Peter’s Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat

Dwarf Bat

The Peter’s Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat is a fan of fruit and is very helpful at distributing pollen in Central and Western Africa.  A species of tree called the Sausage Tree, or Kigelia Africana, relies on the Peter’s Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat as its pollinator. The tree’s flowers smell like crap to humans but are totally groovy to the bats as they shove their little furry heads into the flowers to suck on nectar and get covered in pollen, go to the next flower, drop the pollen into the stamen, therefore fertilizing, therefore making more trees, therefore producing more oxygen, therefore helping to make the air good to breathe, etc., and so forth.  Look at these things:


Trees love bats. Bats love trees. Everyone loves oxygen. Without bats, there is no oxygen.

Least Concern




Oh Platypus. I had no idea. I mean, I knew you were in a class all your own, or rather a family all your own (Ornithorhynchidae). Not only are you one of five species of mammal to lay eggs, but you (male platypus) have a venomous spur on your ankle. You use your tail to store fat. Your snout is flexible and rubbery. You have a reptilian type of walk on land. You use electrolocation to locate prey (detection of electric fields generated by muscle movement). Your eyes have double cones (most mammals don’t)which allows you to detect motion, luminance, and stuff we don’t even know about. Although you have waterproof skin, skin that covers your ears and eyes and nose when you are underwater, you can only stay in the water for 30-140 seconds.

You are an enigma inside a mystery inside a conundrum inside an amazing furry-egg-laying package.

Least Concern

Komodo Dragon

komodo dragon

I’ve mentioned the Chinese zodiac before. I was born in the year of the Dragon. Dragons are thought to be enthusiastic, intelligent, hardworking, straightforward, and super awesome. It’s the only “imaginary” animal in the zodiac. I think if I were a different animal, I might not care about it. But a Dragon? Um, yes, please. I shall breathe fire upon your face.

That brings us to a real dragon, the Komodo Dragon, and we definitely share the personality traits described in the Chinese Zodiac.

Enthusiastic: Komodo Dragons use their long tongues to detect their prey’s scent (let’s say a deer), and then wait . . . Since Dragons are the largest living lizards, they use their size to their advantage and attack the deer’s feet. The deer falls over and gets ripped apart by powerful claws and giant, serrated teeth.

Intelligent: They are big on napping and basking in the sun.

Hardworking: Most large carnivores only eat 75% of their kill (not the guts, hide, skeleton, hooves, etc.), but the Komodo Dragon eats almost everything. They swing the intestines from side to side so all the poop flies out, and then they eat them.

Straightforward: Their jaws are hinged in way that help them open super wide in order to eat up to 80% of their own body weight in one meal. They can also barf it up if they need to make a hasty escape.

Super Awesome: They can swim, but only if they’re sure they can get a meal out of it.

Being a dragon is the best.




You may be wondering what a “toilet claw” is. Let me tell you: it is a specialized claw primates have for grooming. It doesn’t have anything to do with a toilet. I know, you’re disappointed. I was too.

So to quell your disappointment, I shall introduce the Sifakas! A large species of lemur who are super awesome jumpers, like these dudes can make a lateral leaps that are totally bananas. They are HIGH ENERGY! And love to party. Check it:


Critically Endangered

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

You would have difficulty finding a more chivalrous bird than a penguin. When a male penguin wants to court a mate, he sifts through beach pebbles until he finds the smoothest, kinda flat one and presents it to her (like a very sensible engagement ring). They add the engagement stone to their nest (that’s the sensible bit) and wait for eggs.

More chivalry: the male (and female) Gentoos are very attentive parents; they have long lasting bonds with their chicks.

Not really chivalry, but adds to the awesomeness: Gentoos are the fastest underwater swimming bird, with top speeds up to 22 mph.

They also enjoy hockey.

Near Threatened

Sand Cat


Humans and cats having been hanging out for like 10,000 years. Maybe it’s because humans aren’t fond of vermin and cats are fond of eating them, therefore creating a beneficial relationship. I’ve been living with cats for about 20 years, and I can tell you that they enhance my life with their furry butts, sparkling eyes, meowing faces, and overall cat magic. I admire their ability to sleep all day and their “devil may care” attitude: you can train a cat, but even when you do it feels more like they are doing something because they want to, not because you asked them.

Sand cats live in the desert where all cats, domesticated and wild, are thought to come from. They live reclusive lives, eating heir vermin desert snacks, living in underground burrows, and being nocturnal. They look like house cats but with super furry feet, which protect their paws from the hot sand of the desert and help them leave no tracks. What also makes them different is they avoid humans and are not interested in being pets or friends or partners or a trophy. They just want to do their own desert-cat thing.


Near Threatened

Eastern Chipmunk


When I was six years old, I lived in a small borough outside Pittsburgh called Greentree. I played outside, climbed trees, and ran around the neighborhood with my tiny friends. One of my favorite pastimes was sitting on my plastic lawnmower and riding it down my driveway into the basement garage. There was a satisfying “click-click-click” as the wheels rotated. I was low to the ground (for better wind resistance), and I weighed close to nothing: I was Speed Racer.

I remember very clearly on one run, I saw a “sleeping” chipmunk at the bottom of the driveway. Knowing this could be the famous Alvin, Simon, or Theodore, I called up to my mom who was weeding her garden, “Mom!!! I think Alvin is sleeping in the driveway!” My mother looked down, saw the half-dead chipmunk, and advised me loudly with very wide eyes to move away from the chipmunk. Now.

The rest of story involves a shovel.

Eastern chipmunks have distinctive stripes and large cheek pouches for carrying food. They dig burrows to store nuts and seeds for the winter since they don’t hibernate. On average, they live around three years in the wild. Sometimes, they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to be mercy killed by somebody’s mother.


Least Concern



I like to go fishing with my dad and my brother in the back waters around Naples. We hire a boat and captain named Todd, and he takes us to secret spots where the fish are practically jumping onto our hooks. I realizing fishing is not super fun for the fish, but we throw mostly everything back (except for what gets taken home and cooked for dinner–not MY dinner, but dinner for everyone else), so the fish get a free meal and an exciting story to tell their fishing friends.

On these fishing trips, we see so much wildlife beauty and learn so much from Todd about what we are seeing, smelling, hearing, and catching. I’ve seen a raccoon swimming by with a fish in it’s mouth. We see dolphins swimming leisurely around the boat, osprey flying to their crazy stick nests, giant pelicans soaring like dinosaurs right above the water… I’ve caught snook, trout, catfish, sheepshead, jacks, grouper, mullet, and ladyfish. Todd’s sage advice about the lovely, glittering ladyfish: “Don’t pull them into the boat. They poop everywhere.”

Those fish are no ladies.

My sheepshead

Biggest Sheepshead I’ve ever caught. Captain Todd is holding the fish while I contemplate the grunting noises it’s making.

Least Concern