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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.
Mar 12
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Subir Chowfin with the forests he has helped to protect in the background

Ever wonder what  a person who dedicated ten years of his life to preserving 450 vital hectares of forest in India looks like? Meet Subir Chowfin, wildlife researcher and the next inspirational person in Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series!

If you find Subir’s story inspires you, click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Subir’s “Wish List” of conservation actions that would make a world of difference for his work.  As a team, we can each take action today to support conservation!

Subir's wish list button

A Stunning Ecosystem with a Tumultuous History

This Arkive Conservation Hero’s story Pauri Garhwal's Uttarakhand Districtbegins in the Garhwal Himalaya in the Pauri Garhwal district of the state of Uttarakhand in India where, thanks to the efforts of a local wildife researcher and his mother,  450+ hectares of forested land in The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are forever protected.

A walk through the estates reveals a bounty of  predominantly oak and pine forests interspersed with grassy hill banks and rocky crags. The forests also house an incredible abundance of wildlife such as leopards, barking deer, rhesus macaque and feature endemic species such as the cheer pheasant.

The forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are prime habitat for leopards

Interestingly, the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates initially belonged to the British East India Company and were managed as Tea Estates. From the late 1800s to the 1900s the estates changed ownership several times with a substantial 1,100+ acres landing with Rev. David Albert Chowfin.  It soon became clear though that the forests were suffering from illegal development activities in certain areas in violation of the forest and environmental laws of the country.  Some of these activities include unsanctioned road construction, illegal dumping of garbage, and land encroachment meaning humans are building houses and tending agricultural lands further and further within the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates forest. With the expansion of unchecked human activities in the forest, it became clear that something would need to happen to protect and conserve the wildlife.

A Conservation Hero Emerges

To put a halt to this activities, local citizen and wildlife researcher Subir Chowfin filed a complaint in 2006 to the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) in Pauri. Unfortunately, neither the Land Revenue Department nor the local forest department chose to take any action. In response, Subir took even greater action and filed a public interest litigation before the National Green Tribunal in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.

Subir and his mother Christine worked for ten years to save the forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates from illegal human activities, home to rhesus monkeys among other wildlife

After nearly a decade long battle with different agencies, Subir along with his mother Christine Chowfin finally achieved results. The National Green Tribunal ordered that all non-forest activities be stopped on 450 hectares of the Estates. The Tribunal also ordered the state government of  Uttarakhand to declare the 450 hectares as either reserve forest/protected forest or private forest.

Landscape of Gadoli Fee Simple Estate

From Protecting Forests to Building Conservation Programs

Through the Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust set up to support the forest, Subir works to preserve and protect the wildlife in the Estates by pursuing a long list of fascinating activities such as supporting field wildlife research projects and developing educational programs for the local community and school children. The Trust also established a sustainable agricultural program that helps promote the environmental and ecological benefits of organic farming. Furthermore, as part of their agriculture program, the Trust employs women from the hill regions of  Uttarakhand providing them with regular, stable salaries. Subir believes programs like these help to involve the community as a whole within the process of conservation and gives them a reason to preserve these forests.

Stunning landscape of The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estate

 From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Subir’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Subir’s story socially to help spread the word further to donating to his nonprofit organization that protects these forests! Or maybe you are a recent graduate or scientists that sees the Estates as an incredible opportunity to dig into Indian wildlife research and conservation work. No matter your interest, every action matters.  Please make a pledge today! 

Take Action

Subir's wish list button

Mar 6

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, Feb 27, 2015

Salish Sea seagull populations halved since 1980s

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Glaucous winged gull in flight

Researchers believe that the decline in the number of glacous winged gulls reflects changes in the availability of marine food. Considering that gulls are the ultimate diet generalist, their decline suggests some profound changes to local marine ecosystems.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Feb 28, 2015

European beavers pair up for life and never cheat

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Juvenile Eurasian beaver feeding

Less than 5 percent of animals are believed to pair together for life, yet not without instances of cheating. One of the exceptions appears to be the Eurasian beaver who is completely faithful to its partner for its entire life.  Conversely, the American beaver is known to mate with others besides their partner.

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Young American beaver feeding on leaves

 Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 1, 2015

Hoary bat may become Hawaii’s state mammal

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Hoary bat roosting

A bill has been introduced to designate the endangered hoary bat as the state’s official land mammal. They are solitary creatures that have a wingspan of only 12 inches.

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 Article originally published on Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Incredibly rare bird sighted

Aldabra-rail

Aldabra rail

The critically endangered Zapata rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai) was finally seen for the first time in almost four decades. Fewer than 400 Zapata rails are estimated to exist. They belong to the genus Rallidae which includes the Aldabra rail.

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 Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015

Peacocks’ tails make noises too low for humans to hear

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Male Indian peafowl displaying

Peacocks make ‘infrasound’ noises with their tails that are about as loud as a car going by a few meters away. Researchers hypothesize that in males the sound could be used to attract females or ward away other males.

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 Article originally published on Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015

Last ditch: Mexico finally gets serious about saving the vaquita

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Vaquita calf at the surface

There are reportedly less than 100 vaquita on the planet. The Mexican government announced that it would ban gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat for two years and fisherman would be compensated for their lost income.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

WCS re-discovers ‘extinct’ bird in Myanmar

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Jerdon’s babbler

Jerdon’s babbler had not been seen in Myanmar since July 1941. At the beginning of the 20th century, the species was common in the vast natural grassland that once covered the Ayeyarwady and Sittaung flood plains around Yangon.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 


Mar 5

We continue Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series with the amazing Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi, an amphibian researcher and Arkive media contributor who recently discovered  a new species of water frog with his team in central Peru. Dr. Catenazzi shares how we can halt the spread of chytrid, the role of climate change in its spread, and how he and  his team discovered the new frog species.

Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi

 

And did you know that you, yes you, can take an action right now to support Dr. Catenazzi’s work and the future of amphibians in South America? Dr. Catenazzi  has offered several conservation actions on his “Arkive’s Conservation Heroes Wish List” that support the conservation of  amphibians. If you find his story truly inspiring (or you simply love amphibians), please click on the wish list button below, or at the end of the interview and pledge to take one action to support amphibian conservation. United as one, we can help promote conservation!

 

Congratulations on discovering a new frog species in Peru; how exciting! Inquiring minds want to know the story behind the discovery; can you share?

Often times several years can pass between the discovery of a species and the publication of the study based upon the new species. Sometimes as much as 20 years. I discovered this new species, Telmatobius ventriflavum along with coauthor Victor Vargas in October 2012. We were monitoring frog populations in central Peru as part of a monitoring project of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and Peru LNG.  We had just finished for the day, and on our way back to the hotel, we stopped along the road at a creek under a bridge. It was an unplanned stop and it was there that we saw T. ventriflavum. It had a striking coloration for a water frog. I was relatively confident that it was a new species. My other hypothesis was that it was the species Telmatobius intermedius that had not been seen for a long time. I went to a museum to view the specimen they had of T. intermedius. The significant differences between T. intermedius and T. ventriflavum were the bigger size, the smooth skin, and the bright orange coloration of the new species’ ventral side.  Based on this I had a sensible reason to believe that it was a new species.

Photo of the new water frog species discovered by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Although the small water frog is only just discovered, chytrid is already present within its habitat. What is the current status of this new species?

As of this time its status is uncertain, since we know T. ventriflavum only from this location. Chytrid was found in the area, but not at high concentrations that could be considered deadly. Concentrations of 10000-100000 zoospores on frog’s skin signify dangerous concentrations, but we did not find that here. There were a couple of zoospores present. Warm temperatures are not good for chytrid and this species was found in an area where daily temperatures can be high. We found a total of 7 adults, one male and six females. We kept one male and two females for further assessment, the rest were released. There were also about 43 tadpoles present, of which we kept a few.

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Need a refresher on chytrid? Check out Dr. Catenazzi’s first Arkive spotlight in 2010 where he shared more in-depth information on the devastating effects of the chytrid fungus on amphibian populations.

Do you think the spread of chytrid is related to climate change?

Well, it depends on how you define climate change. Some define it purely based on changes in the average temperature and others include the occurrence of extreme weather events. At this time, chytrid is an emergent pathogen. The chytrid strain that affects frogs was only formally described in 1999. We still don’t know much about how it spreads. It could be through a variety of vectors like water, clouds, wind or even getting transported by vehicles. What can be said definitively is that the zoospores require water. To look at how climate change affects chytrid you must look at the local level. There is no doubt that temperature variation will affect the dynamics of disease to some extent. I cannot however, specifically say the degree to which climate change is a factor. Furthermore, chytrid  encompasses multiple strains that potentially get spread through the pet trade and the transfer of goods that occurs in the world.

Many of Arkive’s followers are big fans of amphibians. Can you suggest ways that people reading this can support your research, the survival of the small water frog, or help halt the spread of chytrid?

Well, especially if you travel a lot; it is better to have different sets of clothing for each place at which you reside. If you have boots in your home, do not take those boots with you to a different country. Since boots can carry liquid they might help carry the water from different environments.  If this is not possible then bleach your boots and clothing to prevent the spread of foreign organisms.  Secondly, do not release pets into the wild. Introducing a non-native species to a different environment can cause serious issues. Moreover, in 2013, a chytrid strain that affects only salamanders was formally described. If you have a salamander as a pet get it tested to make sure that it is not infected with or is a carrier of chytrid.

Harlequin frog being swabbed by scientist for chytrid fungus

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired to take action to support Dr. Catenazzi and the amphibians of the world? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Dr. Catenazzi’s story socially to help spread the word further, to donating to nonprofit organizations that support Dr. Catenazzi’s amphibian conservation work such as the Amazon Conservation AssociationEvery action matters, please consider making a pledge today! 

Take Action

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Feb 27

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, Feb 20, 2015 

Evolution favors the big: Marine mammals have grown larger over time

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Potato cod

The average marine creature today is about 150 times larger than its counterparts that lived during the Cambrian period. The study looked at body size data for marine species groups including the echinoderms and chordates.

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Purple sea urchin

 Article originally published on Saturday, Feb 21, 2015

Shy kangaroos prefer bigger groups

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Female and young eastern grey kangaroo

Shyer or risk-averse female kangaroos feed in larger groups than bold or braver individuals.  Researchers hypothesize that shyer females like bigger groups because individuals in larger groups are safer from predators.

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 Article originally published on Sunday, Feb 22, 2015

Kingpin responsible for killing 20 rhinos caught by authorities

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Indian rhinoceros feeding on water hyacinth

Authorities have arrested the leader of a poaching gang that killed 20 Indian rhinoceros in Nepal.  Today there are over 2,500 Indian rhinos and the population is still rising.

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 Article originally published on Monday, Feb 23, 2015

Small predator diversity is an important part of a healthy ecosystem

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Western leopard toad

Biodiversity, including small predators such as dragonflies that attack and consume parasites may improve the health of amphibians. The study suggests that dwindling global environmental biodiversity and worldwide spikes in infectious diseases may be linked.

View original article

Slim-scarlet-darter

Slim scarlet-darter

 Article originally published on Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

Amur leopard population booms – to 57

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Amur leopard cub

There are now at least 57 Amur leopards in Russia. These leopards are scattered across more than 36,000 hectares.

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 Article originally published on Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015

$7 million could save lemurs from extinction

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Alaotran gentle lemur with young on back

Last year, scientists released a three year plan they said could save the world’s lemurs from world extinction and cost just $7.6 million. To facilitate this process, Lynne Venart the head of a design firm created the Lemur Conservation Network that brings together over 40 conservation groups and research institutes with the purpose of empowering the individual to support conservation.

View original article

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Grey mouse-lemur

 Article originally published on Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

U.S ‘pet’ tiger trade puts big cats at great risk

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Female bengal tiger with juveniles

Some tigers in the United States end up at roadside zoos, which lack the knowledge and resources to provide appropriate care. Other tigers end up in the pet trade and some are even killed illegally and their body parts sold.

View original article

 Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

 

Feb 26

We’re thrilled to kick off our first Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series with the incredible Dr. Laurie Marker, a woman who founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia, Africa dedicated to restoring the wild cheetah. In this interview, Dr. Marker shares why she started a nonprofit, an average day-in-the-life at CCF, and her one dream for cheetahs. What is it? You’ll have to read on to find out! Dr  Laurie Marker and CCF Resident Cheetahs Finally, Dr. Marker and CCF have offered loads of ways that you can support the conservation of cheetahs right this very minute. If Dr. Marker’s story inspires you (or you just love big cats!), please click on the “Wish List” link here at the end of the interview and pledge to take one conservation action to support Cheetah Conservation Fund. Together, we can rally around the world to support conservation!wish list button

So, after working with cheetahs since 1974, you finally moved from the US to Namibia in 1990 to develop the CCF base. What was it that inspired you to save cheetahs over any other species?

When I started working with cheetahs in 1974, nobody knew anything about them and they weren’t breeding well anywhere. There weren’t many cheetahs in captivity and people were taking them out of the wild; wild numbers were declining. Questions I had helped us understand not only how special the animal was but also understand the basic biology, the genetic makeup, and the population of each individual. I’m still fascinated by cheetahs and trying to find out more each day about how we can save them.

Cheetah photo

A curious juvenile cheetah

Everyone knows that the cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet, can you tell us any other interesting facts?

Well, cheetahs are very wonderful in the way they run; every part of their body is built for speed. Their semi non-retractable claws are very usable as cleats for traction running. Moreover, they are very aerodynamic with their small head and enlarged arteries, lungs, and heart. They’ve got a very flexible backbone and, as they run and hunt, only one paw touches the ground at any point in their stride, but there’s two points in the stride when no paws touch the ground. They just keep going and their tail is like a rudder for balance to stabilize and go around sharp curves rapidly so they don’t roll over and spin out.

Cheetah mid-sprint

Your recent call to arms was extremely inspiring, how does CCF intend to ‘save the cheetah from extinction’?

I would say the next step is get more and more people engaged and actually scale up the programs that are already successful. There are only 10,000 cheetahs left in the world so our strategies rely on maintaining them in Namibia which has the largest remaining population. We need to provide economic alternatives to the farming communities, so that they find the cheetah as an economic friend to them versus a loss of their livestock. We’ve created a program that I call “Future Farmers of Africa” where in Namibia, we have integrated programs of wildlife, livestock and grazing lands throughout most of the areas where cheetahs are found. So there is a political landscape of trying to help guide policies in these rural African communities, helping support capacity building and training more and more not only good farmers, but good conservation scientists in Africa as well. Raising awareness in our western world where people sometimes have the disposable incomes that Africa does not have, and helping them realize that potentially their assistance is going to actually gain them a lot by helping get Africa out of poverty and saving the cheetah at the same time, is a focus as well.

Dr. Marker working on cheetah in field

Dr. Marker working on cheetah in field (Photo courtesy of CCF)

 What has been your best moment since starting the Cheetah Conservation Fund?

Probably one of the highlights right now is the fact that our organization that I started 25 years ago is a quarter of a century old at this point. We have doubled the Namibian cheetah population and I’ve got programs going throughout most of the cheetah range countries. Conservation scientists are aware, the governments are aware. So a good moment only means I have more to do to have another good moment, because that good moment really lasts about a second.

 What is an average day for you at the CCF base in Namibia?

We’ve got a lot of animals since we have a sanctuary so there are orphan cats that need to be cared for every day and we have a lot of school children that come in regularly. We have livestock guarding dogs and goats which are breeding; they need a lot of care. Farmers might also call you up and need a lot of help that could take a whole day or more than a day then your whole day changes. We’ve got a wilding program going on which asks where is the cheetah today. You’re tracking it and maybe they’ve killed a kudu so we say let’s go find its kill and track down what the habitat looks like. At a community level, probably spending your time getting ready to go into a community so that you’re prepared with the kinds of paperwork they need or slide presentation. You make sure that your pictures and the story you’re telling is something they can fully relate to when it comes to livestock care. So I would say that there’s international communications that go on on a regular basis and you know we’re a hopping crowd so I’ve got a very good staff of professional biologists, ecologists, veterinarians and geneticists all working about 100 miles an hour.

CCF Facilities

The Cheetah Conservation Fund Centre in Namibia, Africa (Photo courtesy of CCF)

Your story is extremely inspirational and encouraging for aspiring conservationists. Do you any advice to someone that would like to start their own charity or conservation project?

I ask myself why did I start a charity to begin with? I think that joining partnerships with organizations that are doing conservation work is really important. Sometimes you just need to jump off the deep end if you have an idea and know that potentially you might fall, but you can pick yourself back up and figure out what it is you’re going to do. Running a conservation organization deals with a business. It’s running a business from a perspective of getting funding and utilizing that donor’s funding properly so that you can show the results from that donation. My one dream is to see the cheetah living on earth for future generations and that’s going to take everybody cracking down and changing the way that they live and think. So there’s a whole behavior change around the entire world that has to be encouraged and our motto for the next 25 years is “Change the World to Save the Cheetah”.

Suzi Ezsterhas

Dr. Marker feeding a cheetah (Photo courtesy of Suzi Ezsterhas)

How can the general public help your organization and cheetahs as species?

I would say go to our website, give us a call, send an email, but we actively encourage people to take an active role in doing something and we need funding to be able to do the work that we need to do. Adopt one of our orphan cheetahs, sponsor one of our livestock guarding dogs so that we can keep doing more. We’ve got programs that are successful and we need the funding to scale them up and we need people to be aware of the fact that the cheetah is Africa’s most endangered big cat. We need to hold on to what we have and try to grow those populations.

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself

Inspired to take action to support Dr. Marker and the cheetahs of Africa? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take conservation action – actions that range from sharing Dr. Marker’s story socially to help spread the word further, to donating or even planning to volunteer time with Dr. Marker at the CCF centre in Namibia! Every action matters, please consider making a pledge today! 

Take Action

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