May 22

Today is the United Nation’s International Day of Biological Diversity, which this year has been dedicated to island biodiversity.

Islands are home to an estimated 20% of all bird, reptile and plant species despite making up less than 5% of Earth’s land area. Islands also contain 40 percent of all critically endangered species, and the extinction rates on islands are disproportionately high despite a global extinction rate that may be 1000 times the historical background rate.

Islands contain 40 percent of all critically endangered species

“Biodiversity is crucial to meet human needs. Our economies, livelihoods, health, and cultures depend on the proper management of this natural capital.  This is even more important on islands where natural ecosystems are fragile and easily disturbed.” said Olivier Langrand, Island Conservation’s Director of Global Affairs, member of the Steering Committee of Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) and co-chair of the GLISPA Working Group on Invasive Alien Species.

The necessity of urgent action in aid of island conservation, to halt and reverse the loss in biodiversity is highlighted in the new publication , “Island Bright Spots in Conservation & Sustainability” by the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA). This report showcases inspired island conservation solutions in action, “bright spots”. These “bright spots” will also be showcased during the 2014 International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to encourage investment in scaling and replicating initiatives that work. In this publication Island Conservation’s Allen Cay and Small Islands, Big Difference (SIBD) projects are highlighted as successful examples that could serve as innovative models for island restoration around the globe.

Island Conservation’s Allen Cay

Allen Cay, The Bahamas is a small island habitat but is home to important populations of Audubon’s shearwater and provides critical habitat for the endemic, endangered Allen Cay rock iguana. However, invasive house mice were indirectly threatening the native species by providing an abundant food source for barn owls, increasing the owl populations, which predate heavily on Audubon’s shearwater and juvenile Allen Cay rock iguanas. In 2012, Island conservation collaborated with the Bahamas National Trust, Government, NGO and private partners to remove invasive house mice from Allen Cay. This successful partnership protected nationally and globally significant biodiversity, and laid foundations for future restoration and conservation projects in the Bahamas.

Allen’s Cay rock iguana on beach

Island Conservation’s Small Islands, Big Difference Project

Island Conservation’s Small Islands, Big Difference (SIBD) campaign was launched in Montreal, Canada in 2012. The goal of this campaign is to financially support hundreds of partners and island nations in protecting thousands of species through the removal of invasive species from 500 islands.

Island Conservation and local partners helped protect critical habitat for the waved albatross by removing invasive goats and feral cats from Isla de la Plata

The“Island Bright Spots in Conservation & Sustainability” publication also highlights emerging initiatives such as the recent launch of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a three year open-ocean journey around the world undertaken in two Hawaiian voyaging canoes. The aim of this project is to catalyse awareness and action on how to care for Earth, the Oceans and our natural heritage. The crew aim to bring stories of our islands and oceans to inspire communities and leaders to take action to protect these critical resources.

Read more about the importance of Island habitats on Arkive.

Read more about Island Conservation.

Find out how the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage is progressing.

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern

May 19

With ARKive’s 11th birthday on the horizon, there couldn’t be a better time to look back and reflect on the incredible year we’ve had. From a brand new PSA featuring Hollywood actor and ARKive fan John Leguizamo, to reaching approximately 4.5 million students this year through our award-winning, curriculum-linked education resources, there is much to celebrate!

We have narrowed down this year’s ARKive headliners to 11 of our favourites, and we want you to tell us which one you consider to be the most important. Does sharing the story of 10 species on the road to recovery in our Conservation in Action campaign tick the boxes for you? Or is it the thousands of new green-flagged images in the ARKive collection that are now available for use by  not-for-profit conservation & education organisations to support their vital missions? Let us know by casting your vote here, or leaving a comment below!

Conservation in Action

To mark a decade of highlighting conservation issues, we worked closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Groups on our Conservation in Action campaign. Highlighting ten very different species, each on the road to recovery thanks to targeted conservation efforts led by dedicated scientific experts, this was a true celebration of conservation success stories!

Scimitar-horned oryx photo

Currently classified as Extinct in the Wild, the scimitar-horned oryx is now the subject of a captive breeding programme, which aims to eventually reintroduce the species to its natural habitat

Filling the ARK in Illinois

Through the generosity of ARKive supporters in the great state of Illinois, we were delighted to launch the our new Illinois feature page; the GO-TO source for Illinois wildlife media and natural history information, featuring over 100 native species. To celebrate the launch of this project, our conservation partners in Chicago such as Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and Lincoln Park Zoo wrote guest blogs sharing their favourite conservation stories in the Land of Lincoln as part of our Going WILD in Illinois mini-blog series.

Burden Falls photo

Burden Falls in Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

John Leguizamo PSA

Being a Hollywood and Broadway actor, director and producer, John Leguizamo is no stranger to the wild world, especially when it comes to the fantastic characters he has played on the big screen. Who can forget Sid, the lisping sloth in the Ice Age films, or Alex, the witty and sarcastic prehistoric bird in the recent hit Walking with Dinosaurs? In a new PSA for ARKive, John shared why he values ARKive, as well as giving a shout-out to a few of the species that amazed him when he discovered them on ARKive for the first time!

John Leguizamo photo

John Leguizamo’s PSA for ARKive

Education Resources

Our education programme inspires and motivates young people to take an interest in the natural world. We estimate that our freely available education resources will have reached 4.5million students in the last year. Some of our latest resources include: Handling Data: African Animal Maths (7-11 years), Species Discovery: Keys & Classification (11-14 years), Climate Change (11-14 years) and Indicator Species (14-16 year olds).

Species Discovery education module

Explore how scientists discover, classify and name species previously unknown to science with our Species Discovery education modules

UK Invasive Species project

Invasive non-native species are considered the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide after habitat loss. This year saw us set about the task of raising public awareness of the risks and adverse impacts associated with invasive non-native species in the UK through a new feature pagefun activities, two new education resources and an interactive quiz.

Signal crayfish photo

The signal crayfish is a voracious predator, and a highly invasive species in the UK

Ocean Acidification

Increasing carbon dioxide emissions have not only resulted in a global temperature rise, but have also made the oceans more acidic, and it is thought that the oceans are 30 percent more acidic today than before the industrial revolution. With our new ocean acidification topic page you can learn more about the impacts of ocean acidification and discover the species which are being affected.

Coral reef photo

It is thought that coral reefs could be the first victims of ocean acidification, with one reef being destroyed every other day.

Lonely Hearts Campaign

This Valentine’s Day we launched a new campaign on our blog and Twitter, highlighting some forlorn species looking for love and explaining what they’re looking for in a perfect partner!

Mallorcan midwife toad photo

Monty the Mallorcan midwife toad is a sensitive guy who’s great with kids and is ready to deliver a good time!

Shoebox Habitats

During the summer we created a new range of fun and free activities to download and keep the little ones entertained during the holidays. Some of the most popular were our new Shoebox Habitat packs, allowing you to build your very own jungle, African savannah, under the sea or winter scenes!

Shoebox habitat photo

Build your own jungle, African savannah, under the sea or winter scenes with our amazing shoebox habitats!

CBD programme: Islands and Forests

ARKive is following the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Programme structure to explore some of the major biomes on the planet. Over the past year we have launched the first two chapters of this project, Islands and Forests. On these new feature pages you can learn more about the importance of these habitats, discover the species that live there and find out what is being done to protect them.

Forest photo

Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

Green-flagged Images

Thanks to the generosity of our media donors we now have an incredible 2,771 green-flagged images which are available to use for not-for-profit conservation or education use.

African penguin photo

African penguins by Peter Chadwick

Profiling the World’s Most Endangered Species

As ever, we continue to profile the world’s most endangered species with the help of leading wildlife filmmakers and photographers, conservationists and scientists, adding images and footage of elusive species such as the Critically Endangered Vipera anatolica, known from only a single location in Anatolia, Turkey.

Vipera anatolica photo

The Critically Endangered Vipera anatolica

If you ask us, we think ARKive’s biggest success this year isn’t what we’ve done; it’s what you’ve done!  By downloading our resources, sharing our blogs and stories on social media or forwarding our newsletters to friends and family members, you continue to help spread ARKive’s message for wildlife conservation as far as possible. Thank YOU for making this year so successful for ARKive!

Don’t forget to cast your vote here, or let us know your favourite by leaving a comment below.

May 17
Scalloped hammerhead

Scalloped hammerhead

Species: Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The hammer-shaped head of the scalloped hammerhead is thought to be a mechanism to spread out the ampullae of Lorenzini which are sensory organs that detect electric currents, chemicals and temperature changes.

More information: The scalloped hammerhead can be distinguished from other hammerhead shark species by the ‘scalloped’ front edge of its head. This species has a relatively slim body and is counter-shaded, with a brown-grey or bronze upperside and a white underside. This relatively large shark can grow up to lengths of 4.3 metres and can weigh up to 152 kilograms. Fish, cephalopods, lobsters, shrimp, crabs, other sharks and rays make up the diet of this species, and prey items are usually eaten whole. Generally occurring in the warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans over continental shelves, the scalloped hammerhead is also known to enter closed bays and estuaries and generally swims between depths of 0 and 275 metres.

Occasionally caught as bycatch by longline fisheries, the scalloped hammerhead is also caught commercially. Various products are made from the body parts of sharks, including shark fin soup from the fins and vitamins from the liver, as well as the meat which is sold for human consumption. Certain parts of this shark’s range are protected, including the area around Melpelo in Colombia, and there are plans to extend the legal protection to other areas. There are no other known conservation measures currently in place for this Endangered species.

Find out more about marine conservation at the Save Our Seas Foundation and Project AWARE.

Find out more about shark conservation at Bite Back and the Shark Trust.

See images and videos of the scalloped hammerhead on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

May 16

Island species are under threat.  Despite only making up about 3% of the Earth’s land area, islands are home to about 20% of all species and 50% of endangered species.

Approximately 80% of all known extinctions have occurred on islands. One of the primary causes for extinction of island species is the presence of invasive species. Since 1994, the charitable organisation Island Conservation has fought to prevent these extinctions by removing invasive species from island ecosystems.  Focusing on islands where the need is greatest, as biodiversity is concentrated and the rate of extinction is high, Island Conservation has deployed team members to 52 islands worldwide to protect 994 populations of 338 native species.

Invasive species are a threat to the Critically Endangered Juan Fernández firecrown

Once invasive species are removed, island ecosystems can often recover with little or no extra intervention. After the removal of invasive rats from Hawadax Island (formerly known as Rat Island), Alaska, bird species on the island increased dramatically and for the first time ever, breeding tufted puffins were documented on the island.

Working together with local communities, government management agencies and conservation organisations, Island Conservation enables many species to be brought back from the brink of extinction.

One such success story is the Anacapa Island Restoration Project. Invasive black rats on Anacapa Island, part of the Channel Islands Archipelago in California, were decimating native species populations, particularly the threatened Xantus’s murrelet (now renamed Scripps’s Murrelet),and the endemic Anacapa deer mouse. In 2001 and 2002, Island Conservation and partners removed invasive rats from Anacapa Island.  Since the removal of the rats, the nesting success of Xantus’s murrelet has increased by 90% and the Anacapa deer mice are thriving. In 2013, scientists documented the endangered ashy storm-petrel breeding on the island for the first time in history.

Anacapa Island

The removal of invasive species from island habitats has also led to the rediscovery of species once thought to be extinct. In 2011, Island Conservation and their partners removed invasive rats from Rábida Island, Galapagos to protect the native species.  A return visit to the island two years later led to an unexpected discovery of a gecko species, known only from subfossil records, which was thought to be extinct.

To date, Island Conservation have recovered and protected 338 seabird nesting colonies and taken action to restore 52 islands from the most damaging invasive animals.  With their continued work and the launch of Small Islands, Big Difference – a campaign which aims to save our world’s most vulnerable species by removing invasive species from islands at an accelerated rate, many more island species can be rescued from extinction.

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing with you more about the great work that Island Conservation have carried out.

For more information about Island Conservation visit their website or facebook page.

Discover ARKive’s favourite island species from around the world.

May 14

1aOur oceans are critical to our very existence; it’s a simple matter of healthy oceans = healthy people.  Besides providing us with food (today almost one in six people in the world rely on fish as their primary source of protein), oceans provide us with many other important services that our survival depends on.  They maintain our renewable supply of fresh water through the water cycle, regulate our climate, and produce more oxygen than the world’s rainforests. With growing concern over climate change, we are turning more and more towards the oceans for clean, renewable energy.

In addition to being an important source of protein, many marine organisms have been found to provide therapeutic uses in antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, or antibiotic medicines. Additionally, the marine and coastal ecosystems offer endless recreational opportunities such as sea kayaking, sport fishing, surfing, whale watching and scuba diving, activities which not only feed our souls, but also drive economic benefits through employment for local peoples.

2a

Today almost one in six people in the world rely on fish as their primary source of protein.

Although critical to our existence, our oceans are in desperate trouble.  Depleted fishery stocks, habitat destruction, pollution, coastal development, climate change and invasive species, are some of the major issues threatening the healthy existence of our oceans.  In the Pacific Ocean for example, there is an area 1000 kilometres from the US coast which is larger than the entire land mass of South Africa and which is covered in plastic. It contains six times more plastic than plankton, and is growing all the time as more than 10 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the sea each year.

3a

The marine and coastal ecosystems offer endless recreational opportunities such as sea kayaking, sport fishing, surfing, whale watching and scuba diving.

This current state of affairs is largely as a result of the dilemma known as “The Tragedy of the Commons”, in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long term interest for this to happen.

Plastic debris littered along the beachfront

Our oceans are in desperate trouble. Depleted fishery stocks, habitat destruction, pollution, coastal development, climate change and invasive species, are some of the major issues threatening the healthy existence of our oceans.

Overfishing, together with global climate change and habitat destruction, are considered as the three major risks facing our oceans. When looking at this, obviously the first thing that we have to do is to control our own levels of exploitation. That means fishing within the biological limits of a fish population and assuring that the gear that we use does not destroy habitats. Today, many stocks are just hanging on to survival because of regulations that were inadequately or not properly enforced in the past. We need to abide to these regulations and support good science that guides the future regulatory parameters around fishery off-take.

5a

Fishing is taking place across food chains and thereby breaking down the efficiency of the oceans.

Globally, as human populations continue to grow, along with the popularity of seafood, fish stocks are coming under increasing pressure and can no longer keep up with pressure of current commercial fishing operations. A recently published report on the state of the world’s fisheries by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), estimated that approximately 80% of the world’s fisheries were fished at (52%) or beyond (28%) their maximum sustainable limits.

A small-pelagic fishing trawler at dawn and surrounded by seagul

Overfishing, together with global climate change and habitat destruction, are considered as the three major risks facing our oceans.

Increased levels of fishing do not only result in the overexploitation of our marine resources, but also results in the destruction of marine habitats. More than 50% of the world’s total marine catch (81 million tons) is harvested using towed fishing gear. Studies have shown that fishing can damage the seabed by, for example, breaking deep-water coral reefs and other fragile habitats.

7

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), estimated that approximately 80% of the world’s fisheries were fished at (52%) or beyond (28%) their maximum sustainable limits.

Habitat destruction is not only about the physical loss that may come from the destruction of a reef or the damming of a river, but also from pollution, diverted stream flows, and even the introduction of invasive species. Through habitat destruction, biodiversity is negatively impacted which ultimately is the cornerstone of a productive ecosystem that in turn drives the fishery resource upon which we depend. We know that 85 % of all commercially valuable fish are dependent upon wetlands and estuaries during some part of their lifecycle. Two-thirds of our estuaries and bays are already severely degraded through torrents of chemical and other poisonous runoffs and irresponsible development and agricultural practises.

8

Pollution is negatively impacting on the biodiversity of our oceans.

Protecting our oceans and coast is more than stopping pollution and regulating fishing. It also means controlling our activities onshore and controlling unregulated coastal development. With all of these poisonous pollutants running into the oceans, “dead zones” have been created where only some of the smallest marine organisms can survive. These areas are created in significant part by synthetic nitrogen fertilizers flowing into the sea and nourishing massive algal blooms which then decay and cause oxygen- depletion, killing everything except the hardiest in its vicinity.

9

We know that 85 % of all commercially valuable fish are dependent upon wetlands and estuaries during some part of their lifecycle.

Although these kinds of reports on the state of our marine resources may be disheartening, it is important for us to realize that there are solutions, and that if we all work together, we can turn things around. Marine Protected Areas are globally recognised as an essential tool for marine conservation and for helping restore the health of our oceans. They allow for the protection of habitats and provide areas where fish species can grow and breed without disturbance. As habitats are able to re-establish back to their natural state, they help in preventing damage from severe storms, reducing the impacts of pollutants while also aiding in reducing the impacts of climate change.

Blouberg Strand and Table Mountain

Protecting our oceans and coast is also about controlling unregulated coastal development.

Where fishing is concerned, it is important that all stakeholders abide by set fishing regulations and laws- we need to build a culture of voluntary compliance and self-regulation. Fisheries need to start implementing what is known as an Ecosystem Approach to fisheries (EAF), which seeks to protect and enhance the health of our marine ecosystems as a whole, to ensure the long-term survival of marine life and the communities that depend on it.

Marine Protected Area signage overlooking an estuary mouth

Marine Protected Areas are globally recognised as an essential tool for marine conservation and for helping restore the health of our oceans.

It is also important that we promote a sustainable seafood trade. By simply asking questions about our seafood and making more informed choices about the fish that we trade, buy and eat, we could make a huge impact in influencing positive change in the seafood chain of custody.  But this requires urgent and concerted effort from all parties involved- from the fishing industry all the way to the consumer.

12

It is important that all stakeholders abide by set fishing regulations and laws.

Our oceans are a common heritage, and we all have the responsibility and the ability to help conserve and protect them- if not for our sake, then for the sake of future generations- our children.

13

Support the South African Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and only eat and buy the healthiest and most well managed fish populations.

More tips on what you can do to help save the oceans:

1. Support South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas
2. Eat sustainable seafood: Support the South African Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and only eat and buy the healthiest and most well managed fish populations. For further information visit: www.wwf.org.za/sassi
3. Don’t dispose of trash or toilet waste in the ocean.
4. When enjoying recreational fishing, obey regulations and try to enjoy only catch-and-release fishing and use care when releasing fish back into the ocean. Take photos, not fish
5. Keep beaches clean. Plastics and other debris harm sea life and pollute the ocean. Clean up after yourself. Get involved! Participate in beach cleanups if you live in a coastal area.
6. Don’t purchase items that exploit marine resources unnecessarily such as shell and coral jewellery and sharks teeth.
7. Spread the word: Tell people what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to make a difference.

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Peter Chadwick
http://www.peterchadwick.co.za

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