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

Feb 16

The illegal trade in tigers is one of the most high profile threats to face these majestic big cats, yet it remains one of the most difficult to tackle.

Wildlife criminals control an organised illegal trade network which spans countries and continents, with tigers being unlawfully killed or poached because of the high value that their fur and body parts fetch on the black market.

Sumatran tigress

Working together to combat tiger trade

Heads of police and customs from the 13 countries in which tigers remain hope to change this, and have agreed to work together to tighten controls and improve cross-border cooperation following a meeting in Bangkok earlier this week.

The ‘Heads of Police and Customs Seminar on Tiger Crime’ was held to discuss ways to combat the illegal trade in the big cats, and was organised by Interpol and hosted by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The consortium seeks to scale up wildlife law enforcement effectiveness, through intelligence-led enforcement and advanced investigative methods.

Among the delegates were 26 senior crime officials, as well as representatives from partner organisations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

[Our efforts to fight tiger crime] must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband,” said John Scanlon, CITES Secretary General. “If we get the enforcement system right for the tiger, we will help save countless other species together with their ecosystems.

The meeting in Bangkok was held as part of efforts to improve protection and conservation measures for tigers in the wake of the 2010 Tiger Summit, where it was pledged to double the global population of tigers by 2022.

Photo of Sumatran tiger cub

Project Predator

The seminar was also used to formally endorse the Interpol-led initiative Project Predator’.

Launched in 2011, Project Predator aims to be at the forefront in improving political will to tackle the problem of illegal trade in tiger parts. It also aims to train enforcement officers in the necessary skills to fight wildlife crime.

Furthermore, Project Predator is working to encourage countries to establish National Tiger Crime Task Forces. Each of these task forces will then hopefully form working partnerships with Interpol, in order to provide modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for tiger conservation.

The project is not limited to the protection of tigers, but will in future extend to all of the big cat species in Asia under similar threat, including the snow leopard and Asiatic lion.

Photo of male Sumatran tiger

Tiger declines

Over the past century, tigers have lost more than 93% of their historical range, and population numbers have tumbled. Three subspecies of tiger – the Bali, Javan and Caspian tiger – are classified as Extinct, and only six subspecies of remain in the wild today, each with fewer than 1,000 individuals.

Find out more about the tiger seminar in an article by BBC News

Find out more about Project Predator

View images and footage of the tiger on ARKive

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 14

© Liz BonninHere at ARKive we thought we would celebrate Valentine’s Day by spreading the word about our favourite species with our Love Species campaign, and encouraging others to do the same. We are thrilled to see so many of you getting involved on Twitter, tweeting about the species you love and using the #LoveSpecies tag.

One of our favourite tweets came from scientist and TV presenter Liz Bonnin, and we were lucky enough to catch up with her to hear a little more about her love for her favourite species – the majestic tiger.

I have always been obsessed with tigers, not just because they are magnificent creatures but because to me they are the perfect embodiment of the power and serenity of nature. My first encounter with a wild tiger will stay with me forever and has shaped my life like no other single event.

The film crew and I had travelled to the “Tiger State” of Madhya Pradesh in central India and based ourselves in Baghvan Lodge, in the buffer zone of Pench National Park. Each cold, misty morning before sunrise we would set out in our deconstructed jeep in the hope of catching sight of one of the 50 remaining tigers on the reserve, but had been warned that this would not be an easy task. Past visitors had been known to spend weeks here without a single sighting. Driving through Pench, it was easy to see why Rudyard Kipling based his “Jungle Book” on this place. Langur monkeys, their strange black faces nestled in glittering white fur, littered the trees and kept a look out for crepuscular predators in the early morning light. The chital below returned the favour, barking out small alarm calls as two jackals stalked on a nearby open plain.  A rare sambar hind (the tiger’s favourite prey) browsed as a solitary jungle cat meandered down a sandy track. The scene was nothing less than mesmerising.

Tiger photo

And as luck would have it, on our second morning in Pench my dream of seeing a tiger in the wild came true. Chital alarm calls just a few hundred yards from the track we were driving on startled us in their intensity and suddenly a young chital broke out of the trees, stopping right in front of the jeep and staring at us, its pretty eyes as large as saucers, before bolting off into the forest again. And there in the distance, amongst the trees on a rocky incline I spotted a flash of orange and black, a tiger slowly climbing the hill and disappearing again all too soon.

Tiger photo

With the help of our guide, we soon found ourselves on top of a beautiful 40-year-old male elephant, its mahout gently and expertly guiding him through the thick forest, in slow pursuit of the tiger. My heart was beating through my chest as our guide and the mahout exchanged a few words in Hindi and before I knew it we were gathered around a low-lying bush. Below it, the young tigress was resting, her eyes semi-closed, her massive paws stretched out in front of her. She yawned, bore her bright pink tongue and impressive teeth and rolled over on her back, legs akimbo. She was and still is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was obvious that she was unphased by our elephant, but it was also very clear that he knew his place and that the Mahout was keeping us at a safe distance. A respect for boundaries was going on here, this was the tigress’ forest and we were merely being tolerated by her.

Tiger photo

She rolled over, stretched, and for the next three hours led us on a ‘guided tour’ of her territory, walking majestically through tall grasses and rocky terrain, inadvertently showing off the strength of her limbs and agility of her step. I tried to soak in as much of her as I could – her form, her coat, those paws, her intense stare, as she stopped every now and then to observe us. And as we finally left her in peace, I knew that I would never forget this moment.

Liz Bonnin, Scientist and TV Presenter

Get involved

Do you love tigers as much as Liz or is there another animal or plant that steals your heart? Get involved and help spread the love for species this Valentine’s Day by tweeting about your favourite using the #LoveSpecies hashtag!

Jan 23

As today marks the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon to be precise, the ARKive team decided to take a closer look at the Chinese Zodiac. Based on a cycle of twelve years, each year is assigned a different animal, and it is said that those born in the year of a particular animal take on its attributes and personality. Intrigued, we thought we would have a rummage through the ARKive vaults and meet some of these cosmic creatures…

Rat

Brown rat photo

It is said that people born in the year of the rat are intellectual, charming and sociable. Historically, the brown rat is believed to have originated from China and is indeed highly sociable, living in ‘packs’, it is also one of the most adaptable species on earth.

Ox

 Muskox photo

Those born in the year of the ox are strong, dependable and hardworking, much like the magnificent muskox. Muskox are known for their characteristic defence behaviour, in which the herd bunch together, forming an impenetrable line or circle to protect their calves from predators.

Tiger

Tiger photo

People born in the year of the tiger are said to be powerful, courageous and affectionate. The tiger is a mighty predator, capable of taking prey much larger than itself, including water buffalo, rhinos and even small elephants.

Rabbit

Rabbit photo

If you were born in the year of the rabbit, you are said to be kind, sensitive and flexible. The rabbit certainly is highly adaptable, and living in groups of up to 30 individuals, it will warn other rabbits of danger by thumping its back legs on the ground.

Dragon

Komodo dragon photo

It is said that those born in the year of the dragon, which begins today, are self-assured, noble and natural born leaders. The powerful Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world, and the strong males will wrestle each other for access to the females.

Snake

Smooth snake photo

Those of you born in the year of the snake are thought to be wise, calm and responsible. The smooth snake itself is extremely secretive, catching its prey with a quick strike and subduing it by squeezing with the coils of its body.

Horse

Przewalski's horse photo

People born in the year of the horse are thought of as cheerful, energetic and quick-witted. Przewalski’s horse certainly has reason to be cheerful – it had been declared Extinct in the Wild, but a careful captive breeding and conservation programme has since seen it successfully reintroduced.

Sheep

Bighorn sheep photo

If you were born in the year of the sheep, it is said that you are creative, sincere and sympathetic. The impressive looking bighorn sheep is well adapted to its rocky environment, with great agility and keen eyesight, it can also climb near vertical rock faces to escape from predators.

Monkey

Blue monkey photo

It is thought that people born in the year of the monkey are energetic, upbeat and good motivators. Sociable blue monkeys share the parenting duties between them, and live in groups of closely-bonded females, usually with a single male.

Rooster

Red junglefowl photo

Those born in the year of the rooster are thought to be practical, honest and perfectionists. Red junglefowl are the wild ancestors of all domestic poultry, although the bold and brilliant rooster is said to be more brightly coloured than its tame relative.

Dog

Dingo photo

People born in the year of the dog are said to be loyal, amicable and easy going. Many dingo populations live near human settlements, and can become very tame, although this brings with it the risk of hybridisation with domestic dogs – a real threat to the species.

Pig

Forest hog photo

If you were born in the year of the pig, you are said to be thoughtful, intelligent and well-mannered. The forest hog lives in groups of up to twenty, with the piglets protected by all the members of the group and able to nurse from any female.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. In honour of the Year of the Dragon, this week we will be revealing a different ARKive dragon on Facebook every day, as well as a whole host of fun facts, and fortune cookies to reveal what the future might hold for each species. Make sure you check it out!

You can also wish your friends, family and colleagues a Happy Chinese New Year by sending one of our Komodo dragon e-cards.

And finally, why not get creative and download our new dragon mask to cut out and decorate – the perfect accessory for your Chinese New Year party!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

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