Feb 15
Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini)

Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini)

Species: Collared laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The collared laughingthrush spends much of its time skulking among dense vegetation, only betraying its presence with its loud song.

More information:

Found only in the Da Lat plateau in Vietnam, the collared laughingthrush is a colourful, ground-dwelling bird. A striking species with soft, fluffy plumage, the collared laughingthrush has a black hood that contrasts sharply with silver ear patches and a predominantly orange-brown body. Like other laughingthrushes, it is a robust, thrush-like bird of the forest floor and understory, with very strong legs and short, rounded wings.

Very little is known about the specific biology and behaviour of the rare and secretive collared laughingthrush. However, it is a social species, occurring in flocks of four to eight individuals. The collared laughingthrush is generally found in the forest understory where it occupies the dense vegetation of the undergrowth.

The collared laughingthrush has a very small and highly fragmented range, meaning it is extremely vulnerable to further habitat loss. Logging, agriculture, fuel-wood collection and charcoal production are all putting pressure on the collared laughingthrush’s habitat, while a government resettlement programme has greatly increased the number of people on the Da Lat plateau exploiting forest resources. On Mount Lang Bian, all land below 1,500 metres is now logged or under cultivation.

This species is afforded some protection as a result of its presence in the Chu Yang Sin Nature Reserve, although presently few protection measures exist for the reserve. There is the potential for eco-tourism to be developed at various sites, as well as the sustainable production of charcoal, which would lessen the impacts of this manufacturing process on natural habitats.

 

Find out more about the collared laughingthrush at BirdLife International.

See images of the collared laughingthrush on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Feb 8
Café marron flowers and leaves

Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii)

Species: Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact:

On sending his pupils out to explore for rare and interesting plants, a school teacher on the island of Rodrigues in 1980 was astounded when one of his students returned with a fresh cutting of a plant believed to be extinct.

More information:

The café marron had last been seen in the 1940s, and is now known from just a single wild individual on the island of Rodrigues. The café marron grows as a shrub or small tree, with oppositely arranged leaves. The sweetly scented, hermaphroditic flowers are greenish-yellow at first, but become pure white at maturity.

The café marron cannot self-fertilise. This prevents plants from inbreeding, while promoting out-crossing, which increases the genetic vigour of offspring. However, the inability to self-fertilise becomes somewhat less advantageous when a plant’s global population is reduced to a single individual.

It was probably a combination of introduced herbivores, invasive alien plants, and habitat loss that decimated the café marron population. Owing to the unprecedented level of scientific interest that surrounded the little plant in the aftermath of its rediscovery, local people became convinced of the plant’s medicinal properties. Consequently, there was a period before the erection of multiple fences, and even the installation of a guard, when people were intent on removing branches, twigs and leaves from the hapless plant.

Relatively soon after the rediscovery of the café marron, cuttings from the surviving plant were sent to Kew Gardens in England. In 2003, a major breakthrough was made, resulting in the production of a small number of viable seeds. Since then, several seeds have been successfully germinated at a nursery on Rodrigues, with the aim of eventually re-establishing a wild population on the island.

 

Find out more about the café marron at Kew Gardens and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

See images of the café marron on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Feb 1
Semirechensk salamander (<em>Ranodon sibiricus</em>)

Semirechensk salamander (Ranodon sibiricus)

Species: Semirechensk salamander (Ranodon sibiricus)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Semirechensk salamander is aquatic during the breeding season but terrestrial for the remainder of the year.

More information:

The Semirechensk salamander is greenish-orange on its upperparts, sometimes with a pattern of dark spots, and pale pink on its underside. The colour of this species changes depending on its environment, appearing darker when underwater and lighter on land in higher temperatures. The tail of the male Semirechensk salamander is generally longer than that of the female, and during the breeding season the male also has a much more prominent crest. The breeding season starts in April, following the snow melt, and continues until August. Throughout the breeding season, this species is aquatic, but it is terrestrial for the remainder of the year. Hibernation begins soon after the end of the breeding season.

The Semirechensk salamander has an extremely restricted range, being found only in the Dzungarian Alatau Mountain range in southern Kazakhstan and the Tianshan Mountains in northwest China. It occurs in small, cold, clear streams and brooks in mountainous areas, surrounded by coniferous forests and meadows.

This species is vulnerable to habitat changes including deforestation, over-grazing and soil erosion. Current populations are severely fragmented as a result of the scarcity of suitable habitats. The Semirechensk salamander is used locally as a basis for the treatment of malaria and broken bones, and collection for scientific, medical and commercial use has greatly reduced populations of this species in some areas.

Only one part of the Semirechensk salamander’s range is thought to fall within a protected area, although its presence there is unconfirmed. Current conservation efforts are thought to be insufficient to protect this endangered amphibian, but the creation of strictly protected areas could be an effective conservation measure to ensure its future survival.

Find out more about the Semirechensk salamander at the IUCN Red List and AmphibiaWeb.

See images of the Semirechensk salamander on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Jan 25
European mink (Mustela lutreola)

European mink (Mustela lutreola)

Species: European mink (Mustela lutreola)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The European mink is one of Europe’s most endangered mammals.

More information:

Weighing up to a maximum of 1kg, the European mink is the smaller relative of the American mink (Neovison vison). A distinctive mark of white around the upper and lower lips of the European mink can help to distinguish between the two species.

This species is mainly nocturnal, hunting and feeding at night on a variety of prey including water voles, birds, frogs, molluscs, crabs, fish and insects. It is able to hunt both on land and in water across large home ranges of up to 15km of river. Partly webbed feet and a thick, water-repellent undercoat mean that the European mink is well suited to its semi-aquatic lifestyle.

A century ago the European mink could be found throughout the European continent, but its population is thought to have since declined by over 90%.  In 2011, the IUCN upgraded the status of the European mink from Endangered (EN) to Critically Endangered (CR) due to ongoing population decline.

This severe decline is a result of various threats, including habitat loss, commercial trapping for fur, competition from the introduced American mink and accidental mortality through pest control, poisoning and vehicle collisions. The European mink is also susceptible to Aleutian disease, a highly contagious virus that causes an often lethal infection.

Captive breeding programmes are underway for this species in an attempt to successfully establish new European mink populations. Further research is being undertaken to assess the viability of captive breeding as a technique for the conservation of this species. In Spain and France, the populations of European mink seem to be suffering from inbreeding, a problem which could be addressed by the introduction of new, captive-bred individuals.

The European mink is legally protected in all the countries in which it occurs.

 

Find out more about the European mink at the IUCN Red List and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

See images of the European mink on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Jan 18
Close up of the Annam leaf turtle

Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis)

Species: Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Until recently, the Annam leaf turtle had not been documented in the wild for 65 years.

More information:

The Annam leaf turtle has a dark brown head with striking yellow stripes that extend from its snout to the base of the neck. Three ridges, known as keels, run along the back of its dark brown upper shell. The underside of the shell, known as the ‘plastron’, is yellow-orange with black blotches on each bony plate. The Annam leaf turtle’s feet are fully webbed, which make it well adapted to its semi-aquatic lifestyle.

This species is omnivorous and will readily eat fruit, fish and invertebrates. A semi-aquatic creature, the Annam leaf turtle feeds both on land and in water, and lays its eggs in a hole dug into the soil. The young turtles emerge after around 80 to 90 days, and resemble miniature adults in appearance.

The Annam leaf turtle is found in a small area of central Vietnam. It inhabits lowland marshes and slow-moving or still bodies of freshwater. The small range that this species inhabits is a prime location for rice production, which puts the turtle’s habitat at risk. The Annam leaf turtle is also under constant threat from unsustainable hunting and illegal trade. In China, it can often be found for sale as meat or traditional medicine.

The Annam leaf turtle is protected under Vietnam’s wildlife protection law and is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored. Despite trade in the Annam leaf turtle being illegal, it continues to occur as the law is often poorly enforced. Various breeding programmes have recently been set up and captive populations are increasing. These programmes try to involve local school and university students to boost awareness of this Critically Endangered turtle’s perilous situation.

 

Find out more about the Annam leaf turtle at the Southeast Asia Campaign and the Turtle Survival Alliance.

See images of the Annam leaf turtle on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

 

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