Mar 26

On Saturday 29th March at 8:30 pm, millions of people across the world will take part in WWF’s Earth Hour by turning off their lights for one hour. Held annually, WWF’s Earth Hour is a unique phenomenon that encourages individuals, communities and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet.

Now in its eighth year, the Earth Hour event was first held in Sydney in 2007. For Earth Hour 2013, over 7,000 cities and towns across more than 150 countries and territories participated.

This year has seen the launch of Earth Hour Blue, an all-new digital crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform for the planet. This new platform gives individuals from around the world the chance to help fund or add their voice to environmental and social projects which are important to them.

Here at ARKive, to get ready for Earth Hour we have been thinking about species which are at home in the dark.

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

Believed to be the world’s smallest living primate, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is a nocturnal primate endemic to Madagascar. This lemur is well adapted to its nocturnal lifestyle as it has extremely large forward-facing eyes with a shiny layer behind the retina that reflects light back through the eye, significantly improving night vision.

Cave salamander

This unusual-looking animal is the rare cave salamander,  an amphibian which lives in dark, subterranean caves in central Europe. As this cave-dwelling animal spends its entire life in darkness, its eyes are so poorly developed that it is actually blind. 

Lion’s mane jellyfish

One of the largest jellyfish in the world, the lion’s mane jellyfish gains its common name from the long, thin, hair-like tentacles found hanging from the underside of its bell-shaped body. As well as being one of the largest jellyfish, the lion’s mane jellyfish is also often bioluminescent, meaning it produces its own light, making it glow in dark waters.

Night-flowering orchid

As its common name suggests, the night-flowering orchid is the only known orchid species which opens its flowers at night. Described as recently as 2011, it is not yet known for certain why this orchid opens its flowers at night, but it is likely that the flies which pollinate this species are nocturnal.

Devil’s worm

Thought to be the world’s deepest-living animal, the Devil’s worm is definitely a creature at home in the dark. Found at a depth of more than one kilometre into the Earth’s crust, the Devil’s worm demonstrates a high temperature tolerance and is thought to be able to survive in conditions of up to 41 degrees Celsius!

If you want to find out more about how to get involved in Earth Hour, visit  WWF’s Earth Hour website.

And don’t forget, Earth Hour is on Saturday 29th March at 8:30 pm local time, so join the ARKive team and millions of other people worldwide and switch off those lights!

Jun 10

The Mexican government has approved an important measure which aims to protect the vaquita, a porpoise species thought to be the world’s rarest and most threatened marine mammal.

Vaquita image

The vaquita is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Critically Endangered

The vaquita is the smallest porpoise species in the world, reaching a maximum length of just 1.5 metres, and is the only cetacean endemic to Mexico, being found only in the upper Gulf of California.

Sadly, it also has the unfortunate distinction of being the most threatened marine mammal. Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the vaquita is struggling for survival as a result of becoming entangled in gill nets and trawl nets cast by commercial and artisanal fisheries to catch shrimps and fish, including sharks. It is estimated that between 39 and 84 vaquitas drown as bycatch every year, which is a worryingly high number given that, in 2007, only an estimated 150 individuals of this species remained.

Positive action

Fortunately, according to WWF-Mexico, positive action is now being taken to promote sustainable fisheries in the vaquita’s range, in measures which will benefit the species as well as fishermen and their families. A new regulation will establish shrimping standards in Mexico, and will define the types of fishing gear permitted in different zones of the country.

Vaquita image

Drowning in fishing nets is the main threat to the vaquita

An official norm

The new regulation, known as an ‘official norm’, has come into play as a result of a WWF petition to Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. Signed by an impressive 38,000 people from 127 countries, the petition requested that measures be established to protect the vaquita whilst also ensuring that fishermen can continue to earn a living through sustainable fishing.

With this norm, drift gillnets – one of the nets used in artisanal shrimping operations in which vaquitas die incidentally – will be gradually substituted, during a three year period, for selective fishing gears that do not kill this porpoise, but that allow fishers to keep earning their livelihoods,” said Omar Vidal, WWF-Mexico’s Director General.

The effective application of the norm requires the participation and commitment of local fishermen. The optimal use of the net requires the development of particular skills; therefore, the support of the government and other organizations through training and temporary compensation programs will be essential along the fisher’s learning curve.”

This positive action represents a major opportunity to promote sustainable fisheries in the Gulf of California region, whilst simultaneously protecting an endemic threatened species.

View more photos of the vaquita on ARKive.

To learn more about protecting our marine environment, visit the World Oceans Day page or take part in ARKive’s ocean-themed virtual scavenger hunt.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Apr 16

A Chinese vessel which crashed into a coral reef in the protected Tubbataha marine park in the Philippines has been found to contain 400 boxes of frozen pangolin meat. 

Photo of ground pangolin walking

The illegal trade in pangolins is driven largely by demand for their meat and scales in China

On the 8th April, a Chinese ‘fishing vessel’ illegally entered Filipino seas and crashed straight into a protected coral reef. Upon re-inspection of the boat, the coastguard discovered its sickening cargo: 400 boxes containing over 10 tonnes of pangolin meat. The scales and meat of this insect-eating mammal are in high demand in China; its meat is regarded a delicacy and its scales are believed to have properties that are beneficial to breast-feeding mothers.

Pangolin demand

Illegal trade in pangolins has all but wiped out populations across China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and hunters are now infesting its very last remaining habitats in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula. As pangolin species become rarer, the demand for their meat and scales increases, as does their price, despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for the touted medicinal properties of their scales.

It is bad enough that the Chinese have illegally entered our seas, navigated without boat papers and crashed recklessly into a national marine park and World Heritage Site,” said head of WWF-Philippines, Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. “It is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife.”

Photo of Sunda pangolin on the forest floor

The Endangered Sunda pangolin is heavily hunted within its range

The crew of the boat have been arrested for poaching and attempted bribery, potentially facing 12 years in prison and $300,000 (£196,000) in fines. Posing as fishermen, the men claimed to have accidentally sailed into Philippine waters on their way from Malaysia. It is possible that they will face further charges for possession of pangolin meat, for which they can be fined and imprisoned for up to six years, and for damaging a coral reef.

The species of pangolin contained within the shipment are not yet known, but of the species listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, the majority are classified as Near Threatened or Endangered.

Chris Shepherd of the wildlife trade group TRAFFIC said, “There is no way a slow-breeding species like the pangolin can withstand this huge pressure for long.”

Photo of Chinese pangolin

Hunting is the main threat to the Chinese pangolin, which is now extremely rare in many countries within its range

Crackdown not enough

Law enforcement has so far been unable to significantly reduce the trade in pangolin meat and scales, which is forcefully driven by the extremely high prices they fetch in China, with hunters being paid hundreds of dollars per kilogram.

“We have seen a really obscene amount of seizures but very few people are arrested and even fewer convicted”, Shepherd continued. “There is not enough investigation into who is behind the networks.”

Photo of three-cusped pangolin

Investigation is needed into who is behind the trade networks

The seizure is among the biggest on record, with other large finds including the 23 tonnes of frozen pangolins confiscated within a week in Vietnam in 2008, and the 7.8 tonnes of meat and 1.8 tonnes of scales impounded in China in 2010. In 2007, an abandoned ship was discovered off the coast of China containing 5,000 rare animals. The illegal trade in wildlife from Southeast Asia is leaving in its wake what the IUCN has described as “ghost forests”.

It appears that more investigation is needed into who is behind the trade networks in order to really crack down on the illegal trade in wildlife, particularly in Asia.

 

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Chinese vessel on Philippine coral reef caught with illegal pangolin meat and Mongabay – Double bad: Chinese vessel that collided with protected coral reef holding 22,000 pounds of pangolin meat.

View photos and videos of pangolins on ARKive.


Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Mar 23

Horsfield's tarsier © Doug Wechsler / gettyimages.com*Pond bat © Dietmar Nill / naturepl.com

SATURDAY 23rd

MARCH   8:30  PM

EARTH  HOUR  2013

 *

 

Don’t miss it! For one hour only – your chance to show your support to protect our amazing planet!

This Saturday 23rd March, 8:30 pm local time marks the beginning of the 8th annual WWF Earth Hour. As we switch off our lights for one hour, we are asked this year to think about our energy usage and the desperate need to move from burning high-carbon fossil fuels to using clean renewable energy. This action is symbolic of the fact that ‘together our individual actions add up to make a difference collectively’.

7,001 towns and cities in 152 countries are taking part, so join us and millions of others on Saturday to show your support for the switch to renewable energy.

Aye-aye close-up

This aye-aye will be able to see us all the better in the dark …

 

Mar 15

On Saturday 23rd March hundreds of millions of people across the world will take part in WWF’s Earth Hour by turning off their lights for one hour. WWF’s Earth hour is a unique annual phenomenon that focuses the world’s attention on our amazing planet, and why we need to protect it.

During Earth Hour 2013, people are asked to think about the type of energy we use. How we need to move away from fossil fuels and onto clean renewable energy, which works with nature and not against it.

In 2012, 6,950 towns and cities in 152 countries took part, with over 7.6 million people in the UK joining in alone. Earth Hour 2013 takes place at 8:30 pm local time on Saturday 23rd March, so get ready to flick those switches and join in the fight for a healthier planet! Here at ARKive, to get ready we have been thinking about species which prefer life in the dark and have put together a list of our top ten nocturnal species.

Aye-aye

Despite originally being classified as a rodent, the unusual looking aye-aye is actually the world’s largest nocturnal primate. The aye-aye’s hand has an extended middle digit which it uses for foraging. This finger has a range of uses, including scooping the pulp out of fruit and tapping on trees to find cavities concealing insects.

An aye-aye using its elongated finger to find insects in wood

 

Sri Lankan frogmouth

The strange looking Sri Lankan frogmouth certainly looks like it could do with some beauty sleep! This nocturnal bird is very distinctive due to its unusual appearance and its loud laughing song. Found only in India and Sri Lanka, it hunts insects at night and rests during the day.

The Sri Lankan frogmouth gets its name from its large, gaping mouth

 

Horsfield’s tarsier

Like other tarsier species, the Horsfield’s tarsier has some very strange adaptations. Tarsiers have the biggest eyes of any mammal compared to body weight, and due to the unique shape of their spine they possess the ability to rotate their head almost 360º! Tarsiers are also the only entirely carnivorous primate, feeding on a diet of insects and small vertebrates at night.

Tarsiers have the biggest eyes of any mammal, relative to their body weight

Night-flowering orchid

The night flowering orchid is the only known orchid species which opens its flowers at night. This newly discovered species is only found on the island of New Britain, in Papua New Guinea. In cultivation, this orchid opens its flowers at around 10pm keeping them open for about 12 hours. The flowers of this orchid are short lived, only lasting for one night.

The night-flowering orchid is the only orchid species to open its flowers at night

Philippine flying lemur

The Philippine flying lemur is not actually a true flier or a true lemur, but is actually a rather unique gliding mammal. It possesses a distinctive gliding membrane, or patagium, that when stretched out enables the Philippine flying lemur to glide through the forest for over 100 metres! It is a secretive and nocturnal animal which ventures out at dusk to find food.

The Philippine flying lemur gliding between trees

Lemur leaf frog

The lemur leaf frog is a nocturnal frog species, with the incredible ability to change colour depending on whether it is active or resting. During the day, it has a bright green colouration to provide it with camouflage whilst curled up on leaves. At night, when it becomes active, the lemur leaf frog’s eyes turn grey and the upperparts of its body turns brown. This provides the lemur leaf frog with excellent camouflage during the day and night.

Lemur leaf frogs have the ability to change colour between green and brown

Great spotted kiwi

As the name suggests, the great spotted kiwi is New Zealand’s largest kiwi species. This nocturnal bird finds its prey at night by tapping the ground with its beak and sniffing the earth. For the first six weeks of their life great spotted kiwi chicks may feed during the day, before becoming exclusively nocturnal.

Two great spotted kiwis foraging at night

Pyjama shark

Despite what its name suggests, you will not find the pyjama shark tucked up in bed at night in its pyjamas, as this strange looking shark is actually nocturnal. It is in fact the seven dark longitudinal stripes running the length of its body which gives this shark its name. The nocturnal pyjama shark spends its day concealed in caves or crevices and becomes active at night to hunt fish and molluscs.

The aptly named pyjama shark

Aardvark

The unusual looking aardvark is primarily a nocturnal animal which spends its day in its burrow and ventures out at night to find food. The aardvarks diet is composed of ants and termites which it swallows whole and then grinds them up in a muscular area of its lower stomach. The aardvark not only holds the title for being the first word in dictionary, but its powerful limbs means it can dig a hole quicker than several men with shovels!

An aardvark showing of its digging skills

Kakapo

The kakapo is a very unusual nocturnal parrot species endemic to New Zealand. This unique species is not only the world’s largest and heaviest parrot but it is also the only flightless parrot in the world. The kakapo was once widespread in New Zealand but now this Critically Edangered species only occurs on Codfish and Chalky Islands.

The kakapo is the largest and heaviest parrot and also seems to be the best at hide and seek!

Don’t forget, Earth Hour is on Saturday  23rd March at 8:30 pm local time, so join the ARKive team and millions of other people worldwide and switch off those lights!

Find out how to get involved on the WWF’s Earth Hour website

Jemma Pealing, ARKive Media Researcher

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