Feb 21
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UK Invasive Species: Case Study – Avon Invasive Weed Forum Project Officer

562995_460205190743127_1808199899_nWhat is your job, where do you work?

My name is Neil Green and I am the Avon Invasive Weed Forum (AIWF) Project Officer.  I work mainly on the rivers and watercourses within Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.

What is your background?

My background includes life guarding in Cumbria, teaching English in Madrid, exporting oil for BP lubricants, building balconies in Bondi Beach and running my own landscape gardening business in sunny Swindon!  In more recent years I  have been a Coastal Ranger for the National Trust in North Cornwall and worked on the Source to Sea Invasive species project for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

What is the Avon Invasive Weed Forum, what projects are you working on?

The AIWF is an independent group of relevant stakeholders such as Bristol City Council, Bristol Zoo Gardens, The Environment Agency and South Gloucestershire Council, currently funded by Defra. The aim is to survey as much of the Avon catchment as possible for Non-Native Invasive Weeds (NNIW), so far we have over 70 kilometres of riparian habitat logged. Once the surveys are mapped we then get the NNIW into the appropriate management to control and reduce the abundance of these alien nasties.

How are you helping to fight invasive species in the UK?

We are helping by engaging with local conservation and community groups to take ownership of their local areas and the invasive species that they may have. In the Spring and Summer we carry out many practical Himalayan balsam weed pulls – we managed 22 ‘BIG PULL’ events last summer.   Himalayan balsam has a very shallow root system and is easy and very enjoyable to yank out of the ground. Removing the plants stop them from seeding, which is of paramount importance to help fight the invasion!

brislingtonbrook

How can people get involved?

You can get involved by volunteering to help manage the Himalayan Balsam as part of our ‘BIG PULL’ campaign or help survey the watercourses and open water in the Avon Catchment.   You can do this by contacting your local conservation groups, community groups or myself at the Avon Invasive Weeds Forum, we welcome individuals, groups and corporate social responsibility requests.

If you are not in the Avon area you can take a look at the GB NNSS website and find an Invasive Species Project closer to home.

You can also help by following the guidelines in the Check, Clean and Dry and Be Plant Wise Campaigns too.

Find out more about the Avon Invasive Weed Forum by visiting their website or their Facebook page.

Learn more about invasive species in the UK by visiting our UK invasive species page.

Jan 17
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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

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/

Oct 28
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Guest Blog: Saving the Lord Howe Island stick insect

On the 16th February 2003, the Invertebrate team at Melbourne Zoo received a pair of one of the rarest invertebrate species on the planet, the Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis).  The pair was affectionally known as Adam and Eve.  We knew from the moment they arrived that we had just one chance to secure the long term survival of this Critically Endangered species. To add to the enormity of the task, virtually nothing was known about the species, so around the clock observations were initiated for the first few weeks.

LHISI hatching - Photograph credit Rohan Cleave Melbourne Zoo

© Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo, Australia

The Lord Howe Island stick insect was abundant on Lord Howe Island until the accidental grounding of a supply ship in 1918.  Black rats (Rattus rattus) escaped the grounded vessel, and by the 1930s the Lord Howe Island stick insect was presumed extinct.  In 2001, a five-member scientific team landed on Balls Pyramid, a rocky outcrop 23kms off the coast of Lord Howe Island, and miraculously rediscovered a very small and vulnerable population of this “lost” species.  This began the significant challenge of securing a population to save them from extinction.

Juvenile LHISI - Photograph credit Rohan Cleave Melbourne Zoo

© Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo, Australia

There have been many challenges since this species arrived under the care of the Invertebrate team at Melbourne Zoo, Australia.  Since 2003 we have hatched over 10,000 individuals and have now developed world class facilities and knowledge of how to care for this species. This is a momentous achievement, as they can be extremely difficult to keep alive, let alone successfully breed.

At any one time we house between 400 and 500 stick insects in different purpose-built glasshouses and incubate thousands of eggs.  A sample of eggs is measured and weighed in weekly batches and will then be incubated for between 6 to 9 months before hatching.  Each nymph that hatches at Melbourne Zoo has a length measurement taken for our records.  In 2013 Melbourne Zoo is breeding our 10th generation.

A number of scientific studies have been undertaken over the past 10 years, including investigating mate selection and parthenogenesis. Diet is an important aspect of animal husbandry and continual research and adjustments have taken place. 2013 sees the invertebrate department expand this work with investigations of plant species from Lord Howe Island both within Zoo grounds and on Lord Howe Island.  All of this adds to the data base of important information on the species.

Rohan Cleave with a LHISI - Photograph credit Jane Satchell Zoos Victoria

© Jane Satchell, Zoos Victoria, Australia

The Lord Howe Island stick insect is an integral species in Zoos Victoria’s “Fighting Extinction” campaign.  In 2012 the Australian Federal Government and New South Wales State Government announced funding of AUS $9.2 million dollars to eradicate black rats from Lord Howe Island.  It is hoped that this will restore the natural ecosystem of one of the world’s most beautiful heritage sites.  One day we hope to see this species back in its natural environment on Lord Howe Island.  The future of the Lord Howe Island stick insect now looks very bright indeed.

Wildscreen patron, Sir David Attenborough visited the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect at Melbourne Zoo in August, 2012.

Sir David Attenborough with a LHISI - Photograph credit Dani Knox, Melbourne Zoo photographer

© Dani Knox, Melbourne Zoo photographer

Find out more about the Lord Howe Island stick insect and the work of Melbourne Zoo:

http://www.zoo.org.au/melbourne/animals/lord-howe-island-stick-insect

http://www.actwild.org.au/actwild.org.au/animals/stick-insect/

http://vimeo.com/14413689

http://vimeo.com/59621703

Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo, Australia

The Lord Howe Island stick insect is one of the animals featured in ARKive’s new Conservation in Action campaign, which highlights a selection of species that are on the road to recovery thanks to the hard work and dedication of conservationists around the world.

Jul 31
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Guest Blog: Wildlife Photography Tips For Children

Wildlife photography is a fantastic way to discover nature – using your eyes and a camera to really explore and enjoy the natural world. You can have great fun creating stunning wild images whatever camera you have (SLR, pocket compact camera or mobile phone) and wherever you live.  Often the most exciting discoveries are right on our doorsteps – the highlight of my career was photographing a sleeping kingfisher just a few metres from house (they are unique images as far as I know)!

King of Sleeps JPG

Sleeping kingfisher © Iain Green

Whether you enjoy the artistic side of nature photography, or maybe wish to record the different wildlife and behaviour you see (probably a mixture of both) here are my top tips to help you take great wildlife shots.

 Local sites such as your garden, nearby park, beach or nature reserve offer some of the best opportunities for wildlife photography. By regularly exploring these local wild spaces you can build a detailed photographic study and create unique images. Visit sites at different times of the day and year to determine when wildlife activity is at its peak and where is the best spot to photograph.

• Do as much research as you can about the wildlife & habitats you hope to see – books, internet and wildlife charities are great Young Photographer  IG (P&C)sources. Quiz experts and local reserve staff for wildlife knowledge and advice, they are normally very happy to help.

• Get-up early, or go out late to get the best lighting conditions – especially in summer. If photographing bugs or flowers in middle of the day, use a reflector or piece of white card to bounce sunlight on to the shady side of your subject.

• Slow down and take time to think about your composition. Look for, bold colours, striking patterns or exciting action to create stunning photos. When photographing animals make sure you focus on the eyes. Experiment with composition by moving your subject off-centre and using scene features as natural frames

• Change your viewpoint. Get down low to your subjects eye-level for a better perspective and to portray nature in its own habitat. Don’t forget to look straight up or down to discover beautiful natural patterns in plants and trees. Photographing from below can make things look bigger or more impressive.

• Compact cameras are fantastic for photographing mini-beasts or flowers – don’t use the zoom, but carefully move your camera in close. The macro (flower symbol) setting on pocket cameras enables you to focus on something just a few cm away, creating striking frame-filling images.

• Learn how your camera works and don’t be afraid to experiment with different settings, such as exposure and focussing.

• Above all else get out and photograph, the best photographs are created by spending time outside and not in a camera shop. And be patient with wildlife, you may have to wait or make several visits for that special image.

Vole really close

If you are patient you could get some really great shots like this water vole image © Iain Green

Iain Green is a professional wildlife photographer and founder of www.WildWonder.co.uk, a social enterprise engaging young people, schools and adults with nature through discovery and creativity.

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