Dec 17

Here at ARKive, we are in a truly unique position in that we get to work with the world’s very best wildlife and environmental filmmakers and photographers. At this year’s Wildphotos we had the chance to catch up with a few of our most famous and respected ARKive media donors to learn what inspires them to do what they do and discover the stories behind their awe-inspiring images.

Last time we heard from esteemed photographers Tui De Roy and Patricio Robles Gil. Now discover what (or who) inspired three more of the world’s best wildlife photographers to pick up a camera and start taking photographs of the natural world.

Charlie Hamilton James

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

“I’ve been obsessed with kingfishers since I was a kid. I took up photography as a way of channelling that obsession. I then became very passionate about all forms of image making becoming a cameraman and photographer. Ultimately though it was the idea of spending a life watching animals in incredible places that inspired me.”

See all of Charlie Hamilton James’s images on ARKive.

Mark Hamblin

Tawny owl (Strix aluco) photo

Tawny owl (Strix aluco)

“My passion for wildlife began 35 years ago, when, aged 11 I started birdwatching with my father around our home in Warwickshire. I have been captivated by wildlife and wild places ever since. I first began photographing as a way of recording some of the species I was seeing but this quickly became my main interest after being enthralled by the more intimate experience of watching birds, and later other wildlife, at such close quarters from photographic hides.”

See all of Mark Hamblin’s images on ARKive.

Laurie Campbell

Common otter (Lutra lutra)

Common otter (Lutra lutra)

“Having been fascinated by the natural world from a very young age, it wasn’t until my early teens that I first picked up a camera to document what I had taken the trouble to see whilst out exploring the countryside close to home. This was primarily to share with my family and friends. The thought of making a career out of it came later, but I was very determined.”

See all of Laurie Campbell’s images displayed on ARKive.

Dec 15
Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) photo

Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer)

Species: Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Once found in much of the Yangtze river, an intensive search in 2006 yielded no results and this species may now be extinct.

The baiji is probably the rarest cetacean in existence. This river dolphin is shy and graceful. Roughly the size of a human, this pale dolphin has become the source of legends and has been named the “Goddess of the Yangtze”. Mostly active during the night, these dolphins tend to live in small groups of three to four and feed on a wide range of freshwater fish. Like other river dolphins inhabiting muddy waters, the baiji has tiny, barely functional eyes and hunts by echolocation.

The Yangtze River is one of the world’s busiest waterways and, with over 400 million people living within the river’s catchment area, is under huge pressure from humans. Getting caught as by-catch is a big problem and fishing methods using electricity kill dolphins. Pollution, boat traffic and dam construction also contributed to this species decline. Sadly, the baiji may be the first dolphin to become extinct in modern times as a result of human activities.

Find out more information on the baiji on the Edge of Existence website.

See images and rare footage of the baiji on ARKive.

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher

Dec 14

As a general rule the animals on ARKive don’t wear jumpers, but to mark the launch of Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day today, we thought we would highlight a few species that could perhaps do with one.! We’ve also unearthed a plant that surprisingly seems to take part in Christmas Jumper Day all year round…

Hairless babies

Dormouse photo

Hang on in there dormouse, not long until you can hibernate!

As a small mammal living in a temperate climate, one of the main challenges the common dormouse faces in life is maintaining its body temperature. An adult dormouse has to hibernate for up to seven months of the year to survive the colder months so it can’t be too much fun for a hairless newborn. Fortunately a cosy nest will protect the baby dormice which spend the first ten weeks of their life with their mother.

Photo of common dormice
I hope that nest can keep them warm…

Hairless adults

If there was a competition for the animal most in need of a new wardrobe, the award would probably go to the naked mole rat every time. The naked mole rat controls its body temperature by moving to different parts of its burrow according to the temperature, with the tunnels closer to the surface being warmer. It is just as well as it may take more than a Christmas jumper for this tunnel dweller to be considered ‘cute’.

Naked mole rat photo

I don't know if red and green are your colours...

Cold and wet

In addition to being entirely absent of hair, the wood frog also has to make do with moist skin on top of that. Yet the wood frog can be found as far north as Alaska, so it must be doing something right when faced with cold conditions. Amazingly the wood frog can survive being partially frozen many times over the winter due to the special chemicals in its blood. Even so I reckon a nice warm jumper would not go a miss.

Photo of a wood frog

Personally I find it easier just to put another layer...

Early (feather) baldness

Feathers are an essential insulator  for the many bird species living in cold climates. Magellanic penguin chicks are left unattended for days while the adults go off to forage and so depend on their first layer of feathers to keep out the cold. Sadly the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported large numbers of chick have succumbed to a feather-loss disorder, resulting in these bald babies gaining weight at a slower rate than their feathered fellows.

Magellanic penguin chick

Fortunately this chick has a nice thick layer of feathers

An exception – the plant with a pre-made jumper

Woolly willow

Woolly willow on a cold day

It’s not just the name of the woolly willow that’s in line with the idea of a nice warm Christmas jumper, the coat of hairs on each leaf also add a furry touch to this shrubby willow.

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher

Dec 12

The illegal trade in wildlife is not only driving many endangered species to extinction, but is also posing a threat to national security, according to a new report.

Photo of a large bonfire of confiscated African elephant ivory

Confiscated African elephant ivory being burned

The report, commissioned by WWF and entitled ‘Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking: A Consultation with Governments’, estimates that illicit trade in wildlife is worth at least US$ 19 billion a year. This makes it the largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

This trade not only poses a threat to wildlife, but also strengthens criminal networks, undermines national security, and threatens ecosystems and global health by increasing the potential for disease transmission and the spread of invasive species.

Photo of Bengal tiger, posterior view

Poaching, particularly for the traditional medicine trade, is one of the main threats to the tiger

Wildlife crime has escalated alarmingly in the past decade,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. “It is driven by global crime syndicates, and so we need a concentrated global response.”

He added that, “It is communities, often the world’s poorest, that lose the most from this illicit trade, while criminal gangs and corrupt officials profit. Frontline rangers are losing their lives and families that depend on natural resources are losing their livelihoods.”

Criminal networks

According to the report, around 100 million tonnes of fish, 1.5 million live birds and 440,000 tonnes of medicinal plants are traded illegally each year. An estimated 30,000 elephants a year are being slaughtered for their tusks, while the number of rhinos poached in South Africa between 2007 and 2011 rose by 3,000% and the price of rhino horn has risen to a staggering US$ 60,000 per kilogram.

Photo of southern white rhinoceros eating grass

The white rhino, under threat from a soaring demand for its horns

Unfortunately, current efforts to stop this illegal trafficking are woefully inadequate, and much of the trade is being run by powerful and sophisticated criminal networks with a broad international reach. The profits are being used to purchase weapons, fund civil conflicts and finance terrorist-related activities, putting national security and government stability at risk.

An example of this was seen earlier this year, when rebel groups from Chad and Sudan entered northern Cameroon and slaughtered 450 elephants for the purpose of selling their ivory to buy weapons for local conflicts.

High profits, low risk

The report says that criminal groups perceive the illegal trade as being low risk due to the absence of effective law enforcement, prosecution or other penalties. Consumer demand is also rising with the increasing ease of buying illegal wildlife products over the internet, and the potential profits for criminals can be very high.

The demand for illegal wildlife products has risen in step with economic growth in consumer countries, and with the ‘easy money’ and high profits to be made from trafficking, organized criminals have seized the opportunity to profit,” said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Photo of dead, illegally traded green turtle

Illegally traded green turtles

Although the illegal wildlife trade is often seen by governments as an exclusively environmental problem, conservationists argue that it needs to be treated as a matter of national urgency.

Last month, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, upgraded wildlife trafficking from a conservation issue to a national security threat. “It is one thing to be worried about the traditional poachers who come in and kill and take a few animals, a few tusks, a few horns, or other animal parts,” she said. “It’s something else when you’ve got helicopters, night vision goggles, automatic weapons, which pose a threat to human life as well as wildlife.”

Cooperation and accountability

The WWF report says that a systematic approach is needed to fight the illicit trade in wildlife. As well as greater international cooperation, more resources are needed, together with a tougher response from authorities, and the use of modern intelligence and investigative techniques to identify and prosecute the criminals involved. It will also be important to raise greater awareness of the issues among consumers.

Finally, countries need to be held publicly accountable for their response to the illegal trade. A number of reporting initiatives have already been set up to highlight those countries failing in their international commitments, including the WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard and Elephant Trade Information System.

Read more on this story at WWF and BBC News, and read the WWF report – Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking: A Consultation with Governments.

Find out more about wildlife crime at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Find out more about endangered species on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Dec 11

Today marks UN International Mountain Day which aims to promote the sustainable development and awareness of mountains and highlands around the world and highlighting their importance for biodiversity as well as human settlements.

Covering roughly a quarter of the world’s surface, mountains are hugely diverse in the habitat they offer, from forest, desert, grassland or permanent ice and can be some of the most volatile places on earth with volcanic eruptions, avalanches, landslides and earthquakes being frequent occurences for the species living there to contend with.

Many of ARKive’s eco-regions feature mountainous habitats, not to mention the large collection of species we have that make their living on the mountain tops of the world. To celebrate UN International Mountain Day we thought we would highlight some of our favourite mountainous eco-regions.

Western Ghats – A biodiversity hotspot

UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Western Ghats are an Indian mountain range running 1,600 kilometres across the peninsular parallel to the western coast. Though not conforming to the ‘traditional’ snow-capped mountain image of the Alps or the Rockies, the Western Ghats wins out on sheer biodiversity, hosting a phenomenal amount of plants and animals, many of which can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

Western Ghats

The undulating grasslands of the Western Ghats

At higher altitudes much of the Western Ghats are expansive grass plateaus, on which species like the Nilgiri tahr graze on. The Nilgiri tahr is also very much at home on the numerous narrow cliff ledges in the area.

Nilgiri tahr

The Nilgiri tahr in it's mountain habitat


Gutianshan National Nature Reserve – Nanling Mountains

Eastern China’s Gutianshan National Nature Reserve protects part of the ancient evergreen broadleaved forest of the Nanling Mountains. Large amounts of annual rainfall provide ideal conditions for plants to grow as well as feeding many mountain streams and tributaries that flow down the mountain.

Gutianshan National Nature Reserve

The montane forest of Gutianshan National Nature Reserve

The aptly named big-headed turtle lives in these cold and fast flowing mountain streams. As a nocturnal and aquatic reptile, it spends the day underwater and out of site either burrowed into the gravel bed or hidden in rock crevices at the stream edge and the nights foraging either in or near the stream.

Big-headed turtle photo

The big-headed turtle depends on the water streams that run off the mountain


Mediterranean Basin – Greek mountains of myth and legend

The Mediterranean Basin eco-region contains a vast amount of different habitats from coasts all the way up to mountains and everything in between. The most famous of these mountains is of course Mount Olympus: the mythical home of Greek gods. This mountain range hosts 1,700 different species of plant, 25 percent of Greece’s total. Not to mention the many roe deer, grey wolves and wild cats that can also be found there.

Mount Olympus

The limestone cliffs of Mount Olympus are packed with plant life

While not limited to habitats at high elevation, the venomous Meadow viper can be found in the European mountain pastures feeding on a wide variety of birds, mammals and invertebrates.

Meadow viper

The meadow viper on the grassy foothills of Gran Sasso d'Italia

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher


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