May 27

The Whitley Fund for Nature holds an annual ceremony where pioneering conservationists around the world are honoured with an award recognising their achievement and given £35,000 (US$50,350) to continue their projects. We were lucky enough to be invited along to the ceremony to meet the finalists and find out more about their work. Each day this week we will release an interview from each of the winners on the Arkive blog and our Youtube channel. ENJOY!

Juliette Velosoa – Saving the Critically Endangered side-necked turtle and its freshwater habitat

Juliette works in Madagascar for Durrell Wildlife Trust, saving the Critically Endangered side-necked turtle. The population of this ancient species has drastically decreased over recent years due to overexploitation and habitat loss. Since 1998 Juliette has been working to save the side-necked turtle, known in Madagascar as ‘rere’, by encouraging community-led resource management, nest protection and wetland restoration.

Find out more about Juliette’s work on the Whitley Awards website

Discover more about Durrell Wildlife Trust

Visit the Arkive profile of the side-necked turtle (also known as the Madagascar big-headed turtle)

Apr 12

Jamie Unwin is a conservation photographer, Wildscreen Exchange contributor and zoology student at the University of Exeter. After creating a highly successful film on elephant poaching in Malawi, Jamie enlisted the help of coursemate Hannah Pollock to create their own conservation organisation, Stand Up for Nature (SUN). SUN’s aim is to use education to bring about cultural evolution to conserve wildlife. Their first mission was to use a bicycle-powered cinema designed and constructed by Jamie to take this film to communities that had not yet seen the film.

The pair have just finished their first and very successful bicycle powered cinema project in Malawi, and over 6 weeks they reached over 14,000 people with the film and took 336 children into 6 protected areas to see their country’s wildlife for the very first time.

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Jamie and Hannah have now returned to England and were keen to share their amazing experience with us.

Jamie – what was it like to return to Malawi?

J – Meeting all those people that I had spent many memorable moments with a year ago was special for me, last year was an eye opening experience and it provided me with an introduction as to what was really happening to Africa’s elephants. Tears of joy as well as moments of great sadness were shared with some incredibly inspirational people.

Hannah – what was it like seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time?

H – Having never seen an elephant in the wild before I was somewhat on a similar playing field to the children that we brought into the parks. Unfortunately, my first experience with a wild elephant was under the worst of circumstances, on Christmas day we received word that a poached elephant had been found and so we joined the ranger patrol as they went off to find it and establish a cause of death. As I witnessed my first wild elephant dead at the hands of a poacher it simply reinforced in my mind how important the project was and the true severity of the problem.

Jamie's last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Jamie’s last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Thankfully I had further encounters which were incredible, the most memorable was when we were observing a herd of elephants playing in a lake. As we sat watching, 3 males decided to come and investigate us, we remained quiet and still as they approached so that they wouldn’t be startled. Deciding that we posed no threat and also that in fact we weren’t that interesting they went about stripping the nearby trees of their leaves and had lunch right in front of us.

Jamie – how did you feel when you joined the rangers during a night raid to catch a poacher?

J – No one will ever understand the real brutality of the situation in Africa unless you have worked with one of the rangers. They put their lives at risk day in and day out, to keep Africa’s wildlife safe.

Late one night we had a call from an informer that a poacher had been seen carving up bush meet. The land cruiser was quickly assembled with 10 rangers in full camouflage, I was placed in the back and told to make sure I had nothing that would omit light. I set to work duct taping all parts of my camera to make sure none of the dials or the screen would give any light signal which would alert the poacher of our position. We were dropped a couple miles from the poacher’s location, this is where our back up stayed in case we encountered trouble. We walked quickly and silently with nothing but moonlight guiding the way until Richard, the head ranger, signalled that we were nearly there, he discussed a quick plan with the rest of the men. I joined Richard’s group and we proceeded to walk quickly towards the suspect’s location (a small mud hut with a grass roof), one ranger had unclipped hand cuffs from his belt and held them open and ready.

Sat by a fire was a man cooking the legs of a bush pig, before anyone had time to react and with no exchange of words, the handcuffs were placed on the individual and he was lifted onto his feet and walked back the way we came. The rangers had already called for backup and as we reached the main track the land cruiser arrived and we swiftly piled into the back, poacher and evidence included. We then drove back to camp the interrogation began the following morning.

Hannah – due to the time constraints incurred by running the project over your Christmas holidays, was it fun to have a 19hour working day? Describe what an average day would involve?

H – We certainly worked long hours out in Malawi but this was essential as there was a lot to get done. A typical day would involve us waking up around 5am so that we arose with the sun ready to start the day. Daily activities included visiting schools to show the film and leading discussions, meetings and interviews with a variety of organisation representatives and figureheads, bringing the children into the parks, shadowing individuals and learning what work was being done by those at the forefront of wildlife protection and of course lots and lots of driving as we covered an extraordinary distance, most of which was off-road.

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Most of our evenings over the six weeks were spent showing the film to communities – we would arrive around 6pm as the sun was setting and set up the bicycle powered projector then begin as soon as it became dark. The community showings tended to last longer as more people got involved and we kept them going for as long as there were questions/comments. By the time we returned to wherever we were staying that night and had cooked and eaten dinner it was usually nearing midnight.

From the second we arrived in Malawi we had every moment scheduled, we had one afternoon scheduled off in Mzuzu for travelling but upon being asked by a school student to show the film at his youth club we couldn’t say no. Seeing the response we got, the smiles on the children’s faces as they saw the wildlife and experiencing first-hand the warmth of the Malawian people was incredible. Malawi truly is the ‘warm heart of Africa’. I can safely say we all slept very well on the aeroplane home!

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Hannah and Jamie – it’s sad to see so many conservation projects end once the project leaders have left the country, was this the case with yours?

H & J – The last thing we wanted was to just turn up in Malawi, stay for six weeks and then just disappear again with no long term plan in place, that wouldn’t have helped anything. In order to avoid this, we worked with local educators throughout Malawi, giving the communities a lasting figure head once we had gone. A wildlife guardian network was established, a proportion of which is being managed by ‘Children in the Wilderness’ and various ‘Wildlife Clubs’ of the Department of Parks. The story book ‘The Elephant and the Mountain’ was also given out to children to remind them of the wildlife they had seen. Most importantly the project has now been handed over to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, the British High Commission have funded a similar bicycle powered cinema to stay in Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust will be continuing to visit communities and schools to show the film alongside their outreach work. We hope to return in the future to see the project flourishing.

So what’s next?

H – Kenya! Jamie is already in Kenya filming for the next project and we aim to run the bicycle powered cinema across Kenya in August 2016!

Jamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for NatureJamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for Nature

Jamie and Hannah – founders of Stand Up for Nature

The film can be viewed here.

Find out more about Stand Up for Nature on their website.

Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: White-backed vulture

Nominated by: Colchester Zoo – Action for the Wild

Conservation status: Critically Endangered

Why do you love it? Vultures are so important to our ecosystem as they represent natures ‘dustman’, removing carcases that may spread disease to humans and other wildlife. They are not just scavengers, they are actually relatively successful hunters. Seeing them fly together circling in the skies is a breath taking sight as they fly with grace with such a large wing span. Overall they are very smart birds with great individual characters, we need vultures!

What are the threats to the white-backed vulture? The most threatened group of birds in the world, there has been a massive population decline in recent years especially in West Africa. Threats to the species consist of poisoning and hunting, along with habitat loss which results in lack of food availability.

What are you doing to save it? Colchester Zoo supports a number of vulture conservation projects through their charity Action for the Wild these include Gyps Vulture Restoration Project and VulPro. One of Colchester Zoo’s keepers has been out to Africa and volunteered at VulPro and went on to help at the Vulture Conservation Project Seminar, you can find out more about the projects and keeper, Kat’s, experience on our website.

Find out more about Colchester Zoo’s Action for Wildlife project

Discover more hawk, eagle, kite and harrier species on Arkive

 

VOTE NOW!

Jul 26

Male mountain nyalas (Tragelaphus buxtoni)

Species: Mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The male mountain nyala is larger than the female, and has long, spiralling horns, which may grow to 118 centimetres long. As the male matures, the tips of its horns develop an ivory colouration.

More information: The mountain nyala is an elegant and rather attractively marked antelope and is endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia, where it is found to the southeast of the Rift Valley. Most active in the evening and early morning, the mountain nyala browses on bushes, trees and herbs, and will also take grasses, ferns, aquatic plants and lichens. Individuals often shelter in dense cover such as woodland and heather during periods of extreme cold or heat, and the attractive markings may help to conceal individuals from predators by breaking up its outline.

The mountain nyala population has undergone a substantial decline in recent decades, and has decreased from an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 individuals in the 1960s to perhaps fewer than 4,000 today. The range of the mountain nyala has been reduced dramatically, and the remaining populations have become fragmented, which has made them particularly vulnerable to population declines. The main threats to the mountain nyala come from the negative effects of human activities throughout its range, with increasing human and livestock populations putting ever-increasing pressure on this species through illegal hunting, competition with cattle and predation by domestic dogs, as well as habitat clearance for agriculture, grazing, firewood harvesting, and settlement. Despite being fully protected by law, enforcement of legislation is generally absent, and the mountain nyala is only effectively protected within a small area in the north of Bale Mountains National Park. The mountain nyala is a flagship species for conservation in Bale Mountains National Park, but its future survival will depend on increased protection from illegal activities, and action to reduce or manage human utilisation of the park.

See images and videos of the mountain nyala on Arkive.

Find out more about the wildlife of Ethiopia on Arkive.

Read about the Saint Louis Zoo’s project to conserve the mountain nyala.

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern

Apr 19

Masked men have raided a storeroom in the National Museum of Ireland and stolen four rhino heads believed to be worth a total of £430,000 on the black market.

Black rhino image

The black rhino is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Night-time raid

Police have revealed that the lone security guard on duty Wednesday night at the museum’s storeroom in Swords, north of Dublin, was tied up by three masked men who broke into the building. The security guard later managed to free himself and raise the alarm.

During the raid, the thieves managed to escape with the heads of three black rhinos from Kenya, as well as one from a northern white rhino, a subspecies on the very brink of extinction. The horned mammals had all been killed more than a century ago and, until recently, had been on public display at the museum itself. The rhino heads, each of which sports two valuable horns, had been removed from the exhibit last year and placed in storage, in order to protect them from being targeted by thieves.

Northern white rhino image

In 2006, as few as four northern white rhinos were thought to exist in the wild

Powdered horn

Nigel Monaghan, keeper at the museum’s Natural History section, has said that, based on their weight, the eight horns could be worth up to £430,000 on the black market. Despite being made of keratin, the same fibrous protein that makes up our own hair and nails, and having no documented medicinal value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine.

In countries such as China and Viet Nam, powdered rhino horn is marketed as being an aphrodisiac and a cure for serious diseases, including cancer. As a result, rhino horn is considered to be extremely valuable, and its illegal trade has led to three of the five rhino species in Africa and South Asia being classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Rhino heads seized in gang raid on Ireland’s national museum.

View photos and videos of rhino species on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

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