Feb 27

Have we got a treat for you times two! First, have you seen the incredible new Illinois feature page just launched on the ARKive website?

ARKive's Illinois feature page

From the stony outcrops at the Garden of the Gods to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, the state of Illinois is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the Great Lakes basin. Through the generosity of ARKive supporters in the great state of Illinois, we are delighted to launch the ARKive Illinois feature page; the GO-TO source for Illinois wildlife media and natural history information. You can spend hours exploring 50 well-known and well-loved species of Illinois as well as 100+ lesser-known but just as important species that deserve recognition!

ARKive's northern raccoon photo

So, what’s the best way to celebrate this new feature and all of the wonderful wildlife, woodlands, and wayward walks in Illinois?  By gathering an incredible collection of scientists, conservationists and nature diehards that can’t wait to tell their favorite WILD stories in the Land of Lincoln as part of our Going WILD in Illinois mini-blog series!

Il parter logos

For the next two weeks, we’ll be publishing guest blogs from our friends at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and more who are anxious to share stories about Illinois endangered species recovery, explorations of incredible natural areas found only in the state, and brilliant Chicago students who are leading the charge as the conservationists of tomorrow.

ARKive barred owl photo

Of course, there will be loads of awe-inspiring imagery from fantastic ARKive contributors to quench your thirst for wildlife media – it’s what we do!

So, come back to the ARKive blog often to read the next chapter in the series. Follow the Going WILD in Illinois blog tag or look for the series on social media by searching #GoingWILDinIL.

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Jan 31

A typical work day for many of us includes 8 hours toiling away in front of a computer screen seated in a cushioned chair shuffling through emails, reports and meeting notes. However, a typical work day for wildlife and conservation photographer Stefano Unterthiner couldn’t be more different.

Wandering albatross pair being photographed by Stefano Unterthiner

ngm_jan_2014_cvr 2

Capturing images of spectacular wildlife across the globe in all weather conditions imaginable is a typical day-in-the-life for Stefano and most recently, Stefano was lugging his camera equipment across various Indonesian islands in 90⁰F steamy heat following the footsteps of the closest thing we have on Earth to real dragons … the Komodo dragon.  Photographing this strong, lethal but vulnerable species was the challenge for Stefano while on assignment for National Geographic capturing amazing photographs for Once Upon a Dragon, an article in this month’s issue of the magazine focusing on the history and future of these prehistoric-looking reptiles.

Komodo dragon image ©Stefano Unterthiner/National Geographic

Saliva dangling, a dragon shows off its wide strut on Rinca at low tide. The lizard’s spit is venomous, but prey usually die from being torn apart—or, if they are bitten but manage to escape, from infection of their wounds. ©Stefano Unterthiner/National Geographic

In a rare opportunity to get a behind-the-lens glimpse of life as a wildlife & conservation photographer, we worked with National Geographic to interview Stefano about his experience in the field for the article. Before the interview, we invited you, our amazing followers, to ask your questions about wildlife & conservation photography, the behind-the-scenes stories about Stefano’s work for the article, and his thoughts on the power of wildlife photography in raising awareness of threatened species. We think you’re going to love his answers!

“I was pretty happy when I got the shot.” 

Mike asked, “Can you tell us a story behind one or more of your images in the article?” 

Stefano shared that one of the pictures he particularly liked didn’t actually appear in the magazine but it’s an image of a Komodo dragon lying in the middle of vegetation just before dusk (it’s the twelfth picture on the page). It was very difficult to actually find the dragons, even with the help of the ranger, but also to figure out the right lighting and angles since it was so close to dusk. He said, “from a technical point of view, it was probably the most challenging photograph I ever took since I needed to find the dragon in the right position while it was nearly dark and then also position the light correctly. My wife was actually holding the light over the dragon for me. But after it was done, I was pretty happy when I got the shot”.

“I feel in danger all of the time.” 

Dave asked, “Was there ever a time when you felt like you were in danger?”

Stefano shared that actually,”I feel in danger all the time. You have to otherwise you take too much risk”. He went on to say that this assignment was probably one of the most difficult jobs in his life. “You can never forget that the animal is so deadly. In the very beginning, I started working with the animals just learning about them. I started taking photographs with the polecam (a camera attached to a long handle) but you can’t really control the composition, focus, light, etc., so I started working with the hand camera always with a ranger behind me.” He recalled one occasion when he was photographing a dragon from a tree to get a different perspective. The ranger told him when it was OK for him to jump down. “I didn’t realize that when I jumped down, the dragon could feel the vibration on the ground exactly where I jumped. Luckily, I moved a millimeter away from where I landed and the dragon just missed me with its mouth. It was my fault because I wasn’t as aware of the animal as I should have been .”

Komodo Dragon photo

A female dragon tastes the air on Rinca Island, part of Komodo National Park. Each tine of the forked tongue picks up molecules from prey or carrion to carry to a sensory organ in the mouth. A high concentration guides the way. ©Stefano Unterthiner/National Geographic

“The local people aren’t actually a threat to the species. They have respect for the dragons.”

Mattia asked, “How do you think your recent work could help to change the perception of Komodo dragons through local people and policy makers? Do you believe your images could be a useful tool against harmful behavior to this species (invasive tourism, poaching, etc.)?”

Stefano answered that, “for the Komodo dragon, the local people aren’t actually a threat to the species. They have a respect for the dragons.” In the Once Upon a Dragon article, it was shared that islanders historically would leave some of the spoils from their successful deer hunts out for their reptilian neighbors. Stefano stressed that, “the opportunity to help the species is with the policymakers who can make decisions like creating new habitat space for the dragons on other islands, especially where there are larger deer populations [the dragon's preferred prey]. I hope policymakers will see my images and encourage more support for the dragons.”

“I just follow what I love.”

Lisa asked, “What first inspired you on the wildlife & conservation photographer path?”

Stefano answered this question simply and poetically by stating it wasn’t a single event or even a particular person that inspired him on the wildlife & conservation photographer path. He said, “Nature is my inspiration.” The natural world gives him all the motivation to follow his path and what seems to keep him on the path is his desire to help conserve it. He simply stated, “I just follow what I love”, fantastic advice for just about any situation in life!

Stefano follows his love for nature to all corners of the world including Sulawesi where he captured this award-winning portrait of a crested-black macaque

“There is no magic solution; it’s a lot of hard work.”

Ceres asked, “What do you think is one of the greatest difficulties for someone trying to get into the field of wildlife and conservation photography?”

Stefano shared that in his opinion, the best thing a person with aspirations to become a wildlife & conservation photographer can do is to, “be yourself, take photos from your own perspective, and pick species that are interesting to you. There is no magic solution; it’s a lot of hard work. There are lots of photographers out there and the key is to do something new to help you stand out from the pack.”

“The hardest shots are the ones I never got.”

Kristin asked, “What’s the hardest shot you ever took? What made it so hard to get?”

Stefano shared, “Honestly, the hardest shots are the ones I never got.” He went on to describe that there are often times images in his head and he tries in vain to capture them in nature but sometimes, it just never works out. “But one picture I am thinking of in my head is when I was on my first assignment for National Geographic to photograph king penguins. It was the last day of shooting and I wanted to capture an image of the penguins and orca in the same shot together. I had hiked 4 miles to the coast and while there, it started pouring down rain. The whales were swimming in the surf and then the king penguins entered the ocean.  It was lot of time and work to get to the place where I took the shot but for a few minutes when I finally got [the shot], it was perfect.” You can see the penguin and orca image on his website; it’s the 15th image on the page.

“If you want to really make a change, you need partners. ARKive and National Geographic are those partners.”

I asked Stefano if he had any parting thoughts on his komodo dragon assignment or wildlife & conservation photography in general.

“My idea of conservation photography is that everybody wants to think they are going to help change the world but there’s more to it. I’m lucky to work with organizations like ARKive and National Geographic because, if  I’m doing my job as a conservation photographer, I need to partner with others to spread the word further. Conservation photography isn’t just about the photograph. It is being able to work with people and organizations with the same aim as yourself. I believe this is very important especially for the young people starting out in wildlife & conservation photography. If you want to really make a change, you need partners. ARKive and National Geographic are those partners.”

What an incredible note to end the interview! Now that you’ve heard his stories, take a moment to read the wonderful article, Once Upon a Dragon, in National Geographic magazine on news stands now.

Stefano Unterthiner is an avid supporter and contributor to ARKive and we’re very fortunate to be able to share his stunning imagery with students, teachers, conservationists and more around the world. Have a look at our Stefano Unterthiner MyARKive Scrapbook to browse all of his stunning images on ARKive.

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Jan 14

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country in Central Asia best known for its walnut forests and vast mountain ranges. Tall peaks, deep valleys, and glaciers make up Kyrgyzstan’s breathtaking geography. Its diverse wildlife makes Kyrgyzstan quite a gem in Eurasia and certainly a country worth exploring. Join us on a virtual tour of this country full of wild surprises and much more!

Fine feathered friend

Eurasian golden oriole photo

The name Eurasian golden oriole says it all. This golden-feathered bird lives in deciduous forest habitat however, despite its bright plumage, the golden oriole can blend into dense foliage. If you listen closely, you may hear this bird whistle a flute-like song or even a “chr-r-r” alarm call.

Gallant galloper

Asiatic wild ass photo

This mammal looks a lot like a horse, doesn’t it? The Asiatic wild ass roams freely in Kyrgyzstan feasting on woody plants. Even though it lives in semi-desert conditions, it’s always found close to a water source and actually gets its water from snow throughout the winter.

Frequent flier

Red chaser photo

While photos have been taken of the red chaser, not much is known about this species. One thing we do know is the red chaser goes through several stages of life development. This insect begins its life cycle as aquatic larvae and then molts several times before transitioning into adulthood.

Restful reptile

Afghan tortoise photo

Don’t be fooled! While the Afghan tortoise‘s scales and shell look like it’s heavily armored and ready for action, this tortoise actually isn’t very active at all. It tends to stay dormant during the summer and hibernate most of the winter. Sometimes this reptile is only awake three months out of the year!

Beautiful boar

Wild boar photo

The wild boar is a social animal living in herds of 6 to 20. With its omnivorous appetite, the wild boar feeds on seeds, roots, fruit, and even animal matter. The wild boar is considered an ancestor of most domestic pig breeds and can be found nearly everywhere as it has one of the largest distributions of all land mammals. Quite extra-oink-inary!

Lengthy lizard

Desert monitor photo

Desert monitors are opportunistic predators; they will do just about anything to find food including climbing trees, swimming, and digging! Despite being a rather gangling looking reptile growing to three feet in length or longer, the desert monitor makes impressive ground in a day sometimes traveling 5-6 kilometers!

Blue-billed bird

White-headed duck photo

The white-headed duck is one of the rarest wetland birds. It is a very skilful swimmer and does much better in water than on land. When it dives, the white-headed duck can stay under water for forty seconds at a time. An interesting fact about the white-headed duck? In late winter, this bird loses its feathers and cannot fly!

With its varied geography and ever-changing climate, it’s no wonder Kyrgyzstan is filled with amazing species. The animals on this list have found clever ways of adapting to their environments. Have you explored the hundreds of other species on ARKive that call Kyrgyzstan home? Have a look today!

Andrea Small, Education & Outreach Intern, Wildscreen USA

Dec 20

We live on an amazing planet

From the mighty blue whale to the diminutive pygmy seahorse, the myriad life forms with which we share this world are an endless source of wonder and awe.

ARKive's blue whale species page

ARKive's pgymy seahorse species page

 

Wildlife photographs and films are essential for sparking the connection between people and nature. Of the 1.3 million or so plants and animals discovered and named by science so far, the average human will only personally encounter a fraction of these species. Images and films are the only way the faces and stories of many species are shared.

This is the heart of ARKive’s mission; to use the power of stunning wildlife imagery to inspire everyone to discover, value and protect our amazing natural world. 

Please donate

This holiday season, your donation will help us to continue to bring the natural world into the hearts and homes of people around the world. No donation is too small and every donation of $15 or greater will be matched by a family foundation that passionately supports ARKive.

Planning to do your holiday shopping online?

AmazonSmile is a simple way to support your favorite charity: ARKive!  Amazon Smile has the same prices, products and tools as Amazon.com but with the added benefits of supporting ARKive while you shop! Click on the link below, search for and select WildscreenUSA (spearheading ARKive efforts in the US) and start shopping. Through Amazon Smile, 0.5 % of your purchase will go towards supporting the work of ARKive both in the US and worldwide.

ARKive's Amazon Smile link

Click to start donating 0.5% of your purchases to ARKive

No matter which donation option you choose, we are incredibly grateful for your support. With a helping hand from you,

ARKive's Sumatran orangutan species page

we can work together to keep ARKive a free and inspirational resource for all!

Happy holidays,

The ARKive Team

Nov 17

Happy National Geography Awareness Week! If you’re a fan and follower of the ARKive blog then you know one of our favorite blog series is ARKive Geographic where we take readers on explorations of different countries around the world almost every month to learn about the unique species that live there. This year’s theme, ‘Celebrate Geography and The New Age of Exploration’ ties in perfectly to what ARKive Geographic is all about but this month, we want to explore YOUR geography knowledge!

We’ve created a short quiz that will test how much you really know about species from around the world. If you get stumped, explore previous ARKive Geographic blogs for clues or dive into the ARKive collection and start searching. Will you end up a Wayward Wildlife Wanderer or a Species Seeking Extraordinaire? There’s only one way to find out:

Question 1

Mongolia’s top canid, members of this species can work together to take down prey up to ten times their size.
A. Coyote
B. Maned wolf
C. Dhole

Question 2

Dubbed ‘living fossils’, this reptile of New Zealand can live to be 100 years old.
A. Tuatara
B. Aeolian wall lizard
C. Black caiman

Question 3

This species is not only the largest but also the rarest crane in all of Africa.
A. Wattled crane
B. Sarus crane
C. Sandhill crane

Question 4

Found in Mexico, this incredible looking amphibian is able to regrow missing tissue, and even whole limbs, when wounded.
A. Blanco River Springs salamander
B. Axolotl
C. California tiger salamander

Question 5

Having been classified as ‘biologically dead’ in the 1960’s , the Thames river is rebounding and is home to this slippery fish.
A. Moray eel
B. Electric eel
C. European eel

Question 6

This insect, found in South America, can spend up to 10 years of its life in the larval stage, while its adult phase only lasts a few short months.
A. Wasp beetle
B. Long-horned beetle
C. Titan beetle

How do you think you did? Check off your answers with the key below and see where you land on the wildlife geography expert spectrum. Don’t forget to share your score on the ARKive Facebook page or Twitter feed!

Answers: 1. C,   2. A,   3. A,   4.B,   5. C,   6. B

Score: 1-2 points
Wayward Wildlife Wanderer - We hate to break it to you but your wildlife geographic exploration skills are a little rusty. How bout taking a dig into the ARKive collection like this banded mongoose for a little practice?

Score 3-4 points
Advancing Animal Adventurer – You’re making an effort to learn about wildlife and geography and it’s showing! Keep up the good work and never lose sight of the top just like this lioness!

Score 5-6 points
Species Seeking Extraordinaire – You have the mind and willpower equaling the world’s greatest explorers.  Be proud and consider yourself at the top of the world like this alpine marmot!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

About

RSS feedArkive.org is the place for films, photos and facts about endangered species. Subscribe to our blog today to keep up to date!

Email updates

Sign up to receive a regular email digest of Arkive blog posts.
Preferred frequency:

Arkive twitter

Twitter: ARKive