Feb 28

The leatherback turtle is disappearing from its most important nesting sites in the western Pacific, according to a new study.

Photo of female leatherback turtle at nesting site on beach

Female leatherback turtle on nesting beach

The study found that the number of leatherback turtle nests in the Bird’s Head Peninsula of New Guinea has dropped by a staggering 78% in the last 30 years. These beaches account for three-quarters of the western Pacific’s nesting leatherback turtles, meaning this decline could have serious consequences for the future of the species in the Pacific Ocean.

Sea turtles have been around about 100 million years and survived the extinction of the dinosaurs but are struggling to survive the impact of humans,” said Thane Wibbels, one of the researchers.

Photo of fishermen with dead, captured leatherback turtle

Fishermen holding a dead, captured leatherback turtle

Leatherback threats

The leatherback turtle is the largest of the world’s turtles, and is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Like all sea turtles, this species faces a range of threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, boat strikes, harvesting of its eggs by humans, and predation of its eggs by feral dogs and pigs. In addition, the leatherback turtle also accidentally consumes plastic bags, mistaking them for its jellyfish prey.

Climate change is also a serious threat to the leatherback turtle. Rising sea levels and increasingly frequent and violent storms may erode nesting beaches and destroy nests, while changing ocean currents are likely to affect the turtle’s prey.

Photo of feral dogs digging up leatherback turtle eggs

Feral dogs are a threat to leatherback turtles, digging up and eating their eggs

The gender of leatherback turtle hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated, so warmer sand is likely to produce more females, skewing the species’ sex ratio. In addition, warmer temperatures have been known to cause abnormalities in hatchlings, and to affect the health and development of the young turtles.

In comparison to the Atlantic Ocean, where several nesting populations of leatherback turtles have increased in recent years, the status of the species in other oceans is of greater concern.

The leatherback is one of the most intriguing animals in nature, and we are watching it head towards extinction in front of our eyes,” said Wibbels.

Leatherback conservation

Conservationists have begun programmes to move leatherback turtle nests to more sheltered and shaded areas, where the eggs will be cooler, in the hope of increasing the success rate of hatchlings.

Photo of leatherback turtle hatchling

Leatherback turtle hatchlings face many perils, and very few survive to adulthood

The leatherback turtle is legally protected throughout most of its range, and a variety of other conservation measures are underway to help save this impressive marine reptile. For example, the attachment of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) to fishing nets to reduce bycatch of turtles has been recommended.

However, much still needs to be done to save this marine giant. According to the researchers, a range of conservation measures need to be implemented at nesting beaches and in national and international waters if the decline of the Pacific’s last remaining leatherback stronghold is to be reversed.

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Leatherback sea turtles suffer 78 percent decline at critical nesting sites in Pacific.

Read about our recent Twitter turtle takeover.

View photos and videos of turtles on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive text author

Feb 28

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: to protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction. Are you ready for the challenge?

Photo of Team WILD play screen

From jungle to savannah, rainforests to coral reefs, help Team WILD monitor, survey and conserve. Discover the different types of field tasks a conservation scientist or ecologist must do in order to protect the world’s species and habitats, from the replanting of native guapuruvu trees in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil to the rescue and evacuation of non-infected mountain chickens (a frog) from Montserrat, where populations are being decimated by the deadly chytrid fungus.

Test your speed, skill and determination and see whether you’ve got what it takes to join this legion of science superheroes…

The Team WILD missions…

 

 Amphibian conservation Save the mountain chicken from a deadly disease in Montserrat

A deadly fungus is destroying the world’s amphibian populations. Team WILD needs to collect uninfected mountain chickens (a frog) to breed them and ensure the survival of the species.

Captive breeding in bio-secure breeding facilities and re-introduction of the mountain chicken is the best hope for its survival.

Coral reef conservation

Conserving coral reefs in the Chagos Archipelago

Scientists need to monitor coral reefs to make sure climate change and other threats such as overfishing or sedimentation are not having a negative effect on reef health.

Join Team WILD’s elite task force of divers to help survey the health of coral reefs in the Chagos Archipelago.

Reforestation

Reforestation in the Atlantic forest, Brazil

Team WILD needs help combating deforestation in Brazil. No tropical ecosystem has suffered as much loss as the Atlantic Forest, making reforestation projects here very important.

Over 90% of the Atlantic  forest has already been destroyed, so the team must act fast to replant native tree species, such as the guapuruvu tree.

Savannah

Surveying predator-prey relationships in the African savannah

Scientists study predator-prey relationships to help understand what might cause population changes over time.

Team WILD needs you on an important mission to help determine the relationships between predators and prey in the African savannah.

 

Are you a teacher? Find out how you can use Team WILD in the classroom.

Meet Team WILD’s science superheroes…

Flora

Root

 ROOT is a true radical. A research scientist to the core, he is nature’s ultimate guardian warrior. He’s also wildly cool.

A world-leading botanist, FLORA has a bit of a wild streak.She lets nothing stand in her way when solving the murkiest of scientific mysteries.

Play Team WILD!

 

Feb 27

Everybody loves polar bears – don’t they? Today is International Polar Bear Day, a chance for us all to celebrate this magnificent species and do our bit to help them.

Polar bears on thin ice

Polar bears might look big and tough but with their arctic habitat disappearing fast, the future of the world’s largest land carnivore is in our hands. Climate change is the biggest threat facing polar bears, as they depend on sea ice for hunting and breeding grounds and as the ice retreats, they must increasingly travel longer, more challenging distances across open water.

Polar bear moving over thin ice and swimming between ice floes

Video of polar bear moving over thin ice and swimming between ice floes

We can all play a part in reducing the threats to polar bears. Today, Polar Bear International is encouraging us all to do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint. You can take part in their challenge to turn your thermostat down (or up) a few degrees (depending on where you live), lowering your carbon emissions and helping  polar bears today and everyday .

Share your love for polar bears

We’re celebrating polar bear day across all our social channels – why not join in and help us to raise the profile of polar bears.

Get creative with our caption contest!

Can you think of a witty or fun caption for this polar bear photo?

Photo of  polar bear asleep in snow

Our polar bear-loving Twitter followers have already come up with these gems:

@Podgeosaurus

“Delilah was so relaxed during her Yoga session, she didn’t notice all the other girls had left for lunch already…”

@pasikas

Yeah Baby !!! thats reeelaxed

Can you do better? Tweet your captions, post them on Facebook or email us! We’ll choose and share our favourite tomorrow!

Support

Show your support for polar bears, by joining in with our campaign to become a polar bear for the day – simply add this polar bear badge to your Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Feb 25

When Carolyn at Arkive invited me to be a guest blogger, I jumped at the opportunity to tell everyone about our exciting new campaign – Saving Big Cats and Wild Dogs.

 Saving Big Cats and Wild Dogs logo

Instinctively I started by writing down all the shocking statistics, such as: ‘as few as 3,500 snow leopards, 2,500 dholes and around 1,000 Persian leopards are left in the wild’ but then I thought – how depressing! This is the last thing people need to hear, especially as we are all recovering from a cold wet winter and looking forward to the joys of spring. So, instead I’ve decided to skip the miserable bit as much as possible and focus on the positive difference we will make to some of our top predators.

Persian leopard photo

The Persian leopard is one of the eight recognised subspecies of leopard

For the next year or so we will be raising awareness and raising money to save nine species of big cat and wild dog from extinction across the globe. I don’t have the space to tell you everything here so I’ll just focus on a couple of species for now.

Scottish wildcat

Let’s start close to home – the Scottish wildcat. Ok it isn’t officially a ‘big’ cat but it is the only native cat we have and as it is at serious risk of extinction we felt it was essential to include it in the campaign. Now confined to the highlands of Scotland it has been dubbed the Highland tiger but this cat once roamed freely throughout the UK. The biggest threat to the Scottish wildcat is hybridisation from breeding with domestic and feral cats and producing viable hybrid offspring. There is thought to be as few as 35 true wildcats left in Scotland but it is difficult to be sure because apart from being incredibly elusive, it is also very hard to tell a pure wildcat from a feral hybrid by sight alone.  In order to save our only native cat we need to know where the pure populations exist so we can put measures in place to protect them. Therefore, we are funding a project to study DNA samples and isolate the ‘wild gene’ in order to confidently identify once and for all the true wildcat.

Scottish wildcat photo

The biggest threat to Scottish wildcats is hybridisation from breeding with domestic and feral cats

Snow leopard

Further afield, in Mongolia we are concentrating our attention on the endangered snow leopard. Whilst the threat of poaching is often the most quoted reason for the snow leopards decline, it is not that clear cut. In fact one of the biggest threats comes from the conflict with local herdsmen who kill the snow leopard in retaliation to them predating on their livestock. This, in conjunction with the domestic livestock out-competing the snow leopards’ natural prey species (the ibex and argali) for grazing rights, paints a bleak future for this charismatic animal. However, all is not lost and we are funding vital work to reduce the conflict between the local herdsman and the snow leopard and also assessing the availability of natural prey species. The teams in Mongolia are making great progress and you can keep up to date with it all on our website.

Snow leopards photo

Snow leopards are able to jump as far as 15 metres!

We are also supporting work on the dhole, or Asiatic wild dogs, in Cambodia and Nepal, the lion, African leopard and African wild dog in Tanzania, Malawi and Kenya, the cheetah in South Africa, the Ethiopian wolf in Ethiopia and one of the rarest big cats, the Persian leopard in Iran. Here at People’s Trust for Endangered Species we work in partnership with other organisations and believe that conservation should be built on sound scientific evidence. We identify the problem then research possible solutions before investing in practical on-the-ground action.

East African wild dog photo

Each African wild dog has a unique coat pattern

We have put on our thinking caps at PTES and come up with some fun new ideas on how you can get involved in saving our big cats and wild dogs. You can twin your pet with one of its wild cousins or simply befriend a wild animal. If you have some spare time you could hold a claw (nail) painting party or even organise a sponsored dog walk at night – Bark at the Moon.

Kiki the cat has been twinned with a leopard, as shown by her tag. © Frankie Lees

Kiki the cat has been twinned with a leopard, as shown by her tag.             © Frankie Lees

For more information please visit www.savingcatsanddogs.org.

PTES logoThank you.

 Hannah Stockwell, PTES Fundraising Officer

Feb 23
Photo of pau brasil fruits

Pau brasil (Caesalpinia echinata)

Species: Pau brasil (Caesalpinia echinata)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The pau brasil is the national tree of Brazil, and is famous for giving the country its name.

The pau brasil holds an important place in the history and culture of Brazil. This rare tree reaches heights of up to 15 metres and has dark brown bark which flakes off in large patches to reveal a blood-red wood beneath. Its flowers are yellow and strongly perfumed, while its fruits are large, woody, oval-shaped pods. The branches, leaves and fruit of the pau brasil are covered in small thorns.

The pau brasil is found only in the diverse but highly threatened Atlantic forest of eastern Brazil. In the past, the pau brasil was an extremely important source of red dye, and by the time synthetic dyes became widespread in the 19th century this species’ population had been all but destroyed. The timber of this famous tree has been in demand for construction and for the manufacture of high quality violin bows, while its bark may have medicinal properties.

International trade in the pau brasil should be carefully controlled under its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Protected areas have been set up to preserve pau brasil populations, and there is a reintroduction programme in Linareas Reserve. Further conservation measures include education programmes and studies into the pau brasil’s distribution and conservation requirements. In future, this historic tree may act as a ‘flagship’ species for the conservation of the highly endangered Atlantic forest ecosystem.

Find out more about the Atlantic forest of Brazil.

Find out more about the pau brasil at Global Trees Campaign.

See more images of the pau brasil on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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