Apr 4

Here at Arkive, we’re really excited about our Friday night TV viewing this week! BBC2 will be airing Hotel Armadillo, narrated by Sir David Attenborough sixty years after he first introduced British TV viewers to an armadillo (see picture below!).

There are 20 known armadillo species, of which all but one is found in Latin America.  The name ‘armadillo’ comes from a Spanish word meaning ‘little armoured one’ – a reference to the bony plates which, uniquely among mammals, cover the back, head, legs, and tail of species within this distinctive family. Hotel Armadillo focuses on the giant armadillo, a creature so few people have ever seen in the wild that some describe it as a ghost species.

The challenge in filming is not simply that this animal is rare, solitary, shy, and nocturnal, but it also spends three-quarters of its time hidden underground in six-metre-deep burrows dotted across a wetland as big as England – Brazil’s Pantanal.

Thanks to the commitment, patience and clever camera set-ups of a team led by Dr Arnaud Desbiez, a conservation biologist with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and a UK film crew, the long-held secrets of giant armadillo life are beginning to unfold. Some of these secrets have even surprised the experts!

The show sheds fresh light on how the giant armadillo, an ecosystem engineer, is crucial to the health of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, and the many other species that call it home. Among the many revelatory sequences is the first television footage of a giant armadillo newborn, images of what happens inside and around their burrows and unique evidence of just how many other Pantanal species check into the animal’s hideaways for food and lodgings.

During the 2 year making of the film, a total of 80 different guests/diners were recorded within the hideaways of armadillos – hence the name ‘Hotel Armadillo’! Just a few of these species include:

Azara’s agouti, a rodent nicknamed the ‘jungle gardener’ due to its constant digging for buried caches of nuts and seeds, which tills the earth and encourages new plant growth

Crab-eating fox, not a true fox and not fussy about only eating crabs

Giant anteater, a cousin of the giant armadillo

Ocelot, related to leopards and once hunted almost to extinction due to demand for its fur

Collared anteater, a mostly tree-dwelling anteater with a partially prehensile tail

Tayra, a metre-long relative of weasels

Another surprise inclusion in the documentary is aerial footage of the spectacular scenery found within the 140,000 km sq Pantanal ecoysystem.  The aerial shots were feared lost at one point, after the drone which shot them dropped into extremely deep caiman, stingray and piranha-infested water. But the plucky crew eventually managed to retrieve it and found the footage intact despite the drone’s four-hour-long submersion!

Viewers will never have seen giant armadillos filmed like this before. Rare, solitary, living mostly underground in very remote habitat and emerging only at night makes them extremely challenging to find, let alone film – so much so that even David Attenborough, our narrator, still yearns to see one in the wild despite embarking on the quest 60 years ago!”  – Justin Purefoy, Hotel Armadillo’s producer-director-cameraman

At the voiceover recording, Sir David recalled to Maramedia, the production company who filmed Hotel Armadillo, his first encounters with the armadillo family.

In the middle of the 1950s I went off to Paraguay… (where)… there are all kinds of armadillos – at least half a dozen different species.  The little three-banded was a charming little thing – running away on its tiptoes and when you catch them you can pick them up like little oranges and put them in a bag. But what used to happen was that the armadillo would suddenly open up… (and)… start trotting and you would see the bag rolling across the landscape – a very entertaining sight. Not very responsible.  It isn’t something that you ought to do these days, but years ago that was what zoos did.

Hotel Armadillo will be aired in the UK at 9 pm on Friday 7th April 2017 on BBC2 as part of the BBC Natural World series, and shortly after on PBS the USA.

Discover more of Brazil’s ecosystems and species on Arkive

We interviewed Arnaud Desbiez for our Spotlight on Whitley Award winners blog in 2015, check it out here

Jun 8

Wildscreen is dedicated to spreading the stories of passionate conservation & wildlife organizations around the world. One such wonderful organization is REGUA (Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu).

 

REGUA_playButton (3)

This film, narrated by Michael Palin, was produced for REGUA by Verity White of Five Films with a soundtrack written by Matthew Sheeran.

Only 7% of the Atlantic Rainforests original cover remains …

Founded in 2001, REGUA is committed to conserving the Atlantic forest of Rio de Janeiro state’s upper Guapiaçu river basin through land acquisition and management agreements. While the Atlantic forest is one of the most biologically rich places on earth, it is also one of the most threatened with only about seven percent of its original cover remaining. 

All it takes are a couple of heroes … 

Nicholas Locke

Nicholas Locke, President of REGUA (© Alan Martin)

Raquel Locke

Raquel Locke, Vice President of REGUA (© Alan Martin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dynamic husband/wife duo of Nicholas and Raquel Locke spearhead the organization with Nicholas expanding the  reserve to protect more forest and Raquel managing the outreach to nurture and develop REGUA’s reputation. Their love and passion for the nature that surrounds them has helped make REGUA one of the most prominent conservation organizations protecting the Atlantic forest. Their wish list for a brighter future for REGUA is long but there are plenty of ways for all of us to take action right now to help them.

REGUA wish list button

From hunter to hero …

REGUA_Adilei

Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, bird guide

One of the most fascinating members of the REGUA team is Adilei Carvalho da Cunha. Before joining the staff, Adilei was a well known hunter in the area, but today he is one of the best rangers on the staff. He is internationally renowned as one of the best bird guides in South America and has been an invaluable asset to the organization by instilling his love of nature in others.

REGUA takes every chance today to inspire the conservationists of tomorrow …

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Raquel Locke teaching children about nature

One of the most important aspects of REGUA is education, particularly focusing on teaching the local children in the area and helping to create the future generation of conservationists and guardians. Seeing wildlife up close like capybaras, frogs, and caimans helps children to discover happiness and develop a sense of wonder. Most importantly, they become better acquainted with species that need their protection.

REGUA_capybara

Capybara eating and wading in water

REGUA by the numbers

 9,400 hectares (23,000 acres) in total land acquired and/or managed by REGUA

40 hectares (98 acres) converted from farmed land back to vital wetlands

280,000 trees planted  in the Atlantic forest

90,000 additional trees to be planted in 2015. It is this type of dedication that sets REGUA apart from other organizations in the area

98% reduction in hunting in REGUA since 2001

No person (or nonprofit) is an island … REGUA can not do it alone

REGUA_lodging

Lodging at the REGUA reserve

REGUA is unique in that those who wish to support Nicholas, Raquel, and the team can do so while experiencing the wonders of the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil for themselves. REGUA operates a state-of-the-art lodge welcoming visitors from all over the world to marvel at the astounding species biodiversity in the area. Feel like rolling up your sleeves and jumping in to help? No problem as there is always plenty of work that needs done at REGUA from helping to host guests at the lodge to jumping in as a nature guide.

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Hummingbird, one of many bird species at REGUA

However, if visiting isn’t an option, REGUA gratefully welcomes support through online donations or by simply telling others about the invaluable work being done by REGUA. Doing so will ensure REGUA can continue their reforestation efforts in the Atlantic forest, and ensure that generations to come can enjoy the diverse wildlife that reside in one of the world’s greatest biological hotspots.

Become a hero for REGUA

Click on the REGUA’s Wish List button below to discover several actions you can take right now, this very minute, to support REGUA. Each pledge of support, no matter the size or type, will be enormously appreciated.

REGUA wish list button

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

 

Apr 29

This time on ARKive Geographic, we’re taking you on a virtual trip to the largest country in South America – Brazil!  Brazil’s vast geography and rich biodiversity make it a great topic for conservation discussions and scientific study. Because of its tropical climate, Brazil has several kinds of ecosystems: grasslands, coastlines, swamps, and the world famous Atlantic forest. In fact, a whopping eight percent of all the worlds’ plants species are found in the Atlantic rainforest and researchers believe there are many more plant and animal species yet to be discovered.

We’ve had a search through the 900+ species on ARKive that call Brazil home and shared some of our favorites below. Join us for a whirlwind species adventure across Brazil!

Flashy flycatcher

Photo of Atlantic royal flycatcher

Check out the headpiece on this fellow! The Atlantic royal flycatcher is endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest where habitat loss poses a constant threat. Only an estimated 8% of the original rainforest remains today and reforestation efforts are a large conservation priority in Brazil. As its name suggests, this flycatcher is particularly keen to dine on flying insects, particularly dragonflies.

Airborne arthropod

Photo of long-horned beetle

Think this long-horned beetle can’t fly? Think again! Underneath its unique black and brown patterning are delicate wing cases. Even more unique is the fact that the long-horned beetle can spend up to 10 years of its life in the larval stage, while its adult phase only lasts a few short months.

Healthful hardwood

Photo of pau brasil tree

Brazil takes its name from the Endangered pau brasil tree which is a huge source of red dye and an integral part of the country’s trade history. Its vibrant yellow leaves give off a strong smelling perfume and scientists have even utilized extracts from this tree for potential cancer treatment. Native Brazilian trees star in the new, free, online game from ARKive called Team WILD showing that scientists are true superheroes!

Ample alligator

Photo of black caiman

Not to be confused with the American alligator, the black caiman is the largest of all the alligator species. Its tough, dark scales help it camouflage easily in the water however was also highly prized by hunters since the 1940’s resulting in a 99% decrease in the wild populations. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs in Bolivia have been successful however, programs in other countries are needed to assist in the full recovery of this special reptile.

Troupe of team-workers

Photo of Brazilian bare-faced tamarin

This New World monkey is currently one of the most Endangered primates in the Amazon due to fragmented range and habitat loss. Highly social, the Brazilian bare-faced tamarin seems to embody the phrase “it takes a village to raise child” as various members of the groups assist with caring for the young!

Azure amphibian

Photo of dyeing poison frog

This little frog sure packs a mighty punch! The poison of the dyeing poison frog is strong enough to paralyze and even kill large spiders and snakes. Interestingly, this species is able to generate its poison through its rainforest ant diet.

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Brazil’s striking wildlife. If you’d like to find out more about more species in this diverse country, try exploring our Brazil species search results page where you can discover new (to you!) species.

Andrea Small, Intern, Wildscreen USA

Aug 16

Large mammals are being lost from Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest much faster than expected, according to a recent study.

Close-up photo of jaguar resting in tree

A jaguar, one of the species included in the study

The study, undertaken by scientists from Brazil and the UK, looked at 18 mammal species in 196 forest fragments, and compared their current populations to estimates of their population densities before Europeans colonised the region about 500 years ago.

The results of the study, published in the journal PLoS One, showed that mammals are being lost from forest fragments at least twice as fast as previous estimates suggested.

Staggering declines

Of over 3,500 mammal populations estimated to have originally lived in the study area, only about 22% remain today. Among the species being lost are large, charismatic mammals such as the jaguar, lowland tapir, northern muriqui and giant anteater, while the white-lipped peccary has been completely wiped out in the region.

Only 3 of the 18 species studied – two small monkeys and an armadillo – were still present across the whole area.

We uncovered a staggering process of local extinctions of mid-sized and large mammals,” said Dr Gustavo Canale of the State University of Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), one of the authors of the study.

Photo of white-lipped peccaries caught on camera trap

The white-lipped peccary has now become extinct in the area of Atlantic forest surveyed

Fragmented forest

The Atlantic forest is one of the most diverse and biologically rich forests in the world, with many of its species found nowhere else. However, it is also one of the world’s most highly threatened ecosystems, with only 8% of its original cover remaining.

Centuries of logging, urbanisation and clearance for ranches, agriculture and plantations have left only small fragments of forest intact, and what remains is often degraded. Forest fragments are also highly accessible to hunters, as well as being vulnerable to fires and to ‘edge effects’, which include increased exposure to winds and drought.

Photo of a lowland tapir swimming

Lowland tapir

According to Dr Canale, the presence of the mammals in the study could not be predicted by the size of the forest fragment, with even large patches of forest lacking many species. On average, only 4 of the target mammal species were found in each forest fragment, and none of the sites studied contained all 18 species.

Previous estimates of mammal populations assumed that large areas of forest would be able to support more species, but failed to take into account the combined effects of multiple threats.

You might expect forest fragments with a relatively intact canopy structure to still support high levels of biodiversity,” explained Carlos Peres, another of the authors of the study. “Our study demonstrates that this is rarely the case, unless these fragments are strictly protected from hunting pressure.”

Photo of a nine-banded armadillo, front profile

Nine-banded armadillo, one of the only mammals that still occurs across the entire study area

Vital protection

These findings, which suggest that even large forest fragments are not enough to save many mammals from local extinction, raise concerns for tropical forests around the world, many of which are becoming increasingly fragmented.

The study found that mammals only fared better in official protected areas such as national parks, where forest fragments are large and hunting is banned. The team therefore recommends that more protected areas are needed and that their protection should be strictly enforced.

Photo of a northern muriqui sitting in branches

Northern muriqui, another species included in the study

Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of the Atlantic forest currently has protected status, and the Brazilian government is under pressure from farmers to reduce forest protection. A final vote on changes to the government’s Forest Code is expected by the end of August.

According to Jean Paul Metzger, an ecologist at the University of São Paulo who was not involved in the study, “The new bill doesn’t explicitly stimulate deforestation, but it doesn’t impose forest restoration either. That means protected areas are likely to remain isolated, which in turn may mean more extinctions in the future.”

Read more on this story at Nature News & Comment and Mongabay.

Read more about the Atlantic forest on ARKive.

View photos and videos of Atlantic forest mammals on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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