Feb 15

The race to become crowned as the World’s Most Unloved Species was hotly contested, once again, this year with 19 nominated species in the running.  After 12 days of fierce competition, impassioned pitches and over 4,500 votes, the top 10 was announced on Valentine’s Day.

But slithering into first place… it’s the Galapagos racer!

Often demonised, the Galapagos racer shot to fame during the BBC’s 2016 series Planet Earth II.  They are one of a few endemic snakes found in the Galapagos and can grow to a maximum of 125 centimetres.  However, little is known about the Galapagos racer and there is even confusion over the number of species or subspecies of racer snakes found in the Galapagos.  The Galapagos racer is already locally extinct on Floreana Island and are threatened following the introduction of cats and pigs onto neighbouring islands which forage for their eggs.

All the nominated species are worthy winners, and were chosen as they are often overshadowed and overlooked by the more cute, handsome and (supposedly) interesting members of the natural world.  But which species pulled at the public’s heartstrings the most and made it into the top 10?  Here’s a quick rundown:

Wombling into second place, it’s the bare-nosed wombat.  Also known as the ‘common wombat’ this furry marsupial may no longer be as ‘common’ as its namesake suggests, as the population battles an increasing number of fatal road strikes and the deadly skin condition mange.

Flying into third, and in the highest place a bird has had in this contest, it’s the lappet-faced vulture.  Definitely not noted for their cuddly nature, these birds have been known to take on jackals to defend a carcass!

In fourth place we dive underneath the waves with the first shark to enter the top 10!  The shortfin mako is a speed machine, capable of reaching 35 kilometres an hour and even having the power to launch itself clear out of the water.

At number five we have the Asian elephant.  Despite having had a close relationship with man over the centuries these giants are facing a number of threats including poaching and habitat loss, and are often overlooked by their larger African relatives.

Hopping into the top 10 at number six is the common toad.  Firmly rooted in English folklore and culture this gardener’s friend is another species with an unfortunate name as populations have taken a dramatic downturn declining by 68% over the last 30 years.

The ‘lucky number seven’ spot is taken by the red squirrel.  However this iconic species is not so lucky, facing habitat fragmentations, disease and competition with the grey squirrel, introduced into the UK in the 1870s.

Coming up in eighth place is the aye-aye.  Not known for its dashing good looks, this primate has been considered an omen of bad luck resulting in persecution by the Malagasy people!

Looking fine at nine is the Copan brook frog.  The second amphibian in the top 10, this tiny frog could be easily hidden if it wasn’t for its bright, lime green colouration.

And last but by no means least, it’s the blue shark.  This sleek apex predator is instantly recognisable as it moves gracefully through the water however it is one of the most heavily fished sharks in the world, with an estimated 15-20 million caught every year.

To find out more about these species and the work being done to research and conserve them, visit the results page here.

Sep 29

Thirteen ocean creatures have surfaced all around Bristol’s BS5 postcode, snapped by some of the world’s very best wildlife photographers. To prove how turtle-y awesome they all are, we’ve created blogs on all of the featured species sharing ten epic facts about them! Sail your way around the exhibition by downloading your very own map and guide.

1) Northern gannets are the largest gannet subspecies, and also the largest seabird in Britain.

2) Scotland is home to over 40% of the world’s northern gannet breeding population.

3) If you’re lucky enough to see gannets travelling out to sea you’ll notice that they do so in large groups, sometimes up to 1,000 birds strong – a seabird squadron!

4) Seabirds have to be light enough to soar in the sky for long stretches of time and buoyant enough to float when they rest on the ocean’s surface. Some seabirds are so light and buoyant that they actually have trouble getting under the water at all!

5) Gannets are champions among the divers and can plummet into the ocean from as high as 40m, diving as deep as 35m.

6) When these seabirds hit the surface of the water they can be travelling as fast as 96km/h!

7) Air sacs between the sternum (chest bone) and chest muscles help to cushion the impact of fast diving.

8) They have nostrils that open inside, not outside, their bill to prevent water rushing up their nose when they dive.

9) Gannets don’t take off with their catch, they quickly swallow their fish before resurfacing, often whole. Greedy guts!

10) During the breeding season, gannets increase blood flow to their feet, helping them to incubate their eggs. The feet act like little hot plates to keep the eggs nice and toasty.

Sep 29

Thirteen ocean creatures have surfaced all around Bristol’s BS5 postcode, snapped by some of the world’s very best wildlife photographers. To prove how turtle-y awesome they all are, we’ve created blogs on all of the featured species sharing ten epic facts about them! Sail your way around the exhibition by downloading your very own map and guide.

1) Sorry if this ruins many of the Christmas cards that you see from now on, but no penguins live at the North Pole.

2) Penguins swallow pebbles and stones as well as their food. Scientists believe that the stones may help grind up and digest their food.

3) Penguins can drink seawater, despite its heavy salt content.

4) The characteristic black and white plumage of penguins serves as camouflage while swimming. The black plumage on their back is hard to see from above, while the white plumage on their front looks like the sun reflecting off the surface of the water when seen from below, making them masters of disguise.

5) The fastest species is the gentoo penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 35km/h! To put that in to perspective, Michael Phelps swims at about 9.6km/h.

6) Little penguins are the smallest penguin subspecies, averaging around 33cm in height.

7) Unlike most birds which lose and replace a few feathers at a time, penguins moult all at once, in what is called a ‘catastrophic moult’, during which time they remain on land.

8) Because many male penguins incubate eggs, pudgy males – with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating – are most desirable. Bring on the Dad bod!

9) Penguins can dive to depths of over 250m, although the deepest dive ever recorded was by a female emperor penguin who dived to 535m!

10) Climate change is likely to affect the numbers of krill, and thus affect the penguin numbers as well. Since the 1970s, krill density in some areas has decreased by 80%. When the bottom of the food chain is wiped out, it is seriously bad news for everyone else.

Feb 7

#LoveSpecies nominee: helmeted hornbill

Nominated by: World Land Trust

Why do you love it?

The fierce appearance of the world’s largest hornbill, with a battering ram of solid keratin fixed to their face, suits its medieval mating rituals. The males clash mid-air in head-to-head combat (an impressive display called aerial jousting) to win access to fruiting fig trees. Females then lock themselves up in nesting holes with mud, where they lay their eggs and rely entirely on their mate for their survival, and that of their offspring. 

What are the threats to the helmeted hornbill? 

The helmeted hornbill is targeted by poachers for the helmet-like casque on the upper half of its beak. Unlike other hornbills, this casque is made from a solid ivory-like substance, which makes them a prime target for the illegal wildlife trade.

In recent years, demand for hornbill ivory has seen a concerning rise, with around 6,000 helmeted hornbills lost every year, causing them to be classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Helmeted hornbills are also highly threatened by the rapid rates of forest loss. The escalation of illegal logging and land conversion, as well as forest fires, has significantly reduced suitable habitat for the species.


What are you doing to save it?

World Land Trust (WLT) works in Malaysian Borneo with conservation partner Hutan to preserve habitat for endangered species like the Helmeted Hornbill. As well as funding the purchase of land to create important wildlife corridors, WLT funds the employment of members of local communities to manage and protect the land, and to encourage sustainable, traditional practices.

As the hornbill’s natural habitat is declining Hutan has also established a next box programme to provide safe nesting locations where hornbills can be monitored.

Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: black-legged kittiwake

Nominated by: Blue Planet Society

Why do you love it?

The black-legged kittiwake is a dainty gull with black-tipped silver wings, yellow bill and dark eyes. This pretty gull’s shrill call “kittee wa-aake” gives them their name. Colonies of black-legged kittiwakes are most commonly found on sheer cliffs in the Northern Hemisphere, it is on these perilous cliffs that they build a deep nest from seaweed, mud and grass and deposit two speckled eggs from which downy, white chicks emerge. The kittiwake preys on sandeels and shoals of other small fish and does not scavenge like other gull species.

What are the threats to the black-legged kittiwake?

Kittiwake numbers in the UK have declined by around 50% (66% in Scotland) since the mid-1980s. This decline appears to have been driven by a slump in the availability of sandeels due to climate change and overfishing. Breeding failure increases with the proportion of sandeels fished.

What are you doing to save it?

We are campaigning for more protection for seabird foraging areas, especially during the breeding season. We would like to see increased restrictions on sandeel and other forage fish fisheries. More research into plankton, climate change and their association with sandeel availability.

VOTE NOW!

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