Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nothing Ordinary about Okapis

     Tongue like a giraffe, stripes like a zebra, antelope-like cloven hooves--that's the fascinating Okapi, which remained undiscovered outside it's natural habitat until 1901. 

The Pygmy peoples of central Africa had known of this animal’s existence for generations, and stories about it held an almost unicorn-like place in the popular imagination.

In 1890 it was described as a type of horse or donkey to Sir Henry Morton Stanley (of ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume’ fame). Far from an equine, the Okapi is a forest-living relative of the giraffe.


The man credited with the ‘discovery’ of the Okapi, is Sir Harry Johnston, the British explorer, and naturalist. He sent hides acquired from Natives back to the British Museum where Scientists prematurely declared a new species of Zebra. Further research resolved the confusion setting the animal apart from all others, now called Okapia johnstoni.

The Okapi's impressively long tongue, is not only black in color, but is prehensile allowing it to grab hold of leaves from the branches above. They have very thick skin (hides) to help protect them from injury.

 Long headed, with a dark muzzle, and large set-back ears, they  rely heavily on their hearing in the surrounding forest where they are not able to see very far. They are known to communicate with one another using quiet "chuff" sounds.

Active mostly during the day, they spend their time roaming the nearly impassible, dense, and swampy thickets, and enter the more open, higher, drier parts of the forest to feed at nightfall

They are rather solitary animals with the exception of the time mothers spend with their calves.

   The gestation period can last up to 16 months, usually resulting in a single calf able to stand within half an hour.                 They do not reach their full adult size until they are roughly three years old. 

                                                The Okapi, an herbivorous, is known to eat more than 100 different types of plant, many of which are poisonous to other animals and Humans. Their main predator is the leopard, the serval, hunting & poaching, and of course habitat loss due to deforestation.

Today, over 5,000 okapi inhabit the Okapi Wildlife Reserve which occupies much of the Ituri Forest once traveled by early explorers. Okapis have been protected by government decree since 1933.
                         Do these stripes make my butt look big?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Moon Blindness


  I LOVE the moon, with all its mystery, romance, and powerful connection to our planet. And while love may be blind, Moon Blindness is not a good thing.

  This is the oldest disease, human or animal, ever recorded. It can effect many animals, including humans. In the pyramids at Giza, there are depictions of ocular problems in cavalry horses of that time, 4,500 years ago, indicating uveitis or a disease very similar. In the time of Alexander the Great, it was believed to be associated with changes of the lunar cycles, giving it the name, moon blindness, still used today. 

   My sweet little donkey Jackson was recently diagnosed with this condition. In horses and donkeys, the medical term used is ERU. 

    Equine Recurrent Uveitis is a disease which inflames the uvea which is the membrane surrounding the eye. This covering acts as an immunological barrier to protect the sensitive tissue, inner chambers, and surfaces of the eye from pathogens carried through the blood. Inflammation disrupts this barrier leading to internal damage and even blindness.

Jackson (a rescue donkey) is 22 years old, and has a history of one bout of laminits and, one terrible siege of pigeon fever, and an unknown cause of anemia requiring giving him Red Cell which helped, but boy he hated that stuff. Couldn't blame him, it smelled pretty bad. All of these conditions occurred years ago, and to my knowledge he never had any type of trauma to his eye. 

Causes vary from blunt or penetrating trauma to the eye, to corneal ulceration, and parasitic infiltration. Numerous systemic infection, whether viral or bacterial, while not the cause of the inflammation, can trigger the immune system to create antibodies which attack the eye. Leptospirosis, a disease picked up from soil usually contaminated by cows, is also a concern. 

As with laminitis, conditions for a return episode can vary from feed and seasonal change, weather conditions, and stress. One site I visited also stated that when the eye is inflamed the brain may also be affected, which makes me double sad to think Little Jack may be suffering with headaches. 

Symptoms can include membranes being red and swollen, the eye waters, the pupil constricts, and the horse holds the eye closed; it is painful and sensitive to light. The cornea (front cover of the eye) might become cloudy. Each episode further damages the eye, and can lead to blindness.
  These symptoms can also indicate other conditions or diseases, and a one time occurrences of Uveitis don't necessarily result in ERU, so always consult a Vet before initiating treatments. 

Treatments generally center around eye ointment with cortisone when first diagnosed, supplementing vitamin B2, which so far I cannot find in bulk for horses, and generally boosting the immune system. 

Rosie says, "Here's hoping my best friend Jack has a quick recovery, and we can keep it from coming back." 

Update: 5/6/19 Little Jack still has the condition. It has never gone into remission and is possibly progressing. We are trying another cortisone cream. He was checked to make sure he did not have any scratched to the cornea before beginning treatment. And we continue with the Vit.B2. Such a sweet donkey, and otherwise seems a pretty happy fellow. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Medieval Rock and Roll



Take a break from writing your next Medieval breakout novel and listen to a little inspirational Medieval music 21st century style!

Performed by a Belarusian medieval folk band Stary Olsa known for reworking modern songs in a Medieval style. Stary Olsa is one of the few Belarusian bands enjoying popularity outside Belarus. The band was founded in 1999 by Źmicier Sasnoŭski. The name Stary Olsa comes from a stream in east Belarus.

Pink Floyd Medieval style

Medieval Deep Purple



Monday, May 9, 2016

Mild Mannered Manatees.

German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller first described manatees in 1741. Earlier sailors such as Columbus often thought they had seen an actual mermaid, despite the manatee’s size.

     Also known as Sea cows, their general color is gray with white or pink patches on belly and chest. They may appear more brown or even green if algae becomes attached to them.

 Female manatees usually have one calf every two to five years and the calf then stays and nurses for two years. The calves also can start nibbling on plants at only a few weeks old. Offspring are born underwater after a gestation period of about 12 months.
 Having fingernails is one of the many characteristics showing the similarities between manatees and their land relative, elephants. Elephants also have three to four nails on each of their feet. The reason manatees have fingernails is because they were once land animals and had forelimbs for walking on land. 

As you can see in the above images, the bone structure of a manatee's flipper looks very similar to a human hand. 

Also like elephants, Manatees, continuously replace their teeth throughout their lives, with the older teeth at the front falling out and new teeth growing in at the back of their mouth.
                                      Steller's Sea Cow
   Manatees have no natural predators in the wild but must avoid a variety of threats including boat collisions, hunting, habitat destruction, and toxic red tides. In the 18th century, Humans hunted to extinction the Mantee's long-lost relative, the Steller’s sea cow. It only took 27 years from first being sighted and described, to being extinct.

  Weighing up to 1,200 pounds, they eat up to ten percent of their body weight in plant mass every day. And with low metabolic rates and minimal fat protection from cold water, they stick to water that is 60 degrees or warmer. 

They may look fat and insulated, but the large body of the manatee is mostly made up of their stomach and intestines! In colder months, they find their way to warm river tributaries or warm water outputs from power plants. In 2010 at least 246 manatees died in Florida due to cold stress from the colder-than-normal winter.

 Manatees go to the surface of the water every three to five minutes to breathe but can remain longer, holding their breath for up to 20 minutes. 

When they do take a breath, 90% of the air in their lungs is replaced (whereas humans tend to replace about 10%).

Perhaps not as clever as dolphins, they can learn basic tasks, are extremely sensitive to touch and can differentiate colors.

 If you are a mammal—whether that’s a human, giraffe, whale or rat—then you typically have seven neck vertebrae. Only tree sloths and manatees have an irregular number of vertebrae—just six for the manatee. Scientists think this may have to do with their slow metabolism.

Legal Protection: West Indian manatees in the United States are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.

              Please watch out for me when you are boating.

Thank you to the following sites.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


   HAPPY BELTANE the beginning of SUMMER 

    Beltane is celebrated with hopes for brighter days ahead. Just as on Samhain, (the beginning of winter and opposite on the wheel), the veil between the worlds is thin on Beltane. 

 On this cross-quarter day, 
                     honor your ancestors...

                                      Dance the Maypole...
                           Keep an eye out for the Green Man.

     And jump the fires. 
In ancient times, cattle would be driven between two great fires, to ensure their fertility and to grant them protection through the year.

Being a cross quarter day, and a reverse barometer, 
it means your weather will soon be changing!

Good bye for now from the...