Apr 10

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, Apr 3, 2015

‘Lazy’ sea lion sons rely on mothers milk while diligent daughters learn to hunt


Galapagos sea lion pup

For the first two years of their life, male Galapagos sea lions barely make any effort to hunt. Meanwhile, many young females hunt at sea even before their mothers wean them.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 4, 2015

How do hummingbirds fly in wind and rain?


Ruby-throated hummingbird male feeding on flower

Researchers placed hummingbirds within a wind tunnel to observe their response to different wind speeds. They twist their bodies to accommodate the airflow which expends more energy, but allows them to continue flying in place.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 5, 2015

Florida wildlife officials ask people not to ‘help’ gopher tortoises


Gopher tortoise in burrow entrance

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Department urged people to not help gopher tortoise hatchlings to the ocean, since they cannot swim.  The announcement was made after three instances occurred of people trying to help.  The public was reminded that not all turtle species can swim.

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Article originally published on Monday, Apr 6, 2015

Aceh’s purge of illegal oil palm at 3,000 hectares and counting


Young Bengal tiger

Oil palm plantations are being removed to protect the people from ecological disaster. The plantations lie within the protected Leuser Ecosystem (KEL), the last place where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger, and orangutan coexist in the wild.

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Indian elephant bull

Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 7, 2015

Overfishing leads to crashes in sardines and other forage fish


Pacific sardine

Forage fish are essential food for bigger predators thus playing a vital role within the ecosystem. U.S. fisheries managers are deciding whether to shut down fishing for Pacific sardines since stocks are declining.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 8, 2015

The truth about magpies


Magpie stealing partridge egg

Magpies have a notorious reputation for being thieves of shiny baubles and preying upon the defenseless chicks and eggs of songbirds.  The reality however, is that they are interested in objects, their shininess is irrelevant. While they may prey on songbirds, there is no evidence to suggest they cause population crashes.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 9, 2015

Farmers urge return of jaguars to protect crops


Female jaguar resting in vegetation

White-lipped peccaries damage farmers’ crops in Brazil as their populations grow and farmers are considering alternatives to hunting. One option is maintaining well-connected jaguar habitat on their agricultural properties thereby allowing jaguars to naturally control peccary populations.

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White-lipped peccaries caught on camera trap

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Apr 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, Mar 27, 2015

New species of monitor lizards found on the black market


Northern Sierra Madre forest monitor

In a black market in Manila, researchers discovered two new monitor lizard species for sale. They obtained the lizards and took them back to the United States for genetic analysis.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Malawi to burn its £5m ivory stockpile this week – and demonstrate its commitment to wildlife conservation


African elephant family

On Thursday (Apr.2), Malawi President Peter Mutharika will lead the march to the incineration of the country’s ivory stockpile. In purely commercial terms a live elephant is worth 75 times more than a dead one.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Injured tortoise given 3D printed shell


Burmese starred tortoise

An injured female leopard turtle has been given a prosthetic shell to protect her as she heals. With a healthy diet and optimum temperature, the shell is expected to regrow properly. She belongs to the Testudinidae family that includes the equally stunning Burmese starred tortoise.

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Article originally published on Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Sexy male birds ‘make worse dads’


Blue-and-yellow tanager perched on branch

Among male blue-black grassquits, who  belong to the tanager family Thraupidae, those with more striking coloration provided less food to their offspring when compared to less ornamented males. Attractive males tend to pursue extra pair copulation.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

New Report: Five years after Deepwater Horizon, wildlife still struggling


Pair of bottlenose dolphins breaching

Species are still feeling the effects of the Deepwater Horizon event. In 2014, dolphins on the Louisiana coast, were found dead at four times the historic rate which is connected to the oil spill. After the spill, the number of Kemp’s ridley turtle nests has on average declined.

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Kemp’s ridley turtle

Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 1, 2015

Warm spring helps endangered butterfly’s numbers soar

High-brown-fritillary-feeding-on-marsh-thistle (1)

High brown fritillary feeding on marsh thistle

The high brown fritillary is one of the UK’s rarest butterflies. Since the 1950’s the butterflies numbers have fallen dramatically. In 2014, however its population increased by more than 180% compared to the previous year.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 2, 2015

Tarantulas’ movements get a ‘little wonky’ if its too hot


Curlyhair tarantula

A recent study looked at the effect of temperature on the locomotion of tarantulas. Higher temperatures caused their coordination to decrease, while cooler temperatures caused them to slow down.

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 Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 


Apr 25

A study has highlighted how two rare species of Chelonian are being threatened by hunting in India.

Two endemic species of the Western Ghats in India, the Travancore tortoise and the Cochin forest cane turtle are being threatened with extinction due to poaching from indigenous and non-indigenous people. The Chelonians (turtles and tortoises) are the second most imperilled vertebrate group in the world and the two species highlighted in the study are no exception, with the Travancore tortoise classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List and the Cochin forest cane turtle classified as Endangered (EN). Cochin cane turtles inhabit evergreen forest habitats, and unlike many other turtles, do not require the presence of water. This turtle species is so rare that no scientists saw the species for 70 years between 1912 and 1982. The Travancore tortoise is an omnivore, and can be found in evergreen, moist deciduous, and bamboo forests. This tortoise species is known to produce chorus calls at night, but the purpose of the call is unknown.

The Cochin forest cane turtle

A study published in The Asian Journal of Conservation Biology in 2013 investigated the illegal hunting and consumption of these rare animals, and found that many individuals are caught by non-local forestry workers, including those who work as part of fire management initiatives. However, there was also evidence that Chelonian experts were harvesting these rare species and some individuals even used trained dogs while hunting. The study indicated that 77 percent of the 104 people that were interviewed had consumed the Travancore tortoise and 22 percent had consumed the Cochin forest cane turtle. Chelonian meat was reportedly on sale in local establishments. Although it was found that the primary reason for harvesting wild individuals was for consumption, there was also some evidence that the two species were taken due to superstitions and for medicinal purposes.

The Travancore tortoise

The authors of the report, said, “Wildlife hunting in India is illegal and punishable via the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972, which includes most of the susceptible species … However, hunting continues to be widespread in several regions of India even though it is disregarded or refuted”. The interviews indicated that all 104 respondents knew the illegality of consuming the two species, but problems with pressing charges and corruption are thought to mitigate the risks.

Cochin forest cane turtle on leaf litter

The authors of the study suggest that a limit on the number of dogs allowed at each indigenous settlement may help to reduce the risk of Chelonian hunting, and that the forest department must make a concerted effort to properly supervise forest staff and educate them about the plight of Chelonians. The authors also highlighted the past success of poster campaigns introduced by the Kerala State Forest Department, which aimed to challenge similar local use of animals. Threatened Chelonians, including the Indian star tortoise, were targeted by the previous campaign, and the authors suggest that this kind of promotion could be repeated for the Travancore tortoise and the Cochin forest cane turtle.

Read the original article at Asian Journal of Conservation Biology – Hunting of endemic and threatened forest dwelling chelonians in the Western Ghats, India

Find out more about the Travancore tortoise at Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises – Indotestudo travancorica

View photos of the Travancore tortoise and the Cochin forest cane turtle on ARKive

Find out more about the wildlife of the Western Ghats on ARKive

Read more about this story at Mongabay – Chelonians for dinner: hunting threatens at-risk turtles and tortoises in India

Read more about turtle and freshwater tortoise conservation at the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group

Mar 26

A man has been arrested for attempting to smuggle over 10% of one of the world’s most endangered tortoise populations into Thailand just a day after the conclusion of a CITES meeting where delegates resolved to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade.

Ploughshare tortoise

The Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoise is threatened largely by habitat loss.

Two wildlife smugglers have been arrested at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, for attempting to bring 54 ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) and 21 radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) illegally into the country. Both species are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and occur only in Madagascar. Wrapped up alive and hidden in suitcases, the tortoises were flown from Madagascar to Bangkok via Nairobi.

Chris Shepherd of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, commented, “The criminals behind this shipment of ploughshare tortoises have effectively stolen over 10 percent of the estimated population in the wild.”

Radiated tortoise

The radiated tortoise is prized for its beauty and is in high demand in the illegal pet trade.

The beautiful appearance and rarity of these species has driven their demand in the black market pet trade. Both species are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that their trade is only permitted in exceptional circumstances. The radiated tortoise has suffered an immense decline in numbers due to habitat loss, hunting and collection for the pet trade, and is at risk from extinction within the century if further conservation action is not taken.

The 38-year-old Thai man was arrested as he attempted to collect the suitcases from the baggage carousel. However, the bags were registered to a Malagasy woman who was also arrested on site. The same man was arrested earlier in the year on a similar smuggling charge. Both felons are to face charges in Thailand.

We encourage the authorities to throw the book at these two. Making an example of them will hopefully serve as a deterrent for other smugglers,” said Shepherd.

Black pond turtle

Black pond turtles seized earlier in the day are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The seizure was made hours after 300 Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) and 10 black pond turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) were found in abandoned luggage at the same airport. Although listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, Indian star tortoises are protected within their range (India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan), from which commercial export has been banned due to the high demand for this species in the pet trade. Black pond turtles are listed on CITES Appendix I.

Thailand seized over 4,300 tortoises and freshwater turtles between 2010 and 2012, and half of these were Indian star tortoises. The Conference of the Parties meeting saw a decision by delegates from Thailand and Madagascar to cooperate in an attempt to control wildlife smuggling between the two countries.

Illegally traded green turtles

Greater international cooperation is needed to fight the illegal trade in wildlife.

We urge authorities to go after the criminal masterminds behind these shipments and break the trade chains that threaten these incredibly rare animals,” Shepherd concluded.

The seized animals are currently being held in the Bang Pra Breeding Centre, a government rescue centre in Chonburi, Thailand. It is hoped that they will soon be able to be returned to Madagascar, where conditions and climate are more suitable for their survival.


Read more on this story at The Guardian – Over 10% of a single tortoise species’ population found in smuggler’s bag and TRAFFIC – Largest seizure of Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoises made in Thailand.

Read more about the ploughshare tortoise, radiated tortoise, and the black pond turtle on ARKive.


Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author


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