Sustaining a Splendid Species

CAUTIOUSLY WE PLOD THROUGH a cattle pasture trying to avoid slipping in the mud or stepping on piles of dung. In the treetops above us, we hear raucous screeching, and the closer we get, the louder and more insistent the screeching becomes. Our guide, Alexander, sets up his spotting scope and waves to us eagerly while…

Python Pete—The Snake-Sniffing Puppy

BIOLOGISTS IN the Florida Everglades are using man’s best friend in their battle against invasive species.  National Park Service Wildlife technician Lori Oberhofer is training a beagle puppy—nicknamed python Pete—to sniff out pet Burmese pythons that have been released into the wild. Burmese pythons are a popular item in Florida’s booming exotic pet trade, and…

Titanoboa: The World’s Largest Snake

IMAGINE A SNAKE so wide it would barely fit through a doorway and so tall it would reach an adult’s waistline. That is how researchers describe the 2,500 pound, 45-foot long Titanoboa cerrejonensis—the biggest snake the world has ever known—who ruled the tropics 65 million years ago. “This was the largest predator on the planet for…

Guyana’s Kaieteur Falls

THE TINY COUNTRY of Guyana, situated on South America’s northeast coast, is called the “land of many waters” due to the large number of waterfalls, rivers, and wetlands found throughout the country. The most spectacular of all Guyana’s water attractions is the Kaieteur waterfall located about 150 miles inland on the Potaro River. At 741 feet…

March of the Desert Penguins

THE LIFE OF THE arctic penguin has been well represented in films and documentaries in recent years as 4-foot tall emperor penguins have marched across our movie screens. Now new research shows that the ancestors of these modern-day giants, were larger, sturdier and lived in the deserts of Peru during one of the warmest periods…

Galapagos’ Shrinking Iguanas

THE ANIMALS on Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands have developed amazing ways to adapt to their unique environment. In the last couple of years scientists have realized that marine iguanas are doing something once thought impossible in the natural world: when their food source is particularly low, the animals shrink, sometimes as much as 20% of their…

The Devil Gardener

DEEP IN the Peruvian Amazon a mystery tantalizes travelers and locals alike: Who fashions the random forest clearings in which only one species of tree grows and little jungle debris litters the forest floor? Local people believe that an evil forest spirit called the Chuyachaqui creates these clearings. The Chuyachaqui  is also said to change…