Masai Giraffe


Everyone knows giraffes have really long necks and are the tallest mammals in all the world. But what you may not have known it that they have the longest tail of any land animal. And they have black tongues. They can go weeks without drinking water, getting moisture from the 75 pounds of vegetation they eat daily. Giraffes are fast and can run up to 35 mph in short bursts. They can moo, hiss, whistle, and go “rowr.”

There are nine subspecies of giraffe that are distinguished by their pattern of spots or coloring and also where they live (they are all indigenous to Africa). Each individual giraffe has it’s own unique pattern of spots, like human fingerprints. The Masai giraffe has a pattern on it’s fur that sorta-kinda looks like an oak leaf or a raggedy star.


Least Concern


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

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

Shoe-billed Stork


Let’s talk beats per minute. 

In music this is called “tempo” and, whether you’re playing the piano or a euphonium, it’s important because it lets you know what the timing or speed of the music is.

Beats per minute is also important in heart health. A normal resting heart rate for people (10 years and older) is 60 – 100 beats per minutes (bpm). A lower heart rate implies a more efficient heart function, like an athlete might have a resting heart beat of 40 beats per minute, or a meditating monk can get his heart rate down to 20 bpm.

However, there is another type of beat per minute: how many times a bird flaps its wings. An eagle beats its wings 300 times a minute.  A Blue Jay, about 2,400 times.  A hummingbird–12,000!  The Shoe-billed Stork… just 150 flaps per minute. They are taking their time, Baby.

Why shouldn’t they? Shoebills have evolved to occupy an inaccessible habitat in eastern Africa (much like the Stellar’s Sea Eagle living in hostile Siberia). They save their speed for catching fish in shallow water and look awesome with their shoe-shaped beaks. Slow and steady.



Sociable Weaver

Socialble Weaver

Sociable Weavers build, run, and maintain B&B’s (Bed & Breakfasts: a kind of charming, quaint hotel that generally provides the comfort and quiet of home) all over the Kalahari savannas of Africa. They build these giant nests (the largest by any bird) that can weigh several tons (think of when it rains in the rainy season) and house anywhere from 10 to 500 birds in honeycomb-like chambers. Some of the large colonies have seen many generations of birds, sometimes over a hundred years. Other bird species, such as South African pygmy falcon, pied barbet, Roseyfaced Lovebirds, Familiar Chats, tits, sparrows, vultures, owls, eagles, and finches also make residence in the Weaver apartment building because they are great landlords and there is safety in numbers.

Safety from what? What could possibly want to enter the nest? Who would want to hang out in a fluffy, cool nesting chamber, filled with adorable baby Weavers? Oh just snakes like cobras or mambas; or baboons, or rats, or honey badgers. They like to eat eggs.

So having your condo on top of a giant pole is a good thing. It’s so good, that some birds don’t even need to leave the nest. Like ever. Teenage Weavers help take care of the new chicks and may decide to just move into an empty nesting chamber nearby. Parents feed neighbor chicks and it’s a big happy family.

Social Weaver Nest

Social weaver nest CC BY-SA 4.0
Photograph by Mike Peel

Least Concern

Elephant Shrew


In the mid-13th centuries the shrew was believed to have a venomous bite. People were afraid and superstitious of the tiny mammal, and therefore when a woman acted anything but docile, she was referred to as a “shrew.” It was implied that she was a “peevish, malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman.”

But the shrew is not poisonous. They are like moles or mice. The Elephant Shrew is actually not a “true shrew.” They eat insects and have scaly tails like a opossum and sometimes hop around like little rabbits. They are pretty cool. In 2009, an Elephant Shrew was born at the National Zoo which is rare: 

So go right ahead and call me a “shrew.” Because I will take that to mean I am monogamous, industrious, and independent, with a flexible nose.





Secretary Bird


If you hate snakes, then I have the bird for you!

The Secretary Bird’s taxonomic name is “sagittarius sepentarius,” which translates to “the archer of snakes.” And, no, they don’t use snakes as arrows in target practice, but excellent and creative guess! The Secretary Bird is a magnificent snake hunter. They have many tools in their arsenal against snakes, one being long, heavily scaled legs (the longest legs of any predatory bird). They look like an eagle on top and a crane on the bottom.

There are two theories on the origin of the name “Secretary Bird”:

1. The feathers on the back of their head (a crest) reminded 19th century naturalists of the quill pens secretaries tucked behind their ears. Nerds.
2. The name derives from the Arabic “saqr-et-tair,” which translates to “hunter bird.”

Whatever you want to call them, they are beautiful, elegant, enormous, and super cool.