Slowly, as I discover where to look, animal forms emerge: A lizard rests in the thin shade of a saxaul shrub. A saker falcon lifts off from a distant cliffside. Gerbils poke their heads from burrows.
But many days pass before I finally lay eyes on the animal I crossed half a world to see: a Gobi bear, among the rarest and least known large mammals on Earth. There are perhaps no more than two or three dozen left in the wild, and none live in captivity anywhere.
This male stops at an oasis to sip water, then rests nearby. Elated by our good luck and mesmerized by the sight, my companions and I watch the bear for two hours, from late afternoon to nightfall.
Most bears become active toward day’s end, but this one remains oddly still. When he finally attempts to walk, his gait seems pained and slow. He must have traveled a great distance to reach water, I tell myself, and the journey might have left him exhausted and temporarily lame.
In reality, the bear is dying. A week later a ranger finds his body near the same oasis. The old male had likely emerged from hibernation in poor condition at a time when food plants were just starting to grow.
The starchy, underground tuber of wild rhubarb (at left) is a staple of the Gobi bears’ diet. They also eat golden buttons, which appear after a rare rain.
“The baobab is the national tree of Madagascar.
Of the nine genera in the Word, six are found only in Madagascar [two are in Arabia and one in Australia].
However due to deforestation, three of these baobab species are endangered and facing a serious threat of extinction,” says photographer Emiline.
“This photo was taken at the famous ‘Avenue des Baobabs’ which is found along a dirt road in the Menabe region of Madagascar, near the city of Morondava.
The trees are thought to be up to 800 years old and remain under threat from slash-and-burn agriculture, encroaching rice paddies, overgrazing and bark collection.
In recent years the Malagasy authorities and some NGOs have taken some conservation measures to protect their precious forests, including this beautiful area in the western Madagascar.”
Photo credit: Emiline
“The Ngerukewid Islands National Wildlife Preserve is a ‘no entry, no take, no disturbance’ area within the larger Rock Islands Southern Lagoon World Heritage Area [of Palau],” says photographer Stuart Chape.
“The marine and terrestrial areas of the Rock Islands have great biological, cultural, and economic value to Palau and the world, and provide critical habitat for the majority of the country’s threatened and endangered species.
The wider area supports Palau’s tourism industry and the nation’s economy, as well as contributing to people’s health and well-being through commercial and subsistence harvesting of its natural resources.”
Image Credit: Photograph by Stuart Chape.
Andean cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru, living in ‘secondary’ Peruvian Amazon rainforest, which is regenerating after human disturbance. Secondary forest accounts for 53% of the world’s forests and is of extreme scientific importance for conserving biodiversity.
Photograph: Will Nicholls/Rex Shutterstock
A baby mountain gorilla clings to the back of its mother, on Mount Bisoke volcano in Volcanoes national park, northern Rwanda. Rwanda has named 24 baby mountain gorillas in an annual naming ceremony that reflects the African country’s efforts to protect the endangered animals, which attract large numbers of foreign tourists to the volcano-studded forests where they live
Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP
Jaguar (image via: Awesome-Desktop/S.K.)
The Jaguar (Panthera Onca) is the third-largest of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and the only living member native to the western hemisphere.
Growing up to 160 kg (350 lb), Jaguars are distinguished by rosette-emblazoned fur, comparatively short tails and an exceptionally powerful bite that enables them to successfully prey on armored reptiles such as caimans and turtles.
(Images via: Fanpop and WWF/Go Wild)
Jaguars are stated to be Near Threatened by the IUCN and while their current range is roughly half of what it once was, these often solitary big cats can still be found from southern Arizona in the United States down to Paraguay and northern Argentina.