Jan 2

For those of you looking to try a new form of exercise in the New Year to tone up and get fit, why not follow the example of these animal athletes and take up yoga? By working through a variety of postures and mastering your breathing, you too could be as strong and limber as the creatures below – check out some of their efforts and get inspired!

Downward dog…

Cape fox image

This Cape fox, the smallest and only ‘true fox’ in southern Africa, appears to have mastered one of yoga’s most recognisable postures – the downward dog. In fact, he looks like he’s pretty much doing it in his sleep…!

 

…or should it be downward cat?!

Wildcat image

Not to be outdone by a canine, this wildcat is showing off its skill in a bid to get the name of the posture changed to give it a more feline feel! This species is the wild ancestor of the domestic cat, and can weigh up to eight kilos.

 

Bird-like balance

White-rumped sandpiper image

A big part of practising yoga is learning to be centred and balanced, as demonstrated by this white-rumped sandpiper. We’re not sure what this particular posture is called, but it certainly seems popular in the bird world!

 

Sun Salutation

New England crayfish

A sun salutation is formed of a sequence of postures, including downward dog and cobra. One particular pose held at the beginning and end of the sun salutation sequence consists of extending the arms over the head and raising the face towards the sky, as demonstrated beautifully by this colourful New England crayfish.

 

Locust pose

Northern elephant seal image

The great thing about yoga is that it can be practised virtually anywhere – this northern elephant seal has decided to bond with nature and try the locust pose out on the beach. Although generally not particularly agile on land, the northern elephant seal has long, webbed feet which provide great propulsion to effectively glide through the water.

 

Warrior III?!

Red ruffed lemur image

Despite having a tail which can reach up to 62 centimetres in length, which is longer than its body and could potentially get in the way, this red ruffed lemur has not been put off trying yoga. Here we can see it preparing to go into full Warrior III pose, showing some reasonable leg extension.

 

Handstand

Orange-winged dropwing image

More advanced yoga practitioners can master the art of the handstand, which requires core strength and a lot of concentration. This orange-winged dropwing is providing us with a good example of a handstand, but does the use of all six legs not count as cheating?!

 

Flexible and fossorial

Naked mole rat image

This naked mole rat is trying what is known as the full boat pose during its subterranean yoga session. Look at that concentration! As naked mole rats are not able to control their body temperature internally like other mammals, this guy will have to retreat to cooler parts of its burrow if it gets too hot.

 

Aquatic yoga

Manatee image

Bikram yoga, practised in a hot, steamy environment, has been all the rage recently, but this manatee has taken it a step further and has developed aquatic yoga. Here we can see a beautiful example of a tail-stand! If you don’t like cold water, not to fear – manatees ideally require water above 20 degrees Celsius to survive, so these sessions are bound to be nice and warm!

 

Lotus

Verreaux's sifaka image

This Verreaux’s sifaka is doing its own version of the lotus pose – this particular individual is clearly taking a break from leaping gracefully along the floor of its forest home, an action for which it is well known.

 

Relax

Rivera red-belly toad imageHoney bee image

 

After a long, hard yoga session, there’s nothing better than taking a moment to relax in child’s pose, just like this Rivera red-belly toad and honey bee.

 

Namaste!

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Dec 17

The Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), Rainforest Trust, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation have committed one million dollars to protect vital frog habitats around the world in the coming year.

Current figures from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimate that around 30.2% of amphibian species are currently under threat of extinction, with 12.5% of birds and 20.6% of mammals also at risk. These statistics show that amphibians are by far the most threatened group of species and its members are in dire need of conservation efforts to secure their future survival. Amphibians are at the forefront of what is being described as the ‘sixth mass extinction event on earth’, with 120 species disappearing in recent years and around 7,000 amphibian species in decline.

Southern gastric-brooding frog image

The southern gastric-brooding frog is thought to have gone extinct in 1981

Sensitive souls

The class Amphibia contains frogs, salamanders, caecilians and toads, among many others. As a group, amphibians are extremely sensitive to environmental change and are often the first species to become locally extinct in a disturbed habitat.

It is thought that habitat loss is the primary threat to amphibian populations around the world, and the Leapfrog Conservation Fund will be used for management and protection of key habitats. Don Church, Executive Director of the ASA, said, “Habitat loss is the single biggest threat to the survival of amphibians worldwide. This million-dollar commitment represents a landmark in the battle to stem the alarming loss of frogs, salamanders and caecilians. We hope that it will encourage others to step forward and make a commitment to protecting amphibians and habitats.”

Although habitat loss is thought to be the primary cause of global declines, many other factors are also decreasing amphibian population numbers, including climate change, invasive species, over-collection and diseases such as chytridiomycosis.

Lemur leaf frog image

The Critically Endangered lemur leaf frog exists in just a few pockets of its former range due to the negative effects of habitat loss and chytridiomycosis

Action plan

The million-dollar Leapfrog Conservation Fund will be dispersed through the ASA and will be used to manage key amphibian habitats around the world. It is thought that there are around 940 amphibian species living in unprotected areas around the world, and many of these species have a very restricted range, which may be as small as a single stream or pond. The most threatened habitats will be prioritised and targeted for protection. As well as having a positive effect on the amphibians within the habitat, the fund will undoubtedly help to boost populations of other species.

Western Ghats waterfall image

Areas such as the Western Ghats rely on their amphibian biodiversity to sustain the ecosystem

Success story

Previous alliances between the ASA and other conservation organisations have been very successful. The forest of Sierra Caral in Guatemala was at risk of being destroyed for agriculture, before a team of amphibian specialists surveyed the area, finding 12 amphibian species, 5 of which were endemic to the area. Funds are now being raised to further protect the area and the species which inhabit it.

Partnerships are the key to success,” said Robin Moore, Conservation Officer with the ASA, Rainforest Trust and Global Wildlife Conservation. “We all have a stake in the future of our environment, and what is truly exciting about the Leapfrog Conservation Fund is that it represents an opportunity for unique collaborations to achieve a common goal – saving amphibians and habitats upon which we all depend.”

Hidden salamander image

The hidden salamander is one of Sierra Caral’s Critically Endangered amphibians

The future is bright

Dr Paul Salaman, Chief Executive Officer of the Rainforest Trust, said, “Amphibians represent an opportunity to stem biodiversity loss through relatively modest investments. We can literally save entire species through strategic habitat protection. We are thrilled to be able to make this commitment to protecting the most threatened vertebrate group in priority sites worldwide.”

For some amphibian species, such as the golden frog, it may be too late, but the Leapfrog Conservation Fund is definitely a step in the right direction to protect other species from a similar fate.

Golden frog image

The extinct golden frog has not been seen in the wild since 1989

For more information on the Leapfrog Conservation Fund or to apply for funding for a project, visit the Amphibian Survival Alliance homepage or contact Robin Moore at rdmoore@amphibians.org.

See the top 50 amphibians on ARKive, and many more amphibian photos and videos.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content Officer.

Dec 14
Photo of blue-sided tree frog on a leaf

Blue-sided tree frog (Agalychnis annae)

Species: Blue-sided tree frog (Agalychnis annae)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The blue-sided tree frog has some ability to change colour, becoming darker green and bluish-purple at night.

More information:

The blue-sided tree frog is a highly colourful amphibian, with pink, lavender, orange and blue on its limbs and sides, and green on its upper surface. The large eyes of the blue-sided tree frog are yellow-orange, and give the frog its other common name: the golden-eyed leaf frog. Juveniles lack the blue colouration of the adults.

The blue-sided tree frog is nocturnal and arboreal. Male blue-sided tree frogs call to attract a mate, giving a repeated ‘wor-or-orp’. The female deposits the eggs on top of leaves above still water. After hatching, the tadpole of the blue-sided tree frog falls, either intentionally or accidentally, into the pond below where it matures into an adult frog.

The blue-sided tree frog is endemic to Costa Rica, and can be found on the slopes of the cordilleras of northern and central Costa Rica. Today, the species remains almost exclusively in disturbed and polluted habitat in areas around Costa Rica’s capital city of San José.

The blue-sided tree frog has suffered an estimated 50 percent loss in population since the 1990s. This can be attributed to fungal disease, larvae predation by an introduced fish species, and the international pet trade. In 2007, the United States alone was reported to have imported 221,960 Agalychnis frogs over the previous decade.

Given the threats to the survival of the blue-sided tree frog and other species in the genus Agalychnis, all Agalychnis species have been granted protection under Appendix II of CITES. The creation of a captive breeding programme for the long-term survival of the blue-sided tree frog has been recommended by the IUCN.

 

Find out more about the blue-sided tree frog at AmphibiaWeb and the IUCN Red List

See images of the blue-sided tree frog on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

 

Oct 23

From saving the world’s most threatened species of sea turtle to bringing unusual amphibians back from the brink of extinction, no conservation conundrum is a lost cause if knowledge, dedication and strong partnerships are put into play. This is the message being championed by ARKive to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year.

Through its unparalleled collection of wildlife imagery, ARKive – an initiative of wildlife charity Wildscreen – has become a platform to inform, and a place to encourage conversation for conservation. To mark a decade spent educating, enthusing and inspiring people to care about the natural world and highlighting the importance of biodiversity, ARKive is flying the flag for conservation by featuring ten species which are set to improve in status over the next ten years should positive action continue.

Juliana's golden-mole image

Juliana’s golden-mole

ARKive’s chosen species, which were selected in consultation with species experts of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC), represent a variety of taxonomic groups, and reflect the fascinating array of organisms with which we share our planet. From Juliana’s golden mole, one of Africa’s oldest and most enigmatic mammals, to the Asian white-backed vulture, a bird which has suffered a 99.9% population decline in just over a decade, this selection of species aims to raise awareness of the myriad threats faced by wildlife, and demonstrate how targeted conservation action can truly make a difference.

ARKive is working with the world’s leading wildlife filmmakers, photographers, conservationists and scientists to promote a greater appreciation of our natural world and the need for its conservation,” said Wildscreen CEO, Richard Edwards. In this our tenth year, we wanted to celebrate not only the great diversity of life on Earth, but also the vital conservation work that is being carried out around the world, and highlight that by working together to raise awareness, share knowledge and take positive action conservation can and does work.

Lord Howe Island stick insect

Lord Howe Island stick insect

One particularly impressive conservation story is that of the Lord Howe Island stick insect, a large, flightless invertebrate endemic to Australia. Once common on Lord Howe Island, this unusual insect was driven to extinction following the accidental introduction of rats to the island, only surviving in an area of 180 square metres on a large rock to the southeast of its original habitat. Without detailed scientific knowledge of the reasons behind its decline, this fascinating species might, by now, have been added to the ever-increasing list of extinct species. However, thanks to scientific exploration and understanding, and with the invaluable application of appropriate conservation measures, it is believed that the Lord Howe Island stick insect could be re-introduced to its native habitat in the next few years.

Kihansi spray toad image

Kihansi spray toads

Another species on the road to recovery as a result of targeted conservation action is the Kihansi spray toad, a rare dwarf amphibian found only in a two-hectare area of habitat in eastern Tanzania’s Kihansi River Gorge. In addition to catastrophic population declines due to a devastating amphibian fungal disease, the Kihansi spray toad has suffered at the hands of habitat loss. The construction of a dam on the Kihansi River in 2000 caused the diminutive toad’s wetland habitat – which relied on being moistened by waterfall spray – to dry out, leading to the amphibian’s dramatic decline and its listing as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List.

By working in partnership, zoos and conservation organisations were able to set up successful captive breeding programmes for the Kihansi spray toad, boosting an initial captive population of 499 individuals to an incredible 6,000. Conservationists also took the unusual step of setting up an artificial sprinkler system, which by 2010 had restored the Kihansi spray toad’s habitat, and by December 2012 an international team of experts – including scientists from the IUCN SSC Amphibian and Re-introduction Specialist Groups – had re-introduced 2,000 toads to Kihansi. This incredible achievement marks the first time that an amphibian classified as Extinct in the Wild has been returned to its native habitat.

The state of the natural world is increasingly worrying, with many species teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission. “However, conservation does work and we should be greatly encouraged by success stories such as the re-introduction of the Kihansi spray toad. Many other admirable conservation achievements also show that the situation can be reversed thanks to the dedication and determination of experts and scientists worldwide. With continued effort and support, there is much we can achieve.”

Kemp's ridley turtle image

Kemp’s ridley turtle

Another case in point is that of the Kemp’s ridley turtle, a marine reptile which once numbered in the tens of thousands, but which declined dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s primarily due to the overexploitation of eggs and adult turtles. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of turtle biologists, a wealth of information on the Kemp’s ridley turtle’s biology, distribution and potential threats has been collected in recent years, which has contributed greatly to a special recovery plan for the species.

Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have made a commitment, through the Aichi Targets, not only to prevent the extinction of threatened species but also to improve their conservation status – ARKive’s tenth anniversary campaign is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of conservation and show that it really does work,” said Dr Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “Along with our extensive network of scientific experts, we look forward to working even more closely with ARKive, an IUCN Red List Partner, to strive towards achieving the important goals the world has set.

Asian white-backed vulture image

Asian white-backed vulture

While the work of conservationists and scientific experts is a vital component in the fight against species extinctions, ARKive is also keen to highlight the role that members of the general public can play in the future survival of Earth’s incredible biodiversity. By learning more about the natural world around them and understanding its importance, it is hoped that people will be inspired to take action in their daily lives to safeguard our invaluable species and ecosystems. From recycling and limiting plastic usage to making wiser seafood choices and supporting some of the many hundreds of organisations and scientists who devote their lives to conservation, we can all strive towards building a healthier planet.

Find out more about the ten species on the road to recovery on ARKive’s Conservation in Action page.

Sep 28
Photo of western leopard toad in habitat

Western leopard toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus)

Species: Western leopard toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The western leopard toad’s distinctive markings are unique to each individual.

More information:

Found only in a small part of the Western Cape Province of South Africa, the western leopard toad is a beautifully patterned amphibian with striking reddish-brown blotches on its back. A large, reddish-coloured gland on each side of its head produces toxins that help deter predators. This species lives on the ground and spends most of its time away from water, but between August and October large numbers converge on suitable pools to breed. Males call from vegetation to attract females, giving a distinctive, deep, snore-like call. Each female western leopard toad produces up to an incredible 25,000 eggs, but only a few young toads survive to reach maturity. This species is never found more than ten kilometres inland.

Although the western leopard toad can survive in urban gardens and parks, it is under threat from increasing urbanisation, development and agriculture. Many toads are killed on roads, particularly when migrating to breeding sites, and this species can also die by becoming trapped in artificial, vertical-sided water bodies such as swimming pools. Predatory fish, invasive plants and captive ducks also present threats at its breeding pools. Fortunately, a number of conservation measures are underway to protect this colourful amphibian. The western leopard toad is legally protected in South Africa, and a Western Leopard Toad Conservation Committee has been helping to draft a management plan for the species. Volunteers help to rescue toads from roads, and the public have been encouraged to send in photographs of the toads and their unique markings to help monitor their populations. By helping to raise awareness of urban conservation issues, efforts to save the western leopard toad may also benefit a range of other species.

 

Find out more about the western leopard toad and its conservation at the Western Leopard Toad website.

You can also find out more about amphibian conservation on ARKive’s Amphibian Conservation page.

See more images of the western leopard toad on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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