Aug 5

With the Rio 2016 Olympics in full swing, we thought we would look to the animal kingdom for its offering of world class sporting prowess.

Faster, higher, stronger is a motto engrained in the minds of Olympic athletes the world over. Yet even Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix and Michael Phelps would struggle to match the athletic abilities of some of the world’s most remarkable animals.

Here are our Top Ten Animal Athletes that would clean up on the medal podium!

1. Cheetah

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 87 kilometres per hour. Even the fastest human on Earth, Usain Bolt, only peaks at a top speed of 28 miles per hour! Blink and you’ll miss it!


 2. Froghopper

The high jump has been around since Ancient Greece. The current world record is currently 2.45 metres, set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in 1993 – the longest standing record in the history of the men’s high jump. The natural world is full of huge jumpers but the froghopper is leaps ahead. The undisputed high jump champion of the world, this 6 millimetre tall insect is able to jump an astounding 70 times its own body height!


3. Rhinoceros beetle

Move over World Deadlift Champion and world record holder Eddie Hall! The rhinoceros beetle is capable of lifting objects up to 850 times its own body weight. If Eddie had the same relative strength, he would be able to lift a 65 ton object – that’s the same as an armoured tank!

Rhinoceros beetle

4. Arctic tern

The marathon is one of the toughest endurance events in the Olympics. Dennis Kimetto of Kenya currently holds the world record of completing a course in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds. The animal kingdom is full of endurance record holders, but the artic tern leads the flock. It holds the record for the longest annual migration recorded by animal, covering 40,000 miles a year!

Arctic tern


5. Desert locust

Ancient Olympians considered the long jump as one of the most challenging events. Some spring-loaded members of the natural world make the long jump seem like a total breeze. The desert locust can leap over a metre from a standing position. It needs no run up to jump around 20 times its own body length. If this jumping ability was scaled up in proportion to body size, this would mean humans would be able to do a standing long jump of over 40 metres.

Desert locust

6. Indo-Pacific sailfish

The natural world is stream-lined with underwater speed demons. From dolphins to Dory, there are some incredible swimmers lurking beneath the surface that would leave even Michael Phelps in their wake. But the Indo-Pacific sailfish is probably the fastest – capable of tremendous bursts of speed over short-distances it can reach speeds of up to 111 kilometres per hour!

Indo Pacific sailfish

7. Namaqua chameleon

Archery made its debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics, but the natural world has had the perfect aim for over 80 million years. Chameleons don’t need a bow and arrow to hit their target, just a super long tongue! With a bulbous sticky tip, which it shoots out to capture its prey, the tongue of the Namaqua chamelton may be up to twice the length of the body. Who needs a gold medal when you get the reward of a tasty insect treat?


Namaqua chameleon

8. Klipspringer

It’s not just the froghopper that reaches dizzy heights, in terms of absolute height reached, it’s this small African antelope that is leaps and bounds ahead. With a name meaning ‘rock jumper’ in Afrikaans, the klipspringer is able to jump up to 7.68 metres! That’s over three times the world record!


9. Mountain gorilla

Wrestling with its primal hand-to-hand combat and complex tactics has featured in the Olympics since 1896 but has been around as a sport since Ancient Greece. With its characteristically heavy and robust body, broad chest and long arms, the heavyweight title surely has to go to the gorilla. The largest of the living apes, it would floor even the most fierce of Olympic opponents.

Mountain gorillas wrestling

10. Spinner dolphin

A women-only discipline, synchronised swimming is renowned for its grace and rhythm. This aquatic ballet first featured in the 1984 Olympics but like archery, the natural world has been perfecting this sport for millions of years. Like the Olympians, spinner dolphins move about the oceans in groups, ranging from just a few performers up to a thousand and as their name suggests, they love to perform at the surface. The reason behind the energetic spinning behaviour is unknown, but it is thought that it could be to help with communication, to dislodge hitch-hiking parasites or simply just part of play!

Spinner dolphin

Can you think of any animal athletes? Share them with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Jun 19

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 12, 2015

U.S. grants new protections for captive chimpanzees


Young eastern chimpanzee

On June 12th the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared that all chimpanzees both in the wild and captive are endangered. Poaching and habitat degradation are the main factors affecting wild populations.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 13, 2015

Questions about black rhino sent to Botswana


Black rhinoceros drinking

Botswana asked Zimbabwe to supply it with 10 black rhinos for its Moremi Game Reserve. Botswana received 5 black rhinos that apparently originated from South Africa not Zimbabwe. Some experts are against mixing Zimbabwean rhinos with the South African ones, since they are genetically distinct.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 14, 2015

“Critically endangered” dusky gopher frogs released into wildlife refuge in Mississippi


Dusky gopher frog metamorph

Wildlife officials have release 1,074 dusky gopher frogs since May. Every frog, which is released, has a tracking device attached to its leg so their progress can be monitored. The dusky gopher frog has been on the list of endangered species since 2001.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Jun 15, 2015

France bans the world’s leading herbicide from garden stores


Monarch butterfly resting on a flowering plant

France has banned Roundup, a herbicide since it contains glyphosate, which is potentially a carcinogen. Glyphosate has been linked to the decline in monarch butterflies. The chemical kills milkweed which is the monarch caterpillar’s only food source.

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015

Mind meld: Social wasps share brainpower


Common wasp feeding

Researchers found that as wasps become more social, the brain regions responsible for complex cognition decreases in size. Researchers hypothesize that wasps make up for this decrease by working together and “sharing brain power”.

View original article

Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2015

Finding more ammo than animals in huge African rain forest


Forest elephant bull

Scientists undertook an expedition into Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve hoping to find chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and forest elephants. Instead however, they found poaching camps and gun cartridges and few signs of animals.

View original article

Male-western-lowland-gorilla-portrait (1)

Male western lowland gorilla

Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

All kangaroos are left-handed


Red kangaroo photo

It was previously thought that “true” handedness, which is predictably using one hand over another, was unique to primates.  However,  researchers found that kangaroos show a natural preference for their left hands when performing daily tasks. This feature was especially apparent in eastern grey kangaroos and red kangaroos.

View original article


Male, female and young eastern grey kangaroo

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

May 4
Photo of female mountain gorilla

Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Species: Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The eastern gorilla is divided into two subspecies, the eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorilla, and the mountain gorilla.

Together with the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), the eastern gorilla is the largest of the living apes. Gorillas have characteristically robust, heavy bodies and dark, shaggy coats, and males are much larger than females. The eastern gorilla lives in stable family groups, led by a dominant ‘silverback’ male, and females in the group give birth around once every three to four years. The eastern lowland gorilla is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the mountain gorilla in two isolated populations in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The eastern gorilla faces a range of threats, including snares set for other wildlife, as well as deliberate poaching for bushmeat or to take infants as pets. This species is also surrounded by rapidly increasing human populations, and habitat destruction, illegal cattle grazing and timber extraction are also serious problems, as is political unrest in some areas. Fortunately, the eastern gorilla occurs largely in protected areas and a number of conservation programmes are underway to protect it. Mountain gorillas have been studied for decades, and in some places are protected by armed guards. Visits by tourists pose a risk of disease transmission to the gorillas, but these charismatic primates are recognised as an important source of tourist revenue, which may help to protect them.

Find out more about gorilla conservation at the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

See images and videos of the eastern gorilla on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Nov 14

The world population of mountain gorillas has risen significantly in recent years, according to a new census released by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Photo of mountain gorilla infant

The census, carried out in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, found over 400 gorillas living in 36 distinct social groups. This brings the total world population of mountain gorillas to 880, an increase of over 10% since 2010.

According to David Greer, WWF’s African Great Apes Programme Manager, “Mountain gorillas are the only great ape experiencing a population increase. This is largely due to intensive conservation efforts and successful community engagement.”

Photo of silverback mountain gorilla resting with group

Mountain gorilla conservation is now balanced against the needs of local people, for example by tackling illegal firewood collection in gorilla habitat by providing communities with alternative energy sources.

Mountain gorillas have only survived because of conservation. Protected areas are better managed and resourced than they have ever been, and our work is a lot more cross-cutting to address threats – we don’t just work with the animals in the national parks, but also with the people,” said Drew McVey, Species Programme Manager at WWF.

Mountain gorilla silverback, portrait

Threatened subspecies

The mountain gorilla, Gorilla beringei beringei, is a Critically Endangered subspecies of the eastern gorilla, the largest of the living apes. In addition to the population at Bwindi, a second mountain gorilla population is found in the Virunga Massif, a range of extinct volcanoes that spans the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

The Virunga population has also increased in the last decade, but the two populations do not interbreed and both remain under threat from deforestation, disease, regional conflict, poaching, and snares set for other animals. There is also concern that proposed oil exploration in the Virunga National Park could bring new problems for gorillas and other wildlife in an area already beset by conflict.

Photo of guard showing all the animal traps collected within two months in Virunga National Park, habitat of the mountain gorilla

Guard showing animal traps collected within two months in the Virunga National Park

More people in Virunga would likely lead to an increase in deforestation, illegal hunting and more snares in the forest,” said Greer. “At least seven Virunga mountain gorillas have been caught in snares this year and two did not survive. The gorilla population remains fragile and could easily slip into decline if conservation management was to be disregarded in the pursuit of oil money by elites.”

Tourist draw

Although the increase in gorilla numbers in recent decades is encouraging, experts say that it should not be taken as a sign that the fight to save the species has been won.

Gorilla populations are incredibly fragile and sensitive to environmental change. There are only two populations, so disease could easily wipe out an entire population,” said McVey. He added that, “Mountain gorillas are only found in protected areas, and outside these areas there are more than 600 people per square kilometre, so there is immense pressure to secure their habitat and pay their way.”

Photo of juvenile mountain gorilla

Many mountain gorilla groups have become accustomed to humans and are a major draw for tourists. Revenue from tourism is in turn helping to fund the protection of parks and is being reinvested into local communities.

The amount of revenue and jobs that gorillas generate is so important for these areas that are so desperately poor,” McVey said. “People really see gorillas as important for the national and local economies, and a portion of this goes back to conservation efforts and the local community.”

Read more on this story at WWF – Mountain gorilla population grows and The Guardian – Mountain gorilla numbers rise by 10%.

Find out more about gorilla conservation at the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

View photos and videos of mountain gorillas on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Oct 5

Happy World Smile Day! Did you know that today is dedicated to smiles and kind acts throughout the world? Smiling is a universal sign of affection instinctive to us all. But have you ever wondered where our grins come from?

Cheeky monkey

Smiling may have originated from the bared teeth expression made by monkeys when frightened. But in higher primates, teeth bearing is often a sign of submission and non-hostility from a subordinate member of a group towards a dominant member.

Picture of Grey-footed chacma baboon showing submissive behaviour

Grey-footed chacma baboon showing submissive behaviour

From signalling non-hostility and appeasement, teeth bearing is thought to have developed into showing affection and affiliation between equals.

Adult chimpanzee baring teeth

Adult chimpanzee baring teeth

Laughter is the best medicine

It’s also likely that our laughter evolved from another primate expression: the ‘play face’. This facial expression can be seen during playful encounters. For instance, a flash of teeth reassures a gorilla’s playmate that they do not intend to harm them. This appears to be a foundation of human laughter

Young chimpanzee showing prototypical 'play face'

Young chimpanzee showing prototypical 'play face'

It’s easy to imagine that all animals smile and show happiness just like us. Today, they can! For when you’re smiling, the whole (natural) world smiles with you…

Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Belize crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii)

Snake-eyed lizard (Ophisops elegans)  

Photo of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)








Happy World Smile Day!


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