The Danger of Being Cute – Revisited


First of all, let me apologise for not posting on here for nearly four (FOUR) weeks. Time has gone by incredibly quickly and I have been so busy at school. Time for better time management!

I posted on the topic of inbreeding in animals and its effects before, almost a year ago, but it is a topic that I am truly passionate about and so I thought that I would post it again, on here.

I wrote this as an essay for an application for science opportunities abroad and thought that it would also tie in on here too.

Exotic Shorthair Cat

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What if your looks determined your life span? What if, the more beautiful you were, the more likely you were to die prematurely? This sounds extreme but, unfortunately, this is the case for many creatures.

Domestic animals are bred for looks. If two pets have a particular trait that is perceived as attractive, those animals will be bred together so that their offspring will inherit that trait.

Dogs, in particular, are the animals who are most affected by this type of breeding, with brachycephaly being one of the most common problems.

Brachycephaly is a condition that results in short, broad skull shape (with breadth being at least eighty percent of length) and flat facial features. Naturally, brachycephaly is a genetic mutation, which, in the wild would not allow the affected animal to thrive in its community. However, domesticated pets have been bred by humans and humans view the short snout and large eyes of a dog as ‘cute’, thereby breeding similar dogs together to continue this ‘desirable’ trait. As people, we are innately programmed to like the look of babies and we therefore, anthropomorphically, breed our pets to look young and small and desirable. In this way, humans have influenced natural selection as the cuter dogs are more likely to be taken in by families, fed and looked after, putting them in a better position to breed and pass on their genes. In many cases, the families with these dogs even use them as breeding machines to continue the line of pretty pups, fulfilling the demand for the ‘cute’ look.

We have all seen brachycephalic dogs, indeed they are the most common pets. Pugs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Bull Mastiffs, Chow Chows, Pekingese, Chihuahuas and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels all come under the brachycephalic category. A flatter face means smaller airways and so these breeds of dog typically suffer from breathing problems. Signs of these problems include continued open-mouth breathing, laboured, noisy breathing, high pitched wheezing, cyanosis, snoring and sleep apnoea. These symptoms progress with age and are usually severe by the age of twelve months. It is even possible to over-exercise a brachycephalic dog! Exercise, stress and heat can enhance these symptoms, in some cases, making them fatal. Stenotic nares (pinched, or narrow nostrils) are extremely common in these particular dog breeds, and often have to be surgically corrected, at the expense of the dog owner. Brachycephalic dogs also have an elongated soft palate which can partially block the trachea, increasing airway resistance and leading to even more breathing problems.

Furthermore, having difficulty breathing leads to a sedentary lifestyle. This, in turn, can lead to obesity, which is most certainly, a death sentence.

Not content with labouring the animal’s breathing, brachycephaly also results in misalignment of the jaw. This leads to the teeth also being misaligned – malocclusion –  and more expense is required to correct the related dental problems. Exophthalmos, abnormal protrusion of the eye, is also very common in brachycephalic breeds, particularly pugs.

Wrinkles are something that many of us suffer from. Usually though, they only cause emotional pain, not physical. Skin folds are prone to infections and are often inflamed. More money is needed to purchase medicines that relieve the affected animal’s pain and often this is an ongoing expense as these infections can persist.

Whilst dogs are certainly the animal most commonly affected by these sorts of problems, cats and rabbits are becoming more and more inbred, and therefore more likely to also be affected. Persian cats, Exotic Shorthairs, Scottish folds and Himalayans are all brachycephalic cat breeds, suffering from the same problems as the affected dog breeds.

The Netherlands Dwarf rabbits and Lionhead rabbits are also affected by brachycephaly. The misalignment of their jaws is particularly worrying. The teeth of rabbits grow continuously throughout their lifetime and, when eating the correct diet, they are naturally worn down. Misalignment however, means that these rabbits have dental problems and that their teeth cannot be worn down as they should be, leading to laceration of their mouths, difficulty eating, abscesses and even death. Lop-eared rabbits, whilst not necessarily brachycephalic, suffer from health problems because they are bred for their looks. Middle ear infections are very common in the breed, but they are also prone to behavioural problems. Rabbits use their ears to communicate with each other, but lop-eared rabbits are unable to use their ears in this way, leading to fights between lop-eared rabbits and non-lop-eared. This behaviour can be perceived as aggression and to resolve this problem, the rabbit may be euthanised, unjustly.

I strongly believe that we should get our pets from animal sanctuaries and rescue centres, such as the SPCA. So many brachycephalic animals are put into pounds and rescue centres every year because it cost their previous owners to much money in veterinarian fees to look after them. Yet we continue to buy these dogs from breeders because of their looks, without looking in the sanctuaries first to see if there are any there that are aesthetically pleasing. If people continue to go to breeders, the breeders will try to satisfy the demand for animals with desirable traits, despite the fact that these traits could be life threatening for the animal. Personally, I believe that no animal should be purchased based on looks and that you should always get the right pet for you, not necessarily the prettiest item in the window. I urge everyone to think practically, not to buy on a whim.

World Pangolin Day


World Pangolin day takes place every year on the third Saturday of February. Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animals and it is our job to be aware of the horrors of the pangolin trade and to aid conservation efforts. In celebration of pangolin day, I have made an animal profile on the Indian Pangolin.   

Common name: Indian pangolin, thick-talied pangolin / scaly anteater.

scientific name: Manis crassicaudata

class: mammalia

order: pholidota

conservation status: endangered

population trend: decreasing

size and weight: 5-35kg and 45-75 cm

diet: insects, particularly termites and ants

lifespan: 13 years

habitat: rainforests, grasslands and barren areas of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Southern Nepal, small parts of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

breeding: there is little information about pangolin breeding, however it is known that there are usually birthd in January, March, July and November. There is usually one baby per pregnancy but there can be two. The gestation period is 65-70 days and the pup is weaned at 3 months old.

threats: hunting for meat and traditional ‘medicine’

predators: lions, tigers, leopards

interesting facts:

  1. pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animals
  2. they have 13 rows of moveable, sharp scales
  3. they move at a top speed of 5km/hr
  4. baby pangolins are called pangopups
  5. nocturnal animals
  6. scales are made of keratin
  7. live in burrows
  8. have a keen sense of smell
  9. the Indian pangolin has much larger scales than the three Asian pangolin species
  10. unlike its African counterpart, the Indian pangolin does not climb trees.



  • wikipedia
  • IUCN redlist

Kekeno Animal Profile


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Common Name: New Zealand fur seal / kekeno

Scientific nameArctocephalus forsteri

Conservation status: Least concern

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Size and Weight: Males typically weigh between 90 and 150kg and are up to 2.5m long. Females weigh between 30 and 50kg, measuring up to 1.5m in length.

Habitat: Rocky coastlines around New Zealand and its surrounding islands, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Macquarie Island.

Appearance: Dark, grey-brown fur on their backs, with a lighter hue on their stomachs. These seals have pointy noses and long, pale whiskers.

Lifespan: Males typically live up to 15 years and females typically live up to 12 years.

Diet: cephalopods, birds, crustaceans and fish.

Predators: Killer whales, sharks, male New Zealand sea lions and possibly leopard seals. New Zealand fur seal pups are predated upon by males of the same species.

Breeding: Females reach sexual maturity at 4-6 years and males reach sexual maturity at 8-10 years. Females typically mate once a year (in November-January). They have a 9 month gestation period but they delay implantation by 3 months, resulting in  their pups being born in the following November to January. Females typically give birth to a single pup.

Threats: European settlers hunted the seals for their skin. In the modern day, a big threat to the NZ fur seal population is ending up as ‘bycatch’ in commercial fisheries.

Interesting Facts:

  1. They have 2 layers of fur.
  2. Their hind flippers can rotate forwards.
  3.  They have external ears. This feature, along with their flippers, distinguishes them from other seals.
  4. Mating is polygynous; i.e. one male mates with multiple females.
  5. In New Zealand they are protected under the 1978 Marine Mammals Protection Act which states that all wild pinnipeds cannot be touched or fed.




Dehydration and Heat Stress



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Right now it is summer in New Zealand. With temperatures regularly hitting 30*C, humans and animals alike are at risk of dehydration and heat stress. I live in a rural area surrounded by sheep (of course) and cattle. Speaking to farmers, the heat is their worst fear for their animals. Regardless of whether you keep livestock or puppies, here is what you need to watch out for and how you can prevent and treat problems resulting from the strong sun.

High temperatures and high humidity, combined with low air speed can cause dehydration and heat stress, additionally exacerbating existing conditions.

High risk animals:

  • Pigs are less heat tolerant than other animals and are prone to sunburn.
  • Small animals, such as guinea pigs and rabbits are at higher risk and don’t do well in temperatures above 21°C.
  • Young animals.
  • Dark-coloured animals.
  • Lactating animals.
  • Sick animals and animals with a history of respiratory disease.
  • ‘Flat-faced’, brachycephalic animals.


Signs of heat stress and dehydration in livestock include:

sunken eyes, foaming at the mouth, dark urine, fever*, lethargy, increased respiratory rate and open mouth breathing.


Symptoms in other animals are quite similar, the main symptoms being lethargy, labored breathing and loss of appetite.

Chickens and other poultry can have other symptoms including;

pale combs/wattles and lifting wings away from the body.


  1. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water.
  2. Make sure that there is shade available.
  3. Take steps to avoid unnecessary anxiety and excitement (these can increase heart rate and hence respiratory rate). For example, don’t transport your animals and avoid handling them as much as possible.
  4. Avoid exercise. If you must exercise your animals, make sure that you do it during the early morning and in the late evening, when temperatures are cooler. It is a good idea to bring some water with you, even at these times of the day.
  5. Provide plenty of space, particularly for flocks of animals.
  6. Feed during cooler times of the day (morning and evening).

Image result for dehydration and heat stress in animals

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If you suspect your animal is suffering from a heat related illness, here are some good suggestions you may want to follow. However, always be sure to contact a veterinarian.

  1.  Move your animal into shade (and breeze if possible). If you cannot move them, create shade around them.
  2. Give them water and encourage them to drink it, in small amounts. Too much water in one go can prove to be detrimental.
  3. Cool them down. Fans are excellent. With the exception of poultry (unless there is a lot of air movement), you may spray your animals with cool water (also a good prevention strategy) and lay wet towels on them.
  4. Contact a veterinarian. If there has been no immediate, obvious response, it is essential that you contact a vet.
  5. Replace electrolytes. Bear in mind that this should be done at the recommendation of a veterinarian.





*in cattle, fever is a rectal temperature above 39°C



Green Turtle: an Animal Profile.


Image credit: via wikipedia.

Brocken Inaglor

Common name: Green turtle

Scientific nameChelonia mydas

Class: Reptilia

Order: testudines

Conservation status: endangered

Size and weight: average weight is  68–190 kg but can weigh up to 300kg and be up to 1.5m in length.

Lifespan: approximately 60-70 years.

Appearance: Wide carapace that is brown-olive in colour. The plastron (underside) is yellow in colour and their flesh has a green hue.

Diet: Eats mainly plants; seagrasses, algae, mangroves, but also fish and their eggs, shellfish, sponges and jellyfish.

Habitat: 3 main stages of habitat; eggs are laid on a beach, and adults spend time in shallow waters in lush seagrass meadows and bays in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Found as far south as the northern tip of New Zealand and can be generally be found in the Atlantic ocean.

Breeding: Only venture onto land in order to lay their eggs. Female green turtles drag themselves onto land with their flippers following mating in shallow waters. They then dig a pit in which they lay 100-200 eggs and cover the eggs with sand, returning to the sea, leaving the eggs for two months. After two months the eggs hatch and the baby turtles (5cm in length) crawl to the water, having to avoid a multitude of predators.

Threats: habitat destruction due to coastal development by humans. Overharvesting by humans is a threat to green turtles as there is less food for them. Pollution is also a threat and many turtles suffocate because of the plastic that is being dumped in the sea.

Predators: Adults have few predators, mainly large sharks. Baby green turtles have many predators; fish, dogs, seabirds, raccoons, snakes, large insects.

Interesting Facts:

  1. The name ‘green turtle’ derives from the fact that their flesh is green, discovered through making turtle soup.
  2.  The only turtle that is mainly herbivorous.
  3. Can hold their breath for several hours.
  4. Have a non-retractable head.
  5. Are cold-blooded.
  6. Approximately 90% of hatchlings are eaten by predators.




Ngā Manu Nature Reserve


Original photography.

Disclaimer: This content is not sponsored in any way by Nga Manu Nature Reserve.


‘Majestic’. That was my first thought upon seeing the stunning views from the lookout at Nga Manu. Nga Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae is exactly what it claims to be; a nature reserve. Home to many native plant species as well as native animal species, it is a great day out, not only for kids but also for teens and adults.

I attended Nga Manu on the 30th of December 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. I particularly liked being able to walk through the kākā enclosure and the feeling of being part of the surroundings, rather than just the usual observation at most reserves. I also saw a couple of kiwi, red admiral butterflies and a morepork.

Deep in the heart of the 14 hectare reserve lies a lookout, accessible only via a bushwalk. With the breeze on your face and the sun on your back, the views are nothing but beautiful and create a feeling of being a small part of the world. It made me almost feel insignificant, a small part of something truly great as I gazed into the magical abyss of greenery and peacefulness.

Picnicking is welcomed, with there being barbeques and tables available, as well as abundant rubbish bins in order to eliminate litter.

Nothing is perfect however and there were two things that I didn’t particularly like, the first of which was the eel feeding. The eels I found to be fascinating, however they were fed with day old male chicks. Fortunately they were not live, however it did make me uncomfortable (probably because of my pet chickens) as it reminded me of the horrors that take place in the egg industry. I understand that the eels need to eat but I did not feel comfortable watching the feeding session. Just a personal view and many people did not seem fased by it.

The other aspect that I wasn’t overly keen on was the sheer volume of noise produced by the young children who were also visiting the sanctuary. Again this is just a personal view and not really a problem. In fact, despite the initial irritability it caused, I actually found this inspiring as it is lovely to see and hear children enjoying themselves. The ability to run around and be fascinated by the creatures in the reserve shows that Nga Manu encompasses exactly what I love about New Zealand culture; the ability to be active and ‘hands-on’, freedom of speech and encouragement of questioning and creativity.

The highlight of the trip for me were the skinks as I particularly like lizards.

The reserve does charge entry fees, however I find these to be very reasonable, especially considering the many attractions there. Adult entry is $18, child (5-15yrs) entry is $8, (tertiary) student entry is $10, as is the senior citizen entry and children under the age of five years enter the reserve free of charge. An extra dollar buys you an eel feeding experience and an extra two dollars buys you a bag of duck food.

The selection in the gift shop is also good and of course I bought The guide to New Zealand’s Native Plants, books 1 and 2. The typical tourist gifts are available too, not to mention the selection of ice creams. As a vegan, it is usually difficult to find a suitable ice lolly but I treated myself to a delicious (and rather large) pear and feijoa sorbet.

All in all, I would highly recommend Nga Manu Nature Reserve, it is well worth a visit if you are in the area and it is even worth a drive out to just to see it. If you are far away, a cottage is available for overnight stays, but of course you need to contact Nga Manu beforehand.



Animal Profile: Morepork


Image Credit: Julie Mudge, taken from the DOC website.

I came across these creatures after visiting the Ngā Manū nature reserve.

Common name: Morepork, Ruru, Tasmanian Spotted Owl, Boobook Owl.

Scientific name: Ninox novaeseelandiae

Class: aves

Order: strigiformes

Conservation status: Least concern

Size and weight: They are typically 26-29cm long. There is some sexual dimorphism with the female being slightly bigger than the male. The female ruru typically weighs between 170 and 216g, and the male weighs between 140 and 156g.

Lifespan: up to six years.

Appearance: They have orange/yellow feet and eyes. Head and upperparts are dark brown and there are pale brown spots on its head and neck. There are also white spots on the rest of upperparts. Brown body, dark brown tail, a yellow/white eyebrow area and a pale grey beak.

Diet: Insects, small mammals and small birds.

Habitat: Most habitats with trees in New Zealand and Australia.

Breeding: Nest in large trees with hollows. Clutches are usually two eggs but can be up to three. The incubation period is 20-30 days.

Threats: Habitat destruction and poison. Poison is usually ingested by eating an animal that was poisoned. Poison is usually anti-coagulants.

Predators: As females sit on their eggs they can be predated upon by stoats and possums. Rats are also a threat to eggs and chicks.

Interesting facts:

  1. Young birds and chicks have fluffier, whiter feathers and don’t attain adult plumage until their third or fourth year.
  2. Usually seen alone, in a pair or in a group of three.
  3. The word ‘ruru’ is onomatopoeic, based upon the call the ruru makes.
  4. In Maori tradition, the ruru is seen as a watchful guardian, belonging to the spirit world as a bird of the night.



  • wikipedia

Auckland Tree Weta Animal Profile


Image credit: saras from


Common name: Auckland Tree Weta, Tree Weta, Bush Weta, Tokoriro

Scientific name: Hemideina thoracica

Class: Insecta

Order: Orthoptera

Size and Weight: up to 40mm in length

Appearance: Typical insect appearance, with large ears on its front legs and extremely long atennae. Females have an ovipositor that looks like a stinger.

Conservation Status: unknown.

Diet: Some small insects but mainly eat leaves off plants. Mainly herbivorous and prefer the leaves off of Mahoe and Karamu plants as they tend to have softer leaves.

Habitat: Native to New Zealand and found throughout the North Island. Live in holes in trees that were made by moth and beetle larvae

Breeding: Female lays eggs in soil or rotting wood with an ovipositor.

Predators: laughing owl, tuatara, saddleback and kiwi are its natural predators. Introduced predators are mainly rodents.

Interesting facts:

  1. Live for around 2 years
  2. Nocturnal
  3. Flightless




Faux Fur Friday


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Dear readers,

you may have noticed that I retweet a lot of vegan news. This week I thought that I would dedicate an entire blog post to it.

Next Friday (1st of December) if Faux Fur Friday. Faux Fur Friday is held on the first Friday of December every year.

Many people do not understand why fur is a problem. Respected fashion brands use it in their collections so surely it is okay to buy the product as the animals’ welfare has been taken into account. Unfortunately this is not the case and usually, if not 100% of the time, the animal who provides the fur suffers immensely.

85% of fur from the USA comes from animals kept in small, wire cages on fur farms where they are later skinned alive. Those that are killed before skinning suffer electric shocks to the genitals and anus as this is believed to be the killing method that does the least amount of damage to the fur itself. Other methods of slaughter include strangling, hanging, poisoning and gassing.

The other 15% comes from wild animals that have been trapped. The most popular traps used are called leg hold traps. These (steel) traps clamp down on the caught animal’s foot and the animal suffers in immense pain, struggling for hours and even days without food or water. Before they are released, they are bludgeoned to death or they have their throats and chests stood on, suffocating to death. Drowning sets have also been developed to kill semi-aquatic animals, for example mink and beavers. The weight of the trap is such that the animals drown. There are also traps that are designed to instantly snap the necks of animals a certain size. However animals that are not this size can suffer a long, drawn-out death.

After all this abuse, the fur is treated with toxic chemicals to prevent it from rotting and decomposing. This chemicals may have an adverse effect on human health.

There is no doubt that the fur trade is a cruel one. Please do not support it in anyway. If you like the look of fur there are so many different synthetic options to choose from. You don’t have to become vegan, just be aware of this cruelty and make decisions against it.

Faux Fur Friday is a chance to openly support the production of fake fur, so spread the word! Wear your faux furs with pride and the knowledge that no suffering occurred for you to obtain it.




Pygmy Hippo Animal Profile


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Common name: Pygmy Hippopotamus

Scientific name: Chosropsis liberiensis

Class: mammalia

Order: artiodactyla

Size and Weight: 75-100cm tall (to the shoulder), 150-175cm in length with a weight of 180-275kg.

Appearance: They resemble their relatives the common hippo. However their feet are less webbed and and their toes are more widely spread due to the fact that they spend more time on land. Despite being on land often, they are good swimmers and have valves that close off their ears and nostrils when they submerge themselves under water.

Conservation Status: endangered

Diet: herbivorous diet of leaves, roots, ferns and fruits near rivers and streams.

Habitat: West Africa, mainly in Liberia but also found in Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast in swamps amd forests.

Breeding: gestation period is 6-7 months and calves can be born in water or on land.

Threats: deforestation.

Predators: leopards, crocodiles, pythons.

Interesting facts:

  1. nocturnal
  2. semi-aquatic
  3. More rare than the hippo
  4. only discovered in 1840
  5. usually solitary but can be found in small groups
  6. males are called bulls and females are called cows
  7. individuals secrete white fluid into their skin which acts as a moisturiser and a sun screen.
  8. Have a 4 chamber stomach but with no caecum.



  • Wikipedia
  • IUCN redlist
  • San Diego Zoo