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

Jan 11
Photo of a pair of red-fronted macaws on a branch

Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)

Species: Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The red-fronted macaw is a fairly vocal parrot, known to produce high-pitched growls and harsh squeaks.

More information:

The red-fronted macaw is bright green with an orange-red forehead and a small patch of red behind each eye. The shoulders and thighs are also orange, the primary feathers of the wings are blue and the tail is olive-green tipped with blue. Males and females are similar in appearance. The red-fronted macaw is endemic to the east Andean slope of Bolivia, South America.

The red-fronted macaw feeds on seeds and fruit, but it will also frequently feed on crops including maize and ground nuts, as natural food is often very scarce. It roosts and nests on steep riverside cliffs. Eggs are typically laid between November and April, and most breeding pairs tend to successfully rear one young each year.

The reasons for the drastic decline of the red-fronted macaw include widespread habitat loss and degradation, largely as a result of conversion to agriculture but also due to logging and collection of firewood. This species is illegally trapped for the pet trade, but the scale of this problem is unclear. Furthermore, as the natural food sources of this bird are lost, it has to rely more on crops and becomes increasingly exposed to persecution as a result.

The red-fronted macaw is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so international trade in this species is tightly controlled. Within Bolivia, the capture, transport and export of this species is illegal. This macaw occurs in only one protected area, but just eight birds are known to breed within this park. BirdLife Bolivia initiated a conservation programme for this species in 2002. A ban on trading the red-fronted macaw has been proposed, and recommendations have been made to fence off areas of suitable habitat to reduce grazing by livestock, allowing its natural food source to make a come-back.

 

Find out more about the red-fronted macaw at BirdLife International and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

See images of the red-fronted macaw on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Jan 3

Bolivia’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve, a protected area which is home to the world’s largest population of the Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw, has been more than doubled in size thanks to conservation efforts.

Blue-throated macaw image

The blue-throated macaw is one of the rarest parrots in the world

Blue beard

‘Barba Azul’ means ‘blue beard’ in Spanish, and is the local name for the blue-throated macaw, a stunning parrot species endemic to Bolivia. Threatened by habitat loss and the pet trade, the blue-throated macaw relies heavily on its nature reserve namesake, which is the world’s only protected area for the species. The reserve houses more than half of the world’s estimated 150 wild blue-throated macaws, and the area has now more than doubled in size thanks to the efforts of several conservation groups.

Asociación Armonía, the Bolivian partner of the American Bird Conservancy, teamed up with various other groups including the International Conservation Fund of Canada, the World Land Trust and the IUCN NL’s Small grants for the Purchase of Nature programme to raise money to buy additional land for the reserve. Thanks to this partnership, 14,830 acres of land were purchased, expanding Barba Azul Nature Reserve to a total of 27,180 acres.

Massive achievement

Conservation actions of this magnitude for small organisations in poor countries are only possible with outside help,” said Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía. “Doubling the size of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve is an excellent example of conservation groups combining their effort to achieve a massive conservation product.”

Forest fragment image

Islands of tropical forest provide key foraging and nesting habitats

Key threats

Bolivia’s Beni savannah is an area twice the size of Portugal, and endures intensive flooding in the summer and vastly contrasting drought during the winter months. This land is almost entirely occupied by private cattle ranches, and has suffered the negative effects of hundreds of years of logging, hunting and livestock rearing, which have greatly altered the area’s natural ecosystem.

The blue-throated macaw population has declined due to frequent burning, overgrazing and timber harvests within forest patches, which has degraded its habitat and limited the number of suitable nesting sites. Trafficking of this beautiful species for the pet trade has also contributed to its decline.

When we originally purchased Barba Azul Nature Reserve, it was a habitat that held a high abundance of many animals. But once we removed cattle and stopped hunting, net fishing, logging, and uncontrolled grassland burning, the true destructive impact of an overgrazed, poorly controlled ranch could be seen. Everything is rebounding as if the area is recovering from a drought,” said Hennessey.

Blue-throated macaw image

The blue-throated macaw will benefit from an increase in the number and suitability of nesting sites in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve

Increased protection

The Barba Azul Nature Reserve is the only protected savannah in Bolivia’s Beni bioregion where cattle grazing and yearly burning for agricultural purposes are not permitted. The recent extension of the reserve means that areas of seasonally flooded grassy plains are also now protected, as are a small river and islands of tropical forest which serve as key foraging, roosting and nesting habitats for the blue-throated macaw.

Further conservation work

As well as habitat protection, other targeted conservation efforts have been put in place for the highly threatened blue-throated macaw, including providing nest boxes as artificial breeding sites and working with local communities to raise awareness of the species and its importance. In addition, Asociación Armonía has provided local communities with synthetic feather head-dresses, which can be used during traditional festivals in place of those made from feathers gathered from wild macaws, offering a conservation-friendly alternative.

Giant anteater image

The extension of the nature reserve will also benefit hundreds of other animals, including the giant anteater

Additional benefits

The extension of the nature reserve will not only be beneficial to the Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw, but also to many other animals with which the bird shares its habitat. Barba Azul is home to 250 other species of bird, including the cock-tailed tyrant and the black-masked finch, both classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Flocks of waterbird species are attracted to the area’s extensive wetlands, including the Orinoco goose which has been recorded making use of nest boxes on the reserve.

Barba Azul offers important protection of the Omi River, which is the only year-round source of water for many miles, and is a critical water source during the dry season for hundreds of animals. This, combined with the protection of other habitats within the boundaries of the reserve, has contributed towards the conservation of the 27 species of medium and large mammals that reside there, including the giant anteater, pampas cat and marsh deer, as well as species which need larger territories such as the jaguar and maned wolf.

 

Read more on this story at the American Bird Conservancy – Protected Habitat Doubles for Magnificent and Endangered Blue-throated Macaw and Mongabay.com – Good news: Refuge for last blue-throated macaws doubles in size in Bolivia.

View photos and videos of the blue-throated macaw on ARKive.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Jan 2

For those of you looking to try a new form of exercise in the New Year to tone up and get fit, why not follow the example of these animal athletes and take up yoga? By working through a variety of postures and mastering your breathing, you too could be as strong and limber as the creatures below – check out some of their efforts and get inspired!

Downward dog…

Cape fox image

This Cape fox, the smallest and only ‘true fox’ in southern Africa, appears to have mastered one of yoga’s most recognisable postures – the downward dog. In fact, he looks like he’s pretty much doing it in his sleep…!

 

…or should it be downward cat?!

Wildcat image

Not to be outdone by a canine, this wildcat is showing off its skill in a bid to get the name of the posture changed to give it a more feline feel! This species is the wild ancestor of the domestic cat, and can weigh up to eight kilos.

 

Bird-like balance

White-rumped sandpiper image

A big part of practising yoga is learning to be centred and balanced, as demonstrated by this white-rumped sandpiper. We’re not sure what this particular posture is called, but it certainly seems popular in the bird world!

 

Sun Salutation

New England crayfish

A sun salutation is formed of a sequence of postures, including downward dog and cobra. One particular pose held at the beginning and end of the sun salutation sequence consists of extending the arms over the head and raising the face towards the sky, as demonstrated beautifully by this colourful New England crayfish.

 

Locust pose

Northern elephant seal image

The great thing about yoga is that it can be practised virtually anywhere – this northern elephant seal has decided to bond with nature and try the locust pose out on the beach. Although generally not particularly agile on land, the northern elephant seal has long, webbed feet which provide great propulsion to effectively glide through the water.

 

Warrior III?!

Red ruffed lemur image

Despite having a tail which can reach up to 62 centimetres in length, which is longer than its body and could potentially get in the way, this red ruffed lemur has not been put off trying yoga. Here we can see it preparing to go into full Warrior III pose, showing some reasonable leg extension.

 

Handstand

Orange-winged dropwing image

More advanced yoga practitioners can master the art of the handstand, which requires core strength and a lot of concentration. This orange-winged dropwing is providing us with a good example of a handstand, but does the use of all six legs not count as cheating?!

 

Flexible and fossorial

Naked mole rat image

This naked mole rat is trying what is known as the full boat pose during its subterranean yoga session. Look at that concentration! As naked mole rats are not able to control their body temperature internally like other mammals, this guy will have to retreat to cooler parts of its burrow if it gets too hot.

 

Aquatic yoga

Manatee image

Bikram yoga, practised in a hot, steamy environment, has been all the rage recently, but this manatee has taken it a step further and has developed aquatic yoga. Here we can see a beautiful example of a tail-stand! If you don’t like cold water, not to fear – manatees ideally require water above 20 degrees Celsius to survive, so these sessions are bound to be nice and warm!

 

Lotus

Verreaux's sifaka image

This Verreaux’s sifaka is doing its own version of the lotus pose – this particular individual is clearly taking a break from leaping gracefully along the floor of its forest home, an action for which it is well known.

 

Relax

Rivera red-belly toad imageHoney bee image

 

After a long, hard yoga session, there’s nothing better than taking a moment to relax in child’s pose, just like this Rivera red-belly toad and honey bee.

 

Namaste!

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Dec 10

As the festive season gets into full swing, we’re sure a few of you will be warming up your vocal cords in preparation for a bit of carolling action. To help get you in the mood for some musical mayhem, we’ve had a root through the ARKive collection to find some of the species that might make good (or bad!) additions to any party of vibrant vocalists.

Delightful duet – Western hoolock gibbon

The call of the western hoolock gibbon is as energetic as the species itself, which can swing gracefully through the trees of its forest home at speeds of up to 56km/hour. The impressive vocal gymnastics of this species can be heard over great distances, so this primate would be a great asset to any raucous carolling choir!

Western hoolock gibbon image

Hooved honkers – Plains zebra

If you listen carefully, you can hear the first few notes of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the call of this plains zebra! This braying bark is a key method of communication for zebras, and is used alongside body movements and facial expressions. Let’s hope these guys have good memories for music and lyrics, as they might have some difficulty holding a carol book!

Plains zebra image

Jolly jingles – Sidewinder

Despite being the stoutest of all the rattlesnake species, this reptilian rattler can grow up to 80cm in length. It is found in south-western U.S.A and north-western Mexico, where it ambushes small lizard and rodent prey from the cover of isolated shrubs. The sidewinder could provide some interesting percussion accompaniment to a group of carollers, though I’m not sure how close you would want to get to one of these venomous critters!

Sidewinder image

Booming beat – Kakapo

If you feel like you need a little something extra on your carolling outing, why not invite the kakapo along to create a resonant boom to back up all your favourite festive tunes? We can’t guarantee he’ll be able to keep in time, but at least it’ll get the choral company noticed! This booming noise is made by male kakapos to attract a mate, and can be heard up to five kilometres away.

Kakapo image

Quacking canid – Dhole

You know that feeling of surprise when you hear somebody sing, and their voice doesn’t sound at all like you’d expect it to? That’s how we felt when we came across this carolling audition tape for the dhole! This Asian species can produce a wide range of vocalisations, including a distinctive whistle which is used to reassemble pack members in its thick forest habitat.

Dhole image

Warbling wonder – Blackbird

Many of you avid music-lovers will recognise the beautiful song of the blackbird, and would be happy to have this musical avian in your carolling group. This species produces a range of vocalisations, including a loud alarm call which has been described as ‘pli-pli-pli’.

Blackbird image

Honking harmonies – Emperor penguin

Emperor penguin colonies may be very noisy and somewhat tuneless places to be, but also extremely cold ones! This species can survive in temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees C, and withstand windspeeds of up to 200km/hour. Emperor penguins might not win any prizes as far as pleasant-sounding vocals go, but this species certainly deserves top marks for its parental care. While the female heads seawards to feed after laying her egg, the male will stay put without feeding for four months, in constant darkness, to incubate the egg. Now that’s dedication!

Emperor penguin image

Choral creatures – Bright-eyed frog (Boophis albilabris)

Does anyone else think that the bright-eyed frog has a call that sounds strangely like squeaky rubber?! This large tree frog, whose scientific species name albilabris means ‘white-lipped’ (can you guess why?!), can grow up to 81mm in length. The bright-eyed frog is endemic to Madagascar, where it can be found in moist rainforests.

Bright-eyed frog image

Squawky solo – Galapagos penguin

This feathered fellow certainly seems to be putting a lot of effort into its call, but if this were an audition, I’m not so sure the Galapagos penguin would be offered a solo! This species is the most northerly of all penguins, and sadly, as of 2007, there were just 1,000 individuals left in the world.

Galapagos penguin image

Cacophonous canines – Grey wolf

The grey wolf is a highly social and intelligent species of canid, living in packs of between 5 and 12 individuals. As well as scent-marking, the grey wolf uses howling as a way of advertising territorial boundaries. It is an effective way of avoiding encounters with other packs, which can lead to fatal battles. Sadly, I don’t think this species would make an ideal choir member, as the individuals don’t seem to be able to howl in tune!

Grey wolf image

Ho, ho, ho! – Barasingha

This barasingha, a threatened deer species found only in India and Nepal, appears to be doing his best Santa Claus impression!

Barasingha image

Ho, ho, ho! And a happy holiday season to you all!

 

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