Mar 12
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Subir Chowfin with the forests he has helped to protect in the background

Ever wonder what  a person who dedicated ten years of his life to preserving 450 vital hectares of forest in India looks like? Meet Subir Chowfin, wildlife researcher and the next inspirational person in Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series!

If you find Subir’s story inspires you, click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Subir’s “Wish List” of conservation actions that would make a world of difference for his work.  As a team, we can each take action today to support conservation!

Subir's wish list button

A Stunning Ecosystem with a Tumultuous History

This Arkive Conservation Hero’s story Pauri Garhwal's Uttarakhand Districtbegins in the Garhwal Himalaya in the Pauri Garhwal district of the state of Uttarakhand in India where, thanks to the efforts of a local wildife researcher and his mother,  450+ hectares of forested land in The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are forever protected.

A walk through the estates reveals a bounty of  predominantly oak and pine forests interspersed with grassy hill banks and rocky crags. The forests also house an incredible abundance of wildlife such as leopards, barking deer, rhesus macaque and feature endemic species such as the cheer pheasant.

The forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are prime habitat for leopards

Interestingly, the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates initially belonged to the British East India Company and were managed as Tea Estates. From the late 1800s to the 1900s the estates changed ownership several times with a substantial 1,100+ acres landing with Rev. David Albert Chowfin.  It soon became clear though that the forests were suffering from illegal development activities in certain areas in violation of the forest and environmental laws of the country.  Some of these activities include unsanctioned road construction, illegal dumping of garbage, and land encroachment meaning humans are building houses and tending agricultural lands further and further within the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates forest. With the expansion of unchecked human activities in the forest, it became clear that something would need to happen to protect and conserve the wildlife.

A Conservation Hero Emerges

To put a halt to this activities, local citizen and wildlife researcher Subir Chowfin filed a complaint in 2006 to the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) in Pauri. Unfortunately, neither the Land Revenue Department nor the local forest department chose to take any action. In response, Subir took even greater action and filed a public interest litigation before the National Green Tribunal in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.

Subir and his mother Christine worked for ten years to save the forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates from illegal human activities, home to rhesus monkeys among other wildlife

After nearly a decade long battle with different agencies, Subir along with his mother Christine Chowfin finally achieved results. The National Green Tribunal ordered that all non-forest activities be stopped on 450 hectares of the Estates. The Tribunal also ordered the state government of  Uttarakhand to declare the 450 hectares as either reserve forest/protected forest or private forest.

Landscape of Gadoli Fee Simple Estate

From Protecting Forests to Building Conservation Programs

Through the Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust set up to support the forest, Subir works to preserve and protect the wildlife in the Estates by pursuing a long list of fascinating activities such as supporting field wildlife research projects and developing educational programs for the local community and school children. The Trust also established a sustainable agricultural program that helps promote the environmental and ecological benefits of organic farming. Furthermore, as part of their agriculture program, the Trust employs women from the hill regions of  Uttarakhand providing them with regular, stable salaries. Subir believes programs like these help to involve the community as a whole within the process of conservation and gives them a reason to preserve these forests.

Stunning landscape of The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estate

 From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Subir’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Subir’s story socially to help spread the word further to donating to his nonprofit organization that protects these forests! Or maybe you are a recent graduate or scientists that sees the Estates as an incredible opportunity to dig into Indian wildlife research and conservation work. No matter your interest, every action matters.  Please make a pledge today! 

Take Action

Subir's wish list button

Mar 5

We continue Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series with the amazing Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi, an amphibian researcher and Arkive media contributor who recently discovered  a new species of water frog with his team in central Peru. Dr. Catenazzi shares how we can halt the spread of chytrid, the role of climate change in its spread, and how he and  his team discovered the new frog species.

Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi

 

And did you know that you, yes you, can take an action right now to support Dr. Catenazzi’s work and the future of amphibians in South America? Dr. Catenazzi  has offered several conservation actions on his “Arkive’s Conservation Heroes Wish List” that support the conservation of  amphibians. If you find his story truly inspiring (or you simply love amphibians), please click on the wish list button below, or at the end of the interview and pledge to take one action to support amphibian conservation. United as one, we can help promote conservation!

 

Congratulations on discovering a new frog species in Peru; how exciting! Inquiring minds want to know the story behind the discovery; can you share?

Often times several years can pass between the discovery of a species and the publication of the study based upon the new species. Sometimes as much as 20 years. I discovered this new species, Telmatobius ventriflavum along with coauthor Victor Vargas in October 2012. We were monitoring frog populations in central Peru as part of a monitoring project of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and Peru LNG.  We had just finished for the day, and on our way back to the hotel, we stopped along the road at a creek under a bridge. It was an unplanned stop and it was there that we saw T. ventriflavum. It had a striking coloration for a water frog. I was relatively confident that it was a new species. My other hypothesis was that it was the species Telmatobius intermedius that had not been seen for a long time. I went to a museum to view the specimen they had of T. intermedius. The significant differences between T. intermedius and T. ventriflavum were the bigger size, the smooth skin, and the bright orange coloration of the new species’ ventral side.  Based on this I had a sensible reason to believe that it was a new species.

Photo of the new water frog species discovered by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Although the small water frog is only just discovered, chytrid is already present within its habitat. What is the current status of this new species?

As of this time its status is uncertain, since we know T. ventriflavum only from this location. Chytrid was found in the area, but not at high concentrations that could be considered deadly. Concentrations of 10000-100000 zoospores on frog’s skin signify dangerous concentrations, but we did not find that here. There were a couple of zoospores present. Warm temperatures are not good for chytrid and this species was found in an area where daily temperatures can be high. We found a total of 7 adults, one male and six females. We kept one male and two females for further assessment, the rest were released. There were also about 43 tadpoles present, of which we kept a few.

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Need a refresher on chytrid? Check out Dr. Catenazzi’s first Arkive spotlight in 2010 where he shared more in-depth information on the devastating effects of the chytrid fungus on amphibian populations.

Do you think the spread of chytrid is related to climate change?

Well, it depends on how you define climate change. Some define it purely based on changes in the average temperature and others include the occurrence of extreme weather events. At this time, chytrid is an emergent pathogen. The chytrid strain that affects frogs was only formally described in 1999. We still don’t know much about how it spreads. It could be through a variety of vectors like water, clouds, wind or even getting transported by vehicles. What can be said definitively is that the zoospores require water. To look at how climate change affects chytrid you must look at the local level. There is no doubt that temperature variation will affect the dynamics of disease to some extent. I cannot however, specifically say the degree to which climate change is a factor. Furthermore, chytrid  encompasses multiple strains that potentially get spread through the pet trade and the transfer of goods that occurs in the world.

Many of Arkive’s followers are big fans of amphibians. Can you suggest ways that people reading this can support your research, the survival of the small water frog, or help halt the spread of chytrid?

Well, especially if you travel a lot; it is better to have different sets of clothing for each place at which you reside. If you have boots in your home, do not take those boots with you to a different country. Since boots can carry liquid they might help carry the water from different environments.  If this is not possible then bleach your boots and clothing to prevent the spread of foreign organisms.  Secondly, do not release pets into the wild. Introducing a non-native species to a different environment can cause serious issues. Moreover, in 2013, a chytrid strain that affects only salamanders was formally described. If you have a salamander as a pet get it tested to make sure that it is not infected with or is a carrier of chytrid.

Harlequin frog being swabbed by scientist for chytrid fungus

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired to take action to support Dr. Catenazzi and the amphibians of the world? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Dr. Catenazzi’s story socially to help spread the word further, to donating to nonprofit organizations that support Dr. Catenazzi’s amphibian conservation work such as the Amazon Conservation AssociationEvery action matters, please consider making a pledge today! 

Take Action

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Feb 23

What makes for successful conservation? Sometimes, it takes a Hero.

For the past 11 years, Arkive has strived to build an unparalleled collection of the world’s best images and films of wildlife and habitats around the globe. Currently, Arkive shares the story of over 16,000 species with over 100,000 stunning photographs and film clips from our generous media contributors such as the BBC, Disney, Smithsonian Institute and over 6,000 enormously talented independent filmmakers and photographers. But there is another side of conservation that has yet to have its story told on Arkive. Our team is privileged to work with inspiring scientists, researchers, educators, and conservationists around the globe who have dedicated their lives to the conservation of nature both on a local and global scale. From creative and powerful cheetah conservation practices to independent filmmakers who trudge the Everglades on the weekends to capture rare and powerful footage, there are hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of conservation stories to share from the Heroes at the frontlines who are accomplishing measurable advances for conservation.

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself

Arkive is proud to present the official launch of the Arkive Conservation Heroes series. Over the next four weeks, we will feature four Heroes making incredible strides for species and habitats in their part of the world. Even more, each story in the Arkive Conservation Heroes series ends with a “wish list” of actual actions you, yes you, can take or pledge to take to support each Hero. We are asking each reader to pledge to at least one wish list action which range from sharing a Heroes story socially to help spread the word further to donating or even planning to volunteer time with the hero him or herself! The first Arkive Conservation Heroes series will launch this week with the following incredible line-up:

Dr. Laurie Marker

Dr. Laurie Marker and CCF Resident Cheetahs Resize

 (Photo courtesy of CCF)

Dr. Laurie Marker is the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild. Dr. Marker helped to develop the US and international captive cheetah breeding program. Her past work includes collaborating with the National Zoo and National Cancer Institute, to help identify the cheetah’s lack of genetic variation : Published February 26, 2015

Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi

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Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi is an assistant professor at the University of Southern Illinois-Carbondale in the zoology department who, along with his team, recently discovered a new species of water frog, Telmatobius ventriflavum, in central Peru! His current research focuses on the systematics and conservation of Neotropical amphibians and reptiles, and the ecological dimensions of biodiversity: Published March 5, 2015

Subir Chowfin

subir chowfin (1) Subir Chowfin , is a wildlife researcher and a local hero for the region of Uttarakhand. He and his mother Christine Margaret Chowfin worked to forever protect 450 hectares of local forest land on the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates in India that is home to as many as 78 species of flowering plants, birds, and mammals including leopards. The next step for Subir and his mother is to set up a Field Centre for Ecology and Habitat Restoration on these estates: Published March 12, 2015

Rich & Richard Kern

Kerns promo portrait Resize

Dynamic father/son duo, Rich & Richard Kern, are co-founders of Odyssey Earth producing stunning films of Florida wildlife and ecosystems. Their goal? To bring the wild of the Florida wilderness to school children to hopefully inspire the next generation of conservationists in the sunshine state: Published March 19, 2015

The Arkive Team is incredibly excited to bring these stories to you and even more excited to see how our incredible community of over 1 million monthly Arkive visitors can come together to take real action in support of these Heroes. To start, help  support these amazing individuals by sharing this blog via Facebook or Twitter and follow #ArkConservationHeroes to stay up-to-date!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA  

Sep 3

This October, Bristol will be hosting a comedy night with a difference! If you’re in the UK, join us for a night of laughter and hilarity at Colston Hall, hosted by Simon Watt (Inside Nature’s Giants, the Infinite Monkey Cage) as we seek to delve deep into some of the weirdest creatures on this earth. Move away from the Panda, Tiger and Penguin and think ugly. No animal is too ugly to enter these doors – the floodgates have opened to a new era where ugliness rules! Tickets on sale now at the bargain price of £10.75 – don’t miss out!

Stand Up for Ugly Animals Banner

Featuring:

Simon Watt
Simon Watt is a biologist, writer, science communicator, comedian and TV presenter. He runs Ready Steady Science, a science communication company committed to making information interesting and takes science based performances into schools, museums, theatres and festivals.  Simon also runs the Ugly Animal Preservation Society which is a comedy night with a conservation twist.

Sara Pascoe
English writer, comedienne and actress Sara Pascoe has appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Stand Up for the Week and QI. Sara started stand-up in late 2007 and the following year was a runner-up in the Funny Women competition and placed third in the So You Think You’re Funny? new act competition.

Bec Hill
Aussie comic Bec Hill hails from Adelaide and started comedy in 2006 at the tender age of 19, when she made the national finals of the Raw new act competition. Two years later made her solo debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with her show If You Can Read This My Cape Fell Off. The show won her a Critic’s Choice Award and a plethora of positive reviews, and, buoyed by success, she voyaged to the UK to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe.
Having received glorious reviews for her Edinburgh shows from the likes of Chortle and The Scotsman, Hill is now firmly based in the UK. She continues to impress on the live circuit and has set up a bi-monthly pun-based comedy night called Pun-Run, which has become a hit with seasoned comics and punters alike.

Helen Arney
Thinking that she’d left her geek past behind after graduating in Physics from Imperial College, Helen Arney proved herself wrong when she turned to writing original and funny songs inspired by science. Since touring the UK in Uncaged Monkeys with Robin Ince and Brian Cox, she’s popped up on Channel 4, BBC 2, BBC Radio 3, Radio 4, 5 Live and 6 Music, and at the Edinburgh Fringe with her award-winning solo show ‘Voice of an Angle’.
Helen also presents science on Discovery Channel in ‘You Have Been Warned’ and has filled several notebooks with rhymes for Uranus.

Dan Schreiber
Dan Schreiber is co-producer/ creator of BBC’s The Museum of Curiosity and a stand-up comedian. He also co-hosts the podcast ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’ and is one of the notorious ‘Elves’ – more commonly known as researchers – on BBC 2′s QI.

Sarah Bennetto
Sarah Bennetto is a stand-up comic from Melbourne, Australia, now living and performing in the UK. She has appeared on stage, radio and television as a stand-up comic and presenter, and is responsible for experimental comedy collective Storytellers’ Club.
Since living in London, Sarah regularly pops up on the radio, and hosts a radio show for WorthyFM, live from the Glastonbury Music Festival. Sarah has hosted Storytellers’ Club and performed stand-up comedy at festivals around the country. On television, she has appeared on ITV’s Take The Mic and Dara O’Briain’s School of Hard Sums.

Elf Lyons
Elf Lyons is a stand-up comedian, writer, director and actress. She is a founder member and compere of “The Secret Comedians”, a small comedy collective which she started when studying at Bristol University, and has since transferred to East London. She is also a co-director of OddFlock, a London based theatre company made up of a group of Drama graduates from the University of Bristol. She was Funny Women Finalist & Runner Up in 2013.

Stand up for Ugly Animals is in association with ‘The Ugly Animal Preservation Society’, Wildscreen Festivals & the global conservation organisation WWF.

Jul 30

Denise Spaan is the Field Station Coordinator and Conservation Education Manager for The Little Fireface Project which was set up to help protect the slow loris in Indonesia. We caught up with Denise to ask her more about this fascinating species and the important work being done to conserve it.

How did you get into science / conservation and what do you love most about the work you do? What are the challenges you face?

From a young age I have lived in many countries, including primate range countries such as Ivory Coast and Rwanda. It is there that I developed an interest in animals but was also faced with the reality of poverty. I saw conservation issues up close. At school I was very interested in biology and went on to study zoology as my undergraduate degree. When presented with the option of doing a placement year I jumped at the opportunity to study chimpanzees at a rescue centre in the Netherlands. Whilst there, I was introduced to the welfare issues associated with primate pets and gained an interest in wildlife trade. My final year module of Conservation Biology affirmed what I had seen when I was younger and made me want to become a conservationist. I went on to do a Masters degree at Oxford Brookes University in Primate Conservation. It is there that I developed the skills needed to become a conservationist and primate researcher. It was also there that I was introduced to the plight of the slow loris.

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Javan slow loris awareness © Wawan Tarniwan

What I love about the work I do is the versatility that it offers. I am involved in all aspects of the work that the Little Fireface Project does in Java. Seeing the children’s faces light up when we tell them what we have planned for them that day is extremely rewarding. What I love most is seeing them learn and seeing how, every week, they remember more about the slow loris. My nights in the forest with the lorises fill me with admiration and wonder. Learning about a species is one thing, but then seeing them in the wild is very special.

Challenges come in many forms. Some are small, such as the drinking water tank needing to be refilled (we manage to spill water every time), and others are larger challenges. Recently we found a civet trap on one of the paths used by the lorises. Lorises are very vulnerable to such traps and will get caught in them, and of course we are here to instil love for all the wild animals, meaning the civets too. At moments like that it is important to act fast, deactivate the trap, and think up an appropriate education programme. Within one week we had a volunteer draw some civet colouring pages and we went to talk to the farmers.

Why do you think Arkive is important?

Arkive is a wonderful reference tool for professionals, students, and everyday people with an interest in the world.  The information is presented in such a way that is more accessible to a broader audience. Scientists often struggle to present their data to the public so that it can be easily understood.  Arkive is a wonderful reference that presents solid scientific facts, beautiful photos, videos, and references.  This is a wonderful way to unite scientists and animal-lovers across the globe.

Javan slow loris

What can people do to help slow lorises?

Slow lorises are often made victims of their own cuteness. Because of their big eyes and soft fur, many people think that they would make a good pet. Many tourists are not aware of the critical state in which lorises exist. Therefore, one of the most important things anyone can do is not to buy a loris in an animal market. By buying a loris you endorse the trade and as most are wild-caught, you thereby endorse taking animals from the wild. Additionally, many lorises are used in the photo prop trade. Please don’t have your photo taken with a loris when on holiday in places like Thailand, or buy it thinking you can simply hand it over to a rescue centre – there is always a new one ready to take its place on the streets.

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Two bleached long tailed macaques in Jatinegara market in Jakarta. We perform regular market surveys of some of Java’s biggest wildlife markets.

Be a responsible consumer. Products that contain palm oil are some of the biggest contributors to loss of habitat, and therefore loss of species in Southeast Asia.  Many people know that this industry has a negative effect on orangutans, but numerous other species, including slow lorises, macaques, langurs, civets and leopards, suffer from this loss of habitat as well. Try and buy products with sustainable palm oil or without palm oil.

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Dendi Rustandi hanging up the first slow loris bridge in West Java to help young animals disperse safely © It’s A Wildlife

People can also support organisations like the Little Fireface Project that work to save lorises.  By visiting www.nocturama.org you can see exactly what our project is doing to protect these species.  We have an adoption programme for some of our study animals as well as a shop with project t-shirts and other items. Of course, donations are always appreciated.  These contributions make a vital difference to what we are able to do in the field to protect these species.

Denise Spaan in West Java, Indonesia

 

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