Category Archives: Creature Spotlight

Creature Spotlight [Harp Seals]

Unique animals with a history of endangerment, harp seals are wild ice lovers.

 In A Massacre in Canada,  Monday’s “Weekly Feature”, we discussed the annual Canadian seal hunt (which is taking place now), and the brutal slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of harp seals. An agile, odd-looking creature, most of us have only encountered seals in zoos and wildlife water enclosures. But, what makes seals special, especially the harp seal?

(Photo Via: Animals.nationalgeographic.com)

(Photo Via: Animals.nationalgeographic.com)

Given their name because of a harp-like pattern on an adult’s back (which can be seen after moulting – the shedding of their fur), harp seals are born weighing a little over 20 pounds with no blubber or fat, and must depend on their fluffy white fur, and the milk of their mothers, for warmth. Going through a 6 stage life process, harp seals learn to defend for themselves between 12-18 days old. They learn to swim the frigid, icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, and being carnivorous, they feed on cod, herring, shrimp, and many other fish and crustaceans they share the waters with.

Averaging a life span of 20-30 years in the wild, and weighing between 300-400 pounds, adult harp seals spend most of their life in the water, following the ice as it recedes north. Coming together to mate, give birth, feed, and migrate, these groups of harp seals is called a colony. While there has been no social system or hierarchy recorded of harp seals, scientists have recorded over 19 different calls made by harp seals to one another.

(Photo Via: Harpseals.org)

(Photo Via: Harpseals.org)

The biggest predators to harp seals in their natural environment include polar bears and whales. However, humans also pose a huge threat to these animals. Commercially hunted for their meat, oils, fur, and skin since the 1700’s, hundreds of thousands of harp seals are beaten, slaughtered, and skinned in Canada, Norway, and Russia. Luckily though, they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, making it illegal to hunt or sell their parts in the United States.

Loving the icy cold that most of us despise, being able to hold their breath underwater for almost 15 minutes, and having acute underwater vision and hearing (even though they have no external ear flaps), harp seals are an intriguing, special species. Deserving more protection from human hunting, visit Harpseals.org to find out the many ways you can help these interesting creatures.


Harp Seal Quiz

It is now time for the “Creature Spotlight” quiz! Can you guess the correct answer?


Make sure to check back in tomorrow during “Veggie Food Guide” for the answer to today’s quiz!


*Sources: Bioweb.uwlax.edu, Animals.nationalgeographic.com, Nwf.org, Mysticaquarium.org, Nmfs.noaa.gov, animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu, Harpseals.org*

Creature Spotlight [Elephants]

Nature’s gentle beast, elephants are strong, intelligent, and full of emotions.

© Geoff Hall (Photo Via: Defenders.org)

© Geoff Hall
(Photo Via: Defenders.org)

Weighing between 6,000-15,000 pounds (for the males; females are smaller), and with a lifespan of 70 years, their power can be seen instantly. However, even with a beastly stature, they are indeed passive creatures.

Forming deep family bonds, female elephants and their young usually live in groups called herds – ranging between 8-100 individuals – with the matriarch being the eldest and biggest female. Male elephants however, around the ages of 12-15, go on to live solitary lives or in small groups with other males. With their sensitive trunks, intelligence, and long-term memory span, elephants have been known to communicate over long distances, and have even shown signs of grief  (while there may not be an actual “elephant graveyard”, elephants have been known to go through a mourning process during the death of a family member), happiness (a soft rumble is vocalized when a mother caresses her child), and play (their ears flap and their tails flick to show their playful attitude).

Representing luck and prosperity, elephants are honored in many cultures. However, with the killing of elephants for their ivory, which is exported mostly to Asia to make trinkets, the elephant population has drastically fallen.

According to defenders.org:

“At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants.”

Because of their endangered status, elephants need our help. One way to help stop the slaughtering of elephants is to NEVER buy anything made of ivory, especially when travelling abroad. Additionally, check out sites like bloodivory.org to see what else you can do to end the ivory trade.


Elephant Quiz

At the end of every “Creature Spotlight” there will be an informative and fun quiz all readers can participate in. The answer to each quiz will be at the end of Sunday’s post, “Veggie Food Guide”.

So, in honor of elephants, can you guess the correct answer?


*Sources: Defenders.org, Animals.pawnation.com, Elephantsforever.co.za*