A tiger peers at a camera trap it triggered while hunting in the early morning in the forests of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. These men were apprehended in January 2011 while trying to sell a tiger skin near Chandrapur, India.
A tiger leaps for a plastic bag tied to a pole while tourists watch at the controversial Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. A tiger slips through a fence at India's Bandhavgarh National Park, a refuge that may be too small to support the nearly 60 cats living there. Relatives prepare a man for cremation after he was killed by a tiger in the Indian village of Tala.
Saksit Simcharoen, a Thai researcher, puts his ear to the belly of a pregnant tiger, listening for fetal heartbeats.
Members of the Smart Patrol search for poachers in Thailand's Western Forest Complex, habitat for up to 200 tigers but able to hold hundreds more. A tiger burning bright is captured by a camera trap on a tree in India's Kaziranga National Park. In Bandhavgarh National Park, a cub bats at a remote controlled camera car photographer Steve Winter used to document tigers in action.
The fate of a group of ducklings nesting on our doorstep may be tied to much larger issues. A few months after we devoted an entire issue to looking at how animals and ecosystems are responding to a changing planet, National Geographic has come face to face with this very issue, in our own backyard.
Since at least 2004, a pair of mallard ducks (possibly the same ducks, possibly new ducks each year) has settled in our office courtyard during the winter.
The National Geographic Library staff took this video just after the ducklings first appeared.
Under the guidance of local urban wildlife rehabilitation facility City Wildlife, National Geographic staffers scrambled to provide food and water for the ducklings and their mother. Dan Rauch, Washington's Fisheries and Wildlife Biologist says hea€™s never seen ducklings hatch before early March.
Winter's food scarcity is particularly challenging for ducks because theya€™re hatched self-sufficient, fully feathered, and able to walk on their own; they arena€™t nursed or fed by their mother.
Lewis believes the early gestation period was the result of Washington's beyond-unseasonably warm December. But Rauch says ita€™s a a€?messya€? prospect to try and suss out exactly whata€™s going on.
For one thing, hormones and daylight changes are typically even greater factors than temperature in starting the avian breeding season. Regardless of the reason for the early hatching, the Nat Geo ducklings likely did not survive for long. If this group of ducklings didn't make it, the duck and drake may well already be gearing up to try again, as a female duck can lay up to three clutches of eggs each nesting season. Pied kingfisher calling for better management and protection of waterways across their massive distributional range!
Malachite sunbirds prefer hilly fynbos (including protea stands as well as areas with aloes) and cool montane and coastal scrub, up to 2,800m altitude in South Africa. Hibernating black bears can dramatically lower their metabolism with only a moderate drop in body temperature, a surprising new study says. The North American mammals generally slumber about five to seven months without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating, and then emerge from their dens in the spring none the worse for wear. Scientists have long known that to survive this lengthy fast, the bears drop their metabolism, the chemical process that converts food to energy. But it was thought that, like most animals, the bears would have to drop their body temperatures to put the brakes on metabolisma€”each 18-degree Fahrenheit (10-degree Celsius) drop in temperature should equal a 50-percent reduction in the chemical activity. The scientists also recorded that the bears' heart rates dropped from 55 to 9 beats a minute.
The scientists fitted the bears with various devices to record their temperatures, heartbeats, and other factors before placing the animals into artificial dens.
How the bear's body can create the unexpected drop in metabolism is still poorly understood, but Tøien has a few theories.

Rourke also pointed to the new study's finding that bears can regulate their temperatures to suit individual needs.
For instance, a pregnant female black bear in the study did not allow her body temperature to fluctuate as much as other hibernating bears, presumably to protect the fetus. Both scientists emphasized that the bear researcha€”published tomorrow in the journal Sciencea€”could offer practical applications for humans. For instance, understanding how bears can survive with such low amounts of oxygen may help stroke victims who temporarily lose oxygen flow to the brain.
Or, unlocking how bears can control their metabolism without dropping their temperatures may provide clues to how people can lose weight. Early spring in the Sierra Nevadas of Eastern California brings new life and newfound beauty with the passing of the winter snows.
Rub, scratch, urinate, defecate—a snow leopard marks its trail with often pungent graffiti. Snow leopards signal their presence to others of their kind with sight and scent marks, including scratches and urine spray, along their trails. Invoking values of nonviolence and respect for life revered by monks and other Buddhists, the Dalai Lama has called for an end to snow leopard killings.
Crags and crevices in India’s Hemis National Park give snow leopards cover when they are hunting, but offer less effective protection from poachers.
Scampering silhouette: A snow leopard gets snapped not by a camera trap, but by photographer Steve Winter.
In fields below the cliffside monastery of Phuktal, Indian farmers harvest barley one fistful at a time. Their big eyes are so well adapted for low-light vision that snow leopards can hunt in near total darkness—but they can still go hungry when humans compete for their prey. Tigers can thrive in many habitats, from the frigid Himalaya to tropical mangrove swamps in India and Bangladesh. Illegal trade in tiger bones, eyes, whiskers, penises, teeth, and other parts for Asian "cures" may generate up to five million dollars a year. The limb was amputated after the tiger had been enmeshed for three days in a snare in Aceh Province, Indonesia.
Visitors can pay to bottle-feed cubs, walk with tigers, and pose for photos with animals chained to the ground. As forests are cleared for oil palm plantations, like this one near Longkib, Indonesia, tigers migrate in search of wild prey—or target farm animals. Gaps in the fence let tigers go outside to hunt but also let villagers in to poach deer—and occasionally tigers. The tiger had left Bandhavgarh National Park to hunt, and park employees were trying to herd it from Tala. That's the name Steve Winter gave this youngster, cooling off in a watering hole in Bandhavgarh National Park, after he slapped the automated camera trap until it stopped clicking.
After measuring, weighing, and fitting the sedated tiger with a radio collar, the team will release her back into the wild. Compensation for loss of life caused by cats outside the park gives villagers some consolation.
Dara Arista, eight, holds a photo of Sheila in front of her cage at the zoo in Jambi, Indonesia.
The next, says Steve Winter, he charged "like a shot out of a cannon." Winter, who was photographing perched on the windshield of his open-top Jeep, jumped back down into his seat.
In anticipation of plunging temperatures, one magazine editor even dashed out to buy a heating pad and put it in a makeshift cardboard-box shelter. City Wildlife president Anne Lewis says this was one of only four pre-March mallard duckling hatchings shea€™s heard of in the city.
For another, it would be difficult to infer a clear, widespread pattern from the recent cases of early duck gestation in D.C.
They havena€™t been seen since Tuesday, February 16, after a weekend of bone-chilling cold.
Though ducklings are likely to thrive in spring, when food is plentiful, theya€™re going to have to watch out for at least one nuisance: hawks.

Almost 15,000 photographs from 87 photographers from around the world have been emailed to us or posted on our Facebook wall so far. Submit your own photos and become part of this important effort to bring the magic of wild birds to the world. For centuries, they have taken eagle chicks from the nest and hand-trained them to hunt mainly foxes and cats for fur used in warm clothing in the harsh Mongolian winter.
A black bear in Alaska can lower its temperaturea€”generally about 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius)a€”by only about 9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit (5 or 6 degrees Celsius), yet bring its metabolism almost to a grinding halt, at 25 percent of the normal rate. During intervals when the bears were not breathing, there were also as many as 20 seconds between beats. The dens were located in an undisturbed forest near Fairbanks that mimicked the animals' natural habitats. For instance, bears could be like marmots, a hibernating mammal that regulates metabolism by shrinking the mass of its digestive system and then bulking back up when spring comes. So to get close, photographer Steve Winter deployed a series of camera traps that automatically snapped pictures whenever an animal crept near.
Marking is most intensive when the cats are most interested in finding each other: January to mid-March, the mating season.
Where prey is abundant, a single cat’s territory may extend from 5 to 14 square miles. Long hair with thick underfur, wide, well-padded paws, and a big chest and strong lungs keep these cats running up where the air gets thin.
They continue because hides and other parts are lucrative items across most of the cats’ range.
These predators also help keep mountain ecosystems in balance by reducing the numbers of wild sheep and goats that otherwise might overgraze alpine grasslands. In parts of the species’ range, individuals have been known to cross 25 miles of open desert between mountain ridges in a single night. Conservation groups help herders build protective corrals in return for their pledge not to kill snow leopards. As more people try to eke out a living on higher ground in the Himalaya, they increasingly cross paths with snow leopards traveling down the mountains during winter in pursuit of food, wild or domesticated.
The cats will flourish, say conservationists, only when they become more valuable alive than dead. Though trophy hunts for wild sheep and goats bring income to local communities, they can deplete food stocks for snow leopards. In addition to wire snares, poachers use box traps, guns, steel-jaw traps, electrocution traps, and poison.
Around the park encounters between tigers and humans can be fatal: These cubs are both thought to have killed people during the past year. Such early hatching is unusual and dangerous, and there was little that could be done to protect them. The parents are still in the courtyard, and Lewis says it is very unlikely that a mother duck would leave her babies for any period of time in the first few weeks after their hatching.
Fish and Wildlife Service regulations prohibit rescuing birds that arena€™t demonstrably sick or injured. That's because when metabolism slows, so does the need for the heart to pump oxygen through the body.
The result is a set of intimate portraits that expands our vision of a legendary mountain recluse. So when a snow leopard takes out one or two of my animals, I pledge not to reach for my rifle. The best course of action, according to Lewis, would be to keep animals like these ducks from breeding early by chasing them off at signs of nesting.

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