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) Blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth, growing to lengths of up to nearly 30m – that’s the length of two double decker buses!

2) Everything about this whale is huge apart from its diet of tiny krill, which it eats up to 40 million of every day.

3) A blue whale’s tongue alone can weigh as much as an elephant – the world’s largest land mammal

4) A blue whale’s heart is so huge, around the size of a car, its beat can be detected from over three kilometres away.

5) The blood vessels of blue whales are so wide you could swim through them, but we don’t recommend trying it.

6) Even the babies are massive, being born at lengths of up to 6m and weighing nearly 4,000kg!

7) Baby blue whales put any bodybuilder to shame, gaining up to 90kg a day until they reach a pretty sizeable 15m in length. Their growth rate is one of the fastest in the animal world. #Hulk

8) Blue whales belong to the ‘baleen’ whale family, meaning instead of teeth they have baleen, a fibrous material that looks a bit like the head of a sweeping brush, used to filter their food as they swim.

9) To communicate with each other, blue whales make a series of super-loud vocal sounds. Their calls are one of the loudest of any creature on the planet, audible to other blue whales up to 500 miles away!

10) Despite being hunted to near extinction, with only 1% of their population remaining, blue whales have started to make a comeback and numbers are the highest they’ve been in decades.

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) A crab’s shell acts similarly to our skeleton is but located on the outside of its body, acting as a suit of armour to protect it from predators.

2) Most crabs have evolved flat bodies, helping them to squeeze into very narrow crevices.


3) The largest crab in the world is the giant Japanese spider crab, which can measure up to 4m across! That’s one mighty big Krabby Patty!

4) Pea crabs are the smallest of all crabs, and guess what?! They are about the size of a pea.

5) The boxer crab of Hawaii carries a pair of stinging anemones in its claws as protection – feisty! Although they actually look more like a cheerleader than a boxer.

6) Crabs live in more different habitats than any other sea animal, found almost everywhere in the ocean from smoking volcanic vents thousands of feet under the sea, to underneath the freezing ice of Antarctica.


7) A crab may lose a claw or leg in a fight, but in time, the claw or leg grows back. That’s ‘handy’!

8) A crab’s shell does not grow or stretch. So when it gets bigger, a crack forms along the shell and then the crab backs out of it. The crab then has to wait for its new, exposed outer surface to harden.

9) Bromeliad crab mothers are so caring, they place old snail shells in the water around their babies to boost their calcium uptake so that they develop super strong shells!

10) If a male Australian fiddler crab’s burrow is being invaded by an intruder, his neighbour will leave his own burrow to help fight off the intruder. Everybody needs good neighbours!

 

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) Outside of its natural range, the lionfish is a very invasive species with none or very few natural predators.

2) The lionfish has an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins filled with venom, used to ward off would-be predators.

3) It is an ambush hunter and relies on camouflage and lightning-fast reflexes to capture its prey, which are mainly fish and shrimp.

4) Lionfish will occasionally spread out their fins and herd small prey fish into confined spaces, almost like a sheepdog herding sheep, which makes it much easier to catch them.

5) As they are so invasive in non-native areas and a plague coral reefs, SCUBA divers and chefs are introducing lionfish to restaurant menus across the Americas, in the hope we can eat our way to conservation! Apparently they’re delicious, but mind the spines!

6) A single female can release 30,000 eggs every 4 days in the right conditions -that’s 2 million eggs per year!

7) On heavily invaded sites, lionfish have reduced native fish populations by up to 90%.

8) A lionfish’s stomach can expand up to 30 times its normal volume. An expensive dinner guest!

9) The largest recorded lionfish to date measured nearly 50cm in length.

10) Lionfish have been visually confirmed at a depth of 305m (1000ft), showing that they’re not too fussy where they live so long as there’s a meal to be had!

Sep 22

It’s World Rhino Day today. To celebrate and discuss, Dr Emma-Louise Nicholls (Deputy Keeper of Natural History of the Horniman Museum and Gardens) shares her insider knowledge and experience in rhinoceros conservation, after her recent return from the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.

The Sumatran rhino’s problems began the moment someone, a name now lost to history, first decided rhino horn should be used as a medicinal ingredient. This idea was passed down from generation to generation until, over 2,000 years later, the use of rhino horn is deeply ingrained in people’s minds and cultures. These ancient remedies, now commonly referred as ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’, are still used today, primarily in China and Vietnam. Contrary to popular western belief, rhino horn is not (ironically- until very recently) used as an aphrodisiac, but rather to treat a large number of ailments including fever, hallucinations, and headaches.

Rhino horn is largely made of keratin, however; and you’d feel just as better if you ground up and swallowed your own fingernails. Nevertheless, hunting these animals for their horns decimated Sumatran rhino populations throughout Southeast Asia and, as the issue of habitat loss also began to raise its ugly head, the combined impact of these two sustained pressures led to the collapse of wild populations. As a benchmark; in the 1980s it was estimated there were around 1,000 Sumatran rhinos in the wild. In 2017, that number is estimated to be around 100.

Sumatran rhinoceros © Gareth Goldthorpe

Until recently, these remaining wild populations were split between Indonesia and Malaysia. Unfortunately, there are now only two known individuals of the Bornean rhino left (a different subspecies), which live in a private research facility in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia. On a positive note, these two remaining individuals are a male and female; generally accepted as the two primary requirements of a breeding programme. However, even if intensive breeding of their would-be sibling-offspring wasn’t an evolutionary no-no, in a cruel twist of fate Sumatran rhinos that haven’t produced offspring by a certain age often develop cysts in the uterus and can become unable to conceive anyway. As is the case for Iman, the last known remaining female Bornean rhino.

The largest known wild Sumatran rhino populations, holding on with all 12 toes in Indonesia, are now restricted to three national parks, all on the island of Sumatra. Having separate populations is good for genetic diversity, and if a natural disaster or disease should wipe out one population then the species will still persist due to those that were isolated from it. If, for example, a large tsunami hit the northern edge of Java (heaven forbid) where Ujung Kulon National Park is located, it could well wipe out the entire Javan rhino species, as there are no other populations anywhere in the world. On the other hand, if numbers of Sumatran rhino are so thin in each of the three parks that male and female rhinos won’t find each other, then short of joining Sudan on Tinder, making babies in the wild becomes exceptionally difficult, meaning perhaps bringing them together is the better option. Faced with this unenviable quandary, a lot of conservationists feel the answer is in a captive breeding programme with the aim of repopulating the wild habitat with captive-born rhinos.

The dense habitat preferred by the Sumatran rhinoceros is difficult for conservationists to penetrate in search of the elusive species. © E-L Nicholls by permission of International Rhino Foundation/Yayasan Badak Indonesia Foundation

Scientists find the key

The first known record of a Sumatran rhino to be born in captivity was in Calcutta, India in 1889. Although the specific details are irritatingly lost to history, rhino experts seem to feel there is enough evidence to substantiate the story. Nearly 100 years after India perhaps unintentionally made rhino history, the need for a captive breeding programme became urgent and so between 1984 and 1996, 40 of the approximately 1,000 Sumatran rhinos persisting in the wild at the time were captured (from both Indonesia and Malaysia) to form a worldwide collaborative captive breeding programme. The wild-caught rhinos were split up between Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States, and the UK who all tried their hand at breeding these enigmatic animals.

Thirteen years later, the pitter patter of tiny rhino feet was still absent from zookeepers’ ears and so in 1997 scientists at Cincinnati Zoo led by Dr Terri Roth (Vice President of Conservation and Science, and Director of the Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife; CREW) turned to endocrinology and ultrasonography. A long and complicated story of science, frustration, grumpy rhinos, and no mating unravelled until Dr Roth and her team finally discovered that Sumatran rhinos are in fact induced ovulators. This means that a female won’t come into oestrus until she has had ‘special time’ with a male, after which, she obviously needs to gain in order to conceive. This was an exceptional breakthrough, and one that resulted in the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity in 112 years when Ipuh, one of the last three rhinos surviving from the original project initiated in 1984, successfully mated with a female called Emi, and with that a heavy hairy miracle was born. With all of their new found expertise in rhino romance, the CREW team managed to help Ipuh and Emi produce two more babies- a female called Suci in 2004, and a male called Harapan in 2007.

Born in 2001 at Cincinnati Zoo, Andalas was the first Sumatran rhinoceros born in captivity in 112 years and as such, represented a huge breakthrough for his species. © E-L Nicholls by permission of International Rhino Foundation/Yayasan Badak Indonesia Foundation

Meanwhile in Indonesia

As scientists in Cincinnati were working on unravelling the mysteries of the Sumatran rhino’s reproductive requirements, on the other side of the world the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary was completed in Sumatra, Indonesia, and in 1998 opened its doors to its first residents; two females, Dusun and Bina, and one male, Torgamba. Two more females, Ratu and Rosa, arrived in 2005. Yet despite being spoilt for choice on the dating scene, Torgamba sadly wasn’t up to the task and the breeding programme appeared to be failing.

Fortunately for Sumatran rhinos, in 2007 Dr Roth and her rhino specialist team gave the programme’s first born male, Emi and Ipuh’s first calf Andalas – now six years old, to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in a bid to save the day. It turned out to be worth their heartache as in 2012 Andalas became a first-time father and the number of Sumatran rhinos in the world went up by another one. One is a significant number when there are so few remaining, and Andatu, Andalas’s son, made history when he became the first baby rhino born at the SRS.

Andalas is obviously enjoying his new life as chief baby-maker as he and his ‘partner’, Ratu, successfully bred again and in 2016 had a girl called Delilah. By 2014, Harapan (Andalas’s younger brother, born at Cincinnati Zoo) became the only Sumatran remaining outside of Indonesia and Malaysia and so the Cincinnati team decided to let him follow in his brother’s footsteps and sent him too, to the SRS in Indonesia.

Now five years old, Andatu was the first rhinoceros born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. His parents are Cincinnati Zoo-born male Andalas, and wild-caught female Ratu. © E-L Nicholls by permission of International Rhino Foundation/Yayasan Badak Indonesia Foundation

The future

Hunting and habitat loss have decimated wild numbers of rhinos to a point where physiology is now their main problem (although the aforementioned issues also persist). The need for induced ovulation, as well as the fact that cysts can develop in the uterus if females remain unmated, both mean that with so few rhinos in the wild, many females are likely to become unable to conceive. The stability of wild Sumatran rhino populations remains in question and captive breeding programmes used to boost numbers in the wild seem to be the most viable way of increasing their numbers to a level where they’ll regularly be able to breed naturally in the wild again.

In 2017, now armed with an entire crash (the official, not to mention delightful, collective noun for rhinos) including both males and females, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary is on a path paved with hope and optimism. Andalas and his rhino team are undoubtedly working hard to produce more bundles of joy, and with the high levels of expertise and dedication witnessed first-hand at the SRS, there is definitely hope for the Sumatran rhino yet.

Although each animal lives semi-wild in its own 10-20km2 enclosure of primary forest habitat, their health is monitored daily by their keepers. Here Harapan is having his temperature taken as he nonchalantly hoovers up some carrots. © E-L Nicholls by permission of International Rhino Foundation/Yayasan Badak Indonesia Foundation

Find out more about the Sumatran rhinoceros on Arkive

Visit the International Rhino Foundation website

Follow Dr Nicholls on Twitter

 

Jun 5

Here at Wildscreen we’re Crowdfunding to bring the ocean to our hometown (Bristol, UK) to raise awareness about our ocean and the amazing creatures that call it home. We need your help!

Help us!

We need our supporters to help us submerge Bristol into a wild and watery wonderland this October. From sculptures to street art, photography exhibitions to pedal-powered cinemas, Wildscreen’s Witness the Wild (WTW) festival will see Bristol submerged in nature in unexpected places across the city, no flippers required. The programme of events will be completely free-to-attend and will be distributed across the city with the aim of reaching as many communities as possible – absolutely anyone can attend!

We’ll bring together local community groups, artists, scientists, wildlife filmmakers and photographers to transform two concrete roundabouts into oceanic sanctuaries, giving thousands of people the opportunity to dive beneath the waves and explore the ocean depths for themselves and discover how we can all do little things to help protect it.

WTW will engage local communities and businesses with our throwaway culture and its impacts on our ocean, bringing them together with amazing artists to create beautiful instruments and sculptures from single-use plastics and fly-tipped rubbish sourced from within the communities themselves.

Why are we doing this?

Half of every breath we take comes from the ocean. And yet that big blue watery thing out there that covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and the things that call it home are often invisible to those of us living in our concrete jungles. Even though half of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the sea, it’s suffering from a bad case of out of sight, out of mind.

Our ocean is full of life, but its inhabitants are in trouble

Though vast, our ocean is not limitless and it needs our help. 275 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated every year around the world. That’s the equivalent weight of over 2.3 million blue whales – the largest animal to have ever lived. That’s a lot of rubbish. Only 5 percent of all plastic waste is recycled, and the rest of it has to go somewhere –usually in our ocean or landfill. We can all really easily help by being better at recycling and using less single-use plastic, especially things like straws, which get used once and then thrown away.

Please help us by donating to our Crowdfunder campaign (there are lots of amazing rewards up for grabs) or by sharing our campaign video.

Thank you,

Team Wildscreen

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