Jul 3

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 26, 2015

More endangered pygmy sloths discovered in Panama than previously estimated


Pygmy three-toed sloth

Researchers estimate that there are between 500 – 1500 pygmy sloths residing on the Isla Escudo de Veraguas. At this time, the sloth’s island habitat is only partially protected.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 27, 2015

First lions to return to Rwanda after two decades


Asiatic lion and lioness

Seven lions, two males and five females, are being transported to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park from South Africa. The lions were chosen based on their future reproductive potential and ability to contribute to social cohesion.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 28, 2015

Will animals of the future only be safe in captivity?


Indri infant clinging to branch

In the future, perhaps lemurs, rhinos, and tigers will only survive with constant surveillance and protection. While it may seem excessive, it has already happened for the last remaining northern white rhinos. However, it may not work for all animals, like the indri that has a complex diet of leaves eaten at different times.

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Southern white rhinoceros getting up off ground

Article originally published on Monday, Jun 29, 2015

The truth about tarantulas: not too big, not too scary


Curlyhair tarantula

Tarantulas are often erroneously believed to be big, deadly and prone to attacking humans. In actuality, the original tarantula (Lycosa tarantula) is actually a small, innocuous wolf spider. The spiders mistakenly called tarantulas belong to the family Theraphosidae.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015

Meet Hades, the centipede from hell


Amazonian giant centipede on branch

A newly discovered centipede has been named Geophilus hadesi, after the mythological god of the underworld. The centipede spends it entire life in its dark, underground environment. One specimen was collected from a depth of 3,609 feet.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Jul 1, 2015

Australia commits to saving the Great Barrier Reef – but still plans to mine more coal


Catalaphyllia jardinei colony

Australia has made a 35 year agreement with the United Nations to restore the Great Barrier Reef. Corals have diminished by 50 percent in the last three decades. Despite the agreement, Australia is still attempting to become the world’s leading producer and exporter of coal, which has led to the reef’s decline.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Jul 2, 2015

Climate change: Lizards switch sex


Dwarf bearded dragon

It appears that increasing temperatures have led male central bearded dragons to change their gender and become females. These new females can produce twice as many eggs as standard females. These lizards belong to the genus Pogona that includes the dwarf bearded dragon.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA


Jun 26

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 19, 2015

Hawk-moths are capable of slowing their brains to stay in rhythm with their environment


Oleander hawk-moth on oleander flowers

Hawk moths can slow parts of their brain in order to adjust to changes in their environment. They operate with slower visual processing in low light conditions.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 20, 2015

North American ‘ghost cat’ extinct, Fish and Wildlife Service states


Puma swimming

The eastern cougar was last seen in the 1930s, and had been placed on the endangered species list in 1973. In 2011, this subspecies of the cougar was listed as extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service has now officially declared the eastern cougar extinct.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 21, 2015

Protest over video showing men ‘surfing’ on top of whale shark


Whale shark

An online video has surfaced of two men surfing on a whale shark. The Marine Conservation Institute has condemned the act as ‘unacceptable’. Meanwhile the Marine Connection has called for these men to be ‘brought to justice’.

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Article originally published on Monday, Jun 22, 2015

Wolves, monkeys: Hunting allies in Ethiopia


Ethiopian wolf yawning

Apparently, Ethiopian wolves are more successful at catching their prey (i.e. rodents) when they are with the geladas. Researchers hypothesize that these monkey herds flush out the rodents or the rodents do not notice the wolves when the monkeys are present.

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Male gelada

Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 23, 2015

Cat update: Lion and African golden cat down, Iberian lynx up


Iberian lynx at rest

The West African lion has been declared critically endangered with only 121-375 mature lions remaining. Meanwhile, the African golden cat has been moved from near threatened to vulnerable primarily due to deforestation and poaching.  On a more positive note, the Iberian lynx is no longer critically endangered and is now only endangered with 156 mature lynx roaming Spain and Portugal.

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African golden cat female

Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

New species: Hairy-chested yeti crab found in Antarctica


Shore crab

A new species of yeti crab has been discovered in the waters off Antarctica and is only the third known species of yeti crab. In order to survive at these frigid temperatures, this new species congregates around hydrothermal vents in tight clusters with other conspecifics. It belongs to the diverse order Decapoda that includes the colorful shore crab.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 25, 2015

Inside the fight to stop giraffes’ ‘silent extinction’


Adult and juvenile west African giraffe

Over the past 15 years the giraffe’s population has dropped from about 140,000 to 80,000. Habitat loss and poaching are the main threats to giraffes. There is only one species of giraffe in the world.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Jan 14

Although the term ‘The Big Five’ is commonly used today by African Safari Tour operators for marketing purposes, it actually has a much darker origin. The phrase was first coined by hunters, who considered these five large African mammals to be the most difficult to hunt, due to their ferocity and the danger involved in tracking and killing them. Today however, ‘The Big Five’ are among the most popular and well studied of all African animals.

African elephant

As the largest terrestrial mammal in the world, the African elephant is also one of the most charismatic. This emotive creature has a highly complex social structure that is perhaps what makes the elephant such a favourite among us. Each closely related family group of females and calves is led by an old ‘matriarch’ female, and male elephants leave the group at puberty, forming less tight-knit alliances with other males. Interestingly, there seems to be some scientific truth behind the expression ‘elephants never forget’. Studies have revealed that the dominant female is able to build a ‘social memory’, enabling her to recognise ‘friends’. Despite their seemingly gentle nature, elephants can be extremely aggressive and dangerous when threatened.

African elephant photo

African elephants fighting

Black rhinoceros

The Critically Endangered black rhinoceros is distinguished from the African white rhinoceros by its characteristic pointed, prehensile upper lip. It is known for its inquisitive yet aggressive nature towards humans and other animals. Twice as heavy as an African buffalo, the black rhinoceros should not be mistaken as a slow animal. It is surprisingly fast on its feet, reaching speeds of up to 31 miles per hour, and is able to make sharp turns whilst running full pelt. In spite of all this, new camera technology has revealed a softer side to the black rhinoceros, which appears to show that they meet at night in order to ‘socialise’.

Photo of male black rhinoceros charging

Male black rhinoceros charging

African buffalo

The iconic African or Cape buffalo has a menacing appearance, with its brownish black coat and magnificently curved horns that can be used defensively to great effect. Alongside the hippopotamus, the African buffalo is considered to be Africa’s most dangerous animal, known to attack and even kill humans and other animals without provocation. Given their vegetarian status, this inclination highlights their extremely aggressive nature. Female bonds are strong within a buffalo herd, and if one is attacked by a predator, it will be staunchly defended by the rest of the herd. Having seen a lioness held hostage up a tree for hours by a herd of buffalo, I can vouch for the loyalty of herds!

Buffalo standing guard over a lioness in a tree © Kaz Armour

Buffalo standing guard over a lioness in a tree © Kaz Armour


Lions are the most social of all cats, living in groups of related females who often reproduce at the same time and suckle each others cubs. In many cultures the lion has become known as the ‘King of the Beasts’ due to its ferocious temperament and regal presence. Also one of the largest of the ‘big cats’, the muscular lion has powerful jaws and is able to hunt animals that are many times its own size. Male lions compete for access to females, and will commonly kill any cubs already present after taking over a pride. This behaviour is exhibited to increase the reproductive potential of the male in a short period of time.

African lions attacking a hippopotamus

African lions attacking a hippopotamus


The graceful leopard is both majestic and elusive, its spots providing extremely effective camouflage in African habitats. Being skilled climbers, leopards will often drag their kill up into the trees to prevent it from being poached by scavengers. Leopards are powerful predators, with formidable jaws that dispatch and dismember prey with ease. They are equally able to hunt at night, with their long, sensitive whiskers enabling them to ‘feel’ their way in the darkness.

African leopard hunting

African leopard hunting

Africa’s ‘Little Five’

Whilst we talk about Africa’s most well known and ferocious animals, we mustn’t forget those smaller, but no less important. Did you know that for each of ‘the Big Five’ African animals, there is a ‘Little Five’ equivalent? These somewhat smaller, but equally impressive creatures include:

  • The rhinoceros beetle. The male has an impressive backward-curved horn on its head, hence its common name.
  • The rufous elephant shrew. These bouncing critters have kangaroo-like hind legs, allowing them to hop bipedally when moving fast.
  • The leopard tortoise. Named after its gold and black mottled shell, the leopard tortoise can live up to 50 years in captivity!
  • The buffalo weaver. These striking birds are most easily identified by their bright red rump and white head.
  • The ant lion. A winged larval insect, which digs conical shaped sand traps to catch small ants to feed on.
Rufous elephant shrew photo

Rufous elephant shrew

Watch out for our next Africa themed blog, which will explore the fascinating lesser-known African species the continent has to offer.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Jan 9

The African lion may be perilously close to extinction in some parts of Africa, according to a new report.

Photo of young male African lion with cub

The report, by conservation group LionAid, says that as few as 645 lions may now remain in the wild in western and central Africa, following a worrying decline in recent years. This decline has been mirrored across Africa, with estimates suggesting that only around 15,000 wild lions remain across the whole continent, compared to about 200,000 a few decades ago. This iconic species is now extinct in 25 African countries, and virtually extinct in another 10.

There has been a catastrophic decline in the populations of lions in Africa, and particularly west Africa,” said Dr Pieter Kat, LionAid Trustee. “These lions have been neglected for a very long time and do not have adequate protection programmes. They are in real danger of extinction.”

Lions under threat

The report follows a series of studies that have raised concern about the future of African lions. In one study, researchers found that about three-quarters of Africa’s savanna habitats had disappeared over the last fifty years, and used this information to estimate the number of remaining lions, which they put at around 32,000. LionAid suggests that the real number of lions left in the wild is actually far lower, although calculating the species’ exact population size is difficult.

Photo of African lionesses and cubs drinking at water hole

We put the figure… at around 25,000 lions, but whether you use these figures, the LionAid report or the Duke study, there is common agreement among everyone involved in conservation of African lions that the situation is extremely serious,” said Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation.

West African challenges

The LionAid report says that West Africa faces particular conservation challenges, due to a mixture of poverty, lack of political interest in conservation, and an underdeveloped wildlife tourism industry. In Nigeria, for example, the lion is declining fast, with only around 34 individuals remaining, down from 44 in 2009.

Even though the national parks in West Africa contain very distinct and very important fauna compared to eastern Africa, people tend to ignore that West Africa is a very special place,” said Dr Kat. “As a result the populations in West Africa are declining so quickly, as a biologist I would say that in a country like Nigeria, which has only 34 lions left, they are already extinct. It’s almost impossible to build up a population from such a small number.”

Photo of African lions on lookout

Trophies and culture

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that it would look at whether lions should be legally protected under the Endangered Species Act, with U.S. trophy hunting being blamed as a factor in the lion’s decline. However, conservationists say that powerful pro-hunting lobbies are frustrating efforts to impose stricter regulations on the trade in this magnificent big cat.

According to Sarel van der Merwe, Chair of the African Lion Working Group, “In central to west Africa, lion numbers are too low to allow any means of negative impact on the populations and hunting should be prohibited, as should any form of killing, irrespective whether a few lions may be habitual livestock killers. Otherwise, we may well lose the lion as a species.”

Photo of two African lions

Lions are important in the culture of many African nations, and more still needs to be done to protect this iconic cat.

When you look at a lot of the African countries, what you see is that lions feature on their coats of arms, their flags, and are part of their culture, yet as a species they are not being protected,” said Dr Kat. “What Africans involved in conservation keep telling me is that we are letting a huge amount of African history and culture that is important in national heritage of African countries just slowly disappear.”


Read more on this story at The Guardian – West African lions on verge of extinction, report says.

Find out more about the work of LionAid.

View photos and videos of lions on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Apr 14

This week we’ve crossed The Atlantic once more to find out if, like Ellie, the Wildscreen USA team think sea life is supreme or if their loyalties lay with life on land.

Maggie Graham – Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Favourite species? Lion

Why? They are a symbol of raw courage, beauty and freedom to me.

Favourite image on ARKive:

Lion image

The lion is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Conflicts with farmers are not uncommon as much of the lion’s original range has been converted into agricultural land, reducing the amount of available prey and habitat and providing new, easily accessible prey in the form of cattle. In certain areas, lions are viewed as pest species and are often shot or poisoned.

See more photos and videos of the lion on ARKive.


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