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The Trouble with Yi

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Yi qi preens its plumage one last time in the morning sun before it retires to its nest cavity to spend much of the day. In another tree, a pair of passenger pigeon are just stirring and beginning to start their days, alongside another Yi moving up into the canopy to retire.

~~~

Within Wings: The Evolution of Flight is Eden's most expansive indoor complex, a winding and largely indoor series of glass hothouses and geodesic domes inter-connected to form over 15 acres of total area, existing as the largest indoor exhibit complex anywhere on Earth - not even not counting several extensive outdoor netted aviaries adding another twelve acres of exhibit space. Here, amongst rainforest, desert, and even oceanic biotopes, visitors can marvel at hundreds of specimens of the world's most wonderful flying creatures - of the past and leading right up to the present - in addition to their ancestors - totaling over 150 species in this complex alone. From the 130+ hummingbirds, covering nearly all known species, which flutter about The Humming Gardens to the enormous Haast's eagle, agile sea-going Hesperornithids, and the free-flying flock of over 250 passenger pigeons - the largest and one of only a select few populations maintained anywhere in the world - birds are most certainly the best represented creatures here. However, the complex also houses a great variety of other flying archosaurs, among them the most bizzare, filter-feeding pterosaur Pterodaustro that feed far below the walks in their own filtered stream environment, or its far more primitive relation, the raucous little Dimorphodon, which gleans insects in small groups from dense jungle foliage just out of viewer's reach behind nearly invisible netting. Towards the west end of the complex can be found the world's largest free-flight bat aviary, home to almost sixty great fruit bats and flying foxes of seven species.

But not all creatures in Wings actually truly fly at all. Before you can walk, you can crawl. Before you can fly, you can glide. Some creatures in fact do - or did - so well as gliders, they've adapted soley into this habit and made it their specialty. Eden is still the only zoo where you can see for yourself a colugo in the flesh - even though this species is still relatively common in the wild today. It is also the only place where you can see perhaps the most aberrant of all of mother nature's attempts at flight - a feathered dinosaur that evolved nonetheless to get airborne not with its plumage, as so many of its cousins did - but with membraneous wings of skin and flesh, descending from a most elongated central finger and extending down to the hip, supported in the air by a long, flexible rod of ossified cartilage - a fourth finger, effectively, giving this most unusual creature excellent control over its descent between trees in the forest canopy it made its home in. This odd creature is, of course, the bizarre Scansoriopterigyd Yi qi - a creature short on name, but not on charisma. Though, like the colugo, she is not a flyer of her own power, she is among the most unique of all the creatures ever to test their skills up off of the ground.



If you travel along the west wing of Wings, entering from the north, you can find yourself in just a few yards at the best viewing of a large jungle-themed aviary home to a number of small creatures. Little birds - Holocenic and otherwise - a few small reptiles - and twelve Yi qi share their own small patch of the indoor forest, scrambling amongst palms, cycads, figs, evergreens, and gingkos - a floral diversity as timeless as the fauna. There is no netting running alongside the majority of the boardwalks that criss-cross through this artificial woodland and the creatures fly, jump, glide and scurry around visitors, free from any separating borders.

The Yi were long intended as the centerpiece specimens of this exhibit, which was prepared in advance weeks before even the first live birth of the species. Little living dragons, they were going to take the zoo by storm, for sure - little did anyone really expect, however, that Yi would be both cryptically colored and preferentially crepuscular, if not nocturnal - rarely emerging from tree-top nests during the height of daylight (and peak viewing hours). In addition, even when they did, they would virtually never come to ground or within sight even to feed, demanding all meals presented in the safety of the canopy and away from prying eyes. In the end, the pigeon-sized, brown and secretive dinosaur became one of the biggest flops popularity-wise of any animal produced at the park. Though if you can get to the park extremely early, before the sun is high, you may catch a glimpse of one of the little gliders flitting fleetingly from one branch to another, its large dark eyes squinting in the sun as it prepares to nestle itself away for the day and taking a final moment to preen its long wiry tail plumes, for the most part the Yi is a poor zoo subject for the average tourist; not sure what else to do, the zoo recently turned their previously solitary aviary into a mixed exhibit utilizing excess specimens netted from other enclosures - mainly passenger pigeons, which provide some diurnal activity and seem to be paid no mind by the Yi on their twilight ventures - though all attempts at nesting have here been intercepted almost immediately by the Yi's great craving for scrambled eggs (fortunately the Yi otherwise is a predator only of very small prey, particularly insects and frozen rodents). The species' method of exhibition is currently under review; a smaller and more visitor-friendly enclosure for the species was trialed, after which it was found that their health declined highly in more exposed housing - likely a result of stress - prompting their return to the more secluded exhibit where they remain a commercial flop - little more than a name and information board on an enclosure full of nothing but pigeons and lizards to the average impatient or mistimed visitor - but an attraction of interest to the specialist viewer willing to inconvenience themselves a bit to see what is still one of nature's most unique animals.

The Yi's extremely seclusive nature is probably how it has become the only restored species on all of Isla Verda to have gone feral. Six years ago a series of unprecedented tropical storms hit the park hard over the course of three days, blowing out a series of windows in the exhibit complex and releasing approximately twenty-five animals, including most of the park's Yi qi and four Sharovopteryx. Though some animals, mainly birds, turned up dead the following morning, blown against the ground in the squalls, it took a number of weeks to successfully locate and re-claim some of the remaining which had dispersed into the park's forests. At this time it was discovered a huge lapse in care had occurred at some point when only two of the nine Yi qi released could be located on GPS, indicting the other seven, their tags apparently having been damaged or lost - if they had been put on at all (it's considered possible this may have been neglected) - were completely untraceable and escaped into the natural environment. Searches following resulted in only sparse sightings and no successful captures - Yi, being small, very flighty, nocturnal, solitary and arboreal are extremely difficult to capture in any way - until about half a year after the incident when a number were successfully caught in traps several miles north of the park in the forests. Initially these were viewed as successes, and indeed eventually seven animals were successfully taken back into captivity, tagged, and put back on exhibit as it seemed the animals had suddenly become much easier to catch - however, most of the animals had somehow lost their leg bands. It wasn't until an eighth, ninth, and then a tenth specimen also were caught that it was realized that this was because these animals had never had leg bands - the species was clearly breeding in the wild, likely finding the island's native tropical forest very rich in small prey and the warm, wet climate not unlike their native.

With no safe way to easily attempt to reclaim all unrecorded specimens, the park rather turned its attentions to stringent control of its ports to simply ensure the species remained on the isle and was not accidentally transported off in any way - there would be no way it could escape it on its own power, and it seemed most unlikely to cause severe ecological harm to an already relatively developed island in the Sylvan chain - or so they said. There is now believed to be an estimated wild and uncontrolled population of animals between thirty and sixty Yi living in the jungles to the north of the island - five times the number kept in captivity, where reproduction is controlled - with sightings occasionally reported in the park itself. Though Eden's free-range Yi are very seclusive, are very rarely seen by any visitor, and are almost never intentionally advertised by management, both for fear of backlash on the potential dangers of the animal's escape - both to visitors and the environment - and shame for a very significant mistake on the part of a number of staff, they are nevertheless just as hard to keep hidden when you desire such as they are to locate when you want them, and occasionally visitors have brought attention the apparently loose animals they've spotted up at some rural northern trail. The issue eventually got out and numerous people already in opposition to the park, once aware of this huge mistake in containment, promptly began to use it for their own benefit. "If Eden is truly competent in what they are doing as they say - if they were, how did this happen? What if it were a Tyrannosaurus or another large and deadly predator, rather than a small animal? What would they do then - simply allow it to roam the isle at will as well? Where does this end?", were among the words issued by various opposing groups, with the issue eventually prompting a press release by the corporation admitting the nature of their mistake in not properly tagging the animals, followed by a lengthy speech on how the specie's affect on the native ecosystem would be perceived to be "very slight" but that, yes, mistakes had occurred. However, it was admittedly a statement given with no real information to back it all - indeed, Yi qi on Isla Verda are believed to be responsible for recent sharp declines in the numbers of certain indigenous songbirds whose nests they are likely pilfering, information that has been kept out of the light.

Due to the private nature of the island the release of the species did not break any laws, but fines, in the words of regional fish and game officials, "would be astronomical in the event the species... found its way to another island or the mainland, not to mention the great potential for ecological damage regardless of lack of human danger."

~~~

Eden suffered no noticeable loss of revenue from the Yi controversy and as of 2115 no member of the species has been recorded as having left the isle. Efforts continue to be made to ensure this does not occur, though Yi numbers are believed to be increasing. Shooting campaigns to exterminate the species have recently had marginal success, more than live-capture attempts, but require travel through difficult jungle habitat at very inopportune times of day and a very skilled shot. Poisoning or fatal traps are unfortunately not useable in this situation due to the high risk of bycatch.

Following the reveal of attempts to exterminate the Yi from the wilderness of the island, a small online activist group called "Free the Yi" gathered a petition of several thousand signatures opposing the hunting of the animals. This was insufficient to gather any official legal response, though the group remains active.



~~~

New restoration following more closely known details of the fossil; less wyvern, more nightjar squirrel.
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© 2015 - 2021 Sheather888
Comments19
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dylan613's avatar
So are YI Qis one of the worst invasive species of the island? Are there any other invasive species on the island? I'm just curious.
pachirinosauro's avatar
To be honest, the backstory greatly outshines the art for me...and I like it.
CartoonBen's avatar
Nod Nicely done with the feathers.
Keehsay's avatar
Interesting petrasur
WorkowatyWilczek's avatar
HUBLERDON's avatar
How does your park bring these creatures back in the first place? Genetic engineering? I was just wondering, if would be interesting to explore the concept.
grisador's avatar
Amazing Artwork and İnformation !  Wow! 


Thought it seems suspicious that its having a 'Flying/Gliding' ability
Traheripteryx's avatar
So adorable! :meow:
Safe the Yis!
ZoPteryx's avatar
Terrific art and I'm loving the backstory!  I for one welcome our future bat-winged overlords! :D
AzrielMoha's avatar
You seems had the best to ideas and stories for your park project..how you do it?
Trendorman's avatar
The dragon and the passenger..
maybe a building for nocturnal/crepuscular critters?  (like the Duke Lemur Center has for its aye-ayes, or the National Zoo (DC) has for its kiwis)

nice grooming image.  very calm chap, that.
Preradkor's avatar
Nice concept, but I would not expect so strange and indeed failed evolutional experiment would become so succesfull invasive species. At least there must be some reasons why it not started a species-rich line od bat-winged birds and become extinct. One of these reasons is probably poor competitive strength.
Sheather888's avatar
Sure, but this isn't the mainland - this is an isolated island only fifteen miles long where there are no predators and a large number of large insects, small reptiles, poor-flying small birds,and introduced mice. It's an environment very conducive to their survival.
island birds, and passenger pigeons, are famous for their eggs being stolen.  its not the hardest of milestones for an invasive species.  also...

> would become so succesfull invasive species.
nesting birds, like humans, don't exactly have a picture of Yi in their brain's "avoid!" area.

>At least there must be some reasons why it not started a species-rich line od bat-winged birds and become extinct.
probably for the same reason that aye-ayes haven't diversified more - because they haven't.
Preradkor's avatar
but aye-ayes still exist, and can still diversify in the future. But to be honest, woodpeckers seem competitive stronger and aye-ayes live just in not very big island without woodpeckers. There is probably no place for future diversification. If aye-aye population would be relased outside madagascar, where woodpeckers live, population of cast-aways would sooner or later die off. Also if we would relase woodpeckers into madagascar, they would probably wipe out aye-ayes. This is how competitive strength in ecology works.

About Yi qi we just know that this species WAS outcompeted long ago and died off. So it was classical failed evolution experiment. 
by that logic, everything in the history of life (except for extant organisms) lacked competitive fitness - because every single one of their genera and species died off.

I see Yi as more like the Desmostylians - taking a niche nobody else wanted, and that's what led to their extinction, not rivals.
Preradkor's avatar
Some species diversified into myriad of descendant species, before they died off. And these are ones with best competitive fitness. Today are also some species what promises great future. For example Procambarus clarkii. Very competitive and environment-tolerant. Humans relased them in many places outside its natural range, including few new continents (well, all beside Australia and Antarctica).
American crayfish tend to be very invasive. There are over 300 species of american crayfish, while there only 7 native species in Europe. with so many species competing, they must be very competitive.
And it is often determinant, how a species can compete. How many simmilar species live around it in similar niche.
Yi qi was as far we know, strange new evolution desigh what probably didnt had big success, outcompeted probably by featherwinged birds or pterosaurs (or something else like geckos).
Sir-Conor's avatar
Simply fantastic
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