Aug 12
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Endangered Species of the Week: African penguin

African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) photo

African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Species: African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The African penguin is the only penguin species to breed on the African continent.

The African penguin is also known as the ‘jackass penguin’ due to its loud, braying call. Feeding on fish such as anchovies and sardines, African penguins are strong swimmers and can reach speeds of 20km/hour in the water. The African penguin is known to breed on 24 islands in southern Africa. Pairs return to the same site each year to breed. Both adults take turns to incubate the eggs and, following hatching, adults will guard and regurgitate food to the chicks. After 30 days the chicks are left in crèches while the adults forage.

It is estimated that the current African penguin population is just 10% of what it was at the turn of the 20th Century. These penguins are currently threatened by depleted fish stocks due to overfishing and oil spills. All of the breeding areas of the African penguin in South Africa are protected as Nature Reserves, and work to rescue oiled African penguins has been shown to be successful. Work to conserve fish stocks is crucial to protect the African penguin from extinction.

Find out more about the African penguin on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums website.

See images and videos of the African penguin on ARKive.

Aug 9
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Get outdoors with ARKive

This month the ARKive team would like to encourage everyone to get outdoors, explore their local area and discover more about the wildlife found there. Of course, we are a competitive bunch and love a good challenge, which is where the idea for species bingo came from! If you are looking for an activity to entertain the kids during the holidays, or if you fancy taking part in your own nature treasure hunt, why not give ARKive species bingo a try?

ARKive Species Bingo Thumbnail

It’s easy to get started, just download a copy of the PDF bingo sheet, which can also be found on our fun stuff page, then get outside and begin searching! You could start in your garden or a nearby park, or even visit a local nature reserve. How many species can you find?

Habitat photo

No matter where you live, we bet you’ll be surprised at the array of wildlife you can find nearby.

We’d love to hear how you get on, so don’t forget to leave a comment below or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook. Or better still, share your local wildlife photographs with us!

What are you waiting for? Get outside and get exploring!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

Aug 7
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ARKive Geographic: London, UK

As a special edition of our monthly ARKive Geographic series, to celebrate the Olympics, we decided to take a look at some of the more unexpected species that can be found around the Olympic park and in the Greater London area.

London is the UK’s largest city, but it is also home to a wide variety of fascinating wildlife. Here’s a sample of just some of the species that have made London their home.

Peregrine falcon

Image of peregrine falcon at the top of a stoop

Famous as the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon underwent serious population declines between the 1940’s and 1970’s. Due to protective legislation and the ban on organochlorine pesticides, the peregrine falcon population has recovered significantly and they have even moved into cities, using the cliff-like ledges that tall buildings provide. London has 18 known pairs nesting on famous landmarks including the Tate Modern and Houses of Parliament.  

European eel

 Image of a European eel

It’s not likely that you’ll catch sight of one of these slippery beasts during the Games, but the European eel will be present nearby in its watery home. This species has undergone a worrying decline across Europe and is now classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN. Numbers of European eels recorded crashed by 98% between 2005 and 2010, but there is still a population hanging on in the Thames. The Thames Estuary was classified as biologically dead in the 1960’s and the European eel was one of the first fish to be recorded in the area once the water quality began to improve.

Short-snouted seahorse

Image of short-snouted seahorse on seabed

Further proof of the rejuvenation of the Thames over the last 50 years is the presence of a more exotic sounding fish. In 2008 the Zoological Society London reported that short-snouted seahorse’s had been recorded several times during routine monitoring of the Thames. One location where this species has been recorded  is near Dagenham in East London – only a few miles east of the Olympic Park.

Stag beetle

Image of male stag beetle on tree trunk

The stag beetle is the UK’s largest and most spectacular beetle. London, particularly the South London boroughs of Lewisham, Croyden and Bromley, is its major stronghold. After spending around 4 years as larvae, munching on rotting wood, adult stag beetles are relatively short-lived surviving only for a matter of months. Male stag beetles wrestle using their large mandibles to decide who gets to mate with the smaller females.

Noctule bat

Noctule bat image

London is home to many species of bat including the noctule bat, one of Europe’s largest bats. The noctule bat is one of the first bats to appear in the evening, occasionally even before the sun sets and can be found in Greenwich Park and Hyde Park, both home to Olympic events this summer.

Red deer

Red deer stag and hind

 The UK’s largest native land animal, the red deer, can also be found in London. A herd can be found in Bushy Park, near the Olympic cycling time-trial event in Hampton Court Palace.

London is home to many more species that the keen-eyed will be sure to spot in London during August. Kingfishers dart along watercourses, water voles inhabit river banks, foxes stalk the streets. If you’re in London this summer and see any interesting species let us know via Twitter, Facebook or post a message in the box below.

 Eleanor Sans, ARKive Media Researcher

Aug 5
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Endangered Species of the Week: Australian ant

Australian ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)

Australian ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)

Species: Australian ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Unlike all other studied ants, there is almost no evidence of division of labour in worker Australian ants.

Also known as the dinosaur ant, the Australian ant is probably the most primitive species of ant still alive today. These ants have simpler social systems than modern ant species, and their colonies are small, with just 50 to 120 adults. Referred to as the least sociable of all ants, Australian ant workers forage alone and show no evidence of cooperative behaviour apart from living together in the nest alongside their reproductive queen.

All workers will tend the brood inside the nests and also actively hunt outside of the nest. They use their sting to stun prey such as other invertebrates. Unlike most species of ant, Nothomyrmecia workers are able to tolerate low temperatures and tend to forage after dusk when temperatures drop. This is thought to aid in hunting as other invertebrates slow in colder temperatures.

Australian ants are closely associated with eucalyptus trees and are therefore extremely reliant on these species. An underground telephone line was installed at the famous rediscovery site near Poochera, and this led to the almost complete destruction of the then only known population. Now, Australian ants are known to occur at 18 locations. There are currently no conservation measures to protect this species.

Find out more about the Australian ant on the Australian Government Website.

See photos and moving footage of the Australian ant on ARKive

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