An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Friday, November 23, 2012

Strangeness of the Stink Badger


I was planning on getting multiple articles done over this Thanksgiving Vacation, but that goal was obviously not achieved. I have been working on a larger article, which is not done yet, but I stumbled upon an article that I could not resist posting about! In November, a plantation worker and a 75-year-old farmer in Borneo were attacked by an animal unknown to them. The attack on the farmer occurred in a pepper garden and the attack on the plantation worker occurred as he was gathering oil palm and fresh fruit bunches. Strangely, the men reported that the animal resembled a mixture of a wild boar and a bear. The plantation worker claimed that the animal made a noise, sounding like a hen followed by a wild boar sound, before attacking. He then killed the animal with a sickle, after it allegedly stood on its hind limbs during the attack. Those who saw the body said that it measured about two feet long, had a long mane, and sharp wolverine-like claws. The witnesses of the carcass, including expert hunters, were unable to identify the animal and said that it possessed a strong stench.
Photograph of the dead animal that attacked the plantation worker. (theborneopost.com)
However, this wasn't the first time that such a Bornean mystery mammal attacked a person! Aris Kuna, a local farmer, heard an unfamiliar animal while he was in his pepper garden. As he went to see what it was, the hidden animal attacked the farmer but was then hit by his machete. The farmer later found the limb and body of the animal.
The limb of the Bornean Mystery Mammal that attacked Aris Kuna. (theborneopost.com)
This is truly an amazing story, in that the body of the mystery animal (though disposed) was photographed. Although these stories sound like pure folklore, clear images support the claims. So was the "Bornean Bear-Boar" an undiscovered species? Interestingly, the animal was unknown to the locals but was simply an extremely elusive known species. This would make sense as a large portion of Borneo is totally unexplored. However, this is still an interesting case as it shows that even an animal known to science can be so rare that it is unknown to people of the area, and that bizarre behaviors of an animal can inspire fantastical reports. But what was this animal identified to be?
Trail camera photographs that show that the strange animal reported by the locals was not only real but also a known (though secretive) animal!


The animal was a species of Bornean mammal known as the Sunda stink-badger, or Mydaus javanensis. The Sunda stink badger was originally thought to be a species of badger. However, thanks to DNA and morphological evidence, it was shown that the animal is actually closer to skunks (Mephitidae) than badgers.
The true relatives of the Sunda stink bagder!

The Sunda stink bagder is actually one of two members of Mephitidae outside of America. The other member of the genus Mydaus is the Palawan stink badger of the Phillipines.
The Palawan stink badger
The name "stink badger" is derived from the behavior of these skunks to emit foul-smelling secretions from their anal glands. This supports the claim that the dead animal killed by the plantation worker had a powerful stench to it. In fact, one man claimed that he could smell the stench from some ten metres away! The Sunda stink badger's diet consists of invertebrates such as worms. However, like skunks and their relatives the mustelids (although skunks and mustelids are not as closely related as thought), the possibility of Sunda stink badgers being aggressive towards humans that they feel threatened by is quite possible. These mammals live in burrows, which they dig themselves and reportedly sometimes share with porcupines. The animal's meat is reportedly of a good taste and their skins are sometimes traded. However, on the ICUN Red List, the Sunda Stink Badger is classified as Least Concerned.
A Stink Badger's skull and dentition
Vindicating the locals' lack of knowledge regarding the identity of the carcass is the fact that the Sunda stink badger is not a well known species. Studies have shown that these skunks have a patchy occurrence, as they are well populated in some areas and very rare in other. Sunda stink badger populations in the areas where the attacks occurred are patchy, which gives reason for locals not being able to identify them. It also could explain the attacks, as human contact with the skunks might be rare. Therefore, when humans encroach on their habitat, encounters cause attacks out of self defense. But how true were the eyewitness accounts? A Sunda stink badger looks like the animal described, makes similar sounds, and has a powerful stench. At first, I thought the claim of the animal standing on its hind legs when attacking was possibly exaggerated. However, after further research, I found that skunks are known to sometimes stand up when alerted to danger.
Skunk standing on its hind limbs in alert of danger
Incredibly, although reports of an animal that is a mixture of a bear and a boar with a long mane, sharp wolverine-like claws, a powerful scent, strange vocalizations, and a habit of standing on its hind legs when attacking sound bizarre; the reports were of a real animal.
The Sunda Stink Badger, truly an animal of Bizarre Zoology!
References:


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Welcome to Bizarre Zoology!

Hello,
Jay here, welcome to my blog: Bizarre Zoology! This blog will just be my thoughts on old and recent news and information regarding zoology, paleontology, cryptozoology, paleoanthropology, and other topics. Although I have no scientific training (and am only in highschool), I have been researching animals all my life and hope to provide interesting and accurate information. The chart below is a chart depicting the theory that Lagomorpha (rabbits, hares, and pikas) and the Dinoceratans are possibly relatives. While many scientists today do not fully support this theory, I find it extremely interesting. The chart is just here for you to have a taste of some of the things that I will be posting. I will also keep you updated on my YouTube videos (channel IndianaJ25). I can't promise frequent posting, but I simply hope to share my ideas. Thanks, I can't wait to get started!