Thursday, 2 July 2015

Africa's wonderful Big 5 - The Rhinoceros

White rhino.
Rhinoceroses have been roaming Earth for over 50 million years first as ancient rhinos before evolving in today’s rhinos. There were once even ‘woolly’ rhinos who lived in very cold climates. The word rhinoceros is a combination of two Greek words – rhino (nose) and ceros (horn). The name Rhino was given as a nickname.

The black and white rhino are native to the wild in Africa and can live up to the age of 40 years old.

Rhinos have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell and hearing. Their hairless and sensitive skin is grey in colour, and can be up to 5cm (2 inches) thick. A rhino has two horns which are made of the same substance as your hair and fingernails - keratin. They may be big animals but they can run faster than humans, up to 64 km’s (40 miles) per hour!

There are a number of other animals that have rhinoceros as part of their names, which all have horn like additions. 

The rhinos’ closest living relatives are tapirs, horses and zebras because they all are odd-toed ungulates meaning they have an odd number of toes on each foot. Rhinos have three toes on each of their feet.


Image from technologyprojects4kids
Differences between White and Black rhinos

The white rhino’s name is taken from the Dutch word, weit, meaning wide. It was called this because of its wide and square shaped mouth which makes munching grass easier. The English misinterpreted the word weit thinking it meant white! They are taller than black rhinos with longer necks and bigger heads. Their tails are longer and they have a rather pronounced hump above their shoulders.

The more aggressive black rhino has a hooked like lip so they can grip the leaves off of low-lying prickly trees and bushes. Unlike the white rhino which generally keep their heads down, black rhinos hold their heads up and forward.
White rhinos. Aren't their ears adorable?

Habitat

Both white rhinos and black rhinos live in the savannahs of eastern and southern Africa. Rhinos tend to live where they do their eating. 

Black rhinos prefer living in bushy areas and white rhinos prefer the grasslands. Rhinos home ranges sometimes overlap with one another and their feeding grounds and waterholes are generously shared.

Behaviour

These shy animals will sometimes run towards anything unusual they come across in their surroundings, but will usually run away if they pick up on the scent of humans. However if you encounter a rhino in the wild you should stand as still as possible or climb the nearest tree.  

Rhinos use piles of dung as messages for other rhinos, each rhinos smell is unique and a rhino can detect the owner. The scent of a rhinos dung can tell other rhinos if they are young, old, male or female. They also communicate with one another using squeaks, snorts and grunts.

Black rhino with his ox pecker friends.
They have a symbiotic relationship with ox peckers, the rhinos let the birds eat the ticks off of them providing a food source, and the ox peckers let out a warning sound when they sense danger lurking.

The black rhino is usually solitary and the white rhino is more social sometimes living in groups called a crash.

Diet

Rhinos have an herbivore diet, meaning they are plant munchers. Black rhinos are browsers with short necks and hooked lips to pick leaves off low lying bushes, trees or shrubs while white rhinos are grazers, having long necks and wide mouths making nibbling on grass easier.

White rhino and baby.
Reproduction

Rhino usually give birth to one calve after a lengthy 15 to 16 months, but sometimes, although rare, they give birth to a set of twins.

Mother rhinos are protective of their babies and very nurturing. Their young stay with them till they are about 3                                                             years old until they wander off.

White rhino crashes stand in a circle and face outwards to form a rhino barricade protecting the calves in the centre.

Black rhino chilling in the mud.
Did you know?

Rhinos soak in mud for up to 3 hours at a time, using the mud as a form of sunblock against the harsh African sun.


When rhinos are happy they make a ‘’mmwonk’’ sound. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Pregnant in a wheelchair

Pregnant and in a wheelchair. 
Your dream of being a mother can be a reality despite being  a wheelchair user. Pregnancy might be a little tougher on your body than on an able bodied woman but it could be well worth it in the end – to hold your little bundle of joy.

Conceiving

If you cannot conceive yourself, trying IVF is an option or perhaps go the surrogacy route. There is loads of research and information out there on both options. Adoption is also another route to have a child, the child might not be a biological child of yours but that child will still be all yours to bring up and love.

Before trying to conceive always visit your healthcare professional about medications you might be on, and see a disability specialist.

What to expect when pregnant

Mothers to be in wheelchairs can face different conditions due to their physical disabilities. These include; urinary tract and kidney infections, trouble determining when labour has begun, low blood pressure and pressure sores.

Breathing might become a problem due to the fact that women in wheelchairs can already have reduced pulmonary functions.

You may experience difficulty in your ability to perform daily activities such as dressing, transferring, bathing or driving due to baby bump growing. A pregnant women might need to use a larger wheelchair during the later stages of pregnancy because a small wheelchair can lead to nasty pressure sores and just plain discomfort.

A pregnancy support belt can help support the back and abdominal muscles. Adapt your household with the needed adjustments to help caring for your baby less hassle free such as the height adjustment diaper changing tables and cribs in the easily accessible nursery room.

It is a good idea to find the right specialized obstetrician for you and your growing baby, with knowledge on both pregnancy and disability.

Birth

Make sure that there is a roll in shower at the hospital, a shower seat and anything else that you will find comforting or might need for when you are in hospital.

If a woman has multiple sclerosis being in hot environments can bring on uncomfortable effects, a fan in the hospital room can help to ease this.

The two options for giving birth are either a caesarean or natural birth. A caesarean is more than the likely the option most people see as the only to give birth to your bundle of joy but it can be done naturally if the circumstances are 
right.

Having a physiotherapist visit you during labour and after birth can aid in the level of comfort. Perhaps staying in hospital for a few days longer than an able bodied woman would for added support can help a great deal.
Jen Goodwin. 

Uplifting story of wheelchair mothers

Jen Goodwin was left paralysed in a horrific experience but went on to give birth to a healthy baby boy this month! Read her inspiring story here

‘Paralyzed and Pregnant’ is a series on Michelle Cartson bound to a wheelchair after an accident. She went on to have a healthy boy in 2005. Watch the series on her experience through pregnancy and her happy life with her son.

An informative guide to disability and pregnancy

For details on pregnancy for women with disabilities, not just exclusive to pregnancy for wheelchair users, but also for women with other physical disabilities as well as mental disabilities, click here.

‘’The life of a mother is the life of a child – you are two blossoms on a single branch.’’
                         ~ Karen Maezen Miller
                                                    

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Africa’s wonderful Big 5 – The Lion

A lion and his mane.
The King of the Beasts – the lion is the second biggest cat after the tiger. They are one of Africa’s magnificent Big 5, and intimidating, ferocious big cats. Lions are famously known for roaming the plains of Africa in their prides.

They are golden in colour and big in size. The males are called lions and have thick manes to protect their necks during battles. The darker a lions mane, the older the lion. They can be up to twice the size of their female counterparts. Lionesses are the females and are the hunters of the pride, leaving the defending up to the males.



Habitat
Lioness saying hello.

They live in either the savannahs, grasslands, dense bush areas or woodlands in Africa. 

Being very social cats, they live in prides of up to 30 lions. A pride usually has 3 males and a dozen females that are related, together with their offspring.

Behaviour

Being the social big cats they are, they enjoy showing affectionate with touching, head rubbing, licking and playing with one another. However when it comes to food, the claws come out!

They are the laziest of all big cats, spending 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and lounging around. The rest of the hours of the day are dedicated towards hunting, mating and protecting the territory.

However not all King of the plains, live in prides. Young males leave the pride and spend a few years living as bachelors before they become strong enough to take over a pride of their very own.

Group of lionesses from a pride.

Diet

Females are the prime hunters and will hunt together. They split into groups, one group does the chasing and the other ambushes the target. The females do 90% of the hunting for the food but the males eat first.

Lions feast on large animals such as wildebeest, buffaloes, zebras, rhinos, bucks, hippos, giraffes and even young elephants. They also enjoy munching on smaller animals such as mice, lizards, tortoises and warthogs.


Reproduction

A lion and lioness mate for just 60 seconds or less, but it happens every 15 – 20 minutes for up to five days!
It's 2 cubs!

A lioness gives birth to a litter of one to five cubs after a pregnancy of about 110 every two years. Lionesses baby sit one another’s cubs, and if cubs are neglected a lioness will adopt them.

If a new males joins the pride, he kills all the cubs. Nature can be so cruel and this is one of those moments.


Did you know?

A lion’s eyesight is 5 times better than people, and they are 6 times as sensitive to light, than us humans. 

A ferocious lion roar can be heard up to 8 kilometres away (5 miles) and they roar to communicate with one another. A lion's roar is the loudest roar of all big cats.  

Lions have the ability to survive for 4 days without water.