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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.
May 20

It’s our 13th birthday! People who are superstitious will mostly say that 13 is an unlucky number, although others believe 13 to be lucky. We don’t know what to believe but we thought we would celebrate our birthday by looking at 12 (rather than 13, just in case) strange superstitions that include members of the animal and plant kingdom!

Magpies

Certain quantities of magpies mean different things to a superstitious person, and there is even a rhyme to remind them of the fate they may face: one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a story never to be told.

If a superstitious person sees a solo magpie, there are many ways they can overcome the sorrow they may face, some salute the bird, some flap their arms like wings and make a ‘caw’ sound, and others say, “Good morning Mr Magpie. How is your lady wife today?” The reason for this superstition is due to magpies mating for life; therefore a single individual may have lost its mate, or could just be collecting nesting material or food for their nestlings. We thought we should include a picture of two magpies to spread joy and good fortune on our birthday!

Bats

Bats are believed to be harbingers of death and misfortune in many cultures, although in China and Poland they are thought to be a sign of a happy and long life. There are many ancient myths which say different things about bats, including them being trapped souls or witches in disguise. Some people believe that bats drink human blood, but cases of this are extremely rare. Hematophagous (blood-eating) bats, such as the common vampire bat, usually feed on cattle or horses.

Aye-aye

Although it is in fact a Lemur species on Arkive, the strange-looking aye-aye was initially identified as a rodent. Some local Malagasy people believe that if an aye-aye points its middle finger at you, then you will die, and this species is regularly persecuted due to this superstition. The function of the enlarged middle finger of this primate is actually to tap on trees to find hollow areas where insects may be, and to extract any prey items that it finds inside.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant which is shrouded by myth and legend. This plant is a commonly seen decoration at Christmas time, and if a person passes underneath a hung piece of mistletoe, they must kiss the person on the other side or they will remain single for another year. Ancient superstitions state that mistletoe can cure any disease and it was considered sacred and magical. Once mistletoe touches the ground, however, ancient cultures believed it to be bad luck rather than good.

Elder

The elder is the focus of a rich wealth of folklore, and has many magical associations. The name ‘elder’ derives from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld’, meaning fire. This may have arisen from the practice of using the hollow stems of the elder as bellows to encourage fires. It was, however, extremely bad luck to burn elder wood; if this happened the Devil was said to appear, explaining another local name ‘Devil’s wood’. Conversely it was said to keep the Devil away if planted close to a house. Some of these old superstitions linger today; many modern hedge-cutters refuse to attack an elder for fear of bad luck.

African golden cat

Both wild and domestic cats are the subject of much superstition in many areas of the world, and the African golden cat is no exception. Pygmy tribes in Cameroon carry the tail of the African golden cat when hunting elephants to ensure good fortune, and the skin is used in some areas during circumcision rituals.

Black cats

We bet that these black cats (black leopard morphs) don’t cross people’s paths very much, but domestic black cats certainly do, and this is considered to be very unlucky by some people. Black cats have as much to do with good as they do with bad luck to superstitious people and it is said that if a couple see a black cat on their wedding day then they will definitely have a happy marriage.

Strangely, many years ago, sailors would keep black cats on their ship as a good luck charm, although they would never say the word ‘cat’ as this was considered to be bad luck.

Forest owlet

The forest owlet faces a serious threat as a result of local superstitions. Its eggs are collected by tribes to bring luck in gambling and the animal itself is killed since owls are locally renowned to feed on human souls. Additionally, killing a young forest owlet is widely considered to boost fertility.

Rabbit

In old English folklore, if “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” is the first thing you say on the first day of the month, you will have good luck for the rest of the month, and carrying a rabbit’s foot is also considered to be a good luck charm. They are also considered to be bad luck; however, and in ancient times, people would spit over their left shoulder if they came across a wild rabbit. Rabbits are another animal which are believed to be witches in disguise – those must be some very cute witches!

Striped hyaena

One of the greatest threats to the Near Threatened striped hyaena is the misconceptions and superstitions of humans. Believed to be responsible for killing livestock, robbing graves and the disappearance of small children, the striped hyaena is severely persecuted through baiting, tracking and trapping. In the past, some governments have paid bounties for every hyaena killed, and certain governments still organise killings of wolves and striped hyaenas in places where carnivores are thought to be responsible for child disappearances.

Frogs and toads

Frogs and toads have many superstitions that surround them, such as that touching the bumpy skin of a toad can give you warts, and touching a frog can make you infertile, but these are not true. Warts are caused by a virus that is only transferred by skin on skin contact between humans and touching a frog is not known to affect your fertility. Despite these amphibians being seen as bad luck in these respects, some people actually see them as good luck and consider a frog coming into your house as being lucky. The poor Titicaca water frog is Critically Endangered due to overcollection, as people blend individuals to make a juice that can supposedly cure any ailment. We might stick to OJ!

Black beetles

Black beetles such as the super-rare ground beetle were once referred to as ‘deathwatch beetles’, and if one were to crawl across your shoe or be found within a wall, it was considered to be a sign of impending death. The good news is that you could prevent this from happening by moving the beetle safely outside. Seems like a no-brainer to us!

Are there any superstitions that we have missed from your area of the world? Please share them with us!

May 9

We recently caught up with with our friends at Voices for Nature who were keen to tell us about the unique and innovative work that they are doing to save Brazil’s rainforests and what the future holds for their organisation.

What is Voices for Nature?

We are a not-for-profit organisation based in Oxford, UK. Our aim is to inspire and engage people to protect and conserve Brazil’s rainforests through conservation story-telling. We believe that stories are powerful tools for learning and catalysts for change. We use literature, theatre and film to engage people in conservation and give a voice to nature.

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Aerial view of a tree in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest

Voices for Nature was formed in 2014 by Sigrid Shreeve, an environmentalist and campaigner who has worked in Brazil over many years. Voices for Nature employs students and young graduates offering them the opportunity to be creative and engage with conservation.

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Sigrid Shreeve

Sigrid is the author of the novel ‘Jabujicaba’ which was written as an engagement tool under the penname ‘Rosa da Silva’. In the novel, Brazil is bankrupt due to the effects of climate change and the Amazon is up for auction. The royalties from ‘Jabujicaba’ support rainforest conservation through Voices for Nature’s partners the World Land Trust, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Isle of Wight Zoo.

What does Voices for Nature do?

Voices for Nature is an arts organisation which connects people with conservation. Our work is based on the eco-thriller ‘Jabujicaba’, which forms the basis of various initiatives. These include:

The Jabuji debates – a national debating competition for sixth formers in the UK. The competition is run by Voices for Nature and the debates are hosted by Eton College. The First Jabuji Debates final was in March 2016 with participating schools from London, Berkshire and Kent. The event consists of workshops, mini-debates and a public final debates.

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Debaters with Sigrid Shreeve

Forum theatre – we are producing a play entitled ‘The Amazon Auction’ with pupils from Wheatley Park School near Oxford, which will will be performed in Oxford Botanic Gardens in June 2016. As part of the performance two teams will ‘pitch’ to the audience to convince them to support their bid in a mock auction of the Amazon Rainforest. Performers will play roles of characters from the novel ‘Jabujicaba’.

Documentary film – Voices for Nature supports original conservation documentary filmmaking. We were executive producers of the documentary Uncharted Amazon, which was shot in an endangered part of Peru’s Amazon. We will be screening Uncharted Amazon as part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts in June 2016 and also running campaign film workshops for young people together with the charity Film Oxford.

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Voices for Nature workshop

Rainforest Movie – we have a big screen movie under development based on the novel ‘Jabujicaba’. The movie is a cross over between Apocalypse Now and a rainforest Erin Brockovich. The lead role with be played by the actress Yrsa Daley-Ward and the movie is part of our outreach and educational work, linking to the Jabuji Debates. The movie has been entered into Richard Branson’s #VOOM2016 to raise profile and help fund development.

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View over REGUA site in Brazil

Find out more about Voices for Nature

Visit the Voices for Nature website

Watch the Jabujicaba trailer

Vote for Jabujicaba to win #VOOM2016

Follow Voices for Nature on Twitter or Facebook

Visit the Arts Festival Oxford website to attend a free film workshop or attend a screening of ‘Uncharted Amazon’

Apr 25

Well done to everyone who took part in our #GuessThePenguin quiz for World Penguin Day. You all have great identification skills when it comes to these very handsome creatures!

We can now reveal the answers to the mystery penguins we posted on social media, but we didn’t want to ruin it for those who didn’t see it and still wanted to play the quiz, so we’ve revealed the answers at the bottom of this blog. Can you guess the penguin species just from looking at a photo?

1) CLUE: I live in a very surprising place where you may not know that penguins exist

2) CLUE: this penguin is named after the wife of the explorer who discovered it

3) CLUE: this penguin is named after a distinctive characteristic below its bill

4) CLUE: this is the largest penguin species in the world, reaching heights of over 1m and weighing up to 40kgs

5) CLUE: this amazing penguin can dive to depths of over 170 metres and is the fastest known diving bird, reaching speeds of up to 36 kilometers an hour in the water

6) CLUE: this is the smallest penguin in the world, weighing a maximum of 1kg and only growing up to 40cm tall

7) CLUE: this penguin was discovered during an expedition that took place in 1519

8) CLUE: this penguin is not named after a type of pasta, although it is commonly mistaken for the penguin that sounds like it is!

9) CLUE: look into the eyes of this penguin and you might just guess its name!

…and the answers are:

1) African

2) Adelie

3) Chinstrap

4) Emperor

5) Gentoo

6) Little

7) Magellanic

8) Royal

9) Yellow-eyed

How many did you guess correctly?

Discover more penguin species on Arkive

If you work for a conservation organisation that works with penguins or any other species, you can access hundreds of images by joining the Wildscreen Exchange

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to get your daily dose of the natural world

Apr 25

Cephalopods are arguably the weirdest of all marine invertebrates. The name cephalopod literally translates to ‘head-footed’ in Greek, indicating just how strange members of this taxonomic class are, but nothing in their name indicates how incredibly intelligent they are. Their alien-like features are truly fascinating and cephalopods are commonly regarded as the most advanced of all invertebrates!

The weirdest one – nautilus (Nautilus pompilius)

Kicking off our list is the bizarre-looking nautilus, whose appearance resembles a cross between a snail and a shrimp. They are the only species of cephalopod to have retained their external shell, which means they cannot alter their appearance as well as their counterparts.

The invisible one – common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

The common cuttlefish is a master of disguise, possessing the ability to transform its appearance to suit its surroundings in an instant. Check out this amazing talent in this video!

The deadly one – southern blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa)

This species has one of the most potent venoms on the planet, 1000 times more powerful than cyanide, and there is no known antidote. The blue rings after which this species is named will only appear when an individual is disturbed and serve as a warning before it attacks. The helpless crab in this video finds this out the hard way!

The strangely familiar one – opalescent squid (Loligo opalescens)

You may have come into contact with this cephalopod more than any other – the opalescent squid is more commonly known to us as ‘calamari’. These small squids live in extremely large shoals and hunt by striking their prey with their tentacles.

The one-size-fits-all one – curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa)

The ability of the curled octopus to transform and camouflage its body is truly fascinating – there is no gap too small or seaweed too colourful for this species! The curled octopus is also equipped with an ink jet they can utilise as a distraction when a predator is nearby. On top of all that, it also has an extremely toxic venom that it uses to paralyse its prey!

The colourful one – Carribean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea)

Commonly found in shallow reef waters, this intriguing species has enormous eyes and is known to have the largest eye-to-body ratio of the whole animal kingdom! Carribean reef squid communicate with each other by changing the colour of their skin.

The huge one – giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

The giant Australian cuttlefish is largest cuttlefish species, reaching lengths of up to a metre.  Despite its large size, this species it is a master of disguise and can easily blend in with its  surroundings due to special pigment cells called chromatophores which allow it to change colour in an instant.

The even huger one – Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas)

A close relative of the giant squid, this species, also known as the ‘jumbo squid’, is a monster capable of growing up to 2 metres long and weighing over 50 kilograms! They can move at considerable speeds (up to 24km/h) and have been known to propel themselves out of the water and soar through the air to evade their predators which include whales, sharks, seals and swordfish.

The bright one – firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans)

This bioluminescent species is definitely deserving of a top 10 spot as it is responsible for one of the most spectacular light shows on the planet! Between March and June millions of firefly squid gather off of the coast of Japan, as well as hundreds of tourists, producing a natural spectacle like no other. The firefly squid also uses its bioluminescence to attract prey and select mates.

The strong one – North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)

Reaching lengths of up to 5 metres and weighing in at up to 50 kilograms, this monster octopus had to make the top 10! The photograph below is not photoshopped, this species does eat sharks! Its raw strength makes it capable of ripping apart shells and flesh with its tentacles or using its powerful ‘beak’ to make easy work of its prey. This, in tandem with its camouflaging talent, makes it a truly ferocious predator.

Have we missed out your favourite cephalopod? Let us know!

Discover more cephalopods on the Arkive website

Will Powell, Arkive guest blogger

Apr 18

Arkive and Wildscreen Exchange photographer James Warwick recently visited the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, which is located in the Central Indian Highlands. This name may not mean much to you but it is, in fact, the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ and is home to the tigers, sloth bears and Indian leopards that are featured in the story.

We asked James to tell us about the places he’d been to in India and share his fantastic images with us – and you!

James: To date, I’ve worked in four National Parks in India; Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Kaziranga all of which are all classed as Tiger Reserves by the Indian government’s Project Tiger. As well as providing vital habitat for the surviving Bengal tiger, they are also home to a vast array of other mammals and birds some of which are shown in this selection.

Ruddy mongoose (Herpestes smithii) on rock, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Ruddy mongoose, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Ranthambhore National Park in south western Rajasthan is famous for its wild tiger population and was once a private hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Its name comes from the vast fort that stands in the middle of the forest which is thought to date back to 1110. At 392 km2, Ranthambhore is one of the smallest 47 Project Tiger reserves in India.

Bengal tigress (Panthera tigris tigris) swimming across Lake Rajbagh, Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan, India

Bengal tigress swimming across Lake Rajbagh, Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan, India

Bandhavgarh National Park, situated in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, is one of India’s most popular wildlife reserves and at 438 km2 covers a similar area to Ranthambhore. Bandhavgarh’s tiger population density is one of the highest in India but it is also rich in other wildlife including large populations of Indian leopards and sloth bears.

Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) resting in sal forest (Shorea robusta), Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Sloth bear resting in sal forest, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Kanha National Park also lies in Madhya Pradesh in the Central Indian Highlands about 160 km southeast of Jabalpur. The reserve consists of a core area of 940 km2 which is surrounded by a buffer zone of 1,005 km2. In the 1890s, this region was the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ stories.

Tiger sleeping on rock in forest (Panthera tigris tigris), Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India

Bengal tiger sleeping on rock in forest, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India

Finally, Kaziranga National Park lies in the floodplain of the mighty Brahmaputra River in the north-eastern state of Assam and is home to around 75% (1800) of the remaining world population of the Indian or great one-horned rhinoceros. There is also a healthy population of Bengal tigers (around 100) but their shy nature and the region‘s tall ‘elephant‘ grasses make them very difficult to see.

Indian rhinoceros wallowing (Rhinoceros unicornis), Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

Indian rhinoceros wallowing, Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

The Bengal tiger is found primarily in India with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. It is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies but there are fewer than 2,500 left in the wild with poaching to fuel the illegal trade in body parts in Asia being the largest immediate threat to their remaining population.

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) cub, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Bengal tiger cub, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Find out about the work that the Wildlife Protection Society of India are doing with tigers on their website

Visit James’s website to see more of his wonderful images

If you are from a conservation organisation, James has very kindly made these images and many others from around the world available to you. If you’d like to get access to the images, join the Wildscreen Exchange, or email us at exchange.info@wildscreen.org.uk for more information.

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