Apr 23

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text AuthorI’m originally from Manchester but I seem to be migrating slowly south – I did my degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham, before making my way down to Bristol to work for ARKive. In between I did some conservation volunteer work abroad with the RSPB. I’ve been with the team here for a year now, working as a Species Text Author.

Away from the office I love to spend time outdoors. I run, ski, and do lots of walking in the winter, and come summer hopefully I’ll be out cycling and climbing on the weekends too.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing texts for all sorts of species that are affected by climate change, as part of a project supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch to create some great new climate change pages on ARKive. At the moment I’m working my way through the mammals on my list and so I’ve just written the Vanauatu flying fox and I’m now putting together a text for Blyth’s flying fox – they should be live on the website soon! I’m also writing news stories for the blog, and any other text author-y jobs that get thrown my way.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

I think I’d like to be able to run as fast as the cheetah, the fastest land mammal in the world. Maybe I could join Ellie in the 2012 Olympics, or at the very least it would mean I’d get round my next half marathon a bit quicker!

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

I’ve had a pretty tough time whittling my invites down to just three people!

I love reading so I’d definitely invite one of my favourite authors to talk about the inspiration behind their books. Someone like J.K. Rowling perhaps – I’d love the chance to pick her brain about how she came up with all the ideas for the Harry Potter series! I also think I’d invite the Olympic heptathlete Denise Lewis, who was an inspiration to me when I was younger. The final person would have to be Stephen Fry – I think he’s brilliant and would be sure to have some fantastic stories to liven up the evening! 

Where in the world would you most like to go?

This is the hardest question by far. I love travelling, and I have a long, long list written down of all the places I’ve been inspired to go to. Hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to visit them all.

If I could leave my desk and jump on a plane right now though, the first place I’d be heading is to the mountains of Nepal to trek the Annapurna circuit.

Which celebrity do you most look like?

I don’t think I particularly look like anyone – but because of my red hair I’ve been compared to Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and apparently I looked a bit like the twins in The Parent Trap when I was younger!

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

After finishing my degree I worked on an island in the Seychelles as a conservation warden. It was a haven for wildlife, especially seabirds and endangered species like the Seychelles magpie robin and the Seychelles warbler. I saw some pretty spectacular things – going snorkelling and coming face to face with a leatherback turtle was pretty amazing, as was waking up one morning to glimpse a female humpback whale and her calf swimming past the island!

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

I’ve had a lifelong obsession with penguins – at one point in my childhood I sat in my room and counted no less than 29 different kinds of penguin-related paraphernalia! I especially like Emperor penguins and King penguins. They’re just so majestic and beautiful, and the thought of how they endure the Antarctic winter always amazes me.

Tell us an animal related joke.

What do you call a penguin in the desert?


Apr 22

Each spring marks the annual return of Earth Day, a 40+ year old holiday reminding us all to take a moment and reflect on and appreciate the natural world around us. This year, Earth Day has launched a new and ambitious campaign called “A Billion Acts of Green” urging everyone to pledge an Act of Green and share it with the world on their website, http://act.earthday.org/.

Photo of Japanese macaque feeding on wild cherry blossom

The Japanese macaque dines on local cherry blossoms. Think about eating local foods, too!

An Act of Green is any change in behavior that positively impacts the environment. Visitors to the website can see real time pledges as they come in, with recent additions promising to “always use recyclable grocery bags”, and to “eat more local food.”

We here at Wildscreen are very proud to say that we’ve added our Act of Green pledges.

Our UK office has pledged to “ensure PCs are fully shut down from this point and continue to champion all other green activity.” Our US office has pledged to “always walk or take public transportation to work” and to “become a fully paperless office”, by completing all daily tasks virtually, such as signing documents through Adobe Acrobat, e-faxing, and keeping our calendars and to-do lists online. 

Photo of black wildebeest in herd running

Wildebeest always practice eco-friendly travel during their yearly migrations!

As an environmental organization, it’s important to all of us here at Wildscreen to try our best to minimize our environmental impact and to encourage other organizations to do the same. 

Have you pledged your Act of Green yet for Earth Day 2011? If not, why not learn more about the campaign and how to make your pledge by visiting the Billion Acts of Green campaign website.

Apr 21

The capercaillie remains under serious threat in Scotland, despite intensive conservation efforts to save the species, according to newly released figures from RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Photo of male capercaillie displaying

Male capercaillie displaying

A second extinction?

One of Scotland’s most iconic bird species, the capercaillie went extinct in the UK in the early 18th Century, but was reintroduced to Scotland in the 1830s.

The most recent survey of the capercaillie population has revealed worrying trends, with an estimated 1,228 individuals thought to remain at just a few locations. Data shows that almost three-quarters of capercaillies in Scotland are restricted to just two major strongholds, Badenoch and Strathspey.

Since the 1970s, capercaillie numbers have declined sharply, falling drastically from around 20,000 individuals to around 1,908 birds in 2004. Despite targeted conservation action for the capercaillie, the newest figures show a continued decline, sparking worry amongst conservationists working to protect the species from a second UK extinction.

Photo of male capercaillie displaying

Concerted conservation efforts

Current conservation work involves efforts to create or improve areas of its favoured habitat and to minimise disturbance to the species at leks and breeding sites, as well as legal predator control. Other measures include removing or marking fences around key capercaillie sites to prevent collisions, which have been identified as significantly increasing adult capercaillie mortality.

Management and conservation action is carried out as part of the capercaillie Species Action Framework (SAF) and the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), in cooperation with private landowners, countryside users, and conservationists, supported by the Scottish Government.

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said, “It is disappointing that the capercaillie has experienced a drop in its numbers in some areas since the last survey was conducted. However, there can be little doubt that this decline would be a good deal worse were it not for all the huge efforts of many public and private forestry managers, gamekeepers and land managers backed by the European LIFE funding programme, to save this charismatic species.”

Photo of female capercaillie in threat posture

Female capercaillie in threat posture

“We particularly need to focus our efforts on further habitat creation and positive management for this species, especially in key areas like Deeside and Perthshire where the problems are most acute,” continues Mr. Housden.

Find out more about RSPB Scotland and Scottish National Heritage

Find out more about the capercaillie on ARKive

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Apr 21

More photos, videos and texts are added to ARKive every alternate week. Here is a summary of this week’s update:

The stats

  •  308 new species
  •  2,804 new photos
  •  130 new videos
  •  55 new media donors
  •  22 new texts

What’s new – our favourite new species

Hainan gibbon male

The Critically Endangered Hainan gibbon

Bleeding toad

The intriguing bleeding toad

 What’s new – our favourite new images

Photo of Indian elephant herd protecting calf

Thirty three new images of the Asian elephant

Giant clam photo

Nine new images of the Vulnerable giant clam

Photo of a giant panda licking snow for moisture

Thirty five stunning new images of the giant panda

What’s new – our favourite new videos

Rare footage of a rat, an invasive species, predating on a Henderson petrel chick

Shasta crayfish

Great new videos of the Critically Endangered shasta crayfish

Get involved!

If you have any photos, footage or species information that you think we should add into ARKive please let us know. There are many ways to get involved with ARKive, from contributing your photos to just spreading the word about us – every little helps!

Full details

Subscribe to our RSS feeds for full details of what’s new to ARKive.

Apr 21

Visit our new pages exploring the Western Ghats, a unique mountain range that stretches down the western edge of India. This monsoon drenched habitat is home to an astonishing array of flora and fauna, harbouring more than 30 percent of India’s mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species.  

Supported by HSBC as part of their HSBC Climate Partnership, ARKive’s new Western Ghats eco-region pages feature spectacular images and videos of the various habitats found within the region, as well as information about the threats its faces and the conservation projects that have been established to protect it. 

 Photo of the Palni hills in the Western Ghats 

Although most of the Western Ghats appear more like rolling hills than craggy snow-covered peaks, parts of it do reach over 2,000 metres, causing it to intercept the south-western monsoon winds. Consequently, an astounding two to eight metres of rain drench the Western Ghats each year which is one of the main reasons why it has such a rich variety of vegetation types. 

Fantastic fauna

Photo of a lion-tailed macaque with juvenile

Around 120 mammal species have been recorded in the Western Ghats, including the endemic lion-tailed macaque.

The incredible variety in vegetation types gives rise to an amazing diversity of fauna including the striking lion-tailed macaque, one of the smallest and most endangered of the macaque species, which is endemic to the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats. 

Photo of Nilgiri tahr resting on rock in mountain habitat

The Endangered Nilgiri tahr is endemic to the Western Ghats.

The Nilgiri tahr, an endemic goat antelope, is another curious species that lives in a very different habitat in the Western Ghats. It occurs high up in the mountains, on cliff faces and grassy plateaus.

 ten percent of the world’s tigers

The Western Ghats are home to 10 percent of the world's tigers.

Around 120 mammal species have been recorded in the Western Ghats. This remarkable diversity includes, perhaps most notably, the world’s largest population of Asian elephants and ten percent of the world’s tigers.

Male purple frog calling

Equally as intriguing are the 117 amphibian species found in the Western Ghats, of which 89 are endemic. The unusual-looking purple frog was only recently discovered in the southern Western Ghats, and represents an entirely new genus.   

Flourishing flora

Ripe mango fruits on tree

Over 5,000 different plants occur in the Western Ghats, and around 1,700 of these are found nowhere else in the world. This includes the wild relatives of many economically important species, such as grains, spices and fruits like the mango.

Why does the Western Ghats need our help?

This diverse biological haven is under tremendous pressure from a variety of human activities. Only a third of the Western Ghats still clings to its natural vegetation, and those remaining forests are highly fragmented and face the threat of increasing degradation. It’s not hard to see why the region is a biodiversity hotspot and why it is so important that it’s future is protected.

Visit our Western Ghats pages to discover more of region’s stunning species and striking habitats. 


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