Sep 21
Photo of Sumatran rhinoceros in forest

Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Species: Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest of the world’s five living rhinoceros species.

More information:

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the most endangered rhinoceros species. Although smaller than other rhinos, it is still a large, prehistoric-looking animal with thick, leathery skin. Calves and young adults have a long, dense covering of reddish-brown hair, which becomes thinner and darker as the rhino ages. The Sumatran rhinoceros is the only rhinoceros in Asia with two horns. This large mammal spends most of the day wallowing in pools or mud, becoming active and feeding in the cool of the night. The female Sumatran rhinoceros typically gives birth only once every 3 to 4 years, and the calf may stay with its mother for up to 16 to 17 months. This elusive species can live in a range of forested habitats.

The Sumatran rhinoceros once had an extensive range that stretched from the foothills of the Himalayas to much of Southeast Asia. However, it is now restricted to Sabah, Kalimantan, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and possibly Sarawak and Myanmar. Hunting and habitat loss have greatly reduced Sumatran rhinoceros populations, and those that survive are small, isolated and under threat from poaching for the traditional medicine trade. As with other rhinos, hunting for its horns is a major threat to this species. Sumatran rhinoceros populations are now so small that breeding is infrequent. International trade in the Sumatran rhinoceros is banned under its listing on Appendix I of CITES, and the species is legally protected in all countries where it occurs. Captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos has only recently shown any success, and international efforts to prevent poaching are believed to be the best hope for the future of this rare mammal.

 

The 22nd September is World Rhino Day! Find out more about activities taking place to celebrate rhinos on the World Rhino Day 2013 website.

You can also find out more about rhino conservation at the International Rhino Foundation.

See images and videos of the Sumatran rhinoceros on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 15

The Endangered Yunnan snub-nosed monkey has received a welcome boost in south-western China thanks to conservation efforts, showing a 50% increase in numbers since the 1990s, according to Chinese state media.

Yunnan snub-nosed monkey image

Hunting is one of the major threats faced by the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey

Primate in peril

Also known as the black snub-nosed monkey, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is an inhabitant of south-western China’s high-altitude evergreen forests, where harsh environmental conditions prevail. At elevations between 3,000 and 4,500 metres, these forests suffer extreme weather, with temperatures falling below freezing for several months of the year.

As a result of hunting for food and its pelt, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey suffered massive declines, coming perilously close to extinction in the 1980s. Since then, authorities have taken action to help save this elusive primate, by enacting a hunting ban, confiscating hunting guns, establishing special protected areas and banning logging.

Yunnan snub-nosed monkey image

The Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Conservation success

The concerted conservation efforts have not been in vain, with a survey launched last month discovering that there are now more than 3,000 Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys surviving in the high-elevation forests of China’s Yunnan Province and Tibet Autonomous Region. These figures are welcome news, given that there were fewer than 2,000 individuals present in the area in the 1990s. Figures from Yunnan’s Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve are particularly encouraging, showing a nine-fold increase compared to numbers in the protected area in 1987.

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Endangered Chinese monkey population recovering.

See more photos and videos of the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Aug 2

Iraq’s Council of Ministers has approved the designation of the country’s first national park, in the Mesopotamian Marshes of southern Iraq.

Photo of Basra reed warbler among reeds

The Basra reed warbler breeds in the Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq

Once the third largest wetland in the world, the Mesopotamian Marshes are widely thought to be the original ‘Garden of Eden’. However, they were nearly destroyed during the Gulf War in the 1990s, when Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, drained the area and reduced the marshland to less than ten percent of its original extent.

Since Saddam’s downfall in 2003, efforts have been made to re-flood and restore the marshes, with surprising success. The new designation as a national park will hopefully help to protect this vital habitat into the future.

Wildlife returns

The Mesopotamian Marshes are of great importance to Iraq’s wildlife, providing a source of fresh water and essential habitat in a region surrounded by deserts. Despite most of the marshes being destroyed, the region’s wildlife managed to survive and is now making a remarkable comeback.

Photo of marbled duck

Restoration of the marshes has allowed species such as the marbled duck to return

They had hung on in small spots. When the water spread again, so did the birds,” said Richard Porter, BirdLife International’s Middle East Advisor. “It shows how resilient nature can be, and gives hope that other lost wetlands can be restored.”

Water politics

Unfortunately, although many parts of the marshland have recovered, others have not. One of the main threats to the wetland is the region’s water politics, with countries upstream of Iraq increasingly restricting the flows of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

To counter this threat, Nature Iraq, the NGO which led the campaign for the designation of the national park, has persuaded the Iraq government to build an embankment to allow water to be diverted into the marshes in spring.

Declaring a park isn’t just a bit of paper,” said Azzam Alwash, founder of Nature Iraq. “It will mean we can reserve a percentage of the water from the rivers for the marshes.”

Photo of bladetail in habitat

Restoration of Iraq’s marshes will benefit a range of different species

Long-term protection

A further threat to the marshes comes from Iraq’s increasing urbanisation and development. The building of roads, infrastructure and water systems could all threaten the country’s natural habitats if not properly regulated.

I see areas that have been the same way for thousands of years being obstructed by roads. Development is encroaching into the wildlife’s area and taking away habitats,” said Alwash, adding that, “I want progress, but I don’t want development to overtake the Iraqi tradition of living in harmony with nature.”

Long-term protection of Iraq’s marshes will depend on international agreements on water-sharing, as well as the availability of money, which could one day come from tourism.

Photo of greater flamingos in flight

Greater flamingos also occur in the marshes of Iraq

The team who worked on establishing the new national park see it as just one step towards the protection of many of Iraq’s other natural habitats. Next year, Alwash and his colleagues hope to establish four more parks across the country.

This park is not a destination,” he explained. “It’s just a piece in the roadway to protecting Iraq’s national and natural heritage.”

 

Read more on this story at:

View more photos and videos of species from Iraq on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jul 24

A rising global demand for cashmere is putting the snow leopard and other native wildlife in Central Asia under threat, according to a new study.

Photo of wild snow leopard in stalking pose

The snow leopard is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Domestic cashmere goats are raised in many parts of Central Asia for their luxurious fur coats. Although cashmere production is not new, the global demand for this product has increased dramatically, and goat numbers have almost tripled in some areas in the last 20 years.

The new study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, reports that the increasing goat population is encroaching on the habitat of the snow leopard and its prey. Nearly all the forage across the Tibetan plateau, Mongolia and northern India is now being consumed by goats, sheep and other livestock, leaving only tiny amounts for native herbivores such as the Tibetan antelope, saiga, wild yak and Przewalski’s horse.

Photo of Przewalski's horses in habitat

Goats are also competing with native herbivores such as Przewalski’s horse

A decline in these native prey species can lead snow leopards to hunt goats, so leading to increased conflict with humans as people seek to protect their herds. Other threats to native species include disease transfer from livestock and the killing of wild animals by herders’ dogs.

Green labelling

Cashmere production is an important source of income for many local communities in Central Asia.

According to Dr Charudutt Mishra of the Snow Leopard Trust, “Cashmere production is a complicated human issue. Understandably, indigenous herders are trying to improve their livelihoods, but the short-term economic gain is harming the local ecosystem.”

Photo of snow leopard female and juvenile

Snow leopards prey mainly on wild sheep and goats, but will take livestock if wild prey has been depleted

Dr Mishra suggests that ‘green labelling’ of cashmere clothes could help increase awareness of the issue among consumers. “One of the intentions is to bring together some of the local communities who produce cashmere and the buyers from the international market. We want to address everyone’s concerns and develop a programme where we can make grazing more sustainable, and that allows for wild and domestic animals to co-exist,” he said.

According to Dr Mishra and the other authors of the study, the iconic species of the region’s mountains and steppes will become victims of fashion unless action is taken on both a global and a local scale.

 

Read more on this story at BBC News – Cashmere trade threat to snow leopards and The Guardian – Snow leopards and wild yaks becoming ‘fashion victims’.

View more images and videos of the snow leopard on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jul 6
Photo of captive female Rameshwaram parachute spider, camouflaged among dead leaves

Rameshwaram parachute spider (Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica)

Species: Rameshwaram parachute spider (Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Instead of using a web to catch prey, the Rameshwaram parachute spider actively catches its victims by ambushing them and injecting paralysing venom.

The Rameshwaram parachute spider is a colourful, tree-dwelling tarantula with an attractive pattern of light and dark markings. As its name suggests, this species is found on Rameshwaram Island, off the coast of Tamil Nadu, India, although it also occurs on adjacent parts of the mainland. It can be distinguished from other spiders in its genus by the distinctive yellow colour on the underside of its front legs. Although relatively little is currently known about the Rameshwaram parachute spider, it is likely to live in dark, well-protected cavities such as tree holes or inside house walls. This species feeds mainly on insects. Females can live for several breeding seasons, and may produce up to 52 young at a time. The Rameshwaram parachute spider typically lives in tree palm, coconut or tamarind plantations, but also occurs in human habitations.

The main threat to the Rameshwaram parachute spider is habitat loss, as the plantations it inhabits are being destroyed to make way for houses and other developments, as well as rice fields. This rare spider occurs in only a few highly fragmented locations, and its remaining patches of habitat are very small. Although not common in the pet trade, this attractive tarantula has also been known to be exported. Unfortunately, the Rameshwaram parachute spider is not protected by law. Proposals to create a spider sanctuary at the Hanumavilasum temple, which is home to the largest colony of this species, were sadly never put into practice.

 

Find out more about conservation in India at Conservation India and Wildlife Conservation Society – India.

See images of the Rameshwaram parachute spider on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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