Nov 24

Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday in the United States dating back to colonial times when the first European settlers celebrated their safe voyage, peace and good harvest. After two months at sea it must have been incredible to see the native wildlife of this strange new world for the first time, so in honour of Thanksgiving, we thought we’d highlight some of the amazing species they would begin to encounter.

American bison

The American bison, the largest mammal in North America, once roamed the continent in vast herds and helped to shape the ecology of the Great Plains, as well as the history of the United States of America. As recently as 200 years ago, the North American continent was home to around 40 million bison, providing a sustainable source of meat, as well as hides for shelter and clothes, for many of the continent’s native people.

American bison photo

Bald eagle

Instantly recognisable as the national emblem of the United States, the bald eagle has long been a key symbol in the human cultures of the Americas. The second largest North American bird of prey after the California condor, the bald eagle is also the only eagle solely native to North America.

Bald eagle photo

Grey wolf

The world’s largest wild canid, the iconic grey wolf has been a source of both fear and respect, inspiring a rich cultural history. In order to advertise territorial boundaries and avoid encounters with other packs, grey wolf packs employ scent-marking and howling, a haunting and eerie sound.

Grey wolf photo

Wild turkey

The wild relative of one of only two domesticated birds to have originated in North America, the wild turkeys hefty size, characteristic plumage and social behaviour are particularly admired in the United States, and, as a result, it has long been a popular symbol of American wildlife.

Wild turkey photo

American black bear

Found only in North America, the American black bear was historically distributed throughout all forested areas, from northern Canada, south through the U.S.A., to central Mexico. While most populations in the west of the American black bear’s range have black fur, in the east, many populations have lighter cinnamon or yellow-brown coats.

American black bear photo


Found in Canada and the northern United States, the moose is the largest living deer. A particularly impressive species, the antlers can measure up to two metres across and over 30 kilograms in weight. As well as being a strong swimmer, the moose is capable at running of speeds of up to 56 kilometres per hour, its long legs helping it to easily negotiate obstacles when fleeing predators such as wolves or bears.

Moose photo


Other than man, the large, slender puma, also known as the cougar, mountain lion or panther, has the greatest natural distribution of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Sadly, across their range, pumas have been considered a threat to livestock and persecuted because of this.

Puma photo

Don’t forget to explore ARKive to discover many more species from the United States.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Nov 24

Survival logoIberian lynx Survival character

Name: Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)


Status – Critically Endangered (CR)

Length up to 100 cm

Height – up to 50 cm

Weight up to 15 kg

Interesting fact:

The world’s most threatened species of cat, this elegant looking lynx is a very specialised predator with rabbits accounting for 80-100% of its diet!

Where am I found?

This magnificent cat once used to roam through Spain, Portugal and the south of France. The Iberian lynx can now only be found in a few areas in Spain where it prefers to live and hunt in Mediterranean woodland and scrub-like habitat.

What do I eat?

The preferred prey of the Iberian lynx is the rabbit, which forms 80 to 100% of its diet. It will occasionally take rodents, hares, partridges, ducks, geese and small deer, but these do not form an important part of the diet.

Iberian lynx photo

How do I live?

A nocturnal species, the secretive Iberian lynx is generally active at night, emerging from its daytime shelter at twilight. Both the male and the female Iberian lynx are territorial, with male territories overlapping those of several females. The mating season peaks in January and February, and the female gives birth to between one and four kittens around two months later. The young are cared for by the female in a lair, which may be located under a thicket or in a hollow tree. Weaning occurs at around eight months old but the juveniles stay in their natal territory until they are around 20 months old.

Iberian lynx photo

Why am I threatened?

There are now thought to be less than 200 Iberian lynx left in the wild, with habitat loss being one of the main threats to this species. Much of its habitat has been converted for agriculture and development, such as dams and highways. The Iberian lynx’s main prey, the rabbit, has also dramatically decreased in number due to hunting and the introduction of disease such as myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. Illegal hunting is also a problem, with some lynx being accidentally caught in rabbit traps.

Iberian lynx photo

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Nov 23

A British researcher has won a coveted environment research prize following her work on how bees can be used to reduce human-elephant conflict in Kenya.

African elephant image

Human-elephant conflict is a common occurrence in Africa

Human-elephant conflict

Despite being one of the African continent’s most iconic species, the African elephant regularly comes into conflict with local people. In their search for food, the large mammals frequently cause widespread damage to agriculture and water supplies, with this conflict sometimes resulting in the injury or death of both people and elephants.

As part of her PhD thesis, Dr Lucy King, an African-born researcher, has discovered a solution to this ongoing problem by proving that special beehive ‘fences’ can help to keep elephants out of farmers’ fields or compounds.

Her work, which has just been awarded the UNEP/CMS Thesis Award on Migratory Species Conservation, is founded on the basis that elephants are scared of bees. Bees can potentially fly into the animals’ trunks and sting them inside, and Dr King has shown that elephants will flee when they hear buzzing.

Executive director of UNEP Achim Steiner praised Dr King’s approach to conflict resolution, “Her research underlines how working with, rather than against, nature can provide humanity with many of the solutions to the challenges countries and communities face.”

Honey bee image

Bees such as the honey bee could provide a solution to human-elephant conflict

Creating a buzz

During their research in Kenya, Dr King and her team found that more than 90% of elephants will flee when they hear bees buzzing. Their work has also led to the discovery that elephants produce a special rumbling noise to warn other individuals in the herd of the danger.

The research team used these findings to create fences which had beehives woven into them, to keep elephants away from human-inhabited areas and agricultural land. A total of 34 farms were involved in a 2-year pilot project, the results of which demonstrated that elephants trying to get through fences would shake them, causing disturbance to the beehives.

Dr King’s work both highlights the importance of bees to humans, and provides a unique and innovative way of conserving the world’s largest land animal for future generations.

African elephant image

African elephant ear-flapping

A living solution

Africa’s growing population is under ever-increasing pressure for space, and has to compete with wildlife to obtain it, often resulting in potentially fatal conflict. However, following the pilot study, farming communities within three Kenyan districts have adopted the use of beehive fences.

Farm owners not only have a new means by which to protect their homes and crops from destruction by elephants, but are also able to increase their incomes by selling honey from the hives.

Dr Lucy King has designed a constructive solution that considers the needs of migratory animals but also the economic benefits to the local communities linked to species conservation,” said CMS executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

Sri Lankan elephant image

Human-elephant conflict is also a concern in Sri Lanka, where these Sri Lankan elephants live

Taking the solution further afield

Dr King hopes that her beehive fence idea will also be adopted in other parts of Africa, and is working with the charity Save the Elephants in order to achieve this.

I can’t say for certain it’s going to work elsewhere,” she says. “There is potential to take it down to southern Africa which has the largest elephant population and an increasing human-elephant conflict problem.

The use of this new method of human-wildlife conflict avoidance is not limited to the African continent, and could also prove useful in parts of Asia. In Sri Lanka alone, the death toll as a result of human-elephant conflict is estimated at 60 people and 200 Asian elephants per year.

However, Dr King points out that there would be different considerations when applying this method in Asia.

With Asia, there are some issues we’d have to look at – it’s a totally different elephant species, the bee species are different, it rains a lot more, we have animals like bears that love honey,” she says. “But I’d be very interested in sharing my research with anyone with experience in Asia to see whether it could work there.

Read more on this story at BBC News – Elephant and bee researcher nets green prize.

View photos and videos of African elephants on ARKive.

View photos and videos of bee species on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 23

With their large mouths, protruding eyes and catchy musical numbers, Jim Henson’s Muppets are instantly recognizable. Fans of the famous puppets are in luck as the gang returns to the silver screen for the first time in over a decade. Released today in the US, the band of mismatched characters reunites to save their old Muppet theatre from the hands of a greedy oil tycoon.

With old favourites such as Fozzie Bear and Kermit the Frog set to leap back on to the big screen, we thought we would pull back the curtains on the ARKive stage to see what Muppets are waiting in the limelight…

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy

Although an unlikely pairing in the wild, there is a no more recognisable puppet pair than Miss Piggy, the ultimate Diva and Kermit the Frog, the leader of the Muppet tribe. Like loveable Kermie, the green and golden bell frog has bright pea-green colouration but is less likely to be heard singing “Bein’ green” around the edges of its swamp-like home as its call is more likened to the sound of a motorbike changing gears!

        Green and golden bell frog photo       Wild boar photo

Fozzie Bear

While this Alaskan brown bear, one of the largest carnivores on earth, might not say “Wocka Wocka Wocka,” it definitely looks like a relative of the hat-donning Muppet Fozzie Bear.

Brown bear, side view, Alaskan population

Rizzo the Rat

Rizzo is a streetwise New Jersey rat and a self-proclaimed acrophobic, as he hates heights and particularly jumping from them. In the wild however, his relative, the brown rat, a supreme generalist, typically moves around the ground but is also an expert jumper, climber and swimmer. Perhaps that is why Rizzo opted for a stint as a hotel bellboy rather than life on the streets.

 Brown rat photo

Rowlf the Dog

Nobody knows what type of dog Rowlf is, but this rather scruffy raccoon dog with its black nose and large ears looks like it could be a distant relative. Though I’m not sure it’s skills on the piano would quite match up to those of the Muppets resident pianist.

Raccoon dog photo

Sam the Eagle

The bald eagle is instantly recognizable as a symbol of patriotism in the United States. Sam the Eagle may not look exactly like a bald eagle but he is patriotic nonetheless!

Bald eagle photo

Pepe the King Prawn

Even though Pepe claims to be “King Prawn”, he looks an awful lot like a regular old common prawn to me!

Common prawn

Can you think of any other Muppets hiding in the ARKive collection? If so, why not let us know?

Tatiana Petrone, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Nov 23

Survival logo

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing Survival character

Name: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)


Status – Endangered (EN)

Wingspan – Up to 28 centimetres

Interesting Fact:

An enormous wingspan of up to 28 centimetres earns this magnificently vibrant insect the title of being the world’s biggest butterfly. Highly specialised, it feeds and reproduces on a single species of toxic vine, making the caterpillars distasteful to predators, and if consumed can cause severe vomiting.

Where am I found?

Found only in the lowland rainforests of northern Papua New Guinea, east of the Owen Stanley Mountains, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing has an extremely small range.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

What do I eat?

Both the adult butterfly and the caterpillar feed only from the vine species Aristolochia schlechteri.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

How do I live?

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing lays a single egg on the underside of one of the vine leaves and after 11 to 13 days the caterpillar hatches and eats almost constantly, growing rapidly. The vine contains a toxic substance which, although not poisonous to the caterpillar, makes it distasteful to potential predators, and may cause severe vomiting.

The caterpillar’s rapid growth is accompanied by six moults, in which the caterpillar grows new skin and sheds the former, before forming a chrysalis, in which metamorphosis takes place over a period of 40 to 45 days.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

Why am I threatened?

As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is extremely attractive to collectors. Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has been severely over harvested.

However, the greatest threat to Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the loss of its lowland rainforest habitat. Historically, forests were cleared for farming and logging, and a vast area was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Lamingtonin 1951. Today, the main cause of forest loss is the expansion of the palm oil industry, and the development of rubber and cocoa plantations.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

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