I had never really imagined what it would be like to meet a peacock, perhaps because I never thought I would ever actually meet one. However this beautiful male was strutting his stuff in a park in Malaysia and putting on the performance of a lifetime for anyone who was interested in watching. They are a fairly large bird, perhaps the size of a turkey, but with over 200 tail feathers extended they are about 6 feet (2 meters) wide. In the world of birds there is certainly a lot of pressure placed on males to outperform competing males with brighter colors, more feathers, and complex mating dances. Female peahens will prefer a male with larger sized and greater number of eye spots, as this will likely result in larger and fitter peachicks. One stunning male will have a harem of rather plain looking females and will play no role in raising the young. This is probably for the best as it helps the well camouflaged females raise their young by safely blending in with the scenery.
You know you were meant to be a biologist when you get excited to discover that snails from different parts of the world look different. Both Puerto Rican and Malaysian snails are the size of mammoths compared to snails found in Sydney backyards (hopefully this fact makes Sydney gardeners a little happier). However, the shell shapes of these slimy creatures is very different. The snails from Puerto Rico are quite flattened, with the center point of the spiral barely protruding at all (photo above). Malaysian snails have a very elongated shell with the spiral being very pointed (photo below). If you are unlucky enough to have lots of snails in your veggie patch in Sydney, you might one day be lucky enough to attract a blue tongue lizard to your yard. These stocky lizards will happily take care of your slimy infestation, which is reason enough for me to keep feeding the snails in the hope that a lizard one day comes to dinner.
One of my most memorable wildlife experiences was visiting an orangutan sanctuary at the Rasa Ria Nature Reserve in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia. This reserve provides protected space where orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated and hopefully reintroduced into their natural habitat. Here the orangutans are taught the skills they need to eventually live an independent life. Orangutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia and are currently found only in the rainforests of Borneo (island shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei) and Sumatra (Indonesian island). Watching juvenile orangutans is such a heartwarming pleasure. They are intelligent, playful, inquisitive and tactile animals, that it brings sadness to remember that they are at the sanctuary because of poaching and deforestation. Though it is because of these sanctuaries that people are made aware, educated and hopefully interested in actively saving these precious animals.