Mar 17
Sue Flood, ARKive Media Donor

Sue Flood – polar pioneer

With 20 years of wildlife photography and filmmaking experience and more than 30 Arctic and Antarctic expeditions under her belt, Sue Flood is a veritable veteran of working in extreme conditions.

After graduating in 1986 from the University of Durham, her first foray into wildlife filmmaking was with Survival Anglia in Norwich. From there, she went on to make a name for herself at the BBC Natural History Unit, producing and working on a number of ground-breaking and influential series such as Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Natural World.

Since leaving the BBC NHU in 2005, Sue has concentrated on using her camera to capture the wildlife, landscapes, native populations and struggles for survival in the polar regions. This isn’t without its risks – not least the plummeting temperatures freezing her eyelids shut, but more importantly, the issue of retaining her dignity while answering “calls of nature” with an all-male film crew in an environment with very little shrubbery for cover. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is!

Award-winning photographer

Perhaps testament to her determination and considerable talent, Sue has won many awards for her stills photography, including gongs at International Photographer of the Year, Travel Photographer of the Year, the International Conservation Photography Awards and also as a silver medalist at the Royal Photographic Society.

ARKive is very lucky to have Sue as a media donor. She is responsible for many of the iconic photographs featured on the website – her photos are an obvious choice for our species landing pages as they combine eye-catching beauty and scientific interest. Through her co-run film production company Tartan Dragon Ltd, Sue has also donated footage to ARKive covering polar bears, chimpanzees and mountain gorillas, to name a few. Here are a few of my favourite stills.

Crabeater seal portrait by Sue Flood

The crabeater seal – which doesn’t actually eat crabs!

 

Photo of a humpback whale female and calf by Sue Flood

A female humpback whale and calf, photographed in the South Pacific

Photo of an emperor penguin chick by Sue Flood

An emperor penguin chick catches 40 winks

For many more amazing photographs like these, visit the Getty Gallery in London, where there is an exhibition of Sue Flood’s recent work from her book, “Cold Places”.

Explore more of Sue’s fantastic images on ARKive.

Visit SueFlood.com for more information on her life and work.

Charles Whittaker, ARKive Media Researcher

Feb 9

Nick-GarbuttWildlife photographer Nick Garbutt has visited Madagascar 25 times in the last 20 years. Over that period, Nick has been documenting the island’s weird and wonderful species, giving him a truly unique insight into one of the world’s most fascinating ecosystems.

Nick’s in depth knowledge of the country and its wild inhabitants led to him being a consultant on a new mini-series from the BBC’s Natural History Unit. Hitting UK screens tonight at 8pm on BBC 2, Madagascar will take viewers on an exploration of the island’s extraordinary wildlife and stunning landscapes.

Recently, I was lucky enough to catch up with Nick to dig out a few details on the series, and learn more about the conservation issues that Madagascar faces.

ARKive talks to Nick Garbutt:

What was your role as a consultant on the BBC’s Madagascar series?

My involvement was in the initial stages of the series, basically as the production team was going through ideas to build up storylines. I also happened to be at the same location in Madagascar as some of the film crew, so I hooked up with some of the people I knew – but this was pure coincidence, I wasn’t directly involved in any filming.

What can we expect from the series?

The first episode, Island of Marvels, will be an overview of Madagascar, wowing people by showing them what an amazing place it is, and how and why the animals which exist there are so weird and whacky compared to mainland Africa – or indeed anywhere else in the world.

The subsequent two programmes will take a closer look at the wet eastern rainforest side of the island and then the dry parts of the island in the west and south.

I’ve written a companion story for the February issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, tying in to the series and celebrating the wildlife of Madagascar.

When did you last visit the island? Did you photograph anything in particular?

I visited over November and December last year to guide a tour. I then stayed an extra two and a half weeks visiting two locations; one to specifically photograph fosa (or fossa), and the second in the North – a place called Ankarana – where there are spectacular limestone pinnacles (locally called ‘tsingy’) and forests.

Photo of female fossa in leaf litter

Female fosa in leaf litter

How has Madagascar changed over the 20 years you’ve been visiting?

My first visit was in 1991, and I’ve been every year since – now approaching my 21st year. It’s changed hugely.

There has been a significant increase in the wildlife’s profile and its perceived importance on a world stage, simply because of the amount of scientific work that has been done. As an illustration of that, in 1991, there were three national parks on the island. One of them – Ranomafana – had just opened, which is partly why I visited in the first place. Now, there are over 20 national parks in Madagascar.

However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Many of the reserves that now exist were still protected in 1991, but you weren’t able to visit them. A major shift in the importance of ecotourism has meant that these off-limits reserves have been opened up and their infrastructure developed to allow people in.

Despite the fact that these parks exist, there are still huge areas of forest which are unprotected and ravaged by deforestation. Comprehending the level of deforestation can be a mind numbing thought, considering the evidence that Madagascar was once 85% forest. Now, of the 7-8% forest cover that remains, only 2% falls within protected areas. Anything outside of this is still suffering major impact.

Its noticeable how much smaller and more isolated areas of forest have become. When I first visited, there were areas outside the national parks that you could walk into and see lemurs and wildlife. Now, they are just bare hillsides with rice paddies and cassava growing on them. That’s an inescapable aspect of visiting Madagascar, but as soon as you step into native forest, it’s dripping with wildlife again. The contrast is as stark as it could possibly be.

Photo of adult male fossa prowling on deciduous forest floor

Male fosa prowling

Are there any developing conservation issues on Madagascar that particularly concern you?

The fosa is one that is particularly prevalent at the moment. It’s an intriguing iconic animal – the largest carnivore on Madagascar and pretty whacky in a global sense too. Very little work is being done with it, mainly because large carnivores are so difficult to find and follow. As such, a lot of the suggestions for conserving the species across the whole of Madagascar are based on guesstimates and extrapolation from the very limited areas where they have been studied in detail.

It’s thought that there are roughly only 2,500 fosas left, but this figure may be a gross over-estimate. Much of the detailed work has been done in Kirindy Forest on the west of the island, initially by Claire Hawkins – who effectively did the first long term study on Fosa – and later by Mia-Lana Lührs, whose ground-breaking studies are on-going.

Mia has found that fosas are now suffering direct persecution. They have huge ranges, but because the forests are constantly shrinking due to felling and deliberate burning, fosa are being squeezed out and are forced to enter villages on the periphery of forests to steal chickens. Kirindy may appear extensive, but it is relatively small in fosa terms. The fosa population is thought to be only 100 at best (and 30 at worst). Mia knows of 12 individuals that have been killed in the area in the last two years, because they’ve entered villages to prey on chickens. The local people are incredibly poor and chickens very valuable. They have to protect their livelihood.

Photo of an adult female fossaYou have been a long-running contributor to ARKive. What role do you think wildlife imagery plays in conservation?

Wildlife imagery can play an important role in conservation; it’s often a first introduction to a particular species or issue, even for people who work within conservation or biology. More broadly, it opens people’s minds to appreciate the environment, its beauty and its fragility. And these may be things of which they were previously unaware.

Good quality imagery can stir emotions, fostering connections with species or places that viewers might not otherwise be able to see first hand. Once those connections have been made, a person is far more likely to remember issues and problems, and thus far more likely to get involved.

Its one of the reasons I’ve always been happy to contribute to ARKive, because a wider net can be spread. The greater levels of access that people who work outside of the field have to these subjects, the more likely they are to change their attitudes towards them.

Is there a message of hope for the biodiversity of Madagascar? What actions can people take to help preserve it?

The cynic in me says no. Being blunt, it is difficult to be optimistic about a case like Madagascar. The problems that the island faces are so huge that they appear to be insurmountable.

It is one of the poorest countries on Earth and has a burgeoning population. Land is at a premium and, in the grand scheme of things, wildlife will always play second fiddle to people issues.

Let’s face it, conservation is a Western luxury. The preservation of biodiversity is a concept we’re really only able to appreciate from the comfort of our cosy western homes. The poor person scratching a living together on the edge of existence in Madagascar or wherever it may be, is often primarily concerned where their next meal is coming from and little else. And if an endangered species IS that next meal (people eat lemurs and fosas in Madagascar), the concept of conservation is irrelevant to them. We have to look at ways to work with local people and hold our hands up in confession and say, “we’ve decimated most of our own environment and don’t want to see you follow suit”. But the inevitable, albeit depressing conclusion is that whatever wild places survive in Madagascar (or elsewhere) will be managed, isolated islands of habitat.

Functioning ecosystems ultimately impact and influence our own survival, so it’s crucially important that we do our utmost to preserve them for as long as possible. But in the short term, it is difficult to see how this will pan out in a way that gives you a feel-good factor.

That said, I still am uplifted whenever I return to Madagascar’s national parks. I have seen the difference they can make to the local people in terms of their sense of pride and achievement in the parks. These people now have a much greater awareness of the wildlife on their doorstep and how important it is. Spreading that message among communities is certainly the way forward if we want to alleviate pressure on the natural environment – it gives me cause for hope.

Explore more of Nick’s award-wining photography and find out more about his work in Madagascar.

Watch the BBC’s Madagascar series

Learn more about the species Nick has photographed on ARKive.

Rob Morgan, ARKive Media Researcher

Dec 8

When it comes to picking your favourite species, amphibians probably aren’t very high on many people’s list. Even I will admit that before joining the ARKive team I hadn’t given them much thought, being captivated instead by all things furry, feathery and scaly! However, since helping the ARKive team to track down images of the world’s threatened amphibian species, I have to say I am a convert!

Despite the fact that a third of all amphibians are now threatened with extinction, this fascinating, colourful and rather beautiful group of animals is often overlooked. Fortunately there are people out there working hard to put that right, including one of ARKive’s very own media donors, Colombian herpetologist Victor Fabio Luna-Mora.

According to the IUCN Red List, Colombia is home to 213 Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered amphibian species, including colourful little poison frogs like Ranitomeya tolimensis, the oddly named Boulenger’s backpack frog, beautiful glass frogs including Savage’s cochran frog and four Endangered salamander species such as the Pandi mushroom-tongue salamander.

Savage's cochran frog

Savage's cochran frog

While ARKive aims to raise the profile of endangered species on a global scale, Victor and his colleagues Manuel Gilberto Guayara and Ricardo Medina are working hard on the frontline of conservation, educating local people of all ages in Colombia about the plight of amphibians on their doorstep and what they can do to help.

Victor’s project, which is supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme and Conservación Internacional Colombia, aims to raise awareness and understanding in the local community through a series of educational workshops, talks, games and field trips that provide an insight into the methods used to study amphibians by researchers around the world.

Through this work Victor and his team have gathered together a fantastic collection of images of threatened amphibians which he has kindly donated to ARKive. By contributing his images to us, Victor hopes to encourage people from around the world to take an interest in amphibians and amphibian conservation.

Why not take a look at our amphibian pages today or use our Explore by geography feature to find threatened amphibians in your area? Who knows, maybe you will end up an amphibian convert too!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Nov 26

You’ve probably heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” and this rings especially true for striking images of endangered species. Most people have never been lucky enough to see a whale in the wild, yet they are iconic figureheads in the conservation movement because people know what they look like and why they are special thanks to films and photographs. However, sometimes the best stories are told behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Bryophryne bustamantei

Bryophryne bustamantei

While attending and exhibiting ARKive at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, I had the unexpected opportunity to meet Alessandro Catenazzi. Alessandro studies tropical rainforest frog species at the University of California, Berkeley, and is an avid ARKive media donor, giving a face to a myriad of frog species on the long list of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Because of Alessandro, visitors to ARKive can check out the unusually long forearms of the harlequin frog (Atelopus erythropus), the wide eyes of Pristimantis cosnipatae and the various life stages of Bryophryne bustamantei.

Always thrilled to meet an ARKive media donor, I jumped straight to the catch and asked him to tell me about the stories behind the images he captured. Alessandro was more than happy to share and talk about his work, how he studies the livelihood of these and other frogs in South America and how thrilling it is to find a species that has rarely been caught on camera. When I asked him to expand further on his work, he took on a more solemn tone and began explaining to me about the fungal infection, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis that is hitting rainforest frogs hard and is especially affecting rarer species over more common ones.

Alessandro explained that the fungus spreads throughout frog populations like wildfire but treatment of captured frogs is actually quite simple. Infected frogs can easily be treated with antifungal medications to kill the fungus and save the frog. If an infection breaks out locally, scientists and volunteers can work to locate and treat frogs in the immediate area to create a safety zone and effectively slow the spread of infection. However, locating and treating the thousands upon thousands of frogs in the rainforest is an insurmountable feat.

While learning all about the physical and biological characteristics of the various frog species Alessandro has captured on camera is incredibly educational, hearing the background story of the ecological struggles these species face adds another dimension to the story behind the camera. Films and photos of threatened species are not just a fascinating way to learn about the species most at risk from extinction but offer a unique gateway to encourage people to explore beyond the image and find out that an image may not just be worth a thousand words but, through education and action, could be worth a thousand species.

See more of Alessandro’s fantastic images.

To see a list of other ARKive media donors who undoubtedly have amazing wildlife conservation stories to tell, check out our comprehensive ARKive media donor list.

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

Nov 12

Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) is a great example of how a small but dedicated group of people can have a big impact, and the organisation has to be one of my favourite ARKive media donors. With a mission to protect the monkeys of Central and South America, NPC carries out research and education projects primarily in Peruvian cloud forest. Primates in this habitat are facing serious threats brought on by commercial interests such as mining, logging and cattle ranching; each putting ever more pressure on the remaining habitat.

Noga Shanee, co-founder of the organisation, first started sending images to ARKive in 2008, and we now display a fantastic collection of threatened animal photographs from her. Among these is the Critically Endangered Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey, a key species which NPC is working to save.

Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey

Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey

Operating in such a biodiverse region of the world, it’s not just monkeys that NPC deals with. In January of this year, Noga, along with birder Shachar Alterman, stumbled upon something very unique; a species so elusive that it had been seen in the wild on just three previous occasions – a thriving colony of long-whiskered owlets, right within NPC’s primary research area of La Esperanza.

Long-whiskered owlet

Long-whiskered owlet

Considered to be the ‘holy grail’ of South American birding, the discovery has spurred on visits from bird enthusiasts around the globe, hoping to catch a glimpse of this ‘lifer’ (as twitchers would say).

The increase in ecotourism has benefited the local economy, helping to ease pressure on forest habitat by reducing the need to clear trees for cattle and timber. As if that wasn’t enough, Neotropical Birding Tours will be supporting NPC’s reforestation projects by making a donation for every visitor who takes part in their new owlet trips.

By carrying out its important work, NPC is making a real difference in this ecosystem. The discovery of a single threatened bird species has helped to make forest preservation more valuable than the destructive activities which threaten it. Of course, the best part is that in sharing habitat with the owlets (and by suffering many of the same threats), countless other species will benefit; yellow-tailed woolly monkeys included.

For more information on Neotropical Primate Conservation, see: http://www.neoprimate.org/

Rob Morgan, ARKive Media Researcher

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