Wild animals

SharkWild animals

We take a look at some of the world’s greatest wild animals - the predators and discover just what it is that separates them from the rest of the animal kingdom…

Polar bear close upWhat is a predator?

A predator is a wild animal that hunts and preys on other species for their own food. For example; wolves, lions, hawks, sharks, foxes and ferrets are all predators. Because these animals are meat eaters, they are also called carnivores.  Jak Fact: ‘carne’ means ‘meat’ in Latin. Some predators, such as coyotes and bears, are also scavengers, meaning they will eat the carcasses of animals that they didn't hunt themselves.
Some predators are bigger than a human and others are merely the size of a house cat, but all of these native wildlife have special needs in order to survive. Most need large areas of land and/or sea to meet all of their food and habitat requirements. For this reason, predators are considered ‘umbrella’ species. By protecting large areas for predators to live and roam, we are, in effect, saving a place for many more animal and plant species.

Tiger close upHelping our ecosystem

The fact that predators regularly prey on herbivores or plant-eating animals, such as deer and elk, means they play a critical role in their ecosystem. If predators were eliminated, those plant eaters could literally alter the vegetation to the point where it is no longer suitable habitat for wildlife species that once lived there.
All animals must eat to survive. With predators always on the lookout for a meal, prey must constantly avoid being eaten. Any adaptation the prey uses, adds to the chances of survival for the species. Some adaptations are defense mechanisms which can give the prey an advantage against enemies. Predators are not always successful hunters so they then try to go for the easiest target. Most of the time, predators will choose the weak, old, and sick animals in a population, leaving the healthy and robust individuals to reproduce offspring. Predators play such an important role in keeping a balance in the ecosystem that they are often referred to as ‘keystone’ species.

Fox attackingOutsmarting predators

There are several ways animals avoid falling prey to a predator. One way is very direct and comes naturally. Imagine you are a rabbit and you have just noticed a fox preparing to attack. What would be your initial response? Right, you'd run. Animals can use speed as a very effective means of escaping predators. Remember, you can't eat what you can't catch!

Another defense mechanism is camouflage or protective colouration. One form, cryptic colouration, allows the animal to blend in with its environment to avoid detection.
Trickery can also be used as a defense. False features that appear to be enormous eyes or appendages can serve to dissuade potential predators. Mimicking an animal that is dangerous to a predator is another effective means of avoiding being eaten.

 

Related links:

- Why shouldn’t wild animals be kept as pets?

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