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The Endangered Unknown – Chinese Desert Cat

By Peter Kleinhenz
December 14, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Conservation, Species Profiles, Wildlife

This series routinely discusses species of animals and plants that are poorly known in the international community. Perhaps no species mentioned so far fits as well into the category of “endangered unknown” as the Chinese Desert Cat, Felis bieti. There are various reasons for its anonymity, including its secretive nature, lack of presence in captivity, and the areas it inhabits.

The species is very discernible from other small cat species, however, due to its large size (twice the size of a domestic cat) and physical appearance. This cat’s yellow-gray fur allows it to blend in perfectly with its surroundings while its broad skull and enlarged ears serve to enhance its prey detection. Finally, the cat has a y-shaped mark on its face and a black-tipped tail that distinguishes it from other cats that share its habitat, such as the Asian Wildcat and Eurasian Lynx.

Native to China and Mongolia, the Chinese Desert Cat lives in mountainous habitats ranging from semidesert and steppe to bamboo forest and alpine meadows. …read more of The Endangered Unknown – Chinese Desert Cat here

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The Endangered Unknown: Spruce-Fir Moss Spider

By Peter Kleinhenz
December 2, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Arachnid, Insects, Wildlife

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The tallest peaks of North Carolina and Tennessee seem like a very unlikely place to find a tarantula but, remarkably, one can be found there. The Spruce-Fir Moss Spider, Microhexura montivaga, is one of the smallest tarantulas on Earth and is only about the size of a BB gun pellet.

The spider’s common name provides a specific habitat description of the species, since it lives under moss that grows on north-facing rocks that are scattered throughout high-elevation Fraser Fir/Red Spruce forest. Here, it constructs a tube-shaped web that it uses to catch its prey, which scientists assume to be mainly springtails.

One would think that the highest forests in remote parts of North Carolina and Tennessee would safeguard this tarantula from most threats, but that is unfortunately not the case. …read more of The Endangered Unknown: Spruce-Fir Moss Spider here

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Two Units in the Hand

By Corinne Kendall
November 30, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Birds, Research, Wildlife

When something miraculous happens you don’t really expect it to happen again, so when we found another bird with a backpack that had given up the ghost I didn’t really think we could trap it. In fact it seemed fool-harden to even try, but the Ruppell’s vulture in question was already panting from its fights at the carcass and was very very full.

The backpack in question had also slipped into a rather uncomfortable position and so I felt anxious to trap the bird not just to release it from the weight, but also from the discomfort of the unit. Plus catching it would mean one more unit that could be refurbished and thus a bit more information that we could gain about these amazing birds.

So with no further adieu we were off and chasing the bird. …read more of Two Units in the Hand here

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Proud Spirit Dogs: A Photo Essay

By Lavanya Sunkara
November 15, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Conservation, Education, Nature, Wildlife

There are plenty of people who tirelessly work to save unwanted and abused animals. I recently got an opportunity to spend time with two of them. Melanie Sue Bowles and Jim Bowles, founders of the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary, are retired professional fire firefighters who have been saving abandoned and neglected horses for the past 20 years, They have intervened on behalf of nearly 400 horses, and continue to do so.

Over the years, they’ve also opened their hearts and home to plenty of dogs that have found their way into their lives. All of them either abandoned, or locked up in shelters or sent to the vet as puppies because they didn’t meet breed standards. Today, all 13 of their dogs live harmoniously in the house and share the affection of their owners with 58 horses and donkeys in Mena, Arkansas. The horses and donkeys run freely on 320 acres of their property near the Ouachita Mountains. The dogs, however, never leave Melanie and Jim.

As a dog lover, I can never understand how someone can abuse or carelessly abandon their dogs. These innocent animals, some of them very young, diseased or elderly cannot fend for themselves. While most of them suffer due to no fault of their own, some fortunate ones who get rescued by organizations or good-natured people like Melanie and Jim get a second chance and find loving homes.

My time at the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary will always remain one of my favorites. Never have I seen so much love, and experienced the joy of being around so many happy animals. That’s the beauty of animals- no matter what they’ve been through- they respond in kind and are loyal to those who care for them. “All they want is some food and love,” says Jim Bowles, petting a dog that Melanie had rescued the first morning I was there. In addition to providing home to so many dogs, the husband and wife team have also helped place dozens of rescued dogs with forever homes.

One of the recent additions to the Bowles’ household is the beautiful dog pictured here with me. His name is Winston, a pitbull mix named after Winston Churchill. He was the size of a rabbit when Melanie and Jim found him and his littermates on the side of the road near their ranch, scared, starving, and covered in fleas and ticks. Melanie was able to find homes for Winston’s siblings, but he became a part of their family and quickly adjusted to the lifestyle with the rest of the dogs. During my stay, Winston followed me everywhere, and was super sweet (as you can tell from the picture). He was full of energy, and never tired of playing with his furry friends.

While I loved all the dogs at the Sanctuary, one in particular stole my heart. Her name is Trudi, a small beagle mix that resembled my own puppy. There was never a moment I could sit on the couch or the porch without Trudi running up and sitting on my lap and showering me with kisses. Melanie and Jim found Trudi, and her sisters Daisy and Trixie as puppies in a ditch with a box of adult dog food next to them that they could barely eat. Today, all three sisters, although the smallest of the bunch, know how to assert themselves. In the picture below, you’ll see little Trudi having a “conversation” with one of the donkeys of Proud Spirit.

Then, there are the fluffball corgis, who with their little legs would climb up to my knees and plead for attention with their curious wide eyes. Most of them are rescued from shelters, and animal hospitals where they were sent to be euthanized because they weren’t “perfect” purebred puppies. One has a blue right eye, another a left blue eye, and another has a floppy ear. Luckily, their imperfections don’t come in the way of how much love they give.

The most captivating story of all of them is that of big Louis. Jim and Melanie’s friends found Louis near death in Florida. He was emaciated, with gun pellets in his body, and suffering from heartworm disease. The Bowles’ friends cared for him, and tried to get him adopted. When no one came forward, Melanie drove all the way to bring him home to Arkansas.

Louis, named after Louis Zamperini, World War II hero written about in Unbroken, has definitely been through his share of suffering for most of his life. Today, he is a much loved member of the Proud Spirit family. He has fully recovered from his ailments, and bounced back to health. Towering over the rest of the dogs, Louie is very possessive of Jim and makes sure no other dogs come near him, but there is plenty of love to go around for all of them.

In the endearing picture below, you’ll see Louis nuzzling his best friend’s ear. “Every dog must be loved this much,” says Melanie, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.

How to Help

  • Purchase The Dogs of Proud Spirit book by Melanie Sue Bowles for more true stories about the Proud Spirit dogs. All proceeds go towards the Sanctuary and rescue work.
  • Visit to learn more and make a donation.
  • Before you buy from a breeder, consider rescuing instead. Visit or your local shelter to find your next best friend.
  • Hug a dog or two, it’ll do you some good.


Connect with other species on Jeff Corwin Connect


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A Birth at a Carcass

By Corinne Kendall
September 28, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Survival Stories, Wildlife

I was admiring the usual hoopla of twenty vultures grappling for a small kill when a few of the Marabou storks wandered behind the vehicle. They seemed to have found something more interesting than the meat in front of them and I turned around to see what they were up to.

A small black lump sat on the ground about 100 meters behind us and the Marabous rushed it in their usual excitement to have found a new food source. But their joy was short lived as an angry Thompson gazelle mother, tail still raised from the pain of having just given birth, came rushing at the much larger birds.

Tiny horns pointed forward she chased the birds away from her very new calf. As the Marabou storks scattered, a Lappet-faced vulture landed to see what the commotion was about. It too was chased off within moments. Predators evaded, the mother now stood licking her newborn, pushing it to stand as she cleaned it of the afterbirth.

The calf seemed tired but alert and tried straightening its little legs in a hapless effort to get up. It took nearly forty minutes, but the calf finally found the strength, motivated it seemed by the swollen teats of its mother that hung just behind its reach, and stood wobbly for the first time. It latched on and suckled as its mother continued her cleansing.


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A Pile of Vultures

By Corinne Kendall
September 21, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Wildlife

It isn’t often that you get to watch a carcass from start to finish, but I got lucky. We came upon a single lioness finishing off a fresh wildebeest kill.

On her own, she was only able to consume perhaps a quarter of the carcass and with vultures, hyenas, and jackals gathering around the lion was beginning to feel the pressure.  So she left. Two hyenas moved in first feeding for a half hour they ate the bulk of the carcass with the occasional jackal or vulture rushing in to steal a soft piece of organs. …read more of A Pile of Vultures here

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In The Tree

By Corinne Kendall
September 19, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Endangered Species

Carcasses can be found almost everywhere. Over the course of the migration, thousands will be found in the river. Lions and hyenas often enjoy dragging their kills into the darkest recesses of the bush but more often then not, carcasses are lying out in the open plains just waiting for the vultures to find them.

On rare occasions, dead animals can get dragged into trees. In my first year, I had the pleasure of watching two White-headed vultures feed on a treed Thompson gazelle carcass before being pushed off by some tourists who seemed more interested in the carcass than the birds. …read more of In The Tree here

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The Endangered Unknown – Asiatic Cheetah

By Peter Kleinhenz
September 14, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Conservation, Endangered Species

Painting by George Stubbs

The fastest land animal is also fast in another category: going extinct. The Asiatic Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, once prowled the deserts and dry grasslands of the Caucasus region of central Asia to the Indian subcontinent, but now survives only in Iran, where it still hunts gazelle in the Kavir desert.

Reports from Pakistan have trickled in over the years, claiming that a few cheetahs are still eking out an existence there, but this has yet to be confirmed by the scientific community. Either way, researchers agree that there seem to be less than 100 Asiatic Cheetahs remaining on the planet. …read more of The Endangered Unknown – Asiatic Cheetah here

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Banded Attack

By Corinne Kendall
September 9, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Wildlife

Carcasses are interesting because you never quite know who will show up. This morning I found a nearly finished carcass with a few jackals gnawing away at the bones and some vultures waiting nearby. The jackals looked full and I knew that soon it would be the vultures turn to eat.

In the distance (and seemingly unrelated) were a small group of banded mongoose. The loose knit group of mongoose were wandering and foraging as one often sees them doing and appeared to be unaware of the birds just ahead of them. …read more of Banded Attack here

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Another Day at the Crossing

By Corinne Kendall
August 12, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Survival Stories, Wildlife

Nearly 600 wildebeest have drowned in the last week. It isn’t so much that the water is high as the fact that the wildebeest are stupid. After watching the crossing, it really is the only impression one is left with.

Why, why do they cross that way? You sit as the herds approach, anticipation building as they near the beckoning water, filled with crocodiles and completed with a cliff.

The wildebeest have reached the edge and take a drink before beginning what will likely be the hardest part of their journey. You look across the river and it seems clear. …read more of Another Day at the Crossing here

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Whether you’re a scientist working in the field or a young person in your backyard, this is where you get to share your stories through pictures, videos and articles with the rest of the world. Without your voice, these stories go unshared, and our planet’s ecology, wildlife and natural resources go unexplored. Connect with each other and us and let’s enjoy this process of learning from one another.

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