Apr 10

The Amur leopard, considered to be one of the world’s most threatened big cats, is showing signs of a population recovery, according to the results of a new survey.

Amur leopard image

The charismatic Amur leopard is one of the world’s rarest cats

Positive signs

A majestic species, the Amur leopard sports the heaviest coat of any leopard, an attribute which enables this highly threatened cat to survive the long, harsh winters which envelop its pine forest habitat in the Russian Far East.

At its lowest point, it is thought that the Amur leopard population may have fallen to just 25 individuals, sparking grave concern that this incredible big cat could soon become extinct. However, results from a new survey indicate that the population may have risen to as many as 50 individuals, representing about a 50% increase from the last survey conducted in 2007.

While we cannot help but be gladdened by this fact, it is no reason to let down our guard. 50 is still a critically small number for long term persistence of [the] population,” said WWF-Russia in a news release.

Amur leopard image

The Amur leopard population may have increased by about 50% in the last six years

Camera traps and conservation

During the latest survey, researchers counted Amur leopard tracks along snowy trails to determine an estimated population size. Tracks from 23 individuals were counted, and this number was then extrapolated to estimate a minimum of 43-45 adult leopards and 4-5 cubs surviving in the wild.

The results of the survey also revealed that, as the population grows, Amur leopards are shifting and expanding their range. While most Amur leopards are known to be found in Russia, recent camera trap photos have shown that a few individuals now occur on the Chinese side of the border, and in addition sightings have been reported from North Korea.

With the promising news comes an urgent need to scale up conservation actions aimed at protecting the charismatic feline. “The Far Eastern leopard, the rarest cat on the Earth, is stepping back from the brink,” said Yury Darman, Director of the Amur branch of WWF-Russia. “We started the recovery programme in 2001 and now can be proud of almost 50 leopards in the wild. The most crucial role is played by the establishment of large unified protected areas with huge state support, which cover 360 thousand hectares of leopard habitat in Russia. It is necessary now to accelerate the creation of a Sino-Russian trans-boundary reserve that would unify six adjacent protected areas encompassing 6,000 square kilometres.”

Tiger image

Siberian tigers may be posing a threat to the Amur leopard

New rising threat

The Amur leopard has long been at risk from a variety of threats, from habitat loss and inbreeding to poaching. Poachers not only target the leopards directly, but also the prey base on which the cats depend, including deer and boar. Yet a new rising threat to the Amur leopard is becoming evident: the Siberian tiger.

The Siberian or Amur tiger is also undergoing a population increase in the region. While the recovery of the populations of both the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger is welcome news, it has resulted in clashes between the two powerful predators. As the world’s largest cat, weighing up to six times the weight of the Amur leopard, the Siberian tiger is a lethal opponent for the smaller species. In the last few years, WWF-Russia has reported that three Amur leopards have been killed by tigers, and the organisation is calling for more research to be conducted on the relationship between these two big cats.

Read more on this story at Mongabay.com – Amur leopard population rises to 50 animals, but at risk from tigers, poachers.

View photos and videos of the Amur leopard on ARKive.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Feb 5

A census of Bengal tigers is to be undertaken by forest and nature officials from Nepal and India, in the first joint survey of its kind involving these two countries.

Bengal tiger image

Bengal tiger

Joint survey

Bengal tigers once roamed Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan in numbers reaching the tens of thousands, but as a result of widespread deforestation, habitat loss and the decline of prey species, the population of this majestic animal currently stands at just over 3,000 individuals.

The governments of India and Nepal have launched a joint survey, the first of its kind, in an attempt to identify the exact number of Bengal tigers residing within the Terai Arc region. An area shared by both countries, the Terai Arc region extends over 950 kilometres across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in India, and into southern Nepal, and is home to more than a dozen wildlife preserves and forests.

According to WWF, one of the organisations assisting in the survey, the region has the distinction of housing one of the world’s densest concentrations of tigers, with an estimated 500 tigers thought to be living within its reserves and forests. The survey aims to determine exact figures for the region, while simultaneously assessing the availability of prey species.

Image of Bengal tiger cubs

Bengal tiger cubs swimming

Cat Cam

A key part of the survey involves the installation of hundreds of remote motion-sensitive cameras, known as camera traps, along wild paths known to be frequented by tigers. Any tigers that come within range of the camera will be photographed, enabling scientists to identify individual cats by their unique markings.

The same tiger trapped by a camera here on the Nepali side could cross over into India, but that tiger will be trapped by another camera there,” said Megh Bahadur Pandey, the Director General of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

This method of individually identifying tigers means that no tiger will be counted twice, thus making the population estimate far more accurate.

Bengal tiger image

Female Bengal tiger with juveniles

Ambitious plan

The Terai Arc survey forms an essential part of an ambitious plan set during 2012, the Year of the Tiger, to double the wild tiger population by 2022.

The results will show whether we are succeeding or failing towards that goal,” explained Anil Manandhar, the country representative of the WWF Nepal programme.

While the joint results may take up to four months to be compiled, it is hoped that the data gathered during the survey will assist in the development of effective tiger conservation strategies, and go some way towards saving one of the most charismatic species on the planet.

Read more on this story at BBC News – India and Nepal begin Royal Bengal tiger census.

View photos and videos of tigers on ARKive.

Explore species found in Nepal and India on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

 

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 IUCN.org – 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

Apr 28

Merove favoured genetic familiarity last week, but will this week’s team member choose a close relative or opt for something more obscure?

Ben Roberts – ARKive In-House Designer

Favourite species? Tiger

Why? I’ve always loved tigers since I was little. They seem mysterious, powerful and graceful all at the same time. Plus, they just look cool! I used to draw them, paint them, make lego tigers, and do etchings of them. All that’s left art-wise is to photograph them – maybe one day! I did used to think all Siberian tigers were white though, for camouflage in the snow!

Tiger image

The tiger is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. Tiger parts are used in many traditional Oriental medicines as an anti-inflammatory, even though it is listed on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and trade is therefore banned. The market for tiger fur is also increasing. Habitat loss and the consequential decrease in prey populations have led to tigers taking domestic livestock and coming into conflict with local farmers. Habitat loss has also isolated certain populations, which remain in one area and eventually die out.

See more photos and videos of the tiger on ARKive.

Feb 16

Valentine’s Day has been and gone but we’d like to spread a little more love, so as a thank you for sharing your favourite species with us on Twitter, we are featuring your Top Ten cool and cute critters right here in our blog!

1. Kakapo

Kakapo image

The nocturnal kakapo is the world's biggest parrot species

This feathered fellow was chosen because it is the world’s only flightless parrot, and the male attracts a female with a bellowing ‘boom’! The kakapo, a giant parrot with an owl-like face, is endemic to New Zealand, and sadly there are only thought to be around 127 individuals remaining.

2. Manatee

Manatee image

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee

The gorgeous and tranquil manatee was chosen for being such a gentle giant! This large sirenian can consume between 10 and 15% of its body weight per day…that’s an awful lot of seagrass!

3. Blue whale

Blue whale image

The blue whale is so big that its heart is roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle!

Whales are pretty incredible species, and some of you chose the blue whale as an ultimate favourite due to its sheer size; the blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived, being almost as large as a Boeing 737! Yet despite its size, this giant of the oceans feeds mainly on small shrimp-like krill.

4. Tiger

Tiger image

Young tigers are dependent on their mothers for at least 15 months

The majestic tiger was one of the favourites amongst the furred, and with its beautiful markings and powerful build, we can see why! The pattern and distribution of the stunning stripes on a tiger are unique to each animal, making identification of individuals possible. Sadly, poaching remains a threat to this incredible big cat.

5. Orangutan

Orangutan image

Orangutans are the slowest breeding of all mammal species

Orangutan means ‘person of the forest’ in the native languages of Indonesia and Malaysia, a description which certainly fits this enigmatic, human-like species. The long arms of the orangutan may reach up to two metres in length, perfect for giving their conspecifics a great big Valentine’s Day hug! Unfortunately, habitat destruction is a major threat to both species of orangutan.

6. Orca

Orca image

The shapes of an orca's dorsal fin and saddle patch are unique to each individual

The largest member of the dolphin family, the social orca, was chosen as a favourite for being graceful yet powerful. With its striking black and white markings, the intelligent orca, also known as the killer whale, is certainly an impressive animal, and the dorsal fin of a male can reach up to 1.8 metres in height.

7. Penguin

Emperor penguin image

Weighing up to 40 kilograms, the Emperor penguin is the heavyweight of the penguin world

Penguins were another of the most popular species choices, and they certainly are loveable creatures! The emperor penguin in particular shows great dedication to its family; the male will incubate an egg in sub-zero temperatures for several months without feeding. Now that’s true love!

8. Flamingo

Greater flamingo image

The greater flamingo is the most widespread of the flamingo species

The beautiful greater flamingo is instantly recognisable with its beautiful pink colouration, and long neck and legs. The highly social greater flamingo is the largest and palest of the flamingo species, and is known to swim to find food. This iconic bird nests in massive colonies containing more than 20,000 pairs, so no quiet dinner date for two where this species is concerned!

9. Gorilla

Eastern gorilla image

Young gorillas are not fully weaned until they are 3.5 years of age

The largest of the living apes, the gorilla was another of your favourite furries. This fascinating species lives in stable, cohesive family groups within tropical forests. With their cute, human-like faces and playful antics, it is hard not to feel engaged with these intelligent creatures.

10. Pangolin

Chinese pangolin image

The Chinese pangolin is terrestrial, but is capable of climbing trees and swimming

And finally, the strangest-looking creature from our top ten: the pangolin! Despite not being closely related to anteaters, the curious pangolin is sometimes known as the scaly anteater as it is highly specialised in feeding solely on ants and termites. I wouldn’t consider this to be a particularly delicious Valentine’s Day meal, but am sure the pangolin would beg to differ!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

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