Jan 17

The fight to save one of the world’s most endangered birds, the Bali starling, got a major boost with the hatching of four tiny, healthy chicks on Bali’s Nusa Penida Island.

Bali starling image

The Bali starling is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

The captive-bred chicks hatched in early October, and are the offspring of two pairs of birds housed at Friends of the National Parks Foundation’s (FNPF) community centre in the island’s Ped village. We bought the hatchlings’ parents from West Java’s Soehana Oetodjo, one of Indonesia’s most experienced Bali starling breeders, and took them to Nusa Penida in December 2012 in the hope they would breed. They came with six other Bali starlings which were released on nearby Lembongan Island.

Wildlife welfare standards

It’s very exciting – after ten months, these are the first offspring to be produced. We would like to show people who are interested in the captive breeding of starlings for conservation purposes that you don’t necessarily need fancy cages. We used very simple, secure, inexpensive enclosures which met wildlife welfare standards – something that people on Nusa Penida can copy. In addition, we trained our local staff to breed the birds, showing you don’t need any previous specialist skill to do this – it’s very much about how much you care about the birds.

Bali starling chick image

One of the captive-bred Bali starling chicks © Friends of the National Parks Foundation/Nengah Sudipa

We are a grassroots conservation NGO, working to protect wildlife and its habitat at the same time as supporting local communities. Our projects have been recognised by global organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme and the Whitley Fund for Nature.

We have transformed Nusa Penida, 14 kilometres off the coast of Bali, into an unofficial bird sanctuary and a haven for the Bali starling. We gained the trust of the 46 villages, and persuaded each one to introduce traditional Balinese regulations to protect Bali’s emblem bird, as well as other threatened bird species, from poachers and wildlife traders.

Today, the sanctuary, which also takes in two nearby islands, is estimated to be home to more than 100 Bali starlings. When we started in 2006, there were believed to be less than ten of these birds surviving in the wild in Bali.

Bali starling on branch image

The Bali startling is Bali’s national bird

Surprise arrivals

FNPF’s Nusa Penida Bird Keeper Nengah Sudipa, himself a former wild bird poacher, is rapt with the new arrivals. He helped to select the birds that would be kept for breeding from ten Bali starlings that arrived in late 2012. But after four months, and no success, he was worried because the birds were only making nests and not laying eggs.

Then one morning while cleaning out the nest box he found two chicks inside. He says he was so happy, and kept going back and forth to the nest box all day to make sure they were healthy. Two days later, two more tiny chicks hatched from the next cage.

Later this year we will release some of the hatchlings on Nusa Penida, and loan some to local people interested in getting involved in captive breeding. Anyone who is given the opportunity of a breeding loan should return at least double the number of birds they receive, and those birds can then be released back on Penida.

Bali starling pair image

Illegal capture for the caged-bird trade is a major threat to the Bali starling

We have won the ongoing commitment and support of the Penida communities to help protect birds through our work operating a variety of community development and community education projects, all of which bring social and economic benefits to the local residents.

We rely solely on donations to fund our work saving the endemic Bali starling. Please support our project by sponsoring the rehabilitation and release of a Bali starling, or sponsor a Bali starling nestbox and we will attach a plaque in your name. For more information, visit us at www.fnpf.org or email info@fnpf.org. Thank you to Alan El Kadhi for covering the cost of purchasing these ten Bali starlings.

By Friends of the National Parks Foundation, CEO and Founder Dr Bayu Wirayudha and Communications Manager Kirana Agustina

Dec 21
Photo of snow leopard lying in snow

Snow leopard (Panthera uncia)

Species: Snow leopard (Panthera uncia)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: At almost a metre long, the thick tail of the snow leopard is used for balance and can be wrapped around the animal’s body for warmth.

More information:

The beautiful snow leopard  has smoky-white fur with a yellow tinge, and is patterned with dark grey to black spots. The snow leopard has many adaptations for its cold habitat, such as long body hair, thick, woolly belly fur and large paws. It has unusually large nasal cavities to warm the cold, thin air as it is breathed in.

Snow leopards are solitary animals and are most active at dawn and dusk. They are opportunistic predators, capable of killing prey up to three times their own weight. Snow leopards usually have two or three cubs per litter, which become independent of their mother at around two years old.

The majority of snow leopards are located in the Tibetan region of China, although fragmented populations are also found in the harsh, mountainous areas of central Asia. They are generally found at elevations between 3,000 and 4,500 metres, in steep terrain broken by cliffs, ridges, gullies and rocky outcrops.

The natural prey of this majestic species has been hunted out of many areas of the high central Asian mountains, and the snow leopard turns to domestic stock as an alternative source of food. This can incite retaliation from local farmers. Snow leopard fur was once highly prized in the international fashion world, and around 1,000 pelts were traded per year in the 1920s. A further threat to this species is the increasing demand for its bones for traditional Oriental medicine.

The snow leopard is protected throughout most of its range, and international trade is banned by this species’ listing on Appendix I of CITES. The International Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservancy are the world’s leading organisations dedicated to conserving this endangered cat. Local people are involved in various conservation initiatives and there are plans to link fragmented populations by habitat corridors.

 

Find out more about the snow leopard at the Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservancy.

See images and videos of the snow leopard on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

 

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

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