Jan 23
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In the News: One quarter of sharks and rays threatened with extinction

A shocking one quarter of all shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, according to the results of a new study.

Great white shark image

The great white shark is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Threat analysis

The paper, published this week in the open-access journal eLife, analysed the threat and conservation status of an impressive 1,041 species of chondrichthyans, a fascinating group of fish species including sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras whose skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone. The results were rather alarming, revealing that this group is among the most threatened in the animal kingdom.

The paper is the result of collaboration between more than 300 experts from 64 countries, and reports that, while no species has yet been driven to global extinction, at least 28 populations of skates, sawfishes and angel sharks are now locally or regionally extinct. In addition, several shark species have not been seen for several decades.

Reef manta ray image

Reef manta ray parts are highly valued in traditional medicine, posing a threat to this majestic species

Threat hotspots

The study highlights two areas which are currently experiencing a higher than expected level of threat: the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle. The latter is considered to be among the most biologically and culturally diverse regions on the planet, yet unfortunately it is also one of the least regulated.

The authors of the paper explain that, “The Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle, particularly the Gulf of Thailand, and the islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Sulawesi, is a hotspot of greatest residual threat, especially for coastal sharks and rays with 76 threatened species.”

It is feared that, should no national or international action be taken, these species could rapidly become extinct.

Shark finning image

Finning was revealed to be a major threat to many shark species

Major threats

The results of the study revealed that the main threat to chondrichthyans is overexploitation through targeted fisheries and incidental catches. Of particular concern for the future of sharks, wedgefishes and sawfishes is the process of ‘finning’, which is driven by the huge market demand for shark fin soup, a highly sought-after delicacy in China.

The authors of the new research paper state that, “Fins, in particular, have become one of the most valuable seafood commodities. It is estimated that the fins of between 26 and 73 million individuals, worth US$400-550 million, are traded each year.”

Habitat loss is a further threat to chondrichthyans, with 22 species being threatened by the destruction of estuaries and river systems for the purposes of residential and commercial development, and 12 species being placed at risk due to the conversion of mangroves into shrimp farms. In addition, pollution and climate change have been identified as major threats to sharks, rays and their relatives.

Scalloped hammerhead shark image

The scalloped hammerhead shark is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Additional factors

As well as providing a vital insight into the type and extent of threats to chondrichthyans, the paper also revealed other interesting factors which come into play. It was found that large body size and occurrence in shallow habitat are the biggest factors determining a species’ likelihood of being threatened. The results showed that with every 10-centimetre increase in a species’ maximum body length came a 1.2-percent increase in the probability that the species would be threatened. Dwellers of deep water appear to fare better than their shallow-water relatives, with a 10.3-percent decrease in the probability of being threatened for every 50-metre increase in the minimum depth limit of the species.

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay.com – One quarter of sharks and rays threatened with extinction.

View photos and videos of chondrichthyans on ARKive.

Read more about shark conservation and conservation in the Indo-Pacific Region.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

 

Jan 17
Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on Delicious Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on Digg Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on Facebook Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on reddit Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on StumbleUpon Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on Email Share 'Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island' on Print Friendly

Guest Blog: Critically Endangered Bali starling chicks hatch on Nusa Penida Island

The fight to save one of the world’s most endangered birds, the Bali starling, got a major boost with the hatching of four tiny, healthy chicks on Bali’s Nusa Penida Island.

Bali starling image

The Bali starling is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

The captive-bred chicks hatched in early October, and are the offspring of two pairs of birds housed at Friends of the National Parks Foundation’s (FNPF) community centre in the island’s Ped village. We bought the hatchlings’ parents from West Java’s Soehana Oetodjo, one of Indonesia’s most experienced Bali starling breeders, and took them to Nusa Penida in December 2012 in the hope they would breed. They came with six other Bali starlings which were released on nearby Lembongan Island.

Wildlife welfare standards

It’s very exciting – after ten months, these are the first offspring to be produced. We would like to show people who are interested in the captive breeding of starlings for conservation purposes that you don’t necessarily need fancy cages. We used very simple, secure, inexpensive enclosures which met wildlife welfare standards – something that people on Nusa Penida can copy. In addition, we trained our local staff to breed the birds, showing you don’t need any previous specialist skill to do this – it’s very much about how much you care about the birds.

Bali starling chick image

One of the captive-bred Bali starling chicks © Friends of the National Parks Foundation/Nengah Sudipa

We are a grassroots conservation NGO, working to protect wildlife and its habitat at the same time as supporting local communities. Our projects have been recognised by global organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme and the Whitley Fund for Nature.

We have transformed Nusa Penida, 14 kilometres off the coast of Bali, into an unofficial bird sanctuary and a haven for the Bali starling. We gained the trust of the 46 villages, and persuaded each one to introduce traditional Balinese regulations to protect Bali’s emblem bird, as well as other threatened bird species, from poachers and wildlife traders.

Today, the sanctuary, which also takes in two nearby islands, is estimated to be home to more than 100 Bali starlings. When we started in 2006, there were believed to be less than ten of these birds surviving in the wild in Bali.

Bali starling on branch image

The Bali startling is Bali’s national bird

Surprise arrivals

FNPF’s Nusa Penida Bird Keeper Nengah Sudipa, himself a former wild bird poacher, is rapt with the new arrivals. He helped to select the birds that would be kept for breeding from ten Bali starlings that arrived in late 2012. But after four months, and no success, he was worried because the birds were only making nests and not laying eggs.

Then one morning while cleaning out the nest box he found two chicks inside. He says he was so happy, and kept going back and forth to the nest box all day to make sure they were healthy. Two days later, two more tiny chicks hatched from the next cage.

Later this year we will release some of the hatchlings on Nusa Penida, and loan some to local people interested in getting involved in captive breeding. Anyone who is given the opportunity of a breeding loan should return at least double the number of birds they receive, and those birds can then be released back on Penida.

Bali starling pair image

Illegal capture for the caged-bird trade is a major threat to the Bali starling

We have won the ongoing commitment and support of the Penida communities to help protect birds through our work operating a variety of community development and community education projects, all of which bring social and economic benefits to the local residents.

We rely solely on donations to fund our work saving the endemic Bali starling. Please support our project by sponsoring the rehabilitation and release of a Bali starling, or sponsor a Bali starling nestbox and we will attach a plaque in your name. For more information, visit us at www.fnpf.org or email info@fnpf.org. Thank you to Alan El Kadhi for covering the cost of purchasing these ten Bali starlings.

By Friends of the National Parks Foundation, CEO and Founder Dr Bayu Wirayudha and Communications Manager Kirana Agustina

Jan 11
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Endangered Species of the Week: Red-fronted macaw

Photo of a pair of red-fronted macaws on a branch

Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)

Species: Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The red-fronted macaw is a fairly vocal parrot, known to produce high-pitched growls and harsh squeaks.

More information:

The red-fronted macaw is bright green with an orange-red forehead and a small patch of red behind each eye. The shoulders and thighs are also orange, the primary feathers of the wings are blue and the tail is olive-green tipped with blue. Males and females are similar in appearance. The red-fronted macaw is endemic to the east Andean slope of Bolivia, South America.

The red-fronted macaw feeds on seeds and fruit, but it will also frequently feed on crops including maize and ground nuts, as natural food is often very scarce. It roosts and nests on steep riverside cliffs. Eggs are typically laid between November and April, and most breeding pairs tend to successfully rear one young each year.

The reasons for the drastic decline of the red-fronted macaw include widespread habitat loss and degradation, largely as a result of conversion to agriculture but also due to logging and collection of firewood. This species is illegally trapped for the pet trade, but the scale of this problem is unclear. Furthermore, as the natural food sources of this bird are lost, it has to rely more on crops and becomes increasingly exposed to persecution as a result.

The red-fronted macaw is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so international trade in this species is tightly controlled. Within Bolivia, the capture, transport and export of this species is illegal. This macaw occurs in only one protected area, but just eight birds are known to breed within this park. BirdLife Bolivia initiated a conservation programme for this species in 2002. A ban on trading the red-fronted macaw has been proposed, and recommendations have been made to fence off areas of suitable habitat to reduce grazing by livestock, allowing its natural food source to make a come-back.

 

Find out more about the red-fronted macaw at BirdLife International and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

See images of the red-fronted macaw on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Jan 3
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In the News: Blue-throated macaw refuge in Bolivia doubled in size

Bolivia’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve, a protected area which is home to the world’s largest population of the Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw, has been more than doubled in size thanks to conservation efforts.

Blue-throated macaw image

The blue-throated macaw is one of the rarest parrots in the world

Blue beard

‘Barba Azul’ means ‘blue beard’ in Spanish, and is the local name for the blue-throated macaw, a stunning parrot species endemic to Bolivia. Threatened by habitat loss and the pet trade, the blue-throated macaw relies heavily on its nature reserve namesake, which is the world’s only protected area for the species. The reserve houses more than half of the world’s estimated 150 wild blue-throated macaws, and the area has now more than doubled in size thanks to the efforts of several conservation groups.

Asociación Armonía, the Bolivian partner of the American Bird Conservancy, teamed up with various other groups including the International Conservation Fund of Canada, the World Land Trust and the IUCN NL’s Small grants for the Purchase of Nature programme to raise money to buy additional land for the reserve. Thanks to this partnership, 14,830 acres of land were purchased, expanding Barba Azul Nature Reserve to a total of 27,180 acres.

Massive achievement

Conservation actions of this magnitude for small organisations in poor countries are only possible with outside help,” said Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía. “Doubling the size of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve is an excellent example of conservation groups combining their effort to achieve a massive conservation product.”

Forest fragment image

Islands of tropical forest provide key foraging and nesting habitats

Key threats

Bolivia’s Beni savannah is an area twice the size of Portugal, and endures intensive flooding in the summer and vastly contrasting drought during the winter months. This land is almost entirely occupied by private cattle ranches, and has suffered the negative effects of hundreds of years of logging, hunting and livestock rearing, which have greatly altered the area’s natural ecosystem.

The blue-throated macaw population has declined due to frequent burning, overgrazing and timber harvests within forest patches, which has degraded its habitat and limited the number of suitable nesting sites. Trafficking of this beautiful species for the pet trade has also contributed to its decline.

When we originally purchased Barba Azul Nature Reserve, it was a habitat that held a high abundance of many animals. But once we removed cattle and stopped hunting, net fishing, logging, and uncontrolled grassland burning, the true destructive impact of an overgrazed, poorly controlled ranch could be seen. Everything is rebounding as if the area is recovering from a drought,” said Hennessey.

Blue-throated macaw image

The blue-throated macaw will benefit from an increase in the number and suitability of nesting sites in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve

Increased protection

The Barba Azul Nature Reserve is the only protected savannah in Bolivia’s Beni bioregion where cattle grazing and yearly burning for agricultural purposes are not permitted. The recent extension of the reserve means that areas of seasonally flooded grassy plains are also now protected, as are a small river and islands of tropical forest which serve as key foraging, roosting and nesting habitats for the blue-throated macaw.

Further conservation work

As well as habitat protection, other targeted conservation efforts have been put in place for the highly threatened blue-throated macaw, including providing nest boxes as artificial breeding sites and working with local communities to raise awareness of the species and its importance. In addition, Asociación Armonía has provided local communities with synthetic feather head-dresses, which can be used during traditional festivals in place of those made from feathers gathered from wild macaws, offering a conservation-friendly alternative.

Giant anteater image

The extension of the nature reserve will also benefit hundreds of other animals, including the giant anteater

Additional benefits

The extension of the nature reserve will not only be beneficial to the Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw, but also to many other animals with which the bird shares its habitat. Barba Azul is home to 250 other species of bird, including the cock-tailed tyrant and the black-masked finch, both classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Flocks of waterbird species are attracted to the area’s extensive wetlands, including the Orinoco goose which has been recorded making use of nest boxes on the reserve.

Barba Azul offers important protection of the Omi River, which is the only year-round source of water for many miles, and is a critical water source during the dry season for hundreds of animals. This, combined with the protection of other habitats within the boundaries of the reserve, has contributed towards the conservation of the 27 species of medium and large mammals that reside there, including the giant anteater, pampas cat and marsh deer, as well as species which need larger territories such as the jaguar and maned wolf.

 

Read more on this story at the American Bird Conservancy – Protected Habitat Doubles for Magnificent and Endangered Blue-throated Macaw and Mongabay.com – Good news: Refuge for last blue-throated macaws doubles in size in Bolivia.

View photos and videos of the blue-throated macaw on ARKive.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Dec 13
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Guest blog: Conservation Photography – Changing the world one photograph at a time

Photographs have the power to change the world by altering the perceptions and understanding of the viewer. Conservation photography can bridge language barriers, be easily understood and can create a sense of wonder and/or sadness that instills a sense of responsibility in the viewer. It can motivate a “Call to Action”. 

Sharks hauled ashore for their fins by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

Conservation photography is increasingly being used across the globe to promote and garner support for conservation and the environment.   Conservation photographers provide visual evidence that can be a powerful tool in showcasing the splendor, challenges and threats the natural world faces. A visually powerful photograph can evoke strong emotions that inspires us to action, changes our collective behaviours and in this manner reduces our negative impacts on this fragile earth.  

Lion_by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

1 of 20. At a time when lions are in the spotlight due to rapidly decreasing populations from habitat loss and hunting pressures, the battle scars on this male lion portray the challenges that the species faces. 

Tiger shark at the dubai fish market by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

2 of 20. A tiger shark lies on the chopping block with a silent scream and is waiting to have its fins sliced off to fulfill the greed of someone who wrongly sees the fins as a delicacy.

Cape mountain zebra capture by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

3 of 20. The numbers of endangered species are on the increase due to mans destructive ways and only a few are prepared to go to the lengths of trying to protect them from extinction. Here a cape mountain zebra lies anesthetized and awaiting translocation to begin a new founder population – a positive story for conservation. 

Cattle egret severly burnt during quelia control excersise by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

4 of 20. This cattle egret sits on a veterinary table after being “napalmed” and caught as “bycatch” during a quelia eradication program in a large wetland. Surprisingly this practice is legal. 

Conservation photography itself though is about so much more than just photographs showcasing the natural world. It is about pursuing a conservation issue and exposing the underlying consequences of that issue to the general public. 

Abalone poachers tatoo by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

5 of 20. Our natural resources are being plundered at unsustainable rates and where poaching may have been initially to put food on the table, it is now part of globally organised crime. Natural products are usually the “cash crop” that funds other illicit activities  yet the nature of the crimes are seen as minor and petty.

Poached abalone shells lying on the shores of robben island by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

6 of 20. While there is a huge outcry about the terrible poaching epidemic hitting Africa’s rhino and elephant populations, the world generally turns a blind eye to the large scale pillaging of our oceans. Many marine species are now at greater risk of extinction than terrestrial species.

Abalone poachers shack by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

7 of 20. This run down shack in a poverty stricken area stands in stark contrast to the luxury car and large boat used for abalone poaching that drives much of the organised crime within the Western Cape of South Africa.

Gravesite of a fisher by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

8 of 20. Small scale fishers place their lives at risk when trying to put food on the table and often go to sea in small unsafe fishing vessels that easily get destroyed in rough weather and result in the loss of the life of the fisher.

It is about showing that we as human beings are closely inter-twined with the environment and that our very own survival depends upon the health of the environment. Highlighting these issues effectively places an immense responsibility on the shoulders of the photographer and to be a conservation photographer requires dedication to telling impelling visual stories that can raise awareness and effect change! 

Walking the dwesa beach at dusk by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

9 of 20. Man is intricately linked to the environment and our future well-being is dependent on its protection

Mozambican poling his dugout canoe by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

10 of 20. In poverty stricken and rural areas, communities are far more dependent on the health of the environment than people living in urban areas. Yet, these rural communities are usually the first to bear the brunt of urban land transformation over the environment.

Herding the cattle by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

11 of 20. A young cattle herder leads his cattle to the days grazing grounds in rural Mozambique.

Conservation Photography is not just about the final image. It includes all the hours of preparation, planning, costs, time away from home, early mornings, late nights, frozen fingers, sunburnt faces, arduous hikes, tropical diseases and harsh environments that one often finds oneself having to “endure” in pursuit of a photograph.

Peter Chadwick photographing seascapes

12 of 20. Conservation photographers will often take risks in order to try and get the “perfect” shot.

Peter Chadwick photographing seascapes

13 of 20. Taking these risks does not always pay off and occasionally “mother nature” has a sense of humor!

African black oystercatchers taking off by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

14 of 20. The hours spent in trying to obtain the “telling” image for conservation photography does bring incredible rewards that makes all the effort and patience worthwhile.

For those that are willing to go the extra mile, the rewards are always worth it and their results speak louder than words.

Fish research project at De Hoop Marine Protected Area by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

15 of 20. Conservation photography must not only showcase the wonder of the environment and the negative threats, but also the science and conservation that will provide telling opportunities for the future.

Tagging a galjoen for research by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

16 of 20. It is the long-term research and science that allows us to understand our negative impacts on the environment, but also provide us with solutions for future generations.

Fisher hand reaching for fish in a trek net by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

17 of 20. Where this science is heeded, previously negative practices may be turned around and conservation efforts can result in sustainable opportunities for the future.

Carefully crafted photojournalism takes the value of conservation photographs to the next level by creating a thought-provoking story, that not only highlights the beauty but also explodes the horrors and destruction of our environment in a manner that makes us wish to protect and preserve.

Avocet hanging on farm fence by wildlife and cosnervation photographer Peter Chadwick

18 of 20. A delicate pied avocet hangs dead from a farm fence that lies between two water bodies – our biodiversity is not only facing direct threats from humans but also face many indirect threats.

Mozambican child waving by wildlife and cosnervation photographer Peter Chadwick

19 of 20. The protection of the environment is no longer just about ensuring survival of species but also about ensuring food and water security for our future.

A thought provoking image only has to change the opinion of one viewer to make a difference. That one person will tell another, who will tell another and soon a revolution of change will be ignited. This change needs to happen at both an environmental and social level, for we need to realise that if we do not change our ways, what is happening to the environment will eventually happen to us.

photographer silhoette

20 of 20. As a photographer, you have the incredible opportunity to make a difference to support the conservation of the environment – the question is, are you willing to make your photographs mean so much more than just a pretty picture?

Conservation photography therefore has the ability to inspire us to change the course of humanity and halt the destruction of this planet! Are we prepared to take up that challenge and use our photography far more effectively? African Conservation Photography aims to take up that challenge and through powerful imagery, become an agent of change.

Peter Chadwick

http://www.peterchadwick.co.za/

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