May 17
With a third of the world’s amphibians, a quarter of all mammals and one in eight birds thought to be endangered, raising the public profile of these species and their plight is essential if we are to succeed in rescuing these species from the brink of extinction.  
 
Endangered Species Day, which was started by the United States Senate back in 2006, gives people the chance to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species through events and activities, and highlights the everyday actions that everybody can take to help protect the natural world. 
 

This year Endangered Species Day is on the 17th of May and here at ARKive to show our support we have decided to showcase some of the less well known endangered species.

Greater bamboo lemur 

Once widespread throughout Madagascar, the greater bamboo lemur is now restricted to just 1-4% of its historic range. The largest of the bamboo lemurs, this species was believed to be extinct for almost 50 years until it was rediscovered in 1972. The main threats to the greater bamboo lemur is habitat destruction by slash and burn agriculture, mining and illegal logging.  

Spoon-billed sandpiper

The spoon-billed sandpiper is a small, attractive bird with a distinctive spoon-shaped bill. As this species has very particular habitat requirements, only breeding in coastal areas with sand and sparse vegetation within six kilometres of the sea, habitat loss and alteration have greatly impacted upon it. Recent population surveys have shown that numbers of this species are declining rapidly. However, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust are taking action to save this species by setting up a conservation breeding programme to buy some time while the major problems are tackled.

Tonkin snub-nosed monkey 

Presumed to be extinct before its rediscovery in 1989, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is an unusual and distinctive-looking monkey. With its broad, flattened face, pale blue rings around the eyes and thick, pink lips, it almost has a comical appearance. The range of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey has been greatly reduced by massive deforestation and intensive hunting. The total population of this monkey may number only around 200 to 250 individuals, and these are fragmented into small subpopulations which are unable to interbreed.

Vaquita

The vaquita is a small and slender porpoise species endemic to Mexico. In 2007 it was estimated that only about 150 vaquitas remained in the world. The main threat to this species is drowning after becoming entangled in gill nets and trawl nets, which is estimated to be claiming the lives of 39 to 84 vaquitas each year.

Chinese giant salamander

 Growing up to 1.8 metres in length, the Chinese giant salamander holds the record for being the largest salamander in the world. This fully aquatic amphibian is well adapted to its lifestyle in the mountain streams of China. As a result of habitat alteration, stream pollution and over-collection for its flesh, which is considered a delicacy in Asia, populations of the Chinese giant salamander have dropped by more than 80% since the 1960s. 
 

 

Ploughshare tortoise 

Endemic to Madagascar, the ploughshare tortoise is one of the rarest land tortoises in the world. Classified as Critically Endangered, this tortoise faces several threats, including habitat loss from bush fires and predation of eggs and young by the introduced bush pig. The primary threat to the ploughshare tortoise is illegal collection for the international pet trade, which has escalated in recent years. This situation is made worse due to this species’ slow growth rate and low breeding potential, which reduces the ability of populations to recover.
 

Coco-de-mer

A giant of the plant world, the coco-de-mer is a palm species which produces the largest and heaviest seeds of any plant in the world. Endemic to the Seychelles, the Endangered coco-de-mer has already been lost from three of the Seychelles islands in its former range. The main threat to this plant species is the collection of its seeds, which has almost stopped all natural regeneration of population’s.

Saola

The saola is an unusual, long-horned bovid which was discovered as recently as 1992. The entire range of the saola is found in a narrow area of forest on the border between Vietnam and Laos. Classified as Critically Endangered, the saola is increasingly threatened as a result of hunting, as well as habitat loss and habitat fragmentation due to the development of infrastructure within its small range.   

Titicaca water frog

Endemic to Lake Titicaca, the Titicaca water frog is the largest truly aquatic frog and can weigh up to 1 kg. 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.

Estuarine pipefish

Believed to be extinct in the early 1990s until being rediscovered in 1995, the estuarine pipefish is still at risk of extinction. The loss of this pipefish from the majority of its former range is thought to be due to construction of upstream dams. These developments restrict the supply of fresh water which brings with it essential nutrients required by the phytoplankton upon which the food chain depends.

 These are just a few of the species which need our help – find out more about endangered species by visiting our Endangered Species topic page.

Jemma Pealing, ARKive Researcher

May 15

If you are a fan of ARKive, you’re a fan of wild animals. At Polar Bears International, we love all animals, but especially polar bears. In fact, we’re the champion for polar bears and are doing everything we can to help them. But we can’t do it without you. That’s why we initiated a Save Our Sea Ice (SOS!) campaign.

Mrs. McKiel's 1st and 2nd grade students at Carpathia School in Winnipeg, Canada, created this bulletin board for the Save Our Sea (SOS!) campaign.

Mrs. McKiel’s 1st and 2nd grade students at Carpathia School in Winnipeg, Canada, created this bulletin board for the Save Our Sea (SOS!) campaign.

Polar Bears International’s SOS! campaign focuses attention on the urgent challenges polar bears face in a changing Arctic—with longer and longer ice-free periods threatening their survival—and the part each of us can play in stopping global warming, beginning with personal habits and expanding out to the community.

The campaign features a series of energy-saving efforts that begin each year on International Polar Bear Day, February 27th, and continue through the summer melt period. We’ve linked our challenges to earth awareness days, but you can launch any of these efforts at any time:

  • International Polar Bear Day, February 27 – Celebrate polar bears with us by taking our Thermostat Challenge, adjusting your thermostat up or down by three degrees depending on the season. And then make every day a Polar Bear Day by switching to a programmable thermostat, insulating your home, or installing solar panels to save energy.
  • Earth Hour, March 23 – Join us on Earth Hour by switching off the lights for one hour, at 8:30 p.m. local time, and make it a Polar Bear Hour by eating a cold, energy-saving meal. Then make every hour an Earth Hour through our Power Down Effort—at home, school, and in the office.
  • Earth Day, April 22 – Celebrate Earth Day with us by turning off your engine for waits longer than thirty seconds when dropping off or picking up passengers at an Earth Day event. And then make every day an Earth Day by taking our No Idling Challenge and using our toolkit to set up No Idle Zones. Why? Because a surprising percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from cars, light trucks, and vans come from idling engines with no transportation benefit.
  • Endangered Species Day, May 17 - Help polar bears and other endangered species every day by Sizing Up Your Pantry. Take stock of your pantry and think about your food choices, recognizing that fewer food miles, organic farming methods, and minimal processing and packaging have less impact on the planet—and can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
  • World Oceans Day, June 8 - Take action for polar bears and the sea ice they depend on every day with our Green House Grocery List. Begin by assessing your typical week’s grocery list to see how you measure up; then make adjustments where you can. Why? Because your food shopping habits can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the planet to warm and the sea ice to melt.
Polar bear family jumping between ice floes © Dick and Val Beck/Polar Bears International

A polar bear family jumps from floe to floe in a melting Arctic. To save arctic sea ice, we must each do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To save polar bear habitat, we need to embrace sustainable living as a society. A promising shift is underway in sectors including transportation, energy usage, and food production—all of which have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. You can become part of the momentum for change by modifying your own habits and taking action in your community in support of greener choices—from bikes lanes to farmer’s markets—that make a low-carbon lifestyle easier.

Find out more

Learn more about the polar bear and its arctic habitat on ARKive.

Find out more about Polar Bears International and how you can get involved by visiting their website.

May 13

Narrated by American actor Tom Selleck, the Discovery Channel’s captivating new series ‘North America’ is due to air on May 19th, promising spectacular, never-before-seen footage of one of the world’s most diverse landscapes. To show our excitement, we’ve put together a list of our top ten North American species.

1.      Wood frog

Photo of wood frog

Wood frogs are able to freeze and thaw with their surroundings as a way of coping with cold temperatures

This widely distributed frog has a range that extends further north than any other North American amphibian. Often identified by a black mask that extends from the nostrils across each cheek and through each eye, this species is an explosive breeder, laying all its eggs in a matter of days. The wood frog is often found in or around damp woodland.

2.      Brown bear

Photo of brown bear

Brown bears can dive head first to depths of six metres

Just one of North America’s most iconic species, the brown bear is also one of the largest carnivores on Earth. The largest subspecies of this bear is known as the Kodiak bear, and it can weigh up to 780 kilograms! During hibernation, the brown bear can survive for over half a year without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating.

3.      Grey wolf

Photo of grey wolf howling

Grey wolves can track their prey for many miles

The grey wolf has a wide variety of coat colours, ranging from grey, red, brown and black to practically pure white. Its long legs and sensitive ears and nose make it a highly efficient and deadly predator, able to pursue its prey for extremely long distances. The grey wolf is a highly social and intelligent animal, hunting cooperatively to bring down prey that is ten times its size.

4.      Bighorn sheep

Photo of male bighorn sheep

During a fight, male bighorn sheep can launch themselves at each other at 32 kilometres per hour

The spiralling horns of a male bighorn sheep can grow to over a metre long and weigh up to 14 kilograms. Unlike that of most sheep, this species’ coat is made up of fur rather than wool. The nimble-footed bighorn sheep is able to bound between rocks, and up or down almost vertical rock faces, a skill that often enables it to escape predators. Its mating period is known as a rut, during which time males will take part in impressive battles for dominance and the chance to mate with females.

5.      Mountain lion

Photo of female puma with juveniles

Mountain lions are the only big cats able to purr

Also known as the puma, panther or cougar, the mountain lion has the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Active at dawn and dusk, but rarely during the day, this agile species feeds mainly on hoofed mammals such as elk and domestic cattle. Although adult mountain lions are the same colour all over, kittens are born with a spotted coat and blue eyes.

6.      Wolverine

Photo of wolverine

The wolverine’s fur is thick and oily, making it resistant to frost

Despite belonging to the weasel family, the wolverine has an almost bear-like appearance. With a reputation for being a particularly aggressive animal, this species is powerfully built and well adapted to survive in wintery conditions. The wolverine’s coat has two types of fur: soft, dense underhair that helps to insulate its body against the cold, and coarse, long, protective guard hair.

7.      Giant sequoia

Photo of a giant sequoia

The bark of the giant sequoia can be up to 60 centimetres thick

Believed to be the largest living thing on the planet, the giant sequoia tree does not reach maturity and produce any cones for around 20 years. This tree generally benefits from wildfires, which remove competitors and ensure that the soil is rich enough for seed germination. The heat from the fires also causes the tree’s cones to open by drying them out, allowing the seeds to fall and germinate. The giant sequoia is more or less indestructible due to its size and thick bark, which conducts fire poorly.

8.      Moose

Photo of a moose feeding

There is debate as to whether or not the moose and the Eurasian elk are the same species

Growing antlers that can span over 1.8 metres, the moose is the largest of all deer species. Only males grow antlers, which are shed during the winter and are re-grown over the summer. Due to its impressive height (1.5 to 2 metres), this species has difficulty feeding from the ground, instead browsing on higher grasses and shrubs. The shape of its hooves enables this large, heavy animal to walk on soft snow and muddy ground, much like snowshoes work for humans.

9.      California condor

Photo of California condor in flight

A California condor may range over 200 kilometres in a day

With a huge wingspan of almost three metres, the California condor was worryingly declared Extinct in the Wild in 1987 when the last eight birds were taken into captivity. Following an intensive captive breeding programme, the first condors were released into the wild in 1992. Conservation of the California condor is ongoing and the population is continuing to increase, with the success of the programme being an inspiration to many.

10.      Bald eagle

Photo of a bald eagle

A bald eagle can carry up to 2.3 kilograms when in flight

As the national emblem of the United States, the majestic bald eagle is instantly recognisable. Believed to pair for life, mating pairs reinforce their bond by taking part in magnificent acrobatic displays in the air. When juvenile bald eagles, or eaglets, are about four months old, they often appear to be larger than their parents because their wing feathers are longer at this age. These flight feathers act as stabilisers when a juvenile bird is learning to fly.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

May 12

Today is Mother’s Day in the US and is a chance to honor and give thanks to mothers, both human and those of the animal variety!

In nature, mothers come in all shapes and sizes and are equipped with a wide range of different parenting styles.  We’ve selected a handful of moms with unique and fascinating methods for raising their babies from keeping little ones close for years to kicking them right out of the nest before they can even fly!

How many aunts do you have?

Photo of American bison

Furry and ginormous, American bison mothers live with their young in hierarchical herds led by one dominant female. Within three hours of being born, the newborn calves are able to run about but are guarded closely by many of the herds’ mothers who will charge any intruders. Talk about safety in numbers!

Ever wish your mom would let you have your own place?

Photo of long-eared owl

Our fine, feather mom, the long-eared owl, takes on the more ‘distant’ parenting approach. In a behavior known as ‘branching’, chicks leave the nest before they are able to fly and reside in surrounding vegetation, roosting separately, and thereby potentially reducing predation. While the young are capable of flight at around 35 days, both parents continue to provide food for several weeks after fledging.

Did your mom ever carry you and eight of your brothers and sisters in her mouth?

Photo of American alligator

The scaly and not-so-cuddly American alligator mother is a more involved mom. From the time that she builds the nest for her 25 to 60 eggs to the moment they hatch, she remains quite close for the 65 day incubation period guarding against any potential predators. An efficient mom, she can carry eight to ten hatchlings at a time in her mouth!

Think you live in tight corners with your mother, brothers or sisters?

Photo of American black bear

The fuzzy but protective American black bear mom keeps her cubs close, real close. Mom and cubs snuggle up for months during winter hibernation and, since cubs aren’t weaned until they are six to eight months old, the family tends to spend a second winter hibernation in close quarters.

Could you imagine having your babies but then leaving them immediately?

Photo of Hawksbill turtle

The hawksbill turtle mother, after laying up to 140 eggs in a single nest, leaves her young behind to hatch and fend for themselves for the rest of their lives. If the hatchlings survive the mad dash to the sea just after hatching, they spend their first few years in the open ocean before returning to more sheltered coastal waters.

Haven’t gotten your fill of moms and babies on ARKive yet? Check out this search for ‘mothers’ to see animal moms from around the world on ARKive!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Ari Pineda, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

May 11

The 11th and 12th of May mark World Migratory Bird Day, which launched in 2006 to raise awareness of the need to protect migratory birds. Migratory birds often make several stops on their amazing journeys to a wide array of different habitats across the world. Many of these habitats are of vital importance to these birds, allowing them to rest, feed and breed.

Sadly many of these habitats are also under threat from pollution, development or global warming. To further complicate matters, many migratory routes cross the borders of several countries, meaning that a global conservation effort is required to be effective. This year’s World Migratory Bird Day theme is ‘Networking for Migratory Birds’, which focuses on the need for the relevant organisations to cooperate and network with each other to achieve conservation goals.

The ARKive website has images, videos and facts for many different migratory birds – here are just a few:

The long distance marathon record

The Arctic tern has one of the longest migration routes of any bird, moving from the Arctic and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere all the way over to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. On the plus side, flying so far south for a second summer does mean that the Arctic tern sees the most sunlight per year of any animal.

Photo of Arctic tern calling

Almost pole to pole – the Arctic tern

Longest non-stop flight

Imagine travelling up to 10,400 kilometres with no stops whatsoever. The bar-tailed godwit does just that when it migrates from Alaska and Siberia to its wintering grounds in New Zealand. Though averaging an impressive flight speed of 63 kilometres per hour it still takes around 175 hours. That’s what I call a long haul flight!

Photo of bar-tailed godwit flock in flight

Bar-tailed godwit flock in flight

Migration en masse for some winter sun

The barn swallow is probably one of the world’s most familiar bird species as it is the most numerous and widespread of all the swallows. It is also a very agile flier, making sharp turns to catch insects on the wing. Before migrating south for the winter, these small birds form flocks of over a million individuals. Quite a sight to behold.

Photo of barn swallows congregating in tree

A flock of barn swallows congregating in a tree

The 747 of birds

The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of all birds, at an impressive three and a half metres! Given its name, it probably comes as no surprise that this species gets around quite a bit. Its large wingspan allows the wandering albatross to soar with little effort over long distances.

Photo of wandering albatross in flight against stormy sky with pair displaying in backgroud

It will take more than a bit of stormy weather to ground the wandering albatross

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher

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