May 31

Summer is fast approaching for those of us in the northern hemisphere – hooray! Do you want to be in tip-top condition to enjoy those long sunny days? Look no further, because ARKive’s animal personal trainers are on hand for some one-on-one sessions to build those biceps and tone those tummies.

Leo-tards at the ready!

First off, every workout should start with a good stretch and warm-up. This lion has the right idea…

Lion photo

Small but mighty

To build and tone your muscles we have the rhinoceros beetle to show you how it’s done. This guy can carry 850 times his own weight – that’s the equivalent of you benching 76 family-sized cars!

Rhinoceros beetle photo

Putting a spring in your step

A few star jumps should help to get your pulse racing. Capable of jumping up to 4.5 metres, a puma will be able to give you a few pointers on how to achieve such heady heights!

Puma photo

Cheet your way to a better bod

When it comes to sprinting there is only really one candidate fully qualified for the job – the cheetah. He’ll get you reaching speeds of 87 kph before you know it!

Cheetah photo

Slimming swimming

Need some help perfecting your crawl technique? Look no further, the California sea lion will teach you everything you need to know. Reaching speeds of up to 40 kph, the California sea lion is the Michael Phelps of the animal world!

California seal lion photo

Dances with lemurs

If aerobics is more your thing, then how about a zumba class from a world-class dancer – the one and only Verreaux’s sifaka.

Verreauxs sifaka photo

And relax…

Don’t forget one of the most important parts of your workout – a long cool-down. The desert-dwelling South African ground squirrel knows a thing of two about that…

South African ground squirrel photo

Worked up a sweat yet? Why not browse ARKive and find some more animal personal trainers to help you tone those mussels and get in shape for summer!

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

May 31

Wildlife populations in the world-famous Masai Mara reserve in Kenya have crashed in recent decades, according to new research.

Photo of African buffalo covered in mud

The African buffalo, which has all but disappeared around the Masai Mara reserve.

The research, published in the Journal of Zoology, used monitoring data from the past 33 years to calculate trends in wildlife populations across the reserve and on adjoining ranches. Although previous studies had already shown declines in some large mammal populations, this latest research covered a longer period and looked at more species.

In total, 12 species of large mammal were investigated, as well as ostriches and domestic livestock. The researchers also looked at changes in the numbers of migratory wildebeest and zebras coming into the Mara each year.

Photo of Masai giraffe browsing

The giraffe is just one of the large mammals that have declined in the Mara in recent decades.

Large mammals in decline

We were very surprised by what we found,” said Dr Joseph Ogutu, one of the scientists who undertook the research. “The Mara has lost more than two thirds of its wildlife.”

Of the 13 large species studied, only ostriches and elephants have not shown large declines outside of the reserve. Inside the Masai Mara itself, only the eland, Grant’s gazelle and ostrich have shown any signs of population recoveries during the last decade.

Overall, the populations of impala, warthog, giraffe, topi and Coke’s hartebeest have declined by over 70%, while the African buffalo has all but disappeared outside of the reserve.

Photo of eastern white-bearded wildebeest herd with plains zebra

The numbers of migrating wildebeest and zebra have significantly declined in the Mara.

The numbers of migrating wildebeest and zebra have also drastically declined, despite relatively few changes in their populations in the neighbouring Serengeti, where the migrating animals come from. The epic wildebeest migration now involves 64% fewer animals than in the early 1980s.

During the wet season, when there is no migration, resident wildebeest in the Masai Mara have almost completely disappeared, while resident zebra populations have crashed by about three quarters.

Threats to wildlife in the Mara

The declines in the Mara’s wildlife are particularly surprising given major conservation efforts and an increase in local policing in the last decade. The main causes of the declines are thought to be poaching, changing patterns of land use on ranches, and a dramatic increase in the numbers and distribution of domestic livestock.

The researchers found that the number of cattle grazing in the reserve has increased by over 1,100%, while the density of sheep and goats has increased more than seven-fold. Heavy grazing is believed to be displacing wildlife, as well as making larger species more vulnerable to starvation during the severe droughts that have hit the region in recent decades.

Photo of ostrich pair walking with chicks

As well as large mammals, the study also looked at ostrich populations in the Mara.

Protecting wildlife in the Mara

If the decline in wildlife populations in the Mara is to be halted, the researchers say that the expansion of human settlements, livestock numbers and fencing needs to be regulated, and poaching needs to be brought under control.

Otherwise, the status of Masai Mara as a prime conservation area and premier tourist draw card in Kenya may soon be in jeopardy,” said Dr Ogutu.

Read the BBC news story – Wildlife ‘crash’ in the Mara region of Kenya, Africa.

View photos and videos of species from Kenya on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

May 30

Spring is sprung, the grass is green and here in the UK that can only mean one thing – the arrival of BBC’s Springwatch! Beginning on 30 May, Springwatch shows us the best of British nature and lets us take a sneak peek into the private life of UK species. To celebrate this year’s series, we’ve picked our top 10 Springwatch species.

Messy birds

Photo of a male greenfinch

Male greenfinch

A well-known garden bird, greenfinches often feature on Springwatch. Last year a particularly messy pair weren’t doing a good job of cleaning up after their chicks. Will they be any tidier this year?

Beautiful butterfly

Photo of a marsh fritillary

Marsh fritillary

Marsh fritillaries fly over their grassland habitat between April and July, looking for suitable plants on which to lay their eggs. Watch out for the marsh fritillary on Springwatch and in grassland near you!

Fleet foxes

Photo of a red fox

Red fox close up

 Charismatic and highly adaptable, red foxes are well-loved on Springwatch. Their cheeky behaviour and cute cubs make them very popular. Will they be caught on camera this year?

Will grey heron chicks steal the show?

Photo of a grey heron catching fish

Grey heron catching fish

Graceful grey herons excel at catching fish, waiting patiently by the side of the water until a fish comes in range. In a Springwatch first, this year the team will be broadcasting live from a heronry in the RSPB Ynys-hir nature reserve. Will we be lucky and see grey heron chicks fledge?

That’s a lotta otter!

Photo of a common otter adult and cubs

Common otter adult and cubs

Playful and at home in the water, otters are always fun to watch on Springwatch. Most commonly seen at dawn and dusk, otters are making a comeback in the UK and it’s great to see them returning to our rivers.

Hidden hunter

Photo of a grass snake

Grass snake

Although the grass snake is the UK’s largest terrestrial reptile, it is very hard to spot, being well camouflaged and secretive. The best chance of seeing a grass snake is during the mating season between March and June, in grassland, marsh or heathland. Keep looking!

Flying pros!

Photo of barn swallow chicks calling for food

Barn swallow chicks calling for food

In March, barn swallows arrive in the UK after their winter migration, signalling the arrival of spring. Noted for their supreme agility in flight, barn swallows can spend most of the daylight hours on the wing. Often, barn swallows only return to their nest to feed their very hungry chicks. Watch out for their swooping flight across meadows and fields.

Birds back from the brink

Photo of a male great bustard displaying

Male great bustard displaying

One of my highlights from the 2009 and 2010 Springwatch series was the reintroduction of great bustards. These impressive birds were hunted to extinction in the UK, but have now been reintroduced by the Great Bustard Group and are breeding successfully. The Springwatch team managed to capture the male’s elaborate courtship dance on camera. It’s an interesting way to impress the ladies!

Stripy and shy

Photo of badger cubs in sett

Badger cubs in sett

Instantly recognisable with their black and white stripes, badgers are always a favourite on Springwatch. Night-vision cameras let us keep up with all the action! Will we see cubs this year?

Caught on nest-cam

Photo of a red kite

Red kite

Described as ‘the most beautiful bird of prey in Britain’, the red kite is definitely worth watching. This year, Springwatch have installed nest cameras, so we can get a glimpse into the family life of this secretive bird.

Have I missed out any of your favourite Springwatch species? Let us know!

Ruth Hendry, ARKive Media Researcher

May 29

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text AuthorI’ve been interested in the natural world for as long as I can remember, and as a kid could often be found outside doing odd things like collecting pet snails, making hedgehog feeders and running a Nature Club with my friends!

After studying Zoology at the University of Bristol, I worked on various volunteer projects abroad and studied for an MSc in Animal Behaviour, before returning to Bristol to join the ARKive team as a Species Text Author in 2008. I now help to write the texts that accompany the species profiles, as well as working on the blog and a range of other writing tasks.

Outside of work, I can often be found roaming the countryside with binoculars and camera in hand, although I’m also quite addicted to various crafts like crochet and card-making!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing profiles for species affected by climate change, as part of a project supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I’ve just finished writing the long-snouted bat, dusky gopher frog and green-eyed frog, and will be working on various coral species soon.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

I’ve always wanted to be able to fly! Or perhaps to be able to see ultraviolet light, like many birds and insects, or infrared, like some snakes. It would make the world a more colourful place and also come in handy for seeing in the dark!

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

I know he’s probably booked up already, but Sir David Attenborough has just turned 85 so perhaps we could make it a belated birthday bash!

If Helen doesn’t mind, I’d also love to invite J.K. Rowling so I can find out how she came up with such ingenious books. It would also be useful to have a good cook, so Jamie Oliver would be very welcome, or for entertainment value perhaps Johnny Depp could come and tell us about his latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie?!

Where in the world would you most like to go?

There’s a saying that once you drink from the waters of the Tambopata River in Peru, you will be destined to return one day. That’s certainly been true for me as I’ve been there three times already! I fell in love with the Amazon the first time I visited, so I’d love go back.

Failing that, I’d also like to see some of the amazing wildlife of the Pantanal in Brazil, or some of the stunning landscapes and bizarre creatures of New Zealand.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

I’m gradually getting to know the best places to see wildlife around Bristol, so I can’t wait to get out and about more to see what I can spot.

Which celebrity do you most look like?

Er… I really have no idea. I don’t think I Iook like anyone in particular!

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

Some of my favourite encounters have to be watching hundreds of parrots, parakeets and macaws gathering at a clay lick, or waking up to the unearthly sound of howler monkeys. Catching bats at night, in a thunderstorm, in a mosquito-infested Mexican swamp was also strangely brilliant!

However, if I had to pick one, it would be when I was surveying black caimans at Explorer’s Inn in Peru. Out on a lake one night, I leant over the front of the canoe and got the shock of my life when the caiman inches away from me turned out to be a four metre giant!

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

This raven video never fails to make me laugh, while I find the African rock python swallowing an antelope quite incredible. When I wrote the text for the Weddell seal I discovered what bizarre calls it has – more like an alien than a mammal!

Not surprisingly, my favourite species are from the Amazon, particularly the scarlet macaw, black caiman, saddleback tamarin and amazing leaf-cutter ant.

Tell us an animal related joke.

One day the snail lost his shell. He didn’t mind too much although it did make him a bit sluggish!

May 27

Animals have been inspiring art for generations, and it is with this in mind that I have been browsing the ARKive gallery to locate some of our very own abstract art for your visual enjoyment. I’m sure you know your Monet from your Mondrian, but how well do you know the extraordinary exhibits of the animal kingdom? Can you tell an ocelot from an octopus, or a bee-eater from a bird of paradise? I challenge you to give it a go…

1. The characteristic patches of this lofty mammal act as camouflage in the dappled shadows cast by trees as they feed.

Photo of skin detail

2. Named for its distinctive pattern, this snake uses its body to constrict its prey before swallowing.

Photo of snake skin pattern

3. The winged adult form of this invertebrate has markings that resemble a human skull, and is named accordingly.

Photo of caterpillar close up

4. This ocean dwelling fish is streamlined for speedy swimming, much like the closely related tuna.

Photo of fish scales

5. These spectacular spots belong to the largest feline found in the Americas.

Photo of feline fur pattern

6. This ethereally-named fish has striking stripes fit for a king.

Photo of patterned fish

7. This feathered friend is partial to buzzing, bumbling insects and even knows how to avoid getting stung!

Photo of feathers

8. Variation in colour is an everyday occurrence for this reptile, particularly during courtship and defence displays.

Photo of reptile skin

So, how did you do? Why not explore the ARKive gallery and let us know if you find anymore awesome animal artwork!

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Media Researcher

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