Mar 30
Photo of Tehuantepec jackrabbit in a resting site

Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis)

Species: Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Tehuantepec jackrabbit has impressively long ears which can measure up to 12 centimetres in length.

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit is considered to be the most endangered hare species in the world. Like other hares, it is characterised by its long legs, large hind feet, huge ears and superb running ability. This species is active at night or at dawn and dusk, sheltering in cover during the day. Like most hares, it does not dig burrows, instead relying on its camouflage and speed to escape predators. Young Tehuantepec jackrabbits, known as leverets, are well developed at birth and are left in a concealed place by the female, who only returns to nurse them briefly each day. This species is named after its distribution around the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Mexico.

Only four small, isolated populations of Tehuantepec jackrabbits remain, with a total population estimated at fewer than 1,000 individuals. This species has a restricted range and is threatened by habitat loss and human-caused fires, as well as by hunting. Unfortunately, conservation laws are not well enforced and this species’ habitat is unprotected. Urgent protection of its habitat is therefore needed, together with better enforcement of hunting regulations. Captive breeding, educational programmes and further research may also benefit this rare hare.

Find out more about the conservation of rabbits and hares at the World Lagomorph Society and the IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group.

See more images of the Tehuantepec jackrabbit on ARKive.

Do you have a favourite species? Why not join our campaign to find the World’s Favourite Species and nominate it today!

 

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Mar 28

Scientists have discovered two new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar, bringing the total number of these tiny primate species to 20.

Photo of grey mouse-lemur

The grey mouse-lemur, one of 20 mouse lemur species currently known to science

The mouse lemurs were collected during field surveys in 2003 and 2007, and genetic analysis has now shown them to be distinct species. In a paper recently published in the International Journal of Primatology, the scientists named the new species the Marohita mouse lemur (Microcebus marohita) and the Anosy mouse lemur (Microcebus tanosi).

The Marohita mouse lemur is named after the forest in which it was collected, while the Anosy mouse lemur is named after its distribution in the Anosy region in southeast Madagascar.

Miniscule primates

Mouse lemurs are some of the smallest primates in the world. All are nocturnal and live in Madagascar’s forests, where they feed on a range of insects, fruit, flowers, sap and even small vertebrates, such as frogs and geckos.

Photo of grey mouse-lemur sniffing flowering plant

Although one of the largest mouse lemurs, the grey mouse-lemur is still one of the world’s smallest primates

The two new species are unusually large for mouse lemurs, with the Marohita mouse lemur reaching lengths of 28 centimetres and weights of about 78 grams. This makes it the largest of the known mouse lemurs. At 27 centimetres and around 50 grams, the Anosy mouse lemur becomes the second largest mouse lemur known to science.

New species discoveries

The rate at which new lemur species have been discovered in Madagascar has dramatically increased in the past decade. The mouse lemurs are one of the most species-rich groups of lemurs, but these tiny primates look so similar that genetic analysis is often the only way to tell them apart.

I would say that in general, it is highly unusual to describe new species of primates in this age of global travel and consequent access to remote areas of the planet,” said Anne Yoder, director of the Duke Lemur Center and one of the authors of the paper. “That said, the number of described lemur species has more than tripled in the last 10 years. A large number of these new species have been mouse lemurs.”

Photo of Goodman's mouse lemurs in nest

Goodman’s mouse lemur was only discovered in 2005

Mouse lemurs under threat

Like many of Madagascar’s lemurs, the new mouse lemurs are likely to be under threat from human activities. Since the Marohita mouse lemur was first collected, much of the forest it inhabits has been cleared, and the scientists have classified the species as Endangered. The status of the Anosy mouse lemur is not yet known, but it is likely that it will also be classified as Endangered.

Further field studies have been recommended to assess the distribution and population sizes of the newly described lemurs, so that appropriate conservation measures can be put in place to protect them.

Conserving lemurs

The researchers point out the importance of identifying lemur species if they are to be protected. “Knowing exactly how many species we have is essential for determining which areas to target for conservation,” said Peter Kappeler of the German Primate Center, one of the authors of the paper.

Photo of Madame Berthe's mouse lemur resting on a branch

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

According to Yoder, “I suspect that there are even more mouse lemur species out there to be found… Mouse lemurs are morphologically cryptic, they are tiny, they are nocturnal, and they occur in remote places. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the harder we look, the more species we will find.”

As well as identifying and protecting new lemur species, it will also be important to continue working towards the conservation of all lemurs in Madagascar. Public awareness will be an important part of this.

I have found that the Malagasy people take great pride in their lemurs, as soon as they understand that Madagascar is unique in having lemurs, and also, that certain lemurs are specific only to a particular area,” said Yoder. “Also, and obviously, the government needs to participate in protecting the forests, and in providing economic alternatives to slash and burn agriculture to the Malagasy people.”

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay – 2 ‘giant’ yet tiny mouse lemurs identified in Madagascar and at Scientific American Blogs – Two new species of mouse lemur found in Madagascar.

Find out more about newly discovered species on ARKive.

View photos and videos of mouse lemurs on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Mar 26

A man has been arrested for attempting to smuggle over 10% of one of the world’s most endangered tortoise populations into Thailand just a day after the conclusion of a CITES meeting where delegates resolved to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade.

Ploughshare tortoise

The Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoise is threatened largely by habitat loss.

Two wildlife smugglers have been arrested at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, for attempting to bring 54 ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) and 21 radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) illegally into the country. Both species are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and occur only in Madagascar. Wrapped up alive and hidden in suitcases, the tortoises were flown from Madagascar to Bangkok via Nairobi.

Chris Shepherd of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, commented, “The criminals behind this shipment of ploughshare tortoises have effectively stolen over 10 percent of the estimated population in the wild.”

Radiated tortoise

The radiated tortoise is prized for its beauty and is in high demand in the illegal pet trade.

The beautiful appearance and rarity of these species has driven their demand in the black market pet trade. Both species are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that their trade is only permitted in exceptional circumstances. The radiated tortoise has suffered an immense decline in numbers due to habitat loss, hunting and collection for the pet trade, and is at risk from extinction within the century if further conservation action is not taken.

The 38-year-old Thai man was arrested as he attempted to collect the suitcases from the baggage carousel. However, the bags were registered to a Malagasy woman who was also arrested on site. The same man was arrested earlier in the year on a similar smuggling charge. Both felons are to face charges in Thailand.

We encourage the authorities to throw the book at these two. Making an example of them will hopefully serve as a deterrent for other smugglers,” said Shepherd.

Black pond turtle

Black pond turtles seized earlier in the day are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The seizure was made hours after 300 Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) and 10 black pond turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) were found in abandoned luggage at the same airport. Although listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, Indian star tortoises are protected within their range (India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan), from which commercial export has been banned due to the high demand for this species in the pet trade. Black pond turtles are listed on CITES Appendix I.

Thailand seized over 4,300 tortoises and freshwater turtles between 2010 and 2012, and half of these were Indian star tortoises. The Conference of the Parties meeting saw a decision by delegates from Thailand and Madagascar to cooperate in an attempt to control wildlife smuggling between the two countries.

Illegally traded green turtles

Greater international cooperation is needed to fight the illegal trade in wildlife.

We urge authorities to go after the criminal masterminds behind these shipments and break the trade chains that threaten these incredibly rare animals,” Shepherd concluded.

The seized animals are currently being held in the Bang Pra Breeding Centre, a government rescue centre in Chonburi, Thailand. It is hoped that they will soon be able to be returned to Madagascar, where conditions and climate are more suitable for their survival.

 

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Over 10% of a single tortoise species’ population found in smuggler’s bag and TRAFFIC – Largest seizure of Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoises made in Thailand.

Read more about the ploughshare tortoise, radiated tortoise, and the black pond turtle on ARKive.

 

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Mar 26

Spring is in the air – daffodils are starting to grow in the hedgerows, birds are beginning to build their nests and frogs are filling up ponds with frogspawn. Unfortunately there is just one thing lacking this spring – the end of the cold, winter weather and the arrival of some sunshine!

Despite the weather’s best attempt, here in the UK ARKive office we have still been thinking about spring – a time often associated with new beginnings and baby animals. To celebrate the arrival of spring (and to cheer ourselves up about the weather) we have put together a list of our top 10 favourite baby animal photos.

Quokka

Quokka joeys suckle for a further 8-10 weeks after leaving the female’s pouch

The ever smiling quokka is a small marsupial found in Western Australia. Unusually for a marsupial, it has strongly developed hind legs which enable it to climb trees. Quokkas have a short pregnancy of just 4 weeks before the female will give birth to a single joey, which suckles in her pouch for up to 30 weeks.

Asiatic black bear

Asiatic black bear image

An infant Asiatic black bear playing

Female Asiatic black bears, also called ‘moon bears’ due to the cream, crescent shaped marking on the chest, normally give birth to a litter of 2 cubs. Born within the safety of the winter den, normally within a tree hollow, cubs usually stay with their mother for 1 to 1.5 years.

Sea otter

Sea otter image

Californina sea otter pup resting on its mother

Sea otters are not only the smallest marine mammal, but their coat is also the densest of any mammal, consisting of around 100,000 hairs per cm². Female sea otters normally give birth to 1 pup, which they carry round on their chest grooming meticulously to ensure their fur remains buoyant and insulated. Sea otter pups will stay with their mother for around 3 to 6 months.

American oystercatcher

American oystercatcher image

An American oystercatcher chick showing of its hide and seek skills

American oystercatcher chicks are quick learners! Within 24 hours of hatching, the chicks are capable of running and leave the nest only 1 or 2 days later. Within 5 weeks they learn to fly and begin accompanying their parents to learn basic feeding techniques, becoming fully independent several months later.

Arctic fox

Arctic fox image

It is hard work being this cute!

The size of an Arctic fox litter varies depending on the abundance of food available; normally ranging from 5 to 10, litter sizes can reach 19 with high food availability. Both parents help rear the young, the female will stay in the den providing milk whilst the male goes out to hunt for food.

Giant anteater

Giant anteater image

Giant anteaters can carry their young until they are nine months old – the world’s longest piggy back!

The giant anteater, the largest of the extant anteater species, can eat up to 30,000 ants in one day! Female giant anteaters carry their young on their back, where they are aligned with the female’s white stripe so they are camouflaged. Despite being weaned after two months, the young may continue to be carried until they are nine months old.

Mountain chicken

Mountain chicken image

A female mountain chicken and a young froglet emerging from burrow

Despite its name, the mountain chicken is not a bird but is actually a critically endangered frog. Unusually, mountain chickens breed in underground burrows as opposed to breeding in water like most amphibians. After the larvae hatch, mothers will lay upto as many as 25,000 unfertilised eggs, upon which the larvae feed.

The mountain chicken features in ARKive’s latest game – Team WILD.  To find out more and to see if you have what it takes to join this team of elite, science superheroes click here.

Giant panda

Giant panda image

It is not hard to see why pandas are so popular

Giant panda cubs are born at a very immature stage of development meaning they are very helpless at birth. It is not until the cubs are five to six moths old that they even start to move about independently! Giant panda cubs will remain dependent on their mothers until they are at least 18 months old.

Harp seal

Harp seal image

A 2 day old harp seal pup showing of its warm, white coat

Harp seal pups are also known as ‘whitecoats’ due to their thick, white and very insulating fur. Weighing around 11 to 12 kilograms when they are born, harp seal pups will gain 2.2 kilograms in weight per day whilst nursing on their mother’s fatty milk.

White-tailed tropicbird

White-tailed tropicbird image

This chick looks like it has an attitude problem!

Though not as cute as some of the other babies featured in this blog, this photo of the white-tailed tropic bird is one of my favourites. This chick may not look vulnerable, but once hatched white-tailed tropicbird chicks are left alone in the nest frequently, leaving them open to attack from other parents looking for nesting sites. No wonder this chick is trying to look tough!

Hopefully these images have brightened up your day! Let us know which baby animal photos on ARKive are your favourites and don’t forget to nominate them for the title of the World’s Favourite Species!

Jemma Pealing, Media Researcher

Mar 24
Photo of North Island brown kiwi in undergrowth

North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli)

Species: North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The North Island brown kiwi is more like a mammal than a bird, with fur-like feathers, muscular legs and even cat-like whiskers on its face.

Kiwis are the national bird of New Zealand, and are some of the most unusual of all birds. One of five kiwi species, the North Island brown kiwi is flightless and lives on the ground, where it shelters in a burrow during the day. Its long, thin bill has sensory pits at the end which can detect prey moving underground, while, uniquely among birds, the nostrils are located at the end of the bill, helping the kiwi to locate prey by smell. North Island brown kiwis typically mate for life, and the female produces one of the largest eggs of any bird relative to her own size. The male incubates the eggs, and the chicks hatch fully feathered and are soon able to fend for themselves.

The North Island brown kiwi has undergone a dramatic decline over the last century, largely due to predation by introduced mammals such as dogs, cats and stoats. Fortunately, this intriguing bird has been the subject of concerted conservation efforts, including predator control and the incubation of eggs and rearing of chicks in captivity. Kiwi sanctuaries have also been established to help protect it. Where active conservation has taken place, kiwi numbers have rebounded, giving hope that this national icon can survive into the future.

Find out more about kiwi conservation at Kiwis for Kiwi.

Read about other nocturnal species and about WWF’s Earth Hour on the ARKive blog.

See images and videos of the North Island brown kiwi on ARKive.

Do you have a favourite species? Why not join our campaign to find the World’s Favourite Species and nominate it today!

 

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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