Shoebill: The Death Bird

The Shoebill is one of the scariest and largest birds you can find on the entire globe. Standing at about five feet on average and a wingspan of about eight feet, these stork-like birds can be found in the tropics of East Africa. Named for its enormous shoe-shaped bill, the Shoebill is usually grey in color with a yellow-orange bill. These birds were once classified with storks, a very close morphological bird but, have since been classified into their own genus and species (Balaeniceps).

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Shoebills are not like many other birds on the planet today. Like all birds, the Shoebill evolved from dinosaurs millions of years ago. Not until, about 65 million years ago, however, did the Shoebill believe to start its life. Like most things in prehistoric times, Shoebills had to survive fiercely. Their bill is not only a defining characteristic of their species but a dangerous weapon. Its sharp ends and immense strength allow it to decapitate six-foot fish, swallow eels, and even crocodiles.

So, are these immense and powerful birds dangerous to humans? The answer in short is yes and no. The Shoebill has the capability of being lethal to a human but, it would only happen in situations where a person provokes the animal. This includes getting too close, causing a threat to their young, and hunting. To stay safe from this animal, you should approach with causing and awareness.

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One of the craziest things people say when they see this bird is, how does it fly? The Shoebill might look like it weighs close to a hundred pounds but it is actually much less than that. Due to the adaptations of birds and their morphological structures such as porous bones, these birds weigh only about 15 pounds! This makes it easier for their large wings to create lift and fly short distances.

Gerenuk: No Not a Giraffe!

The Gerenuk looks as if you combined a Giraffe and Gazelle together. It has a long slim neck and limbs with s-shaped horns (only in males) that resemble a common Gazelle. Reaching heights between 3-3.5 feet and weighing up to 90 pounds, these animals are found in the horn of Africa and the dry regions of East Africa. The diet of these animals is herbivorous and consists of shoots, leaves, flowers, plants, fruits, and blooms. Although there are no animals in the Gerenuk diet, this does not mean they are not in the diet of other animals. They are meaty meals for many animals on the safari including Lions, Leopards, wild dogs, and Jackals.

When living in the heart of Africa it may become hard for some animals like the Gerenuk to find and safely access freshwater. Oftentimes, lakes and rivers that are good sources of water are surrounded by predators of the Gerenuk. Over thousands of years, the Gerenuk has adapted their body to obtain almost all of their water needs from the plants and fruits it eats. This reduces the number of dangerous encounters the Gerenuk will have by a significant amount.

Another adaption of the Gerenuk is their long neck and unique vertebrae. These adaptions allow this animal to reach foliage and food sources that many other herbivorous organisms can not. The reason their vertebrae are so unique is because of their ability to allow the Gerenuk to stand on two legs. With the long neck and ability to stand upright the Gerenuk can double its height up to eight feet!

Rhinoceros: Horns More Valuable Than Gold

The Rhinoceros or Rhino is a part of a group of odd-toed land mammals that are located in Africa and Southeast Asia. These animals are known for the giant horns on their face. Many people believe that these horns are extensions of their skeletal system but, they are actually made of the same material as your hair and nails. The Rhino horn is made of a hardened form of keratin that makes it durable and strong for defense and intimidation.

You may often hear that rhinos are being hunted for their horns but, why is something that is made of the same material as our nails so valuable? The reason is first that Rhino horns are rare. There are an estimated 27,000 Rhinos left alive today and those numbers are decreasing. For this reason, acquiring a horn is extremely difficult to do. The other reason is that the Rhino horn is seen as a status material. This means that having the material increases your status in society and may make you a more powerful person in a community. Rhino horns are also used in medicine and are believed to have extremely powerful healing powers.

Rhinos are extremely large standing at heights of 6 feet and lengths of 13 feet. These massive creatures also have extremely thick and durable skin that allows them to survive attacks from other animals and travel through the harsh landscape they live in.