Jan 23

A shocking one quarter of all shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, according to the results of a new study.

Great white shark image

The great white shark is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Threat analysis

The paper, published this week in the open-access journal eLife, analysed the threat and conservation status of an impressive 1,041 species of chondrichthyans, a fascinating group of fish species including sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras whose skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone. The results were rather alarming, revealing that this group is among the most threatened in the animal kingdom.

The paper is the result of collaboration between more than 300 experts from 64 countries, and reports that, while no species has yet been driven to global extinction, at least 28 populations of skates, sawfishes and angel sharks are now locally or regionally extinct. In addition, several shark species have not been seen for several decades.

Reef manta ray image

Reef manta ray parts are highly valued in traditional medicine, posing a threat to this majestic species

Threat hotspots

The study highlights two areas which are currently experiencing a higher than expected level of threat: the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle. The latter is considered to be among the most biologically and culturally diverse regions on the planet, yet unfortunately it is also one of the least regulated.

The authors of the paper explain that, “The Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle, particularly the Gulf of Thailand, and the islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Sulawesi, is a hotspot of greatest residual threat, especially for coastal sharks and rays with 76 threatened species.”

It is feared that, should no national or international action be taken, these species could rapidly become extinct.

Shark finning image

Finning was revealed to be a major threat to many shark species

Major threats

The results of the study revealed that the main threat to chondrichthyans is overexploitation through targeted fisheries and incidental catches. Of particular concern for the future of sharks, wedgefishes and sawfishes is the process of ‘finning’, which is driven by the huge market demand for shark fin soup, a highly sought-after delicacy in China.

The authors of the new research paper state that, “Fins, in particular, have become one of the most valuable seafood commodities. It is estimated that the fins of between 26 and 73 million individuals, worth US$400-550 million, are traded each year.”

Habitat loss is a further threat to chondrichthyans, with 22 species being threatened by the destruction of estuaries and river systems for the purposes of residential and commercial development, and 12 species being placed at risk due to the conversion of mangroves into shrimp farms. In addition, pollution and climate change have been identified as major threats to sharks, rays and their relatives.

Scalloped hammerhead shark image

The scalloped hammerhead shark is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Additional factors

As well as providing a vital insight into the type and extent of threats to chondrichthyans, the paper also revealed other interesting factors which come into play. It was found that large body size and occurrence in shallow habitat are the biggest factors determining a species’ likelihood of being threatened. The results showed that with every 10-centimetre increase in a species’ maximum body length came a 1.2-percent increase in the probability that the species would be threatened. Dwellers of deep water appear to fare better than their shallow-water relatives, with a 10.3-percent decrease in the probability of being threatened for every 50-metre increase in the minimum depth limit of the species.

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay.com – One quarter of sharks and rays threatened with extinction.

View photos and videos of chondrichthyans on ARKive.

Read more about shark conservation and conservation in the Indo-Pacific Region.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

 

Jan 18
Close up of the Annam leaf turtle

Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis)

Species: Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Until recently, the Annam leaf turtle had not been documented in the wild for 65 years.

More information:

The Annam leaf turtle has a dark brown head with striking yellow stripes that extend from its snout to the base of the neck. Three ridges, known as keels, run along the back of its dark brown upper shell. The underside of the shell, known as the ‘plastron’, is yellow-orange with black blotches on each bony plate. The Annam leaf turtle’s feet are fully webbed, which make it well adapted to its semi-aquatic lifestyle.

This species is omnivorous and will readily eat fruit, fish and invertebrates. A semi-aquatic creature, the Annam leaf turtle feeds both on land and in water, and lays its eggs in a hole dug into the soil. The young turtles emerge after around 80 to 90 days, and resemble miniature adults in appearance.

The Annam leaf turtle is found in a small area of central Vietnam. It inhabits lowland marshes and slow-moving or still bodies of freshwater. The small range that this species inhabits is a prime location for rice production, which puts the turtle’s habitat at risk. The Annam leaf turtle is also under constant threat from unsustainable hunting and illegal trade. In China, it can often be found for sale as meat or traditional medicine.

The Annam leaf turtle is protected under Vietnam’s wildlife protection law and is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored. Despite trade in the Annam leaf turtle being illegal, it continues to occur as the law is often poorly enforced. Various breeding programmes have recently been set up and captive populations are increasing. These programmes try to involve local school and university students to boost awareness of this Critically Endangered turtle’s perilous situation.

 

Find out more about the Annam leaf turtle at the Southeast Asia Campaign and the Turtle Survival Alliance.

See images of the Annam leaf turtle on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

 

Jan 17

The fight to save one of the world’s most endangered birds, the Bali starling, got a major boost with the hatching of four tiny, healthy chicks on Bali’s Nusa Penida Island.

Bali starling image

The Bali starling is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

The captive-bred chicks hatched in early October, and are the offspring of two pairs of birds housed at Friends of the National Parks Foundation’s (FNPF) community centre in the island’s Ped village. We bought the hatchlings’ parents from West Java’s Soehana Oetodjo, one of Indonesia’s most experienced Bali starling breeders, and took them to Nusa Penida in December 2012 in the hope they would breed. They came with six other Bali starlings which were released on nearby Lembongan Island.

Wildlife welfare standards

It’s very exciting – after ten months, these are the first offspring to be produced. We would like to show people who are interested in the captive breeding of starlings for conservation purposes that you don’t necessarily need fancy cages. We used very simple, secure, inexpensive enclosures which met wildlife welfare standards – something that people on Nusa Penida can copy. In addition, we trained our local staff to breed the birds, showing you don’t need any previous specialist skill to do this – it’s very much about how much you care about the birds.

Bali starling chick image

One of the captive-bred Bali starling chicks © Friends of the National Parks Foundation/Nengah Sudipa

We are a grassroots conservation NGO, working to protect wildlife and its habitat at the same time as supporting local communities. Our projects have been recognised by global organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme and the Whitley Fund for Nature.

We have transformed Nusa Penida, 14 kilometres off the coast of Bali, into an unofficial bird sanctuary and a haven for the Bali starling. We gained the trust of the 46 villages, and persuaded each one to introduce traditional Balinese regulations to protect Bali’s emblem bird, as well as other threatened bird species, from poachers and wildlife traders.

Today, the sanctuary, which also takes in two nearby islands, is estimated to be home to more than 100 Bali starlings. When we started in 2006, there were believed to be less than ten of these birds surviving in the wild in Bali.

Bali starling on branch image

The Bali startling is Bali’s national bird

Surprise arrivals

FNPF’s Nusa Penida Bird Keeper Nengah Sudipa, himself a former wild bird poacher, is rapt with the new arrivals. He helped to select the birds that would be kept for breeding from ten Bali starlings that arrived in late 2012. But after four months, and no success, he was worried because the birds were only making nests and not laying eggs.

Then one morning while cleaning out the nest box he found two chicks inside. He says he was so happy, and kept going back and forth to the nest box all day to make sure they were healthy. Two days later, two more tiny chicks hatched from the next cage.

Later this year we will release some of the hatchlings on Nusa Penida, and loan some to local people interested in getting involved in captive breeding. Anyone who is given the opportunity of a breeding loan should return at least double the number of birds they receive, and those birds can then be released back on Penida.

Bali starling pair image

Illegal capture for the caged-bird trade is a major threat to the Bali starling

We have won the ongoing commitment and support of the Penida communities to help protect birds through our work operating a variety of community development and community education projects, all of which bring social and economic benefits to the local residents.

We rely solely on donations to fund our work saving the endemic Bali starling. Please support our project by sponsoring the rehabilitation and release of a Bali starling, or sponsor a Bali starling nestbox and we will attach a plaque in your name. For more information, visit us at www.fnpf.org or email info@fnpf.org. Thank you to Alan El Kadhi for covering the cost of purchasing these ten Bali starlings.

By Friends of the National Parks Foundation, CEO and Founder Dr Bayu Wirayudha and Communications Manager Kirana Agustina

Jan 14

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country in Central Asia best known for its walnut forests and vast mountain ranges. Tall peaks, deep valleys, and glaciers make up Kyrgyzstan’s breathtaking geography. Its diverse wildlife makes Kyrgyzstan quite a gem in Eurasia and certainly a country worth exploring. Join us on a virtual tour of this country full of wild surprises and much more!

Fine feathered friend

Eurasian golden oriole photo

The name Eurasian golden oriole says it all. This golden-feathered bird lives in deciduous forest habitat however, despite its bright plumage, the golden oriole can blend into dense foliage. If you listen closely, you may hear this bird whistle a flute-like song or even a “chr-r-r” alarm call.

Gallant galloper

Asiatic wild ass photo

This mammal looks a lot like a horse, doesn’t it? The Asiatic wild ass roams freely in Kyrgyzstan feasting on woody plants. Even though it lives in semi-desert conditions, it’s always found close to a water source and actually gets its water from snow throughout the winter.

Frequent flier

Red chaser photo

While photos have been taken of the red chaser, not much is known about this species. One thing we do know is the red chaser goes through several stages of life development. This insect begins its life cycle as aquatic larvae and then molts several times before transitioning into adulthood.

Restful reptile

Afghan tortoise photo

Don’t be fooled! While the Afghan tortoise‘s scales and shell look like it’s heavily armored and ready for action, this tortoise actually isn’t very active at all. It tends to stay dormant during the summer and hibernate most of the winter. Sometimes this reptile is only awake three months out of the year!

Beautiful boar

Wild boar photo

The wild boar is a social animal living in herds of 6 to 20. With its omnivorous appetite, the wild boar feeds on seeds, roots, fruit, and even animal matter. The wild boar is considered an ancestor of most domestic pig breeds and can be found nearly everywhere as it has one of the largest distributions of all land mammals. Quite extra-oink-inary!

Lengthy lizard

Desert monitor photo

Desert monitors are opportunistic predators; they will do just about anything to find food including climbing trees, swimming, and digging! Despite being a rather gangling looking reptile growing to three feet in length or longer, the desert monitor makes impressive ground in a day sometimes traveling 5-6 kilometers!

Blue-billed bird

White-headed duck photo

The white-headed duck is one of the rarest wetland birds. It is a very skilful swimmer and does much better in water than on land. When it dives, the white-headed duck can stay under water for forty seconds at a time. An interesting fact about the white-headed duck? In late winter, this bird loses its feathers and cannot fly!

With its varied geography and ever-changing climate, it’s no wonder Kyrgyzstan is filled with amazing species. The animals on this list have found clever ways of adapting to their environments. Have you explored the hundreds of other species on ARKive that call Kyrgyzstan home? Have a look today!

Andrea Small, Education & Outreach Intern, Wildscreen USA

Jan 11
Photo of a pair of red-fronted macaws on a branch

Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)

Species: Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The red-fronted macaw is a fairly vocal parrot, known to produce high-pitched growls and harsh squeaks.

More information:

The red-fronted macaw is bright green with an orange-red forehead and a small patch of red behind each eye. The shoulders and thighs are also orange, the primary feathers of the wings are blue and the tail is olive-green tipped with blue. Males and females are similar in appearance. The red-fronted macaw is endemic to the east Andean slope of Bolivia, South America.

The red-fronted macaw feeds on seeds and fruit, but it will also frequently feed on crops including maize and ground nuts, as natural food is often very scarce. It roosts and nests on steep riverside cliffs. Eggs are typically laid between November and April, and most breeding pairs tend to successfully rear one young each year.

The reasons for the drastic decline of the red-fronted macaw include widespread habitat loss and degradation, largely as a result of conversion to agriculture but also due to logging and collection of firewood. This species is illegally trapped for the pet trade, but the scale of this problem is unclear. Furthermore, as the natural food sources of this bird are lost, it has to rely more on crops and becomes increasingly exposed to persecution as a result.

The red-fronted macaw is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so international trade in this species is tightly controlled. Within Bolivia, the capture, transport and export of this species is illegal. This macaw occurs in only one protected area, but just eight birds are known to breed within this park. BirdLife Bolivia initiated a conservation programme for this species in 2002. A ban on trading the red-fronted macaw has been proposed, and recommendations have been made to fence off areas of suitable habitat to reduce grazing by livestock, allowing its natural food source to make a come-back.

 

Find out more about the red-fronted macaw at BirdLife International and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

See images of the red-fronted macaw on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

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