Sep 22

Have you ever wondered why rhinos seem to enjoy caking themselves in mud? Or pondered over what the collective noun for a group of rhinos is? Well fear not, inquisitive folk, because ARKive is here to answer your questions!

To celebrate World Rhino Day and help raise awareness for these magnificent mammals, we’ve gathered together some awesome images and fascinating facts about the five (yes, five!) different species of rhino for you to enjoy.

I’m a sensitive soul…

Black rhino image

Black rhino wallowing

Despite their tough-guy appearance, rhinos actually have quite sensitive skin. By wallowing in mud and allowing it to dry, rhinos are essentially covering themselves in a protective layer which acts as a barrier to biting insects and the sun’s harmful rays. I’m all for environmentally friendly products, but I’m not sure I’ll be trying this particular natural sun-screen method myself next summer…!

High-speed horn

Northern white rhino image

Northern white rhino running

They may look chunky and unable to move at more than a slow trot, but don’t be fooled! Black rhinos can run at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour, and can change direction rapidly. However, this species is definitely more of a sprinter than a marathon contestant, and can only run at this speed in short bursts.

Pucker up!

Black rhino image

The black rhino has a pointy, prehensile upper lip

One of the easiest ways to tell black and white rhinos apart is by checking out the shape of their lips. As browsers, black rhinos have a pointy, prehensile upper lip to pluck fruits and leaves from trees, whereas the square-lipped white rhinos are grazers, acting much like giant lawnmowers as they plod through the grassy savannah.

Can we have an ‘awww’?!

Southern white rhino image

Young southern white rhino

Baby rhinos are cute! OK, this may not technically count as a top fact, but I still think it’s accurate! White rhino pregnancies last for a whopping 16 months, and the calf drinks its mother’s milk for 1 to 2 years.

Military mammal?!

Indian rhino image

Indian rhinos have a somewhat armour-plated appearance

The Indian rhino has an armour-like appearance, due to the ‘plates’ of skin that cover its body. Indian rhinos often play host to avian hitchhikers, with various species of ‘tick birds’ riding on their backs. These birds are thought to feed on parasites found between the lumpy folds of the rhino’s skin.

Crash, bang…wallow?!

Souther white rhino image

A group of rhinos is known, rather appropriately, as a 'crash'

The collective noun for a group of rhinos is (drum roll, please!)…a crash! Need we say more?!

A rhino-saur…

Javane rhino image

A secretive Javan rhino

The prehistoric-looking Javan rhino is thought to be one of the most endangered rhino species of all. In fact, the Vietnamese Javan rhino, a subspecies of the Javan rhino, was driven to extinction in 2010.

The furry one

Sumatran rhino image

The Sumatran rhino is covered in reddish-brown hair

The Sumatran rhino is the only Asian rhino species to have two horns. This fact gave it its genus name Dicerorhinus, which comes from the Latin words for two (di), horn (ceros) and nose (rhinos). This species is also rather distinctive in that it is covered in reddish-brown hair. Despite being big and bulky, the Sumatran rhino is surprisingly agile, and is a decent swimmer.

Blind as a…rhino??

White rhino image

Rhinos have poor eyesight

Rhinos may have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell, but they have very poor eyesight, and white rhinos are only able to see up to a distance of about 20 metres or so.

Help for the horned ones

Southern white rhino image

Southern white rhino

Rhino horns grow as much as 8 centimetres a year, and have been known to grow up to an incredible 1.5 metres! Sadly, rhinos are often poached for these horns, which are believed by some cultures to have medicinal properties. However, there is no scientific evidence for this, and in actual fact rhino horn is made of keratin, the same substance found in our own hair and nails. All five rhino species are threatened with extinction, and urgent action is needed if these magnificent creatures are to survive for future generations to admire.

Get involved

For more information about World Rhino Day, and events and activities in your area, visit the World Rhino Day website.

To learn more about rhinos and their conservation, visit the International Rhino Foundation.

To find out more about the rhino crisis, visit Saving Rhinos.

And finally, don’t forget to check out our rhino conservation board on Pinterest.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Sep 19

A new law aimed at protecting one of Bolivia’s most unique mammal species, the Bolivian pink dolphin, has been enacted by the country’s President Evo Morales.

Boto image

Bolivian pink dolphins are widely considered to be a subspecies of the boto

Pink protection

The Bolivian pink dolphin, an odd-looking animal widely considered to be a subspecies of the boto, will now benefit from new legislation which declares it to be a national treasure, and which completely bans fishing of the species. During a ceremony held along the shores of the Ibare River, Bolivian President Morales called upon the country’s armed forces to protect the pink dolphin’s threatened habitat.

Boto pair image

The boto is classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List

Data Deficient dolphin

The boto is currently listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to the fact that there is little available information on its ecology and population numbers. It is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in the species should be carefully monitored and regulated.

Boto image

Boto emerging from water

Threats

Local people previously associated botos with bad spirits, which may have played a part in protecting them from persecution, but this unusual dolphin species is currently facing several threats.

Continued development of the Amazon’s river systems and the leaching of mercury from illegal gold mines into the Bolivian pink dolphin’s freshwater habitat are of particular concern. As well as being caught accidentally as bycatch or injured by fishing boats, the Bolivian pink dolphin is known to be deliberately caught and used as bait, and as fish stocks become more and more depleted, local fishermen may view the species as competition.

It is hoped that the new law will go someway to securing a future for the unique and charismatic Bolivian pink dolphin.

 

Read more on this story at BBC – Bolivia enacts law to protect Amazon pink dolphins.

Find out more about botos on ARKive.

Visit the IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group website to find out more about the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Sep 16

Saturday was International Red Panda Day, a day designed to raise awareness about the plight of the red panda as well as a chance to raise funds to support the operation of a new community conservation centre in Nepal. For those of you unfamiliar with this curious and charismatic creature, fear not, as the ARKive team have rustled up their favourite red panda facts to give you the lowdown.

Quick Facts

  • The red panda is the original panda, having been discovered 48 years before the giant panda.
  • Red pandas are found in Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar and Nepal.
  • There are two subspecies of red panda; Ailurus fulgens styani and the smaller, lighter Ailurus fulgens fulgens.
  • Red pandas produce a number of vocalisations, the strangest of which is a ‘quack-snort’.

Is it a cat, is it a bear, is it a fox..?

Photo of red panda Photo of Northern raccoon

Actually, the red panda is thought to be most closely related to species in the racoon family. The classification of the red panda has caused continued controversy since it was first described in 1825. While its scientific name means ‘fire-coloured cat’, and it shares similarities with both bears and racoons, today it is placed with the racoons but in its own separate subfamily, the Ailurinae. Interestingly, the Chinese name for the red panda is “hunho”, which translates into English as “firefox”, hence the famous logo of Mozilla’s web browser.

Dexterous Digits

Red panda photo

Like the giant panda, red pandas posses a modified wrist bone that acts as a sixth digit or thumb which is used for grabbing bamboo. While technically classified as a carnivore, red pandas actually feed almost exclusively on bamboo, although roots, fruit, eggs and small animals are sometimes eaten too. They have semi-retractable claws, which allow them to be efficient climbers and when not foraging, pandas are usually found in the trees.

Cute Cubs

Red panda cub photo

Red pandas are ready to breed at around 18 months old. After a relatively long gestation period for their body size (roughly 135 days) red pandas usually give birth to two young in a hollow tree. The young, known as cubs, are born blind and helpless, opening their eyes after 18 days.

A species under threat

Red panda photo

Sadly, red pandas are a species under threat, currently classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The most serious threat they face is habitat loss, as throughout their range forests have been cleared for timber extraction, agriculture and development. Their lustrous coats also make them a target for hunters, and hats made from their pelts were traditionally given to newlyweds in Yunnan as they were thought to symbolise a happy marriage. In China the species is thought to have undergone a decline of around 40 percent over the last 50 years.

How can you help?

If you would like to get involved International Red Panda Day you can download an activity pack here. Kids can get involved in a whole host of fun red panda themed activities as well as becoming a “Red Panda Ranger”, a special title given to children that help spread the word about red pandas.

Make sure you check out the red panda species profile on ARKive for lots more information, images and videos.

You can also find out more about red pandas and their conservation by visiting the Red Panda Network.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

Sep 16
Lemur leaf frog (Hylomantis lemur) photo

Lemur leaf frog (Hylomantis lemur)

 

Species: Lemur leaf frog (Hylomantis lemur)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The lemur leaf frog has a remarkable ability to change colour.

The lemur leaf frog has 24 hour camouflage protection. It is mostly bright green during the day, providing perfect camouflage while resting on the underside of leaves. At nightfall this frog becomes active, and the bright green darkens to brown, maintaining its camouflage.

Unusually for an amphibian, a reflective pigment in the skin enables the lemur leaf frog to bask in sunlight for long periods without drying out. This pigment keeps the frog cool while resting, and may also provide protection against the fungal disease chytridiomycosis, as the chytrid fungus is much less infectious at higher temperatures.

The lemur leaf frog is found in the rainforests of Costa Rica, Panama and northern Colombia. Despite the lemur leaf frog’s relative resistance to chytridiomycosis, the disease is still believed to be a major threat. Habitat destruction is another pressing threat to the lemur leaf frog. A number of zoos across the world are currently part of an effort to breed the lemur leaf frog outside of its natural range and away from the threat posed by chytridiomycosis.

Find out more about the lemur leaf frog on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute website.

See images and read more about the lemur leaf frog on ARKive.

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher

Sep 13

The Scottish wildcat could become extinct in the wild within months as the number of pure-bred individuals has fallen perilously low, according to conservationists.

Photo of a Scottish wildcat resting in woodland

Generally considered to be a subspecies of the wildcat, Felis silvestris, the Scottish wildcat is under serious threat from interbreeding with domestic and feral cats, as well as from disease.

Previous estimates put the number of pure-bred wildcats at around 400, while a report from the Cairngorms Wildcat Project, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), recently estimated that just 150 breeding pairs remain.

Numbers alarmingly low

A team from the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) has now reviewed 2,000 records of camera trap sightings, eyewitness reports and road kill to assess the number of remaining pure-bred cats, based on accepted coat markings that identify a true wildcat.

Alarmingly, they found that only 1 in 100 individuals was pure-bred. Out of an estimated 3,500 wildcats and hybrids, this suggests that as few as 35 pure-bred individuals may now remain, putting the Scottish wildcat at serious risk of extinction in the near future.

Photo of Scottish wildcat kittens in den

According to Steve Piper of the Scottish Wildcat Association, “However you juggle the figures it’s hard to find anything positive. If you ignore the eyewitness sightings because they’re unreliable the numbers get even worse.”

Even if you decide the population of hybrids is larger you have to multiply it to impossible levels to get to the commonly quoted figure of 400 wildcats. The overwhelming evidence is that the wildcat is going to be extinct within months, anything else is blind hope.”

Photo of a Scottish wildcat looking out of den

Conserving the Scottish wildcat

The Scottish Wildcat Association has suggested that licensed trapping of wildcats should be allowed so that blood samples can be taken, giving scientists a better understanding of the state of the wildcat population.

It has also been suggested that pure-bred wildcats should be relocated to areas with fewer risks and where they can be better protected.

Photo of a Scottish wildcat stretching

Scottish Natural Heritage has said that the Scottish wildcat is a priority species, and the organisation is producing a new Wildcat Action Plan aimed at conserving this unique feline.

According to a spokesperson for Scottish Natural Heritage, “We agree that the evidence points to wildcat populations being in a parlous state. However, we need to be careful when drawing conclusions from sub samples and unverified records. The limited survey information available on this cryptic species provides an uncertain basis from which to state precisely how many animals may be living in the wild. This is something the action plan might seek to address.”

Read more on this story at BBC News – Scottish wildcat extinct within months, association says.

Find out more about the Scottish wildcat at the Scottish Wildcat Association.

View photos and videos of wildcats on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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