Nov 22

Switzerland-based Save Our Species (SOS), a flagship species conservation initiative, has announced that it has secured US $2.5 million to fund 25 vital new projects.

Dugong image

The enigmatic dugong is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Vital funding

A whole host of threatened species – from dolphins and dugongs to rhinos and river turtles – will benefit from this second round of conservation projects supported by the SOS initiative. A global coalition initiated by IUCN, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank, SOS has secured a large amount of funding to enable the implementation of a wide variety of conservation projects, focusing on both charismatic and lesser-known species.

With more funding available from a broader range of sponsors and donors, we can be much more efficient in addressing the current biodiversity crisis. That is why we are ramping up our efforts in promoting SOS to individuals and companies alike with the possibility to make online donations while also engaging with several progressive industry leaders,” said Dr Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme and SOS Director.

White-bellied heron image

The Critically Endangered white-bellied heron is the second largest heron species in the world

Positive impact

Since its launch in 2010, SOS has not only had a positive impact on wildlife, but also on local communities. It has so far supported projects targeting more than 150 species listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the newly secured funding will go some way to conserving many more. However, SOS staff warn that much remains to be done.

The latest injection of US $2.5 million doubles the number of active SOS projects, but much more needs to be done in the field of species conservation,” said Dr Vié. Every year we receive more project proposals than we can possibly fund and the selection process is extremely challenging.

Urgent response

In response to the current biodiversity crisis, with one in three amphibians and one in four mammals at risk of extinction, SOS has adopted a species-focused approach to conservation. Through channelling capital into conservation projects which are deemed to be engaging as well as technically sound, well designed and cost effective, SOS aims to halt biodiversity loss and boost the resources available for conservation.

Siamese crocodile image

The Siamese crocodile is classified as Critically Endangered

Select species

The new SOS projects will be implemented by NGOs across the Americas, Africa and Asia, starting immediately. Among the latest list of SOS-funded ventures are the implementation of measures in Mexico to protect the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise species, a dugong conservation project in Mozambique, and a project to ensure the future survival of the Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile in Cambodia.

Through focusing on the protection of a target species, some of the proposed conservation measures will actually benefit several others in the process. For instance, a project aiming to enhance protection of the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino is set to contribute towards the conservation of several other threatened charismatic species, including the Sumatran elephant and the Sumatran tiger.

Long-beaked echidna image

The Critically Endangered western long-beaked echidna is one of many enigmatic species set to benefit from the latest SOS funding

Halting biodiversity loss

The welcome news from SOS comes just a few weeks after the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, where 193 countries discussed ways of honouring their engagement to preserve nature and the services it provides. A recent report in Science calculated the cost of improving the status of threatened species up until 2020, quoting a figure of US $4 billion annually, and while this may seem like a monumental payout, this equates to just 1% of the value of ecosystems being lost each year.

We invite everyone who is interested and passionate about protecting the world’s animals and plants to join us and help answer the SOS call from the wild, so that we can do more for the amazing diversity of life on our planet on which our own lives depend so dearly,” said IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.


Read more on this story at – Answering the SOS call from the wild: dolphins, rhinos, tigers and others to benefit from more funding.

Learn more about endangered species on ARKive.

Find out more about SOS – Save Our Species.


Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Sep 22

Have you ever wondered why rhinos seem to enjoy caking themselves in mud? Or pondered over what the collective noun for a group of rhinos is? Well fear not, inquisitive folk, because ARKive is here to answer your questions!

To celebrate World Rhino Day and help raise awareness for these magnificent mammals, we’ve gathered together some awesome images and fascinating facts about the five (yes, five!) different species of rhino for you to enjoy.

I’m a sensitive soul…

Black rhino image

Black rhino wallowing

Despite their tough-guy appearance, rhinos actually have quite sensitive skin. By wallowing in mud and allowing it to dry, rhinos are essentially covering themselves in a protective layer which acts as a barrier to biting insects and the sun’s harmful rays. I’m all for environmentally friendly products, but I’m not sure I’ll be trying this particular natural sun-screen method myself next summer…!

High-speed horn

Northern white rhino image

Northern white rhino running

They may look chunky and unable to move at more than a slow trot, but don’t be fooled! Black rhinos can run at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour, and can change direction rapidly. However, this species is definitely more of a sprinter than a marathon contestant, and can only run at this speed in short bursts.

Pucker up!

Black rhino image

The black rhino has a pointy, prehensile upper lip

One of the easiest ways to tell black and white rhinos apart is by checking out the shape of their lips. As browsers, black rhinos have a pointy, prehensile upper lip to pluck fruits and leaves from trees, whereas the square-lipped white rhinos are grazers, acting much like giant lawnmowers as they plod through the grassy savannah.

Can we have an ‘awww’?!

Southern white rhino image

Young southern white rhino

Baby rhinos are cute! OK, this may not technically count as a top fact, but I still think it’s accurate! White rhino pregnancies last for a whopping 16 months, and the calf drinks its mother’s milk for 1 to 2 years.

Military mammal?!

Indian rhino image

Indian rhinos have a somewhat armour-plated appearance

The Indian rhino has an armour-like appearance, due to the ‘plates’ of skin that cover its body. Indian rhinos often play host to avian hitchhikers, with various species of ‘tick birds’ riding on their backs. These birds are thought to feed on parasites found between the lumpy folds of the rhino’s skin.

Crash, bang…wallow?!

Souther white rhino image

A group of rhinos is known, rather appropriately, as a 'crash'

The collective noun for a group of rhinos is (drum roll, please!)…a crash! Need we say more?!

A rhino-saur…

Javane rhino image

A secretive Javan rhino

The prehistoric-looking Javan rhino is thought to be one of the most endangered rhino species of all. In fact, the Vietnamese Javan rhino, a subspecies of the Javan rhino, was driven to extinction in 2010.

The furry one

Sumatran rhino image

The Sumatran rhino is covered in reddish-brown hair

The Sumatran rhino is the only Asian rhino species to have two horns. This fact gave it its genus name Dicerorhinus, which comes from the Latin words for two (di), horn (ceros) and nose (rhinos). This species is also rather distinctive in that it is covered in reddish-brown hair. Despite being big and bulky, the Sumatran rhino is surprisingly agile, and is a decent swimmer.

Blind as a…rhino??

White rhino image

Rhinos have poor eyesight

Rhinos may have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell, but they have very poor eyesight, and white rhinos are only able to see up to a distance of about 20 metres or so.

Help for the horned ones

Southern white rhino image

Southern white rhino

Rhino horns grow as much as 8 centimetres a year, and have been known to grow up to an incredible 1.5 metres! Sadly, rhinos are often poached for these horns, which are believed by some cultures to have medicinal properties. However, there is no scientific evidence for this, and in actual fact rhino horn is made of keratin, the same substance found in our own hair and nails. All five rhino species are threatened with extinction, and urgent action is needed if these magnificent creatures are to survive for future generations to admire.

Get involved

For more information about World Rhino Day, and events and activities in your area, visit the World Rhino Day website.

To learn more about rhinos and their conservation, visit the International Rhino Foundation.

To find out more about the rhino crisis, visit Saving Rhinos.

And finally, don’t forget to check out our rhino conservation board on Pinterest.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Mar 21

A battle for survival

Despite three of the world’s five rhino species being classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, rhinos remain embroiled at the centre of a bitter poaching battle. In southern Africa, poaching is the single biggest threat to rhino survival, and since 2006, more than a thousand rhinos have been slaughtered by increasingly organised gangs and crime syndicates.

Levels of poaching have escalated in recent years, fuelled largely by increasing demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is highly valued in traditional medicine. In fact, rhino horn is known to rival the price of gold on the black market; last year in Vietnam dealers quoted prices of up to $133 per gram of rhino horn – almost double the price fetched by gold.

Get Involved: Your chance for a Q & A session with Peter Gwin

With several rhino species edging ever-closer to extinction, the urgent need for conservation of these magnificent animals has never been clearer. So, with that in mind, we’re giving you the chance to find out more about some of the issues surrounding rhino conservation.

On Thursday 22nd March at 5pm GMT/1pm EST/10am PST, ARKive is hosting an exclusive Facebook 30 minute chat with NatGeo author Peter Gwin about issues surrounding rhino conservation in South Africa.

Photo of black rhinoceros

The black rhino is the smaller of the two African rhino species, but it is still targeted by poachers for its valuable horn.

What would you like to ask Peter about rhino conservation? Post your questions on our Facebook event page for a chance to discover Peter’s views.

About the author

Peter Gwin has been a staff writer at National Geographic since 2003, reporting on everything from modern pirates in Southeast Asia to early tyrannosaurs in western China. His most recent piece, entitled Rhino Wars, was published in the March 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine.

The article is a hard-hitting piece about some of the gritty issues faced by organisations and individuals’ working to conserve the world’s remaining rhinos (WARNING: some graphic images).

©Brent Stirton/National Geographic

A white rhino cow (left) grazes with a bull that has become her companion after a poaching attack in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Using a helicopter, a gang tracked her and her four-week-old calf, shot her with a tranquilizer dart, and cut off her horns with a chain saw. Rangers found her a week later, searching for her calf, which had died, probably of starvation and dehydration. ©Brent Stirton/National Geographic.

Peter will also be releasing an eShort book in April – Rhino Wars: The Violent Underworld of Poachers and Black Market Medicine.

Interested in rhino conservation? Don’t forget to join the debate on Facebook before Thursday and post your rhino conservation questions for Peter.

Jan 11

Conservationists in Nepal have reason to celebrate, as it has been reported that no Indian rhinos were killed by poachers in the country in 2011.

Indian rhino image

No Indian rhinos were killed by poachers in Nepal in 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

There are currently five recognised species of rhino, three of which are found in Asia and two in Africa. All rhino species are poached for their horns, which are sold on the black market for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Despite being made of keratin, the same protein as that found in human hair and nails, rhino horn is sold for a staggering amount, and gram for gram is currently twice as expensive as gold.

With the number of rhinos lost to poachers in a single year in South Africa rising to a record 448 in 2011, the good news from Nepal is extremely welcome.

Nepal is home to approximately 534 of the world’s 2,500 Indian rhinos, the remainder of which are found in India. Also known as the greater one-horned rhino, the Indian rhino is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Indian rhino image

Rhinos are poached for their valuable horn which is sold on the black market

Rhinos on the brink

With three of the world’s five rhino species classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, conservation efforts are more important than ever. Sadly, 2011 also brought with it the news of the extinction of two rhino subspecies, the Vietnamese rhino and the western black rhino.

Yet the latest news from Nepal demonstrates how well-managed, targeted conservation action can contribute to the survival of a species. Asian species expert at WWF, Barney Long, is pleased with the results of the conservation efforts in Nepal, “This is the first time in 29 years that Nepal has gone an entire year without a single poached rhino, and it’s a testament to the efforts of the Government of Nepal, WWF and many partners.”

Indian rhino image

The Indian rhino is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

A positive approach

Mr Long hopes that the success of rhino conservation in Nepal, which has contributed to an increase in Indian rhino numbers, will spread further afield in the coming months, “We hope the new year will bring additional good news from other countries like South Africa as they continue to crack down on rhino poaching.

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Happy rhino news: no rhinos poached in Nepal last year.

View photos and videos of species found in Nepal on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Jan 5

Camera traps have successfully captured footage of 35 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, providing new evidence of this species’ sole surviving population.

Photo of Javan rhinoceros feeding

Evidence of breeding

The images from the cameras included five calves, giving encouraging confirmation that the rhinos in the park are breeding. However, they also showed that around 60% of the rhinos are male, raising concerns over an imbalance in the sex ratio of the tiny population, which could lead to increased fighting between rival males. Four of the five calves recorded were also male.

Photo of Indonesian Javan rhinoceros wading in water

According to Yanto Santosa, a Javan rhino expert from Bogor Institute of Agriculture, the camera footage gives more accurate estimates of rhino numbers than previous methods that involved counting rhino footprints.

Last stand against extinction

Previously widespread across Southeast Asia, the Javan rhinoceros population has been decimated by habitat loss and by hunting for its horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Photo of Javan rhinoceros in shallows of river

Until recently, this Critically Endangered species was confined to Java in Indonesia, and to a single national park in Vietnam. However, late last year it was announced that the Vietnamese subspecies, Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus, had become extinct, leaving the single Javan population as the species’ last stand against extinction.

Precarious future

Although the total number of rhinos in the park is likely to be higher than the 35 recorded on camera, the total population of this highly endangered species is not thought to exceed 60 individuals. As the entire population occurs in one park, it is also at high risk of being wiped out by a single natural disaster or outbreak of disease.

Photo of a pair of Indonesian Javan rhinoceros

With no Javan rhinos occurring in captivity, the preservation of the last remaining population in Ujung Kulon National Park is vital for the survival of the species.

To this end, a dedicated rhino breeding sanctuary is being set up within the park to help Indonesia reach its goal of increasing the population of this rare rhino to between 70 and 80 individuals by 2015.

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Camera traps snap 35 Javan rhinos, including calves.

Read more and watch footage from the camera traps at The Telegraph – Hidden cameras film rare Javan rhinos in Indonesia.

View photos and videos of the Javan rhinoceros on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author


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