Welcome to the Arkive blog!

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.
Aug 1

Clare James is a wildlife photographer and conservation photojournalist. Here Clare discusses her time at the Sibuya Game Reserve, home to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation.

A lone Rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight. The dawn brings new light and hope into the world.

A lone rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight

Whilst teaching wildlife photography out in South Africa, I became aware of the enormity of the poaching issue, affecting numerous species of flora and fauna. South Africa is still teeming with wildlife compared to many other regions on this planet. This will soon change if poaching continues at the current rate.

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Clare photographing rhinos in Sibuya Game Reserve

Last year, I spent six months out in the bush filming and photographing wildlife away from the clutches of civilization, spending a few months at Sibuya Game Reserve. Spending time out in the bush filming, getting to know the men on the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) who work long hours in order to protect these beautiful prehistoric creatures was extremely special. White rhino are now the main target of criminal organisations, who stop at nothing to get their hands on the horn, rhino horn is currently one of the most lucrative commodities in the world, it is used as a status symbol in Vietnam and an aphrodisiac in China, alongside providing funding for certain terrorist groups.

Whilst filming I was delighted to meet a young rhino affectionately known as Binky, who had been born a week earlier and over the months watched her grow into a fine young rhino, under the protective eye of her beautiful parents. I got to know some of their unique personality traits and habits. Inevitably I became extremely close and attached to this beautiful family. Seeing Bingo, Binky’s father, protect his family was very touching.

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Binky’s family

 

Bingo’s protection turned out to not be enough, as less than a year later, poaching had claimed their lives. Poachers had infiltrated the reserve and using chainsaws cut away the base plate of three rhinos including Bingo and the two female mothers. Bingo survived the initial attack, fighting for the first few days then also went on to a more peaceful place, leaving little Binky orphaned. Having both mother and father ripped away, Binky and another newborn rhino, Courage, whose mother’s life was also taken that day are left alone in this world.

Through human brutality they have been torn apart. We have to continue fighting this war for the rhino’s sake. The rate of poaching can be slowed and stopped if more people stand together. My heart bleeds with the memories of the happy family which I spent so much time with a year ago.

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Please share this story to support Sibuya Rhino Foundation in their mission to protect their remaining rhinos so that the little ones have their chance to reproduce and keep this special species alive for future generations.

Save our rhinos!

Save our rhinos!

Visit the Sibuya Rhino Foundation website to find out more about the amazing work that they do

Find out more about rhinos on Arkive

See more of Clare’s beautiful images on her Clare James website

Jul 5

Most pollinator-plant relationships follow the same trend – animal lands on plant, gets covered in pollen which it then transfers onto another plant of the same species – but there are many plants that go against the norm, and have a weird and wonderful method of ensuring that their pollen gets to where it needs to be.

A honey bee may be the first thing that springs to your mind when you think of pollination – be prepared for this to change!

Aroids

Plants in the Araceae family, also known as ‘aroids’, act as a kind-of bed and breakfast for insects. These plants attract a wide range of insect pollinators by producing scents which vary between rotting flesh and sweet fruit, and many produce heat to help with the dispersal of their aroma. Most aroid species will trap any insect that comes into contact with its leaves inside a dungeon-like structure which it is unable to escape from. While the insect is trapped, the plant produces nectar to feed it and keep it alive and after 24 hours the male flowers mature and cover the insect with pollen. The dungeon then collapses and allows the pollen-covered insect to escape and find another aroid to pollinate, starting the process again!

The flower of titan arum, the plant that produces the world’s largest inflorescence

Orchids

Orchids are an extremely diverse plant group and their methods of attracting pollinators are variable between species. Most orchids just have one or two dedicated pollinators which can be bees, wasps, flies, ants or butterflies, and this means that if becomes extinct, the other will likely share the same fate.

Ophrys species have a very sneaky way of attracting male bees to their flowers. They have evolved their scent over time to mimic the pheromones released by a female bee and even have a similar appearance, which led to the designation of their common name – ‘bee orchids’. When a male picks up the scent, it lands on the flower of the bee orchid and repeatedly attempts copulation, all the while being covered in the plant’s pollen. Another type of orchid that encourages bee romance are bucket orchids, which produce a cologne for male bees that is irresistible to females.

Another orchid, Oncidium planilabre, has a less romantic approach to attracting male bees, and mimics a male rather than a female, which encourages attacks from male bees. When the male bee attacks the orchid, it is covered in pollen which is then transferred to the next bee-like flower that it takes a dislike to.

The bumble bee orchid, an Ophrys species

Another orchid with a strange pollination method is Holcoglossum amesianum. This amazing plant has the capacity to move its flowers 360 degrees to transfer pollen onto its stigma and does not rely on any external forces whatsoever.

Fig wasps and figs

Fig wasps and figs have a completely dependent symbiotic relationship. The fascinating pollination cycle of the fig tree begins when a female wasp enters one of the fruits through an extremely small opening, often losing its wings and antennae on its way in. Once inside, the female lays her eggs and dies shortly after. When the eggs have hatched, the male and female offspring have very different functions. The wingless males explore the inside of the fig, trying to find a female to mate with and once they have mated, they bore exit pathways to the outside of the fig then also die. The female offspring, once they have mated, collect pollen from the male flowers inside the fig and then use the pathways created by the males to escape. The females then search for a new fig fruit to pollinate and the whole cycle begins again.

The fruit of Ficus carica, a species of fig

Axinaea species

Plants in the Axinaea genus have large, bulb-like structures on their stamens which entice passing birds. As the bird touches the structure with its bill, it explodes and covers the bird’s face with pollen. As the bird continues to forage, the pollen is transferred onto other plants.

Axinaea sessilifolia

Giant Amazon water lily

At the beginning of its pollination cycle, the giant Amazon water lily produces female flowers which have white petals and emit a strong fruity scent that attracts beetles. The flower itself is around 10 degrees Celsius warmer than the ambient temperature – another factor that makes it irresistible to beetles. When the beetles arrive and begin to feed on the nectar, the flower slowly closes and traps the beetles inside. Throughout the day the petals of the flower turn pink and it undergoes a sex change, turning into a male and covering the beetles in pollen. When the flower eventually reopens, it releases the pollen-covered beetles who are then free to continue their search for nectar.

 

Find out more about pollination and the slightly more ‘normal’ approach that most plants have on our new topic page.

Jun 29

As it’s #SharkWeek we thought we’d have a browse through Arkive and select our top 10 shark images and share them with you!

1) Say cheese!

What shark list would be complete without the magnificent great white shark? Here pictured giving the photographer Ralf Kiekner a nice, big, cheesy grin.

2) Gentle giant

Despite being the largest fish in the world, the whale shark survives solely on a diet of plankton and small fish. You can’t see them in this photo but the mouth of the whale shark actually contains 300 tiny teeth, the function of which is unknown.

3) Extreme close-up

This beautiful close-up of a tawny nurse shark by Juergen Freud shows the beautiful pattern of its skin and mesmerising eyes.

4) You got a little something….

Now as all good friends know, if your buddy has something stuck in their teeth you should always tell them. Shame on the guy in the back of this photo!

5) Don’t try this at home!

Many scientists believe that sharks have a blind spot directly in front of them because of the position of their eyes, so Masa Ushoida was likely to have been completely hidden from this very photogenic tiger shark!

6) Weird and wonderful

This frilled shark portrait shows how seriously strange-looking this primitive creature is.

7) What’s lurking beneath the surface?

The second largest fish in the sea, the basking shark, grows to lengths of at least 10 metres. This half-and-half image by Alex Mustard shows the basking shark’s feeding behaviour which mostly includes swimming at the water’s surface with its huge mouth open, filtering plankton from the water that passes over its gills.

8) My, what big teeth you have!

Now, we’re big believers that every member of the animal kingdom is beautiful in its own special way. We also think in the case of the sand tiger shark, its beauty may lay within.

 

9) Sharks aplenty

Our patron Sylvia Earle, also known as ‘her deepness’, once said ‘Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks’. This bit of ocean must be very healthy!

10) Freedom at last

This poor juvenile blacktip reef shark was unfortunate enough to get caught on a longline hook. Fortunately, unlike many sharks, a diver was there at the right moment to set it free.

 

Are there any shark images on Arkive that we’ve missed out of our top 10 that you think should be in there? Let us know!

May 31

Filmmakers Jennene and Dave Riggs have been filming and editing wildlife documentaries for over 17 years, and have worked with a vast array of species in their careers, from dangerous sharks, orcas and crocodiles to gentle dugongs and bandicoots. The pair are currently working on a new documentary about one of the most endangered bird species in the world, the western ground parrot. We caught up with Jennene who told us all about the species and how filming is going.

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Secrets at Sunrise promo image with western ground parrot. Credit: Riggs Australia

What is your newest film about?

I’m currently producing a documentary called ‘Secrets at Sunrise’ which is the story of the amazing work that a team of people are doing on the south coast of Western Australia to save some of our most endangered native species from the onslaught of feral animals that predate them, and a whole suite of other threats to their survival. The focus of the film, and perhaps the most vulnerable of all these creatures is the western ground parrot which is Critically Endangered and only found in one location.

Why did you choose the western ground parrot as the topic of your film?

The dire situation with the western ground parrot is symbolic of the global issue of species extinctions and how we are losing so many animals and plants every year. We are in the middle of the sixth great extinction and it’s important to raise awareness of this and get people thinking about their own impact on our natural world.

I first heard about the western ground parrot when I was producing a documentary in 2013 on the incredible biodiversity and natural history of the south coast of WA called ‘Remote & Rugged’. During my research for that film I became aware of the wonderful work that volunteers from the community and staff from the Western Australia Department of Parks & Wildlife are doing to save the parrot from extinction, so I organised to go out on one of their field trips and film a sequence to include in the film.

On this first field trip I saw just how determined these people are and was so impressed by their dedication to saving this critically endangered bird. I could see a remarkable story unfolding, one of camaraderie and friendship despite the challenges of working with this incredibly rare bird in such an isolated location.

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Western ground parrot recovery team. Credit: Jennene Riggs

Why is the western ground parrot so endangered?

The western ground parrot was never prolific in numbers, but it used to be quite widespread in its range – on the coastal plain from north of Perth to east of Esperance on the south coast (a distance spanning over 1000km) but since European settlement there are a number of things that have caused its decline.

Historically throughout their heathland habitat there was a lot of land clearing for development and agriculture, resulting in a loss of suitable places for them to live. Then much of their remaining habitat has been damaged by wildfire, which further reduced suitable habitat and exposed the surviving populations to predation by feral cats and foxes. There were thought to be only around 140 individuals left, although that was before a devastating series of wildfires tore through their habitat in October and November 2015.

What does the future look like for this endangered bird species?

There is hope! Several years ago some parrots were taken into captivity and these birds have now been transferred to the Perth Zoo. Specialist staff there are working to try and encourage them to breed, and if they’re successful, this could form the basis of a captive breeding program which might enable the reintroduction of western ground parrots into areas they’ve disappeared from in the wild.

Can you tell us more about the film?

My main character in the story is a strong female leader – Sarah Comer – the regional ecologist at Department of Parks and Wildlife. She’s amazing…a dynamic and tireless optimist, determined to see this species and its environment survive and thrive.

There are lots of challenges in filming Secrets at Sunrise – obviously our main subject is an extremely rare bird, so straight up that presents an issue. Coupled with that they are also very shy and secretive. Many of the researchers have stories of how they’d been working on western ground parrots for five or ten years before they actually saw one! Imagine that!!

Because of this, the best way to survey their numbers and monitor them is to listen out for their calls when they move from their nighttime roost to their daytime feeding ground (and vice versa). Their ‘peak calling hours’ are an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset, which means you have to adopt their very unsociable hours.

Jennene Riggs and Anne Morcombe filming

Jennene Riggs and Anne Morcombe filming. Credit: Sarah Comer

Then there are the conditions of the location too. Cape Arid is very remote, a couple of hours drive from Esperance (which itself is an eight hour drive from Perth – the states capital city). The tracks they drive along to get to the birds are rough, bumpy, boggy bush tracks.

Jennene walking along one of the tracks to filming location. Credit: Riggs Australia

Jennene walking along one of the tracks to filming location. Credit: Riggs Australia

Depending of what time of year a survey is, you’ve also got environmental challenges. Obviously in summer it can get scorching hot, and there’s no relief to be had sitting in your tent, its even hotter in there. The flies can get pretty friendly then. You get to about day four of no shower out there, and then things start to get a bit on the nose.

On the opposite scale of that is camping in winter. It’s freezing! Your nose won’t stop dripping while you’re doing the mornings listening surveys and it feels like frostbite’s about to claim your fingers and ears. One trip I filmed we had a thunder and lightning storm centered right over the top of us, and a torrential downpour turned the campsite into a swamp.

It sounds very challenging! What has been your favourite part of filming so far?

Despite all the challenges, I love being out there and feeling so connected with nature. The bond between the researchers is amazing as well. They’ve been doing this together for many years now and they get volunteers from all over Australia and the world coming back year after year to participate and help survey the wildlife because it’s such a special and important thing to be a part of.

As part of the story I’ve also been filming the team conduct ongoing surveys of other species inhabiting the area, and this is secretly the best part of the job because you get these incredibly gorgeous creatures like honey possums, bandicoots, dunnarts, ash grey mice, burrowing frogs, legless lizards, all sorts of invertebrates, and probably least favorite of all but most prolific are bush rats… and to be honest, as far as rats go, they’re pretty cute.

Ash grey mouse. Credit: Jennene Riggs

Ash grey mouse. Credit: Jennene Riggs

The main outcome I’m hoping for with this film is to show how special and valuable our wildlife, national parks and remaining tracts of native bush are, and the lengths that some people will go to in preserving that biodiversity. Some people might think that losing one species from the environment is not such a big deal, but it is. Everything in nature has its place and when something is taken out of that equation it has a flow-on effect. Who’d want to live in a world with no pandas and orangutans, or clean rivers and air, or beautiful heathland with western ground parrots hiding amongst it? Not me!

I’m lucky to have had the support of the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, who are just as determined as I am that this film is made and broadcast to as wide an audience as possible. They’re a not-for-profit entirely devoted to raising awareness of the wgp and raising funds to help continued efforts to save it from extinction. It’s been fantastic working with them, and inspiring to see their tireless dedication to the cause.

I’d like to think filming is nearly complete, but this story is constantly evolving so we’ll just have to see what happens!

Watch the trailer for Secrets at Sunrise

Like Secrets at Sunrise on Facebook

Discover more parrot species on Arkive

 

May 29

The Whitley Fund for Nature holds an annual ceremony where pioneering conservationists around the world are honoured with an award recognising their achievement and given £35,000 (US$50,350) to continue their projects. We were lucky enough to be invited along to the ceremony to meet the finalists and find out more about their work. Each day this week we will release an interview from each of the winners on the Arkive blog and our Youtube channel. ENJOY!

Muhammed Ali Nawaz – Snow leopard conservation: a landscape-level approach in the mountains of northern Pakistan

Ali works in Pakistan with the Critically Endangered snow leopard, whose numbers have undergone a drastic decline due to poaching, human-animal conflict and habitat loss. By bringing together NGOs, local people and government, Ali has developed and implemented a management plan for the species to allow co-existence of communities and carnivores. Human-animal conflict is rife in the area, with many livestock keepers killing snow leopards who have predated their sheep, goats and cows. Ali’s projects help local people to protect their livestock and has reduced the amount of losses caused by snow leopards tenfold.

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Find out more about Ali’s work on the Whitley Awards website

Discover more about the Snow Leopard Trust

Visit the Arkive profile of the snow leopard

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