Nov 26

You’ve probably heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” and this rings especially true for striking images of endangered species. Most people have never been lucky enough to see a whale in the wild, yet they are iconic figureheads in the conservation movement because people know what they look like and why they are special thanks to films and photographs. However, sometimes the best stories are told behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Bryophryne bustamantei

Bryophryne bustamantei

While attending and exhibiting ARKive at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, I had the unexpected opportunity to meet Alessandro Catenazzi. Alessandro studies tropical rainforest frog species at the University of California, Berkeley, and is an avid ARKive media donor, giving a face to a myriad of frog species on the long list of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Because of Alessandro, visitors to ARKive can check out the unusually long forearms of the harlequin frog (Atelopus erythropus), the wide eyes of Pristimantis cosnipatae and the various life stages of Bryophryne bustamantei.

Always thrilled to meet an ARKive media donor, I jumped straight to the catch and asked him to tell me about the stories behind the images he captured. Alessandro was more than happy to share and talk about his work, how he studies the livelihood of these and other frogs in South America and how thrilling it is to find a species that has rarely been caught on camera. When I asked him to expand further on his work, he took on a more solemn tone and began explaining to me about the fungal infection, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis that is hitting rainforest frogs hard and is especially affecting rarer species over more common ones.

Alessandro explained that the fungus spreads throughout frog populations like wildfire but treatment of captured frogs is actually quite simple. Infected frogs can easily be treated with antifungal medications to kill the fungus and save the frog. If an infection breaks out locally, scientists and volunteers can work to locate and treat frogs in the immediate area to create a safety zone and effectively slow the spread of infection. However, locating and treating the thousands upon thousands of frogs in the rainforest is an insurmountable feat.

While learning all about the physical and biological characteristics of the various frog species Alessandro has captured on camera is incredibly educational, hearing the background story of the ecological struggles these species face adds another dimension to the story behind the camera. Films and photos of threatened species are not just a fascinating way to learn about the species most at risk from extinction but offer a unique gateway to encourage people to explore beyond the image and find out that an image may not just be worth a thousand words but, through education and action, could be worth a thousand species.

See more of Alessandro’s fantastic images.

To see a list of other ARKive media donors who undoubtedly have amazing wildlife conservation stories to tell, check out our comprehensive ARKive media donor list.

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

Nov 25

Charlotte YoungUpon realising that I did not have the figure of a dancer, I decided to take biology at college, as it was the only subject that really interested me. Convinced I could single-handedly save the world’s endangered animals from peril, I went on to study zoology at the University of Bristol before moving to London and working for an environmental campaigning organisation. Never able to decide which animal I wanted to dedicate my life to helping, working in the ARKive team enables me to research a multitude of different species and collaborate with photographers and scientists from around the world, all hoping to spread the conservation message.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I am trying to find images for several species of threatened crayfish from Mexico. So far, it is proving quite difficult so please get in touch if you can help me!

What animal skill would you most like to have?

I would like to have the speed and accuracy of a chameleon’s tongue. That way I could nab my colleagues’ food in the blink of an eye.

Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?

David Attenborough – I challenge George’s statement that he is the biggest fan at ARKive!

Maggie Smith – Quite simply because I love her.

Ricky Gervais – in his own words every dinner party should have ‘a little, fat man with a pug-nosed face’.

Where in the world would you most like to go?

Perhaps an obvious choice, but it would have to be Madagascar. Considered a biodiversity hotspot, the range of wildlife in Madagascar is unparalleled. It has one of the highest numbers of endemic species of any country – including over 50 species of lemur. In particular, I would love to see the Verreaux’s sifaka’s dance routine.

Which celebrity do you most look like?

I have been told I look like Ron Weasley from Harry Potter but I’m hoping that was a joke.

What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef was pretty incredible. Despite being ridiculously terrified of diving at night, especially with a broken torch, we did manage to see a turtle sleeping and the flick of a reef shark’s tail. Thinking slightly closer to home in Wales, having a whole roost of rare lesser horseshoe bats fly around my head was quite amazing too.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

Definitely the sleepy meerkat video, or as it’s called on ARKive ‘Meerkat social behaviour’. It makes me laugh every time I watch it!  They are lucky to have so many eyes looking out for potential danger otherwise their vigilant reputation would be in tatters!

I also love the images of the Cao-vit crested gibbon, as this was one of the first species I researched and images (and individuals!) are extremely rare.

Tell us an animal related joke.

To steal one from Jimmy Carr – ‘Venison’s dear, isn’t it.’ 

Nov 24

A landmark tiger conservation summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia, has now come to an end with world leaders and countries endorsing the Global Tiger Recovery Programme – a major plan aiming to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022 – capping a year-long political process.

Tiger

There is new hope for the tiger as nations pledge to commit new funding to tiger conservation work.

A major step towards securing the future of this charismatic mammal, a total of $127 million of new funding has been pledged by tiger range countries, as well as $12 million from the Global Environment Facility for tiger projects that benefit biodiversity and reductions in carbon emissions and a $100 million loan from the World Bank for tiger conservation work.

Some of the new funding commitments include $9.2 million from the United States to combat illegal poaching and trafficking and $17.2 million from Germany for tiger landscape conservation.

In addition, WWF have also committed $50 million over the next five years to tiger conservation work, with this sum possibly rising to $85 million, while Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) will spend $50 million over the next 10 years. Celebrated actor Leonardo DiCaprio even donated $1 million to support WWF’s tiger conservation work across their twelve priority landscapes.

Siberian tiger

There was additional good news for the Siberian tiger as Russia moved to ban logging of the Korean pine - a major tree species in Siberian tiger habitat.

The 12-year plan is expected to cost a further $350 million though, with the international community asked to fill this funding gap. Most urgently, $35 million is needed to secure the 42 key tiger sites as identified by the recent WCS Report.

With tiger numbers dwindling in the wild, let’s hope that this summit has given this iconic species new hope.

If you would like to read WWF’s press release, please visit http://wwf.panda.org/?197152/World-leaders-back-tiger-summit-rhetoric-with-recovery-plan-seed-money

Watch ARKive’s tiger slideshow to view 88 stunning images.

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 24

Hopefully by now you will have seen our latest e-news ARKive’s Got Talent, paying homage to the plethora of reality-style talent shows on television at the moment. It was a long road to the final for all our wild and wacky contestants, but eventually our judges whittled the wheatear from the chaffinch to leave us with our six finalists.

But what about the contestants that didn’t make the grade? Simon Owl, David Hasselhoof, Cheryl Mole and Justin Beaver still had plenty to squawk about in the semi-finals…

Greater flamingo

The greater flamingo would be ideal as a dance troop as it is a highly social species – it performs synchronised displays during courtship.

Greater flamingo

Justin Beaver: “The best piece of choreographed dance in the competition so far. If I have one criticism it’s that you were a little pigeon-toed at the end.”

Arctic fox

ARKive’s Got Talent’s wildcard entrant, the Arctic fox spends a lot of its life skipping about on ice, especially in the winter.

Arctic fox

David Hasselhoof: “Your crossover from Dancing on Ice-floes couldn’t have come at a better moment! You’ve really clawed your way to the top of this competition!”

Rafflesia kerrii

The giant flowers of the genus Rafflesia are the largest single flowers in the world; they can reach over 90cm across! It is also one of the smelliest plants in the world – Rafflesia flowers absolutely honk of rotting flesh.

Rafflesia kerrii

Cheryl Mole: “Is making a smell really a talent? I’m sorry but you stink, pet!”

Goliath grouper

The rather sad-looking face of this underwater face contortionist makes it a natural gurner!

Goliath grouper

Simon Owl: “You know I’ve never really liked gurners before – but you’re a natural! There’s nothing fishy about this act.”

So that rounds up ARKive’s Got Xtra Talent! Do you think the gurning grouper or the honking plant should have made it through to the final rather than the singing whale or the avian florist? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter which species you think should have made it to the final.

Don’t forget to cast your vote for the winner of ARKive’s Got Talent using the Like buttons on the enews and/or the Twitter Poll!

Charlie “Talent Scout” Whittaker, ARKive Media Researcher

Nov 22

Among the most majestic and formidable creatures to inhabit the world’s oceans, sharks are also some of the most threatened. In the same way that populations of African elephant and Sumatran rhino have been ruthlessly decimated for their valuable tusks, sharks around the world have been mercilessly killed for their valuable fins. Shark fin soup is seen by some as a traditional delicacy and symbol of status and power, and demand is still growing in Asian markets.

Smooth hammerhead, Sphyrna zygaena

The fins of the smooth hammerhead are highly prized, and represent around 45% of fins auctioned in Hong Kong.

A lenient EU fishing policy has meant that European fishermen are responsible for roughly a third of the Asian shark fin trade. The practice of removing the valuable fins from the shark and throwing the carcass back into the ocean has developed because the body of the shark is worth much less than the fin itself. Although the EU finning regulation prohibits the removal of shark fins at sea, a loophole in the EU law allows Member States to provide fishermen with special permits to ‘process’ sharks (and remove fins) on-board fishing vessels.

Blue shark, Prionace glauca

The blue shark is one of the most heavily fished sharks in the world.

In 2003, the EU attempted to prevent finning under these permits by introducing a ‘maximum fin weight to carcass weight ratio’. However, the ratio is currently far higher and much more lenient than other countries – at more than twice the scientific-based IUCN guide standard – meaning that at present, fishermen are able to fin an estimated two out of three sharks without detection or punishment.

Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias

The mighty great white shark is targeted for flesh, skins, oil and fins.

Hopefully this will soon change. The Shark Alliance – a coalition of more than 100 organisations dedicated to improving shark conservation policies – has for many years highlighted the inadequacies of the EU shark finning regulations. It is now supporting an option to amend the EU ban on shark finning, which would require that fins remain naturally attached to shark bodies until fishing vessels return to port. Scientists agree that this requirement will be the best way to enforce finning bans, and will also result in better species-specific catch data which is vital for improved conservation and management of European shark populations.

Basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus

Traditionally hunted for its valuable fins and liver, populations of the basking shark have decline by as much as 80% since the 1950s.

A public consultation by the European Commission was announced last week and will run until 21 February 2011. Supported by the Shark Alliance, a proposal will be sent to the EU Council and Parliament next year, in a bid to substantially strengthen EU shark finning regulations.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

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