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Olivia Talbots Ugly Animal inspired art

One of our newest members has written a kids book for her final year project.

Thanks Olivia :-)

IMG_6202 IMG_6204

 

Her message below made my inbox smile.

Hi there!

I’ve been an avid follower of the ugly animal society since I came across the organisation completely by chance earlier this year while researching for my final project at Leeds College of Art. I decided to create a children’s book featuring only classically ‘Ugly’ animals (stemming from my eternal love of sloths).

The story follows Garry the Naked Mole Rat as he leaves his home for the first time and goes to seek other animals as strange as him. Along the way he finds Flash the Sloth, Snowflake the Albino Gorilla and Bob, the Blobfish. The book is recommended for ages 3-5 and recently helped me to achieve a Distinction on my Foundation course.

I thought I would reach out to you in the event that this book is something that appeals to you or feels relevant to the organisation. I did try to attach images of the book and the finger puppets that accompany it but realised I wasn’t able to here so feel free to contact me for any further information. Hope to hear back :)

Olivia Talbot,

The Griffon Vulture- Sofia’s new mascot

Griffon vulture- The mascot of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Griffon vulture- The mascot of Sofia, Bulgaria.

A few months back, the Ugly Animal Soc went to Sofia for our first Bulgarian gig, in the beautiful Bulgarian language too.  Here is a guest post by Toma Shtilianov, a champion for the griffon vulture.

 

The myth says that their eggs are good for male potency, but the only thing you can get from the griffon vulture is an ice-cold look and an example of a lifestyle (and bad menu).

Gyps fulvus is a magnificent bird with quite distinguished ugliness. With it’s wings span of over 2.5 meters it roams through the skies of large tracts of southern Europe. In the Balkans, it is endangered.

The griffon vultures are the perfect society – they live only with their life-time partner in big groups and don’t care how we look – if you’re dead and alone – you’re food. If you are a cow – even better! They even have the dignity to let the hungriest one of them eat first.

The biggest risk for the vulltures are the wind turbines, so popular in Bulgaria and Greece. Using the fact, that vultures are natural born dead-finders they fly below the turbines, looking for dead birds and bats, but sometimes they get caught in the same trap. And given the fact that they lay only one egg per year, unfortunately not every, it is a big factor for the extinction of this long-necked symbol of desperation!

In Bulgaria the vultures were a normal part of the animal kingdom, but in the mid 50′s they were practically extinct. It took about 15 years, before it was noticed and in 1970 Gyps fulvus was officially declared extinct in Bulgaria. In 1978 one nesting couple was found and for the next 7 years there were 3 more families.From then on the numbers are constantly going up! Now there are about 100 couples. Most of the griffon vultures in Bulgaria now are imported from Spain, but they adjust very well to their new home. Even though they still try to run away. “Bulgarian” vultures have been found in countries like Greece, Romania, Turkey, Israel and Ukraine.

The vulture is a big part of the history of Sofia – it’s part of the animal collection of Ferdinad I, ruler of Bulgaria in late-19th – early-20th century, which later became the first zoo in Bulgaria.

 

Според митовете яйцата им са добри за мъжка потентност, но едиственото, което можеш да получиш от белоглавия лешояд е ледено-студен поглед и пример за начин на живот (и лошо меню)

Gyps fulvus е великолепна птица и доста подчертана грознота. С размах на крилете повече от 2.5 метра се носи над небесата на големи части от южна Европа, но на Балканите е застрашена.

Белоглавият лешояд е пример за перфектното общество – могат да живеят само с партньора си за цял живот или на големи групи и не ги интересува как изглеждаме – ако си мъртъв и сам – ти си храна. Ако си говедо – още по-добре! Те дори имат достойството да оставят първо най-гладният да яде.

Най-голяма опасност за лешоядите са ветрогенераторите, толкова популярни в България и Гърция. Използвайки факта, че са природно надарени мъртво-откриватели, те летят ниско под турбините, търсейки умрели птици и прилепи, но понякога сами попадат в същия капан. И предвид факта, че снасят само по 1 яйце на година (но не всяка година), това е голям фактор за изчезването на този дълговрат символ на отчаянието!

В България лешоядите са нормална част от животинското царство, но през средата на 50-те те са на практика изчезнали. Отнема 15 години, преди през 1970 Gyps fulvus официално да е обявен за изчезнал в България. Но през 1978 е открита една гнездяща двойка. През следващите 7 години има още 3 семейства и от тогава бройката им расте. Сега вече има около 100 двойки. Повечето белоглави лешояди в България са внос от Испания, но се нагаждат много добре към новия си дом. Въпреки всичко все още се опитват да избягат и някои от „българските“ лешояди са намирани на места като Гърция, Румъния, Турция, Израел и Украйна.

Лешоядът е важна част от историята на София – той е част от зоо-колекцията на княз Фердинанд I, влъдетел на България през края на 19-ти – началото на 20-ти век, която по-късне е станала първия зоопарк в България – Софийската зоологическа градина

 

Bio: My name is Toma Shtilianov, I’m a Veterinary medicine graduate. After math high-school I decided to turn to more “natural” studies and became veterinarian. Won FameLab Bulgaria 3rd place in 2010 and from then on I’m a passionate science communicator with the task to break the myths about the animals and make the people love them as much as I do (or at least as half as I do). I have a soft spot for sloths and their life-style, but that’s something I can never achieve. Now I’m a frequent radio and TV guest, talking about the animals (and from recently - about the ugly animals that we have in Bulgaria).

The Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle

Rafetus - Photo by Gerald Kuchling/Turtle Survival Alliance

Rafetus – Photo by Gerald Kuchling/Turtle Survival Alliance

This is a guest post by the Turtle Survival Alliance in honour of World Turtle Day. The TSA is a recognized force for global turtle conservation, driven by a mission of zero turtle extinctions.  You can donate to their work here.

Most animals are best at one thing, but the Yangtze giant softshell turtle masters at least two. With only four individuals known to science, and only one of those a female, this turtle is one of the rarest animals on earth. However, that’s not the limit of its plight, because you see, it is also one of the ugliest!  Just look at her. Her beady little eyes have a twinkle that suggests defiance of extinction. Unfortunately, most people won’t notice her tiny eyes, because it’s difficult to see past the long soggy neck, massive girth, webbed talons and the rubbery-looking “snorkel” in front of her eyes.  These less-than-lovely physical characteristics may be one reason why the conservation of this species is rife with challenges.  Although another charming, albeit invisible, trait which this beauty bears is the unique (to aquatic turtles, that is) ability to breathe through her butt, allowing the exchange of oxygen while completely submerged.  It is no surprise that while the Yangtze giant softshell turtle stands apart, it is also in danger of standing alone.  The main causes of this species’ endangerment are habitat pollution, environmental degradation and believe it or not, consumption by humans. This last female Yangtze giant softshell turtle, one of the three remaining males, and the Turtle Survival Alliance, have joined forces in an effort to ensure that the world is never without this uniquely appealing turtle.  Take action this World Turtle Day and join the Turtle Survival Alliance in its mission to save the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle from extinction. tsa_url

Hagfish -MYXINI

OK.  Having a name like Hagfish gives you a hint as to just how ugly these chinless wonders are, but it is hard to prepare yourself for their full hideousness. For a start, they don’t have jaws.  They have two tooth like things and some sensory tentacles around their mouths used to find their fodder but that is it. When they come across a rotting carcass they burrow face first into the flesh, even knotting their tails to generate torque.  So far, so disgusting and we haven’t even got to the slime yet.  Oh yes, the slime.    To escape predators, hagfish secrete a sticky goo that will allow them a slippery exit.  They can produce gallons of the stuff in a few minutes (see the video above).  To prevent choking on their own slime, they have even evolved the ability to sneeze.  There are about 100 species; one  is critically endangered, two are endangered, six are vulnerable to extinction and two are near-threatened.

Giant Palouse Earthworm

giant palouse earthworm

You might well think that there is nothing uglier than a worm. Well you are wrong.  There is one thing- a GIANT worm.

The giant Palouse earthworm is one of the largest earthworms in the world, being able to grow up to a meter in length.  It is pasty white and what is worse, spits when it is angry.  It does have one redeeming feature though. For some reason, when handling it, it gives off an odour like that of lilies.

Habitat destruction and invasive species have made this once common monstrosity a rare sight.

The Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon. Photo by Mark Dumont

There are so many myths about dragons.  They do not fly or rise menacingly from the depths of the sea.  No they live on an island in Indonesia.

St George never even saw one and if he had, my money would have been on the dragon anyway. For a start they have a strong bite and a mild but painful venom.  A modern myth was that their saliva was rife with bacteria which would cause their prey to drop from septic wounds a few days following an attack.  But contrary to this popular belief, recent findings show that the dragon’s saliva has no more bacteria than that of any meat eater that doesn’t brush its teeth twice daily.

One myth that does turn out to be true though, is the one about virgin birth.  Several Komodo dragons in zoos have given birth without the need of mating.  This method of asexual reproduction is known as parthenogenesis.

In the natural world there are many different systems for determining the sex of offspring.  These include having different numbers or types of chromosomes, or the temperature of the egg.  In humans, males are the heterogametic sex meaning that they have two different sex chromosomes one called X and the other called Y.  Females are homogametic meaning they have two X chromosomes.  For birds and many reptiles including the biggest lizard, the Komodo dragon, the female is the heterogametic sex and has two different sex chromosomes, one called Z and the other called W.  In this case it is the male that is the homogametic sex having a pair of Z chromosomes.

Sometimes the unfertilised eggs of Komodo dragons can double the number of their chromosomes meaning that a mama dragon can have male children made entirely from her own genetic material.

Some have suggested that this reproductive adaptation allows a single female to enter an isolated ecological niche (such as an island) and by parthenogenesis produce male offspring, establishing a sexually reproducing population.

Lets not get started on the Oedipus myth…..

Hagfish- Myxini

OK.  Having a name like Hagfish gives you a hint as to just how ugly these chinless wonders are, but it is hard to prepare yourself for their full hideousness. For a start, they don’t have jaws.  They have two tooth like things and some sensory tentacles around their mouths used to find their fodder but that is it. When they come across a rotting carcass they burrow face first into the flesh, even knotting their tails to generate torque.  So far, so disgusting and we haven’t even got to the slime yet.  Oh yes, the slime.    To escape predators, hagfish secrete a sticky goo that will allow them a slippery exit.  They can produce gallons of the stuff in a few minutes (see the video above).  To prevent choking on their own slime, they have even evolved the ability to sneeze.  There are about 100 species; one  is critically endangered, two are endangered, six are vulnerable to extinction and two are near-threatened.

The Purple Pig-nosed Frog

Purple frog. Photo by Karthickbala at ta.wikipedia

It’s fat, it’s purple, it has a nose like a pig.  Maybe that’s why this Indian frog spends almost all its life underground.  But it shouldn’t be so shy.  The scientists who discovered it claimed it was a “once in a century” find. Its discovery adds to the evidence that Madagascar and the Seychelles separated from the Indian landmass sometime after the breakup of Gondwana had started.  In spite of looking like a second-hand fruit pastel,  this frog can teach us a little about geology and the history of our planet. :-)

Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius)

Greater adjutant- Photo by Yathin sk at en.wikipedia

If nightmares had wings, then they would look like the Greater adjutant.  With plumage like dead umbrellas and a beak like a scabbed ice pic this stork from the southern Asia looks like a gangly balding goth.  The adults stand to attention at nearly one and a half meters tall and seem to march. Their species name, adjutant, is a military rank.  They will feed on all manner of rubbish and their Indian name translates as bone swallower.  As such, you might expect that our rubbish tips would provide them with constant food and the so they would survive almost anything.  Unfortunately deforestation is destroying their home and breeding sites.

Sturgeon- guest post from Dr Jim Garvey

Sturgeon

 

The Ugliest Fish in North America (Or Why the Rich People Are Out to Get Me)

If you happen to believe in that evolution tripe, then you must understand that we all come from fish.  I’m a disciple of Darwin, so tripe it is for me.  All the parts on our bodies – legs, arms, eyeballs, and spines – come from our fishy past.  I respect my elders.

Even if you don’t think evolution is real, you have to admit that fish are cool.

I’m lucky enough to play with fish and get paid for it.  I should be happy all the time.  But I’m not.

My favorite group of fish is the sturgeon.   About 27 species of sturgeon remain around the world.  All are being whacked by humanity, they are the most endangered group of fishes in the world.   Habitat loss and overfishing are the culprits.  I personally don’t get the allure of caviar, but eating the briny, fishy eggs that go pop in your mouth is something that wealthy people do.  Wealthy people’s taste buds must be different from mine.  This thirst for status puts a gold-plated target on the backs of sturgeon.  Apparently, the eggs aren’t ugly enough to stop them from being put in tiny tins with enormous price tags.

I recently did an interview with a regional newspaper.  When I read the column, I was dumbfounded.  The article called the sturgeon species I work with as one of the “ugliest fish in North America”.  Who wants to raise money for the ugliest fish?

I do.  Sturgeons are cool.  Come on, that mustache of theirs allows them to taste their environment.

Dr Jim Garvey (@fishysiu) is a Professor of Zoology living and teaching in Southern Illinois, USA.

He is developing a pregnancy test for endangered fish species to detect spawning sites and aid their conservation.  He is crowd funding some of his research.  You can pledge to back him here.

 

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