Amami Rabbit

amami_rabbit

Photo Credit: Patrick Miller

The Amami rabbit can only be found on Amami and Tokuno, two small, forested islands in the Japanese archipelago. Here, this unique rabbit has been frozen in time, a living remnant of ancient rabbits that once frequented the Asian mainland. Small ears, small eyes, long, curved claws, a diminutive tail, and an elongated snout set the Amami rabbit apart from others in its family. They can weigh up to 6 pounds, and the females are usually larger than the males.

The Amami rabbit is secretive, and primarily solitary. They are active at night, remaining hidden during the day in small crevices or tunnels. On their nightly foraging journeys, they will follow often used and well-worn paths through their rain forest habitat. These rabbits prefer to live in areas near waterways, and they have been observed swimming. Their diet consists largely of Pampas grass in the summer and acorns in the winter.

The Amami rabbit breeds slowly, giving birth to one or two offspring per litter, and only reproducing once or twice a year. The kits are hidden in a burrow, which is only visited at night. The mother suckles her babies, and then conceals the entrance to the burrow with dirt and debris, tamping everything down with her front paws. This behavior can be seen in this video. The mother will visit this burrow infrequently; according to some accounts only once every other night. Once the kits have reached 4 to 7 weeks of age, they will follow their mother from the den, and it will no longer be used.

When approaching a nesting den, the mother Amami rabbit will call to her young, letting them know that she is near. Calls are also used when a predator has been detected. These shrill squeaks sound much like the vocalization of a pika, to which rabbits are closely related. Amami rabbits will also communicate by stamping their hind feet, which indicates danger.

I’iwi

Photo Credit: American Bird Conservancy

Photo Credit: American Bird Conservancy

The I’iwi is a striking red and black bird of the Honeycreeper family, found only in Hawaii. Once widespread over all of the islands, this bird has been forced to retreat into the safe haven of high elevation wet forests, where disease-carrying mosquitoes, which decimated much of the population, cannot reach them.

It is only the adult I’iwi that displays the distinctive red and black plumage, juveniles of the species are a mottled green color. At one point, this difference in coloration led naturalists to believe that juvenile I’iwis were of a different species entirely. Coloration is not the only thing that develops with age; when an I’iwi hatches, his bill is short, straight and dull brown, rather than long, curved and salmon.

The beak of the I’iwi is a special adaptation which allows them to feed from the Hawaiian Lobeliod flowers. The perfect fit between beak and flower can be seen in this video. Because there has been a decline in lobeliods in Hawaii, the I’iwi now feeds primarily on O’hia, and it is believed that the large, down-curved beak, no longer useful in obtaining food, is experiencing an evolutionary change, and shrinking over generations.┬áThe I’iwi also has a long tongue with a brush-like tip, which assists in collecting nectar. Not confined to flowers alone, I’iwis supplement their diets with various insects.

Following the flowering of the O’hia, I’iwis will migrate long distances both within and between Hawaiian islands. They breed during the peak flowering season, and the female will incubate two to three eggs in a small cup shaped nest. After the young fledge, the family leaves their breeding territory, occasionally forming small flocks elsewhere, which may include other bird species.

The I’iwi can mimic other birds, but is best known for its short, shrill, “I’iwi” call. Their songs are unique, and have been described as the “rubbing of balloons together,” or the “squeaking of a rusty hinge.” When flying, their wings produce a whirring sound, and they are capable of hovering, similar to the familiar hummingbird.

Binturong

Photo Credit: Foto Martien

Photo Credit: Foto Martien

The Binturong, or “Bearcat,” lives and sleeps in the jungle canopies of southeastern Asia. They can weigh anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds, the females being heavier than males, making them the largest member of the Viverridae family. They wear a thick coat of coarse fur, which can vary widely in color, but always displays characteristic light ticking. The Binturong’s heavily muscled tail is nearly equal to the length of the body, and their small round ears are decorated with bushy tufts.

The Binturong is known to be active both nocturnally and diurnally. Though they are classified as carnivores, their diet is widely varied, and they have been known to dine on many different fruits, as well as small rodents, eggs, insects, leaves, birds, carrion, and even fish, which the Binturong is capable of swimming and diving to catch. Strangler Figs, a large part of the Binturong diet, depend on these animals for their survival, the seeds can only germinate after they have passed through a Binturong digestive tract.

Though solitary, the Binturong is not particularly territorial, and their home ranges often overlap. On occasion, small family groups may form. Individuals communicate with one another through both vocalization and scent. Binturongs snarl, howl, hiss, grunt, snuffle, wail and chuckle. Females will let males know they are ready to mate with a purring sound. Though they have a large vocabulary, Binturongs communicate mainly through scent. As they travel through their territory, individuals will use scent glands on either side of their anus to mark tree branches. The smell from these glands is said to strongly resemble hot buttered popcorn! These scent marks allow other Binturongs to know who has been where and how they are doing.

Only one of two carnivores with a prehensile tail, the Binturong is adapted for an arboreal life, moving slowly and steadily through the canopy. Their hind legs can be rotated, allowing their claws to grip equally well whether they are headed up or down a tree. Because they are large and heavy, the Binturong is frequently sighted on the ground traveling from tree to tree, rather than making long leaps between branches. Despite what may be considered an ungainly appearance, the Binturong is quite graceful in its natural environment, and their surprising acrobatics can be seen in this video.