Mar 11

Located in the Caribbean Sea, the island of Montserrat is a fantastic place to observe pristine habitats on and offshore. A walk along the islands’ lush green coastline will make it clear why Montserrat holds the nickname ‘Emerald Isle’. However, the species of Montserrat are at a crossroads with both natural and human-caused environmental disturbances threatening some species with extinction.

Join the ARKive Geographic team as we take a trip to explore the species that make Montserrat so very special. We bet you’ll learn a thing or two about this little green gem that you didn’t know before!

Pigmented plumes

Photo of Montserrat oriole

The national bird of Montserrat, the Montserrat oriole has also become symbolic of the island’s conservation efforts. Recent volcanic eruptions in the country have reduced this species hill forest habitat to one third of its historic size. To safeguard the survival of the Montserrat oriole into the future, researchers and conservationists have embarked on a highly successful captive breeding program in the UK and populations should rebound barring any further volcanic disruptions.

Flashy fish

Photo of a queen triggerfish

Some might argue that a queen can have many moods however, not every queen can change colors to match them! The queen triggerfish has some very unique abilities with one of them being the ability to adjust the vibrancy of its scales depending on its mood. Another clever adaptation is the fish’s  ability to move its  eyes  independently of each other; a very useful skill for spotting danger.

Serene sea cow

Photo of a manatee

Speaking of species with fascinating abilities, the West Indian manatee has evolved to survive in both  freshwater and saltwater environments. If that isn’t interesting enough, recent evidence suggests that the manatees are able to detect pressure changes through a unique sixth sense: highly-tuned sensory hairs.

 Reticent reptile

Photo of a Montserrat galliwasp

While not much is known about this particular species, the Montserrat galliwasp faces threats that are still worth mentioning; the most critical being habitat loss. Environmental destruction (deforestation), fragmentation (splintering environments for development), and degradation (pollution and the introduction of non-native species) are all forms of habitat loss suffered by the species. As more information becomes available, Montserrat’s conservation efforts may help the galliwasp thrive, but until then this reptile’s biology and behavior remain a mystery.

Ambling amphibian

Photo of a mountain chicken frog

The mountain chicken frog may look unimposing but it actually has a carnivorous appetite and is considered the top endemic predator in Montserrat. Despite its place in the food chain, mountain chicken populations have been devastated by the deadly chytrid fungus. The mountain chicken stars in ARKive’s newest online education game, Team WILD, where players are tasked with evacuating non-infected mountain chickens from the island before they succumb to the fungus.

Photo of Team WILD play screen

The Team WILD game is a fun and unique way for students to discover the importance of a career in conservation and science – by turning scientists into superheroes! See if you can beat the current high score for saving the most mountain chicken frogs on Montserrat. Or, if you’re more interested in chytrid conservation news, check out a more in-depth ARKive blog on healthy frog reintroduction efforts.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual visit to Montserrat with us. If you’re not yet ready to return to the mainland, why not explore the 200+ species on ARKive that live on or visit the waters around Montserrat. And don’t forget to test your species-saving skills in Team WILD!

Andrea Small, Education and Outreach Intern, Wildscreen USA

Mar 1

Vast plains and towering mountain ranges, colourful coral reefs and windswept desert sands. These are mere glimpses of the natural wonders found in the United Arab Emirates.

With its rich biodiversity and breathtaking vistas, the UAE and its emirates such as Abu Dhabi safeguard these natural treasures with keen interest. Abu Dhabi in particular has a strong focus on wildlife conservation, making contributions to some prominent environmental success stories.

Coinciding with the new BBC series Wild Arabia, ARKive Geographic is booking a (virtual) trip to the UAE and taking a closer look at the stunning native fauna that call this place home!

Gentle giant

Photo of whale shark

Is it a whale or is it a shark? The whale shark may look like a whale, but it is actually the world’s largest fish at up to 12 metres in length. An ocean wanderer, the whale shark is known to travel huge distances and researchers have followed individuals for thousands of kilometers across the seas.

Powerful predator

Photo of Arabian leopard

Although the Arabian leopard may be the smallest leopard subspecies, it is actually the largest of all Arabian cats. An effective hunter, its darkly spotted coat provides excellent camouflage in rocky terrains, allowing it to hide in plain sight. While the Arabian leopard is currently considered Critically Endangered, captive breeding programs in the UAE have produced several cubs in recent years.

Arid amphibian 

Photo of Dhofar toad

Isn’t it remarkable that the Dhofar toad is one of only two toad species in the entire UAE? While there may not be many other amphibians in this area, the Dhofar toad does have some unusual characteristics, including a sticky, prehensile tongue and very large eyes. Perhaps most interesting of all is that in times of drought, the Dhofar toad buries itself underground for self-preservation and emerges after a substantial rainfall.

 Success story

Photo of Arabian oryx

The Arabian oryx is a proud conservation success story in the UAE. Once Extinct in the Wild, this desert antelope was reintroduced into its habitat with the help of captive breeding programs. Wild populations now thrive and are slowly increasing in number. When this oryx stands in profile, its rigidly straight horns appear to become one, making it look like the mythical unicorn.

Venomous viper

Photo of sind saw-scaled viper

Though small, the sind saw-scaled viper’s quick strike and sharp fangs make it quite dangerous. While most snakes ward off potential predators with a hiss from the mouth, this particular species can create a hissing sound by winding its body around in C-shaped coils and rubbing its scales in opposite directions against one another. Part of a fascinating group snakes, the sind saw-scaled viper is viviparous which means it gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs.

Stately soarer

Photo of saker falcon

The saker falcon is a graceful bird and a skillful hunter. Known for its variable plumage, this species ranges in colour from a fairly uniform chocolate brown to a pale sandy colour with brown bars or streaks, to almost pure white individuals. No stranger to a challenge, the saker falcon dives at up to 200 miles per hour and can often be observed taking down prey much larger than itself!

This is just a small sample of the unique species that abound in the United Arab Emirates. Why not explore hundreds more species on ARKive’s Jewels of the UAE? It would be hard to pick a favorite but if you had to, which would it be? Tell us in the comments or chat with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Andrea Small, Education and Outreach Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Feb 6

East Africa is a stunning region of the African continent. Marked by wonders such as the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Rift Valley, this area is renowned for its high concentration of widlife.

After the new BBC series ‘Africa’ took viewers to the savanna for its second episode, ARKive Geographic chose to highlight the United Republic of Tanzania this month to follow suit and showcase a nation with endless savannas to explore, along with some unique wildlife that you may be less familiar with!

Armoured Arborist

The three-cusped pangolin is an arboreal mammal that is well adapted to life in the trees, with its prehensile tail and clawed feet. This nocturnal creature is active at night searching for food, primarily consisting of ants and termites. It feasts on these critters using its incredibly long tongue which can extend to around 25 centimetres! Pangolins typically defend themselves from predators by curling into a tight ball, creating effective armor with their sharp scales. They can be found in the forests of Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa, as well as some nations in western and southern Africa.

Swimming Spelunker

The Tanganyika blackfin belongs to the Cichlidae family of freshwater fish which are adapted to a wide range of ecological niches. This has resulted in the evolution of a huge diversity of species that live in close proximity. Like many cichlids, this species occurs in a number of different colour forms, including black, light grey and yellow.  This attractive fish occupies rocky regions along the shoreline in the southern parts of Lake Tanganyika governed by Tanzania and Zambia.

Fleet Flapjack

With its unusually thin, flat shell, the pancake tortoise is more agile than other tortoise species. Since this tortoise could easily be torn apart by predators with its softer shell, it must rely on its speed and flexibility to escape from dangerous situations. This rare reptile is found in rocky habitats, also known as kopjes, in Kenya and Tanzania. It is classified as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List due to habitat destruction and over-harvesting for trade.

 Spicy Islander

Kirk’s red colobus is a leaf-eating monkey found only on Zanzibar, part of an archipelago formerly known as the Spice Islands off the coast of Tanzania. This primate is named after Sir John Kirk, the British Resident to Zanzibar who first identified the species. This attractive monkey has a dark red to black coat with a paler underside and distinctive pink lips and nose. Now Endangered as a result of high rates of deforestation, it is believed that fewer than 1,500 individuals exist in the wild.

Damsel in Distress

The Amani flatwing is a damselfly aptly named for its behaviour of spreading its wings out flat when resting. These little beauties begin their life as aquatic larvae and pass through a series of developmental stages as they grow. Depending on the species, this larval period can last from three months up to ten years! Currently known only from the Amani Sigi Forest of the East Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, the Amani flatwing is classified as Critically Endangered due to destruction and degradation of its habitat.

 Carrion Commander

Rueppell’s griffon is a large African vulture that feeds solely on carrion and the bone fragments of dead animals. These sky captians spend much of their day gliding on thermal wind currents, flying with slow, powerful wing beats and looking for food from above. Griffons have frequent squabbles with one another over food, with grunting and hissing often a part of their aggression. This amazing bird is listed as Endangered, and occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range, including the Serengeti National Park, a World Heritage Site and an important feeding area for the griffon.

Do you have a favorite savanna species to share with us? Find us on Twitter or Facebook!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Jan 16

Here in the ARKive office we can’t wait for the next installment of the new BBC series ‘Africa’, which kicked off earlier this month and is currently airing in the UK. Presented by Wildscreen patron Sir David Attenborough, the first chapter focused on the Kalahari desert in Africa’s southwest corner.

Having been inspired by this incredible first episode, we thought we would feature Botswana in ARKive Geographic this month, a land-locked nation with nearly 85% of its area falling within the Kalahari. Of course, Botswana also boasts the stunning Okavango Delta which supplies water to this region year-round, meaning that Botswana is teeming with a wonderful array of wildlife!

Creative Canine

African wild dog photo

The African wild dog, also known as the painted hunting dog, may appeal to many artists, as it illustrates nature’s sense of creativity. Their coats resemble an abstract painting from an art gallery, and no two dogs have the same pattern. These dogs hunt in packs, and are capable of taking down a wildebeest weighing up to 250 kg.  Another unique fact is that females can have litters of up to 10 pups, the largest litter size of any dog species. The African wild dog is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with potentially viable populations currently found in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Wattled Wader

Wattled crane photo

One of six crane species in Africa, the wattled crane is not only the largest but also the rarest,  with the largest populations occurring in Botswana and Zambia. Appropriately named for the wattles that hang below their chin, a crane’s wattle signals aggression when elongated, and feeling threatened when it is retracted. These non-migrating birds are rather quiet unless they need to use their resounding bugle call!

Kalahari Kitten

Black-footed cat photo

The black-footed cat may look cuddly, but it is actually quite a formidable hunter. Despite being the smallest wild cat species in Africa, this nocturnal stalker is able to consume prey up to twice its own weight. This rare species is found in savannah habitats in the Kalahari and Karoo deserts, and is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, primarily due to poisoning and traps set out for other animals.

Bleeding Beauty

Bleedwood tree photo

The beautiful bleedwood tree is a tropical deciduous tree found in southern Africa, including the arid bushveld regions of Botswana. Its sweetly-scented, orange-yellow flowers bloom in spring and autumn. Its large leaves are up to 40 centimeters long, and its trunk varies in color from light brown to copper. The dark red, sticky sap from which the tree gets its name is used as a dye and has medicinal properties.

Sabred Sandman

Gemsbok photo

The gemsbok is a striking animal, with black and white facial markings and long saber-like horns. These heavy-bodied antelopes can be found in the semi-arid and arid grasslands, bushlands, sandy plains and dunes of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Incredibly, gemsbok can go much of the year without drinking any water, and as depicted by the photo, males establish territories and mating rights to females by fighting with their horns.

Do you have a Kalahari wildlife experience you would like to share with us? Find us on Twitter and Facebook!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Dec 19

South Africa is a nation rife with natural beauty. Found on the southern-most tip of the African continent it is bordered by five other countries including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland.

Famous for its captivating and exquisite wildlife, South Africa is a popular travel destination for travellers wanting to experience spectacular flora and fauna. To help you save on the air fare, we thought we would showcase just some of the amazing species found in South Africa as part of this months installement of ARKive Geographic.

Sandy Serpent

Photo of Namaqua dwarf adder camouflaged in the sand

Sometimes the best things come in small packages, or perhaps the most powerful! The Namaqua dwarf adder is one such example, being the smallest venomous snake in the world. Reaching a maximum of 28 centimetres, this true viper has an attractive broad and triangular head, a heavy body covered in protruding scales, and retractable hollow fangs used to inject venom into its prey. This dune-dwelling reptile is classified Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, primarily due to mining activities and collection for the pet trade.

Rooted in Riches

Silver tree leaves

The silver tree is a shining beauty, growing on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town. What makes this tree unique is its silver sheen and velvety leaves, which are covered in tiny hairs to protect it from desiccation and being eaten. The fruit of the silver tree will ripen over several months and is sometimes not released from its woody sheath for several years. This hearty plant can live for up to 80 years, yet is considered Vulnerable due to excessive leaf collection and other invasive plant species.

Shy Guy

Brown shyshark on seabottom

Lacking the fierce predatory nature of its larger relative, the great white shark, this brown shyshark is much less dominating in appearance and behaviour. In fact, its name comes from its tendency to coil its tail around its eyes as a defense against predators when it is caught or picked up. It prefers to feed on lobsters and smaller fish, and is endemic to waters around South Africa in the western Indian Ocean.

Stately Stepper

Male secretary bird displaying

The secretary bird is a large bird of prey from the African grasslands, whose name stems from the peculiar long feathers on the back of its neck which are said to resemble the quill pens that secretaries used over a century ago. This unique bird is also known as the ‘marching eagle’ as it prefers to move around on foot. It can easily cover 20-30 kilometers a day hunting opportunistically for food, taking mongooses, hares, snakes, lizards, squirrels and even freshwater crabs! The secretary bird has an intricate courtship routine that involves pendulum displays in flight.

A Rare Hare

Riverine rabbit

The critically endangered riverine rabbit is one of the rarest terrestrial mammals endemic to South Africa. What makes this lagomorph unique is that it typically produces only one kitten (baby rabbit) a year. The riverine rabbit is nocturnal and feeds on flowers and grasses at night. Over the past century, two-thirds of its habitat has been lost and it is estimated that only 250 individuals remain in the wild.

A horse of a different colour

Cape mountain zebras

What would a zebra be without its stripes? While zebras may all blend together in a herd, different zebra species have distinguishing characteristics, and each individual has a unique stripe pattern. The mountain zebra is discernible from other zebra species by the thin and relatively closely spaced vertical black lines on its neck and torso, and the ‘grid iron’ pattern of narrow stripes across the rump. The Mountain zebras also has a square flap of skin, or dewlap, on its throat. Hunting and habitat loss are primary threats to this black and white beauty.

Savannah Sovereign

African lioness covered in blood from a kill

While the range of the lion is not restricted to South Africa, it is difficult to overlook this ‘king of beasts’. An iconic species, lions inspire us with their courage, strength and spirit. This magnificent big cat is built to prey on animals many times its size, including African buffalo, hippos, and even elephants while hunting cooperatively! Male lions are larger than females and possess a mane of hair around their heads, a unique feature unique amongst the cat family. Some of the biggest threats that lions face are habitat loss, human conflict and over-hunting.

While these species are truly magnificent, they are only a small sample of what you can see in South Africa. Haved you visted before, or is it on your travel wishlist? Let us know, and please share your favourite South African species with us on our Facebook or Twitter page!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant


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