Jul 31
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International Bog Day 2011

To celebrate the 20th International Bog Day on Sunday 31st of July, we are highlighting some of the amazing species that call the beautiful bog their home, and why they are such important habitats to preserve. They may have a bit of a bad reputation, but bogs are important ecological sites sustaining a unique array of species.                  

Adaptations to a nutrient-poor habitat

Bogs are often low oxygen, high carbon dioxide environments leading to acidic conditions. High acidity prevents nutrients being available to plants in a useful form and this has led to plants turning to more grisly methods to get the nutrients they need. These plants are able to break down and absorb nitrogen and other nutrients from animals, usually invertebrates such as insects. The sundew (Drosera anglica) lures insect prey to sweet sticky secretions on tentacle-like leaves. When an insect such as this common blue damselfly becomes trapped, the leaves slowly curl up and the sundew secretes enzymes which then digest the helpless insect. 

Common blue damselfly caught by sundew carnivorous plant

Common blue damselfly caught by sundew carnivorous plant

Also found in boggy areas, the fanged pitcher plant (Nepenthes bicalcarata) produces nectar which attracts invertebrates to the brim of its pitcher. When stepping on the slippery, waxy surface the invertebrates will often fall into the depths of the pitcher. Unable to escape, they drown in the pitcher fluid and their bodies are broken down by digestive enzymes.        

The common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) is yet another example of a carnivorous boggy plant, attracting insects to its leaves with a sticky sweet substance. Once trapped, the leaf slowly curls up and the insect is digested.    

Close up of a pitcher of the fanged pitcher plant

Fanged pitcher plant

Common butterwort with remains of small copper butterfly

Common butterwort with remains of small copper butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Haven

The Critically Endangered bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) inhabits swamps, sphagnum bogs and marshy meadows of the eastern United States. Finding safety on muddy ground, the bog turtle will burrow into the mud when alarmed. Perhaps this species is the inspiration behind the sewer-dwelling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! 

Bog turtle in mud

Bog turtle hidden in mud

Wealth of colour  

Contrary to popular belief, bogs aren’t dull and dreary. Prevalent on peat bogs, sphagnum mosses provide a carpet of colour. For example the Baltic bog moss (Sphagnum balticum) can form large floating mats of green and orange. The bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) is another vibrant bog-dwelling plant. It has bright yellow star-like flowers which were once used as a hair dye. The bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) can be found throughout most of Europe, with it’s delicate white flower brightening boggy areas.               

Peat bog with bog asphodel flowers

Peat bog with bog asphodel flowers

Bogbean in flower

Bogbean in flower

        

        

        

        

        

        

        

        

             

 

So why is there a need for an International Bog Day?  Boggy habitats are becoming rarer and rarer as they are increasingly being drained, dredged, filled or flooded, for urban development, agriculture, and pond and reservoir construction. Bogs are an important habitat for many specialised species, and they certainly deserve protecting and a day of recognition.       

Eleanor Sans and Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researchers      

Jul 30
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Use of river dolphin flesh as fish bait increasing

Photo of a boto

Boto captured by Projeto Boto

The enigmatic boto has long been protected from human persecution due to various myths and superstitions surrounding the river dweller, including some which state that bad luck will forever befall upon anyone who kills one. The species has thrived throughout much of the Amazon basin, and is one of the most widespread of the river dolphins.

Now, a team of scientists from Projeto Boto have reported that this protection has largly disappeared. The boto is being threatened by an unusual form of fishing, fuelled by demand for a catfish species known as the piracatinga, or mota.

Fishing for piracatinga

The piracatinga is a necrophage, making a living by scavenging on the remains of other animals which have died. This habit has earned it the colloquial name of ‘water vulture’. The species will even attack the bodies of people who have drowned, and so is considered inedible in Brazil. But piracatinga is highly prized in neighbouring Colombia, and traders will cross the border in search of it. Unfortunately, their hunting methods have followed, where dolphins are killed for the purposes of bait to trap the scavenger catfish.

Standing in the water at night with a characteristic wooden box, a large piece of boto flesh is submerged and soaked to attract piracatinga. The fish quickly come to take bites from the carcass, lured in by the scent of fat and blood. Once inside the box, large piracatinga are trapped and can be removed by hand, while the design allows smaller ones to escape.

Photo of playing botos

Botos playing with a Macucu seed

Boto bait

To obtain boto meat, hunters encircle groups of the dolphins in bays and inlets using nets, then remove individuals from the water with harpoons. Surplus botos are often tied to trees using a rope or cable around the tail until needed later. The whole practice is illegal and abhorred by the vast majority of local people.

In one night, use of a large adult boto as bait may afford a skilled fisherman more than one tonne of piracatinga. Taking this into account, Projeto Boto was able to determine that up to 1,650 botos may be killed every year near the city of Tefé; only a tiny portion of the range of the boto. The true scale of hunting of the species is likely to be far greater given that the fishing for piractinga is now commonplace in the Amazon basin.

Photo of boto

Close-up of a boto

‘Little goldfish’

Around Brazilian cities, the catfish is often sold as ‘douradinha’, meaning ‘little goldfish’. Many Colombian and Brazilian people do not realise they are eating this scavenger fish, which is readily available in a variety of main supermarkets and fish markets.

At present, no significant action is being taken to prevent this inhumane and unsustainable practice in spite of many efforts to raise awareness. Projeto Boto continues to work with Brazilian authorities in the hope of ending the hunt, which, at its current rate, is likely to threaten the survival of the boto as a species.

Find out more about Projeto Boto’s work at their website: www.projetoboto.com.

View images and videos of the boto on ARKive.

Rob Morgan, ARKive Media Researcher

Jul 29
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Global Tiger Day

The 29th July marks Global Tiger Day, a chance to celebrate these beautiful cats in all their glory and highlight their need for protection.

Bengal tiger photo

A very handsome Bengal tiger family

Although the tiger probably tops many people’s list of favourite animals, hunting has sadly pushed this magnificent feline to the brink of extinction. Once spread throughout central and southern Asia, now only scattered populations remain in India, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, China and the Russian Far East. Nine subspecies of tiger are recognised and only six of these remain today, after the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers all became extinct in the latter part of the 20th century.

South China tiger photo

It seems likely that the South China tiger may now be Extinct in the Wild

Sumatran tiger photo

The Sumatran tiger is also considered to be Critically Endangered

While the future may seem bleak for the Critically Endangered South China and Sumatran tigers, recent news that tiger numbers in India may be beginning to rise has inspired conservationists that all may not be lost. Mike Baltzer, Head of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative says that “these results show that with good protection, unyielding government commitment and robust participation from partners and civil society, poaching can be reduced and tigers can thrive”.

Photo of Bengal tiger cubs playing

Is the future looking brighter for these playful Bengal tiger cubs?

With this in mind, Global Tiger Day should be seen as a chance to celebrate, whilst increasing public awareness about what can be done to help. WWF offices in tiger countries will join governments and the general public in a range of celebratory events from film screenings and tv shows to educational talks and even a tiger painting competition!

Bengal tiger photo

It's harder than you think to spot a tiger!

If you are holding your own celebration we would love to hear from you!

For more information on Global Tiger Day you can visit the WWF website.

And finally, why not check out ARKive’s fantastic tiger photos and videos.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Jul 29
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Endangered Species of the Week: Philippine Eagle

Philippine eagle image

Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi)

Species: Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Philippine eagle is the world’s largest species of eagle.

With a wingspan of up to two metres and sharp talons, the Philippine eagle is a formidable predator. Swooping from branch to branch in the canopy of its forest habitat, it uses its excellent eyesight to spot its prey of flying lemurs, palm civets and monkeys. This habit of hunting monkeys has earned the Philippine eagle the alternative common name of ‘monkey-eating eagle’. Philippine eagles are also known to hunt in pairs with one individual acting as a decoy to distract the prey whilst the other swoops in to launch a surprise attack.

The Philippine eagle is endemic to the Philippines where it can live to be up to 60 years in age. However, due to the destruction of its forest habitat and illegal hunting, there are now thought to be fewer than 250 individuals of this magnificent species left. It is now protected by law in the Philippines and the Philippine Eagle Foundation, launched in 1987, is working to conserve this national symbol via a combination of captive breeding, field research and a public education programme.

View images and videos of the Philippine eagle on ARKive.

Find out more about the conservation work of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

Becky Moran,  ARKive Media Researcher

Jul 29
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In the News: Rare forest antelope captured on camera

A previously unknown population of Africa’s most endangered antelope has been discovered in a highly threatened forest in northern Kenya, according to scientists.

Photo of Aders' duiker in habitat

As well as being Africa’s most Critically Endangered antelope, Aders' duiker is also one of its smallest and most distinctive.

Camera traps in the Boni-Dodori forest on the northern coast of Kenya captured over 3,300 images of Aders’ duiker, a species which had previously only been recorded from the island of Zanzibar and from small forest patches on the Kenyan coast. The new discovery represents the world’s largest known population of this rare antelope.

One of Africa’s smallest duiker species, Aders’ duiker is highly distinctive, with rich chestnut upperparts and a white band across the rump. Its populations have been in serious decline due to habitat loss and illegal hunting, and the remaining individuals are restricted to ever-dwindling forest patches.

Photo of blue duiker sitting on grass

The blue duiker, another tiny antelope living in the Boni-Dodori forest.

Important forest under threat

Set up by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), National Museums of Kenya and WWF, the camera traps also revealed important populations of a number of other species, including African wild dogs, elephants, lions, leopards, and other duikers.

The pictures of Aders’ duiker also come just months after the discovery of a potentially new, giant species of elephant-shrew, or ‘sengi’, in the same area.

However, this important forest is under serious threat from rapid coastal development and the spread of agriculture, and its biodiversity is still poorly understood due to security problems and poor infrastructure, which make access difficult.

Photo of African leopard walking

Leopards, African wild dogs and elephants were also found living in and around the forest.

According to Dr Rajan Amin, a senior conservation biologist for ZSL, “This population [of Aders’ duiker] is a lifeline for the critically endangered antelope, which until now was thought to exist only in tiny populations in coastal Kenya and Zanzibar.”

Given time and conservation action we could unearth even more new species in this isolated forest, but we are running out of time to stop the forest and its hidden secrets from being destroyed by rapid coastal development.”

Calls to protect biodiverse forest

Conservationists are calling for the immediate protection of the Boni-Dodori forest, to preserve its important wildlife populations.

Andrew Bowkett of the WWCT said, “This forest is extremely biodiverse and is a very important area to conserve. We have also found other important populations of forest antelopes in the area including the Harvey’s duiker, suni and the blue duiker which was also not previously known to occur in the Kenyan northern coastal forests.”

Photo of golden-rumped elephant-shrew

A potentially new species of elephant-shrew has been discovered in the Boni-Dodori forest. Like this golden-rumped elephant-shrew, it is likely to be threatened by habitat destruction.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is leading the national effort to conserve the Boni-Dodori forest. Speaking about the new camera trap images, Dr Sam Andanje, Head of Ecosystem and Landscape Conservation at KWS, said, “We will use the new information on Aders’ duiker and other important findings from this research to work closely with key stakeholders to develop effective strategies to conserve and protect these areas.”

Read the full story at ZSL – Pictures captured by scientists reveal hidden wildlife hotspot.

View photos and videos of species from Kenya on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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