Aug 1

Clare James is a wildlife photographer and conservation photojournalist. Here Clare discusses her time at the Sibuya Game Reserve, home to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation.

A lone Rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight. The dawn brings new light and hope into the world.

A lone rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight

Whilst teaching wildlife photography out in South Africa, I became aware of the enormity of the poaching issue, affecting numerous species of flora and fauna. South Africa is still teeming with wildlife compared to many other regions on this planet. This will soon change if poaching continues at the current rate.

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Clare photographing rhinos in Sibuya Game Reserve

Last year, I spent six months out in the bush filming and photographing wildlife away from the clutches of civilization, spending a few months at Sibuya Game Reserve. Spending time out in the bush filming, getting to know the men on the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) who work long hours in order to protect these beautiful prehistoric creatures was extremely special. White rhino are now the main target of criminal organisations, who stop at nothing to get their hands on the horn, rhino horn is currently one of the most lucrative commodities in the world, it is used as a status symbol in Vietnam and an aphrodisiac in China, alongside providing funding for certain terrorist groups.

Whilst filming I was delighted to meet a young rhino affectionately known as Binky, who had been born a week earlier and over the months watched her grow into a fine young rhino, under the protective eye of her beautiful parents. I got to know some of their unique personality traits and habits. Inevitably I became extremely close and attached to this beautiful family. Seeing Bingo, Binky’s father, protect his family was very touching.

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Binky’s family

 

Bingo’s protection turned out to not be enough, as less than a year later, poaching had claimed their lives. Poachers had infiltrated the reserve and using chainsaws cut away the base plate of three rhinos including Bingo and the two female mothers. Bingo survived the initial attack, fighting for the first few days then also went on to a more peaceful place, leaving little Binky orphaned. Having both mother and father ripped away, Binky and another newborn rhino, Courage, whose mother’s life was also taken that day are left alone in this world.

Through human brutality they have been torn apart. We have to continue fighting this war for the rhino’s sake. The rate of poaching can be slowed and stopped if more people stand together. My heart bleeds with the memories of the happy family which I spent so much time with a year ago.

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Please share this story to support Sibuya Rhino Foundation in their mission to protect their remaining rhinos so that the little ones have their chance to reproduce and keep this special species alive for future generations.

Save our rhinos!

Save our rhinos!

Visit the Sibuya Rhino Foundation website to find out more about the amazing work that they do

Find out more about rhinos on Arkive

See more of Clare’s beautiful images on her Clare James website

Jul 30

What comes to mind when you think of the word “drones”? It’s usually not conservation. Increasingly, however drones are being used as vital tools for conservation. Drones can provide stunning images of landscapes and wildlife from formerly impossible locations. However, a lot of questions arise when you think about how to use drones for conservation.

How does it work? Does it affect animals? How do you get started? If these are some of your burning questions then allow us to clarify.

The Arkive Team had the awesome opportunity to speak with wildlife conservation experts about the use of drones for conservation. We spoke with Annika Lieben from The Shadowview Foundation and Serge Wich from Conservationdrones.org.

Can you tell us the story behind the creation of your organization?

Serge: Conservationdrones.org started in January 2011 when I met with Lian Pin Koh, a conservation ecologist and we began discussing the issue of forest loss in Southeast Asia. It is difficult to monitor a species like the orangutan. We thought it would be amazing to monitor species from the air. Piloted planes and helicopters were expensive to use so we settled upon the use of drones, since they are more cost-effective.

Bornean-orangutan-infant-hanging-from-tree

Bornean orangutan infant hanging from tree

Annika: Well, our co-founder Laurens de Groot used to work for Sea Shepherds. They were in Cape Cross, Namibia where a massive seal culling occurs every year. Laurens and the others were detected and had to get away. In 2012, Laurens and others returned to Namibia and used drones to document the seal culling. It worked quite well and because of its success Laurens decided to further pursue the use of drones for conservation.

How did you settle upon using drones for conservation?

Serge: Well, helicopters and planes are not always available when you need them. Furthermore when using helicopters you must fly relatively low; this is quite a risk, because if there is a glitch with the engine there is very little time to react. On the other hand using drones only requires effort and funding and does not put the life of individuals at risk. By using drones for conservation, you help encourage other conservation groups to use drones for this purpose.

Annika: The use of drones offers a lot of opportunities that traditional methods cannot. Drones are a versatile tool that can be used for scientific research and data collection.

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Laurens de Groot (left) and team with drone (© Shadowview Foundation)

What are the benefits of using drones for conservation?

Serge: Drones are a great tool that allows you to capture high resolution imagery from a variety of sensors (RGB cameras, NIR cameras, thermal cameras) by flying over an area. Since drones do not have the availability restrictions of planes and helicopters, you can use them with greater frequency.  Additionally, it is more cost-efficient.

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Serge Wich (bottom right), Lian Pin Koh (top right) and team with drones (© Conservationsdrones.org)

Annika: Drones are a new way of looking at conservation. It allows you to gather data in an efficient manner and they are much cheaper than using a helicopter or plane. Additionally, poachers are not used to a drone, which provides an advantage.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about the use of drones for conservation?

Serge: I would start by asking them, which aspect of drones causes them to be skeptical. Based on that I can explain to them how drones are used for conservation and then we can see if they remain skeptical. More generally I would tell people that because the learning curve for operating drones (particularly fixed-wing systems) can be steep, operators receive extensive training. After the training they are able to operate these systems in a safe manner. While there used to be an association of drones with the military, I think this perception is changing quickly. Drones are no longer solely for the military; they are now commonly used for humanitarian work, research and conservation.

Annika: Drones provide an additional method of creating a network for fighting wildlife crime and learning about species. It’s all about working together.

How can amateur filmmakers learn to properly use drones for wildlife filmmaking? What are the best practices?

Serge: I recommend they look into small companies that offer thorough training for operating drones. By doing this you reduce the risk of the loss of your drone. It is important to do flight training so you can properly operate the drone in the field. Get the proper qualifications and be aware of safety measures. Safety is key.

For best practices, in case anything should malfunction it is vital to have a fail-safe system.  You can program the drone to land by itself or come back to a designated start point if something goes awry. You can also set up a geo-fence which is a pre-determined area in which the drone is programmed to operate. If it goes outside this area it will either land or return to a starting point. Despite the drones ability to fly on autopilot, it is still very important to know how to operate it well.

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Flight over orangutan re-introduction site in Jantho, Aceh (© Conservationdrones.org)

Annika: Foremost, to properly use drones one must be well-trained in how to fly a drone when in close proximity to animals. Learn how to safely fly drones when near birds, since birds sometimes identify drones as birds of prey.  Herd animals will also become spooked if one of their members starts to get agitated. It is always important to keep your distance from the species being studied or observed. If an animal becomes agitated because of the drone’s presence it is best to move away from the animal.

How do you maintain a safe environment for the species being filmed?

Serge: You should not fly drones too close to the species being studied. This is especially true for birds who might perceive drones as a predator and attempt to attack it. During your first flight you should fly fairly high and gauge the impact of the presence and/or noise on the behavior of the species. In this manner, you can determine which height is appropriate. You should also use a drone that has redundancy in its motors so that  it will land by itself if it loses one of its engines rather than simply crash.

Annika: In order to maintain a safe environment, it is important to do your research on the species in order to understand how it will react to a flying apparatus. Doing your research assists in providing the best approach for filming.

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Amazing aerial imagery (© Shadowview Foundation)

What have been the most meaningful successes of your organization?

Serge: I think the most meaningful successes have been the ability to detect orangutans and chimpanzees in remote areas. Also at the Chitwan National Park we trained WWF members and Nepali rangers to use drones in their anti-poaching efforts of rhinos. Recently we have also been successful in detecting habitat change which is a key component of conservation work.

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Juvenile chimpanzee hanging in branches

Annika: In collaboration with an anti-poaching team, we assisted in the capture of rhino poachers operating in South Africa and in Malawi, we used one of our drones to guide rangers to the camp of suspected poachers. We also used drones to monitor and detect illegal fishing vessels in the Mediterranean with our project partner The Black Fish. We collected evidence that will be presented to the European Commission.

One of our recent projects involves using drones to protect elephants traveling along the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor in Kenya. Drones would be used to detect poachers, collect evidence, and increase the chance of catching poachers. It would create a network to defeat a network.

African-elephants

African elephants

What do you see as the future of your organization? 

Serge: We want to continue to use drones to do conservation work.  We also want to link up researchers and conservationists with the information they need in a successful way. We are working with universities to create data collection centers of the footage from drones.  One goal is to create software that will look through all the film and immediately pinpoint the footage, which includes a specific species of interest.

Annika: We are constantly looking for new technologies that will assist us in the fight against wildlife crime. We want to keep growing and we will try any method to stop poaching.

The conservation work being done by Conservationdrones.org and The Shadowview Foundation highlight the versatility and utility of drones for research, data collection, and the prevention of wildlife crime.

Keep up the good work!

William Lazaro, Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

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.

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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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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

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

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

 

May 28

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, May 22, 2015

Octopus has the ability to see with its skin

Common-octopus

Common octopus

In a recent study, researchers found that octopus skin contains the same light-sensitive proteins found in eyes. The skin responds to light independently of the central nervous system, and detects changes or increases in light brightness.

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Article originally published on Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rescue workers try to save oil-soaked pelicans

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Brown pelican on water

Rescuers have been able to rescue eight brown pelicans, but an intensive clean-up process awaits them. Pelicans must acclimate to their new surroundings for 48 hours and are afterwards extensively cleaned. They are then taken care of for two weeks after which they can return to the wild.

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Article originally published on Sunday, May 24, 2015

Synthetic horns may offer hope to endangered rhinos

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Black rhinoceros

Currently, three of the five rhino species are critically endangered primarily due to poaching for their horns. A California biotech start-up, however has posed an unorthodox solution; creating synthetic rhino horns to offer consumers an ethical alternative. Conservationists are skeptical that synthetic horns will reduce demand for the real thing.

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Article originally published on Monday, May 25, 2015

Endangered saiga antelope mysteriously dying in vast numbers in Kazakhstan

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Male saiga antelope

Around one-third of the saiga antelope population in Kazakhstan has mysteriously died. Their agriculture ministry hypothesizes that a pasteurellosis epidemic might be the culprit. As of yet the cause has not been officially determined.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mozambique loses almost 10,000 elephants in just five years

African-elephant-family

African elephant family

In 2010, Mozambique was home to approximately 20,000 elephants, but today it houses only 10,300. Almost all of the poaching occurred in the remote northern region of the country. Celso Correia, Mozambique’s new Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, has stated that tackling poaching is a top priority of the government.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

World’s rarest porpoise is dying to feed a black market in fish bladders

Vaquita-calf-at-the-surface

Vaquita calf at the surface

In a recent report, Greenpeace officials noted that vaquitas are being caught and drowned in illegal gillnets, which are meant to catch totoabas, another endangered species. The vaquita population was 200 in 2012, but now only 97 individuals remain.

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Article originally published on Thursday, May 28, 2015

An erupting volcano threatens one of the world’s rarest animals

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Galápagos pink land iguana

Isabela Island, where a volcano is currently erupting, is the sole home of the Galápagos pink land iguana. Park officials are monitoring lava flows, which thus far have not affected the 200 iguanas on the island.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

 

 

May 15

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, May 8, 2015

Researchers find treasure trove of unique, threatened animals in Philippine forest

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Palawan hornbill perched

Researchers are attempting to declare Palawan’s Cleopatra’s Needle Forest Reserve a critical habitat. To be considered a critical habitat the area must support high biodiversity and the animals and plants that live in it must be threatened. Some of the unique species in Palawan include the Palawan bearded pig and the Palawan hornbill.

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Palawan-bearded-pig

Palawan bearded pig

Article originally published on Saturday, May 9, 2015

Black bears chase visitors in Yellowstone National Park

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American black bear, female with cubs

A black bear and her three cubs surprised tourists last week when they appeared on a bridge lined with sightseers. Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, said that “It’s a beautiful animal we can all enjoy. It’s their home. Treat them with respect…”

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Article originally published on Sunday, May 10, 2015

Threat of listing the sage grouse as endangered may be enough to protect the bird

Male-greater-sage-grouse-displaying

Male greater sage-grouse displaying

Simply mentioning the consideration of listing the greater sage grouse as endangered has been enough to raise $424 million since 2010 for restoration and 4.4 million acres of habitat have been conserved.  A loss of habitat and fragmentation has been the primary cause of their decline.

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Article originally published on May 11, 2015

Rhino poaching continues unabated in South Africa

Southern-white-rhinoceros

Southern white rhinoceros

South Africa has already lost 393 rhinos this year. Eighty percent of the world’s rhino population resides in South Africa. Crime syndicates appear to be responsible for the poaching fuelled by a demand for their horns.

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Article originally published on May 12, 2015

The triumph of the bison: Europe’s biggest animal bounces back a century after vanishing

European-bison-resting

European bison resting

In 1927, the European bison became completely extinct in the wild, but since then has made an amazing recovery with over 5,000 bison in existence today. The European bison is found in nine countries, as far west as Germany and as far east as Russia. The most recent country to welcome back the bison was Romania where it had vanished in 1862.

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Article originally published on May 13, 2015

Fewer shark are being caught – and that’s not good news

Blue-shark

Blue shark

Shark catches are down 20 percent from their peak in 2003. In 2003, fishing fleets netted 900,000 metric tons of shark. Unfortunately, however, one of the reasons that shark catches have decreased is simply because there are less sharks.

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Article originally published on Thursday, May 14, 2015

South African Airways bans all wildlife trophies from flights

Caracal-cub

Caracal cub

SAA chose to ban all wildlife trophies on their flights after wildlife traffickers attempted to smuggle ivory to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Species targeted by hunters range from crocodiles to caracals and baboons.

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Young-southern-chacma-baboon-sitting

Young southern chacma baboon sitting

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

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