Jun 30
Photo of a student ARKive Museum Curator with button

“I’m a museum curator!”

Imagine walking the halls of an elementary school where the lockers and bulletin boards have been replaced with near life-size replicas of whales and giant maps of the continents dotted with endangered species around the world. This is exactly what happened recently at Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences in Falls Church, Virginia in the U.S. when ARKive staff joined over 300 students, teachers and family and community members to launch the first ever ARKive School Museum!

The students spent several weeks researching various endangered species on the ARKive website and then constructed creative and educational exhibits incorporating art, science and interactive activities to teach visitors about threatened animals and plants. We definitely learned a thing or two from the students, or should we say “museum curators”!

“I’m a museum curator!”

Just before setting up their exhibits, all the students received buttons made by the ARKive team stating “Museum Curator. Questions?”, in both English and Spanish. This final touch combined with all their new knowledge about endangered species and effective museum exhibits empowered the students to proudly lead museum visitors through their exhibits.

Engaging visitors with interactive exhibits!

                                 Photo of a student comparing height to that of an emperor penguin            Photo of a student and mother comparing height to that of an emperor penguin

Each student incorporated an educational and interactive component into their ARKive exhibit. For example, this exhibit compared the heights of museum visitors with the heights of a variety of endangered species. On the left is a boy showing his mother how tall he is compared to an emperor penguin, which can grow to 130cm or 4 feet in the wild. His mother then followed suit passing off the emperor penguin in height but both mother and son have a long way to go to catch up to the blue whale, whose length extended the entire hallway

Bingo!

Photo of ARKive Bingo sign

There were signs all around the school leading school museum visitors to ARKive Endangered Species Bingo, a fun way to learn about different endangered species around the world and their conservation status.

Photo of student playing ARKive bingo with parent

The ARKive bingo room was jam packed with excitement. Several students led the game at the front of the room while players learned about the endangered species that were called out. Keep an eye on ARKive Education in the coming weeks to find a downloadable version of ARKive Endangered Species Bingo to play at home and an optional lesson plan for teachers to play in the classroom.

ARKive around the world!

Photo of students taking part in ARKive Geographic: Exploring the World’s Biodiversity

“ARKive Geographic: Exploring the World’s Biodiversity” was an ARKive activity incorporated into an exhibit where the student museum curator used large-scale print outs of the continents to teach their parents and friends about endangered species around the world, helping them to place the species where they are found on the map. This activity will also be available on ARKive Education in coming weeks so check back soon.

Photo of ARKive School Museum masks

Finally, some of the younger students created these colorful masks to literally bring school museum visitors face to face with endangered species.

The ARKive School Museum was an exciting evening and wonderful culminating event to celebrate the hard work of the student curators and all their new endangered species knowledge!  The ARKive staff would like to thank all the dedicated teachers, parents, and of course, the students involved in creating this incredible student-created, student-led night at the ARKive school museum.

Would you like to do an ARKive School Museum at your school? Contact ARKive to learn more about the ARKive School Museum project and how you can transform your hallways from lockers and bulletin boards to whales, world maps and everything in between!

Gabrielle Otero, Wildscreen USA/ARKive Summer Intern

Jun 29

The survival of orangutans and pygmy elephants has received a major boost in the Heart of Borneo, an area of highland forests at the core of the island, according to WWF.

Photo of Bornean orangutan juvenile biting tree

The Bornean orangutan is under threat from hunting and habitat loss, and is considered Endangered by the IUCN.

WWF reports that nearly 300,000 hectares of important habitat has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in the forest reserves of Ulu Segama-Malua and Tangkulap-Pinangah, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo. These newly certified sites are believed to harbour the world’s highest density of north-eastern Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio), and Borneo pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis), a subspecies of the Asian elephant.

FSC certification is considered to be the most credible global standard for responsible and sustainable forest management.

Photo of Bornean elephant female with young

The Borneo pygmy elephant, or Bornean elephant, is genetically distinct from other Asian elephants.

The area also includes the Malua BioBank, a partnership involving the Sabah Government which seeks to preserve and restore 34,000 hectares of critical orangutan habitat by bringing business investment into conservation management.

All Sabah’s forestry concessions to be certified

Sabah’s Forestry Department (SFD) has imposed a deadline of 2014 for certification of all the forestry concessions in the state of Sabah. According to SFD’s Director, Datuk Sam Mannan, the announcement of the latest certification has quadrupled the area of land under FSC certification in the state, and he hopes it will encourage other concession holders to pursue certification before the 2014 deadline.

Photo of illegal gold mine inside Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo

Illegal gold mine inside Tanjung Puting National Park. Borneo’s forests are also under threat from logging, fire, and conversion to agriculture and oil palm plantations.

FSC certification is a crucial part of independent third party verification of sustainable forest management and its critical role in sustaining viable populations of some of the world’s most endangered wildlife here in the Heart of Borneo, one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet,” said CEO of WWF Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

Leap forward for Asia’s forests

Head of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), George White, said that to date there has been very little certification of Asia’s tropical forests. He added that, “This announcement represents a significant leap forward for sustainable management of tropical forests in Asia and evidences the long lasting relationship between SFD and WWF.”

Photo of Bornean orangutan baby and adult interacting

Bornean orangutan and infant.

The announcement is good news for Borneo’s endangered orangutans and elephants, which currently face serious threats from hunting and from the large-scale loss of their forest habitat through logging and fires.

Adam Tomasek, leader of WWF’s Heart of Borneo initiative, also stressed the global importance of the announcement, saying, “This is a living example of how government, business and WWF can work together to make forests worth more standing than cut down. It is also one of the key foundations in the development of a Green Economy for the [Heart of Borneo] – a concept which is gaining increasing relevance and support internationally.”

Read the full story: WWF – Good news for orangutan and pygmy elephants in the Heart of Borneo.

View photos and videos of Bornean orangutans on ARKive.

View photos and videos of Asian elephants on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Jun 29

The recipe

Take one large dollop of Kevin Bacon flavoured Six Degrees of Separation; add a dash of the Wikipedia game. Simmer over a low heat for several hours. Pour in an assortment of endangered animals, then sprinkle liberally with endangered plants. Dish up, and serve to an eager audience…

Understand? No, I didn’t think you would so let me explain. This instalment of Six Degrees plays on the Wikipedia game where you are challenged, for example, to get from Wikipedia’s page on custard to the page on Mount Everest by clicking only on the internal links on each page (I managed custard to Mount Everest in 4 links).

So, by clicking only on the thumbnail images in the ‘Related Species’ section of ARKive, is it possible to get from a shark to a gorilla in six steps? And don’t forget, the only rule is that you CANNOT press the back button once you have clicked on a link! Here goes…

Basking shark

Basking shark photo

The basking shark has the same conservation status as the goitered gazelle.

Goitered gazelle

Goitered gazelle photo

The goitered gazelle is in the same group (family Bovidae) as Thomson’s gazelle.

Thomson’s gazelle

Thomson's gazelle photo

Thomson’s gazelle has the same geographic range and conservation status as the African golden cat.

African golden cat

African golden cat photo

The African golden cat has the same geographic range as the African elephant.

African elephant

African elephant photo

The African elephant has the same conservation status as the sun-tailed monkey.

Sun-tailed monkey

Sun-tailed monkey photo

The sun-tailed monkey lives in a similar habitat to the western gorilla.

Western gorilla

Western gorilla photo

Done! And in only 5 steps! Now you have the recipe and you know the rules, fancy a go yourself? I challenge you to get from:

1. a crocodile to a crow

2. a pitcher plant to a pigeon

3. a salamander to a sloth

Let us know how you did!

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

Jun 28

China is set to launch its once-a-decade giant panda census in an effort to determine how many individuals of this endangered mammal live in the wild.  

Photo of giant panda feeding on vegetation

The giant panda is universally admired for its appealing markings and seemingly gentle demeanour, and is an international symbol of conservation.

State media reported that around 70 trackers are being trained at the Wanglang Nature Reserve in the south-western province of Sichuan. This area is believed to harbour the largest number of wild pandas in China, and is one of the last six isolated forests where giant pandas remain.  

As part of an initial pilot study, the trackers will search for giant panda droppings for ten days, as the animals themselves are so shy and reclusive that they are rarely seen in their fog-shrouded, mountainous, forested habitat. The nationwide study is expected to start at the end of July. 

Photo of infant giant panda

The success of giant panda captive breeding has markedly increased in recent years, thanks to significant advances in managing the health of captive pandas and a greater understanding of the species’ reproductive biology.

Each giant panda is thought to defecate up to 40 times a day, leaving its own trail behind it from which scientists can identify the individual by running a DNA test. The census should not only provide an accurate figure for the panda population, but also determine the average age of the population and how its habitat is changing.  

The previous census, in 2001, counted 1,596 wild giant pandas in China, although some scientists have since estimated the number of individuals to be as high as 3,000. 

View more species from China on ARKive

View more images and videos of the giant panda on ARKive

Alex Royan, Species Text Author

Jun 27

The platypus, one of the world’s most bizarre animals, is the latest species to come under threat from climate change, scientists have warned. 

Research published in the journal Global Change Biology suggests that the platypus’ cold water loving habits make it vulnerable to climate change. This species’ double-layered fur, which is even finer and denser than that of a polar bear, ensures it stays dry in water that is close to freezing, but may cause it to overheat rapidly when exposed to warm conditions.

Photo of female platypus swimming underwater

Platypus feeling the heat 

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne found that in 60 years one third of the platypus’ habitat could simply become too hot to sustain them. 

Using weather and platypus habitat data stretching back more than 100 years, researchers were able to map declines in populations in connection with droughts and heat events. The team then extrapolated their findings across a range of climate change scenarios to model how global warming could affect this unusual native species. 

In a worst-case scenario the researchers predicted that the platypus, which is already difficult to spot in the wild, would become extinct on the Australian mainland and confined to Tasmania, King and Kangaroo Islands, three of the coolest parts of the country. 

Platypus have only a limited capacity to moderate their body temperature,” said Professor Jenny Davis from the university’s Australian Centre for Biodiversity, where the research was conducted. 

When summer temperatures become too warm they are very vulnerable. Compared with 50 years ago some places have become too warm for them, their habitat is shrinking.

Photo of head and bill of a platypus

An intriguing fraud 

When first encountered by European scientists, the platypus was thought to be the fraudulent work of a skilled taxidermist who had sewn a duck’s bill to a mammal’s body. Even after the specimens were found to be authentic, it was some time before scientists concluded that the ‘amphibious mole’ was in fact a mammal, and one of the most evolutionary distinct mammals alive. 

It is considered to be one of the most intriguing animals on Earth, but it joins a list of other native Australian wildlife whose future is under threat thanks to the warming planet. Koalas, for example, are suffering as a result of warmer temperatures and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is poisoning their main food source, eucalyptus leaves.

Photo of platypus emerging from den on the bank of a river

Although the platypus is not yet endangered, being classified in Australia as “common but vulnerable”, it is now extinct in the wild in South Australia state, and already appears to be responding to increases in average temperature – certain populations have receded since the 1960s when a warming trend first became evident. 

This is just another piece of evidence that climate change is a real factor affecting our native biodiversity now,” said Dr Ross Thompson, Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Biodiversity. “It reinforces the need to act decisively on climate change issues.” 

View more images of the platypus on ARKive

Find out more about climate change on ARKive’s featured pages

Alex Royan, Species Text Author

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