia--Indian or thick tailed pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Chinese or Formosan pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Malayan or Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), and the Palawan or Phillippine pangolin (Manis culionensis). Some are arboreal, most are nocturnal, and nearly all are endangered. The terrestrial ones live in burrows that reach 11 feet (3.5 meters) in depth.Lacking teeth, the use their powerful claws to rip open termite dan ant mounds to get at the delicate insect morsels inside. The trouble is, people are doing the same thing to the Pangolins.

     Their front claws are huge. Unlike their larger cousins who walk with their front claws curled under, the terrestrial pangolin waddles on its hind legs with its large tail acting as a type of counterweight. The resulting gait looks something like an old stooped woodcutting dwarf roaming around the forest floor.

         A few weeks ago, a Chinese vessel that had crashed into a reef of the Philippines was discovered to have more than 10,000kg of pangolin meat. The Guardian published the article on April 15. Subsequent poachers have been caught in Vietnam, Thailand, and India.

         The desire for pangolin scales and/or meat is not a new phenomenon. Back in 1820, King George III was presented with this pangolin scale shirt.

Their scales are made of keratin, the same substance as human hair and rhinoceros horn. Their scales along make up about 20% of their body weight, which depending on species can range from 30-40 pounds (~13.6-18kg)

Every part of the pangolin is in demand. They are hunted mainly for meat, jewelry, and--you guessed it--traditional chinese medicine. The only hard facts that anyone has about the illegal pangolin trade is that it is happening on an alarming, almost incomprehensible scale.

   Today groups like the   Project Pangolin are working tirelessly to raise awareness of these endangered animals. If not the most often poached and smuggled wildlife, they are at least near the top of the list. If you are on facebook you can like Project Pangolin's page, and get updates on your home feed. It's not all doom and gloom, they share some really great images of pangolins and of the people that work to help end the threat to these guys. 

They are being killed faster than they can reproduce. Their gestation ranges from 60 days in some species to
over twice that long in others (139 days). They usually have one pangopup (yes, that is really what they are called) although some Asian species can have 2 or 3. They are about 6 inches (15 cm) at birth and weigh about 3/4 of a pound. (12 ounces or so). Their scales are soft, but will harden by their second day. They are mammals, so the babies nurse. They can eat termites and ants after a month, but usually nurse for three or four. Just like their larger cousins, these little anteaters carry their pups on their backs, where the coloration can help camouflage the infant. As long as the baby is small enough, the mother will roll up around it if there is danger.

I will end with a peek at an extinct pangolin found in Messel. Eomanis is the earliest known "true-scaled" pangolin from the eocene. The name means "Dawn Ghost" and thanks to the quality of preservation scientist have been able to determine that this early pangolin dined on insects and plants. (maybe it ate the plants because it was sick?) Not sure, but without help the remaining species of this family will all go the way of their Dawn Ghost ancestor.