Mar 24

There is just 2 days to go until the world unites and switches off in support of Earth Hour 2011 – a symbolic gesture of environmental solidarity that intends to show global leaders we want immediate action in tackling climate change.

This Saturday, 26 March, at 8:30 pm local time, a record number of countries will participate in switching off their lights to pledge their support for Earth Hour 2011. An incredible 131 countries, on all seven continents, as well as thousands of cities and iconic landmarks, are set to join with hundreds of millions of people across the world to celebrate action for the planet.

This year, WWF are asking people to go beyond the hour, and use Earth Hour to commit to an action that they will sustain for the future of our planet. The Nepalese government, for example, has pledged to put an end to tree-felling in the Churiya range – a 23,000 square kilometres forest.

Wildscreen is proud to support Earth Hour 2011, and by spreading the word we hope to raise awareness of climate change and its effects.

Nature’s energy savers

As we struggle to meet our burgeoning population’s energy demand, and strive towards a carbon-neutral future, perhaps we should look to the incredible diversity of life on Earth for inspiration on how to adapt to a changing climate.

Innovations such as solar panels and wind farms may be new technologies to us, but examples of low-energy and energy-efficient lifestyles are abundant in nature. So here are some of my favourite species that have all adopted intriguing examples of how to harness the planet’s energy or cut down on their consumption.

Wind power

With a huge wingspan that is reminiscent of the monstrous blades on a wind turbine, the Eurasian griffon is able to harness the wind’s energy and soar up to heights of 11,000 metres, without a single beat of its wings.

Photo of Eurasian griffon in gliding flight

Solar power

The Galapagos marine iguana is able to make full use of solar power, as it soaks up the sun’s rays by basking on exposed rocks. During its dives into extremely cold water to feed on algae, its temperature decreases by as much as 10ºC. On return to land, it basks for several hours to raise its body temperature to around 36ºC.

Photo of Galapagos marine iguana colony basking in sun

Energy efficiency

A perfect example of energy efficiency, the small giant clam lives in a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae known as ‘zooxanthellae’. The algae gain carbon dioxide and nutrients from the clam’s waste, while it provides the clam with energy obtained by photosynthesis.

Small giant clam photo

Recycle

When food is hard to find, polar bears conserve energy by occupying a den and breaking down fat and protein stores. They even recycle the metabolic by-products of this process.

Photo of male polar bear in day bed

Hydropower

After hatching, many loggerhead turtle nestlings begin an epic migration around the Atlantic Ocean, using warm water currents, aided by trade winds, to push them towards productive waters.

Loggerhead turtle photo

Make a pledge

If you have a pledge, big or small, then we would love to hear from you. You can also post your pledges on WWF’s Earth Hour 2011, beyond the hour website.

To find out more about climate change and the species it affects, explore our new climate change pages.

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

Mar 24

Nick Cockayne, ARKive Assistant EditorI’ve been working as an Assistant Editor at Wildscreen for just under two years and before that I was working in the television industry. I studied Zoology at Bangor University and I’ve been interested in wildlife ever since I got my first butterfly field guide for my 6th birthday! My days are now spent editing films for ARKive highlighting different behaviours of endangered species. In any one day I’m lucky enough to see many different wildlife sequences, from the lethal western diamond-backed rattlesnake to the angelic harvest mouse.

When I’m not sat behind a bank of computer screens I generally prefer being outdoors to indoors, whether that be walking, mountain biking or just lounging around in my garden photographing bugs!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently editing short species films ready to take into schools. ARKive takes part in the STEM ambassador programme, inspiring young people in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. We’re looking for budding David Attenboroughs by helping the students to research a species and provide the narration to our films! We’ve picked some exciting animals from a variety of habitats for them to research, including emperor penguins in the Antarctic and birds of paradise in the tropical rainforests of Asia.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

Chimpanzees could definitely teach me a thing or two about tool use – I’m rubbish at DIY!

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

This is a really tricky one…do I mix business with pleasure, invite heroes that may disappoint? I’d have to go for George Harrison because I was born on Merseyside and he’s my favourite Beatle. Ernest Hemingway would receive my second invitation because although he wasn’t particularly interested in doing anything with wildlife other than shooting it, he had an incredible life travelling all over the world befriending many literary stars, and his parties were legendary! My final dinner guest would have to be Dian Fossey. Her story awakened me to the wonderful continent of Africa, and the plight of the mountain gorillas. I’m not so sure they’d all get along though…

Where in the world would you most like to go?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of the world and I’ve seen some truly amazing wildlife along the way, studying South East Asian pit vipers (Trimeresurus stejnegeri) in Northern Thailand and seeing forest elephants in the Congo basin. I fell in love with Africa at a very young age and if somebody said I could spend the rest of my life exploring this colourful continent with its diversity of people, cultures, wildlife and landscapes, I’d be a very happy boy!

Which celebrity do you most look like?

I don’t think I look like anyone in particular – you’d have to ask my colleagues! My nickname in Bristol however is Daddy G, the same as the Massive Attack musician, although this has nothing to do with music! Daddy G started off as Gorilla Nick and has slowly evolved over the years, a bit like all of us!

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

I had one of my best and one of my worst wildlife encounters on the same day. It was the very first evening I arrived in Cameroon to begin working with western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees that had been orphaned by the illegal bushmeat trade. Ape Action Africa had been caring for an orphaned four week old forest elephant calf as her parents had been killed for their meat. Hamuda had become sick and had slipped into a coma. My first job straight from the airport was to help carry her somewhere warm and comfortable to spend the last few hours of her tragically short life. Later on that night I was introduced to my first orphaned western lowland gorilla. A boisterous young chap called Nkamum. I prepared and warmed his milk formula and peeled his mango before feeding him and getting him ready for bed! It was an unbelievable roller coaster of emotions that reinforced how important front line conservation work really is.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

I thought about selecting something different but in the end I just couldn’t help myself. It’s the gorillas. Always has been and I suspect always will be!

Tell us an animal related joke.

A man walks into a bar with a lizard* on his shoulder. He walks up to the bar and asks for a pint for himself and a half for Tiny.

The barman serves him but finally curiosity got the better of him.

Barman: Why do you call him Tiny?
Man: Because he’s my newt!

*I realise newts are amphibians but ‘A man walks into a bar with an amphibian on his shoulder’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it does it?

Mar 23

Most people know of Johnny Depp, and love him for his portrayal of eccentric, slightly mad characters, from Edward Scissorhands and the Mad Hatter to captain Jack Sparrow. His latest foray into the world of cinema sees Depp as the voice behind Rango – a chameleon abandoned in the desert of Nevada, who stumbles across a remote town of desert animals, and masquerades as a tough and brave drifter. Following a series of quarrels, Rango kills a dangerous hawk, and is appointed town sheriff by tortoise John, the town mayor.

Some of the Rango cast also make cameo appearances in ARKive….

Blending in

Rango, as a chameleon, is a highly specialised lizard. Chameleons are native to Africa, Europe and Asia. Chameleons are famous for a range of adaptations, from their independently rotating eyes giving 360 degree vision, projectile tongues to catch and grasp prey and an astonishing ability to change colour.

Parson's chameleon catching insect prey on tongue

“Hey hombre, who you looking at?”

Seen in Rango as part of mariachi band, complete with sombreros, the burrowing owl is a curious critter, with striking yellow eyes and long legs. Living underground, they are reminiscent of meerkats, as families crowd round their underground burrows, a behaviour unusual in owl species. They pick up mammal dung and put it outside their burrow to attract dung beetles, a tasty morsel for a hungry owl. Although able to dig their own burrow, they often use an abandoned burrow – it’s much easier to move into someone’s old house than make your own!

Photo of young burrowing owls at entrance to den

Does my tail look big in this?

Another cast member is the Gila monster, the largest lizard in the United States, starring as the outlaw Bad Bill. It is also one of the few venomous lizards in the world, although this is used as a defensive measure. This distinctive species, with a thickset body, has large bony scales, a feature uncommon since the dinosaurs. With a fat-storing tail, adult Gila monsters are able to go without food for months at a time, although juveniles have a voracious appetite, eating up to 50% of their body weight in one sitting.

Gila monster photo

Slow and Steady

Tortoise John, the town mayor is a threatened species; the desert tortoise is endemic to the southwestern states of America. Well adapted to a desert environment, they obtain most of their water from the grass that they feed on. During the mating season, males compete against each other for receptive females, attempting to tip rival males onto their back.

Photo of male desert tortoises fighting

Snake, rattle and roll

Unlike rattlesnake Jake, whose tail hides a Gatling gun, the western diamond-backed rattlesnake’s tail is made of loosely connected, interlocking segments of dead, hard keratin, which produces the chilling, rattling sound used to warn of its presence. Newborn snakes, although well developed and equipped with fangs and toxic venom, only develop their rattle after skin moults.

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake basking in sun photo

Can you find any more of the Rango cast hiding in ARKive?

Ben Morris, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

Mar 22

Hundreds of seabirds have been found covered in oil after a cargo vessel was wrecked on Nightingale Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic.

Conservationists are warning of an environmental disaster, as the island supports huge numbers of seabirds, including nearly half of the world’s population of the northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi), which is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Photo of northern rockhopper penguin pair at nest

There are more than 200,000 northern rockhopper penguins breeding on Nightingale Island.

Some 1,500 tonnes of heavy crude oil from the MS Olivia, which was shipping soya beans between Rio de Janeiro and Singapore, is leaking into the sea. According to the RSPB, oil now surrounds Nightingale Island and extends in a slick 8 miles offshore, threatening wildlife as well as an economically important rock lobster fishery. 

The consequences of this wreck could be potentially disastrous for wildlife and the fishery-based economy of these remote islands,” said Richard Cuthbert, an RSPB biologist. 

The Tristan da Cunha islands, especially Nightingale and adjacent Middle Island, hold millions of nesting seabirds as well as four out of every ten of the world population of the globally endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguin.”

Photo of northern rockhopper penguin colony

A colonial species, northern rockhopper penguins nest on cliffs and rocky gullies, usually near to freshwater.

Concerns surround not only the oil spill, but also the risk of any rats on the vessel colonising the mammal-free island, which would further endanger the nesting birds. 

The Tristan Conservation Department – which rapidly deployed nine people to the island – has already placed baited rodent traps on the shore where the bulk of the vessel has grounded. 

Trevor Glass, Tristan conservation officer, said: “The scene at Nightingale is dreadful as there is an oil slick encircling the island. The Tristan conservation team are doing all they can to clean up the penguins that are currently coming ashore. It is a disaster.”

Photo of great shearwater in flight over sea

Large numbers of great shearwaters also breed on Nightingale Island.

A salvage tug is currently en-route from Cape Town with an experienced crew and environmental experts, but it is not due to arrive at the island until Monday.

View ARKive for more species found on Tristan da Cunha. 

Read the BirdLife International press release. 

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

Mar 21

To mark Climate Week (21-27 March 2011) we have launched new climate change pages where you can learn about the species that are being affected, read the facts, and find out what you can do to help. These pages have been created with support from Bank of America Merrill Lynch to help raise awareness of the plight of species being affected as a result of global climate change.

Photo of a polar bear jumping between ice flows
The polar bear is dependant on sea ice for its survival, but climate change is causing drastic reductions in the extent of ice cover across the Arctic region.

Global warming

Climate change refers to man-made changes in our climate. It is often also called ‘global warming’, as one of the most well-known effects of climate change is a steady rise in the Earth’s temperature.

Photo of emperor penguins entering water en masse
An increase of just 2°C would make some parts of the Antarctic Peninsula ice-free, with devastating effects on the emperor penguin which uses the sea ice platforms to breed.

Not just polar bears and penguins

Global climate change will affect species from all over the planet, not just those at the poles. Scientists predict that man-made climate change could contribute to a mass extinction of wildlife in the near future.

Photo of a koala feeding on eucalyptus leaves
Elevated carbon dioxide levels increase plant growth but reduce the protein levels and increase the amount of tannins in Eucalyptus leaves, causing possible malnutrition and starvation if koalas are not able to meet their nutritional demands.

Other effects include sea levels getting higher, and extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts becoming more common. Many animals are struggling to survive as their habitat changes.

Photo of a female leatherback turtle at nesting site on beach
Turtles are at risk of rising sea levels and increases in storm activity, which will destroy their nesting habitat.
Photo of a quiver tree
Drought stress, the biggest threat to quiver trees, is caused by rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall patterns in the equatorial regions of its range.

How you can help

We can all help tackle climate change.

Here are some actions that you can take:

  • reducing, reusing and recycling products that you buy;
  • walk or take public transport where possible so that you use a car less often;
  • insulate your home better so that you do not need to use so much energy to heat it;
  • or simply spread the word and tell your friends and family about climate change and what they can do to help.

Although each action may be small, if many people make small changes it will add up to make a big difference.

View ARKive’s featured pages on climate change.

Browse a list of all ARKive’s species that are affected by climate change.

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