Lion Heart: Reunion with Christian the Lion

Above: What a hug Christian the Lion gave his friends.

It all started in 1969 when two university friends, John Rendall and Ace Bourke, traveled to London from Australia to make their mark. Their visit to Harrods, a luxury department store which had a zoo department at that time, bought them a lion cub named Marcus (whom later they renamed Christian). To cut the long story short, Rendall and Bourke raised the lion and managed to get him back into the wild after they realised he was too big to be kept in London. With the help of the lion man, George Adamson, Christian was adapted back to the wild in Africa.

Videos of Christian on YouTube has caused a sensation soon after college student Lisa Williams posted it up. Her video garnered close to 5 million views, 2,960 comments and many other remakes of the video.

Lions, Panthera Leo, “are spectacularly sociable: they hunt together, raise their cubs in nursery groups and defend joint territories.” (University of Minnesota, 2010) There was a certain inclination which suggests that because the lion cub needed the care and attention which the two men readily provided, hence they were able to form a very intimate relationship with the lion. Christian treated the two men as his family from the beginning, as if they were part of his pride.

In the documentary “A Lion Called Christian“, shown on Animal Planet, a six-month-old Christian was shown playing a game of catch with Rendall and Bourke but Zoologist Prof Tim Coulson feels it was no ordinary play. “It’s all part of learning how to hunt,” he said.

According to the Lion Research Centre at the University of Minnesota, it is through play that cubs learn and imitate hunting/fighting techniques from the adults. “Much of their playing imitates behaviors shown by adults, including stalking and fighting.” (University of Minnesota, 2010)

However in the case of Christian, there were no adult lions for him to imitate. It seems that it was part of basic lion instinct that he took on predatory stance during play. It was also this basic lion instinct that got Christian well adapted back into the wild because a lion’s survival relied on his aggression for food and territory.

So would a lion’s aggressive behaviour be learned or by instinct?

In a journal article by W.H. Thorpe, instinct is part of the equation in animal behaviour and these “instinctive systems of behaviour involved in the play of higher animals are most usually (a) prey catching, (b) fighting and territory, (c) sex and reproduction, and (d) exploration.”

In a later part of the documentary, Christian was taken to Kenya, Africa where he became close friends with George Adamson’s lion named Boy. Boy was a full-grown male and was two times the size of Christian.

Initially, Boy saw Christian as a threat but after some fighting, Christian was accepted as part of the pride and since then, they have become inseparable. Boy acted like a father to Christian, teaching him survival in the wild which helped Christian to adapt successfully.

Most people think that captive animals will not be able to survive in the wild because they are too used to being domesticated. But Christian’s case prove all of it wrong. Although natural instinct played a role in helping Christian to adapt to the wild, Boy’s ‘coaching’ further brought out Christian’s lion personality. Rendall and Bourke couldn’t possibly have done so.

So intinctive behaviour and learned behaviour are both very important in helping Christian get back into the wild.

Although a tragedy ensued involving Boy later, Christian quickly became independent and was shown leading his own pride now.


“Evolution of Group Living,” by The University of Minnesota. Lion Research Centre, 02 Apr 2010.  URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010).

“Christian, The Lion at World’s End,” by Bill Travers. YouTube Channel, 30 Apr 2009. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010).

“A Lion Called Christian,” by Animal Planet. YouTube Channel, 09 Oct 2009. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010).

W. H. Thorpe, 1966. Ritualization in Ontogeny: I. Animal Play. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 251(772): 311-319.

Flying Dragon From Avatar??

It’s a bird. It’s a dragon! No? It’s “Draco Volans“!! Dragon baby?

Also known as the common gliding lizard, it can be usually found in dense forest with relatively small, closely-spaced trees packed in Southeast Asia.

This creature is not design like a bird and it doesn’t fly. However, it can spread out folds of skin that is attached to its movable elongated ribs to form a pair of wing-like structure and it uses them to glide from tree to tree!

Like all reptiles it doesn’t have the ability to sustain itself in flight, and is capable only of gliding. Despite only the capabilities of gliding, it can travel a great distance during their glide, five meters for every meter they descend approximately.

They usually prefer not to glide in weather such as heavy rain and turbulent weather. When not in flight, these creatures can simply fold their wings like a fan and appear just like any other normal lizards! They are usually ‘parked’ with their head pointing downwards when taking off , this is very similar to aircrafts and planes. Aircrafts prefer taking off with a head-wind rather than a tail-wind, this is because the head-wind will generate better lift for them! I wonder who gave aerodynamic lessons to these creatures..

These lizards claim territory in the wild just like any other animals do. The males usually having one to three trees in his territory and in each of these trees, one to three females usually dwell. The males have a yellow skin flap under their throats that they flap during mating season to attract the females, as for the females, they can be recognized by the blue flap instead.

Now let us take a look at these ‘little dragons’ in action!


“The Circle of Dragons,” by Kylie McCormick, 5th August 2008. URL: (accessed on 25th March 2010)

“Draco beccarii: Indonesia,” by Javier M. Flickr. URL: (accessed on 25th March 2010)

“Amazing Animals Part 2 – Draco Lizard,” by Brom8305  YouTube Channel, 28th March 2009. URL: (accessed on 26th March 2010)

Oliver, James A. (1951). “Gliding” in Amphibians And Reptiles, With A Remark On An Arboreal Adaptation in the Lizard, Anolis carolinensis carolinensis Voigt. The American Naturalist, 85(822): 171 – 176.

Hairston, Nelson G. (1957). Observations on the Behaviour of Draco volans in the Philippines. Copeia, 1957(4): 262- 265.

Lust & Passion: Red-Sided Garter Snake


Above: A massive ball of Red-sided Garter Snakes mating

William Shakespeare wrote “love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” Courtship among the red-sided garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis which are found in Canada and North America, could well be a reflection of this quote; one which often turns out to be a game blinded by passion.

Here’s a video of their mating behaviour:

During the cold winter months, the red-sided garter snake hibernates underground. Those who survived the cold will emerge slowly from their hibernation. With every movement, the snake’s body warms up and this is when things start to get “heated up”. Similarly, the female red-sided garter snake arises from her deep slumber. However, as she warms her body, an eager crowd of males awaits impatiently for their prospective mate, attentively seeking the scent of a nearby female. Pheromones trails given off by the female acts just like a love potion luring its target. “These pheromones are produced in the skin of the dorsal surface”. (Mason, 1993: pg 262) This creates an astounding sight where up to a hundred male garter snakes vie lustfully for the available female forming a massive ball of entangled web of passion and lust.

Interestingly, these routine competitions have encouraged certain individuals to adapt tactics that trick other male garter snakes into believing it is a female. In such cases, the pseudo-female snake mimics the same pheromone scent of a genuine female which would attract the other desperate males. This tactic is especially useful when a male’s cold body impedes its movement hence making it difficult to compete with a fast and sexually active male. This pseudo-female would then be able to lure “blinded” males to mate with him. At the same time, it makes use of the hordes of males to speed up the warming in its own body, therefore having better chances to mate with a female garter snake. According to BBC’s life series as mentioned in the video, the red-sided garter snakes’ mating fiasco is known to be the biggest number of gatherings by any reptile in the world. However, it brings to mind the phrase, “blinded by love” literally but who can blame them when these snakes are both morphologically and anatomically undistinguishable. (Mason, 1993: pg 264)


“The Red-Sided Garter-Attenborough – BBC’s Life,” by Globalzoo. Youtube channel, 22 Jan 2010. URL: (Accessed April 4, 2010)

Mason R T, 1993. Chemical Ecology of the Red-Sided Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis.Brain, Behaviour and Evolution, 41: 261-268

“30 Strangest Animal Mating Habits,” by Dig a List, 2008. URL: (Accessed April 4, 2010)

Man’s Next Best Friend: The Greater Honeyguide

Greater Honeyguide

The Greater Honeyguide , Indicator indicator, has been known to guide men to bee colonies in many parts of Kenya, Africa. This symbiotic relationship between bird and man has actually dated all the way back to the 17th Century! The greater honeyguides are especially useful when it comes to unfamiliar areas. Due to the honey gatherers’ use of smoky fire to hypnotize the bees, the greater honeyguides benefit from being stung. In addition, most of the nests are more accessible to the birds only after the humans have opened them (Isack and Reyer, 1989).

The scientific study undertaken by Isack and Reyer discovered that communication between the Borans of Kenya  and the greater honeyguides were through sounds and visual signals. To get the attention of the birds, the Borans used a penetrating whistle. The greater honeyguide responded by flying close to the honey gatherer and gave a ‘guiding call’. The bird made use of its calling, its display of its conspicuous white outer tail feathers and perching on nearby branches to guide the Borans to the bee colonies. Upon arrival, the bird would perch on the branch close to the nest and make an ‘indication call’. The Borans interviewed have observed that through this guiding behaviour, the birds were able to inform them of the direction, distance as well as their arrival to the bees’ colony.

The greater honeyguide’s calling is only directed at humans. However, unlike communication between animals (such as pet cats and dogs) and man, the greater honeyguides are not domesticated.  There have even been observations found that some greater honeyguides attempted to guide nonresponding humans (Dean, 1990)! Despite an amazing discovery of a connection between a wild animal and a human, this relationship is otherwise threatened due to urbanization and advanced technology of extracting honey from beehives.

Here is a clip of the BBC Series‘’Talking to Strangers’’ which documented the relationship between man and bird:


“BBC Talking to Strangers: Honeybirds,” by unireality. unireality YouTube Channel, 23 February 2009. URL: (accessed on 27 March 2010).

Dean, W. R. J., Siegfried , W. Roy & MacDonald, I. A. W., 1990. The Fallacy, Fact, and Fate of Guiding Behavior in the Greater Honeyguide. Conservation Biology, 4 (1): 99-101.

“Greater Honeyguide,” by B.J. Bergstrom. 320 Birds of Kenya. URL: (accessed on 3 April 2010)

Isack, H.A & Reyer, H.U, 1989. Honeyguides and Honey Gatherers: Interspecific Communication in a Symbiotic Relationship. Science, New Series, 243 (4896): 1343-1346.

B-Boy Skunk, the true founder of breaking…

Even wonder who is the true founder of those cool and slick breakdance moves? Well, I did an extensive research over the net and finally found the true legend- the grand master of breaking…

Spilogale putorius :The legendary handstand founder

Spilogale putorius :The legendary handstand founder

Well, it seems like we human have a lot in common with our friends in the animal kingdom. Besides living on the same green planet and breathing the same polluted air, we share a common passion for dance!

The Spilogale putorius, or commonly known as the Eastern Spotted Skunk is an omnivorous mammal of the Skunk family- Mephitidae. Although the Eastern Spotted Skunk appeared small and vulnerable to attack by larger predators, it has its unique set of defense mechanism to survive attack from larger foes and this includes lifting its hindquarters high up in the air and doing a handstand!!

The Eastern Spotted Skunk is easily recognizable by its distinctive broken white strips that run along each side of its body, giving it a spotted look. Weighing between 2.5 -14 pounds and with a body length of approximate 19 -25 inches (incuding tail length), the Eastern Spotted Skunk is about the size of a cat. It can be found in Northern American and Southern Mexico. The Eastern Spotted Skunk is famous for its acrobatic ability and is the most agile skunk species among the family of Mephitidae.

When feeling threatened, the Eastern Spotted Skunk will run up to the enemies, stopping in its track suddenly and lift up its hindquarters to do a handstand. When in this posture, the anal sac of the Eastern Spotted Skunk is directed towards the enemies, preparing to spray its foe with a strong and odorous scent (from musk glands) that will cause effects such as temporary blindness and vomiting. This gives the skunk enough time to escape or in most cases, the predators will be driven away by the scent. The Eastern Spotted Skunk is reputed to be able to hold this position for more than a minute! Much longer than many of the amateur breakers from our species!

As a matter of fact, the handstand posture adopted by the Eastern Spotted Skunk not only served as a warning sign for the predators, but also makes the skunk appeared larger than it is.  This posture also allowed the mammal to monitor its enemies movement at all times.

In addition, the Eastern Spotted Skunk also employ strategies such as hissing, stomping its feet or running away at the first sight of foes to survive predation by other animals.


Eastern Spotted Skunk Handstand MV…Enjoy!




Links to secondary source

Personal account of the spotted skunk breaking: 

Johnson, Charles E. (1921). The “hand-stand” habit of the spotted skunk.  American Society of Mammalogists2(2), Retrieved from  


Web Pages:

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. (n.d.). Eastern spotted skunk. Retrieved from

National Geographic. (n.d.). Skunk. Retrieved from

PBS. (n.d.). Is this Skunk? mephitidae- this family stinks!. Retrieved from


Images/ Videos

“Diorama 3:Skunk handstand”, by mcslo. Mcslo Galleries: Flickr. URL:

“BBC Wildlife- Weird Nature- Spotted skunk handstand” by BBC Worldwide Channel, 16 January 2009. URL: (accessed on 26 March 2010).


Online Journal Articles

Bullock, Lindsay K. (2008). Eastern spotted skunk (spilogale putorius).  MAMMALS OF MISSISSIPPI12(1 -6), Retrieved from 

Kinlaw, Al. (1995). Spilogale putorius. Mammalian Species511. Retrieved from

McPeake, Rebecca. (n.d.). Dealing with skunks and odor abatement. Agriculture and Natural Resources, Retrieved from