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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 29
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Endangered Species of the Week: St Helena gumwood

St Helena gumwood image

St Helena gumwood (Commidendrum robustum)

Species: St Helena gumwood (Commidendrum robustum)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: In 1977, the St Helena gumwood was adopted as the national tree of St Helena, a UK Overseas Territory.

As its name suggests, the St Helena gumwood is endemic to the small volcanic island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. This highly branched tree has a crooked, knarled trunk, an umbrella-like canopy and thick, hairy, wrinkled leaves. During the winter and spring, the St Helena gumwood produces white flowers which droop from the ends of the branches. This hermaphroditic plant was once a regularly occurring species within subtropical and tropical forests on inland cliffs and mountain peaks, with large amounts of seed falling around the parent plant and germinating freely.

Since 1659 when the first settlers arrived on St Helena, the St Helena gumwood has been exploited for use as timber and firewood, and forests have been cleared to make way for pastureland. In addition, this species faced further pressure from introduced goats which grazed heavily on its seedlings. By the 1980s, the St Helena gumwood population had been drastically reduced, and this spurred conservationists to put a management plan into action.

This species is now protected by the Endangered Endemic and Indigenous Species Protection Ordinance 7 of 1996, and the instigation of the Millennium Gumwood Forest Project resulted in 4,300 St Helena gumwood trees being planted in previously degraded wasteland in 2000. Other replanting and weed clearance projects are underway, and a successful biological control programme has helped to combat the destructive jacaranda bug which was responsible for a decline in the St Helena gumwood population in the early 1990s.

 

Find out more about environmental management on St Helena.

See images of the St Helena gumwood on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Mar 27
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Creativity catches the eye of the judges in a tough competition

The winners have been announced for the HSBC Water Programme Photography Competition, with a photo of a water drop stealing the top prize. Wildscreen has helped HSBC to run their internal photography competition to promote the importance of the HSBC Water Programme, which will benefit communities in need and provide information for more efficient management of vital freshwater resources.

Following an entertaining and informative masterclass from one of the world’s leading wildlife photographers, Mark Carwardine, over 1,000 entries were submitted. It was great to see so many beautiful entries from all over the world, and the tough job of picking the finalists and winners fell to our expert judging panel: Rosamund Kidman Cox (WildPhotos Producer, editor and writer), Helen Gilks (Managing Director, Nature Picture Library and Blue Green Pictures) and Mark Carwardine (Wildlife Photographer and Zoologist).

Entrants were encouraged to enter their images into one of five categories. Below, you can find the winners from each category, along with comments from Rosamund Kidman Cox.

 

Winner of Creative Visions of Water and Overall Winner

Image by Khalyd El Hamoumy

Image by Khalyd El Hamoumy

Crystal Droplet

This is a choreographed image of a water droplet, impacting on the surface of the water and ‘bouncing’ back up. No doubt the photographer would have rehearsed this many times, until everything was just right: the distance between the drop of water and bowl, the colour of the background to be reflected off the water, the position of the speedlight and the amount of light coming from it. It’s a simple image of a perfect sphere acting as a crystal lens, and all the more successful for capturing the essence of water.

 

Winner of People and Water

Image by Prasad Peddireddy

Image by Prasad Peddireddy

The power of water

The tiny gathering of people stand dwarfed by the vast canyon and the giant cascade of water formed as the River Sharavathi plunges 250 metres down into the gorge – a truly magnificent image. The Jog Falls are India’s second-highest falls, in the heart of the Western Ghats – a great escarpment that is a World Heritage Site and a biological hotspot.

 

Winner of Freshwater Landscapes

Image by Isuru Hettiarachchi

Image by Isuru Hettiarachchi

Sunset Falls

A curtain of water and spray filter the setting sun as it touches the horizon, photographed from behind Iceland’s Seljalandsfoss waterfall as it pours off the escarpment. Beyond, the river can be seen cutting through the landscape as it travels to the sea. It’s an imaginative and atmospheric picture of a much-photographed Icelandic natural wonder.

 

Winner of Freshwater Life

Image by Marissa Tabbada

Image by Marissa Tabbada

Gull on a Golden Pond

It’s a simple, serene scene, taken on a beautiful autumn day. A black-headed gull, already in winter plumage, rests on a Central London pond. The low afternoon light has picked out the ripples on the water surface, reflecting the golden colour of autumn leaves.

 

Winner of Water in Black and White

Image by Oi Yan Ko

Image by Oi Yan Ko

Water Run

The subject is a moorhen, running on water as it prepares to take off on a pond in Hong Kong’s Nam Sang Wai wetland park, an area that was once dominated by fish farms and is now an important area for waterbirds. But the picture is not so much a portrait of a bird as a graphic composition – a trajectory splash pattern against mirror-smooth water, topped by a fringe-frame of reflected vegetation.

View a gallery of the finalists’ images on the Water Hub website: http://www.thewaterhub.org/gallery/photography-competition

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, Text Author

Mar 26
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Earth Hour 2014

On Saturday 29th March at 8:30 pm, millions of people across the world will take part in WWF’s Earth Hour by turning off their lights for one hour. Held annually, WWF’s Earth Hour is a unique phenomenon that encourages individuals, communities and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet.

Now in its eighth year, the Earth Hour event was first held in Sydney in 2007. For Earth Hour 2013, over 7,000 cities and towns across more than 150 countries and territories participated.

This year has seen the launch of Earth Hour Blue, an all-new digital crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform for the planet. This new platform gives individuals from around the world the chance to help fund or add their voice to environmental and social projects which are important to them.

Here at ARKive, to get ready for Earth Hour we have been thinking about species which are at home in the dark.

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

Believed to be the world’s smallest living primate, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is a nocturnal primate endemic to Madagascar. This lemur is well adapted to its nocturnal lifestyle as it has extremely large forward-facing eyes with a shiny layer behind the retina that reflects light back through the eye, significantly improving night vision.

Cave salamander

This unusual-looking animal is the rare cave salamander,  an amphibian which lives in dark, subterranean caves in central Europe. As this cave-dwelling animal spends its entire life in darkness, its eyes are so poorly developed that it is actually blind. 

Lion’s mane jellyfish

One of the largest jellyfish in the world, the lion’s mane jellyfish gains its common name from the long, thin, hair-like tentacles found hanging from the underside of its bell-shaped body. As well as being one of the largest jellyfish, the lion’s mane jellyfish is also often bioluminescent, meaning it produces its own light, making it glow in dark waters.

Night-flowering orchid

As its common name suggests, the night-flowering orchid is the only known orchid species which opens its flowers at night. Described as recently as 2011, it is not yet known for certain why this orchid opens its flowers at night, but it is likely that the flies which pollinate this species are nocturnal.

Devil’s worm

Thought to be the world’s deepest-living animal, the Devil’s worm is definitely a creature at home in the dark. Found at a depth of more than one kilometre into the Earth’s crust, the Devil’s worm demonstrates a high temperature tolerance and is thought to be able to survive in conditions of up to 41 degrees Celsius!

If you want to find out more about how to get involved in Earth Hour, visit  WWF’s Earth Hour website.

And don’t forget, Earth Hour is on Saturday 29th March at 8:30 pm local time, so join the ARKive team and millions of other people worldwide and switch off those lights!

Mar 23
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Endangered Species of the Week: Philippine crocodile

Juvenile Philippine crocodile

Juvenile Philippine crocodile

Species: Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Philippine crocodile is one of the most endangered freshwater crocodile species in the world.

More information:

The Philippine crocodile is a relatively small species of freshwater crocodile, with a broad snout, and thick bony plates on its back. Until recently, it was considered a subspecies of the very similar New Guinea crocodile.

Philippine crocodiles are thought to feed mainly on fish, invertebrates, small amphibians and reptiles, but very little else is known about the natural history or ecology of wild populations. In captivity, females build mound-nests at the end of the dry season from leaf litter and mud, upon which they lay a relatively small clutch of 7 to 14 eggs. Only the females show parental care of both the eggs and the hatchlings.

Previously found throughout the Philippines but now reduced to a small and highly fragmented population on a number of small islands, the Philippine crocodile favours freshwater marshes, the tributaries of large rivers and small lakes and ponds.

The massive population decline of the Philippine crocodile was originally caused by over-exploitation for commercial use. Today, habitat destruction is the most pressing threat to the species’ survival, with rainforests being cleared throughout the region to make way for rice fields. The fearsome reputation of the saltwater crocodile undoubtedly contributes to local intolerance of any crocodile species. The word for crocodile in the Filipino language is a vile insult, and crocodiles are often killed when encountered.

The Philippine crocodile is considered to be the second most endangered crocodilian in the world, with possibly fewer than 100 individuals in the wild. International trade of this species is prohibited, but there is only one officially protected area within the Philippines and its protection is poorly enforced. At present, captive breeding of the Philippine crocodile takes place in a small programme run by the Silliman University and at the government-run Crocodile Farming Institute.

 

Find out more about the Philippine crocodile at the Mabuwaya Foundation.

See images of the Philippine crocodile on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Mar 22
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World Water Day 2014

Water is essential to life on Earth. However, our insatiable demand is putting water, one of our most precious natural resources, at risk.

The enormous growth in the human population over recent decades is placing an enormous strain on the world’s freshwater reserves, with our global consumption of water for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses beginning to reach what are thought to be unsustainable levels. Similarly, rapid urbanisation, pollution and climate change are all exacerbating the problem, further threatening one of the world’s most vital resources.

World Water Day 2014

To draw attention to the importance of freshwater and the need for sustainable management of the world’s freshwater resources, the United Nations (UN) has designated 22 March ‘World Water Day’.

Held annually, World Water Day gives people all around the globe the opportunity to take action to raise awareness of water issues and improve the management of the world’s water resources. In 2014, World Water Day is focusing on the connection between water and energy.

Nicknamed ‘the leaper’, the Atlantic salmon has the spectacular ability to clear seemingly impossible obstacles. When journeying back to its birthplace in order to spawn, the Atlantic salmon is able to leap vertical distances of up to an incredible four metres!

Though not a water-dwelling species, the plumed basilisk, a lizard from Central America, has the amazing ability to run on water! When threatened, it can drop down onto water and sprint, upright, over the surface of the water. It is able to achieve this due to its long toes, which considerably increase the surface area of its back feet.

Find out more about World Water Day and discover events happening near you.

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