Nov 28

Kia Ora! This means ‘hello’ in Maori, the native language in New Zealand. Comprised of two main land masses known as North and South Island, New Zealand is well-known for its diverse geography, from majestic snow-capped mountains to evergreen rainforests, fresh lakes, open grasslands and beautiful beaches. Large numbers of tourists visit each year, yet many may not be be aware of all the amazing and unique wildlife that New Zealand has to offer. Whether you are exploring the forests of Abel Tasman National Park, hang-gliding over Lake Taupo or abseiling into a cavern, you will no doubt see or hear some of the fascinating species found in this beautiful country.

Long-legged Wader

New Zealand black stilt photo

The New Zealand black stilt, or Kakï, is one of the most threatened wading birds in the world. An elegant and distinctive species, it has black plumage, slender red legs and a long refined bill. Once widespread on both islands, this rare bird is now restricted to the Mackenzie basin, an area where several scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy were also filmed. Now Critically Endangered, this species’ decline is primarily attributed to the introduction of mammalian predators such as cats, ferrets and stoats.

Brothers everlasting

Brothers Island tuatara photo

One of the oldest animals in the world today, the Brothers Island tuatara is the only remaining species in the order Rhynchocephalia, including ancient reptiles that existed 200 million years ago. Tuataras are of great interest to biologists, who must travel to the small North Brother Island off the coast of New Zealand to study them.

Looks that hook

Hooker’s sea lion photo

Hooker’s sea lion, also known as the New Zealand sea lion, is one of the most threatened sea lions in the world. In common with lions on land, adult male Hooker’s sea lions have a distinct light-coloured ‘mane’ that reaches down to their shoulders. This species has a very restricted range and breeds only on the sub-Antarctic islands off New Zealand. As breeding colonies are very large, a mother uses a distinct call to find her pup in the masses.

Spelunking spider

Nelson cave spider photo

The Nelson cave spider is New Zealand’s largest and only protected species of spider. It possesses an impressive leg-span of 13 cm, with long claws on their first two pairs of legs. As formidable as this arachnid may be, it is also quite rare and only found in the caves of the Nelson region. This impressive hunter feeds on large grasshopper-like insects called weta within the caves by descending upon them from above.

Dark Knight Down Under

New Zealand long-tailed bat photo

The New Zealand long-tailed bat is one of only three extant land mammals native to New Zealand. The long tail, for which it is named, is nearly as long as its body. This little bat is found on forest edges and in caves on both islands, yet due to deforestation and invasive species it is considered Vulnerable, and is the focus of a national bat recovery plan at present.

Wingless royalty

North Island brown kiwi photo

How can we highlight this enchanting country’s wildlife without introducing its true celebrity? The North Island brown kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird, and it is unique not only because it is flightless, but unlike other flightless birds it is also wingless!  This national icon is one of five species of kiwi found in New Zealand, and sadly it is considered an Endangered species. This is primarily due to the introduction of predators such as dogs and cats.

This is just a sample of all the wonderful wildlife you can hope to see if you visit New Zealand. Why not explore ARKive’s species found in New Zealand, or discover the wildlife seen in the surrounding waters by using ARKive to explore Google Earth.

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant

Oct 29

What will you be dressing up as this Halloween? A cat? A bat? A giant wolf spider? For those of us who celebrate this unique holiday, creating our costume is more than half the fun and it got us thinking, where do our Halloween traditions stem from?

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, held at the end of October. This day marked the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of winter. To celebrate, people would dress in animal costumes and tell each other’s fortunes. When the Roman Empire moved north from the Mediterranean Basin and conquered Celtic territory (including northwestern Spain, France, southern Germany, and up through the United Kingdom), they brought with them the festival of Pomona which honored the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, invoking the tradition of trick-or-treating.

This month, ARKive would like to highlight species from the European countries that inspired this spooky holiday, and perhaps offer up some great ideas for your Halloween costume!

Gliding Gladiator

Lammergeier photo

Perhaps you would like to dominate the skies this Halloween night as a commanding bird of prey. The lammergeier, or bearded vulture, is a majestic bird with a wingspan commonly reaching over 2.5 meters. This skilled glider rarely needs to flap its wings in flight, and specializes in feeding on bones. They are known for their technique of picking up large bones and dropping them onto rocks in order to extract marrow out of the shattered pieces. Lammergeiers prefer high-altitude mountainous regions of southern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.

Celestial Swimmer

Mediterranean monk seal photo

If underwater wonders are more your thing, you could consider posing as a Mediterranean monk seal. Currently one of the most endangered mammals in the world, this pinniped was once abundant across the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, and northern coast of Africa. It was so popular it was the emblem for one of the first Greek coins made around 500 BC, shortly before the Roman Empire spread into Greece. Deliberate killing and habitat encroachment are largely responsible for their decline, with likely less than 500 individuals remaining.

Stunning Serpent

Meadow viper photo

Consider a costume guaranteed to grant you respect! The meadow viper is a small, attractive venomous snake, displaying a beautiful and intricate zigzag pattern marking the length of its back. Feasting primarily on crickets and grasshoppers, this reptile is found in Italy, France and a few other eastern European countries. Habitat destruction and over-collection account are current threats to this vulnerable species.

Vermillion vixen

Red fox photo

Who can resist a fabulous fox? The red fox is an attractive member of the family Canidae, and is widely distributed in the northern hemisphere. They are unique in that they can produce 28 different vocalizations, and are the largest species of true fox. In ancient Celtic tradition, the red fox was honored for its wisdom.

Frequent Flyer

Black pennant photo

If bugs with big eyes are calling you, you could consider transforming into a black pennant. This dragonfly is slick and smart, predating on smaller insects, it is also capable of posturing its body to cool down in hotter temperatures. This little insect is found throughout several Mediterranean countries, as well as central Asia and northern Africa.

Finned Funnyman

Arno goby photo

If you want to feel like a rare find, go trick-or-treating as an Arno gobi. This vulnerable freshwater fish is endemic to Italy, and is only found in six river basins and two lakes in the Tyrrhenian catchment of Central Italy, a region which played a significant role in Roman culture. With a large head, elongated body and oversized mouth, this species is known for its active acoustic communication.

Haunting Hooter

Long-eared owl photo

The long-eared owl no doubt had a presence in early Halloween festivals, as the subspecies Asio otus otus was found throughout both Celtic and Roman territories. Owls have long been considered ethereal species, and their calls can be eerie and haunting . Not only does this bird of prey possess special feathers to remain silent during its stealth hunting missions, it can also swallow prey whole!

Why not share your favourite wildlife Halloween costume ideas with ARKive, and post them on our Twitter or Facebook page?

And don’t forget, if you’re looking for something to entertain your little monsters this halloween, ARKive has a whole host of free, fun-filled Halloween activities.  From monstorous masks to spooky games and quizes, there is something for everyone, so be sure to check it out!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant

Sep 6

Today marks the start of the IUCN World Conservation Congress the world’s largest and most important conservation event. Held in Jeju, Republic of Korea from 6 to 15 September 2012, over 9,000 representatives from governments, NGOs, business, UN agencies and social organizations will come together to discuss solutions for the world’s most pressing environment and development issues.

Held every four years, the World Conservation Congress aims to improve how we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development. Wildscreen, the charity behind ARKive is being represented at the summit by Richard Edwards, Chief Executive of Wildscreen.

In honor of this globally significant environmental event, and as an IUCN Red List partner, the ARKive team thought we should highlight some of the unique species found within the Republic of Korea.

Bronzed Barbarian

Bronze whaler photo

The bronze whaler is a formidable shark species, displaying power and speed as it moves through the water looking for prey. This finned powerhouse earned its name from both its metallic sheen, and its tendency to surround harpooned whale carcasses. It typically feeds on schools of bony fish such as sardines, mullets and soles, although it has been known to take squid, cuttlefish and sawfish too.

Fancy Flyer

Bekko tombo photo

With its dramatic wing markings and abdominal patterns, the bekko tombo is a stunning dragonfly with a feisty temperament; males often exhibit fierce competition over females. This Korean native was once abundant, but its populations have dwindled due to introduced predators and urban expansion, with the filling in of ponds leading to extensive habitat loss. It is sadly now considered to be Critically Endangered.

Admirable Avian

White-naped crane photo

The wetlands and waterways of the Republic of Korea provide important habitat for a number of migratory birds, including the the Vulnerable white-naped crane. This elegant bird can be easily identified by the large ring of bare red skin around each eye and the white stripe running from the crown to the nape of the neck. Like other crane species, the white-naped crane is often seen ‘dancing’, a spectacular display involving flapping the wings, tossing grass and sticks, jumping, running and bowing.

Sea Skipper

Spinetail mobula photo

The spinetail mobula is an impressively large ray with a ‘wingspan’ of up to 210 centimetres. This agile acrobat of the sea also has a long tail resembling a whip, which has a sting at the tip. They are often seen leaping out of the water as a means of communication or play. Unfortunately, this ray is commonly caught as bycatch by the fishing industry throughout its range.

Tusky trekker

Chinese water deer photo

The Latin name of the Chinese water deer, Hydropotes inermis, literally means ‘unarmed water-drinker’, which refers to the species’ lack of antlers and its affinity for marsh-like habitats.  As its name suggests, the Chinese water deer is an adept swimmer, and may swim between islets in search of food and shelter. While they do not bare antlers, the male Chinese water deer has enlarged upper canine teeth, or tusks, which measure up to eight centimetres in length.

Get involved

Keep up to date with the latest news from the IUCN World Conservation Congress with the ARKive blog as we will be keeping you posted on all the big stories over the coming days. 

You can also find out the latest news from the official IUCN Congress twitter hub.

Maggie Graham, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Aug 7

As a special edition of our monthly ARKive Geographic series, to celebrate the Olympics, we decided to take a look at some of the more unexpected species that can be found around the Olympic park and in the Greater London area.

London is the UK’s largest city, but it is also home to a wide variety of fascinating wildlife. Here’s a sample of just some of the species that have made London their home.

Peregrine falcon

Image of peregrine falcon at the top of a stoop

Famous as the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon underwent serious population declines between the 1940’s and 1970’s. Due to protective legislation and the ban on organochlorine pesticides, the peregrine falcon population has recovered significantly and they have even moved into cities, using the cliff-like ledges that tall buildings provide. London has 18 known pairs nesting on famous landmarks including the Tate Modern and Houses of Parliament.  

European eel

 Image of a European eel

It’s not likely that you’ll catch sight of one of these slippery beasts during the Games, but the European eel will be present nearby in its watery home. This species has undergone a worrying decline across Europe and is now classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN. Numbers of European eels recorded crashed by 98% between 2005 and 2010, but there is still a population hanging on in the Thames. The Thames Estuary was classified as biologically dead in the 1960’s and the European eel was one of the first fish to be recorded in the area once the water quality began to improve.

Short-snouted seahorse

Image of short-snouted seahorse on seabed

Further proof of the rejuvenation of the Thames over the last 50 years is the presence of a more exotic sounding fish. In 2008 the Zoological Society London reported that short-snouted seahorse’s had been recorded several times during routine monitoring of the Thames. One location where this species has been recorded  is near Dagenham in East London – only a few miles east of the Olympic Park.

Stag beetle

Image of male stag beetle on tree trunk

The stag beetle is the UK’s largest and most spectacular beetle. London, particularly the South London boroughs of Lewisham, Croyden and Bromley, is its major stronghold. After spending around 4 years as larvae, munching on rotting wood, adult stag beetles are relatively short-lived surviving only for a matter of months. Male stag beetles wrestle using their large mandibles to decide who gets to mate with the smaller females.

Noctule bat

Noctule bat image

London is home to many species of bat including the noctule bat, one of Europe’s largest bats. The noctule bat is one of the first bats to appear in the evening, occasionally even before the sun sets and can be found in Greenwich Park and Hyde Park, both home to Olympic events this summer.

Red deer

Red deer stag and hind

 The UK’s largest native land animal, the red deer, can also be found in London. A herd can be found in Bushy Park, near the Olympic cycling time-trial event in Hampton Court Palace.

London is home to many more species that the keen-eyed will be sure to spot in London during August. Kingfishers dart along watercourses, water voles inhabit river banks, foxes stalk the streets. If you’re in London this summer and see any interesting species let us know via Twitter, Facebook or post a message in the box below.

 Eleanor Sans, ARKive Media Researcher

Jul 13

This month ARKive sets out to explore the animals of Mongolia. From snow-covered mountains to the Gobi Desert and the vast steppe lands, this country is home to a diverse range of alluring wildlife. Living at an average of 5,800 feet above sea level, many of these species are adapted to a high altitude lifestyle.

Pack predator

Dhole photo

Mongolia’s top canid is the dhole. These wild dogs typically live in packs of about 12, but have been seen in groups as large as 40. Only the dominant female will breed each season and the whole pack takes responsibility for raising the pups. Working collectively, these predatory canids can take down prey up to ten times their size.

Sleek serpent

Adder photo

Despite its fearsome reputation, the adder is generally a shy, non-aggressive snake. A skilled predator, it will strike passing prey with a venomous bite, and then track down the dead or dying animal using its keen sense of smell. Young adders do not feed during the first year of their life.

Scented stag

Siberian musk deer photo

Unlike true deer, the Siberian musk deer has tusk-like canine teeth rather than antlers. As its common name indicates, the male produces a sought after musk, one of the most expensive animal products in the world. In an adult male, the musk gland produces about 28 grams of musk, a dark red-brown, waxy substance,  the smell of which can be detected by humans at just 1 part in 3,000.

Ferocious feline

Pallas’s cat photo 

Around the size of a house cat, Pallas’s cat appears larger due its thick fur, which seasonally changes colour to provide camouflage. A master predator, Pallas’s cat feeds on small mammals, birds and lizards which it stalks in open country, its low set ears helping it to avoid detection in areas where there is little cover.

Ancient equine

Przewalski's horse photo

Przewalski’s horse is the last true wild horse and was named after Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski who first discovered the subspecies in the 1870s. Human impacts gradually pushed Przewalski’s horse to the furthest limits of its range, and the last wild specimen was recorded in 1968 in southwest Mongolia. Fortunately, captive-bred individuals were able to be subsequently reintroduced to the wild, a real success story for conservation.

Do you have a favourite species from Mongolia? Share it with us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment using the form below. To learn more about these animals and other Mongolian species, why not explore ARKive today?

Hannah MacMillan, Wildscreen USA Intern

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