Nov 26

In the United States, folks are gearing up for a major meal tomorrow centered around one, iconic bird … the turkey! The theme of Thanksgiving is just that, to give thanks. So we’d like to shed some light on turkey species around the globe and give a little thanks for the great diversity of species we have on Earth. Some species you know and some we bet you’ve never seen before.

Any of these turkey’s ring a bell?

Ocellated turkey

Ocellated turkey photo

Check out this beauty! The ocellated turkey is a conspicuous, vibrant-colored bird that can be easily distinguished from one of its closest turkey cousins, the larger and less colorful North American wild turkey.

Turkey-chick

Turkey-chick photo

Maybe not a turkey that you are familiar with, but a “turkey” nonetheless! The peculiarly named turkey-chick is a geophyte; a plant that can survive periods of unfavorable conditions due to an underground food-storage organ. One of these would be mighty helpful during the average Thanksgiving Day meal, wouldn’t you agree?

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture photo

So a turkey vulture isn’t exactly the same as the typical bird that comes to mind on Thanksgiving, but at least this turkey has feathers! Did you know that flocks of tens of thousands turkey vulture migrate together from North America to South America each year? Imagine a roost of that size for Thanksgiving dinner!

Wild turkey

Wild turkey photo

A much more familiar turkey, the wild turkey, which is the wild relative of one of only two domesticated birds to have originated in North America, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of the largest and most distinctive members of the Galliformes (a group of game birds which includes grouse, pheasants and partridges.

We hope you enjoyed our mini-turkey tour and from all of us at Arkive, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Ari Pineda, Program Coordinator, 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

May 7

How do you prepare for a Skype interview with one of the world’s leading wildlife photographers – or photojournalists (a big difference as you’ll soon read) – Steve Winter, whose breathtaking images of big cats around the world have resulted in positive conservation gains for species?

At ARKive, it’s a no-brainer. You turn to your audience of incredibly passionate nature fans who are bursting at the seams with meaningful questions on all things wildlife imagery and conservation. A few weeks ago, we asked you to send us the one burning question you would ask if you were about to Skype with Steve Winter. He is currently in the throes of capturing emotive images of the illegal tiger trade in India. Working with author Sharon Guynup, Steve has chronicled everything from the tiger black market to tiger sanctuaries ill-equipped to handle today’s sophisticated poachers.

A tiger photographed inside Bandhavgarh.

A male tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park, India
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

We randomly selected five of your questions and each of them buzzed through my head in advance of the interview last week as I patiently waited for Steve’s Skype name to turn from translucent to green. It turned green, he called, and the interview was on…

“If you don’t tell the story, all the pretty pictures in the world won’t do a thing.”

Rafael asked, “How did you wind up on the wildlife and conservation photographer path?”

While Steve was very happy to answer this question, he was adamant about making one thing very clear from the beginning. “I don’t want the label ‘wildlife photographer’. I more consider myself a photojournalist with a conservation concentration. Being a photojournalist, you have to tell the story of the photography, the people, the environment and the animals. If you don’t tell the story, all the pretty pictures in the world won’t do a thing. All the incredible beautiful parts of the wild and species we work with doesn’t make a difference unless you tell the story.”

I had never heard this concept explained quite so elegantly before and I couldn’t help but completely agree with Steve.

Tourists at the Tiger Temple in Thailand view a “tiger enrichment” show. Young tigers entertain tourists daily, but adults rarely leave tiny, decrepit cages and are often beaten. There is documented proof of sales to tiger farms in Laos that illegally traffic tiger parts. (Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

Tourists at the Tiger Temple in Thailand view a ‘tiger enrichment’ show. Young tigers entertain tourists daily, but adult tigers rarely leave tiny, decrepit cages and are often beaten. There is documented proof of sales to tiger farms in Laos that illegally traffic tiger parts.
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

So, how did Steve end up sitting atop the back of an elephant in India taking pictures of one of the world’s most threatened big cats? He explains, “I got a job with Merck Pharmaceuticals photographing species in the Costa Rican rainforest and it changed my life 180 degrees. I didn’t know anything about being a wildlife photographer and I viewed what I was doing as photojournalism. I always wanted to be a National Geographic photographer but never thought in a million years I would be a wildlife photographer. I started as a photojournalist and having a concentration on the natural world happened in Costa Rica while working for Merck. It’s where it all began.”

“Camera traps are so worthwhile because you can put them places you can’t go.”

Sascha asked, “When is the best time of day to photograph a tiger?”

Just as Stefano Unterthiner answered in our last wildlife photographer interview, Steve said, “It’s the same as most wildlife photography – early morning and late evening but also whenever a tiger is moving. Tigers are cats so they sleep most of the time and they will be moving by the time you’re allowed to go find them in the tiger parks and up to the time you are forced to leave the tiger parks at dusk.”

Steve then went on to explain more about his technique in capturing powerful images of such an elusive species. “It’s one of the reasons camera traps are so worthwhile because you can put them places you can’t go. For a normal story, depending on the species, a camera trap will encompass 10 to 20% of the images, sometimes more for the rarer animals. They give you an opportunity to investigate and understand an animal’s movements and behavior. With that knowledge, which is given to you by scientists, researchers, and local people, you’re able to find locations similar to where you might set up a blind or hide. I use camera traps and a wide angle lens at a close-up, intimate location similar to where I would focus my long telephoto lens if I was using a standard camera. Using the camera trap, I center on a spot in the frame using an infrared beam to get the animal front and center. I know exactly where the animal is going to be.”

Mirchani Tigress cubs at the Patpara Nala waterhole and fence traps.

A camera trap captures 14-month-old sibling cubs cooling off in a watering hole. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

Camera traps were the tool of choice used to capture the incredible, iconic Hollywood cougar image which, Steve shared, took 15 months of trials and preparation to achieve!

“There are just so many moments out in the wilderness that transcends anything in your life.”

Claudie asked, “For you, personally, what is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in a tiger?”

Steve didn’t hesitate a moment before answering, “Everything.” He then continued to say two of the most profound statements of the entire interview, in my opinion.  “There are just so many moments out in the wilderness that transcends anything in your life. It brings you closer to the whole universe, not just the animal.” He went on to tell the story behind the cover image for his new book, Tigers Forever, a pictorial and factual tribute to the tigers of India and Southeast Asia, the life they live, and the threats they encounter every single day. “The cover picture of my book, Tigers Forever, marked a moment in nature for me. I waited 24 days for the image, much of it on top of an elephant and the other part in a jeep. Just the fact that everything came together…it really was a moment, just 10 seconds! I got five frames and one of them was the moment.”

Tigers Forever cover photo

A wary three-month-old cub briefly investigates our intrusion before ducking behind his mother. This tigress gave birth in the same remote cave where she was born.
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

He then described the transcendental experience of seeing a tiger in the wild. “You look into a tiger’s eye and it’s primeval. It takes you back to caveman times in your brain because it’s an absolutely amazing animal to me. I don’t like to have favorites because they are all special and have their own uniqueness to them. You become close to any species you work on for months or even years.”

“Just like an old western movie on horses, branches try to knock you off the back of a running elephant.”

Azhurel asked, “What’s your scariest encounter?”

Luckily, Steve shared that he hasn’t encountered any scary moments while working on tigers in India. However, he did recall a very scary moment while on assignment in Kaziranga National Park, India.

“I was on an elephant photographing rhinos but we were attacked by a rhino. The elephant tried to defend himself and was bit by the rhino. The elephant turned 180 degrees away and ran towards the forest. In the commotion, we lost the gun.” The rhino continued to chase the elephant, with Steve on top, for at least 300 yards into the forest and the only way the rhino relented was after repeated jabs with a long bamboo pole that Steve’s camera was attached to.  “Just like an old western movie on horses, branches try to knock you off the back of a running elephant!”

“It’s vital that we help when we can to bring the public to the story.”

Bernie asked, “In your words, how does wildlife photography support species protection and conservation?”

And in Steve’s own words, he answered, “How can you work on something without wanting your pictures to make a difference, support education, and give people a reason to care?  As a wildlife photojournalist, you don’t want the conversation to end on the pages of National Geographic magazine. You want the conversation to begin. Telling the story is important but in the end you want it to go further. Fundraisers and giving images to scientists and organizations you work with helps. It’s vital that we help when we can to bring the public to the story. That’s what protects the species.”

A male tiger crosses open grasslands in early morning. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.

A male tiger crosses open grasslands in early morning. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

“In India, it’s difficult and I’m doing what I can there. Our book, Tigers Forever, shares the story with the public and our 10 years of efforts there. The book isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning.”

So, why not start your own journey now! Have a look at the ARKive tiger page with nearly 200 images and film clips as well as a full biological fact-file. Or, learn how the kids of India are doing their part to make a difference for tigers. Finally, you can pick up your own copy of Tigers Forever with 10% of the proceeds donated to Panthera, the world’s largest big cat conservation organization.

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Apr 2
Dr. Jane Goodall photo


Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute &, UN Messenger of Peace © Stuart Clarke

Few people have inspired the world to treasure and protect nature and all living things like Dr. Jane Goodall. Sometimes affectionately referred to as “the chimp lady”, Jane has dedicated her life to inspiring people to take action in support of conservation with an emphasis, of course, on chimpanzees.

Dr. Jane has always been a tireless supporter of Wildscreen and ARKive. As recently as the last Wildscreen Festival – the world’s largest and most influential wildlife filmmaking festival – Jane spoke to a packed house about her conservation journey that started back in 1960 when she first began studying chimpanzees.

Fifty-four years later, Jane is still spreading her message of hope for animals around the world, and now there is an opportunity for the world to share a message of appreciation for Jane right back!

Jane turns 80 on April 3, 2014, and her wish is to share her birthday celebration with the world via a Google Hangout that day at 11 a.m. PDT / 2 p.m. EDT / 6 p.m. UTC. Joining Dr. Jane will be a number of young people sharing projects they are dedicating to her for her birthday. If you can’t make the virtual party, no worries! You can sign Dr. Jane’s birthday card with your sentiments and well wishes.

Dr. Jane and Freud photo

Dr. Jane Goodall with Gombe chimpanzee Freud © Michael Neugebauer

To celebrate in our own ARKive way, we’ve organized a MyARKive Scrapbook of our favourite chimpanzee images and videos on ARKive including this sweet face and this family of playful youngsters. We hope you enjoy it!

From all of us at Wildscreen & ARKive, Happy Birthday Dr. Jane!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Mar 31

One of the best parts about sharing ARKive with educators from around the world is learning how educators are using the collection in unique and creative ways to engage students in science learning. So when we learned how one teacher was inspired by ARKive to create a series of comics about Adaptation that encourage STEM-based inquiry learning, we were all …

Zebra ear photo

you guessed it – EARS!

Laura Balliet is a science & math teacher at a school for at-risk youth in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. She often struggled with engaging her students in reading about science concepts and as a result, her students were often missing important information in their science curriculum.  She decided to make short, colorful, one-page comics that addressed specific topics that she knew were going to appear on the Ohio State Achievement Assessment and then handed the comics out to her students.

Adaptations comic - Cool School Rap

As it turned out, her students couldn’t get enough of her comics and requested new comics to read daily! In her search for new ideas and inspiration for her educational comics, Laura turned to ARKive and even started included research on ARKive as part of the learning process in her comics. Over time, she has organized her comics into a collection called the Cool School Rap.

We caught up with Laura to ask her a few questions about her comics and how ARKive has helped inspire her. Here’s what she said!

What first inspired you to draw comics?

I have always doodled cartoon characters, but it wasn’t until last year, a few weeks before the achievement tests, that I figured out how to channel it.  The initial intent of the comics was to help my students prepare for the test by reviewing key science topics, but their responses were so positive, I felt inspired to continue drawing and developing the idea.

How do your comics help to teach science to a variety of student ages and learning abilities?

As a teacher of at-risk youth, I face a wide variety of learning abilities, especially low reading skills and short attention spans.  My comics deliver content with illustrations, word bubbles and diagrams making them less intimidating to struggling readers and engaging to those who are turned off by lengthy passages.

Photosynthesis comic - Cool School Rap Consumers comic - Cool School Rap

What has been your most rewarding experience using comics in the classroom?

I think the most rewarding aspect of my comics is my students’ reactions when I present them with a new comic.  They are always excited and eager to read, and when I overhear them conversing about the illustrations and the concepts, I get butterflies because it is apparent they are engaged and learning.

How has ARKive played a role in your comics?

I have been using ARKive as a resource for information for some time now, but recently, I began incorporating this site directly into The Cool School Rap’s inquiry activities.  The adaptation inquiry is a great example.  My students utilized this site to research a specific animal of interest and gather information to build a model of their animal’s habitat.  My students find the site easy to navigate and enjoy browsing through the pictures and videos.

Student using ARKive for learning

NSTA logoLaura shared that her ultimate goal with Cool School Rap is to reach as many learners as possible and we are more than happy to help share Laura’s talent and passion with the world! She has created an Adaptation comic series specifically for ARKive that you can download from the Cool School Rap website. Laura will also be volunteering at the ARKive booth at the upcoming National Science Teachers Association Conference in Boston, MA on April 3-5. Hope to see you there!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

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