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.

binturong-1581987_1920

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:

bearcat colouring

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?

dscf8859

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.

dscf8887

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).

dscf8883

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.

20170412_081138

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.

Philippine tarsier

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.

dscf5830

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.

DSCF5839.jpg

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.

tarsier-2

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

 

dscf5829

 

 

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!

turtle

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

forest-turtle-colouring

Dugong coloring competition

diwa-coverGet the kids coloring to celebrate the forthcoming publication of Diwa the Dugong!

Simply print out and color one of the pictures of Diwa, share it with us (via my facebook page) or send to the C3 office in Busuanga (C3 Philippines, Inc., Salvacion, Busuanga, Palawan 5317 or send it through LBC Coron: C3 Philippines, Inc., Salavacion, Busuanga, Palawan, PICK-UP LBC Coron).

Don’t forget to tell us the name and age of the child who did the coloring (and your address if you post it). You can enter as many times as you like.

dugong-dollsOur favorite three entries will win a copy of Diwa the Dugong and a dugong doll handmade in Busuanga. We’ll contact the winners and send you the prizes – wherever you are in the Philippines.

Please send your entries in by Wednesday 14 December.

Happy coloring!

Click on the image to download a pdf.

diwa-colouring-1

diwa-colouring-2

Sleeping fruit bats

Sleeping golden-capped fruit bats look so snug with their wings wrapped around their bodies. Perhaps it’s because their wings are huge. They are the largest bats in the world and when their wings are stretched out… their wingspan is as wide as I am tall. Imagine a colony of thousands of them: the sound of their wings beating through the air as they take flight at dusk.

20161112_141839
Golden-capped fruit bats

They are found only in the Philippines and in the 1920s colonies of 150,000 individuals were reported (probably of a mix of species). Their numbers have plummeted. The total population of golden-capped fruit bats is now estimated to be around one or two percent of what it was 200 years ago: possibly no more than 20,000 individuals.

As night falls, the bats leave their roosting sites in search of fruit to feed on. Figs are a favourite and they may fly as far as 30 kilometres in search of them. Fruit bats play an important role in the forest dispersing seeds and as pollinators.

Click on the image to download a golden-capped fruit bat colouring page:

fruitbats_colouring

Golden-capped fruit bat (Acerodon jubatus) further information:

Diwa the Dugong – coming soon

My brand new picture book will be out in a few weeks. It’s published by Bookmark in the Philippines to raise awareness of dugongs. I’ve been working with Reynante ‘Rey’ Ramilo from Community Centred Conservation (C3); an NGO working on dugong conservation in Busuanga, Palawan in the Philippines.

Dugongs once grazed in their thousands on the seagrass meadows of the Philippines including in Manila Bay. But numbers have declined and Palawan is one of their last strongholds in the country. They still face many hazards including entanglement in fishing nets and in the ropes used to farm seaweed. Rey told me that dugongs have no safe haven at the moment and that C3 are advocating the establishment of a dugong sanctuary.

planting-seagrass

Dugongs are also known as sea cows because their diet consists mainly of seagrass. I’ve spent a lot of time planting seagrass to make collages for the book. Diwa’s story is about a dugong whose seagrass meadows are destroyed soil washes into the sea from nearby hillsides that have been cleared of trees.

Diwa must swim away from the place she knows and find somewhere new to live. On her journey she encounters many perils but also receives help from strangers who tell of a place with bountiful seagrasses… a place that would be a prefect sanctuary area for dugongs.

Rey shared with me a legend about dugongs from Busuanga. It’s a bleak and disturbing story but the description of the place inspired my thoughts of a sanctuary area for dugongs:

Once upon a time, there was a poor family that lived in a faraway place on a beach, located at the foot of the mountain, where the forest was wild with the tallest trees, crawling vines and shrubs covering the forest floor. Birds would sing the entire day, and when the day turned to night, the crickets would come out to serenade them.

diwa-cover

Dual langauage in English and Filipino, thanks to Rey for the translation.

Coming out in a few weeks at Bookmark The Filipino Bookstore
For enquiries, email or call at 895-8061 to 65.
marketing@bookmarkthefilipinobookstore.com