Nov 30
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In the News: Ape rescue in India

Two eastern hoolock gibbons have successfully been translocated from a fragmented forest near the village of Dello in north-eastern India to Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary.

Eastern hoolock gibbon image

The eastern hoolock gibbon is one of two hoolock gibbon species found in India

Struggling for survival

The move, organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), was carried out following evidence that the eastern hoolock gibbons, classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, were struggling to survive due to the pressures of heavy deforestation and fragmentation within their forest habitat.

Extensive felling of private forests around the small village of Dello has forced the remaining population of the eastern hoolock gibbon, consisting of just 18 family groups, to live in small clusters of trees surrounded by farmland.

Dello is a small village which once hosted good tree cover and undoubtedly supported a healthy population of the eastern hoolock gibbons,” says Ipra Mekola, a state wildlife advisory member. “The present situation offers no opportunity for the apes to forage optimally.”

Eastern hoolock gibbon image

Deforestation and hunting are major threats to the eastern hoolock gibbon

Reading the signs

The eastern hoolock gibbon, along with its relative the western hoolock gibbon, faces a number of threats in India. Deforestation, influenced by coal mining and oil extraction, is a key cause for concern, leaving just small fragmented pockets of suitable habitat for the primates to live in. The eastern hoolock gibbon is believed by local communities to have medicinal properties, and this, combined with its appeal as a source of food, means that hunting is a further threat to this species.

Gibbons are known for swinging rapidly and gracefully through their treetop homes, foraging high up in the canopy. Yet in poor habitat conditions, where suitable food is unavailable, these primates may venture down to ground level in order to search for food. Leaving the protection of the trees puts gibbons at great risk, as Dr Ian Robinson, IFAW’s Emergency Relief Director explains, “Their physical attributes are not suited to walk and they can fall easy prey on ground, so it is very rare to see them descend from the canopy under natural circumstances.”

Researchers in the Dello area noticed the eastern hoolock gibbons coming down to the ground to forage, and realised that there was a serious problem. “A month or so ago, a female and her young were killed in an attack by dogs,” said Dr Kuladeep Roy. A further female gibbon is also thought to have been killed as a result of foraging at ground level.

Eastern hoolock gibbon

Female eastern hoolock gibbons, like this one, are copper-tan, whereas the males are black

Translocation

The two translocated individuals, an adult male and a juvenile, were confined to a tree by researchers in order to be caught and sedated, before being transported to Mehao Wildlife Santuary where they were safely released.

Now that the gibbons are living in the reserve, there is still more work to be done, as Dr NVK Ashraf, Chief Veterinarian with WTI explains, “The IFAW-WTI team will monitor the released gibbons for the next six months. This is our first ever attempt to translocate gibbons in India.

Read more on this story at Mongabay.com – Rare apes saved in India.

View photos and videos of the eastern hoolock gibbon on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 29
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In the News: UN Climate Change Conference 2011

Representatives from countries around the world are currently meeting at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, to debate how best to tackle the climate crisis.

Given the lack of progress made during the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, and the limited headway made at the 2010 summit in Cancún, Mexico, breaking the deadlock over climate negotiations will be essential if a global deal to reduce carbon emissions is to be reached in the near future.

Can nature stem the impacts of climate change?

Gray mangrove in habitat

Mangrove ecosystems store huge amounts of carbon and are vital in coastal protection in many areas, yet vast amounts of mangrove habitat is being destroyed each year.

A number of topics will be debated over the course of the next fortnight, with solutions offered by nature coming high on the agenda. According to IUCN, nature plays an immediate and effective role in stemming the impacts of climate change.

Evidence suggests that by protecting and sustainably managing ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and coastal areas, it may be possible to help slow the rate of climate change by capturing and storing large amounts of carbon, thereby simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.

“Ecosystem-based adaptation is a cost effective, no-regrets solution that governments ought to incorporate into national policies and take immediate action to implement on the ground,” says Stewart Maginnis, Director of IUCN’s Environment and Development Group.

“Improving the management of river systems, coral reefs, mangroves and forests all tangibly improve the resilience of people’s livelihoods as they deal with the sudden and long-term consequences of climate change.”

Cost effective, win-win solutions

Canopy of Atlantic forest with emergent trees

Forest protection programmes, such as REDD+, are a cost-effective way for governments to begin mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Forest-based protection programmes, such as REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), are just one way in which governments can adopt a cost-effective solution to help combat the effects of climate change.

However, forests are not the only natural systems that offer governments practical nature-based options. Grasslands, drylands, and coastal and marine ecosystems are all crucial elements for conserving carbon, and protection of these ecosystems is therefore vital in the fight against climate change.

In addition, the protection of these different ecosystems plays an important role in ensuring that valuable resources, upon which millions of people depend on daily for water, food and safety, are maintained for future generations.

“People often don’t realize just how effective nature can be in tackling the effects of climate change,” says Edmund Barrow, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme. “The challenge is to find the most appropriate and sustainable ways to manage and use these resources. Intact coastal ecosystems offer a double benefit in the face of climate change – not only do they protect communities from inevitable sea level rise and storm surges, but healthy coastal systems also capture and store huge amounts of carbon.”

Tackling ocean acidification

Bleached Acropora coral

Marine organisms, such as corals, are particularly affected by ocean acidification and climate change.

As well as highlighting the role that nature can play in reducing the impacts of climate change, IUCN are also calling on decision makers at the Climate Conference in Durban to urgently address the problem of ocean acidification.

Along with overfishing and pollution, ocean acidification is one of the most serious threats to the marine environment. The ocean absorbs around 25% of all of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere every year, and this is having an extremely negative effect on the world’s oceans.

Ocean acidification particularly affects marine organisms, especially those which build shells, such as crustaceans, molluscs and coral reefs. If the current rates of ocean acidification continue it may have severe ecological consequences, and could lead to extinctions of some species, as well as impacting others that feed on them.

The increasing amounts of carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere every day are changing our oceans, steadily increasing their acidity, and dramatically affecting marine life,” says Professor Dan Laffoley Marine, Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, and Chair of the International Ocean Acidification Reference User Group (RUG).

This may also have severe impacts on human life in the future. Only by reducing our CO2 emissions and enhancing the protection of oceans to strengthen their ability to recover, can we effectively address this issue.”

Visit the Climate Conference (COP17/CMP7) website.

Read more about IUCN at the UN Climate Summit.

Find out more about climate change on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 28
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In the News: World’s largest marine protected area planned

Plans have been put forward to establish the world’s largest marine protected area, in the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia.

Green turtle image

Green turtle swimming over reef

The Coral Sea

Located on the northeast coast of Australia, the Coral Sea stretches from the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the Pacific Islands. It is home to a diverse range of corals, fish, seabirds, reptiles and marine mammals, including threatened species such as the loggerhead turtle, blue whale and great white shark.

If the proposal for the protected area is approved, it would result in the protection of 972,000 square kilometres of the Coral Sea, an area roughly the size of France and Germany combined.

The environment minister, Tony Burke, explains, “The environmental significance of the Coral Sea lies in its diverse array of coral reefs, sandy cays, deep sea plains and canyons. It contains more than 20 outstanding examples of isolated tropical reefs, sandy cays and islands.” 

Red-tailed tropicbird image

The red-tailed tropicbird breeds on islands in the Coral Sea

Variable protection

The level of protection will vary across the planned marine reserve, with around half of the total area being designated as a ‘no take’ zone, where fishing will be prohibited. Other areas of the Coral Sea will allow varying levels of recreational and commercial fishing, depending on their designation. While this is welcomed by some, it falls short of conservationists’ hopes for a completely protected marine area.

A statement by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said, “The draft plan proposes to set aside only the eastern Coral Sea as a safe haven for marine life. Many of the jewels in the crown of the Coral Sea therefore remain unprotected. Only two of about 25 unprotected reefs are given a high level of protection.

Sei whale image

The sei whale, an inhabitant of the Coral Sea

As well as protecting the flora and fauna of the Coral Sea, the planned park will also help to preserve historical sites, including the wrecks of ships sunk in 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The plans for the Coral Sea marine reserve will be finalised in 90 days, when the government will decide on the limits to be imposed on the protected area.

Read more on the story in the Guardian – Australia announces plans for world’s biggest marine park.

Find out more about the planned reserve in The Sydney Morning Herald – Coral Sea could be world’s largest marine park.

Read the story in The Age – Coral Sea marine reserve on the way.

Find out more about the Coral Sea – Protect Our Coral Sea.

Explore other unique species found in Australia.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 28
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The ARKive Team’s Favourite Species

When we gave our animal-loving team the tough decision of picking their favourite animal there were puzzled expressions, sleepless nights and many looks of guilt. However, the results show a wide and surprising range of species and some fascinating facts.

We thought we would share our favourites with you so you can get to know what gets the ARKive team going but also so you can get involved and let us know whether it’s tree toads that tickle your fancy or whether you are more of fluffy feline fan!

Claire LewisARKive Media Researcher

Favourite species? African wild dog

Why? I’ve loved the African wild dog ever since watching a documentary about them as a child. Not only are they beautiful (each one has unique markings), they are one of the world’s most social canids, working together to bring down huge prey many times their size. I’ve even been lucky enough to see them feeding up close in the wild, an incredible encounter!

Favourite image on ARKive:

African wild dog photo

African wild dog pups

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. Threats to this species include habitat fragmentation, human persecution, road accidents and disease. Maintaining continuous, large expanses of land and prevention of persecution by humans through education are key to the survival of this species.

Check out more pictures and videos of the African wild dog on ARKive.

Nov 27
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Meet the ARKive Team – Carolyn Hair

Carolyn Hair, ARKive Online Marketing OfficerI’ve been Online Marketing Officer for Wildscreen’s ARKive project for 18 months now. I work with Ellie Dart to help get the word about the wonders of ARKive and other Wildscreen initiatives out there. Whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, tumblr, Flickr, YouTube or anywhere else online. I love being able to share amazing photos, videos and facts every day to help raise awareness about endangered species.

What are you currently working on?

It’s all about Survival – our new endangered animal mobile app game. This fun, free game for iOS and Android launched last week which was just so exciting. I’ve been busy chatting to you all on social media about this quick-fire wildlife game, its cool characters and the facts you’ve learned.

Thanks for helping us to promote it too. We couldn’t reach as many people without you so keep tweeting and sharing it with your friends. You can also join in our Top Survivor Challenge. I’m updating our leaderboard on Facebook and tumblr with all your highest scores. Now I just need to work on my own Survival time – only 56s! So far the highest score is a magnificent 900s. Can you beat that? Tweet or post your top scores!

What animal skill would you most like to have?

The firefly squid’s skill of bioluminescence, the ability to produce light, would be pretty cool. What better way to add a bit of glitz and glamour to a night out and find your way home in the dark. Gymnastics aren’t my strong point, so I think I’d also like the acrobatic skills of the agile spider monkey.

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

Good dinner party guests need to bring conversation and giggles to the table, so let’s go for:

- Margaret Atwood to chat books and nature

- Pedro Almodóvar for Madrid and movie tales

- Joan Rivers for witty one-liners

Where in the world would you most like to go?

So many countries still to see but I’m going to opt for a trip from Russia to China on the Trans-Siberian express. There would be the chance of spotting wonderful wildlife, perhaps even a panda or a Przewalski’s horse. And the lure of romance and dinner carriage mysteries onboard just completes the picture! Where’s my ticket?

Which celebrity do you most look like?

Wouldn’t like to say…

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

I don’t think I’ve had a wildlife encounter with real wow-factor…yet. I’d probably say spotting seals on the coast or deer in my back-yard where I grew up in Scotland.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

So tough to choose one favourite so I’m going to cheat. Here are my current top 3:

Tell us an animal related joke

Q: What do you get if you cross a fish with an elephant?
A: Swimming trunks!

I think I need a bit of help with my animal jokes so post yours in the comments section. Surely you can do better!

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