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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 7
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Out on the Barren Isles: Part II – When the going gets tough!

Readers of the ARKive blog may remember that last year we featured a guest blog introducing the fantastic Barren Isles Project, which is working towards creating Madagascar’s largest locally-managed marine area (LMMA) in the Barren Isles. Recently Olivier Raynaud, the Barren Isles Project Coordinator, got in touch let us know how the project is progressing.

Barren Isles image

Head down under the rain the whole morning, bailing water out of the pirogue as it crashes back in at once, one can’t help but reflect on how this mission hasn’t quite gone to plan…

We’d originally set out for a two-week mission covering all of the nine islands and eight coastal villages which make up the Barren Isles, but now, just 6 days in, we’re headed home early, and let’s face it; this particular consultation trip to the Barren Isles has been less than successful. Uncooperative equipment was daunting enough, but a patch of unexpected inclement weather added insult to injury, forcing us to abort the mission and scramble back to the mainland.

Under more auspicious conditions, travelling in the Barren Isles does by no means convey a sense of hardship (© O. Raynaud)

Under more auspicious conditions, travelling in the Barren Isles does by no means convey a sense of hardship (© O. Raynaud)

In contrast to this undeniably disappointing mission, overall project development is relatively stable and encouraging, as we work our way towards Madagascar’s largest locally-managed marine area (LMMA) in the Barren Isles. If there’s anywhere that warrants protection in Madagascar’s coastal waters, it’s the Barren Isles archipelago. When out on the islands, I never miss a chance to duck in for a snorkel, and am always rewarded with pristine coral reefs teeming with fish. Despite hosting hundreds of migrant fishers every year, fish populations remain relatively in tact here, as the fishers, mostly coming from Madagascar’s southwest coast, are here in search of high-value sharks and sea cucumbers.  As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which is why we’re engaging with local and migrant fishing communities, before these reefs and fish go the way of many of the reefs of southwest Madagascar. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for local shark and sea cucumber populations, which are already largely fished out.

The Malagasy government now has in its possession all the paperwork required to establish an official Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the Barren Isles. Throughout the creation process, and beyond all the legal and scientific requirements, we, as project promoter, have gone to great lengths to ensure transparent and constant communication between all stakeholders by gathering together, on a regular basis, all actors relevant to the Barren Isles conservation initiative.

Indeed, strong community support and collaboration between stakeholders are the only chance for the MPA to be a success, as it will depend on local communities to both create and enforce the rules and regulations, in partnership with government representatives and industrial sectors.

Stakeholder meeting on the establishment of the Barren Isles Marine Protected Areas, Antananarivo

Stakeholder meeting on the establishment of the Barren Isles Marine Protected Areas, Antananarivo

For instance, when the initial outline for the MPA perimeter overlapped with industrial shrimp fishing grounds, back-to-back delimitation propositions were exchanged between traditional fishermen and the national industrial fishing lobby (Groupement des Aquaculteurs et Pêcheurs de Crevettes de Madagascar – GAPCM). The negotiations reached a win-win compromise, where a considerable portion of the ecosystem is to become off limits to trawlers, hence allowing the regeneration of stocks, and in turn increasing the productivity of adjacent fishing grounds.

This MPA protection status will regulate external and industrial threats to the local marine resources. It will also provide a legal framework for the broader LMMA approach, through which local issues (such as destructive fishing practices) will be addressed by elaborating and implementing a marine dina – a set of rules agreed on and enforced by the community.

It is precisely in order to finalize this dina with the fishing communities that we headed back off to the isles on our ill-fated trip.

Perimeter of the future Barren Isles Marine Protected Area

Perimeter of the future Barren Isles Marine Protected Area

Though the mission got off to a good start, with weather forecasts predicting clear skies and smooth sailing, by the second day it was quite apparent that the weather was not going to cooperate much longer. An evening thunderstorm on Nosy Lava put a serious damper on the open-air outreach activities we had planned- a mix of showing environmental documentaries, giving updates on the MPA creation process and fielding questions from the community- sending everyone running for cover. A downpour the following day, as well as confirmation that our resupply pirogue bringing fresh water from the mainland would not be able to make the trip, made up our minds, and so on the third day we headed out early, while the sea was still calm and the skies relatively clear.

Consultations with fishing communities on Nosy Lava and Nosy Manandra - when the weather cooperates (© O. Raynaud)

Consultations with fishing communities on Nosy Lava and Nosy Manandra – when the weather cooperates (© O. Raynaud)

After the very first leg of the trip, and its occasional waves actually crashing in the boat, our generator had already drowned. A day spent drying – as far as sitting disassembled in the ambient dampness can be called drying – and it was back to life; hopes were high!  All the Nosy Dondosy fishermen gathered round, and… as we pulled the starter rope, it snapped. The final blow. Bummer.

Encounters in the Barren Isles – ones we did not get a chance to have this time... (© O. Raynaud)

Encounters in the Barren Isles – ones we did not get a chance to have this time… (© O. Raynaud)

Back home, after a quick stop for a – not so well-deserved but nonetheless necessary – hot pizza and icy beer (funny thing about being on the islands during inclement weather is that the fishers can’t go fishing, so our dinners were limited to rice and beans), and nothing left to do but pull ourselves up by the boot straps, plan another trip and keep our fingers crossed that this crazy atypical weather finally moves on to bother someone else… Heads Up!

By Olivier Raynaud, Barren Isles Project Coordinator

Apr 4
Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on Delicious Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on Digg Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on Facebook Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on reddit Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on StumbleUpon Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on Email Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog' on Print Friendly

Endangered Species of the Week: Angel’s Madagascar frog

Angel’s Madagascar frog (Boehmantis microtympanum)

Species: Angel’s Madagascar frog (Boehmantis microtympanum)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Angel’s Madagascar frog is not known to produce any vocalisations and its external ear drum is much smaller than in most frog species.

More information: Angel’s Madagascar frog is a large-bodied frog species that has a marbled green-brown or grey pattern on the upper surface of its body, perfectly camouflaging it against the abundant moss-covered rocks in its habitat.

The impressive yet infrequent energetic movements of this species are only used when an individual is disturbed, and Angel’s Madagascar frog is relatively sedentary for the majority of the time. The main prey items of this species include insects, small freshwater crustaceans and smaller frogs, which it hunts for at dusk and generally devours whole. This long-living amphibian can live for up to seven years.

Local extinctions of Angel’s Madagascar frog have already occurred due to the extensive destruction of forest habitats throughout its range, especially in southeast Madagascar. As well as habitat loss and degradation, the introduction of an invasive eucalyptus species has also led to population declines in this species.

The range of Angel’s Madagascar frog includes two protected areas, the Andohela and Midongy-du-Sud National Parks, although further protection of this species’ habitat would be highly beneficial for its conservation. Promoting sustainable forestry practices within the local community would also help to mitigate the extensive habitat destruction that continues to remove huge expanses of naturally occurring forest across Madagascar.

Find out more about amphibians on the IUCN Red List

Find out more about conservation in Madagascar

See images of Angel’s Madagascar frog on ARKive

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Apr 2
Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on Delicious Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on Digg Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on Facebook Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on reddit Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on StumbleUpon Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on Email Share 'ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!' on Print Friendly

ARKive Celebrates Dr. Jane Goodall’s 80th Birthday!

Dr. Jane Goodall photo


Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute &, UN Messenger of Peace © Stuart Clarke

Few people have inspired the world to treasure and protect nature and all living things like Dr. Jane Goodall. Sometimes affectionately referred to as “the chimp lady”, Jane has dedicated her life to inspiring people to take action in support of conservation with an emphasis, of course, on chimpanzees.

Dr. Jane has always been a tireless supporter of Wildscreen and ARKive. As recently as the last Wildscreen Festival – the world’s largest and most influential wildlife filmmaking festival – Jane spoke to a packed house about her conservation journey that started back in 1960 when she first began studying chimpanzees.

Fifty-four years later, Jane is still spreading her message of hope for animals around the world, and now there is an opportunity for the world to share a message of appreciation for Jane right back!

Jane turns 80 on April 3, 2014, and her wish is to share her birthday celebration with the world via a Google Hangout that day at 11 a.m. PDT / 2 p.m. EDT / 6 p.m. UTC. Joining Dr. Jane will be a number of young people sharing projects they are dedicating to her for her birthday. If you can’t make the virtual party, no worries! You can sign Dr. Jane’s birthday card with your sentiments and well wishes.

Dr. Jane and Freud photo

Dr. Jane Goodall with Gombe chimpanzee Freud © Michael Neugebauer

To celebrate in our own ARKive way, we’ve organized a MyARKive Scrapbook of our favourite chimpanzee images and videos on ARKive including this sweet face and this family of playful youngsters. We hope you enjoy it!

From all of us at Wildscreen & ARKive, Happy Birthday Dr. Jane!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Apr 1
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Happy April Fool’s Day from ARKive

Today is April Fool’s Day, a 12-hour window where everybody needs to be on their guard as friends, relatives and colleagues do their best to fool and out-smart them. If you are plotting a prank, remember to carry it out before midday, otherwise the joke is on you!

While we keep an eye out in the office for any sign of trickery, we thought we’d gather together a few examples of sneaky species for which it is April Fool’s Day every day of the year!

Mucous mask

Did you know that parrotfish are the masters of mucous?! Before settling down for the night, species such as this daisy parrotfish may spend up to an hour making their own ‘mucous bubble’ in which to sleep. It may sound pretty gross to us, but this slimy sleeping bag is thought to serve a very important function, potentially disguising the scent of the sleeping fish and preventing it from being picked up by sharp-nosed nocturnal predators. What a great trick!

While reef fish are kept free of parasites during the day by hard-working cleaner fish, they receive no such protection at night, and studies have shown that the mucous mask may also act as a bubbly barrier against blood-sucking crustaceans known as gnathiid isopods.

Crying wolf

The tufted capuchin monkey, a subspecies of the black-capped capuchin, could certainly be referred to as a cheeky monkey, as it is known to fool and deceive all in the name of a quick snack! Within groups of these monkeys there is a strict social hierarchy, with the dominant individuals gaining better access to rich food sources. Lower ranked individuals have been observed to produce false alarm calls to trick the dominant monkeys into thinking they are in danger, causing them to scurry for cover, leaving the delicious food available for the lower-ranking individuals to get their hands on!

Cunning cuttlefish

Cuttlefish, such as this common cuttlefish, are related to octopuses and squid, and are rather crafty creatures! These intelligent invertebrates are able to change colour to match their surroundings, and the males are willing to employ some deceptive measures to make sure they get some quality time with the ladies. Male cuttlefish put on rather spectacular displays to attract females, flashing bands of colour along their bodies. To ensure their wooing attempts are not disturbed by potentially more dominant males, some male cuttlefish may ‘flash’ their bright colours only on the side nearest to the female, while maintaining female-looking colouration on the other side. Any potential rivals surveying the scene would then simply see two ‘female’ cuttlefish hanging out, and would not attempt to attack the sneaky male.

 

What are your favourite animal tricksters? Comment below to share with us!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Mar 31
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In the News: Vulture-killing veterinary drug approved for use in EU

The veterinary drug diclofenac, which has been held responsible for the devastating decline of Asian vulture populations, has been approved for use in the EU.

White-rumped vulture image

The white-rumped vulture suffered a population decline of 99.9 percent in just two decades

Deadly drug

Between 1991 and 2007, the population of the white-rumped vulture in India suffered an unprecedented drop of 99.9 percent, with corresponding reductions of 96.8 percent in both the Indian vulture and the slender-billed vulture. Initially, scientists were baffled as to the possible reasons behind this decline, with conflicting explanations varying from the use of pesticides, to an increasingly westernised middle-class consuming more beef and therefore removing one of the vulture’s primary food sources, to the destruction of vulture nesting sites.

Eventually, it emerged that the true cause of vulture deaths across the Indian subcontinent was diclofenac, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug regularly prescribed by veterinarians to treat cattle. The vultures were ingesting the drug as they fed on dead livestock, causing severe kidney damage in the birds which led to death within just a few days.

Indian vulture image

The Indian vulture suffered a devastating population decline between 1991 and 2007

Indian ban on diclofenac

As a result of the discovery of the cause of the decline, veterinarians were subsequently banned from prescribing diclofenac across the region. However, despite these events and the fact that safe alternative drugs are now readily available, the European Union has recently sanctioned the use of diclofenac throughout all member countries. According to conservation groups, this could place European vulture species at risk of meeting a fate similar to that of their Asian counterparts, and could also threaten other wildlife.

It is shocking that a drug that has already wiped out wildlife on a massive scale in Asia is now put on the market in crucial countries for vulture conservation such as Spain and Italy, especially as the total ban on diclofenac in India has produced the first signs of recovery in Indian vultures,” said José Tavares, the Director of the Vulture Conservation Foundation.

Cinereous vulture image

The cinereous vulture is an impressive bird with a large wingspan

Vultures in Europe

Europe is home to an incredible ten species of vulture, eight of which are found in Spain. Of these, four are considered rare and threatened, and receive a certain level of protection under European law. Two such species are the cinereous vulture, an impressive bird with a wingspan of around three metres, and the Egyptian vulture, a species classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Spain is home to 97 percent of Europe’s cinereous vulture population and 85 percent of the continent’s Egyptian vulture population, as well as high proportions of other closely related species. Conservationists fear that the new ruling to allow the powerful anti-inflammatory drug to be distributed across the EU could put decades of vulture conservation efforts in Europe in jeopardy, particularly in vulture strongholds such as Spain.

Egyptian vulture image

Spain holds 85 percent of Europe’s Egyptian vulture population

Importance of vultures

While vultures may be viewed unfavourably by some, they play an extremely important role in ensuring the health and wellbeing of ecosystems through ecological recycling. These birds survive almost exclusively on carrion, and in countries such as Spain they consume the carcasses of livestock left in special sites known as ‘muladres’. By cleaning and disposing of these dead animals, vultures make a contribution to the health of local human communities, as this helps limit the populations of stray dogs which are enticed by the carcasses, and therefore reduces the potential for the transmission of life-threatening diseases such as rabies.

Call for action

A coalition of conservation organisations, which includes the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the RSPB and BirdLife Europe, is calling for an immediate continent-wide ban on diclofenac in Europe.

In a technical document released recently on diclofenac in Europe, conservationists wrote, “The case here is clear – it is really a question of learning from what happened in India, and also upholding and being coherent with the leading role of many EU policies, notably on nature conservation.”

It is hoped that enforcing a ban on diclofenac in Europe will encourage countries in Africa to follow suit in an effort to save the continent’s dwindling vulture populations.

Read more on this story at Mongabay.com – Europe approves vet drug that killed off almost all of Asia’s vultures and BirdLife International – Vulture killing drug now available on EU market.

View photos and videos of vultures on ARKive.

Find out more about vulture conservation at Tusk, VulPro, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and Save Our Species – Conserving South Asia’s Threatened Vultures.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

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