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What The Hell Happened to Animals in 2020? 

These are the biggest and wildest animal stories of 2020. 
IMAGE MIGUEL DAVID DE LEON, SHUTTERSTOCK, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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The year 2020 was an unforgiving year for many reasons, but amid all the bad news, animals were there to help brighten the day. The following were some of the biggest animal stories of 2020. 

The Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher fledgling was photographed for the very first time.

Photo by Miguel De Leon.
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The highly elusive and ultra-rare South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher was first described in 1890, but photos of the species came only 100 years later. Esquire Philippines broke the story to the world on March 13 when birder and eye surgeon Miguel David De Leon, who spent 10 years tracking the bird, snapped the very photos of its colorful fledgling

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The little bird became an international celebrity. The New York Times ran a story about it on April 7. Many other news outlets also featured the bird. Oprah Winfrey’s producer e-mailed us about the bird and how much joy it brought her. 

Read more about the South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher

The world’s last captive tamaraw died.

Photo by Gregg Yan.
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The world’s last captive tamaraw, Kalibasib, aka Kali, died on October 10. Kalibasib is an acronym for Kalikasang Bagong Sibol (Nature Newly Sprung). The tamaraw was named so when he was born. 

Kali was the sole progeny of the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm. According to the DENR, Kali had diarrhea on October 9 and ate bananas on the morning of October 10 before he died. Kali was 21 years old at the time of his death, making him the world’s oldest tamaraw on record.

Read more about Kali, the last captive tamarraw

This ostrich ran around a village in Quezon City.

Photo by Dino Rivera, Wikimedia Commons.
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On August 4, an ostrich was filmed running around a village in Quezon City while being chased by a goat. It looked like a scene from Jumanji. Panicked motorists were unsure of what to do when they encountered the giant bird. Sadly, the escaped ostrich died of stress a week later and was cooked as adobo.

Read more about the ostrich adobo.

Many squirrels invaded Metro Manila.

Photo by PEXELS / Rod Dion.
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The squirrel was one of the biggest animal stories of 2020. Many of our readers were pleasantly thrilled when they learned they were not hallucinating when they thought they saw a squirrel dart up a tree. Many of the squirrels spotted in Metro Manila have a gray coat with a white underbelly and a fluffy gray tail. Unfortunately, the rodent is an invasive species and threatens the survival of local birds in the area (squirrels are known to prey on newly hatched birds).

Read more about squirrels in Metro Manila.

This real-life Ibong Adarna made an appearance.

Photo by Jonet Carpio and Miguel David De Leon .
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In Philippine folklore, the Ibong Adarna is a mythical bird that is described as the most colorful bird in the fictional Kingdom of Berbania. It is the main figure in the Filipino epic poem, Ibong Adarna. Readers loved this feature because many of them had no idea there is a real bird nicknamed such. Local birders associate the Ibong Adarna with the Philippine Trogon (Harpactes ardens), one of the most colorful birds endemic in the Philippines.

Read more about the real-life Ibong Adarna

Fireflies are vanishing in the Philippines.

Photo by Quit007 / Wikimedia Commons.
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One of the animal stories that tugged at the heartstrings of our readers was this feature on why fireflies are vanishing in the Philippines. There are few places in the Philippines where fireflies were known to congregate in mass numbers: Ogod River in Bicol, Abatan River in Bohol, and Ihawig in Palawan. The insects would gather around the mangroves by the thousands and perform an ancient ritual of lights to locate their suitable mates. But these days, fewer fireflies are congregating in these places.

Read more about why fireflies are vanishing in the Philippines

The noisy Pokpok bird is from the Philippines.

Photo by Shutterstock.
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Noisy, colorful, and often conspicuous: That’s how birders describe the coppersmith barbet, locally known as the pokpok. Readers were amused with its name, which was given because of the sound it makes. The pokpok’s birdcall sounds like the soft hammering on a copperplate.

Read more about the pokpok bird.

These unknown species of Insects are discovered in Laguna.

Photo by Museum of Natural History of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB).
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Common insects living in your backyard could still be unknown to science. That is what researchers from the University of the Philippines proved when they discovered three new species of crickets that were previously undocumented.

Read more about the newly discovered insects in Laguna.

This green puppy was born in the Philippines.

Photo by FACEBOOK/CHONA LACSAMANA.
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Imagine the surprise of the dog owner when one of the puppies in the litter was born green. On October 25, Chona Lacsamana from the Philippines posted about her dog giving birth to a green puppy, which she named Wasabi. Green puppies are rare, but not unheard of. A green puppy was born in Italy, its body coated in a striking green fur. The owner of the puppy named him Pistachio.

Read more about the green puppy in the Philippines.

480 million animals died in the Australian wildfires.

Photo by BRETT HEMMINGS/GETTY IMAGES.
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In January, huge swathes of the Australian Outback was ravaged by wildfire. Scientists feared it might have caused the extinction of many indigenous species. A horrific video of the damage left many people speechless. The 2020 Australian wildfire is one of the first great spasms of man-made ecological disaster in history. Half a billion animals have died in Australia due, in significant part, to the extended consequences of human greed and avarice—it's just the beginning.

Read more about the 480 million animals dying in the Australian wildfires.

The Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Philippines are vanishing. 

Photo by Shutterstock.
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At least 10 Irrawaddy dolphins are left in the waters of Negros Occidental. The dolphins, which were only recently discovered to exist in the country, are sadly vanishing. On December 2, the Earth Island Institute Asia Pacifica launched a petition to save the Philippine Irrawaddy Dolphins, and many of our readers answered the call. More than 8,000 signatures have been gathered to save the vanishing species.

Read more about Irrawaddy dolphins vanishing in the Philippines.

These killer whales and dolphins emerge in Bohol after decades.

Photo by PEXELS.
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With fewer ships traversing the waters of the archipelago during the pandemic, some marine animals found an opportunity to flourish. Dolphins and orcas were seen in the hundreds after decades of absence in the waters of Bohol. The return of dolphins and killer whales was one of the animal stories our readers shared most this year.

Read more about killer whales and dolphins returning to Bohol after decades.

More whale sharks flock to Donsol.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
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It’s not just dolphins and orcas who’ve made a comeback in 2020. Whale sharks in Sorsogon also turned up in larger numbers this year, largely due to conservation efforts by the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines). The organization has identified 19 new individual whale sharks in the waters of Ticao-Burias Pass Protected Seascape (TBPPS) since the start of 2020.

Read more about whale sharks flocking to Donsol, Sorsogon.

Platypuses glow in the dark.

Photo by Mammalia 2020; 10.1515/mammalia-2020-0027.
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We thought we knew everything about the strange creature 200 years after its discovery, but we were wrong. As if platypuses couldn’t get any weirder, it turns out they glow in the dark, which convinced us the platypus is God’s idea of a funny joke. In a study published in the online journal De Gruyter, scientists revealed platypuses have bioluminescence. There are many bioluminescent creatures that exist, but they are nothing near the complexity of mammals: mushrooms, jellyfish, plankton.

Read more about platypuses glowing in the dark.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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