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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.
Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: ground pangolin

Nominated by: David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Why do you love it?

Pangolins are the MOST trafficked mammals on the planet but hardly anyone knows about them. Although they look reptilian they are mammals and extraordinary ones at that. They eat mainly ants and termites which they detect by scent and can eat up to a staggering 23,000 insects a day!

They use their strong front claws to dig into nests and mounds and use their extremely long, sticky tongues (they can be as long as the pangolin itself) to get the insects. The tongue is attached way back inside the body between the pelvis and the last set of ribs. When not in use the tongue rests in a special pouch inside the pangolin’s throat. A special muscle closes their nostrils and ears to stop the insects attacking them. Stranger still, pangolins don’t have teeth but keratin spikes in their stomachs work with small stones or sand they have swallowed to grind the food up. Being such prolific eaters means that pangolins are an important form of pest control, often eating insects that negatively impact on crop production.

Covered in tough scales they look a bit like pine cones and roll into a protective ball when threatened. They can also use the erect scales on their tails to lash out at predators – they also hiss, puff and expel a foul scent to defend themselves.

They have one baby a year which is called a ‘pangopup’.

What are the threats to the ground pangolin?

Their main predators are leopards, hyenas, lions and humans. Over a million pangolins are believed to have been illegally captured and sold in the last decade alone. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in some Asian countries; some also believe that their scales can be used to cure a range of illnesses. They are also vulnerable to loss of habitat due to an increase in agriculture. In Africa they are eaten as bushmeat0 and used for traditional African medicine.

There is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that pangolin scales (made of keratin) have any medicinal benefit. Due to declining numbers in Asia, where they have suffered a 90% decrease over the last 20 years, attention has now turned to African pangolins to supply illegal markets putting our ground pangolin in grave danger.

What are you doing to save it? In 2016 the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) established a new pangolin protection programme in Zambia where there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pangolins confiscated from illegal traders.

The programme supports local awareness campaigns and funds wildlife crime prevention as well as supporting a specialist rehabilitation unit to help return seized animals back to the wild.

Find out more about DSWF’s pangolin programme.

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Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: common clubtail

Nominated by: British Dragonfly Society

Why do you love it?

The common clubtail has a misleading name, it is not common at all in the UK! This is a very unique species, with its bulbous eyes set apart from each other, its bright golden and black colouring and the clubbed tip of the body. While they are developing, which takes three to five years, common clubtails live as larvae underwater in rivers, burying themselves in the sediment but leaving their back ends sticking out to breath and their eyes poking out to watch for prey. This dragonfly is harder to see than most because of its habit of leaving the river and living in the tops of nearby trees as an adult.

What are the threats to the common clubtail?

This beautiful but elusive dragonfly is threatened by major works carried out on rivers, which destroys the plants they need to emerge into adults. Scouring of the river bed also removes the silt they need to bury in. Excessive silt build up is likewise a problem, suffocating the larvae, as is poor water quality. Fast moving boats on rivers are dangerous for this insect, with the wash created disturbing them during emergence. The removal of woodland near to rivers limits the amount of suitable habitat for this species, and finally, our changing climate is a potentially serious threat, with bad weather during emergence reducing their numbers and hot weather also killing the larvae.

What are you doing to save it?

Records of the common clubtail in the UK are mostly old and very patchy. The British Dragonfly Society desperately needs to understand the population sizes and distribution of this dragonfly to conserve it. This is why the society is running Clubtail Count 2017, calling on all nature lovers to join in the search for this beautiful insect. No previous experience of dragonfly identification is needed, you will be taught all you need to know to find this local specialist.

Visit the British Dragonfly Society website to find out more.

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Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: horrid ground-weaver

Nominated by: BugLife

Horrid ground-weaver spider

Why do you love it?

The horrid ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) is an extremely rare endemic money spider so called because of a corruption of its Latin name horridus which means hairy. A look at the spider under magnification indeed shows that it has a series of hairs or bristles sticking out from all its legs. It is just 2.5mm across, hence the need to observe under magnification. Until last year the only images available of this enigmatic little spider were a line drawing and a photo of a specimen in formaldehyde.

The spider lives in limestone cracks and crevices and is a nocturnal hunter across scree slopes most likely feasting on springtails and other small invertebrates. The IUCN added the Horrid ground-weaver to its list of endangered species in 2016 and it is probably the UK’s most rare spiders listed under Section 41 of the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act.

What are the threats to the horrid ground-weaver?

The spider only lives on three recorded sites in Plymouth one of which has been developed into an industrial estate and another of which in 2015 was subject to a planning appeal for development. Buglife mounted a campaign to save the site, Radford Quarry, and were delighted when the planning inspector agreed to prevent development.

Many people who supported the campaign to save the Horrid ground-weaver were not spider fans indeed some were arachnophobes but they saw the importance of saving it – one supporter Helen stated on the petition “Not a panda, but just as important.”

What are you doing to save it?

After saving the site Buglife raised funds to study the spider which has now been found on a further site and we have also managed to obtain the fist ever photos and video of the Horrid ground-weaver in situ. All this was possible because over 10,000 individuals signed the petition and donated by a crowd funder. 2017 sees another obscure endemic under threat Fonseca’s seed-fly found on the north east dune scape of Scotland its habitat threatened by a golf course. Currently the only specimens of Fonseca’s seed-fly are in formaldehyde there are no photos.

Check out the Buglife website to see how you can help.

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Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: European pond turtle

Nominated by: Polish Society for Nature Conservation “Salamandra”

Why do you love it?

The European pond turtle, also known as the mud turtle, is the only natural representative of turtles in Poland. Nowadays it is one of the rarest reptile species in the country and its secretive behaviour makes it very difficult to spot in the field. Consequently, it is not well-known species to the general public. Those who have been lucky enough to observe it in natural conditions agree that it is one of the most beautiful turtles in the world.

What are the threats to the European pond turtle? 

The biggest threat to this species is degradation of its habitat due to humans (e.g. draining of the wetlands or agricultural activities on nesting sites). In the past European pond turtles were collected in a great numbers for food, especially around the Christian Lent celebrations when aquatic animals are traditionally consumed. Such an exploitation caused the local extinctions of many populations. Currently; however, one of the main drivers of this species’ decline is the illegal collection of European pond turtles to supply the pet trade. Luckily the scale of this collection is much smaller, but is still unsustainable. Other important threats include invasive turtle species (eg. red-eared sliders) which have been released to the wild by humans and compete with the European pond turtle for resources, such as food and basking sites, and are vectors of dangerous pathogens.

What are you doing to save it?

The Polish Society for Nature Conservation “Salamandra” is running a project focussed on the biggest population of European pond turtles in the Wielkopolska region in Poland. A telemetry survey was carried out to find out the nesting and hibernation areas and, on the basis of the collected data, conservation recommendations were created and are currently being implemented. The main problem in the area is the protection of nesting sites, which are based mostly on agricultural lands and therefore cooperation with local farmers plays a crucial role in this project.

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Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: Chagos anemonefish

Nominated by: Chagos Conservation Trust

Why do you love it? 

The Chagos anemonefish, also known as the Chagos clownfish, is often overlooked because of its famous relative but no one can deny this colourful little fish is just as stunning and makes everyone smile. Chagos clownfish have a super power in the form of a protective shield that allows them to live among sea anemones but not get stung.

What are the threats to the Chagos clownfish? 

The Chagos clownfish can be found swimming around the shallow coral reefs of the Chagos Archipelago. Warming oceans and increased acidification are the biggest threat. In 2016 the Chagos Archipelago saw temperatures of over 30oC, some of the highest temperatures every recorded. As a result the coral reef home of the clownfish has been severely affected.

What are you doing to save it? 

The Chagos Conservation Trust was instrumental in the campaign to have the Chagos Archipelago designated as a marine reserve in 2010. The protected area is beneficial all the species that call it home including the Chagos clownfish. As it is an endemic species, and therefore the only place in the world it is found, reducing threats is vital to ensure its survival.

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