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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.
Apr 18
Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on Delicious Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on Digg Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on Facebook Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on reddit Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on StumbleUpon Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on Email Share 'The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos' on Print Friendly

The most important eggs this Easter: Saving the Rarest Bird in Galapagos

Earlier in 2014, sixteen tiny eggs were collected from two small pockets of mangrove forest on the western side of Isabela in the Galapagos Archipelago. These eggs, each the size of the nail on your little finger, belong to one of the rarest and most range restricted birds in the world: the mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates). This small, brown, unassuming bird is one of the famous Darwin’s finches and is today the rarest endemic bird in Galapagos. There are less than 100 mangrove finches alive today and last year there were only 14 breeding pairs. But why are they so critically endangered?

Mangrove Finch © Michael Dvorak

Mangrove Finch © Michael Dvorak

Until recently, one of the main threats to mangrove finches was introduced rats. As generalist carnivores, rats would seek out and feed on the eggs and chicks of finches during the breeding season. Fortunately, rats are now being controlled at the breeding sites but now a much smaller invasive species poses an even larger threat.

Philornis downsi is a species of fly native to Trinidad and Brazil. It was introduced to Galapagos in the 1960s and has now spread to 14 islands within the Archipelago. The adults of this fly are harmless, feeding almost exclusively on nectar, but in their larval stage they are blood-sucking parasites. Female flies lay their eggs in the nests of small breeding land birds. Blind, naked and weak, the mangrove finch hatchlings are an easy target for the fly larvae which feed on their blood, very often resulting in the death of the chick. In 2013, 37% of chicks were killed this way – a massive hit to such a tiny population.

Philornis downsi larvae © A. Muth

Philornis downsi larvae © A. Muth

So why are the scientists removing eggs? In an effort to ensure that the mangrove finch does not become the first bird to go extinct in Galapagos since before Darwin’s time, scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation and San Diego Zoo are, with support from the Galapagos National Park, taking action. During the mangrove finch breeding season, females lay up to five clutches of eggs but the first few rarely survive. By taking this first clutch, hatching and raising the chicks in captivity, then releasing them back into the wild when they are old enough, the project should result in more individuals being added to the population each year.

Chick being hand fed © Juan Carlos Avila

Chick being hand fed © Juan Carlos Avila

By raising the chicks in captivity, they will have avoided the nest-bound parasites and will have been given a ‘head-start’ in life. 2014 was the first time ‘head-starting’ has been trialled on mangrove finches and it is proving a great success. The sixteen eggs have hatched and the mangrove finch chicks are being released back into the mangroves right now. The future of the mangrove finch is starting to look a little brighter.

2. Remaining mangrove finch habitat 2 - (c)Francesca Cunninghame

Remaining mangrove finch habitat © Francesca Cunninghame

For more information on the project and to keep up to date with progress, please visit www.mangrovefinchappeal.org

Apr 17
Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on Delicious Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on Digg Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on Facebook Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on reddit Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on StumbleUpon Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on Email Share 'Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos' on Print Friendly

Guest blog: Conserving Galapagos

Located in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the volcanic Galapagos Islands are a living laboratory of evolution and a template for conservation for the rest of the world. Consisting of 14 large islands and 120 smaller islets and rocks, and surrounded by the 53,000 square miles of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (a World Heritage Site in its own right), this isolated environment is home to many unique species which vary from island to island. Charles Darwin’s appreciation of this distinctive quality has given Galapagos a special place in history and the development of modern science.

Galapagos Islands Map

Galapagos Islands map

Since Darwin’s time, travellers and settlers have disturbed the Islands’ ecological balance. In some cases, natural habitats and endemic species have been decimated and invasive plants and animals have become established, yet Galapagos remains one of the best-conserved tropical oceanic archipelagos in the world.

1. Bay with Pinacle Rock

Bay with Pinacle Rock, Galapagos © Phyl King

The Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is the only UK charity to work exclusively towards a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands. Supporting projects in the fields of science, education and culture since 1995, we have been working in programme areas including habitat restoration, invasive species management, sustainable development and education both locally in Galapagos and internationally.

1. Giant Tortoises

Galapagos giant tortoises © Alex Hearn

In the UK, we raise awareness of conservation matters in Galapagos through our network of committed supporters and the media. This year we are set to launch Discovering Galapagos - a brand new bilingual educational resource for use in the UK and Ecuador through which school children, our future conservation ambassadors, will use Galapagos as a template to learn about global conservation issues.

1. Marine Iguana

Galapagos marine iguana © Vanessa Green

Over the next few weeks, we are excited to be sharing with you via our friends at ARKive some of the cutting-edge conservation projects that we are supporting right now in the Islands.

For more information:

GCT Email: gct@gct.org
Website: www.savegalapagos.org
Discovering Galapagos website: www.discoveringgalapagos.org.uk
GCT Blog: http://galapagosblog.org/
GCT Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Galapagos-Conservation-Trust/33337561833
GCT Twitter: @galapagossip

Apr 12
Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on Delicious Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on Digg Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on Facebook Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on reddit Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on StumbleUpon Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on Email Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo' on Print Friendly

Endangered Species of the Week: Doria’s tree kangaroo

Doria's tree kangaroo image

Doria’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus dorianus)

Species: Doria’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus dorianus)

Status: Vulnerable (VU)

Interesting Fact: Doria’s tree kangaroo is the heaviest tree-dwelling marsupial in the world, weighing as much as 20 kilograms, and is capable of jumping down to the ground from a height of up to 18 metres without injury.

Despite its appearance and arboreal nature, Doria’s tree kangaroo is closely related to the well-known ground kangaroos that can be seen across Australian plains, and has similar strongly developed hindquarters and a long, well-furred tail. Unlike its Australian relatives, Doria’s tree kangaroo is endemic to the island of New Guinea, where it is found in the central highlands. This species has fairly long fur, which interestingly grows in a reverse direction on the back and neck. This is presumably to stop water running down its face, as this marsupial tends to sit with its head lower than its shoulders.

While Doria’s tree kangaroo is thought to still be common in some areas of its range, intense and consistent hunting pressure for its meat has led to the local extinction of many populations of this species. In the past, hunting of this prized game species by local people may have been sustainable, but advances in the development of hunting equipment, combined with a rising human population, has led to an increase in hunting. Habitat loss and degradation of forested areas as a result of exploitation for timber poses an additional threat to Doria’s tree kangaroo.

Doria’s tree kangaroo is legally protected in the Indonesian part of New Guinea. However, this is not yet the case in Papua New Guinea, and the protection of vital forest habitat in this region has been recommended to ensure the future survival of this intriguing marsupial. In addition, measures to control or restrict traditional hunting have been suggested as key factors in the conservation of this threatened species.

See images and videos of Doria’s tree kangaroo on ARKive.

Find out more about New Guinea and other South Pacific islands.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Apr 11
Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on Delicious Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on Digg Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on Facebook Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on reddit Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on StumbleUpon Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on Email Share 'In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands' on Print Friendly

In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands

A recent report published in the journal Nature Conservation has found that sea levels are rising at a higher rate than they have for thousands of years, putting many islands and the species living on them at risk.

Global climate change is negatively affecting the Earth and its oceans in many ways, and these impacts are predicted to be the greatest cause of future species extinctions. The increasing temperature on Earth is melting the sea ice at the North and South Poles, which is increasing the amount of water in the oceans. The temperature of the ocean is also increasing, which raises the volume of the seawater due to the molecules requiring more space to move. “Sea level rise is one of the most certain consequences of global warming, yet it remains the least studied,” the study said. “Potential effects of sea level rise are of considerable interest because of its potential impact on biodiversity and society.”

Seychelles image

The Seychelles may be one of the groups of islands at risk of flooding due to rising sea levels

Of the 180,000 islands on Earth, all low-lying islands are particularly at risk and it is thought that over 10,000 of them could disappear, along with the species that live on them, if the sea level rise predictions are correct. Islands are home to a much higher proportion of endemic species than mainland areas, with the entire population of the Alaotran gentle lemur, New Caledonia blossom bat, Seychelles frog and thousands of other species being found on just one island, or a small group of islands. The submersion of numerous islands will not just impact fauna and flora, with human populations living in coastal areas also being forced to move inland or relocate completely in response to the rising sea levels, and coastal industries being lost.

New Caledonia blossom bat

The New Caledonia blossom bat is only found in a few caves in northern New Caledonia

New Caledonia and French Polynesia are thought to be the islands most at risk of disappearing under water, with islands in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and those in close proximity to Guyana and Madagascar also under threat. The study found that, after a predicted sea rise of between 0.5 and 2.3 metres, more than 30 percent of the totally submerged islands would be in New Caledonia, 30 percent in French Polynesia and 10 percent in the Mediterranean, with the rest occurring in other regions.

French Polynesia image

It is predicted that 30 percent of French Polynesia will be under water when sea levels rise

The authors of the study said, “Considering their important contribution to global biodiversity and the threat of sea level rise for future biodiversity of some of these islands, there is an urgent need that islands feature prominently in global and regional conservation prioritisation schemes.” Less than 5 percent of the Earth’s land area is represented by islands, although they are home to around 20 percent of the world’s bird, reptile and plant species, as well as other fauna. Of all known extinctions, 80 percent have occurred on islands, and although climate change may be partially to blame, the negative effects of invasive species, deforestation, over-collection and various other threats are more prevalent in island ecosystems than on the mainland and have much greater and more severe impacts on island species.

Laysan crake image

The Extinct Laysan crake disappeared from Hawai’i due to the negative effects of invasive species

Find out more about the effects of climate change on animal and plant species

Find out more about the islands of the North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Find out more about the conservation of islands

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Apr 10
Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on Delicious Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on Digg Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on Facebook Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on reddit Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on StumbleUpon Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on Email Share 'In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project' on Print Friendly

In the News: The top 100 most evolutionarily distinct bird species are highlighted by the EDGE project

The EDGE of Existence programme is an initiative of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) whose aim is to profile the top 100 most evolutionarily distinct and endangered species of each taxonomic class, including toads that give birth through their skin and mammals that are immune to cyanide, among many other weird and wonderful creatures. Each species is given a rank depending on its unique characteristics and how endangered it is on a global scale. This rank then determines how much the conservation of the species should be prioritised compared with others in its taxonomic class.

Giant ibis image

The Critically Endangered giant ibis was designated the top spot on the EDGE birds list

Until now, only the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) mammals, amphibians and corals had been highlighted, and today the top 100 birds have been announced after an extensive collaborative study between Yale University, Imperial College London, Sheffield University, University College London, Simon Fraser University and the University of Tasmania. Carly Waterman, EDGE Programme Manager at ZSL, says, “Half of the 100 highest-ranked EDGE bird species are receiving little or no conservation attention. We lament the extinction of the dodo, but without action we stand to lose one of its closest relatives, the tooth-billed pigeon or ‘little dodo’, and many other extraordinary birds.”

The nocturnal, flightless kakapo is number four on the list

Carly Waterman went on to say, “The release of the EDGE birds list enables us to prioritise our conservation efforts in the face of a mounting list of endangered species. These one-of-a-kind birds illustrate the incredible diversity that exists in our natural world.” There are 9,993 bird species known to science which represent millions of years of evolution, resulting in the numerous anatomical, physiological and morphological adaptations of birds that are not seen in any other taxonomic class. Many species highlighted in the EDGE lists do not have close relatives and have been evolving independently for millions of years.

The spoon-billed sandpiper travels 8,000 km between its breeding and wintering grounds and reached number 11 on the list

Many species on the EDGE lists have been previously overlooked by conservation projects, and the scoring system identifies their importance and how much of a loss to the world their extinction would be. Professor Walter Jetz from Yale University and Imperial College London, lead author of the paper identifying the EDGE birds in the journal Current Biology, said, “By identifying these top 100 species, we can now focus our efforts on targeted conservation action and better monitoring to help ensure that they are still here for future generations to come. As we show, conservation priorities can be adjusted to better conserve the avian tree of life and the many important functions it provides.” EDGE is continuing research on other taxa to build on its database and highlight priority species as well as the urgent need for their conservation.

See the EDGE top 100 bird species

Find out more about the EDGE project

Discover more bird species on ARKive

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

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