Apr 30

Disneynature’s latest film Chimpanzee,  which was exclusively previewed on the opening night of Wildscreen Festival 2012, is coming to cinemas across the UK on May 3rd.  Chimpanzee follows the remarkable story of Oscar, a baby chimp whose life takes a surprising turn after he is left all alone following a confrontation with a rival band of chimps. Here at the ARKive office to celebrate the release of this film we thought we would take a closer look at chimpanzees, our closest living relative.

A young chimpanzee

Along with the pygmy chimp and bonobo, the chimpanzee is the closest living relative to humans, and is estimated to share 98 percent of our genes. Chimpanzees are very social animals living in stable communities which range in size from 15 to 150 members. Male chimpanzees stay in the same community for their entire lives where a strict linear hierarchy is employed. 

Group of sleeping chimpanzees

Chimpanzees feed mainly on fruit, but when this is scarce they supplement their diet with leaves, seeds and insects. Another favourite food of chimpanzees is meat, with groups cooperating together to hunt and kill monkeys. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent animals and are one of few species known to use tools. They use sticks to remove ants or termites from their nests and stones to crack open nuts. Chimpanzees are also known to use leaves as sponges to absorb drinking water.

Chimpanzee using a rock to crack a palm nut

Female chimpanzees normally give birth to one infant which develops slowly. Young chimpanzees ride on their mothers back, gripping on to her fur, until the age of two and are not weaned until around four years old, although they retain strong ties with their mother after this. 

Female chimpanzee with her baby

Chimpanzees will often spend hours grooming each other, removing dirt, insects and seeds from each others fur. This not only keeps individuals dirt free and healthy, but it also helps to strengthen and maintain bonds between group members.

Chimpanzees grooming each other

To find out more visit ARKive’s chimpanzee species profile. 

Jemma Pealing
Media Researcher

Apr 29

Neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for bee deaths are to be banned across Europe after an EU vote which took place today.

Photo of honey bee heavily laden with pollen

Honey bees are vital pollinators, but are in decline

Wild species such as honey bees are believed to be responsible for the pollination of around a third of the world’s crops, and contribute billions of dollars each year to the global economy. However, there has been widespread concern about their rapid decline, which has been blamed on a number of factors, including habitat loss, disease and the use of insecticides.

Neonicotinoids are nicotine-like chemicals which are toxic to insects and which have been widely used as pesticides for more than a decade. They are usually applied to seeds, and are taken up by all parts of the growing plant, including its pollen and nectar.

Although less harmful than some of the pesticides they replaced, neonicotinoids have been blamed for contributing to bee declines, with a number of studies showing harmful effects on bee behaviour and survival. The combined effects of more than one pesticide have also been shown to put bumblebee colonies at risk.

Photo of buff-tailed bumblebee

Pesticides have also been shown to have negative effects on bumblebees

However, many farmers and chemical companies argue that the science is inconclusive and the studies do not necessarily reflect field conditions, and that a ban on these pesticides would harm food production.

Intense lobbying

There has been intense lobbying by both sides in the run-up to today’s vote, with nearly 3 million signatures collected in support of a ban, and campaigners rallying in London last Friday to call for action.

Some countries, including Germany, Italy and France, have already put restrictions on neonicotinoids, while some UK retailers have taken action by removing them from their shelves and supply chains.

A previous vote by the EU on whether to ban the chemicals was inconclusive, so the European Commission went to an appeals committee. Fifteen countries have now voted in favour of a ban, while eight voted against, including the UK, and four abstained. Although not a large majority, this was enough for the Commission to put in place a two-year ban on neonicotinoids.

Photo of honey bee bees at entrance of hive

Other threats to bees include habitat loss and disease

After the vote, the EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said, “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion Euros ($29 billion) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

More to be done for bees

Speaking about the vote, Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said, “This decision is a significant victory for common sense and our beleaguered bee populations. Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.”

The new ban will prohibit the sale and use of seeds treated with neonicotinoids, and will also prohibit the sale of these chemicals to amateur growers. However, it will not apply to crops that are non-attractive to bees, or to crops that are grown over winter.

Some have warned that the ban could lead to the return of older, more harmful pesticides. However, supporters say that this has not happened in countries that have already banned the chemicals, and that the use of more natural methods of pest control can tackle any problems.

Photo of honey bee in flight carrying pollen

Bees are estimated to be worth billions of dollars to the global economy

Few people would disagree that we need to protect our food production, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of damaging the environment. Indeed, there are several alternatives to using neonicotinoids, and other pesticides, and this a great opportunity for farmers to adopt these practices to protect bees and other pollinators,” said Professor Simon Potts, a scientist at the University of Reading.

A short-term decision to keep using harmful products may be convenient, but will almost certainly have much greater long-term costs for food production and the environment,” he said.

Although the ban is good news for bees, these important pollinators still face a number of other threats, and more still needs to be done to protect them. A monitoring programme will also be needed to assess the effects of the two-year ban on bees and other pollinating insects.

 

Read more on this story at BBC News – Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides and The Guardian – Bee-harming pesticides banned in Europe.

View photos and videos of bees on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Apr 29

This time on ARKive Geographic, we’re taking you on a virtual trip to the largest country in South America – Brazil!  Brazil’s vast geography and rich biodiversity make it a great topic for conservation discussions and scientific study. Because of its tropical climate, Brazil has several kinds of ecosystems: grasslands, coastlines, swamps, and the world famous Atlantic forest. In fact, a whopping eight percent of all the worlds’ plants species are found in the Atlantic rainforest and researchers believe there are many more plant and animal species yet to be discovered.

We’ve had a search through the 900+ species on ARKive that call Brazil home and shared some of our favorites below. Join us for a whirlwind species adventure across Brazil!

Flashy flycatcher

Photo of Atlantic royal flycatcher

Check out the headpiece on this fellow! The Atlantic royal flycatcher is endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest where habitat loss poses a constant threat. Only an estimated 8% of the original rainforest remains today and reforestation efforts are a large conservation priority in Brazil. As its name suggests, this flycatcher is particularly keen to dine on flying insects, particularly dragonflies.

Airborne arthropod

Photo of long-horned beetle

Think this long-horned beetle can’t fly? Think again! Underneath its unique black and brown patterning are delicate wing cases. Even more unique is the fact that the long-horned beetle can spend up to 10 years of its life in the larval stage, while its adult phase only lasts a few short months.

Healthful hardwood

Photo of pau brasil tree

Brazil takes its name from the Endangered pau brasil tree which is a huge source of red dye and an integral part of the country’s trade history. Its vibrant yellow leaves give off a strong smelling perfume and scientists have even utilized extracts from this tree for potential cancer treatment. Native Brazilian trees star in the new, free, online game from ARKive called Team WILD showing that scientists are true superheroes!

Ample alligator

Photo of black caiman

Not to be confused with the American alligator, the black caiman is the largest of all the alligator species. Its tough, dark scales help it camouflage easily in the water however was also highly prized by hunters since the 1940’s resulting in a 99% decrease in the wild populations. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs in Bolivia have been successful however, programs in other countries are needed to assist in the full recovery of this special reptile.

Troupe of team-workers

Photo of Brazilian bare-faced tamarin

This New World monkey is currently one of the most Endangered primates in the Amazon due to fragmented range and habitat loss. Highly social, the Brazilian bare-faced tamarin seems to embody the phrase “it takes a village to raise child” as various members of the groups assist with caring for the young!

Azure amphibian

Photo of dyeing poison frog

This little frog sure packs a mighty punch! The poison of the dyeing poison frog is strong enough to paralyze and even kill large spiders and snakes. Interestingly, this species is able to generate its poison through its rainforest ant diet.

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Brazil’s striking wildlife. If you’d like to find out more about more species in this diverse country, try exploring our Brazil species search results page where you can discover new (to you!) species.

Andrea Small, Intern, Wildscreen USA

Apr 27
Photo of golden frog on leaf

Golden frog (Mantella aurantiaca)

Species: Golden frog (Mantella aurantiaca)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The toxins in the golden frog’s skin are obtained from its diet, and are lacking in captive-bred individuals that are fed on non-toxic prey.

The golden frog is a small, poisonous frog found only in a very small part of central-eastern Madagascar. As its name suggests, its skin is usually bright yellow, orange or red, and contrasts with its black eyes. The tips of its digits have adhesive pads. This tiny frog only grows to just over two centimetres in length, with females being slightly larger than males. It lives in damp, swampy areas of forest and breeds after the first heavy rains of the year. The golden frog lays its eggs in leaf litter, moss or under bark, and after the tadpoles hatch they either wriggle to water or are washed into pools by rain.

Its bright colouration makes the golden frog popular in the pet trade, and over-collection still occurs in some areas, although it is not yet known whether this is affecting the frog’s population. The golden frog is listed on Appendix II of CITES, which should regulate international trade in this species, and import of wild-caught individuals to the EU has been banned since 2006. A potentially more serious threat is the severe fragmentation of this species’ remaining habitat. This colourful frog is bred in captivity in a number of zoos and other institutions around the world, but it will also be vital to protect its remaining habitat if it is to survive in the wild.

Find out more about amphibian conservation at ARKive’s amphibian conservation page, Amphibian Ark and the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group.

See images of the golden frog on ARKive.

Is the golden frog your favourite species? Vote for it now in our World’s Favourite Species campaign!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Apr 27

Save the Frogs DayToday marks the 5th annual ‘Save the Frogs Day’, an international event which focuses on raising awareness about the plight of the frog, encouraging conservation action and celebrating all things amphibian. In honour of this noble cause, we thought we would highlight some of our favourite weird and wonderful amphibians from around the world, and hopefully encourage you to get involved, spread the word about amphibian conservation and perhaps even host your own event. The ‘Save the Frogs’ website has some fantastic ideas for inspiration here, so what are you waiting for? Hop to it!

Titicaca water frog

Titicaca water frog photo

The largest truly aquatic frog, the Titicaca water frog can weigh up to 1 kg and is endemic to Lake Titicaca, which lies on the border between Peru and Bolivia. While its extremely loose skin gives it a bizarre appearance, the skin is very rich in capillaries, enabling the frog to remain underwater without having to surface for air. Unfortunately, the Titicaca water frog is under great threat as a result of over-collection for human consumption. It is blended with other ingredients to create a juice which local people misguidedly believe cures many ailments.

Gardiner’s tree frog

Gardiner’s tree frog photo

From one of the largest frogs to one of the smallest now, Gardiner’s tree frog. This diminutive amphibian is found in the Seychelles and grows to just 11 mm in length. Unlike most frogs, which must lay their eggs in water, this species lays them in small clumps on moist ground. Instead of hatching as tadpoles, the young then hatch as small, fully formed adults.

Dyeing poison frog

Dyeing poison frog photo

Perhaps one of the most beautiful of all frogs, the dyeing poison frog is famed for the alkaloid-based poison excreted from its skin. Its toxicity is obtained from its diet, which consists mainly of ants. Subsequently, in captivity the dyeing poison frog loses its toxicity as it cannot obtain these compounds through its captive diet.

Suriname toad

Suriname toad photo

A fascinating species from South America, the Suriname toad must surely take the prize for the most unusual reproductive methods in the animal kingdom. The male rolls the fertilised eggs onto the female’s back, after which the skin on her back closes around them. After an incubation period of three to four months the young emerge from her back as fully metamorphosed individuals. Cool or creepy? You decide!

Purple frog

Purple frog photo

Only discovered in 2003, the purple frog is the sole surviving member of an ancient group of amphibians that evolved around 130 million years ago. This strange-looking frog is adapted to a burrowing lifestyle, spending most of the year up to 3.7 metres underground and emerging for a few weeks to breed at the surface.

Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog

Rabb's fringe-limbed treefrog photo

Perhaps one of the saddest stories from the amphibian world, Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog was described as a new species as recently as 2008, but the arrival of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis in the only known population appears to have driven the species to extinction in the wild. As of early 2012, a single male remained in captivity, believed to be the very last of its kind anywhere in the world after the only other known individual, another captive male, was euthanised due to poor health.

Darwin’s frog

Darwin’s frog photo

Discovered by Charles Darwin, the unusual Darwin’s frog is another species with a rather strange method of reproduction. The male possesses a large vocal sac, but rather than producing a loud call, he uses it for an altogether different purpose. It is his job to guard the fertilised eggs, and after they have been developing for around 20 days he uses his tongue to pick them up and manoeuvre them into his vocal sac. The tadpoles hatch and metamorphose within his vocal sac, emerging from his mouth when their tails are reduced to stumps. Check out a video of tadpoles moving within a male’s vocal sac .

Get involved

Golden frog photoIf you’ve been inspired to do your bit for amphibian conservation we would love to hear what you are up to. Don’t forget that you can also vote for the golden frog in our current campaign to find the World’s Favourite Species and spread the love for frogs!

You can also check out our feature page on amphibian conservation and have a go at collecting uninfected mountain chickens in our Team WILD game!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

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