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Here at Arkive, we provide the ultimate multimedia guide to endangered species, and through our blog we’ll keep you up to date with news from the world of wildlife videos, photography and conservation, alongside the latest on our quest to locate imagery of the planet’s most wanted plants and animals.
Jul 30

What comes to mind when you think of the word “drones”? It’s usually not conservation. Increasingly, however drones are being used as vital tools for conservation. Drones can provide stunning images of landscapes and wildlife from formerly impossible locations. However, a lot of questions arise when you think about how to use drones for conservation.

How does it work? Does it affect animals? How do you get started? If these are some of your burning questions then allow us to clarify.

The Arkive Team had the awesome opportunity to speak with wildlife conservation experts about the use of drones for conservation. We spoke with Annika Lieben from The Shadowview Foundation and Serge Wich from Conservationdrones.org.

Can you tell us the story behind the creation of your organization?

Serge: Conservationdrones.org started in January 2011 when I met with Lian Pin Koh, a conservation ecologist and we began discussing the issue of forest loss in Southeast Asia. It is difficult to monitor a species like the orangutan. We thought it would be amazing to monitor species from the air. Piloted planes and helicopters were expensive to use so we settled upon the use of drones, since they are more cost-effective.

Bornean-orangutan-infant-hanging-from-tree

Bornean orangutan infant hanging from tree

Annika: Well, our co-founder Laurens de Groot used to work for Sea Shepherds. They were in Cape Cross, Namibia where a massive seal culling occurs every year. Laurens and the others were detected and had to get away. In 2012, Laurens and others returned to Namibia and used drones to document the seal culling. It worked quite well and because of its success Laurens decided to further pursue the use of drones for conservation.

How did you settle upon using drones for conservation?

Serge: Well, helicopters and planes are not always available when you need them. Furthermore when using helicopters you must fly relatively low; this is quite a risk, because if there is a glitch with the engine there is very little time to react. On the other hand using drones only requires effort and funding and does not put the life of individuals at risk. By using drones for conservation, you help encourage other conservation groups to use drones for this purpose.

Annika: The use of drones offers a lot of opportunities that traditional methods cannot. Drones are a versatile tool that can be used for scientific research and data collection.

Drone - Shadowview Foundation

Laurens de Groot (left) and team with drone (© Shadowview Foundation)

What are the benefits of using drones for conservation?

Serge: Drones are a great tool that allows you to capture high resolution imagery from a variety of sensors (RGB cameras, NIR cameras, thermal cameras) by flying over an area. Since drones do not have the availability restrictions of planes and helicopters, you can use them with greater frequency.  Additionally, it is more cost-efficient.

Drones 1 - Conservationdrones

Serge Wich (bottom right), Lian Pin Koh (top right) and team with drones (© Conservationsdrones.org)

Annika: Drones are a new way of looking at conservation. It allows you to gather data in an efficient manner and they are much cheaper than using a helicopter or plane. Additionally, poachers are not used to a drone, which provides an advantage.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about the use of drones for conservation?

Serge: I would start by asking them, which aspect of drones causes them to be skeptical. Based on that I can explain to them how drones are used for conservation and then we can see if they remain skeptical. More generally I would tell people that because the learning curve for operating drones (particularly fixed-wing systems) can be steep, operators receive extensive training. After the training they are able to operate these systems in a safe manner. While there used to be an association of drones with the military, I think this perception is changing quickly. Drones are no longer solely for the military; they are now commonly used for humanitarian work, research and conservation.

Annika: Drones provide an additional method of creating a network for fighting wildlife crime and learning about species. It’s all about working together.

How can amateur filmmakers learn to properly use drones for wildlife filmmaking? What are the best practices?

Serge: I recommend they look into small companies that offer thorough training for operating drones. By doing this you reduce the risk of the loss of your drone. It is important to do flight training so you can properly operate the drone in the field. Get the proper qualifications and be aware of safety measures. Safety is key.

For best practices, in case anything should malfunction it is vital to have a fail-safe system.  You can program the drone to land by itself or come back to a designated start point if something goes awry. You can also set up a geo-fence which is a pre-determined area in which the drone is programmed to operate. If it goes outside this area it will either land or return to a starting point. Despite the drones ability to fly on autopilot, it is still very important to know how to operate it well.

Landscape - Conservationdrones.org

Flight over orangutan re-introduction site in Jantho, Aceh (© Conservationdrones.org)

Annika: Foremost, to properly use drones one must be well-trained in how to fly a drone when in close proximity to animals. Learn how to safely fly drones when near birds, since birds sometimes identify drones as birds of prey.  Herd animals will also become spooked if one of their members starts to get agitated. It is always important to keep your distance from the species being studied or observed. If an animal becomes agitated because of the drone’s presence it is best to move away from the animal.

How do you maintain a safe environment for the species being filmed?

Serge: You should not fly drones too close to the species being studied. This is especially true for birds who might perceive drones as a predator and attempt to attack it. During your first flight you should fly fairly high and gauge the impact of the presence and/or noise on the behavior of the species. In this manner, you can determine which height is appropriate. You should also use a drone that has redundancy in its motors so that  it will land by itself if it loses one of its engines rather than simply crash.

Annika: In order to maintain a safe environment, it is important to do your research on the species in order to understand how it will react to a flying apparatus. Doing your research assists in providing the best approach for filming.

Landscape - Shadowview Foundation

Amazing aerial imagery (© Shadowview Foundation)

What have been the most meaningful successes of your organization?

Serge: I think the most meaningful successes have been the ability to detect orangutans and chimpanzees in remote areas. Also at the Chitwan National Park we trained WWF members and Nepali rangers to use drones in their anti-poaching efforts of rhinos. Recently we have also been successful in detecting habitat change which is a key component of conservation work.

Juvenile-chimpanzees-hanging-in-branches

Juvenile chimpanzee hanging in branches

Annika: In collaboration with an anti-poaching team, we assisted in the capture of rhino poachers operating in South Africa and in Malawi, we used one of our drones to guide rangers to the camp of suspected poachers. We also used drones to monitor and detect illegal fishing vessels in the Mediterranean with our project partner The Black Fish. We collected evidence that will be presented to the European Commission.

One of our recent projects involves using drones to protect elephants traveling along the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor in Kenya. Drones would be used to detect poachers, collect evidence, and increase the chance of catching poachers. It would create a network to defeat a network.

African-elephants

African elephants

What do you see as the future of your organization? 

Serge: We want to continue to use drones to do conservation work.  We also want to link up researchers and conservationists with the information they need in a successful way. We are working with universities to create data collection centers of the footage from drones.  One goal is to create software that will look through all the film and immediately pinpoint the footage, which includes a specific species of interest.

Annika: We are constantly looking for new technologies that will assist us in the fight against wildlife crime. We want to keep growing and we will try any method to stop poaching.

The conservation work being done by Conservationdrones.org and The Shadowview Foundation highlight the versatility and utility of drones for research, data collection, and the prevention of wildlife crime.

Keep up the good work!

William Lazaro, Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Jul 3

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 26, 2015

More endangered pygmy sloths discovered in Panama than previously estimated

Pygmy-three-toed-sloth

Pygmy three-toed sloth

Researchers estimate that there are between 500 – 1500 pygmy sloths residing on the Isla Escudo de Veraguas. At this time, the sloth’s island habitat is only partially protected.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 27, 2015

First lions to return to Rwanda after two decades

Asiatic-lion-and-lioness

Asiatic lion and lioness

Seven lions, two males and five females, are being transported to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park from South Africa. The lions were chosen based on their future reproductive potential and ability to contribute to social cohesion.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 28, 2015

Will animals of the future only be safe in captivity?

Indri-infant-clinging-to-branch

Indri infant clinging to branch

In the future, perhaps lemurs, rhinos, and tigers will only survive with constant surveillance and protection. While it may seem excessive, it has already happened for the last remaining northern white rhinos. However, it may not work for all animals, like the indri that has a complex diet of leaves eaten at different times.

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Southern-white-rhinoceros-getting-up-off-ground

Southern white rhinoceros getting up off ground

Article originally published on Monday, Jun 29, 2015

The truth about tarantulas: not too big, not too scary

Curlyhair-tarantula

Curlyhair tarantula

Tarantulas are often erroneously believed to be big, deadly and prone to attacking humans. In actuality, the original tarantula (Lycosa tarantula) is actually a small, innocuous wolf spider. The spiders mistakenly called tarantulas belong to the family Theraphosidae.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015

Meet Hades, the centipede from hell

Amazonian-giant-centipede-on-branch

Amazonian giant centipede on branch

A newly discovered centipede has been named Geophilus hadesi, after the mythological god of the underworld. The centipede spends it entire life in its dark, underground environment. One specimen was collected from a depth of 3,609 feet.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Jul 1, 2015

Australia commits to saving the Great Barrier Reef – but still plans to mine more coal

Catalaphyllia-jardinei-colony

Catalaphyllia jardinei colony

Australia has made a 35 year agreement with the United Nations to restore the Great Barrier Reef. Corals have diminished by 50 percent in the last three decades. Despite the agreement, Australia is still attempting to become the world’s leading producer and exporter of coal, which has led to the reef’s decline.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Jul 2, 2015

Climate change: Lizards switch sex

dwarf-bearded-dragon

Dwarf bearded dragon

It appears that increasing temperatures have led male central bearded dragons to change their gender and become females. These new females can produce twice as many eggs as standard females. These lizards belong to the genus Pogona that includes the dwarf bearded dragon.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

Jun 26

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 19, 2015

Hawk-moths are capable of slowing their brains to stay in rhythm with their environment

Oleander-hawk-moth-on-oleander-flowers

Oleander hawk-moth on oleander flowers

Hawk moths can slow parts of their brain in order to adjust to changes in their environment. They operate with slower visual processing in low light conditions.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 20, 2015

North American ‘ghost cat’ extinct, Fish and Wildlife Service states

Puma-swimming

Puma swimming

The eastern cougar was last seen in the 1930s, and had been placed on the endangered species list in 1973. In 2011, this subspecies of the cougar was listed as extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service has now officially declared the eastern cougar extinct.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 21, 2015

Protest over video showing men ‘surfing’ on top of whale shark

Whale-shark

Whale shark

An online video has surfaced of two men surfing on a whale shark. The Marine Conservation Institute has condemned the act as ‘unacceptable’. Meanwhile the Marine Connection has called for these men to be ‘brought to justice’.

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Article originally published on Monday, Jun 22, 2015

Wolves, monkeys: Hunting allies in Ethiopia

Ethiopian-wolf-yawning

Ethiopian wolf yawning

Apparently, Ethiopian wolves are more successful at catching their prey (i.e. rodents) when they are with the geladas. Researchers hypothesize that these monkey herds flush out the rodents or the rodents do not notice the wolves when the monkeys are present.

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Male-gelada

Male gelada

Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 23, 2015

Cat update: Lion and African golden cat down, Iberian lynx up

Iberian-lynx-at-rest

Iberian lynx at rest

The West African lion has been declared critically endangered with only 121-375 mature lions remaining. Meanwhile, the African golden cat has been moved from near threatened to vulnerable primarily due to deforestation and poaching.  On a more positive note, the Iberian lynx is no longer critically endangered and is now only endangered with 156 mature lynx roaming Spain and Portugal.

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African-golden-cat-female

African golden cat female

Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

New species: Hairy-chested yeti crab found in Antarctica

Shore-crab-dorsal-view

Shore crab

A new species of yeti crab has been discovered in the waters off Antarctica and is only the third known species of yeti crab. In order to survive at these frigid temperatures, this new species congregates around hydrothermal vents in tight clusters with other conspecifics. It belongs to the diverse order Decapoda that includes the colorful shore crab.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 25, 2015

Inside the fight to stop giraffes’ ‘silent extinction’

Adult-and-juvenile-west-African-giraffe

Adult and juvenile west African giraffe

Over the past 15 years the giraffe’s population has dropped from about 140,000 to 80,000. Habitat loss and poaching are the main threats to giraffes. There is only one species of giraffe in the world.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Jun 19

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 12, 2015

U.S. grants new protections for captive chimpanzees

Young-Eastern-chimpanzee-

Young eastern chimpanzee

On June 12th the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared that all chimpanzees both in the wild and captive are endangered. Poaching and habitat degradation are the main factors affecting wild populations.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 13, 2015

Questions about black rhino sent to Botswana

Black-rhinoceros-drinking

Black rhinoceros drinking

Botswana asked Zimbabwe to supply it with 10 black rhinos for its Moremi Game Reserve. Botswana received 5 black rhinos that apparently originated from South Africa not Zimbabwe. Some experts are against mixing Zimbabwean rhinos with the South African ones, since they are genetically distinct.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 14, 2015

“Critically endangered” dusky gopher frogs released into wildlife refuge in Mississippi

Dusky-gopher-frog-metamorph

Dusky gopher frog metamorph

Wildlife officials have release 1,074 dusky gopher frogs since May. Every frog, which is released, has a tracking device attached to its leg so their progress can be monitored. The dusky gopher frog has been on the list of endangered species since 2001.

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Article originally published on Monday, Jun 15, 2015

France bans the world’s leading herbicide from garden stores

Monarch-butterfly-resting-on-a-flowering-plant

Monarch butterfly resting on a flowering plant

France has banned Roundup, a herbicide since it contains glyphosate, which is potentially a carcinogen. Glyphosate has been linked to the decline in monarch butterflies. The chemical kills milkweed which is the monarch caterpillar’s only food source.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015

Mind meld: Social wasps share brainpower

Close-up-of-common-wasp-feeding

Common wasp feeding

Researchers found that as wasps become more social, the brain regions responsible for complex cognition decreases in size. Researchers hypothesize that wasps make up for this decrease by working together and “sharing brain power”.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2015

Finding more ammo than animals in huge African rain forest

Forest-elephant-bull

Forest elephant bull

Scientists undertook an expedition into Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve hoping to find chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and forest elephants. Instead however, they found poaching camps and gun cartridges and few signs of animals.

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Male-western-lowland-gorilla-portrait (1)

Male western lowland gorilla

Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

All kangaroos are left-handed

Red-kangaroo-hopping

Red kangaroo photo

It was previously thought that “true” handedness, which is predictably using one hand over another, was unique to primates.  However,  researchers found that kangaroos show a natural preference for their left hands when performing daily tasks. This feature was especially apparent in eastern grey kangaroos and red kangaroos.

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Male-female-and-young-eastern-grey-kangaroo

Male, female and young eastern grey kangaroo

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Jun 18

Do you love camels as much we do? The Arkive  Team had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the amazing folks at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation to learn all about what they do and their current essay competition with cash prizes!

Can camels drink saltwater? Did you know that you can help camel conservation right this second? Read on to find out more!

Wild-Bactrian-camel-with-newborn-calf

Wild Bactrian camel with newborn calf

Can you tell us the story behind the formation of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation?

In 1997, the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) was founded after John Hare realised the wild camel was critically endangered. After several expeditions he made with scientists in Mongolia and three expeditions with Chinese scientists into Lop Nur – the former nuclear test area of China and the habitat of the wild camel – the global estimate of wild camels was found to be less than 1,000 remaining in the wild. In China they were totally unprotected. Co-founding the UK registered charitable foundation WCPF with environmental lawyer Kathryn Rae, the first aim was to establish a protected area for the wild camels in China. Working together with eminent zoologist Professor Yuan Guoying, the Chinese national, and regional authorities and later securing funding from the Global Environmental Facility in Washington, WCPF established a vast reserve – the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in Xinjiang province in north-west China. Comprising 155,000 square kilometres, it is one of the largest protected areas in the world and for the first time afforded protection to the remaining wild camels in China. WCPF is the only environmental organisation in the world which protects the wild camel in its remaining desert habitat.

As experts on the wild Bactrian camel, what are some of the most interesting facts and stories that you can share about this special species?

The wild camel in China survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests of which over half were more powerful than the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the second world war. It lives in China on salt water with a higher content of salt than sea water. No other mammal can do this – not even the domestic Bactrian camel. In 2008, after 5 years of genetic testing at the Veterinary University in Vienna it was discovered that the wild double-humped camel is a separate species of camel, one which evolved from a species of camel over 700,000 years ago.

Young-wild-Bactrian-camel

Young wild Bactrian camel

Can you share some field stories about how the Wild Camel Protection Foundation protects the wild Bactrian camel and its habitat in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi deserts?

In China, the management of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve supervise the running of the reserve and undertake regular patrols in areas where the wild camels survive.  Checkpoints in the reserve were established with money raised by the WCPF. One of the greatest threats to the wild camel is illegal mining where prospectors go illegally into the desert in an attempt to discover minerals or oil. This greatly disturbs the wild camel which is a migratory species and follows set paths of migration every year. In Mongolia, the wild camel population (approximately 450) is within the Great Gobi Special Protected Area “A’. WCPF works closely with the Director of the protected area and the Mongolian Environmental Ministry. WCPF has established a successful breeding centre for the wild camel in the buffer zone of the park. This is supervised by the Park Director and funded entirely by WCPF. 

Dr. Jane Goodall is a world-renowned chimp champion yet she has dedicated herself to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation as Honorary Life Patron. How did this come about?

Dr. Jane Goodall has been a personal friend of John Hare for over 40 years and, although a primate scientist, she is dedicated to the cause of the wild camel. She greatly admires its tenacity to survive against all the odds in some of the harshest conditions on earth. WCPF worked with the Jane Goodall Institute to establish their Roots and Shoots programme in China.

Wild-Bactrian-camel-standing-in-desert-landscape

Wild Bactrian camel standing in desert landscape

Looking at your Future Scientific Projects section, you list several critical focus areas for future wild camel conservation efforts. Which would you say has the highest priority?

The highest priority is to ascertain the carrying capacity of the desert areas in both Mongolia and China where the wild camel is found. The environment is extremely harsh with sparse desert vegetation and little water found only at water points. These water points change and dry-up so understanding how the desert habitat changes is crucial and would be part of a study to identify how many wild camels these two fragile habitats can support long term. Identifying ways to stop degradation of the desert habitat through mining both illegal and legal is also very important as it is a major problem for the survival of the wild camel in both countries 

What has been your favourite conservation success story at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation? And conversely, what has been your saddest conservation defeat?

Success: Discovering a hidden and unmapped valley in China which contained a naive population of wildlife which had never seen man. Defeat: Going back 7 years later to discover that the wildlife population had been exterminated and the water source polluted  by illegal gold miners. 

Herd-of-wild-Bactrian-camels-walking-in-desert-landscape

Herd of wild Bactrian camels walking in desert landscape

At Wildscreen, we strive to find multiple ways for our passionate audience to take action in support of the organisations we partner with. What specific actions can our readers take to support the conservation of wild Bactrian camels with the Wild Camel Protection Foundation?

They can become active members of WCPF for a small annual fee of £20 sterling or the equivalent in Euros/Dollars a year. They can buy the booklets about the wild camel which are available through the WCPF websiteAll money raised goes to fund the work in Mongolia. They can sponsor a camel calf. Young camel calves are born every year at the breeding centre in Mongolia and WCPF requires approximately $2,500 a year over three years for medicines, vet visits and hay to ensure each one of these young wild camel calves survive. Individuals can sponsor and name a young wild camel and have the opportunity to follow its development. Every year WCPF visits the protected areas in both countries and this is a major overhead cost for the Foundation.  Winter hay is essential for the 25 wild camels at the breeding centre in Mongolia and costs WCPF $15,000 a year. This money has to be raised annually by the WCPF. It should be noted that all the trustees work for the Foundation on an entirely pro bono basis.

Can you tell us a little about the essay competition you are currently running?

Every year we hold a fundraiser, with the aim of both raising awareness of the plight of the wild camel and its rare desert habitat and also to raise the funds necessary to feed the wild camels in our captive breeding centre, in Mongolia, over the winter. This year we are holding an essay competition, which is kindly sponsored by Cotswold Wildlife Park. The title of the essay is “Why should the critically endangered wild camel be protected”. The competition is open to everyone, with both an adult and a junior category. As well as knowing you are helping the wild camel and its habitat there is also the opportunity to win the top prize of £500 and you will get to name one of the calves born next year! The full terms and conditions can be found on our website

Wild-Bactrian-camel-walking

Wild Bactrian camel walking

We hope you enjoyed learning about the incredible work of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. Can you pledge to take action to support their efforts? Click the “Wish List” below to log your support. Each doing our own small part, we can turn the tide for camel conservation!

wish list button

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

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