Archive for December 2014

2014 in review

December 30, 2014

Dear all

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays whatever religion you choose to follow or ignore. 2014 has been a fun year for me with highlights including a Solenodon and a Snow Leopard, though the real highlight was a week in Peru with my son on our first hardcore wildlife trip.

Facebook friends will have seen this picture already but this letter from me to Father Christmas 40 years ago amused me. You might spot a heavy bias in favour of mammals (for my toy zoo) and mammal watching super powers, along with a United Nations-style nod towards both my mum and dad with, respectively, requests for a bible and a train set. Neither of which I really wanted but which I felt needed to be included if we had hope of reaching agreement on the final text. Give me the child until they are 7 and I will give you the adult. So – Vladimir Dinets and Matt Miller in particular – take care of your new offspring over the next 84 months lest they too grow up addicted to this rewarding but extremely expensive wildife habit ­čÖé

xmas list

I’m hoping to visit Guyana, Sumatra and Tibet in 2015. What plans do others have?

Finally a big thanks to all who have begun – or continue – to send trip reports and contribute to the blog and this year. Our adventurous community is small but growing and remains generous with sharing knowledge. I also think its fair to say that, aside from helping fellow mammalwatchers, we also contribute a little to scientific knowledge and conservation.

Here are some stats that the prepared for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy 2015


A Mammal Watching Master List

December 30, 2014

A few weeks ago we discussed the idea of drawing up a global list of mammals that people could use as a basis for a life list. See the discussion here. Thank you everyone for the comments and general support for the idea.

I’ve now drawn up a Master List of 5,500 tickable mammal species. As a reminder, this list is based on the IUCN Red List but also includes a few additional species which I believe ought also to be included (most eventually will be I suspect). It also includes a bunch of domesticated species that live feral in parts of the world (and it was the discussion of feral species that generated most comment – more on this in a moment).

As a reminder

1. This list is not – and never will be – perfect and is a work in progress. Please send suggestions to me for changes. I will aim to update it every 6 months.

2. Though the very idea of a “species” is somewhat arbitrary, some of us like to record the total number of species we have seen. This list can provide a common yardstick. But a list is essentially a personal thing, and so ultimately we should all decide on what – or what not – to include on our own lists. I hope this Master List might be at least be a useful starting point.

3. There are various global mammal lists and the IUCN’s Red List, while not perfect, is authoritative and updated regularly. But remember it is produced for assessing conservation status not for mammal watching. The differences between it and this Master List reflect a mammal watching bias (as well as my own prejudice at times).

4. Whether, when and where we choose to tick feral domesticated species is a personal thing. Vladimir Dinets’s note and subsequent discussion was helpful on this. Though one can argue that domestic pigs,cats and donkeys are essentially (genetically) the same as Wild Boar, European Wild Cats or Somali Asses, they occupy for me a different place in the mammal watching set of experiences. And so for this reason, as much as any other, I think they should be listed separately. It seems to me that whether or not you might choose to tick a wild donkey living in the US or Australia, it is not the same – from a mammal watching point of view – as seeing as Somali Wild Ass. Of course if you disagree then simply don’t tick off the feral Donkey at all.

I have listed all these divergences from the IUCN’s list on the other worksheet in the XLS file below. I have also listed a few species that Duff & Lawson included as separate but which I have dropped following the IUCN. This is a very partial list and just reflects the species that I have seen myself. I don’t have time to go through all 5,500 species to do more of this right now. But if someone does then that would be great!

The master list is here. Please make comments below or send suggestions to me. I will update in the middle of next year: A Global Mammal Watching List.

cheers and happy new year

Jon Hall

North American news

December 24, 2014

Dear All,

1. A new checklist of North American mammals has just been published. The authors team included a┬áco-author of many recently proposed changes in shrews, deer mice, and voles taxonomy who opted not to reflect them at the time (that’s more or less what they told me when I asked).

There are a few things I’d do differently (particularly concerning African ungulates that occur only on fenced ranches in Texas), but anyway, it’s a nice update.

2. I got a few people interested in the Sierra/Great Basin tour, but all have conflicting schedules. So I think I’ll do it as personalized tours, with up to 3 participants. The main advantage is that I’ll be able to do it in an SUV instead of a van. It would be easier to do in late June-October, when all roads are open, but we can figure out a way to do a version of it in winter, too. If you are interested in this one or would like to do a custom-made tour to any other part of North American┬ácontinent, please let me know. I’ll generally price them at $250-350 per day plus expenses.

We got ourselves a new small mammal last week. Judging by her metabolism rate, she belongs to genus Sorex. So I’m mostly┬ástuck in North America for 2015, and can take anyone anywhere as long as it’s for a week. Please email me if interested, dinets at
Vladimir Dinets

New Trip Report: Raja Ampat

December 21, 2014

A new report from somewhere I had never even heard of until Steve visited.

Raja Ampat (West Papua), 2014: Steve Anyon-Smith’s entertaining account of 3 weeks with few mammals (as usual in this region) including Cenderawasih Bay Flying Fox, Beaufort’s Bare-backed Fruit Bat, Raffray’s Sheath-tailed Bat and Waigeo Cuscus.


Leopard vs Lechwe

December 20, 2014

A spectacular bit of home video of a Leopard having a go at a Lechwe in Botswana.


Mammals in the News

December 19, 2014

A lot in the news this week about the Rhino and Elephant crisis. The bad news included statistics like 2014 being the worst year ever for rhino poaching in South Africa.

The (slightly) better news is that there seems to be a serious response starting up, with news like tracker dogs now helping in the fight against Elephant poachers. And there were a couple of really well made videos too going viral from WildAid. This one on rhinos. And this, really powerful one, on ivory and terrorism. Not for the faint-hearted.

Meanwhile in Brazil someone has come up with an app to monitor roadkill. This would be very useful too in Tasmania, where the easiest way to see wildlife is from a glass-bottomed bus.

Finally, at least things are looking up for the Hollywood Cougar. Yes, that kind of cougar.

Have a good weekend


New Trip Report – Tibet and Sichuan

December 18, 2014

Another new report from Sjef Ollers, this time a fabulously detailed report of a month in Tibet and Sichuan, with over 24 species including Pallas’s Cat, Alpine Musk Deer and Argali.