Relax and colour your own snoozing binturong

Also known as a bearcat, even though they aren’t bears or cats, binturongs are large civets from south-east Asia that smell like buttered popcorn.

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Binturongs live in the canopy of tropical forests and will sleep high in tree branches, curling up with their heads tucked under their tails. They are one of only two carnivores (the other is the kinkajou) with a prehensile tail. The tail is almost as long as the body and acts like another limb when climbing.

They play an important role in spreading the seeds of the fruits that they eat. They are also one of the few animals animals with digestive enzymes capable of softening the tough outer covering of the seeds of strangler figs.

Considered rare throughout much of its range, the binturong is believed to be declining and is classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. There are nine described subspecies of binturong, although the Palawan population (Arctictis binturong whitei) is often considered as a separate species.

 

 Colour a binturong

Click on the image for a printable pdf:

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World Binturong Day is organised by ABConservation – the one and only association in the world that is entirely dedicated to the study and protection of binturongs. Find out more about their website and like them on Facebook.

 

Panay: paradise in north-west England?

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Somewhat colder than the original Panay in the Philippines; this is the Panay at Chester Zoo in the north-west of the England.

I had wanted to visit since I heard about their ‘Islands’ exhibit inspired by islands South-East Asia including Panay. Finally, I had the chance to explore.

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Visiting the zoo is like exploring; it feels like there is an element of luck in whether you will see the animals or not. Luckily I spotted what I had come to see and lots more. Top of my list was the Visayan warty pig – one of the rarest pigs on the planet and my very own picture book heroine Mayumi.

dscf8865This was my first face-to-face encounter with a Visayan warty pig: she looked happy chewing on leaves and was totally oblivious of me and everyone else (which is exactly how it should be).

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It’s not just the human visitors that get to explore, the animals appeared to have space to explore too.

There are just a few hundred Visayan warty pigs thought to be surviving in the wild; living in fragments of forest on the islands of Panay and Negros. Without intervention it is likely that they would disappear entirely. The conservation work of zoos like Chester Zoo, and the support they give to conservation initiatives in the Philippines, is vitally important.

dscf8878Visayan warty pig – now found only on the islands of Panay and Negros, this critically endangered wildlife pig is perhaps the rarest pigs in the world. Some estimate at there being just 200 individuals left living in the wild

dscf8898Philippine or Visayan spotted deer – endemic to the islands of the central Philippines but now thought to be found only on Panay and Negros

dscf8929Mindanao bleeding heart-dove one of the bleeding-heart doves that are endemic to the Philippines

I also saw but didn’t  photograph: Philippine mouse-deer, Visayan tarictic hornbills, Mindanao hornbill, Palawan peacock pheasant and Northern Luzon cloud rat. The cloud rat proved to be the hardest to see. Being nocturnal, it’s enclosure is darkened and the animals still aren’t very active during the day. I stood watching for ages until I was rewarded with a brief glimpse before it retreated back into its nesting box.

The Philippine species weren’t all in the islands area of the zoo, I had to seek them out and I know I missed some. But there is some much to see. My other highlights were young orangutans playing on a rope swing and rolling down a hill (it looked like loads of fun), the painted dogs, aardvarks fast asleep and dreaming, an aye-aye and the amazing fruit bat cave.

Oh and I should have mentioned I saw one of the Visayan warty pigs have a poo too! It made me happy because pig poo is a very important part of Mayumi’s story.

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In search of the wide-eyed poster boys of the Philippines

As the metal gate was quietly shut behind me, I knew I was entering somewhere special. A butterfly lazily fluttered by as I followed a guide along a narrow trail into the forest. Birds were singing loudly, tempting me to stop and look for them. But the birds and the butterflies were sidelined today as I peered between branches and leaves searching for a small brown animal with big eyes: the poster boy of Philippines wildlife.

I’d seen photos of tarsiers on countless tourism websites but photos can miss the living essence of an animal. As I peered through the leaves, I thought I spotted something but no, it was just a dead leaf. Then, with the help of the guide, we spotted something sitting high on a branch. Peering back at me with half-closed sleepy eyes was a tarsier.

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Tarsiers are remarkable little animals. They have the largest eyes relative to their body weight of any mammal and, though their eyes are fixed in their sockets, they can rotate their head nearly 360 degrees. This gives them incredible abilities to spot their insect prey in the forest.

Their name comes from another unique adaptation: the tarsal bones in their feet are elongated giving them the longest hindlimbs of any mammal relative to body length. These extra-long legs make them exceptionally good at leaping. They can jump 40 times their own body length in a single leap.

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However, none of the tarsiers I saw were leaping. Tarsiers are nocturnal; sleeping during the day and waking at sundown to go in search of their prey. They are shy, nervous creatures and it’s critical to keep disturbance to a minimum. At the Tarsier Sanctuary, visitors are accompanied by a guide to ensure that the tarsiers aren’t disturbed.

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I visited the Philippine Tarsier Foundation’s sanctuary in Corella on Bohol. The tarsiers are in a large enclosure of natural habitat. It’s enclosed to keep out predators, such as cats, but the tarsiers themselves are free to leave in search of food.

Whilst at the sanctuary I was lucky enough to meet Carlito Pizarras. Known as the tarsier man, he was instrumental in setting up the tarsier conservation programme and has devoted his life to the animals. His work was recognised in 2010 when the Philippine tarsier was re-named Carlito syrichta, the only member of the genus Carlito.

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Find out about visiting the sanctuary on the Philippine Tarsier Foundation website.

The wildlife of the Philippines inspires me to draw and write picture book stories. This sleepy little tarsier is called Tala, she’s resting after a big adventure, hopefully one day I’ll be able to share her adventure with you.11753729_555669204588298_1726704210075257460_n

 

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Pangolin colouring page

Pangolins are the only mammals in the world with scales. The scales are made of keratin, the same material that finger nails and rhino horn are made from. The number of scales depends on the species – Sunda pangolins have been estimated to have about 900 to over 1000 scales.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to colour them all in individually…. unless you want to!

 

Click on the image for a downloadable pdf and enjoy your colouring!

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Palawan forest turtle

The Palawan forest turtle, also known as the Philippine pond turtle, is one of the rarest, most endangered, and least known turtles in the world. It is only found in five municipalities in Northern Palawan, Philippines and nowhere else in the world!

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This species lives in small streams in lowland forests. The beautiful coloration of juveniles and the impressive bodies of adults are rarely seen because the species is extremely shy and nocturnal. At dusk they emerge from their dens and shelters to forage on aquatic invertebrates, plants and wild fruits that fall into the stream. The latter helps to regenerate the riverine habitat since most of the seeds germinate after passing through the digestive tract. Adults also feed on the invasive golden apple snail, an alien pest species, while juveniles take mosquito larvae. By doing so they help reduce agricultural pest species and invertebrate-borne diseases.

Though physically extremely tough, the species is susceptible to stress and has low fertility. They are not doing well in captivity and have never been successfully captive bred.
Text re-posted from the Arkive blog

Colour your own Palawan forest turtle
Click on the image for a downloadable pdf

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My chicken adobo

My first experience of food in the Philippines was standing on a stage looking at plates of intestines, pigs bladders and what looked like a large boiled egg.

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This  ‘Fear Factor Challenge’ was part of the welcoming party for the exchange visit that I was on. The journey to the Philippines had been long; delayed due to fog and diverted to Singapore, what I really wanted to do was sleep not eat weird food (I was a super fussy eater as a child). Even the boiled egg turned out to be not as expected. Instead of a nice yellow yolk, it contained a developing embryo. Known as ‘balut’, I still haven’t summoned up enough courage to try this infamous Filipino delicacy. Needless to say, though I attempted to nibble a couple of the items, I failed the challenge.

Fortunately, my food experiences in the Philippines improved and had a lasting influence. There are things that I wish I could buy in the UK, like pili nuts; things that I can buy but that are now disappointing in their flavours, like mangoes and pineapples; and ways of cooking that I use, like adobo.

What is adobo? Wikipedia says: “Philippine Adobo (from Spanish adobar: “marinade,” “sauce” or “seasoning”) is a popular dish and cooking process in Philippine cuisine that involves meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, which is browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. It has sometimes been considered as the unofficial national dish in the Philippines. Although it has a name taken from Spanish, the cooking method is indigenous to the Philippines. Early Filipinos cooked their food normally by roasting, steaming or boiling methods. To keep it fresh longer, food was often cooked by immersion in vinegar and salt. Chinese traders introduced soy sauce which has replaced salt in the dish.”

It’s also super tasty. This is how I cook chicken adobo.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice wine vinegar (half the amount of soy sauce)
  • Garlic – crushed
  • Black peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Chilli (not essential but I like spicy food)

Combine the ingredients to make a marinade for the chicken. I usually marinade it for 24 hours; make the marinade one evening, then the next evening it’s all ready to cook when I get in from work.

To cook, put it all in a big, heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. It’s so easy! When the chicken is cooked, I take it out and reduce the sauce to make it thick and luscious. Serve with steaming hot rice and coconutty spinach.

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I cook a bit extra so I can have some for lunch the next day. It’s delicious on a soft tortilla wrap with spinach leaves and avocado.

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