May 20

As it’s Arkive’s 14th birthday, we thought we would celebrate by sharing 14 ways that you can help save the world! By just doing one of these things you can make a difference, more than one you can make a big difference, and by doing all 14 you are very much on track to save the world!

1)            Eat smart

Why?    Intensive farming methods produce a lot of air and water pollution, and agricultural areas that only contain one crop species, also known as monocultures, have an extreme lack of biodiversity and are hostile habitats for wildlife. Many countries now import a large amount of produce too, catering for our varied diet, however ‘food miles’ – which take into account the energy expenditure of transporting food from one location to another -can in many circumstances, increase the carbon footprint of your food shop significantly.

How?    Question where your food comes from – did it need to travel halfway across the planet or is it grown in nearby farms? Why not support your local economy through locally-sourced, seasonal produce? It’ll probably be fresher and tastier too.

Eat more vegetables. They’re readily available, fill your plate and belly up for less money, and you’ll look and feel better too. Look for organic food, being chemical-free not only helps your health, but that of wildlife around the farm.

Oil palm plantation in Indonesia

2)            Broaden your taste buds

Why?    Many global fisheries are on the verge of collapse and many species, such as bluefin tuna, are now classed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Many fish stocks are in a state of serious decline and overfishing is a great threat to marine wildlife and habitats – 90% of world fish stocks are fully or over exploited from fishing, alongside the pressures from climate change and pollution.

How?    The Marine Conservation Society (MCS UK) has produced a pocket guide and an app that summarises both fish to eat and those to avoid, and the Marine Stewardship Council has a worldwide certification system. Take care with the most common fish bought such as cod, haddock, salmon, and canned tuna as, due to their popularity, there are problems with all these fish and you need to choose wisely.

Consumers can help reduce the strain on certain species by demanding that the fish they eat comes from sustainably managed stocks and is caught or farmed in a way that causes minimal damage to the marine environment and other wildlife.

Avoid shopping in supermarkets or buying brands which are evasive in revealing where or how they source their fish stocks, and celebrate those who source responsibly by giving them your business.

A commercial purse-seine trawler pulling in its nets attracts the attention of scavenging seabirds

3)            Know your labels

Why?    Eco-labels are a form of sustainability measurement directed at consumers, intended to make it easy to take environmental concerns into account when shopping. There is a close relationship between eco-labelling and improving an organisation’s environmental management strategy, so paying attention is worth your time.

How?    Look for sustainability labels: RSPO palm oil certification, animal welfare, dolphin-friendly and so forth, and know what they represent. You should come across a handful fairly regularly on your purchases, make sure you understand those first, and take it from there!

4)            Be travel savvy

Why?    We love exploring the big wide world, but this can often take us to places we’re unfamiliar with, and across practices that you may never support at home. Photos with animals on the street, riding on elephants, buying jewellery with animal products, all often have a very unsustainable, unethical and often illegal background to them.

How?    Research the activities you plan to partake in ahead of time and make alternative plans if needs be. Question what may be on offer…is hugging a tiger a natural interaction?

Use reputable travel and tour operators, and check their accreditations with environmental NGOs or travel watchdogs.

Look at the menu and eat smart by never ordering endangered animals because it seems exotic or claims to be ethically sourced – no matter what the waiter says!

Elephants held for tourism are often mistreated, kept in chains and often with hooks in their ears to be pulled by their trainers

5)            Avoid one-use plastic products

Why?    Plastic debris in the ocean is an ever increasing threat, as it degrades marine habitats and contributes to the deaths of many marine animals. Because floating plastic often resembles food to many marine birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, they can choke on items after eating them or starve because of accumulation of plastic items within their digestive system, which can give them a false sense of being full.

How?    Say no to plastic shopping bags and carry reusable bags or a backpack with you while shopping.

Reusable drinks bottles are better for the planet and your pocket.

Avoid packaging on food products like fruit and vegetables, look for paper bags if you want to package up. Your local grocer should offer this, if not, suggest it.

Try bringing a packed lunch to work – all those sandwich cartons add up.

Refuse plastic drinking straws. We use them for a few minutes, and yet they can take up to 200 years to degrade. Reusable stainless steel, bamboo or glass drinking straws are a much better option.

Trash and plastics floating around in front of one of the fishing villages in Anilao, Batangas

6)            Conserve water at home

Why?    By reducing the amount of water we use and waste, we can prevent droughts from occurring. Even though our need for fresh water sources is always increasing (because of population and industry growth), the supply we have stays constant. Only 3% of all the water on Earth is freshwater, and only 1% is available for drinking. Fresh water availability is predicted to be one of the human race’s biggest environmental issues over the coming decades, so conservation is crucial.

How?    Don’t wash your dishes or brush your teeth with the water running continuously.

Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and dishes.

Consider a low-flow showerhead, and take showers instead of baths.

Try sharing a bath?!

7)            Clean clever

Why?    Chemicals used to wash our bodies, homes, cars and everything else, get washed down the drain or absorbed in the grass, and eventually end up in our water supply. Since most people use heavy-duty chemicals for all sorts of things, chemicals are doing real damage to waterways and aquatic life.

How?    Consider organic shower gels and shampoos, they usually smell great too!

Look for marine friendly brands of laundry detergent, washing up liquid and other cleaning products.

Determine the lowest amount of detergent that can be used for an effective and sanitary result.

Avoid cosmetics containing microbeads, which pollute water systems before working their way into the oceans. These tiny plastic particles work their way into the food chain, all the way up to humans.

8)            Use less energy

Why?    Most energy requires the burning of fossil fuels, a process which creates greenhouse gases – the primary cause of climate change. Increasing CO2 levels have also caused a change in the pH level of the world’s oceans, making them more acidic and causing numerous ecological issues.

How?    Use energy efficient appliances in your home, including light bulbs, TVs and fridges.

Feeling cold? Double glazing and wall insulation greatly improve heat insulation so you can save on heating bills over winter, the cheaper fix is just wearing an extra jumper!

Turn off appliances when they aren’t in use.

Switch off the lights when you leave a room.

Renewable energy systems are becoming more readily available to the homeowner, such as solar panels and mini wind turbines, and can often cause the household to actually generate excess electricity, which can be sent back into the grid.

Forest cleared for coal mining in East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia

9)            Leave your car at home

Why?    Getting a vehicle from “A” to “B” involves combustion of fossil fuels, a process that causes air pollution and emits greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide and dioxide, which contribute to global warming.

How?    Walk or ride your bike – simple! The exercise is great, it’s free, and in many cities it’s actually faster too.

Join a carpool to get to work if biking or walking isn’t an option, or if the weather looks awful!

Combine your errands – hit the post office and supermarket in one trip, rather than taking the car out twice.

Use public transport.

Carpooling is a great way to commute to more rural areas!

10)          Recycle

Why?    If we do not recycle our rubbish it is taken to landfill – a big old hole in the ground which has usually been dug out of a natural habitat, at the expense of the wildlife and plants that previously occupied the area. Burying waste in landfill spoils our countryside and is very bad for the environment. Chemicals build up underneath the surface, which can escape and cause damage to plants and wildlife, as well as polluting water.

How?    This one’s easy – most cities will recycle for you, and all you need to do is use the right bin!

Reuse -could you use that takeaway tub as a lunch box?

Choose products you buy based on how much packaging they are contained in, and whether it is recyclable.

11) Compost

Why?    Composting is a great sustainable gardening practice which involves decomposing organic matter, primarily food and garden waste, simply by leaving it to break down over a period of weeks or months. Composting the food and garden waste you produce throughout the year means you’re taking up less space in landfills so your tax money can work somewhere else. Plus, compost makes a great natural fertiliser for your garden.

How?    Composting can be as simple as raking leaves over your garden when you put it to winter bed or taking your kitchen scraps to a bin at the bottom of the garden.

Whether you’re growing vegetables, lawns, flowers and shrubs or fruit trees, composting will bring about vibrant, fortifying change to your gardens, while reducing the amount of waste you produce.

12)          Make a wildlife garden

Why?    All types of animals, from the birds to the bees, have lost habitat to human developments, and it’s an increasing scenario as human population rises. The UK alone has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the Second World War. A variety of habitats is crucial for biodiversity, and biodiversity is crucial for a stable ecosystem upon which we all depend – think of it like a game of Jenga, the more blocks there are, the more stable it is – and your garden can act as one of those blocks!

How?    Plant shrubs, flowers and trees that attract wildlife. Many conservation organisations have guides on which plants are good for species living in your area, look for high pollinating bee-friendly plants specifically.

Put out a bird feeder and bird bath stocked with clean food and water.

Having beneficial snakes, spiders, bees, bats, and other creatures around your garden is a sign your ecosystem is in good health, so welcome them in by creating areas for them. Nest boxes, tall vegetation, rockeries and log piles provide nooks and crannies for creatures to hide or sleep in.

A lot of those creatures you want to welcome into your garden need access, as not all of them can fly! Try cutting a hole in or digging a hole under your fence, or even a mini ramp up a wall, to create an animal highway between gardens. This extends the range and feeding grounds of garden wildlife, take the hedgehog for example – a natural predator of those pesky slugs and snails that eat your flowers!

Avoid chemical pesticides which rarely target just the pest species they’re intended for and can kill other creatures too, such as spiders and aphid-eating bugs.

Consider a manual lawnmower, or just let your garden turn into a meadow!

Bees are the best-known and most significant pollinators in the world and are responsible for the majority of pollination in both natural and cultivated plant communities

13)          Community gardening

Why?    Community farms or gardens are a great way to contribute to your local community. They can strengthen social ties, increase biodiversity, provide free locally-sourced food, engage city-dwellers with outdoor spaces and improve the overall well-being of an area.

A community garden can be any piece of land gardened by a group of people, an individual or shared plots of private or public land.

How?    Contact your local council of you’re having trouble finding a community garden nearby, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Hosting events such as ‘seed swaps’ are good ways to initiate discussions if a community garden isn’t in your neighbourhood. They also can really help engage all ages of the community and are a great way to save money, why pay for a plant from a garden centre when a neighbour will happily give you one for free! Please note: you should never transport fauna, flora or organic matter between countries.

You can’t just set up a community garden anywhere you feel though, as you will need to seek permission from landowners first. A good point of call if on public property is your local council, and if you need extra help getting started, consider if there are any wildlife organisations which operate in your area.

Community gardens also provide space for people and wildlife to escape the hustle and unwind

14)          Vote responsibly

Why?    Electing the right public officials is essential to good environmental policies, for those ‘it’s out of my hands’ topics. Next time you can vote, read as many manifestos as possible, and hold those politicians to their promises!

How?    Do your research and make an informed decision. Exercise your right to vote and stay involved after elections.

Don’t like something that’s happening in your area? Write to your local politician to bring it to their attention, and hopefully onto their agenda.

May 16

Arkive would like to introduce The Wait, a short film from production company Contra, which follows the journey of a wildlife photographer on a hunt to document the elusive European bison in its natural habitat of the Romanian mountains. The story details how it can take weeks to capture a shot, and the patience required to wait for this moment.

We have been speaking with Michel d’Oultremont, wildlife photographer and subject of the film, to learn about his motivations for wildlife photography.

Who are you and what is your profession?

Hello, my name is Michel d’Oultremont, I’m 25 years old and I have been a wildlife photographer since the age of 10 – I have had the great fortune of starting very young with an unconditional love for wildlife!

Michel d’Oultremont

Michel d’Oultremont

 

We found The Wait to be very emotive. Can you tell us more about your relationship with the natural world and why you wanted to photograph the European bison?

My relationship with nature is very special – I spend hours and hours in the wild trying to find and observe wildlife. It’s a way of life for me! Since the WWF (Worldwide Wildlife Fund) has started to reintroduce wild bison into the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, it has been a dream of mine to explore this region and to see these spectacular beasts. I’ve always been quite drawn to big animals like bears and muskox, so the bison is the next logical progression of that passion!

European bison © John Ford

Your creativity with the landscape shows through your work, do you have a specific image or style in mind before you begin shooting?

It all depends – I like to capture the animal in its natural habitat, so often I have to relocate to find the best light and environment. Once I’m set up, I wait for an animal to pay me a visit: a nature photo is a meeting – you just have to wait for it to happen. Although sometimes I do think more about the image and I try to realise it in any way I can.

What do you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

It may sound stupid, but I try to capture beauty in my photographs, to show the beauty of wildlife. So I try to take photographs that highlight this beauty and make for aesthetically pleasing pictures. When I manage this it is a real pleasure, but it doesn’t happen very often – maybe four or five times in a year.

Short-eared owl fight over a mouse during winter in France, no bait used © Michel d’Oultremont

Is focusing on a reintroduced species of particular importance to you? Do you feel any extra pressure when capturing images of a rare creature?

This type of project is very important because it allows wildlife to come back to its stomping ground. The work of the WWF is very important – they make the reintroduction of wildlife into the mountains possible! I don’t seek out rare animals especially, I photograph everything that happens to pass in front of my lens so it’s more that I am opportunistic.

This picture was taken in Belgium right next to my house, this nice owl decided to nest in a tree that I know very well, a real treat to be able to observe them naturally  © Michel d’Oultremont

Which animals and landscapes would you most like to photograph if you had no constraints?

That’s a really difficult question, there are many species I dream of photographing, like the Persian panther or the Siberian tiger. I would also love to go to the Canadian Arctic to see Polar Bears! There is still a lot to see, and that’s what’s great!

The Wait conveys a sense of solitude and at times loneliness, what is the longest and hardest time you have spent waiting for a subject?

I have had to wait several weeks before finding the subject and light I’ve been hoping for! But this isn’t restrictive because there are always things happening. The most difficult conditions I’ve experienced are without a doubt winter in Norway, where I was caught in a huge snow storm, but I love that these difficult conditions bring a sense of poetry to the images.

“I stayed at a location in Sweden for a week waiting for the singing black grouse. One morning the whole area was frosted, the sun was reflected on a cloud and in the drops of water, which gives these incredibly magical colours!” © Michel d’Oultremont

What is one thing you may recommend in wildlife photography?

The best advice, I think, is to know and research the species well, and do everything you can not to disturb the wildlife.

Top three items you never travel without?

The three things I always travel with – apart from my photographic equipment, of course – are my binoculars that I always take with me, my knife for quickly making a natural shade, and my notebook to try and write down everything I experience in the field.

Romanian Mountains © Michel d’Oultremont

Romanian mountains © John Ford

We’d like to thank Michel for speaking with us. If you’d like to see more of Michel’s work you can visit his website, or find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also visit The Wait website to watch the film and read more about the team behind it.

Mar 12
subir chowfin (1).jpg.small

Subir Chowfin with the forests he has helped to protect in the background

Ever wonder what  a person who dedicated ten years of his life to preserving 450 vital hectares of forest in India looks like? Meet Subir Chowfin, wildlife researcher and the next inspirational person in Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series!

If you find Subir’s story inspires you, click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Subir’s “Wish List” of conservation actions that would make a world of difference for his work.  As a team, we can each take action today to support conservation!

Subir's wish list button

A Stunning Ecosystem with a Tumultuous History

This Arkive Conservation Hero’s story Pauri Garhwal's Uttarakhand Districtbegins in the Garhwal Himalaya in the Pauri Garhwal district of the state of Uttarakhand in India where, thanks to the efforts of a local wildife researcher and his mother,  450+ hectares of forested land in The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are forever protected.

A walk through the estates reveals a bounty of  predominantly oak and pine forests interspersed with grassy hill banks and rocky crags. The forests also house an incredible abundance of wildlife such as leopards, barking deer, rhesus macaque and feature endemic species such as the cheer pheasant.

The forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are prime habitat for leopards

Interestingly, the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates initially belonged to the British East India Company and were managed as Tea Estates. From the late 1800s to the 1900s the estates changed ownership several times with a substantial 1,100+ acres landing with Rev. David Albert Chowfin.  It soon became clear though that the forests were suffering from illegal development activities in certain areas in violation of the forest and environmental laws of the country.  Some of these activities include unsanctioned road construction, illegal dumping of garbage, and land encroachment meaning humans are building houses and tending agricultural lands further and further within the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates forest. With the expansion of unchecked human activities in the forest, it became clear that something would need to happen to protect and conserve the wildlife.

A Conservation Hero Emerges

To put a halt to this activities, local citizen and wildlife researcher Subir Chowfin filed a complaint in 2006 to the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) in Pauri. Unfortunately, neither the Land Revenue Department nor the local forest department chose to take any action. In response, Subir took even greater action and filed a public interest litigation before the National Green Tribunal in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.

Subir and his mother Christine worked for ten years to save the forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates from illegal human activities, home to rhesus monkeys among other wildlife

After nearly a decade long battle with different agencies, Subir along with his mother Christine Chowfin finally achieved results. The National Green Tribunal ordered that all non-forest activities be stopped on 450 hectares of the Estates. The Tribunal also ordered the state government of  Uttarakhand to declare the 450 hectares as either reserve forest/protected forest or private forest.

Landscape of Gadoli Fee Simple Estate

From Protecting Forests to Building Conservation Programs

Through the Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust set up to support the forest, Subir works to preserve and protect the wildlife in the Estates by pursuing a long list of fascinating activities such as supporting field wildlife research projects and developing educational programs for the local community and school children. The Trust also established a sustainable agricultural program that helps promote the environmental and ecological benefits of organic farming. Furthermore, as part of their agriculture program, the Trust employs women from the hill regions of  Uttarakhand providing them with regular, stable salaries. Subir believes programs like these help to involve the community as a whole within the process of conservation and gives them a reason to preserve these forests.

Stunning landscape of The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estate

 From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Subir’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Subir’s story socially to help spread the word further to donating to his nonprofit organization that protects these forests! Or maybe you are a recent graduate or scientists that sees the Estates as an incredible opportunity to dig into Indian wildlife research and conservation work. No matter your interest, every action matters.  Please make a pledge today! 

Take Action

Subir's wish list button

Jul 3

Over 200 hundred years ago, the United States declared its independence and became its own sovereign nation. Often celebrated in America with BBQs and fireworks, the universal color scheme for any gathering today includes red, white and blue.  We thought we’d celebrate the 4th of July here at Arkive… but with our own wildlife twist!

Check out our favorite red, white and blue wildlife mascots for Independence Day this year!

RED – North Pacific giant octopus

Photo of North Pacific giant octopus

We could actually put the North Pacific giant octopus under the red and the white category since the species contains special pigment cells in the skin called chromatophores that, when activated, cause the octopus mantle to change colors from red to white. True to its name, the North Pacific giant octopus is the largest of all octopus species and can be found off the entire Pacific coast of the US.

White – Polar bear

Photo of Polar bear

The most well-known of all bears, the polar bear is immediately recognisable from the distinctive white colour of its thick fur. Did you know that the only unfurred parts of the body are the foot pads and the tip of its nose? The largest land carnivore, the polar bear calls the snowy habitat of Alaska home.

Blue – Blue whale

Photo of Blue whale

Despite its common name, the blue whale is actually grayish-blue and can even have a yellowish tinge caused by microscopic algae called ‘diatoms’. The blue whale is found in every ocean in the world except the Arctic!

Can you name some other North American RED, WHITE and BLUE animals?  Feel free to name some in the comments section and take a look to see if you can find them in the Arkive website.

From Arkive, we hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Ari Pineda, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA
May 11

In celebration of Mother’s Day in the UK, we highlighted some of the most caring mothers in the natural world. To get a different perspective, for Mother’s Day in the USA we wanted to feature wild moms who just really need a break (and I think we can all relate!).

Do any of these situations below sound familiar to you?

Personal time just doesn’t exist.

Chimpanzee photo

“Can I just take a bath in peace? Would that be so hard?”

It’s truly amazing how persistent children can be when asking for something they really want.

Japanese macaque photo

“I swear, if you ask me one more time to listen to the Frozen soundtrack, I’m gonna ground you.”

Gathering the whole crew for soccer/football/dance is an Olympic sport.

Rock hyrax photo

“Mooooom, Billy is touching me! Make him stop! And he wasn’t groomed today so he smells! And how come Bobby gets the front seat?”

Keeping children fed and satisfied can be a full-time job in itself.

King penguin photo

“Mom, I’m huuuungry. There’s nothing to eat in this colony. Moooom, can you please get me something to eat, pleeease?”

That moment when your child unexpectedly decides to make a run for it.

Lion photo

“You’d better turn your little tushy around and get right back here, mister. Stop, stop running. Can you just, please, STOP!”

Disciplining isn’t fun for either of you.

Tiger photo

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times…your brother ISN’T a chew toy!”

But in the end, there are the moments that make it all worth it…and then some!

Cheetah photo

“Mom, have I told you lately that you’re my favorite?”

Do you know a mom that could use a break this Mother’s Day?  Why not share this blog with them for a good laugh! And to all you moms out there, this one is for you!

North American porcupine

Happy Mother’s Day!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

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