Jul 7

The Galápagos archipelago is known for its extraordinarily rich abundance and diversity of native plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. However invasive species present on islands are threatening the Galápagos’ rare species, pushing many to the brink of extinction. To date, seven vertebrate species have become extinct, while 40% of the still existing 96 species are endangered – with invasive species as the primary threat.

The world’s only marine lizard, the endemic Galápagos marine iguana, is extremely vulnerable to invasive species which consume the young and even occasionally adults

Island Conservation began working to protect species in the Galápagos Archipelago in 2008. In 2011,  the Galápagos National Park, supported by Island Conservation, Charles Darwin Foundation, The Raptor Center, and Bell Laboratories, removed invasive rats from the islands of Rábida, North Plaza, three Beagle islets, and three of the Bainbridge Rocks to protect 12 unique Galápagos species considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be threatened with extinction.  One success story from this project was the rediscovery of a land snail species on Rábida Island, which was presumed to be extinct as no live specimens had been observed or recorded since 1905-1906.

In 2012, work began to remove invasive species from another island in the Galápagos Archipelago, Pinzón Island. Over 150 years ago, invasive black rats invaded this island and began feeding on the defenceless eggs and hatchlings of the Pinzón giant tortoise. By the turn of the 20th century the island endemic tortoise was unable to establish its next generation of tortoises, resulting in a captive rearing program being set up.

Pinzon giant tortoise 2

Adult Pinzón giant tortoise © Island Conservation

By December 2012, the project to remove the invasive rat species from this island was completed. With the removal of the last remaining invasive vertebrate species threat, tortoise hatchlings are now emerging from native tortoises on the island and the Galápagos National Park have successfully returned 118 hatchlings to their native island home.

The removal of invasive species from these islands is part of a much larger project to restore other key Galápagos Island ecosystems to protect native plants and animals. The next major endeavour is to remove multiple invasive species from Floreana Island. Feral goats have already been removed from the island, but other invasive species remain which are a threat to the island’s rich biodiversity. This rich biodiversity includes the Critically Endangered Floreana mockingbird which has disappeared from the island, mainly as a result of invasive species. Now only surviving on two small neighbouring islets, the removal of invasive rats and cats from Floreana will allow for this bird to comeback from the brink of extinction.

The Critically Endangered Floreana mockingbird

To find out more about the great work that Island Conservation carry out, visit their website or facebook page.

Jun 12

“When I first landed on what was Rat Island in 2007, it was an eerily silent place. A typical Aleutian island is teeming with wildlife, swirling with noisy, pungent birds. Not this place. It was crisscrossed with rat trails, littered with rat scat, scavenged bird bones, it even smelled…wrong,” reports Stacey Buckelew, an Island Conservation biologist. Buckelew first visited the island to help document centuries of damage to native birds and plant species from introduced invasive Norway rats.

Hawadax Island (formerly Rat Island), located in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska, is a 6,861 acre island uninhabited by humans. This treeless island has steep costal cliffs, a small central mountain range and broad rolling plateaus of maritime tundra. In the early 1780’s a shipwreck left the island with invasive Norway rats. Since their arrival the rats had decimated the islands native bird species by eating eggs, chicks, adult birds and plants.

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Hawadax Island (formerly Rat Island), Alaska © Island Conservation

In September 2008, Island Conservation, The US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy successfully removed invasive rats from Hawadax Island. Following the removal of the rats all direct impacts, such as predation and competition for resources, immediately ceased.

Today the island is thriving. Since the removal of the rats, breeding tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) have been documented on the island for the first time and species thought to have been extirpated due to the rats, such as Leach’s storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) and fork-tailed storm-petrels (Oceanodroma furcate), have been recorded.

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Tufted Puffins in waters around Hawadax Island, Alaska © Rory Stansbury / Island Conservation

Ground-nesting and shorebird numbers are increasing as well. A 2008 survey documented nine glaucous-winged gull nests whereas an identical survey carried out in the summer of 2013 discovered twenty eight nests, a three-fold increase. Black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) and rock sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis) nests have also increased significantly. Song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), thought to be nearly extirpated by rats, and snow buntings, also decimated by rats, are rebounding as well.

Snow bunting in autumn

In 2012, Rat Island formally had its original Aleut name, Hawadax, restored in acknowledgement of the absence of rats.

To find out more about the great work that Island Conservation carry out, visit their website or facebook page.

Jemma Pealing, Arkive Content and Outreach Officer

Jun 10

Located 14 miles off the coast of California, Anacapa Island is the easternmost island in the Channel Islands Archipelago. Comprised of three islands strung closely together (East, Middle and West Anacapa), Anacapa Island is part of the Channel Islands National Park. Native species to the island include the Vulnerable Xantus’s murrelet (now renamed Scripps’s Murrelet), the endemic Anacapa deer mouse and the largest breeding colony of brown pelicans in California.

West and Middle Anacapa Islands, Channel Islands National Park, California, USA

Once an island with no natural predators for nesting birds, invasive non-native black rats were inadvertently introduced to the island from ships visiting the islands in the 1940’s. The invasive rats decimated native seabird populations by eating eggs and chicks. In 2001 and 2002, Island Conservation, the Channel Islands National Park, California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed the invasive rats from Anacapa Island. In the absence of these invasive predators Xantus’s murrelets (now renamed Scripps Murrelet) rebounded almost immediately with nesting success increasing by 91% the year after the rats were removed. The nesting success has remained at around 90%, compared to just 20% when rats were still there.

Xantus’s murrelet on water

This was not the only success story. Since the removal of the rats, ashy storm-petrels have been recorded nesting on the island for the first time ever and the Cassin’s auklet, a small seabird which had been unable to nest on Anacapa Island due to the risk of rat predation, has returned. Populations of the island’s only endemic mammal, the Anacapa deer mouse, are also thriving after the removal of the rats which used to compete with the mice as well as predating on them.

Ancapa deer mouse

Anacapa deer mouse © Jacob Sheppard/ Island Conservation

To find out more about the great work that Island Conservation carry out, visit their website or facebook page.

May 22

Today is the United Nation’s International Day of Biological Diversity, which this year has been dedicated to island biodiversity.

Islands are home to an estimated 20% of all bird, reptile and plant species despite making up less than 5% of Earth’s land area. Islands also contain 40 percent of all critically endangered species, and the extinction rates on islands are disproportionately high despite a global extinction rate that may be 1000 times the historical background rate.

Islands contain 40 percent of all critically endangered species

“Biodiversity is crucial to meet human needs. Our economies, livelihoods, health, and cultures depend on the proper management of this natural capital.  This is even more important on islands where natural ecosystems are fragile and easily disturbed.” said Olivier Langrand, Island Conservation’s Director of Global Affairs, member of the Steering Committee of Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) and co-chair of the GLISPA Working Group on Invasive Alien Species.

The necessity of urgent action in aid of island conservation, to halt and reverse the loss in biodiversity is highlighted in the new publication , “Island Bright Spots in Conservation & Sustainability” by the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA). This report showcases inspired island conservation solutions in action, “bright spots”. These “bright spots” will also be showcased during the 2014 International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to encourage investment in scaling and replicating initiatives that work. In this publication Island Conservation’s Allen Cay and Small Islands, Big Difference (SIBD) projects are highlighted as successful examples that could serve as innovative models for island restoration around the globe.

Island Conservation’s Allen Cay

Allen Cay, The Bahamas is a small island habitat but is home to important populations of Audubon’s shearwater and provides critical habitat for the endemic, endangered Allen Cay rock iguana. However, invasive house mice were indirectly threatening the native species by providing an abundant food source for barn owls, increasing the owl populations, which predate heavily on Audubon’s shearwater and juvenile Allen Cay rock iguanas. In 2012, Island conservation collaborated with the Bahamas National Trust, Government, NGO and private partners to remove invasive house mice from Allen Cay. This successful partnership protected nationally and globally significant biodiversity, and laid foundations for future restoration and conservation projects in the Bahamas.

Allen’s Cay rock iguana on beach

Island Conservation’s Small Islands, Big Difference Project

Island Conservation’s Small Islands, Big Difference (SIBD) campaign was launched in Montreal, Canada in 2012. The goal of this campaign is to financially support hundreds of partners and island nations in protecting thousands of species through the removal of invasive species from 500 islands.

Island Conservation and local partners helped protect critical habitat for the waved albatross by removing invasive goats and feral cats from Isla de la Plata

The“Island Bright Spots in Conservation & Sustainability” publication also highlights emerging initiatives such as the recent launch of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a three year open-ocean journey around the world undertaken in two Hawaiian voyaging canoes. The aim of this project is to catalyse awareness and action on how to care for Earth, the Oceans and our natural heritage. The crew aim to bring stories of our islands and oceans to inspire communities and leaders to take action to protect these critical resources.

Read more about the importance of Islands habitats

Read more about Island Conservation.

Find out how the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage is progressing.

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern

May 19

With ARKive’s 11th birthday on the horizon, there couldn’t be a better time to look back and reflect on the incredible year we’ve had. From a brand new PSA featuring Hollywood actor and ARKive fan John Leguizamo, to reaching approximately 4.5 million students this year through our award-winning, curriculum-linked education resources, there is much to celebrate!

We have narrowed down this year’s ARKive headliners to 11 of our favourites, and we want you to tell us which one you consider to be the most important. Does sharing the story of 10 species on the road to recovery in our Conservation in Action campaign tick the boxes for you? Or is it the thousands of new green-flagged images in the ARKive collection that are now available for use by  not-for-profit conservation & education organisations to support their vital missions? Let us know by casting your vote here, or leaving a comment below!

Conservation in Action

To mark a decade of highlighting conservation issues, we worked closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Groups on our Conservation in Action campaign. Highlighting ten very different species, each on the road to recovery thanks to targeted conservation efforts led by dedicated scientific experts, this was a true celebration of conservation success stories!

Scimitar-horned oryx photo

Currently classified as Extinct in the Wild, the scimitar-horned oryx is now the subject of a captive breeding programme, which aims to eventually reintroduce the species to its natural habitat

Filling the ARK in Illinois

Through the generosity of ARKive supporters in the great state of Illinois, we were delighted to launch the our new Illinois feature page; the GO-TO source for Illinois wildlife media and natural history information, featuring over 100 native species. To celebrate the launch of this project, our conservation partners in Chicago such as Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and Lincoln Park Zoo wrote guest blogs sharing their favourite conservation stories in the Land of Lincoln as part of our Going WILD in Illinois mini-blog series.

Burden Falls photo

Burden Falls in Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

John Leguizamo PSA

Being a Hollywood and Broadway actor, director and producer, John Leguizamo is no stranger to the wild world, especially when it comes to the fantastic characters he has played on the big screen. Who can forget Sid, the lisping sloth in the Ice Age films, or Alex, the witty and sarcastic prehistoric bird in the recent hit Walking with Dinosaurs? In a new PSA for ARKive, John shared why he values ARKive, as well as giving a shout-out to a few of the species that amazed him when he discovered them on ARKive for the first time!

John Leguizamo photo

John Leguizamo’s PSA for ARKive

Education Resources

Our education programme inspires and motivates young people to take an interest in the natural world. We estimate that our freely available education resources will have reached 4.5million students in the last year. Some of our latest resources include: Handling Data: African Animal Maths (7-11 years), Species Discovery: Keys & Classification (11-14 years), Climate Change (11-14 years) and Indicator Species (14-16 year olds).

Species Discovery education module

Explore how scientists discover, classify and name species previously unknown to science with our Species Discovery education modules

UK Invasive Species project

Invasive non-native species are considered the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide after habitat loss. This year saw us set about the task of raising public awareness of the risks and adverse impacts associated with invasive non-native species in the UK through a new feature pagefun activities, two new education resources and an interactive quiz.

Signal crayfish photo

The signal crayfish is a voracious predator, and a highly invasive species in the UK

Ocean Acidification

Increasing carbon dioxide emissions have not only resulted in a global temperature rise, but have also made the oceans more acidic, and it is thought that the oceans are 30 percent more acidic today than before the industrial revolution. With our new ocean acidification topic page you can learn more about the impacts of ocean acidification and discover the species which are being affected.

Coral reef photo

It is thought that coral reefs could be the first victims of ocean acidification, with one reef being destroyed every other day.

Lonely Hearts Campaign

This Valentine’s Day we launched a new campaign on our blog and Twitter, highlighting some forlorn species looking for love and explaining what they’re looking for in a perfect partner!

Mallorcan midwife toad photo

Monty the Mallorcan midwife toad is a sensitive guy who’s great with kids and is ready to deliver a good time!

Shoebox Habitats

During the summer we created a new range of fun and free activities to download and keep the little ones entertained during the holidays. Some of the most popular were our new Shoebox Habitat packs, allowing you to build your very own jungle, African savannah, under the sea or winter scenes!

Shoebox habitat photo

Build your own jungle, African savannah, under the sea or winter scenes with our amazing shoebox habitats!

CBD programme: Islands and Forests

ARKive is following the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Programme structure to explore some of the major biomes on the planet. Over the past year we have launched the first two chapters of this project, Islands and Forests. On these new feature pages you can learn more about the importance of these habitats, discover the species that live there and find out what is being done to protect them.

Forest photo

Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

Green-flagged Images

Thanks to the generosity of our media donors we now have an incredible 2,771 green-flagged images which are available to use for not-for-profit conservation or education use.

African penguin photo

African penguins by Peter Chadwick

Profiling the World’s Most Endangered Species

As ever, we continue to profile the world’s most endangered species with the help of leading wildlife filmmakers and photographers, conservationists and scientists, adding images and footage of elusive species such as the Critically Endangered Vipera anatolica, known from only a single location in Anatolia, Turkey.

Vipera anatolica photo

The Critically Endangered Vipera anatolica

If you ask us, we think ARKive’s biggest success this year isn’t what we’ve done; it’s what you’ve done!  By downloading our resources, sharing our blogs and stories on social media or forwarding our newsletters to friends and family members, you continue to help spread ARKive’s message for wildlife conservation as far as possible. Thank YOU for making this year so successful for ARKive!

Don’t forget to cast your vote here, or let us know your favourite by leaving a comment below.

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