Mar 14
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Going WILD in Illinois with Nadia Hlebowitsh – Online Communications at Shedd Aquarium

It’s time to dip our toes into the wild, watery world of Illinois with our friends at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago -  the world’s largest indoor aquarium housing more than 8,000 aquatic animals. Did you know they care for five Illinois threatened or endangered species at the Aquarium and share their important story with their guests everyday? Read on to submerge yourself in Shedd’s incredible conservation efforts!

“Everyone should know and care about the endangered animals in their own backyard”

If you live in Illinois, your neighbors include 484 endangered or threatened species. These at-risk plants and animals include blue herons, ground squirrels, wood orchids, river chub and mudpuppies– species that we all know and love. Yet, human activity threatens their existence and the health of our local ecosystems.

As a leader in conservation, Shedd Aquarium is fortunate to care for five endangered or threatened Illinois species in our At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit. Though they may be lesser-known, these aquatic animals are amazingly unique and vital to the Great Lakes  – which is why we’re so excited by ARKive’s new Illinois species page. Everyone should know and care about the endangered animals in their own backyard.

ARKive's Illinois feature page

Burden Falls, an aquatic habitat featured on ARKive’s Illinois feature page. Species like the alligator snapping turtle may be found in deep river water.

“We care for endangered Illinois species both big and small”

At Shedd, we care for endangered Illinois species both big and small, including the alligator snapping turtle, lake sturgeon, hellbender, redspotted sunfish and Iowa darter. By far the heaviest endangered animal we have is Guinness, the alligator snapping turtle. At more than 100 pounds, he’s a good representative of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. As part of his care, Guinness has been trained to come to a target to get his food, just like our dolphins and whales do. He looks positively prehistoric with his dinosaur-like beak and thick scales, but he surprised trainers with how quickly he can learn.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Shedd Aquarium cares for many species such as this prehistoric-looking snapping turtle, Guinness!

The lake sturgeon, which has been around since the days of the dinosaurs, is another big endangered animal at Shedd. Reaching lengths of 3 to 9 feet, the lake sturgeon is the largest fish in the Great Lakes basin. Its vacuum-like mouth sucks up anything from lake or river bottoms. At Shedd, guests can touch a sturgeon and feel the protective bony plates under the skin of this bottom-dwelling fish.

ARKive's lake sturgeon photo

Picture of lake sturgeon taken at the Shedd Aquarium

The hellbender, the largest salamander species in North America, is surprisingly hard to find in the wild – especially now that it’s endangered in Illinois. The presence of hellbenders is often an indicator of good water quality, so the species’ endangered status points to greater problems in our aquatic ecosystems. Shedd’s hellbender was rescued from an illegal shipment at O’Hare International Airport; on exhibit, he keeps a low profile among the habitat’s rocks.

ARKive's hellbender photo

Guests can come face-to-face with a hellbender at the Shedd Aquarium. Can you spot the sneaky hellbender well-camouflaged in the above image taken in the wild?

The endangered redspotted sunfish and threatened Iowa darter are smaller though no less important than any other Great Lakes fish. The redspotted sunfish lives in marshes and streams – such as the Illinois River – and is largely threatened by invasive species. The Iowa darter, often mistaken for a minnow, is Shedd’s smallest threatened species. This fish is unique because it lacks a swim bladder to keep it afloat, which means it stays at the bottom of rivers and lakes.

You can spot a redspotted sunfish at Shedd Aquarium, too!

You can spot a redspotted sunfish at Shedd Aquarium, too!

ARKive's Iowa darter photo

The small but spectacularly-colored Iowa darter

“We hope that greater awareness and stronger regulations … will soon restore these endangered animals’ wild populations”

Through the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act, we hope that greater awareness and stronger regulations on overhunting, over-collecting, habitat destruction and toxic contamination will soon restore these endangered animals’ wild populations. In the meantime, Shedd Aquarium will continue to care for these five Great Lakes animals and 41 other endangered or threatened animals from around world.

Nadia Hlebowitsh, Online Communications, Shedd Aquarium 

From turtles to fish to salamanders, Shedd Aquarium has hardly left a river stone unturned in their aquatic species conservation efforts. Thank you for celebrating WILD Illinois with us and sharing stories from the Shedd Aquarium! Looking to surf more species and habitats in Illinois? Take a dip in our new Illinois feature page to explore 100+ species that call The Prairie State home!

Mar 8
Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on Delicious Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on Digg Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on Facebook Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on reddit Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on StumbleUpon Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on Email Share 'Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum' on Print Friendly

Going WILD in Illinois with Doug Taron – Curator of Biology and VP of Research & Conservation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Attention all you butterfly lovers out there! The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois, is dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of Midwestern environmental issues and has made incredible strides in the conservation and restoration of the stunning swamp metalmark. Read this next installment in the Going WILD in Illinois mini blog series to learn just how threatened this butterfly is and how the Museum is working to protect it!

The Swamp Metalmark: An At-Risk Species

The swamp metalmark (Calephelis muticum) is a small yellow and rust colored butterfly from the central United States.  It formerly ranged from Michigan and Ohio south to Kentucky and west to Arkansas, Wisconsin and Iowa.  Populations have recently been discovered in Alabama and northeastern Oklahoma.  It inhabits alkaline wetlands called fens, where its host plant, swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum), grows.

Swamp metalmark photo

Swamp metalmark –  Credit: The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

As a result of destruction of many fen wetlands, swamp metalmarks are now critically imperiled through most of their range.  With the exception of Missouri, the species has received a sub-national heritage ranking of S1 or S2 (critically imperiled or imperiled) in all states where it occurs.  There are more populations in Missouri, however even there it is classified as vulnerable.

The swamp metalmark typically inhabits just a few hundred yards over the course of its lifetime.

Conservation efforts through most of the species’ range consist of monitoring and habitat protection.  Some active restoration efforts are taking place in the upper Midwest.  For example, biologists at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago recently released lab-reared adults onto a fen in northeastern Illinois in an attempt to return the species to that part of its range.  The release site was the known home of a population of swamp metalmarks that disappeared sometime between 1940 and 1980.  Since the early 1980s, extensive ecological restoration work has removed invasive species and restored hydrology to the site, paving the way for the return of the butterfly.

Doug Taron in the field releasing swamp metalmark butterflies raised at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Doug Taron, Curator of Biology and VP of Research and Conservation, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 

I think we can all agree that the valuable work of The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in support of the swamp metalmark can not be understated! To keep up with the conservation efforts and general goings-on at the museum, have a look at their blog and to explore more Illinois species, dive into our new Illinois feature page. Thanks for sharing a wonderful conservation story with us, Doug!

Mar 5
Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on Delicious Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on Digg Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on Facebook Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on reddit Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on StumbleUpon Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on Email Share 'In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching' on Print Friendly

In the News: Good news for Nepal’s wildlife after another year of no poaching

Heightened conservation measures in Nepal have once again resulted in a year of zero poaching in the country.

After Nepal making a commitment to protect the future of its magnificent and highly endangered species, it has once again succeeded and between February 2013 and February 2014, no rhino, tigers or elephants were poached in the country. Nepal has a history of success in the prevention of poaching, and another poaching-free year occurred in 2011. Worldwide, Nepal has been praised for this outstanding accomplishment, with Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International, saying, “We congratulate Nepal on reducing poaching to zero within its borders. This achievement serves as a model for WWF’s goal for drastically reducing wildlife crime worldwide – with a combination of brave policy making, determined implementation and robust enforcement.”

Indian rhinoceros

Caption: The Vulnerable Indian rhinoceros is found in scattered populations across Nepal and India

The Nepalese government led the conservation efforts, which included strengthening the protection of wildlife and increasing the enforcement of anti-poaching laws. A wide range of organisations have contributed towards Nepal’s zero poaching success, from small conservation charities, park authorities and local communities to the army and police. “The success of achieving zero poaching throughout the year is a huge achievement and a result of prioritising a national need to curb wildlife crimes in the country”, said Megh Bahadur Pandey, Director General of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. Anti-poaching measures also encouraged the co-operation of boundary officials on the borders between Nepal, India and China, which helped to prevent the trafficking of animal parts into and out of the country. The collaboration between the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police has resulted in the enforcement of wildlife laws throughout the country, both at a local and national scale.

Caption: The Endangered Bengal tiger is a target species for poachers

The work of nine different organisations that have contributed to this great achievement will be honoured by the WWF’s Leaders for a Living Planet Award, whose past winners have included Dr Thomas Lovejoy for his work on forest fragmentation and highlighting conservation as a global priority and Dr Trudy Ecofrey for her work on restoring wildlife on the Great Plains of the United States. Notable organisations that have had outstanding contributions to the cause include Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, the Nepal Army and Police, Buffer zone management committees of Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park, and the National Trust for Nature Conservation. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal, said, “It is a matter of great pride to mark the first World Wildlife Day with the announcement of a year of zero poaching in Nepal. We are committed to work with the government, conservation partners and the local communities to redouble efforts to sustain this success.”

Asian elephant image

Caption: The wild population of the Endangered Indian elephant has severely declined due to poaching

Read more about Nepal’s year of zero poaching.

Find out more about the Asian elephant on ARKive.

Find out more about the Indian rhinoceros on ARKive.

Find out more about the tiger on ARKive.

Discover more species from Nepal on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer.

Mar 1
Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on Delicious Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on Digg Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on Facebook Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on reddit Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on StumbleUpon Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on Email Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Addax' on Print Friendly

Endangered Species of the Week: Addax

Female addax and young

Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)

Species: Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: An addax is able to obtain all the water it requires from the food it consumes.

The addax is a desert antelope that is well adapted to its harsh habitat. It has splayed hooves that help it to travel more easily across sand. Its short, glossy coat is grey-brown in winter, fading to almost white during the summer, and both sexes possess the distinctive long, twisted horns.

These antelope are mainly active during the night. In the day, they dig ‘beds’ into the sand in shady areas to avoid the heat of the desert sun, which also shelters them from sandstorms. Small nomadic herds of this species spend the majority of their time wandering in search of food. These herds previously contained around 20 individuals, but today they are found in groups of four or less.

Once found across northern Africa, wild addax populations now only exist in a fragment of their former range. This dramatic decrease is mainly attributed to over-hunting, as their meat and leather is prized by local people. Other factors contributing to their decline include desertification, drought and habitat encroachment. It is estimated that fewer than five hundred individuals survive in the wild today, with the bulk of these found between the Termit region in eastern Niger and the Bodélé region in western Chad.

International trade of the addax is prohibited and the Sahara Conservation Fund has developed a regional strategy to protect the remaining wild populations and facilitate the re-colonisation of suitable habitats. A protected population exists in the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Israel that was set up in 1968 to bolster populations of endangered desert species. There are currently around 2,000 individuals in captivity around the world that are being used in reintroduction programmes in Tunisia and Morocco.

Find out more about the addax at the Sahara Conservation Fund and WildAddax.

See images and videos of the addax on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Feb 21
Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on Delicious Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on Digg Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on Facebook Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on reddit Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on StumbleUpon Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on Email Share 'UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer' on Print Friendly

UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer

562995_460205190743127_1808199899_nWhat is your job, where do you work?

My name is Neil Green and I am the Avon Invasive Weed Forum (AIWF) Project Officer.  I work mainly on the rivers and watercourses within Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.

What is your background?

My background includes life guarding in Cumbria, teaching English in Madrid, exporting oil for BP lubricants, building balconies in Bondi Beach and running my own landscape gardening business in sunny Swindon!  In more recent years I  have been a Coastal Ranger for the National Trust in North Cornwall and worked on the Source to Sea Invasive species project for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

What is the Avon Invasive Weed Forum, what projects are you working on?

The AIWF is an independent group of relevant stakeholders such as Bristol City Council, Bristol Zoo Gardens, The Environment Agency and South Gloucestershire Council, currently funded by Defra. The aim is to survey as much of the Avon catchment as possible for Non-Native Invasive Weeds (NNIW), so far we have over 70 kilometres of riparian habitat logged. Once the surveys are mapped we then get the NNIW into the appropriate management to control and reduce the abundance of these alien nasties.

How are you helping to fight invasive species in the UK?

We are helping by engaging with local conservation and community groups to take ownership of their local areas and the invasive species that they may have. In the Spring and Summer we carry out many practical Himalayan balsam weed pulls – we managed 22 ‘BIG PULL’ events last summer.   Himalayan balsam has a very shallow root system and is easy and very enjoyable to yank out of the ground. Removing the plants stop them from seeding, which is of paramount importance to help fight the invasion!

brislingtonbrook

How can people get involved?

You can get involved by volunteering to help manage the Himalayan Balsam as part of our ‘BIG PULL’ campaign or help survey the watercourses and open water in the Avon Catchment.   You can do this by contacting your local conservation groups, community groups or myself at the Avon Invasive Weeds Forum, we welcome individuals, groups and corporate social responsibility requests.

If you are not in the Avon area you can take a look at the GB NNSS website and find an Invasive Species Project closer to home.

You can also help by following the guidelines in the Check, Clean and Dry and Be Plant Wise Campaigns too.

Find out more about the Avon Invasive Weed Forum by visiting their website or their Facebook page.

Learn more about invasive species in the UK by visiting our UK invasive species page.

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