Eco Kids Planet – Issue 52 – Animal Friendships

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Award-Winning Kids’ Nature Magazine


Animal Friendships







Issue 52

PLUS FUN activities, puzzles and games!

What's inside this



A Letter from a Wolverine With his friend, a raven


Dolphin Debate Is there a special bond between dolphins and humans?


4 Beast Friends?

8 Charlie Meets an Ostrich and a Zebra

Do animals make friends?

…for his first-ever double interview!

Amelia the Fox Comic Animal mating dances


Pack and Group Animals! Simon investigates


Quiz Planet Have fun with games and puzzles


Over to You Your letters and creations


Craft Your Own Alder Bumblebee! Enjoy this month’s crafty project

10 The Turtle Dove 26 Intriguing – The Dove of Love Animal Endangered Creature Feature Relationships


My Best Animal Friend Enter this month’s competition

Amy investigates…

Great Crested Grebe


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‘Weed Dance’ Courtship Display © Nature Picture Library/Alamy

Stock Photo

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Ta onal Nati

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Editor: Anya Dimelow

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Communications Manager: Emma Oldham Writers and Contributors: Gabby Dawnay, JD Savage, Josette Reeves, Katharine Davies, Pete Dommett

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Hello Eco Kid


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BEAST FRIENDS? We humans have best friends, but do animals have…

Is nature a cruel place, where animals are always at war? Or do they make friends, co-operate and help each other?

How nice is nature? Many people think nature is anything but nice. They see it as a winner-takes-all world, where different species just fight and feed on each other. After all, isn’t that what evolution is all about: the survival of the strongest? Well, that’s just a small part of the story. Not all creatures are predators. There are great animal armies of seed-eaters, planteaters and fruit-eaters. And aren’t species more likely to survive if they co-operate and support each other? Lots of animals do just that. They protect each other, build friendships and sometimes even help out other species. They huddle together for warmth and guard their groups from danger. Some even put the safety of other animals above their own. Monkeys and apes groom each other – and so do rats. Birds warn each other if they see a predator coming – and so do


squirrels. African wild dogs look after the pups of their fellow pack members. Many animals work together like this, and we’ll look at some amazing examples…

NOT-SO-FRIENDLY ANIMALS Some animals don’t want besties. They prefer living their lives alone, except when it’s time to mate. They include bears, hedgehogs, black rhinos, moles, leopards, hamsters, sloths and skunks. But don’t feel sorry for them – they’re happiest that way!

happens, though, because bats share. If one bat is hungry, other bats sick up blood that they’ve digested into its mouth until it’s healthy again. (And, yes, we know that’s a bit gross!)

Marine mates Even fish co-operate. Small ‘cleaner’ fish swim into the mouths of bigger fish to eat parasites and harmful bacteria. Result: the smaller fish gets a meal and the bigger fish gets a healthy mouth!

Ants go with the flow! Ants are especially good at co-operating. Every day, up to 200,000 of them can come rushing out of their nest, hunting for food. Sounds like chaos! But they set up a three-lane highway, splitting into two trails on the way out, and returning in a single centre lane. They beat our human highways – there are never any traffic jams! How’s that for excell-ant co-operation?

Blood buddies Even blood-drinking vampire bats help each other. The bats often fail to find blood, but if they go longer than two days without a meal, they starve. That rarely

Other marine creatures work together, too. For example, sea urchins hitch rides on the backs of carrier crabs. The crabs take the sea urchins to new feeding grounds, while using them as spiky shields for protection!

PLANTS AND ANIMALS Plants and animals also help each other out – even if they don’t realise it! On the ocean floor, greenish-brown algae live on the backs of spider crabs. This gives the algae a good home, and camouflages the crab, protecting it from predators! On land, honey bees collect nectar from flowers to make food for their colony. In doing so, they spread pollen from flower to flower, which lets the plants create new seeds.


Bonds across the boundaries Some animals can make friends with other species. Here are some recorded cases:

In Georgia, a fluffy chicken called Penny had a best friend that was a two-legged chihuahua named Roo! A young hippo called Owen bonded with a 130-year-old tortoise named Mzee!

In an Indian village, a wild leopard made friends with a domestic cow. It came to snuggle up to it every night for two months! A giraffe and an ostrich became besties at a Florida theme park!

Canine Companions Dogs are especially good at bonding with other animals. Which one of the following animals do you think dogs have not formed friendships with? CHEETAHS ELEPHANTS CROCODILES FOXES OWLS PARAKEETS CATS DUCKLINGS

In a South African rhino orphanage, a rhino and a lamb are best buds!

Fun Fact

Animals even help each other out at the microscopic level. Forty different species of bacteria and one-celled creatures live in the guts of tiny termites. They break down the parts of the wood that the termite eats but can’t digest by itself!

Elephants let olive baboons drink from the water holes they dig in the sand with their tusks. In return, the baboons screech warnings from the treetops when they see danger coming.


Canine Companions Answer: Crocodiles

Photos: Associated Press


© FLPA/Alamy Stock Photo

Pallid honeyguide feeding on beeswax

Animals helping humans We all know how well domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, bond with humans, but did you know that wild animals sometimes help us out, too? In Africa, honeyguide birds let out a special call to alert local people. When they follow it, the bird leads them to a beehive. The bird’s call changes as they get closer! Humans then smoke out the hive, to make the bees drowsy and less likely to sting, and take the honey for themselves. They leave scraps of honeycomb behind for the birds to eat! Reports of dolphins saving humans go back hundreds of years. They’re said to

chase away sharks and escort struggling swimmers back to the beach. In 2000, in Rome, a daring dolphin saved a boy from drowning when he fell out of his father’s motorboat. It pushed him to the surface, so he could climb back on board!

Are animal friendships just selfish? You may wonder whether animals only help others because they get something out of it themselves. That could be true. Vampire bats might only feed others because they know that they’ll need feeding one day. Pack animals might just help other members because it’s the only way they’ll get help in return. Even those heroic dolphins might only help humans by accident. They could be trying to play! What’s important is that nature is full of creatures working together to help each other survive. And some of those friendships prove that anyone can get along if they really try!

Vocabulary Domestic: A tame animal, kept by humans.


Ostrich Charlie Meets an


©Minden Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo

and a

I’m Charlie, the Eco Kid who can talk to animals. This time, I’m in Africa, for my first-ever double interview!

Charlie: I’m walking across open woodland in Africa, looking for Zara Zebra and Ozzie Ostrich. Zebras and ostriches often live together in mixed herds, and they travel together, too. I want to find out why. I can see dozens of zebras right now, but how do I know which one is Zara? Zara Zebra: I’m here! You should be able to recognise me, Charlie – all of our stripe patterns are different, you know! I could smell you coming. Ozzie Ostrich: And I’m Ozzie Ostrich. I saw you coming from three kilometres away, long before she smelled you. Charlie: I can believe that. You have such big eyes. Ozzie: Biggest of any land animal! And because they’re so high off the ground, I have a fantastic view of the grassland and bush.


Charlie: That must be handy for spotting predators. Zara: Our sense of smell and great hearing are just as good for knowing when predators are coming. These ostriches rely on us to warn them. And when they see us running, they know to run in the same direction. Ozzie: You zebras rely on us ostriches, you mean!

Charlie: So you all combine your senses to alert each other when danger’s coming? That must be why you live in mixed herds – for extra protection. Zara: Yes, you can’t get enough out here with all the predators about.

Charlie: Can’t you just fly away when predators come, Ozzie? Ozzie: No, I have short wings, which I stick out for balance when I run, but I can’t fly. But who cares? I can nearly always outrun my enemies.

Ozzie: We ostriches don’t just team up with zebras, though. We also mix with gazelles.

Zara: We zebras are built for speed, too!

Zara: Huh, gazelles don’t even have stripes!

Ozzie: You can’t run as fast as us ostriches. We’re the fastest creatures on two legs.

© Lou Coetzer/

Ozzie: They have long, sharp horns, though, which are good for driving off predators. What good are stripes?

Zara: Lots of good, because they dazzle and confuse our enemies. Anyway, we may not have horns, but we give really powerful kicks.

Zara: But you can only kick forwards. You should see us zebras kicking backwards, with both legs at once. Pow!

Charlie: I wouldn’t challenge either of you to a race! Zara: I’m surprised Ozzie can run at all with all those stones inside him! Charlie: Stones? Ozzie: Yes, I don’t have any teeth, so I swallow small stones, pebbles and sand to help grind up my food. Zara: Well, we zebras have very strong teeth, which are great for grazing! Good thing, too – we love our grass. Ozzie: You can say that again. She’ll walk for thousands of kilometres every year looking for new grass. You can’t get these zebras to stay still. Zara: Our grazing stirs up lots of insects and other little creatures for you to eat, Ozzie. I don’t see you complaining then! Charlie: Aren’t you vegetarian, Ozzie? Ozzie: Mostly, but I eat insects and little lizards and rodents when I get the chance. The zebras’ constant grass guzzling does bring them out of hiding. Charlie: Well, you two argue a lot but your species obviously have a great relationship with each other!

Fun Fact Ozzie: But our kicks are more powerful, and our feet have sharp claws. I can kick hard enough to kill a lion, you know!

Zebras sleep standing up, while ostriches sleep with their eyes open and their necks upright!



The Turtle Dove The Dove of Love Turtle doves are symbols of everlasting love. Their beautiful colours, romantic behaviour and soothing song have been admired by people for centuries. But for how much longer? These lovely doves are in serious trouble, and they need our help fast.

Celebrity dove Turtle doves have been celebrated in writing, music and art since ancient times:

Summer dove Seeing a turtle dove at Christmas time would be seriously surprising, because they only visit England in the summer! They arrive in April and May in the south and east of England (and other places in Europe) to breed. At the end of the nesting season, the birds travel over 5,000km to spend the winter in West Africa. Then they repeat this mega-trip in reverse in the spring! Turtle doves are the only UK species of pigeon or dove that migrates like this.

 Turtle doves pulled the chariot of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.  William Shakespeare wrote about turtle doves in his poems and plays, and Elvis Presley sang about them.  ‘Turtle dove’ means ‘love’ in Cockney rhyming slang (a made-up language from London).  Two turtle doves are given as the second present in the famous carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.


The turtle dove’s strange name has nothing to do with reptiles! It comes from the male bird’s song in summer, which sounds like “turr, turr, turr”, or the soft purring of a lazy cat! He sings to defend his territory and to attract a mate.

Dove love The breeding season continues with the male dove’s comical courtship routine. He bows in front of the female bird several times, with his chest puffed out and beak pointed down. If she likes this fancy dance, the female builds a flimsy nest out

© Nature Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo


Conservation experts are working hard to tackle these problems. A project called Operation Turtle Dove began in 2012. It has encouraged farmers in England to help these endangered doves by creating weedy fields for food, digging ponds for fresh water, and planting hedges to provide them with places to nest. Other projects are protecting their habitat in Africa and trying to end hunting. Hopefully, these action plans will stop the turtle dove from becoming extinct. But some people worry that it might be too late to save this much-loved bird. Only time will tell... © Philippe Clement/

© Buiten-Beeld/Alamy Stock Photo

Showing the dove some love

Eco Kids Unite!

Disappearing doves

Feathery Fact

Sadly, the number of turtle doves that breed in England every year is going down fast. If this carries on, they could disappear from our countryside in just a few years’ time. In fact, turtle doves are in danger of becoming extinct across the whole world.

The turtle dove belongs to the pigeon family. This has over 300 members, including the famous dodo, which became extinct in 1662.

The main reasons for this are: • Changes to turtle dove habitat – there is less food, a lack of water to drink, and fewer places to nest and roost (sleep) in both Europe (where they breed) and in Africa (where they spend the winter). • Hunting – thousands of turtle doves are shot as they migrate between Europe and Africa. • Diseases.

© Science History Images/Alamy Stock Photo

of small twigs in a thick bush or hedge. Then both birds take it in turns to sit on the eggs until they hatch. For the first few days, the parent doves feed their chicks (or squabs, as they’re called) with ‘pigeon milk’ – a cheesy substance that the adults make in their throats. Yum! Turtle doves pair up for life, so – with a bit of luck – they’ll breed again next year. That’s dove love!

Clean your garden bird feeders and birdbaths regularly to stop diseases from spreading among species. And if you’re lucky enough to spot a turtle dove, report it to BirdTrack at

Vocabulary Habitat: The natural home of an animal. Migrate: Move from one place to another. Territory: The area that an animal defends from others.


Eco Kids

Is There a

Special Bond Between Dolphins and Humans?

Throughout history, humans have shared a special relationship with dolphins. They are such beautiful, intelligent and extraordinary creatures that we are naturally drawn to them. And dolphins, too, seem curious about us humans, and willing to make friends. But is the relationship more complex? Could there be another side to the ‘cute and caring’ reputation dolphins enjoy? Is there REALLY a special bond…?


Let’s have a dolphin debate!

1. How are dolphins similar to humans? Bottlenose dolphins are the most friendly of the 40 dolphin species, so most of the scientific research is based on their behaviour. For a start, dolphins are social creatures. They live in pods (groups) that are a mix of old and young mammals, just like human societies.

They co-operate when hunting, and senior dolphins pass on skills to the juniors. They communicate in a language of clicks, whistles and noises. They even have individual calls for each other, like humans have names. And they can learn new vocabulary. There are recordings of them mimicking the noise of motorboat engines, like a child makes the sound of a tractor. They are playful – they jump the ocean waves for no obvious reason other than joy!

Researchers have seen young males attack newborn dolphins in something known as calf tossing. (This is even more horrible than it sounds.) In mating season, males round up fertile females like cattle. They sometimes chase, hit, bite and charge at them. The females, understandably, don’t like it much.

2. Why do dolphins approach people? We know bottlenose dolphins and people share many similarities. They also behave with humans very much like they behave with their fellow dolphins. There are many stories about dolphins saving swimmers from drowning. People can even swim with dolphins as a therapy. They make long-term friendships and form ‘gangs’. They often shun outsider dolphins not in their clique. They can recognise themselves in the mirror. Scientific studies show they are fascinated by their own reflection! Their brains have evolved in a similar way to human brains. Wow, they really are just like us! With all these similarities, isn’t it logical that humans and dolphins have a natural bond? Well, yes, but also like humans, there is a darker side to dolphin society... They are capable of cruel and aggressive behaviour.

There are tales of dolphins encircling lone swimmers to protect them from sharks. Others tell of dolphin pods changing direction because they ‘sense’ a swimmer drowning. They then ‘rescue’ the swimmer by keeping them afloat. BUT who knows the number of occasions when dolphins have ignored someone in trouble? And the swimmer hasn’t lived to tell the tale... The problem is, there are no actual scientific studies on dolphin rescues. But scientists CAN study dolphin behaviour.

Vocabulary Therapy: Healing treatment.


One of the most famous examples is Fungie, a dolphin that has lived in Dingle Bay in Ireland since 1983. This big bruiser has the freedom of the bay, plenty of food and has become a world-famous celebrity. He has single-handedly (or should that be ‘flipperedly’?) boosted the local tourist trade! Fungie the Dingle Dolphin

Pet owners know their animals have individual personalities. The same goes for dolphins. Some are timid, others playful and friendly, others mean and grumpy. Just like us. In other words, some will want to help struggling swimmers and some won’t. Some will playfully chase motorboats; others will bite anyone who tries to stroke them. There are plenty of alternative stories about dolphins behaving aggressively towards humans. Battering them with their tails, pushing swimmers out to sea, and even pinning them to the ocean floor. Not so cute…

3. Lone or solitary dolphins

But these singleton dolphins are more likely to come to a sticky end than a happy one. The closer they get to humans, the more danger they are in. Many are killed every year by getting too close to motorboat propellers.

Conclusion Just because some bottlenose dolphins are friendly, it doesn’t mean we have a special relationship with all dolphins.

Scientists don’t know what makes these usually sociable creatures go solo. But this is a regular phenomenon in the dolphin world.

Dolphins are not domesticated like dogs or cats – they are still wild animals. In the same way that human beings have complex characters, so do dolphins. It’s complicated!

Many lone dolphins appear to seek out human company – is this because they are curious, lonely or just plain hungry?

So, do we have a special bond with dolphins? That still seems open to debate!

If food is involved, it’s probably the most obvious reason they want to be friendly! But many loners do seem to form a special bond with humans.


Vocabulary Phenomenon: Occurrence or situation, usually of something peculiar.

Great Crested Grebe

© Nature Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Weed Dance' Courtship Display

Tanzania, Serengeti National Park

Two Cuddling Lions

© Blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo

Mountain fold

Attach to area

Cut lines


Smaller swan



1 4

Glue spot/area


Wings 2 3



Larger swan

2 4

Papercraft Swans 1. Cut out the templates for the larger swan. Colour the swan and its wings in a dark grey shade on both sides of the templates. 2. Colour the eye area of the swan in black; be sure not to colour in the dots for its eyes (these are to remain white). Colour the beak detail in orange. 3. Apply glue to the glue spot on the swan’s head to join both sides of the head together. 4. Fold the wings and ruffle the feathers to make the wings look 3D. Add glue to the glue spots. Attach these to the swan’s body as numbered. 5. Colour the base in blue on both sides of the template. Add some glue to the glue spot and attach to the underside of the swan. 6. Cut out the smaller swan templates. Leave the swan’s body white. Follow steps 2-5 to complete the smaller swan.

Your papercraft swans are complete! These will make a lovely Valentine’s Day gift.


From ants to elephants, many animals live in groups of their own kind. Do they have strong family bonds, like us humans – or is it for other reasons? I had to find out!

Pack and Group Animals! I discovered there are two main reasons animals live together. The first is…

Defence There’s safety in numbers! Let’s say you’re a zebra. If you join a herd, it’s harder for a predator to catch you. They’d much rather go after you when you’re alone. Thirty zebras together can confuse a hungry leopard or hyena. They may have trouble working out where one zebra ends and another begins! And they can only eat one of you at a time. The bigger your herd is, the less likely it is to be you that gets eaten – especially if you stay in the middle!

graze. And whether it’s a group of zebras or fish, predators usually attack members on the edges. I’d definitely want to be safely in the middle! But how do you get that lucky spot? Maybe you have to be one of the strongest group members, with power over the others, to get there. It’s also easier to defend your food supplies as a group. Chimps defend fruit trees from other groups of chimps in this way. Group members are also handy alarm systems, warning the others when they see a predator. Prairie dogs are especially skilled at calling out warnings across big colonies. They even have different ‘words’ to warn each other about exactly which danger they’re about to face!

Fun Fact Prairie dogs from different areas call out in different accents! That’s why fish swim in schools, birds fly in flocks and sheep gather together to


Fox alert! Red fox kitten!

Feeding The other main reason animals live together is to help each other feed. Wolves and hyenas hunt in groups because it makes it easier to track, corner and take down large prey. Of course, it means they have to share the meat, but that’s better than getting no food at all!

Most wolf packs are families, or groups of families living together. The two parents guide the activities of their young cubs. The females take care of their pups and defence, while the males go out hunting. They’ll often travel for long distances, tracking herds of large prey for miles before attacking. Have you ever wondered why sea birds gather in their thousands on high, rocky cliffs? Is it because they benefit from being in huge groups? Not really. It’s because they’re all attracted by the same thing… the cliffs! It’s hard for predators to get them up there.

Lions are the only cats that live in groups, which we call prides. They do hunt together, but only if it’s a difficult prey to catch. The main reason they group together is to defend their territory.



TRAVELLING COMPANIONS! Some animals migrate with their own kind for safety, but zebras and wildebeest do it together! Zebras like feeding on long grass. They act like stripy lawnmowers to prepare it for the wildebeest, who prefer it short. Zebras may also have better memories and remember the best routes. Meanwhile, wildebeest are better at sensing water, so the zebras get a drink. How’s that for teamwork?

why my mum says we mustn’t let my dog Nelson sleep on the bed or the sofa, or eat before us. If we do, she says he’ll want to be top dog, take over as pack leader and set all the rules. Unless we show him who’s boss, he could challenge our leadership! Lots of people think this way about dogs, but is it true? They’ve lived with humans for thousands of years now. Should we really treat them like they’re still wolves? Probably not! When actual wolves were studied in the wild, their packs didn’t even work that way. There wasn’t one wolf fighting its way to rule the pack. They mostly got things done by co-operation, not by a pack leader controlling the others. Maybe our dogs see us as partners, not pack leaders, anyway.


Fun Fact Orcas (killer whales) travel in groups, form strong bonds and rarely separate for more than a few hours!

Case Notes: Are our pet dogs pack animals? It’s a fair question. After all, their ancestors were wolves! Some people say it’s why they get on so well in human families. They’ve joined our ‘pack’. It’s


Well, I have seen dogs trying to have power over other dogs. I’ve also seen them try to own the best spots in the house, like beds and sofas. Also, abandoned dogs do go back to their natural ways and form packs. So I reckon dogs are pack animals at heart, but I don’t think they’re waiting for a chance to take over as boss of our families! What my mum says is based on ideas about wolves we now know to be wrong – and dogs behave differently from wolves anyway. Especially in the way they trust and like humans! What do all you dog owners think?

Fun Fact One mouse produces about 18,000 poo pellets a year!

Many animal groups do have a dominant member – in other words, one that has power over the others. Even families of wild house mice have a dominant male. Mice live together, nestling up to each other in winter to keep warm. The dominant male defends their territory. He makes sure there’s more of his own smelly wee spread around, marking the place, than wee from any of the others. That means intruders will recognise him as the leader straight away. He has to drink more water than the rest to wee so much – and eat more food, too, so he has the energy! But the pong also attracts enemies.

I wondered whether there were any downsides to living in groups. There are! It means the animals have to compete for food, water, mates and a good place to sleep. Disease and parasites get passed on much faster. If there are lots of animals together, it’s easier for their enemies to spot them. Also, if a group gets really big, it may be difficult to find food for everyone. If some start getting sick, it becomes harder for the group to survive. So is it worth it? Overall, I think there are more benefits to living in groups than disadvantages!



Hello, Amy here! This issue of Eco Kids Planet is all about animal friendships. I discovered that some of them are extraordinary! Who would imagine a mongoose and a warthog would be best pals?

These relationships work because of something called SYMBIOSIS. “What’s that?” you’re probably wondering. Symbiosis is when creatures from two different species depend on each other for survival. And NATURE is full of it! If the relationship benefits BOTH species, it’s called MUTUALISM (mutually beneficial, see?).

xtremely u nusual for species of one mammal to groom ano but that’s e ther, xactly wha t happens h ere. War thogs in Uganda enjo of striped m y ongoose cle the services aning crew s! These brav e critters p ic k out the war thogs’ ticks as a ta sty snack – scrummy! The war tho gs get a cle and the mo aning ngooses ge t a meal.

© Mark MacEw

en/naturepl.c om

I’ve explored my favourite examples of MUTUALISM here. (Although one friendship does get a little close for comfort, as you’ll see when you read number three… Ouch!)

1. War thog s and band ed mongooses – a playful and adaptive kin d of mutua lism! It is e

Banded mong oose group gro oming wartho g


The wild pigs have even learnt to lie down in the presence of a mongoose. They let them climb on top to gain access to more parasites.

How does it work? This relationship relies on TRUST. These particular warthogs and mongooses live near humans, so they each have a plentiful food supply. This means both species are relaxed and well fed. If this were not the case, a grumpy warthog might not be quite so friendly to a little mongoose (if you know what I mean – gulp!).

that Aphids are ver y small insects d. suck the juices of plants for foo es titi an qu They leave behind large led of delicious, sugar y waste cal ious trit nu honeydew. It becomes a move food for busy ants. They even to nts pla the aphids on to better ir ensure the production of the are ts sugar -rich meal. Some an they so hungry for honeydew that them ke ma ‘milk’ the tiny insects to They excrete the sweet substance. h wit s do it by stroking the aphid their antennae!

Oxpeckers are small, red or yellowbeaked, beady-eyed birds. They enjoy picking the ticks off the backs of large mammals. But the relationship sometimes goes a bit further… The oxpecker, as its name suggests, often pecks deeper to drink the animal’s blood – YIKES! ©Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

2. Ants and aphids – a mutualism that’s existed for 50 million years!

K ud u w it h 1 0 ox p ec ke r s

on! ompositi Digital c Eg yp tia n plo ver

–a 4. Plover birds and crocodiles – perfect example of mutualism or a MYTH? ? What do the aphids get in return aphids The ants fiercely protect the ve to from predators. Well, they ha y? look after their grub, don’t the

3. Oxpeckers and ungulates – when mutualism goes a bit ‘vampire ’… Ungulates are large, hooved ma mmals, such as zebras, rhinos, giraff es and water buffalo.

This has to be one of the most lored. remarkable relationships I exp get into Does the tiny plover bird really its teeth? a crocodile’s mouth to clean h Greek The story began way back wit scribed philosopher Herodotus. He de king bits seeing these plucky birds pic th of of meat from between the tee basking Nile crocodiles. no Unfor tunately, there has been art ap ce, sin s proper evidence of thi s. from several hoax photograph t ... you No one has actually seen it, bu never know!


© Helmut Corneli/Alamy Stock Photo

5. Remora fish and sharks and rays – a fishy meals-on-wheels deal Remora have evolved a sucking device to hang on to larger fish, such as sharks and rays. These big fish provide the remora with protection, transport and constant food. Remora even attach themselves closer to the ray’s mouth when it eats – to catch the scraps! In return, the remora and pilot fish keep the sharks and rays clean. They eat their old skin and copepod parasites. How’s that for a tasty snack?

Chilean devil ray with remora

6. Clownfish and sea anemones – this perfectly balanced relationship inspired the Disney movie Finding Nemo! This is a wonderful example of how far mutualism can go. The symbiosis between clownfish and sea anemones is so important that one could not exist without the other. Clownfish are even known as anemonefish!

Clownfish © Suwat Sirivutcharungchit/ Alamy Stock Photo

How does it work? Sea anemones may look like plants, but they are actually animals! Their stinging tentacles can capture and paralyse any fish that come too close. But not the clownfish! Instead, the spongy anemones provide these


little orange fish with a safe place to lay their eggs and a home for life. Clownfish never venture further than a few metres from their anemone haven – they don’t need to. If threatened by a predator, they quickly swim into the anemone, hiding within its tentacles. What do the clownfish give the anemones in return? These cheerful fish keep their anemone friends spick and span! They also protect them from predators, such as the anemonemunching butterf lyfish. Hey, how come the clownfish don’t get stung by the anemone’s poisonous tentacles?




anemo n i h s lownfi

Because the clownfish are covered by a protective mucus, of course! Evolution is a beautiful thing, my friends.

Last, but not least, I have to mention PLANTS AND POLLINATORS. Plant-pollinator mutualisms involve almost 170,000 plant and 200,000 animal species. Without these CRUCIAL interactions, our world would be a completely different place!

And before I go, here are some JUST-FOR-FUN FRIENDSHIPS Sometimes, an unlikely friendship forms between animals from different species. Purely because they just seem to enjoy each other’s company…

e emu and BFFs: Diane th key Jack the don

Like the emu and donkey who live on a rescue farm in South Carolina, USA. They “like to cuddle and sleep together”, say farm workers. “They are in love!”

BFFs: Balloo a nd Henry

When the owners of a rescue dog called Henry realised he was lonely, they wen t to the animal sanctuary to find him a friend. They returned home with Balloo, a beautiful little… kitten. Dogs and cats hat e one another, right? How do you suppos e Henry reacted to this new feline family member? You can guess the answer! The two are TOTAL BFFs. They sleep, play, cuddle, eat, go hiking (with Balloo riding in a specially adapted backpack on Henry) and even SWIM together! Maybe you have a dog and cat that are best friends. Do you know any other unusual animal friendships?

BFFs: Leo the lion, Baloo th e bear and Shere Kh an the tiger

Text and illustrations by Gabby Dawnay

l Ark Anima At Noah’s , ia in Georg Sanctuar y ger and a bear, a ti an a lion were 5 le trio for 1 inseparab ir e ed by th years. Unit past, they traumatic e in each took refug mpany. other’s co


Quiz Planet Perfect Friends Puzzle





5 6





11 12



ACROSS 2 A group of dolphins 2. A group of dolphins 1. 4 Warthhog’s unlikely friend 4. Warthhog’s unlikely friend 7 A small very small insect thatsucks suck the 7. A very insect that thejuices of plants for food 9 Anemonefish juices of plants 10 Whose pawsfor arefood these? 9. Anemonefish 11 Which bird is this buffalo taking for a ride? 10. Whose pawsmigration are these? 12 Zebra’s buddy

DOWN 1 3. Zebra’s bird-friend gm171589632-22113478 5. When creatures from two different 3 Zebra’s unlikely bird-friend species depend each other 5 When creatures from two different species depend on each other on for survival. for survival 6 Large, hooved mammal, such as zebras, rhinos, giraffes and water buffalo. 8 Crocodile bird 6. Large, hooved mammal, such as zebras, rhinos, giraffes and water buffalo 8. ‘Crocodile bird’ 11. Which bird is this buffalo taking for a ride? 12. Zebra’s migration buddy


Find 10 Differences

Joke Corner Q: What do yo u call a dog magician ? A: A Labracad abrador!

The laziest cat ever!

d do Q: What soun ake porcupines m s? when they kis A: Ouch!

© Harris, Sidney/

Follow that tortoise!

Q: C an a k an jump h garoo igher th an the Eif f e l T o w A: Of co er? urse. T h e Ei Tower c an’t jum f fel p!

See answers on


Over to You In our ‘Penguins of the World’ issue, we asked you to design a ‘Protect the Penguins’ poster. What a fantastic job everyone did, including an entire class at St Paul’s Primary School in Chippenham! Thank you everyone who entered the competition.

Chloe, age 8, Spain

Congratulations to our five lucky winners!

Toby Capps, age 11, Exeter

Arran and Thomas, age 7, St Paul’s Primary School


Dexter and Lily, age 7, and Nadia, age 8, St Paul’s Primary School

Ben, age 11, London

We loved receiving ALL of your letters! You can see other competition entries on our website at


Craft Your Own

Alder Bumblebee! These gorgeous little bees are super-easy to create. They’re the perfect decoration to turn into bracelets or gifts, or to hang up in your garden.

What you need: • Alder cones • Scissors • A recycled clear cereal packet or plastic bag. • Yellow thread/string • Twine (optional) Step 1: Wrap your yellow thread/string around the ‘body’ of your bee. Pull your string as tight as possible to keep it in place, and secure it with a strong knot.

Now find somewhere fun to hang up your bumblebee. Top tip: When removing your alder cone from the branch, leave a little bit of the stem to create the bee’s stinger!

Nature Bio

Step 2: Cut out a pair of wings from your recycled cereal packet/plastic bag. Step 3: Twist your pair of wings at the centre a couple of times to make them stand up. Place them against the body of your bee. While a helper holds them in place, wrap your yellow thread or twine around the wings and body. Pull tightly and secure with a knot.


Step 4: Trim off any excess string from underneath your bee. Leave approximately 15cm of string above the bee’s body to allow you to hang it up. Depending on the position of the wings, you may need to slowly turn them around to the top of the bee’s body. Ta-da, you’re done!

Alder cones are the catkins of black alder trees. They look like tiny pine cones. They contain the alder tree’s seeds and can be picked from the tree or collected from the ground.

Bees Need Your Help! Nearly one in ten wild bee species face extinction in Europe, while the status of more than half remains unknown. Give them a helping hand by planting nectar-rich flowers in your garden. Flowers to plant in spring: Lilac, lavender, sage, verbena, and wisteria.

Monthly Competition

My Best Animal Friend For this month’s competition, we’d like you to think of a fantasy friendship between you and… a wild animal. If you could be friends or form an alliance with ANY creature, which animal would you choose and why? Send us a letter or a drawing, and tell us all the different ways you and your friend could help each other. What would you do together? Where would you go? Just imagine...

FIVE lucky readers will win this fabulous book from Salariya.


Amazing Animal Friendships: Odd Couples In Nature Life is better with a friend! Many animal species think so, too. This book explores the strange and wonderful ways in which some very different types of creature help each other out. Come with us on a journey through the natural world and discover that friendship can be found practically everywhere! Packed with bite-sized nuggets of knowledge and charming illustrations. RRP: £10.99. Ages: 7-11.

For more information and stockists, visit How to submit your entries: Send your letter or drawing to Eco Kids Planet, 41 Claremont Road, Barnet, EN4 0HR or email before 10th March 2019. Please make sure you include your full name, age and address, so we know how to reach you.



The Gobi Desert

Issue 53

EcoRegions of the Gobi It’s not all sand…

Charlie Meets a Long-Eared Jerboa The Mickey Mouse of the desert

The Gobi Bear Endangered Creature Feature

Natural Wonders of the Gobi Desert Singing sands and flaming cliffs

Simon Investigates...

Monsters of the Gobi!

© Stocktrek Images, Inc./ Alamy Stock Photo

© Nature Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

The Gobi's Endemic Animals