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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 24

Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii)

Species: Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Russian sturgeon can reach lengths of nearly two and a half metres.

More information: The Russian sturgeon belongs to an ancient and unique group of fish, relics from the time of the dinosaurs. This prehistoric giant was formerly found in the Black, Azov, and Caspian Seas in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as the deep sections of fast-flowing rivers, such as the Volga, Danube, and Ural Rivers. Populations of this species are now mostly found in the lower reaches of these river systems and along coastlines.

The male Russian sturgeon does not reproduce until it is between 8 and 13 years old and only do so every 2 or 3 years, while the female does not reach sexual maturity until it is 10 to 16 years old and then only reproduces every 4 to 6 years. There are two distinct forms of this fish species, the anadromous type which migrates up rivers from the sea to spawn and the freshwater form which remains in its freshwater habitat to spawn, although this form is now thought to be extinct. For the anadromous type, there are two separate migrations, one in spring when spawning occurs in the lower levels of the river and one in autumn when individuals migrate into freshwater where they spend the winter before spawning upstream the following spring.

Vast areas of the Russian sturgeon’s spawning grounds have been lost due to damming and exploitation. Dam construction is highly detrimental to this and other migratory fish species, as the usual migration routes to its spawning grounds are blocked, meaning that individuals either do not reproduce, or spawn in unsafe areas. Pollution in the Caspian and Black Sea basins is causing hormonal imbalances in this species and subsequently a greater number of hermaphroditic, infertile individuals are found in these areas.

The Russian sturgeon was once very important commercially, and its caviar was one of the most sought after of any species. Illegal fishing still continues, despite legal catch quotas being in place, with the illegal catch thought to far surpass the legally set limits. The Russian sturgeon is unprotected in many areas throughout its range and the absence of a strict monitoring system makes the control of fishing very difficult. Despite restocking efforts, the creation of artificial spawning grounds, and the introduction of fish lifts to help individuals to get around dams, the population is still in decline and over the last 15 years, global catches have dropped by 98 percent. As a slowly maturing species, it does not have the ability to recover from overexploitation, especially without complete cessation of fishing.

Celebrate World Fish Migration Day and find out more about why we need to protect these species and their habitats.

Find out more about sturgeon conservation.

See images of the Russian sturgeon on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

May 23

The 23rd of May is World Turtle Day – a whole 24 hours dedicated to highlighting the plight of turtle species around the world. Here at ARKive we thought we would celebrate by sharing our top turtle facts.

Did you know…

  • Turtles are found on every continent, except for Antarctica
  • The age of most juvenile turtles can be determined by the upper shell, which grows each year from a central point
  • Turtles are thought to have lived on earth for over 200 million years
  • The sex of most turtle hatchlings is dependent on the temperature which they are incubated at, with males hatching at low temperatures and females hatching when the temperature is higher

Lovely Loggerheads

  • The loggerhead turtle has powerful jaws that can make easy work of its hard-shelled prey.
  • It is highly migratory and is known to cross oceans.

Not a jack in a box

  • Box turtles gain their common name from their hinged shell which enables them to completely close their shell to protect themselves.
  • The male ornate box turtle has enlarged claws on its hindfeet to grip onto the female while mating.

Vast vertebrate

  • The leatherback turtle is the world’s largest turtle, with the average carapace (the shell covering the back) reaching around 160 centimetres and the largest recorded individual weighing up to 916 kilograms.
  • Uniquely, the leatherback turtle is able to maintain an elevated body temperature, giving it the ability to dive to depths of up to 1,000 metres in pursuit of prey.

Snappy by name, snappy by nature

  • The alligator snapping turtle is nicknamed the ‘dinosaur of the turtle world’ due to its prehistoric, alligator-like appearance, from which it gains its common name.
  • The tongue of the alligator snapping turtle has a small, worm-like projection, which is wiggled to attract prey.

What is being done to help?

Thankfully, various conservation organisations and individuals are working tirelessly to help save turtles and tortoises from the brink of extinction. Here are some actions being taken to ensure the future survival of these fascinating creatures:

  • Shrimp fisheries are now using Turtle Excluder Devices, which only allow shrimp-sized objects to enter the nets, preventing turtles from being caught as bycatch
  • Many species are now listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade is strictly monitored and controlled – this should hopefully prevent some collection of wild turtles for the international pet trade
  • Some nesting sites are protected during the nesting season to ensure that eggs cannot be collected and subsequently sold
  • Captive breeding programmes and the protection of areas which are known to support turtle populations could ensure the long-term survival of these magnificent reptiles

Are you turtley in awe of sea turtles? Want to learn more about them? Then why not check out our eggshellent ARKive Education resource – Turtle Life Cycle – and play the turtle-tastic board game!

Find out more about turtles, tortoises and their conservation:

View photos and videos of turtle and tortoise species on ARKive

May 22

Today is the United Nation’s International Day of Biological Diversity, which this year has been dedicated to island biodiversity.

Islands are home to an estimated 20% of all bird, reptile and plant species despite making up less than 5% of Earth’s land area. Islands also contain 40 percent of all critically endangered species, and the extinction rates on islands are disproportionately high despite a global extinction rate that may be 1000 times the historical background rate.

Islands contain 40 percent of all critically endangered species

“Biodiversity is crucial to meet human needs. Our economies, livelihoods, health, and cultures depend on the proper management of this natural capital.  This is even more important on islands where natural ecosystems are fragile and easily disturbed.” said Olivier Langrand, Island Conservation’s Director of Global Affairs, member of the Steering Committee of Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) and co-chair of the GLISPA Working Group on Invasive Alien Species.

The necessity of urgent action in aid of island conservation, to halt and reverse the loss in biodiversity is highlighted in the new publication , “Island Bright Spots in Conservation & Sustainability” by the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA). This report showcases inspired island conservation solutions in action, “bright spots”. These “bright spots” will also be showcased during the 2014 International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to encourage investment in scaling and replicating initiatives that work. In this publication Island Conservation’s Allen Cay and Small Islands, Big Difference (SIBD) projects are highlighted as successful examples that could serve as innovative models for island restoration around the globe.

Island Conservation’s Allen Cay

Allen Cay, The Bahamas is a small island habitat but is home to important populations of Audubon’s shearwater and provides critical habitat for the endemic, endangered Allen Cay rock iguana. However, invasive house mice were indirectly threatening the native species by providing an abundant food source for barn owls, increasing the owl populations, which predate heavily on Audubon’s shearwater and juvenile Allen Cay rock iguanas. In 2012, Island conservation collaborated with the Bahamas National Trust, Government, NGO and private partners to remove invasive house mice from Allen Cay. This successful partnership protected nationally and globally significant biodiversity, and laid foundations for future restoration and conservation projects in the Bahamas.

Allen’s Cay rock iguana on beach

Island Conservation’s Small Islands, Big Difference Project

Island Conservation’s Small Islands, Big Difference (SIBD) campaign was launched in Montreal, Canada in 2012. The goal of this campaign is to financially support hundreds of partners and island nations in protecting thousands of species through the removal of invasive species from 500 islands.

Island Conservation and local partners helped protect critical habitat for the waved albatross by removing invasive goats and feral cats from Isla de la Plata

The“Island Bright Spots in Conservation & Sustainability” publication also highlights emerging initiatives such as the recent launch of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a three year open-ocean journey around the world undertaken in two Hawaiian voyaging canoes. The aim of this project is to catalyse awareness and action on how to care for Earth, the Oceans and our natural heritage. The crew aim to bring stories of our islands and oceans to inspire communities and leaders to take action to protect these critical resources.

Read more about the importance of Islands habitats

Read more about Island Conservation.

Find out how the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage is progressing.

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern

May 19

With ARKive’s 11th birthday on the horizon, there couldn’t be a better time to look back and reflect on the incredible year we’ve had. From a brand new PSA featuring Hollywood actor and ARKive fan John Leguizamo, to reaching approximately 4.5 million students this year through our award-winning, curriculum-linked education resources, there is much to celebrate!

We have narrowed down this year’s ARKive headliners to 11 of our favourites, and we want you to tell us which one you consider to be the most important. Does sharing the story of 10 species on the road to recovery in our Conservation in Action campaign tick the boxes for you? Or is it the thousands of new green-flagged images in the ARKive collection that are now available for use by  not-for-profit conservation & education organisations to support their vital missions? Let us know by casting your vote here, or leaving a comment below!

Conservation in Action

To mark a decade of highlighting conservation issues, we worked closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Groups on our Conservation in Action campaign. Highlighting ten very different species, each on the road to recovery thanks to targeted conservation efforts led by dedicated scientific experts, this was a true celebration of conservation success stories!

Scimitar-horned oryx photo

Currently classified as Extinct in the Wild, the scimitar-horned oryx is now the subject of a captive breeding programme, which aims to eventually reintroduce the species to its natural habitat

Filling the ARK in Illinois

Through the generosity of ARKive supporters in the great state of Illinois, we were delighted to launch the our new Illinois feature page; the GO-TO source for Illinois wildlife media and natural history information, featuring over 100 native species. To celebrate the launch of this project, our conservation partners in Chicago such as Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and Lincoln Park Zoo wrote guest blogs sharing their favourite conservation stories in the Land of Lincoln as part of our Going WILD in Illinois mini-blog series.

Burden Falls photo

Burden Falls in Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

John Leguizamo PSA

Being a Hollywood and Broadway actor, director and producer, John Leguizamo is no stranger to the wild world, especially when it comes to the fantastic characters he has played on the big screen. Who can forget Sid, the lisping sloth in the Ice Age films, or Alex, the witty and sarcastic prehistoric bird in the recent hit Walking with Dinosaurs? In a new PSA for ARKive, John shared why he values ARKive, as well as giving a shout-out to a few of the species that amazed him when he discovered them on ARKive for the first time!

John Leguizamo photo

John Leguizamo’s PSA for ARKive

Education Resources

Our education programme inspires and motivates young people to take an interest in the natural world. We estimate that our freely available education resources will have reached 4.5million students in the last year. Some of our latest resources include: Handling Data: African Animal Maths (7-11 years), Species Discovery: Keys & Classification (11-14 years), Climate Change (11-14 years) and Indicator Species (14-16 year olds).

Species Discovery education module

Explore how scientists discover, classify and name species previously unknown to science with our Species Discovery education modules

UK Invasive Species project

Invasive non-native species are considered the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide after habitat loss. This year saw us set about the task of raising public awareness of the risks and adverse impacts associated with invasive non-native species in the UK through a new feature pagefun activities, two new education resources and an interactive quiz.

Signal crayfish photo

The signal crayfish is a voracious predator, and a highly invasive species in the UK

Ocean Acidification

Increasing carbon dioxide emissions have not only resulted in a global temperature rise, but have also made the oceans more acidic, and it is thought that the oceans are 30 percent more acidic today than before the industrial revolution. With our new ocean acidification topic page you can learn more about the impacts of ocean acidification and discover the species which are being affected.

Coral reef photo

It is thought that coral reefs could be the first victims of ocean acidification, with one reef being destroyed every other day.

Lonely Hearts Campaign

This Valentine’s Day we launched a new campaign on our blog and Twitter, highlighting some forlorn species looking for love and explaining what they’re looking for in a perfect partner!

Mallorcan midwife toad photo

Monty the Mallorcan midwife toad is a sensitive guy who’s great with kids and is ready to deliver a good time!

Shoebox Habitats

During the summer we created a new range of fun and free activities to download and keep the little ones entertained during the holidays. Some of the most popular were our new Shoebox Habitat packs, allowing you to build your very own jungle, African savannah, under the sea or winter scenes!

Shoebox habitat photo

Build your own jungle, African savannah, under the sea or winter scenes with our amazing shoebox habitats!

CBD programme: Islands and Forests

ARKive is following the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Programme structure to explore some of the major biomes on the planet. Over the past year we have launched the first two chapters of this project, Islands and Forests. On these new feature pages you can learn more about the importance of these habitats, discover the species that live there and find out what is being done to protect them.

Forest photo

Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

Green-flagged Images

Thanks to the generosity of our media donors we now have an incredible 2,771 green-flagged images which are available to use for not-for-profit conservation or education use.

African penguin photo

African penguins by Peter Chadwick

Profiling the World’s Most Endangered Species

As ever, we continue to profile the world’s most endangered species with the help of leading wildlife filmmakers and photographers, conservationists and scientists, adding images and footage of elusive species such as the Critically Endangered Vipera anatolica, known from only a single location in Anatolia, Turkey.

Vipera anatolica photo

The Critically Endangered Vipera anatolica

If you ask us, we think ARKive’s biggest success this year isn’t what we’ve done; it’s what you’ve done!  By downloading our resources, sharing our blogs and stories on social media or forwarding our newsletters to friends and family members, you continue to help spread ARKive’s message for wildlife conservation as far as possible. Thank YOU for making this year so successful for ARKive!

Don’t forget to cast your vote here, or let us know your favourite by leaving a comment below.

May 17
Scalloped hammerhead

Scalloped hammerhead

Species: Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The hammer-shaped head of the scalloped hammerhead is thought to be a mechanism to spread out the ampullae of Lorenzini which are sensory organs that detect electric currents, chemicals and temperature changes.

More information: The scalloped hammerhead can be distinguished from other hammerhead shark species by the ‘scalloped’ front edge of its head. This species has a relatively slim body and is counter-shaded, with a brown-grey or bronze upperside and a white underside. This relatively large shark can grow up to lengths of 4.3 metres and can weigh up to 152 kilograms. Fish, cephalopods, lobsters, shrimp, crabs, other sharks and rays make up the diet of this species, and prey items are usually eaten whole. Generally occurring in the warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans over continental shelves, the scalloped hammerhead is also known to enter closed bays and estuaries and generally swims between depths of 0 and 275 metres.

Occasionally caught as bycatch by longline fisheries, the scalloped hammerhead is also caught commercially. Various products are made from the body parts of sharks, including shark fin soup from the fins and vitamins from the liver, as well as the meat which is sold for human consumption. Certain parts of this shark’s range are protected, including the area around Melpelo in Colombia, and there are plans to extend the legal protection to other areas. There are no other known conservation measures currently in place for this Endangered species.

Find out more about marine conservation at the Save Our Seas Foundation and Project AWARE.

Find out more about shark conservation at Bite Back and the Shark Trust.

See images and videos of the scalloped hammerhead on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

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