Oct 27
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In the News: Saving Romania’s untouched beauty

WWF has launched a new campaign in a bid to protect the threatened virgin forests of Romania.

Eurasian wolf pack image

Eurasian grey wolves rely on the forests of Romania.

The Carpathian Mountains of Romania harbour 250,000 hectares of virgin forest, pristine tracts of biodiversity untouched by human activities, which act as a stronghold for a wide variety of species. These unspoilt areas have high scientific, educational and ecological value, yet they equate to less than three percent of the country’s total forest cover.

In this, the International Year of Forests, and with the future of a major part of Europe’s natural heritage at risk, WWF is spearheading a new campaign to obtain total protection for more than 80 percent of Romania’s virgin, or old growth, forest. These areas house iconic species such as the grey wolf, Eurasian lynx and imperial eagle and were historically widespread, but are sadly now severely depleted as a result of poor management.

Eurasian lynx image

The Eurasian lynx is one of many majestic species found in the forests of Romania.

Irreplaceable

Virgin forests are complex, dynamic ecosystems built up of seedlings, young, mature and old trees, as well as dead trees and decaying logs, which provide a diverse range of habitats in which many plant, animal and fungus species thrive.

WWF’s Danube-Carpathian Programme in Romania works to protect all forest types, but the scheme recognises the importance of targeting the conservation of virgin forests. Magor Csibi, Romania’s Country Manager for the programme, highlights the urgency in acting now to save these areas of natural beauty: “We will never be able to rebuild this part of nature. Once lost, it is lost forever.

Historically, Romania’s virgin forests remained untouched, partly as a result of their inaccessibility, and partly due to the low economic value of the wood obtained from old trees. Yet socio-economic pressures in Romania are currently high, and with an ever-increasing demand for wood and development, the country’s virgin forests are becoming more and more vulnerable.

Imperial eagle image

Imperial eagle

Taking action

WWF has written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Romania, urging them to make the implementation of effective protection for the country’s remaining virgin forests a priority. The letter also asks for changes to the legislative framework, which would guarantee the protection of this critical ecosystem, as well as compensatory funds for private forest owners.

Magor Csibi is confident that the campaign will be successful: “We expect our initiative to be supported not only by people who wish for a sustainable future, but especially by the authorities who can decide whether to solve this problem or not. I believe that we can obtain 100 per cent protection of our virgin forests.”

An awareness raising campaign for the public has also been launched, which highlights the importance of virgin forests and urges people to sign a petition.

Capercaillie image

The capercaillie is still found in the forests of Romania.

Legend, legacy and life

The forests of Romania, which once inspired the legend of the vampire, are some of the last untouched areas of wilderness in Europe. With their biodiversity, along with their rich and deep-set culture, the loss of these wooded habitats would be a huge blow to the country.

Magor Csibi called upon people to take into account moral, as well as environmental, values: “Considering that we are among the last European nations fortunate enough to have such a treasure, it is our moral obligation to preserve this piece of nature intact and to leave a small piece of wilderness to our children.

Read more on this story at WWF – WWF acts to save Europe’s last remaining virgin forests.

View photos and videos of species from Romania on ARKive.

Find out more about WWF’s forest conservation work.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Oct 26
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In the News: Whale sharks kept in tank in China

Conservationists are concerned for the welfare of five whale sharks which are being kept as a tourist attraction in an aquarium in Yantai, China.

Whale shark image

Whale shark filter feeding

World’s largest fish

The whale shark is the largest species of fish in the world, growing up to 12 metres in length and weighing up to 12,500 kilograms. Conservationists have criticised the new tank as it only measures around 27 by 16 metres, which is considered far too small for the five whale sharks.

Since the opening of the new whale shark aquarium, approximately 30,000 people have visited the attraction. Hua Ning, a campaigner for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has condemned the aquarium as being purely a publicity stunt aimed at making money.

Hua Ning says, “I am quite pessimistic about the fate of these whale sharks. This aquarium only wants to make a profit and are using these creatures as a publicity gimmick. The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, and it needs a vast area of ocean to swim in.

Whale shark image

Whale shark swimming in natural habitat

Fate of captive whale sharks

The whale shark is already a threatened species, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and is at risk from overfishing throughout much of its range. It does not fare well in captivity, with two young males kept at an aquarium in Georgia dying within five months of each other in 2007. 

A study of the whale sharks housed at Okinawa Expo Aquarium between 1980 and 1998 found that they survived for an average of only 16 months in captivity before dying. This is an extremely sad fate for an animal that can live up to 70 years in its natural environment.

Xiao Bing, an environmental activist, says “Keeping them in a tiny space will put a lot of pressure on them and there will be corresponding consequences. In other countries, they prefer to take visitors out to sea in order to see large whales and fish. This is a low-cost way of enjoying nature, and mainland investors should look at this industry. But at the moment, the big companies and the government just focus on promoting tourism and making money.”

Whale shark image

Whale shark swimming at surface

A spokesperson for the aquarium where the whales are housed has stated that they have managed to keep another whale shark alive for more than three years in captivity, and therefore have the experience to manage this new exhibit. They did, however, refuse to say where the five whale sharks were captured and stated that whale sharks were not considered an endangered species in China.

Read more on this story on The Telegraph website.

Find out more about the whale shark on the Whale Shark Project website.

View images and videos of the whale shark on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Oct 26
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Frozen Planet – New Series on the BBC

The BBC’s latest nature documentary series, Frozen Planet, will be hitting the screens of viewers in the UK at 9pm tonight. Hailed as the ultimate portrait of Earth’s polar regions, Frozen Planet looks set to transport us to the frozen realms of the Arctic and Antarctic, to reveal the secret lives of the species that call these wild ice worlds home.

Frozen Planet is narrated by Wildscreen patron Sir David Attenborough, who himself travelled to both polar regions in the making of the series. The first episode, “To the Ends of the Earth”, is a journey from the North to the South Pole, across the least known wildernesses on our planet. We hope that you are as excited about the series as we are in the ARKive office, and will enjoy a little taster of what is to come….

The stars of the first episode are likely to be a pair of courting polar bears, who we think will steal the show with their surprisingly tender behaviour. Be prepared for some stunning shots of the giant Greenland ice cap too. 

Polar bear photo

Polar bears play fighting

Greenland icecap photo

The Greenland icecap, where two glaciers join and flow to the sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, we find humpback whales feeding in the rich polar waters, while on land a large group of wolves attempt to tackle a formidable group of bison. You can check out a video of feeding humpbacks on ARKive, as well as a clip of an Arctic wolf hunting some slightly smaller prey!

 
Humpback whale photo

Humpbacks travel thousands of kilometres from summer feeding grounds in polar waters to winter breeding grounds near the tropics

Arctic wolf

The Arctic wolf is a subspecies of the grey wolf, the world's largest wild canid

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

At the other end of the world we find leaping gentoo penguins trying to evade prowling sea lions, and orcas displaying some spectacular hunting behaviour, possibly caught on film for the first time ever - prepare to be amazed! You can check out our gentoo videos on ARKive too.

Gentoo penguin photo

Masters of the waves, gentoo penguins face a number of predators in the water

Orca photo

The orca is the only cetacean to routinely hunt marine mammals

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There is plenty more in store too, but I’m afraid you’ll have to watch it tonight - we wouldn’t want to spoil it for you!
 
If you just can’t wait, or the series is not showing where you live, why not check out our new polar eco-region pages, and explore the fantastic array of photographs and footage of all these species and more on ARKive.

Sneak previews, episode guides and behind the scenes stories from the series can all be found on the BBC Frozen Planet page.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Oct 25
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In the News: Javan rhino driven to extinction in Vietnam

WWF and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) have confirmed that the Javan rhinoceros has been driven to extinction in Vietnam. The last known Javan rhino was found dead in the Cat Tien National Park in April 2010.

Photo of Javan rhinoceros walking through water

Javan rhinoceros in water. This Critically Endangered species is now extinct in Vietnam.

Driven to extinction

It is thought that the last Javan rhino in Vietnam was a victim of poaching, as it was found with a bullet in its leg and its horn removed. The upsetting findings are presented in a new WWF report, ‘Extinction of Javan Rhino from Vietnam’.

A survey team from Cat Tien National Park and WWF collected 22 samples of rhinoceros dung between 2009 and 2010, and genetic analysis confirmed that all of the samples belonged to a single individual which was subsequently found dead in April last year.

“The last Javan rhino in Vietnam has gone,” said Tran Thi Minh Hien, WWF-Vietnam Country Director. “It is painful that despite significant investment in the Vietnamese rhino population conservation efforts failed to save this unique animal. Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage.”

Photo of a pair of Indonesian Javan rhinoceros

Pair of Indonesian Javan rhinos. Fewer than 50 individuals now remain.

Work in Indonesia ‘critical’

The Javan rhinoceros has had a tumultuous history on mainland Asia and was previously believed to be extinct there until 1988, when an individual was discovered by hunters in the Cat Tien area. This led to the discovery of a small population, numbering just 8 individuals, in the Cat Tien National Park.

A number of conservation organisations were involved in efforts to conserve the remaining Javan rhino population in the national park; however, only one sighting of a Javan rhino had been recorded in Vietnam in recent years.

The new WWF report highlights that ineffective protection by the park was ultimately the cause of the extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam.

“Reintroduction of the rhinoceros to Vietnam is not economically or practically feasible. It is gone from Vietnam forever,” said Christy Williams, WWF’s Asian elephant and rhino programme co-ordinator.

The extinction of the Javan rhino from its last stronghold in mainland Asia means that worldwide population of this Critically Endangered (CR) species has now declined to less than 50 remaining individuals, all of which are confined to the Indonesian island of Java.

According to Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation, the extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam makes their work in Indonesia even more critical.

“We must ensure that what happened to the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam is not repeated in Indonesia a few years down the line”, says Ellis.

Photo of Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys in a tree

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is just one of a number of other species in Vietnam facing extinction.

Worldwide plight

The plight of rhinos is not limited to Asia, and earlier this year several reports indicated that rhino populations in Africa were also facing their worst poaching crisis for decades.

The rhino is globally threatened by the illegal trade in rhino horn, which is being driven by demand from the Asian medicinal markets.

In Vietnam, illegal hunting to supply the wildlife trade has also caused huge population declines in many other species, in many cases reducing them to small, isolated and highly vulnerable populations. Species such as the Indochinese tiger, the Asian elephant, the saola, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and the Siamese crocodile are all on the verge of extinction, and may soon experience a similar fate to the Javan rhino if conservation efforts fail.

The tragedy of the Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros is a sad symbol of this extinction crisis,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF’s Species Programme in the Greater Mekong, Vietnam. “The single most important action to conserve Vietnam’s endangered species is protecting their natural habitat and deterring poaching and illegal wildlife trade”.

Read the WWF press release about the extinction of the Javan rhino from Vietnam.

Read the full story on the BBC news and Guardian websites.

Find out more about the International Rhino Foundation.

View images and videos of the Javan rhinoceros on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Oct 25
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WildPhotos 2011 – Our Highlights

WildPhotos, the UK’s largest nature photography symposium, took place at the Royal Geographical Society on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 October. Like ARKive, WildPhotos is another of Wildscreen’s initiatives, and of course the team jumped at the chance to head along and hear stories and tips from some of the world’s leading nature photographers. The event was a huge success, and for those of you that couldn’t make it (and those who would just like to relive it!) we thought we would bring you some of our highlights…

Sensational Speakers

Each year WildPhotos attracts a dazzling array of speakers, and this year’s programme was no exception. Top wildlife photographers from around the world were kind enough to share their stories, hints, tips, and even the odd embarrassing anecdote! Every speaker was inspirational, and we particularly enjoyed hearing from Mateusz Piesiak, Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011. At the tender age of 14, and despite only recently learning English, Mateusz gave a confident talk about his winning image and several other beautiful shots from his portfolio.

Mateusz Piesiak photo

Mateusz Piesiak, the Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year

 

Winning Wildlife Photographers

Mateusz Piesiak wasn’t the only winner from this year’s Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition to take the stage at WildPhotos. Over the course of the event, delegates were treated to talks from Alex Badyaev, Peter Chadwick, Erlend Haarberg, Bence Máté, Thomas P Peschak, Benjam Pöntinen, Cyril Ruoso, Paul Souders and of course Daniel Beltrá, the overall winner. You can check out all the speakers on the WildPhotos website, and their winning and commended photographs can be seen here.

Thomas P Peschak photo

Thomas P Peschak, who was highly commended in the Underwater World category, with compère Mark Carwardine

 

Editorial Tips from the Top

On Saturday afternoon there was a session focused on what makes a winning picture, with advice and insights from three of the biggest names in the wildlife magazine world, Ruth Eichhorn – Director of Photography for the GEO magazine group, Kathy Moran – National Geographic magazine’s Senior Editor for Natural History Projects, and Sophie Stafford – Editor of BBC Wildlife.

Editorial tips from the top photo

Editorial tips from Kathy Moran, Sophie Stafford and Ruth Eichhorn, with compère Chris Packham

 

The Power of Social Media

Paul Hassell gave a fascinating talk on the power of social media, something we have really embraced here at Wildscreen. To demonstrate how easily stories and media can be distributed using social networking, and the buzz that it can generate, Paul shot and uploaded a great behind the scenes video from WildPhotos which he shared via YouTube and Facebook.

If you were at WildPhotos and would like to share your thoughts and personal highlights with us we would love to hear from you, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post, or join the chat on Twitter (#WildPhotos) or the WildPhotos Facebook page.

If you couldn’t make it along this year then fear not, as WildPhotos will be returning again in 2012. To keep up to date with the latest news, and to be the first to hear when tickets go on sale, make sure to sign up to the WildPhotos e-newsletter. Tickets were a sell out this year so early booking is essential!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

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