Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: black-legged kittiwake

Nominated by: Blue Planet Society

Why do you love it?

The black-legged kittiwake is a dainty gull with black-tipped silver wings, yellow bill and dark eyes. This pretty gull’s shrill call “kittee wa-aake” gives them their name. Colonies of black-legged kittiwakes are most commonly found on sheer cliffs in the Northern Hemisphere, it is on these perilous cliffs that they build a deep nest from seaweed, mud and grass and deposit two speckled eggs from which downy, white chicks emerge. The kittiwake preys on sandeels and shoals of other small fish and does not scavenge like other gull species.

What are the threats to the black-legged kittiwake?

Kittiwake numbers in the UK have declined by around 50% (66% in Scotland) since the mid-1980s. This decline appears to have been driven by a slump in the availability of sandeels due to climate change and overfishing. Breeding failure increases with the proportion of sandeels fished.

What are you doing to save it?

We are campaigning for more protection for seabird foraging areas, especially during the breeding season. We would like to see increased restrictions on sandeel and other forage fish fisheries. More research into plankton, climate change and their association with sandeel availability.

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Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: common clubtail

Nominated by: British Dragonfly Society

Why do you love it?

The common clubtail has a misleading name, it is not common at all in the UK! This is a very unique species, with its bulbous eyes set apart from each other, its bright golden and black colouring and the clubbed tip of the body. While they are developing, which takes three to five years, common clubtails live as larvae underwater in rivers, burying themselves in the sediment but leaving their back ends sticking out to breath and their eyes poking out to watch for prey. This dragonfly is harder to see than most because of its habit of leaving the river and living in the tops of nearby trees as an adult.

What are the threats to the common clubtail?

This beautiful but elusive dragonfly is threatened by major works carried out on rivers, which destroys the plants they need to emerge into adults. Scouring of the river bed also removes the silt they need to bury in. Excessive silt build up is likewise a problem, suffocating the larvae, as is poor water quality. Fast moving boats on rivers are dangerous for this insect, with the wash created disturbing them during emergence. The removal of woodland near to rivers limits the amount of suitable habitat for this species, and finally, our changing climate is a potentially serious threat, with bad weather during emergence reducing their numbers and hot weather also killing the larvae.

What are you doing to save it?

Records of the common clubtail in the UK are mostly old and very patchy. The British Dragonfly Society desperately needs to understand the population sizes and distribution of this dragonfly to conserve it. This is why the society is running Clubtail Count 2017, calling on all nature lovers to join in the search for this beautiful insect. No previous experience of dragonfly identification is needed, you will be taught all you need to know to find this local specialist.

Visit the British Dragonfly Society website to find out more.

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VOTE FOR ME!

Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: horrid ground-weaver

Nominated by: BugLife

Horrid ground-weaver spider

Why do you love it?

The horrid ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) is an extremely rare endemic money spider so called because of a corruption of its Latin name horridus which means hairy. A look at the spider under magnification indeed shows that it has a series of hairs or bristles sticking out from all its legs. It is just 2.5mm across, hence the need to observe under magnification. Until last year the only images available of this enigmatic little spider were a line drawing and a photo of a specimen in formaldehyde.

The spider lives in limestone cracks and crevices and is a nocturnal hunter across scree slopes most likely feasting on springtails and other small invertebrates. The IUCN added the Horrid ground-weaver to its list of endangered species in 2016 and it is probably the UK’s most rare spiders listed under Section 41 of the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act.

What are the threats to the horrid ground-weaver?

The spider only lives on three recorded sites in Plymouth one of which has been developed into an industrial estate and another of which in 2015 was subject to a planning appeal for development. Buglife mounted a campaign to save the site, Radford Quarry, and were delighted when the planning inspector agreed to prevent development.

Many people who supported the campaign to save the Horrid ground-weaver were not spider fans indeed some were arachnophobes but they saw the importance of saving it – one supporter Helen stated on the petition “Not a panda, but just as important.”

What are you doing to save it?

After saving the site Buglife raised funds to study the spider which has now been found on a further site and we have also managed to obtain the fist ever photos and video of the Horrid ground-weaver in situ. All this was possible because over 10,000 individuals signed the petition and donated by a crowd funder. 2017 sees another obscure endemic under threat Fonseca’s seed-fly found on the north east dune scape of Scotland its habitat threatened by a golf course. Currently the only specimens of Fonseca’s seed-fly are in formaldehyde there are no photos.

Check out the Buglife website to see how you can help.

VOTE NOW!

Sep 30

Wildscreen recently worked with world-renowned street artist Louis Masai to create two beautiful murals in our hometown of Bristol, UK to mark the beginning of the Wildscreen Festival and raise awareness of two little-known endangered species. This painting event was part of Wildscreen’s Witness the Wild programme, a series of free-to-attend events from 21/09 – 28/10 in Bristol, celebrating wildlife art, photography and film.

Louis’ work mainly focusses on endangered species and he has painted everything from lovebirds to rhinos all over the world. As well as painting beautiful, realistic murals of animals, Louis has a trademark patchwork style which is the current focus of most of his work. Louis has a deep passion for the natural world that he expresses through his amazing artworks.

Pangolin

The first mural was painted on Stapleton Road in Easton, Bristol. As all of us in the Wildscreen office are extremely fond of pangolins, they seemed like the perfect choice for the first mural.

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The main threat to pangolins is the illegal wildlife trade. Their scales are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, based on the false assumption that they are a cure for numerous diseases and ailments, despite the fact that they are made out of keratin, the same material as human nails and hair, and rhino horn. Pangolins are also eaten as a delicacy in Vietnam and China, and their habitat is quickly declining due to unsustainable logging, mining and human development.

It turned out that the timing of this pangolin mural was impeccable as just a few days later, there was good news for pangolins everywhere as every species was upgraded to CITES Appendix I, effectively banning all international trade. This new legal framework should help to protect wild pangolin populations, but you can help further by sharing your pangolin knowledge and telling people what they are. Unfortunately, not very many people know about pangolins so read up on them on our new pangolin topic page and watch our pangolin film, made in conjunction with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, and tell the world what you know!

Green turtle

Our second mural was painted on Mina Road in St Werburghs, Bristol. This mural featured a green turtle. Sea turtles are one of the most ancient animals in the world and are believed to have existed on our planet for over 100 million years.

Turtle

Sea turtles are extremely unfortunate in that they are threatened by pretty much everything. Climate change is one of the main threats to sea turtles – the increased carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere is causing ocean acidification which is altering the sea’s ecosystems and food web and, as with most reptiles, increased incubation temperatures lead to more females being born, which is skewing the sex ratio and leading to less successful mating. Plastic pollution is a major threat to sea turtles as they frequently mistake plastic litter for food which can cause major health issues, and they are also negatively affected by chemical pollution and oil spills. Sea turtles are often hit by boat traffic when they surface to breathe, and their coastal nesting habitats are threatened by development. Sea turtles are unsustainably hunted in many parts of the world and their eggs are taken from their nests.

Read up on ocean acidification and marine plastics on our topic pages to see what you can do to help sea turtles and other marine species.

If you live in Bristol please go and visit the murals and share your pictures using #wildscreenfest.

Come to our free bicycle-powered film screenings and open air wildlife photography exhibition in Bristol – check out the programme.

Follow us on Instagram to see what we’re up to

Share this blog to tell your friends and family about the plight of these endangered species.

Check out Louis’ website to see more of his amazing work.

 

Hannah Mulvany, Wildscreen Exchange Executive

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