Aug 15

Vanishing Kings – Lions of the Namib is a film created by Will and Lianne Steenkamp that has been nominated for a 2016 Panda Award for Cinematography (Small Crew). We were still on a high from the amount of hard work that the public and conservation organisations had put into raising awareness of World Lion Day on 10 August when we heard sad news from Will about the feline stars of his film. Here Will tells us the story of the creation of the film and how the recent news has affected him and his team.

Our film “Vanishing Kings – Lions of the Namib” was the beginning of an incredible journey.

Namib Desert, location of Vanishing Lions film Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

Namib Desert, location of Vanishing Lions film Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

For two years we followed a unique pride of desert-adapted lions in the remote and breath-taking Skeleton Coast Park of the Namib Desert. The three lionesses of this pride had given birth to a cohort of five male cubs, an extraordinary phenomenon in the desert. We followed their remarkable and challenging journey on their way to adulthood…

The Musketeers playing together Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

The Musketeers playing together

By the end of the film, the five young brothers known as the ‘Five Musketeers’, had just left their mothers and formed an independent strong coalition of nomads. With so few adult male lions remaining in the desert, the opportunity to breed presented itself sooner than expected. And after a short nomadic life they joined a pride of lionesses that had no pride male. But with their newly acquired kingdom came serious danger. These lionesses lived a life ‘on the edge’, close to some of the rural villages. And this was the beginning of a dangerous saga for the five males…

The Musketeers on the move Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

The Musketeers on the move Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

Upon completion we took ‘Vanishing Kings’ on a roadshow to the rural villages that come in regular conflict with desert lions. With it we were hoping to educate and inform the local communities and show a different side of the lions that they know. As wildlife filmmakers we have always wanted to do more than just make beautiful, compelling films through which we raise awareness. We want to actively contribute to conservation, play our part, and make a difference on the ground albeit small. And the Musketeers needed our help.

Vanishing Kings being shown to local people in Namib Desert Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

Vanishing Kings being shown to local people in Namib Desert Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

With their new kingdom, the ‘Five Musketeers’ got in conflict with the villages and became the focus of a pilot project looking at mitigating human-lion conflict in the Kunene region of the Namib. With this project we learnt which methods are or aren’t effective here in the desert. Apart from our filmmaking we began to play an active role in addressing this human-lion conflict more than ever before and we set up The Desert Lion Conservation Foundation to help raise funds and form part of a pro-active management system.

For several months we worked closely alongside Dr Philip Stander with the rural community members that were affected by the Musketeers. The farmers brought their livestock back to the corrals every night, which reduced losses considerably. The Foundation was able to employ a well-trained lion guardian who was to form part of a specialised rapid response team. Although this pilot project had success, we tragically lost one of the Musketeers after an incident at a small cattle-post. It was a great loss and we were determined to provide a better future for the remaining four males.

Despite the traumatic event the four Musketeers remained in the conflict area. And after another two months the situation had become unmanageable. Just as plans were in place to relocate the males to the safety of the Skeleton Coast Park, three of the males were poisoned…

Poisoned male Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

Poisoned male Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

Now there is only one surviving Musketeer. Out of a coalition of five male lions he has become the symbol for the rate at which we are losing lions, not just in the desert, but all over Africa.

With our Foundation we are hoping to get the help needed for this iconic kind of lion. We as human beings encroach this planet, we are all responsible for their decline, and it is time to act. May the last remaining Musketeer be one of many lions that we are able to provide a future for…

One of the Musketeers, standing tall Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

One of the Musketeers, standing tall Credit: Will & Lianne Steenkamp

If you want to know more about the Desert Lion Foundation and keep up to date with their work you can follow them on Facebook or go on their website.

Watch the trailer for Vanishing Kings – Lions of the Namib.

Find out more about lions on Arkive.

Aug 10

August 10th is World Lion Day so we’ve collated a list of some of our favourite lion facts to celebrate – and we are all planning on watching the Lion King when we get home too!

1) Lions and the British Monarchy

Lions have long been a symbol of of the British Monarchy; some of the earliest signs of the royal’s relationship with the king of the jungle were discovered in 1937 when two skulls of the now extinct Barbary lion were found in the Tower of London. The skulls date back the 13th century, and are evidence of the Royal Menagerie established at the tower by King John in the 1200s. Long before zoos, the Royal Menagerie displayed extraordinary animals from across the empire, until its closure in 1835. The Barbary lion was found across North Africa until its extinction in 1922, and was believed to be a monogamous species. One of the skulls discovered in 1937 is now on display in London’s Natural History Museum.

2) Males can be maneless

The mane is a sign of distinction for any self-respecting male lion, however not all males have one. In Kenya’s Tsavo National Park males lack manes, which has mystified scientists for many years. The main functions of the mane are thought to be physical protection for the head and neck areas, sexual gravitas, or intimidation to other males (darker manes indicate higher levels of testosterone). Lions in the Tsavo National Park are exposed to extreme heat and aridity, and it is thought that having a large mane may cause males to overheat.

3) Females have hunting positions

Female lions hunt cooperatively and individuals have a preferred position within the hunting formation that is dependent on their body shape and size, similar to a rugby team. Research by scientists in Etosha National Park showed that there are two ‘positions’ in a hunting formation: wings and centres. Centres were involved in ambush attacks and tend to be of a stockier build, while wingers stalk animals and initiate hunts. These positions may be a crucial behavioural adaptation to maximising efficient prey capture in an arid desert environment.

4) Lions don’t always live in prides

While the traditional view of lions is that they live in prides, this is actually far from the norm and more than half of the population don’t live in prides at all. Females that live in prides don’t necessarily have higher hunting success and studies have shown that in times of low food availability being a solitary female is actually the best option to increase their chance of survival.

5) Safety in numbers

Despite living in prides possibly not being the best option food-wise, this way of living keeps lionesses and their young safe from roaming males. Plus, it gives them all some friends to hang out with!

 

Show your love for lions today by sharing your newfound knowledge with others and finding out more about the amazing work that conservation organisations are doing to help save this rapidly declining species.

Ted Savile, Arkive Guest Blogger

Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Lion

Nominated by: Panthera

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Why do you love it? The lion is an iconic creature and synonymous with wild Africa – but it might not be forever. Tragically, few people realise that the species has undergone a catastrophic decline. A century ago, there were as many as 200,000 wild lions in Africa; today, there are only about 20,000. Lions are extinct in 26 African countries and absent from over 90 percent of their historic range.

What are the threats to the lion? Lions face many threats, including the illegal bushmeat trade, habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable trophy hunting, and conflict with local people due to the real or perceived threat lions pose to livestock.

What are you doing to save it? Through Project Leonardo, Panthera seeks to ensure the long-term survival of lions across the African continent by increasing the total lion population by 50 percent over the next 15 years, to at least 30,000 lions. With a particular focus on large national parks, Panthera is currently leading or supporting efforts in 15 of the 27 lion range states in Africa to protect and connect core lion populations. With the help of statutory authorities, local governments and communities, and NGOs, Panthera identifies Lion Conflict Landscapes, or areas where lions are under the greatest threat, and then introduces tools and techniques tailored to specific lion populations and surrounding communities. These measures include mitigating human-lion conflict by working with villagers to implement better animal husbandry techniques, supporting local law enforcement in their efforts to reduce illegal hunting, and sustainably managing legal hunting.

Find out more about Panthera’s Project Leonardo

Discover more felidae species on Arkive

 

VOTE NOW!

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

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 27, 2015

First lions to return to Rwanda after two decades

Asiatic-lion-and-lioness

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 28, 2015

Will animals of the future only be safe in captivity?

Indri-infant-clinging-to-branch

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.

View original article

Southern-white-rhinoceros-getting-up-off-ground

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

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015

Meet Hades, the centipede from hell

Amazonian-giant-centipede-on-branch

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.

View original article

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

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Thursday, Jul 2, 2015

Climate change: Lizards switch sex

dwarf-bearded-dragon

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.

View original article

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

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 20, 2015

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

Puma-swimming

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 21, 2015

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

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’.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Jun 22, 2015

Wolves, monkeys: Hunting allies in Ethiopia

Ethiopian-wolf-yawning

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.

View original article

Male-gelada

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

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.

View original article

African-golden-cat-female

African golden cat female

Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

New species: Hairy-chested yeti crab found in Antarctica

Shore-crab-dorsal-view

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.

View original article

Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 25, 2015

Inside the fight to stop giraffes’ ‘silent extinction’

Adult-and-juvenile-west-African-giraffe

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.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

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