Jan 12
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Endangered Species of the Week: Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog

Photo of a captive Rabb's fringe-limbed treefrog

Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum)

Species: Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog was first discovered in 2005 and only formally described as a new species in 2008.

Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog is known only from forest habitats in a small area of central Panama. This large frog has substantial webbing on its hands and feet, large discs at the ends of its fingers and toes, and fringes of skin along the outer margins of its forearms and feet. Remarkably, Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog is able to leap from the forest canopy and use its outstretched limbs and webbing to glide safely to the ground. This species is active at night and feeds on a variety of insects. Male Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrogs call to defend water-filled tree holes, where the females come to lay their eggs. The male then guards the eggs and tadpoles, and is even thought to let the tadpoles feed on flecks of his skin.

Sadly, since the discovery of Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog, the arrival of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis is believed to have driven the species to extinction in the wild. Attempts to collect individuals for captive breeding have been unsuccessful, and a single remaining Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is now believed to be the very last of its kind.

Find out more about Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog at Zoo Atlanta.

See more images Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jan 11
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Going Green for 2013

The festive season has come to an end, and everyone is looking forward to the year ahead, pledging to make a new start by introducing positive changes in their lives. But does this include making green resolutions for the New Year to contribute towards saving the environment? We put the question to our Twitter followers and Facebook fans, and had a chat with some of the Wildscreen gang to see what eco-friendly resolutions are being adopted this year and who is going green for 2013.

 

Home is where the artichoke is…

Our green-fingered Online Outreach Manager, Ellie Denney, has resolved to grow more fresh vegetables herself, thereby cutting back on packaging waste and reducing carbon emissions from the transport of non-local goods. By cultivating carrots, looking after legumes and tending to tomatoes, Ellie will be able to help conserve the environment and have tasty, nutritious produce to show for her efforts, all while saving money…bonus!

In the natural world, fungus-loving leaf-cutter ants are also all about producing their own food. These clever critters grow a patch of nutritious fungus using a specially prepared mulch, which is cultivated using leaf segments that the ants dutifully collect and carry back to their garden.

Leaf-cutter ant image

Leaf-cutter ants are often considered to be nature’s gardeners

Facebook friend Shauna Howerton is also aware of the environmental problems related to excessive packaging and, although sometimes a challenging task, is trying to make better consumer choices to reduce her footprint.

I am also trying to be conscious of where the products I purchase have been manufactured and how far they travel,” said Shauna. It is very difficult to do!” Keep up the good work!


Energy efficiency and wearing woollies

Our Wildscreen Festival and Events Assistant, Becky Moran, is woolly-wise when it comes to saving energy, and has resolved to simply add an extra layer when things get chilly!

My resolution is to be more aware of the energy I’m using. When it’s cold, it’s too easy to spend an extra few minutes in the hot shower or turn the heating on…but this wastes energy, so instead I shall be reaching for that new Christmas jumper!

Meerkat image

This meerkat has opted for warming itself up on the hot African ground, rather than turning the radiator up

Emperor penguin chick image

Group hug! These emperor penguin chicks are huddling together to keep warm during a snowstorm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great resolution, Becky! We look forward to seeing you donning some wintery woollies in the Wildscreen office, in the form of January jumpers and February fleeces!

 

Ditch the car, unless for afar

This year, Charlotte Geeves, our Wildscreen Festival and Events Manager, has decided to kick her driving habits to the kerb. She realised just how easy it is to hop into the car and pop a short distance along the road, when in reality the journey was quite walkable. Charlotte will be setting a distance limit for when she can justify using her car, and endeavour to walk or use public transport for any journeys that fall within her set boundary. Good idea, Charlotte!

If we consider the epic journeys carried out by many wildlife species, which all seem to manage quite well without cars, can we really complain about walking an extra few minutes each day?! The humpback whale manages to complete the longest migration of any mammal, swimming from the polar regions to the tropics and back every year, so why can’t we go the extra mile to help the environment?! Let’s ditch diesel and part with petrol, and get those locomotive limbs pumping!

Humpback whale image

The humpback whale completes a round-trip of up to 20,000km each year

Wild boar image

This wild boar will be delighted with Diana’s pork-related resolution!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our loyal Twitter followers Diana Winslow (@Cultiv8hope) has also vowed to reduce her carbon footprint by cycling or catching the bus to work, or by car sharing with other like-minded green folk. Diana will also be tackling her trash by resolving to improve her recycling methods, and will start the New Year by attempting to eat less pork, a meat whose production is thought to contribute to higher carbon emissions than chicken or turkey.

 

Alter your attitude towards attire!

Tweet-tacular Carolyn Hair, our Online Marketing Officer, has decided to make 2013 a year in which she buys fewer clothes, and switches to purchasing classic or vintage gear when in need of an alteration in apparel.

I’m going to make some room in my bulging clothes cupboard in 2013 by making more ethical shopping choices. A recent study by WRAP showed that by using clothes just nine months longer we can reduce water, carbon and waste emissions by 20-30%,” said Carolyn. “It makes more green fashion sense to use what I’ve already bought, get my sewing machine out to ‘make do and mend’,  and buy vintage rather than fast fashion. I might even have a swishing party!”

A swishing party?! Sounds intriguing! Let’s hope we’re all invited!

These Arctic foxes appear to have adopted Carolyn’s resolution and taken it to the extreme, only sporting two different outfits throughout the year! Arctic foxes are best known for their lush, white winter coat, but in the summer this dense, pristine coat turns brown and is only half as thick. These foxes don’t have to waste hours deciding what to wear, and still look fabulous!

Arctic fox image

Arctic fox in summer coat

Arctic fox image

Arctic fox in winter coat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Stay connected and spread the word!

In today’s society, with technology everywhere we turn, it can be very easy to forget to take time out to reflect and to reconnect with nature. Facebook friend Marie Bax has recently discovered the joys of wildlife in her own garden, with a new glass-roof conservatory enabling her to watch bats from the comfort of her own home. The fascinating flying furries have reignited Marie’s passion for nature, and she has promised to keep a watchful eye on her pet cat, who by all accounts is a rather fine hunter…!

Pallid bat image

Pallid bat in flight

Marie has also resolved to spread the word about the wonders of nature and the need for conservation, something which documentary filmmaker and radio presenter Samanta Norbury-Webster (@CoreGeographic) will also be doing more of in 2013.

My New Year’s green resolution is to keep my environment blog up-to-date with a monthly, self-shot video podcast on the local area,” said Samanta.

Arctic ground squirrel image

What is this Arctic ground squirrel shouting about?!

This Arctic ground squirrel certainly seems to be making a lot of noise about something…let’s hope it’s joining Marie and Samanta in spreading the conservation message!

 

Recycle for rainforests and take action for trees!

Sandy LAvv on Facebook has chosen a rather ambitious yet extremely noble New Year’s resolution: to stop deforestation around the globe. While it is sadly impossible for any one of us to individually put a direct halt to the destruction of the world’s forests, there are certainly plenty of actions each one of us can take to stem the tide of habitat loss. This includes buying recycled paper, toilet roll and kitchen roll, as well as recycling these items when disposing of them. Making informed consumer choices on various products to ensure that the ingredients have been sustainably harvested without leading to additional habitat loss can be difficult, but could make a huge difference to our forests and the species that call them home.

Brazil nut tree image

Brazil nut trees left standing amid deforestation

Have you made any green resolutions this year? Or perhaps you’ve been inspired to adopt one of the resolutions above? Let us know by commenting below!

For more great ideas on going green for 2013, why not check out The Daily Green.

Enhance your commitment to nature with a regular gift to Wildscreen, the charity behind ARKive. Educate others about the wildlife you love.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author, and Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

Jan 10
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In the News: South Georgia to cull invasive reindeer

Invasive reindeer are to be eradicated from South Georgia in an attempt to save the unique environment of this sub-Antarctic island.

Reindeer are normally found in the Arctic

As well as being home to 3,000 reindeer, the island of South Georgia has many endemic species of fauna and flora that evolved in the absence of grazing pressures. These species are now struggling to survive in the reindeer’s overbearing presence, and the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands has announced plans to eradicate the population in an effort to save the island’s unique species.

Habitat destruction

Reindeer were first introduced to South Georgia by the Norwegians in the 1900s to provide fresh meat on whaling missions in Antarctica. The population was originally managed by regular hunting, but when whaling stations were shut down in the 1960s, all hunting ceased.

Since then, the reindeer population has increased dramatically to a point where the island’s flora and fauna can no longer cope. Reindeer trample the indigenous plants, threaten king penguins and other local birds by destroying their nests and habitat, and cause substantial soil erosion.

King penguins are just one of the species threatened by the presence of reindeer

The reindeer herd is currently restricted by glaciers to the only suitable grazing habitat, which is also the most biologically productive. However, the impending threat of climate change and glacial recession will serve to increase the damage caused by opening up access to the rest of the island.

The government has decided to eradicate the reindeer population on South Georgia on the grounds of responsible environmental management practices.

Reindeer are grazing on the most biologically productive parts of the island

Island restoration

The reindeer cull will be led by the Norwegian Sami herdsmen whose expertise will ensure the programme goes smoothly, and it is estimated that it will take place over two summers. Meat from the cull will not go to waste and will be sold on the Falkland Islands, since South Georgia has no permanent resident population.

The Sami herdsmen are experienced in handling reindeer

Scientists hope that this, alongside a rat eradication programme currently in progress, will restore the island of South Georgia by allowing native plant species and bird populations to recover. Two native bird species which scientists hope will benefit from the removal of rats and reindeer are the South Georgia pipit and the South Georgia pintail, a subspecies of the yellow-billed pintail.

The endemic South Georgia pintail will benefit from the eradication of rats and reindeer

 

Read more on this story at BBC News – South Georgia prepares to cull its invasive reindeer.

Find out more about the invasive reindeer population from the IUCN Species Survival Commission Invasive Species Specialist Group newsletter.

View photos and videos of reindeer on ARKive.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Jan 9
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In the News: West African lions nearing extinction

The African lion may be perilously close to extinction in some parts of Africa, according to a new report.

Photo of young male African lion with cub

The report, by conservation group LionAid, says that as few as 645 lions may now remain in the wild in western and central Africa, following a worrying decline in recent years. This decline has been mirrored across Africa, with estimates suggesting that only around 15,000 wild lions remain across the whole continent, compared to about 200,000 a few decades ago. This iconic species is now extinct in 25 African countries, and virtually extinct in another 10.

There has been a catastrophic decline in the populations of lions in Africa, and particularly west Africa,” said Dr Pieter Kat, LionAid Trustee. “These lions have been neglected for a very long time and do not have adequate protection programmes. They are in real danger of extinction.”

Lions under threat

The report follows a series of studies that have raised concern about the future of African lions. In one study, researchers found that about three-quarters of Africa’s savanna habitats had disappeared over the last fifty years, and used this information to estimate the number of remaining lions, which they put at around 32,000. LionAid suggests that the real number of lions left in the wild is actually far lower, although calculating the species’ exact population size is difficult.

Photo of African lionesses and cubs drinking at water hole

We put the figure… at around 25,000 lions, but whether you use these figures, the LionAid report or the Duke study, there is common agreement among everyone involved in conservation of African lions that the situation is extremely serious,” said Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation.

West African challenges

The LionAid report says that West Africa faces particular conservation challenges, due to a mixture of poverty, lack of political interest in conservation, and an underdeveloped wildlife tourism industry. In Nigeria, for example, the lion is declining fast, with only around 34 individuals remaining, down from 44 in 2009.

Even though the national parks in West Africa contain very distinct and very important fauna compared to eastern Africa, people tend to ignore that West Africa is a very special place,” said Dr Kat. “As a result the populations in West Africa are declining so quickly, as a biologist I would say that in a country like Nigeria, which has only 34 lions left, they are already extinct. It’s almost impossible to build up a population from such a small number.”

Photo of African lions on lookout

Trophies and culture

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that it would look at whether lions should be legally protected under the Endangered Species Act, with U.S. trophy hunting being blamed as a factor in the lion’s decline. However, conservationists say that powerful pro-hunting lobbies are frustrating efforts to impose stricter regulations on the trade in this magnificent big cat.

According to Sarel van der Merwe, Chair of the African Lion Working Group, “In central to west Africa, lion numbers are too low to allow any means of negative impact on the populations and hunting should be prohibited, as should any form of killing, irrespective whether a few lions may be habitual livestock killers. Otherwise, we may well lose the lion as a species.”

Photo of two African lions

Lions are important in the culture of many African nations, and more still needs to be done to protect this iconic cat.

When you look at a lot of the African countries, what you see is that lions feature on their coats of arms, their flags, and are part of their culture, yet as a species they are not being protected,” said Dr Kat. “What Africans involved in conservation keep telling me is that we are letting a huge amount of African history and culture that is important in national heritage of African countries just slowly disappear.”

 

Read more on this story at The Guardian – West African lions on verge of extinction, report says.

Find out more about the work of LionAid.

View photos and videos of lions on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jan 9
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In the News: Entire elephant family killed for ivory in Kenya

Poachers have slaughtered an entire family of elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park in an attack which has resulted in the country’s worst single loss of animals on record.

African elephant image

One of the world’s most iconic species, the African elephant is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Family fatality

The family of elephants, consisting of 11 adults and a young calf, were gunned down in a shower of bullets in a remote corner of Kenya’s largest wildlife reserve before having their tusks removed. This attack is the most recent in a string of elephant killings in Kenya which has seen the number of animals poached for their ivory double in less than two years, from 178 in 2010 to an estimated 360 in 2012.

This sudden surge in the slaughter of African elephants has been widely attributed to the rising demand for ivory in China and other Asian countries, where ivory trinkets are often viewed as a marker of wealth. While foot, vehicle and air patrols have all been deployed to catch the perpetrators of this latest attack, it is feared that the well-armed poachers may have already escaped with their haul of ivory, which could fetch up to £175,000 on the Asian market.

Every possible resource is being deployed to track down the criminals who carried out this heinous act,” said Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service. “We’ve not seen such an incident in living memory, it’s the worst single loss that we have on record. It’s unimaginable.”

African elephant ivory image

Large bonfire of confiscated African elephant ivory

The ivory trade

However much ivory is provided to the market, the appetite in Asian countries is insatiable and the criminals know that, and they will go to great lengths to find the tusks,” said Mr Udoto. “Africa has half a million elephants left, all together they would not be enough to satisfy the demand that has arisen.”

The next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the international body regulating the trade in threatened wildlife, is to be held in Thailand in March, when several African countries will lobby for permission to sell stockpiled ivory and use the revenue raised to fund conservation projects. However, many conservationists argue that permission given by CITES for a large amount of South African, Namibian and Botswanan ivory to be sold to Japan in a one-off deal in 2006 was the root cause of a resurgence in the demand for ivory.

African elephant image

African elephants playfighting

Further casualties

Africa’s majestic elephants are not the only species being targeted by poachers, with 633 rhinos also having been killed in South Africa last year alone. As a prized material for ornamental use and a valued ingredient in some traditional Asian medicines, a single rhino horn can fetch up to $12,000, which is a fortune in countries such as Kenya where much of the human population earns less than a dollar a day.

The resurgence of poaching is a tragedy and one of the biggest reasons is that we’re now talking about our last herds,” said William Kimosop, chief warden at a reserve in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.

Fighting back

In response to the continued increase in rhino poaching, Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is employing new and inventive methods to protect its wildlife. Home to four of the world’s seven northern white rhinos, Ol Pejeta has worked hard to ensure the safety of its animals, and is now turning to technology in the fight against poachers.

In the past, each rhino has been assigned its own round-the-clock armed guard to protect it. However, the Conservancy will now be deploying commercial aerial drones – similar to those used by the military to identify terrorist targets – to track rhinos across the reserve and give rapid warning of any unwanted human encroachment in the area, day and night.

These high-tech guards have been specially adapted to deploy high resolution cameras, as well as infra-red thermal imaging for use in night operations, and it is expected that the drone could cover a 10,000 acre area in a single flight. These electric-powered drones will cover the reserve far more effectively than a team of staff on the ground, and will enable armed wardens to be dispatched quickly if an animal is at risk.

It’s really difficult to fully track animals or poachers across such a huge area even with 160 rangers – it’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Rob Breare, who works on strategy and innovation for the Conservancy. “We believe that a drone will be a significant deterrent to poachers, but it will also enable us to quickly send a highly-trained response team to an identified location if it reveals a threat.”

Northern white rhino image

A northern white rhino, only seven of which remain in the world

Aerial Rangers

Each drone, dubbed ‘Aerial Rangers’ by Conservancy staff, will cost $50,000 and have a wingspan of around 10 feet. Launched by a simple catapult, a drone will be able to fly over the reserve and stream live images back to base camp using an on-board GPS system to pinpoint exact locations. In future, the reserve plans to attach radio transmitters to each rhino, enabling the drone to identify and observe individual animals.

The Conservancy team has high hopes for these new flying guards, and is aiming to launch the first of several drones by March before expanding the fleet to neighbouring reserves. As well as being more efficient than a ground team, it is thought that the drones will be almost impossible for poachers to outwit.

Not only will drones provide better surveillance of remote areas, but they will be difficult for poaching gangs to target,” said Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta. “Eventually we feel that drones will assist conservationists to provide the sophisticated range of deterrents needed to protect wildlife not just across Africa but in many other parts of the world.”

 

Read more on these stories at The Telegraph – Kenya suffers worst single loss of elephants as poachers kill 12 and The Telegraph – Aerial drones to be thrown into fight to save Africa’s White Rhinos.

Learn more about efforts to monitor wildlife trade at TRAFFIC.

Find out more about African elephants and white rhinos on ARKive.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

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