Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Incredibly Interesting Iguana - by Rianne Hobbs

Iguanas are herbivorous reptiles, which means that they only eat plants! [1[You can find them in Central and Southern America, Mexico and the Caribbean [2]. Many of you may even have one as a pet, which if cared for properly, can live for 15-20 years [3]!
An Iguana has an extremely strong tail which is used to punch its enemies. If need be it can detach its tail from its body which allows it to escape from a predator a lot quicker. The broken tail will soon grow back and can grow to its original size! [2]
Artwork by Rianne Hobbs
Iguanas, like all reptiles, are cold blooded. This means that they like to be in warmer temperatures to keep them warm as they can’t make themselves warmer internally like me and you! [3]
Another interesting fact about Iguanas is that they have a third eye on top of their head! However, it does not produce images like our eyes do [4].
Some Iguanas are really good swimmers, in fact they can be underwater for up to 28 minutes without coming up for air! Some can even inflate themselves which causes them to float in water [5].
It’s not surprising that the iguanas who live high up in the trees can sometimes fall down, but they have the ability to live after falling from scary heights of up to 40-50 feet without hurting themselves, which is pretty amazing![4]
These are just a few of the many reasons why Iguanas are incredibly interesting indeed!



Monday, March 7, 2016

The Precious Pallas's Cat - by Rianne Hobbs

When you think of a wild cat you often picture a Tiger or a Lion, however, there are many different species of Cat that live in the world. One of the lesser known ones is the Pallas's Cat.
Pallas's Cats can be found throughout Asia and are best adapted to life high up in the mountains where the temperature is cooler. They will build their dens in crevices between rocks, in caves, or they may even steal another animal’s burrow and claim it as their own! [1]
Photo from Tokyo Times.
The Pallas's Cat is carnivorous, which means it eats meat, especially Pika and Voles. However, both Pika and Voles are viewed as pests and are being poisoned to get rid of them, which means there is less and less food for the Pallas's Cats to eat! 
As adorable and cute as the Pallas's Cat may be, just like other wild cats, it should not be kept as a pet! They aren’t adapted for living at low altitudes (near the ground) and are wild animals so they really need to live in the wild. [2]
Pallas's Cats can often be mistaken for Monkeys! However, this isn’t too surprising when you take into account their compact body shape, white chin, white cheeks and beard, and a flat face (Similar to a Persian cat) which may make it look very monkey-like from certain angles![3]

All of these facts and the photo make it very easy to see that the Pallas Cat is very precious indeed! 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Why I Love Dolphins (And You Should, Too!) - by Rianne Hobbs

Artwork by Rianne Hobbs
Many people will say that their favorite animal is a Dolphin and this isn’t surprising as they are extremely playful, friendly and intelligent animals. They are often seen jumping out of water, riding the waves and, if you are lucky, a dolphin may even approach you if you are swimming near them. [1]

Even though Dolphins live in the water, they aren’t fish! They are actually mammals like me and you!

Dolphins are found all over the world leading to 43 different species being recognized. Some dolphins prefer warmer waters and some prefer it colder, some prefer to live in the ocean and others prefer to live in rivers, so they’re not all the same![2] Just like in cows a male dolphin is called a “bull” a female a “cow” and babies are called “calves”.

Dolphins are carnivores, which means that they eat meat. They eat a wide range of animals such as fish, squid and crabs.[3] They tend to work as a group (Known as a “pod”!) in order to get their food, they do this by surrounding a school of fish and then ploughing straight through the middle to eat as many fish as they can. [2]

A lot of people will ask why Dolphins don’t drown while sleeping in the sea. The answer to this is that only one half of their brain goes to sleep while they sleep and the other half keeps them breathing! [3]

Dolphins talk to each other by making noises such as clicks and whistles and, just like Bats, they use echolocation to find the location of objects around them.[1] Bottlenose dolphins appear to identify each other by using a different whistle for each dolphin, much like you and your friends having different names![4]


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Beauty of Bats - by Rianne Hobbs

Bats belong to a group of animals known as “Mammals” - which is the group we belong to too, and they are the only mammal that can fly! 

There are more than 1000 species in the world. Different bats eat different things, those that eat fruits (Megabats!) and those that eat insects (Microbats!).[1] 

Artwork by Rianne Hobbs
Many people think bats are scary as they are associated with vampires however they’re not scary at all! In fact without them there would be many more creepy crawlies that destroy crops and cause diseases such as Mosquitoes which spread malaria, which in my opinion is much scarier![2] 

There are types of Bat known as “Vampire Bats” and this is because they live off of the blood of animals. However most of the time the animal doesn’t even know it’s been bitten as the Bat leaves only a small mark and only takes up a small amount of blood. 

Some bats help to pollinate plants and without these bats then certain types of plants wouldn’t exist. These bats are known as “Nectar-Eating Bats”.

Most of you have probably heard the expression “As blind as a Bat”, but I bet you didn’t know that bats aren’t actually blind, they can see almost as well as me and you! Bats are nocturnal which means that they are awake at night time and asleep during the day. So, when they are flying around in the dark and looking for food they use a special technique known as “Echolocation”. 

Echolocation is where bats give out a high pitched call and then wait for the echo which they then use to build maps in their minds of their surroundings.[3] Interestingly some blind humans have mastered this technique to “see” buildings and trees etc. although their calls aren’t quite as high pitched as a bats’! 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Beautiful Day at the Virginia Zoological Park

What a pleasant surprise to find this place! We were on vacation in the area and decided to go to the zoo. Truthfully, there are so many choices when on vacation a zoo isn't usually at the top of the list. We were very glad we decided to visit.

The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, Virginia is lovely, from the grand entrance with the huge granite ball and fountain, to the new Trail of the Tiger area, to the unique themed garden areas planted throughout the zoo. Even if the zoo didn't have any animals it would be a nice place to take a walk. But, of course, they have plenty of animals, and you can get up close and good views of just about everything.

The highlight of the day  for us was the red panda mother and her six week old cubs. Some of the monkeys were putting on quite a show, too, but the cuteness of a red panda cub is tough to match. Watching the mother carry her cub was priceless. You can see some of the video and learn more about red pandas in the YouTube video Have you heard of Red Pandas?

I always like zoos that have animal caretakers or volunteers available to answer questions and provide those little tidbits of information about the animals. This is great for the families with young kids because it really helps keep the kids engaged. The staff at the zoo was often present, nearby and willing and able to answer our questions. There were also signs posted about zoo keeper talk times too, but, unfortunately, we didn't happen to catch any of those.

Another nice feature of this zoo is the large raised walkway around the giraffe area. It is nice to be able to see the giraffes and other animals from an elevated viewpoint. There are a large number of animal exhibits you can look down into, including the bongos, African crowned crane, elephants, and more.

If you're on vacation in Virginia and considering going to the Virginia Zoo but haven't quite decided yet, I'd say go for it! Hopefully you'll have an animal adventure to remember.

If you do go and get any good pictures please share them with us on the Skyenimals Facebook page and on! Want to see more of our photos from our visit? Check out the Skyenimals Virginia Zoo page.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Have you heard of Red Pandas?

They are cute, they are elusive, they are often confused for raccoons, they are not well known, and they share a name with (and fall in the shadow of) the ever popular and world famous giant panda. They are Red Pandas, sometimes even called the "lesser" panda.

Well, let's set the record straight! The red panda was actually discovered and named many decades before the giant panda. The red panda is not a bear, like the giant panda is. The red panda is not a raccoon. In fact, the Red Panda does not have any close relatives in the animal kingdom. The Red Panda is the only living species left in the animal family Ailuridae. All other species from this family are now extinct.

The red panda is considered a living fossil, which is a living species of animal that has no close living relatives and has survived a major extinction event. The red panda species survived the ice age and their nearest relatives can only be found in fossil remains. Although the red panda has survived this long it needs our help to battle a declining population trend which is currently occurring.

Red pandas only live in select areas in the Himalayas. These areas are temperate forest areas that produce sufficient amounts of bamboo to sustain the red pandas. The red panda is threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and potential inbreeding depression. Inbreeding depression can happen when there are relatively few animals in a given area which can result in lower health in the animals in that area.
The Skyenimals team has recently started volunteering for the Red Panda Network to raise awareness of the red panda and their status in the wild. The Red Panda Network has been helping save red pandas in the wild since 2005 and is showing effectiveness in the local communities they work with in various red panda habitat areas.

If you like red pandas and are interested in helping you can start now! Simply share this blog post with your social network. Also, share the video below and subscribe to the Red Panda Network youtube and skyenimals youtube accounts to get notified of future animal and red panda videos.

Another great way to help, if you visit a zoo and take a red panda picture, share it on the Skyenimals Red Panda page, or post it on your Instagram or Facebook account and tag the @RedPandaNetwork in your post. A small effort like this will help spread the word about the red panda cause one person at a time. Be sure to follow the Red Panda Network Facebook page and the Skyenimals Facebook page to watch for cute pictures and more ideas on how to volunteer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life With Two Goldendoodles - From a Walk in the Park to Dog Skin Conditions and Beyond

I was never a dog person, I never really wanted a dog, but here I am the owner of two goldendoodles and writing a blog about them. How did it come to this?

Ruby and Bailey, two Goldendoodle dogs.

Several years ago my wife and kids kept trying to convince me that it would be fun to have a dog. It didn't sound fun. To me having a dog sounded like a reason to go to the vet more, deal with dog skin conditions, and fleas, and poop in the back yard. New chores do come with dog ownership, but I have found they have been worth it to experience the joy the dog brings.

I never really liked other people's dogs and I am allergic to many animals. Even before we started "looking" for our own dog I decided to spend some time around dogs so I got the chance to see what it was like. I didn't spend enough time with any dogs to bond with them, but I did find that there were some dogs that I would have an allergic reaction to and many I did not have problems with.

When the time came to start looking for a dog we decided to limit the search to breeds that were considered non-shedding or hypo-allergenic. We spent about five months browsing web pages, local shelters and looking for a hypo-allergenic dog to adopt. We went to see many dogs during this time but none of them worked out.

Bailey as a puppy
 Our search for a dog ended after about five months when we found a local dog groomer helping to place an older goldendoodle puppy (4-5 months old) for a down-state breeder. This puppy was the last of the litter and the breeder was having trouble selling her as she was no longer the perfect "puppy" age. So, enter Bailey, a female F1B goldendoodle.

Ruby as a puppy
It didn't take long for the whole family to fall in love with Bailey. She was great with the kids from day one and learned quickly. For our second dog we decided to get a dog similar in age and size to Bailey. We found a breeder with two litters of Goldendoodles near our home. They had about 12 puppies, about half of which were pre-sold. So enter Ruby, a female F2 goldendoodle

Bailey on a hotel room cot
We have had countless good times with our goldendoodles from vacations, to regular neighborhood walks, playing catch, going to the dog park and more. They have been an integral part of our family and continue to be. But, is it all a walk in the park? Of course not. Dogs are easier to raise than kids but they come with their own set of challenges.

Taking care of a dog's health involves a lot more than a once a year visit to the vet. For starters, we had to address dog skin problems and dog food sensitivities. Then there is grooming. Grooming for two large non-shedding dogs can be time consuming and expensive. To save on expenses we do most of the grooming ourselves. Then there are the little things, and luckily, our doodles don't resist when it's time to use their dog toothpaste or clean their ears. My wife even made some helpful dog care videos that you can find on youtube, like the video about cleaning your goldendoodle's ears below.

Overall, how is life with two goldendoodles?
I highly recommend it, even if you're not a "dog" person.


Please visit the Skyenimals Dog and Skyenimals Goldendoole pages for more dog pictures, facts and activities for kids. And remember, if you would like to share any of your dog or pet pictures with kids and animal lovers around the world you can upload them at