Sep 21

The population of banteng in the Eastern Plains of Cambodia numbers between 2,700 and 5,700 individuals, according to research by WWF and the Cambodian government. This makes it the world’s largest remaining population of this Endangered wild cattle species. 

Photo of male banteng in forest

Male banteng in forest habitat

Thought to be the most likely ancestor of Southeast Asia’s domestic cattle, the banteng faces a number of threats, including hunting, habitat loss, and hybridisation with domestic livestock. The global population of this handsome cattle species is estimated at just 5,900 to 11,000 individuals, making the large Cambodian population particularly important to this species’ survival. 

The current findings provide strong evidence of the global significance of the Eastern Plains of Cambodia for the conservation of the species,” said Mr Phan Channa, one of the researchers. 

However, banteng numbers in Cambodia have decreased by more than 90% since the 1960s, and this important population is under threat from hunting and increasingly rapid habitat loss. 

Photo of female banteng, head detail

Female banteng

Important prey for tigers 

As well as banteng, the research also looked at numbers of other large mammals, including wild pigs and muntjacs. These species are in turn important prey for the tiger, another species that has undergone large population declines across Cambodia and the rest of Asia. 

One important aspect of the research was to understand the current levels of tiger prey species in the area, as part of the Cambodian government’s strategy to restore the Eastern Plains as a priority tiger landscape. The Eastern Plains has been identified as one of the most promising places in Asia for tiger recovery, given its large size and relatively good condition. It has also benefitted in recent years from better law enforcement and improved management of protected areas. 

Photo of Indochinese tiger in shallow water

The Indochinese tiger population in Cambodia is likely to benefit from an increase in banteng and other prey species

The high levels of law enforcement effort by nearly 60 rangers patrolling regularly inside and outside protected areas is a big deterrent for poachers,” said Michelle Owen, Conservation Programme Manager at WWF-Cambodia. “However, much more effort is needed in order to eradicate poaching in this critically important landscape.” 

Rapid habitat loss 

Unfortunately, poaching is not the only threat to the banteng and other wildlife of the Eastern Plains. As in the rest of Cambodia, the forests in this region are increasingly under threat from land concessions for agriculture, and from plans for large infrastructure projects. 

The granting of land concessions inside protected areas, even if small, sets a dangerous precedent. According to Nick Cox, Species Conservation Manager at WWF, “It essentially means Cambodia’s protected areas, including those that contain globally important species populations, are not as protected by the law as people once thought.” 

Photo of banteng ploughing fields

The banteng has been domesticated in many locations. Hybridisation with domestic and feral cattle, together with disease transmission from domestic livestock, threatens the wild population.

Stronger protected area management needed 

WWF is urging the Cambodian government to fast track the development and implementation of zoning plans for protected areas, to protect areas of high biodiversity before any decisions on land concessions are made. 

For tigers and prey species – including a globally endangered banteng population – to recover within the landscape, stronger protected area management and a commitment to conservation from high levels of the Cambodian government are essential,” said Cox. 

Anything less threatens to unravel a decade of conservation progress and with each passing day diminishes the Eastern Plains’ value as a national and global ecological asset for current and future generations.” 

Read more on this story at WWF – World’s largest banteng population at risk in Cambodia from hunting and rapid habitat loss

Find out more about WWF’s work in Cambodia

View photos and videos of wild cattle on ARKive

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Aug 17

The population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River numbers just 85 individuals and may be on the brink of extinction, according to research by WWF.

Photo of Irrawaddy dolphins swimming at the surface

The researchers also found that calf survival was very low and that the overall population is in decline.

A small population living on the border of Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic may be in an even more perilous situation, with just 7 or 8 individuals. This is the only area in Lao PDR where dolphins remain.

Photographic identification

WWF’s research was based on photographic identification of individual dolphins, using unique marks on their dorsal fins to help produce a population estimate.

Although the current population estimate is slightly higher than earlier estimates, the researchers note that more data and more advanced analysis mean that previously unidentified dolphins have now been included, and that the dolphin population has not increased over recent years.

Evidence is strong that very few young animals survive to adulthood, as older dolphins die off and are not replaced,” said Dr Li Lifeng, Director of WWF’s Freshwater Programme.

Photo of Irrawaddy dolphin

Critically Endangered dolphin populations

The Irrawaddy dolphin is patchily distributed in shallow, coastal waters in the Indo-Pacific, from the Philippines to north-east India. Freshwater populations also occur in three river systems: the Mahakam of Indonesia, the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) of Myanmar, and the Mekong of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam.

Although the species as a whole is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, the three freshwater populations are classified as Critically Endangered. Irrawaddy dolphins face a number of threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, the degradation of river systems, dam construction and live capture for aquarium display.

Photo of Irrawaddy dolphin swimming alongside fishing boat

Entanglement in fishing nets is one of the main threats to the Irrawaddy dolphin

In the Mekong River, the Irrawaddy dolphin occurs in a 190 kilometre stretch between Cambodia and the border with Lao PDR, and although fully protected by law, it continues to face significant threats from entanglement in gill nets. The causes of the high calf mortality in this population remain unclear.

According to Dr Li, “This tiny population is at high risk by its small size alone. With the added pressures of gill net entanglement and high calf mortality we are really worried for the future of dolphins.”

Conserving dolphins in Cambodia

WWF is working to conserve this highly endangered dolphin through coordinated management with government agencies and local communities, and through the implementation of the Cambodian Mekong Dolphin Conservation Project. As part of this project, dolphin population surveys are being carried out at least twice a year, and research is being conducted into the causes of dolphin mortality.

Photo of Irrawaddy dolphin tail and fluke

The Irrawaddy dolphin is regarded as a sacred animal by many people in Cambodia and Lao PDR, and dolphin-watching ecotourism also provides a source of income and jobs for local communities.

WWF is calling on the Cambodian government to establish clear legislation for the protection of dolphins in Cambodia, which should include the designation of dolphin conservation zones and limits on the use of gill nets.

Read the full story at WWF – Urgent action needed to avoid extinction of Mekong dolphins.

Find out more about WWF’s work in Cambodia.

View photos and images of dolphins and whales on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Aug 5

Thousands of species are still being discovered every year, from giant lizards to the tiniest mouse lemurs. Every species is given a scientific name and some a ‘common’ name, but can you identify what type of animal a species is just from its common name?

Beaked toad image

Beaked toad, first discovered in Colombia in 2010

Goodman's mouse lemurs in nest

Goodman's mouse lemur, first described in 2006


Try our species name quiz to find out. We’ve picked some of the more unusal discoveries to test your species knowledge…no cheating though!

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/New-species-quiz.swf” width=”640″ height=”480″ targetclass=”flashmovie”]

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Let us know how well you did. Or, if you know of any other species with unusual names perhaps you could test the ARKive team’s species knowledge too.

There are about 15,000 new species identified and named each year and many more species that are known to science are photographed for the first time. If you’d like the chance to find out more about how new species discoveries are made, see fantastic wildlife and go behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute enter WWF’s Oddest One Out competition.

Aug 1

2011 is WWF’s 50th anniversary year, as part of the celebrations WWF-UK have produced a short film which can be seen in Odeon Cinemas across the UK. ARKive teamed up with WWF-UK to help with the amazing imagery for the film. For an insight into how the film came together, here is WWF UK’s Head of Campaigns, Colin Butfield explaining all in his guest blog…

In my experience with every great opportunity comes a big ‘oh heck’ moment.  In this case we had the wonderful chance to make a short film for WWF’s 50th birthday to be shown in Odeon Cinemas across the country – brilliant!

  • The acclaimed playwright Stephen Poliakoff was going to write it – fantastic!
  • We had some famous actors interested to be in it – awesome!
  • Stephen had written a magical script about new species discoveries – hooray!
  • We had almost no good footage of newly discovered species – ‘oh heck’

So, in essence we were going to make a five min film to put on massive screens in front of hundreds of thousands of people and most of the footage we had, looked like it was shot on a mobile phone. Call ARKive!

Most people who work in conservation know ARKive as one of the best places to find examples of species and behaviour, we use it all the time, but having worked for Wildscreen a few years back I also knew that the good folk behind ARKive also had amazing knowledge of the people behind the cameras and what images and footage might be out there.

Triton Bay epaulette shark

Triton Bay epaulette shark, first discribed in 2008

Triger's treefrog image

Tiger's treefrog from Colombia, first described in 2008

Stephen Poliakoff had written his script to work around the fact that we knew we wouldn’t have blue-chip HD quality footage. He had used a fictional dramatic narrative to replace the need for purely having wildlife footage BUT this was a WWF film and we would definitely need a good range of wildlife images to make the story work.

There are about 15,000 new species identified and named each year and many more species that are known to science are photographed for the first time. For the purpose of our film we wanted to count ‘discoveries’ as either things that are totally new to science like the worlds longest insect, Chan’s megastick and species that are filmed for the first time, like the barreleye. Whilst scientists had known of the existence of the barreleye from dead specimens, it wasn’t until it was filmed 700m down off the coast of Monterey by the Monterey Bay Research Institute that many of the discoveries about it were made.

Whilst it’s perfectly possible to find a new species in your back garden, it’s often the case that species are found or photographed for the first time by researchers studying an area. In general you find that most of these researchers carry a stills camera but very few a film camera. Also, because of the often challenging circumstances, for example very low light levels in a rainforest, many of the stills that are captured are not going to look great on a big screen. As such, it was a huge task for ARKive and WWF to contact scientists around the world to find the best images of a wide range of newly found and filmed species to feature in the film. ARKive’s expertise in using images of the natural world to inspire conservation made this daunting task a bit more realistic.

Hopefully you’ll agree that the results live up to the film’s title ‘Astonish Me’. By celebrating some of the oddest creatures found at the very edges of discovery the aim of Astonish Me is to show that the real natural world is every bit as magical as anything you find in cinema fiction and to inspire people to work to protect it.

Enter WWF’s Oddest One Out competition to get the amazing chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime experience to find out how new species discoveries are made, see fantastic wildlife and go behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Find more newly discovered species highlighted on the ARKive homepage.

Written by Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns, WWF-UK

Jul 13

WWF has captured unexpected video footage of the Amur leopard, the world’s rarest cat, in the Russian Far East, showing that this Critically Endangered species may actually be increasing in number.

The recordings documented a total of 12 Amur leopards, which includes two different pairs and one new individual in the ‘Land of Leopard’ national park – a new large reserve created specially for the Amur leopard by merging the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and Leopardoviy Federal Wildlife Refuge in Russia’s Primorsky Province.

Record-breaking results

To help understand how to better protect this rare animal, WWF Russia, along with the Institute of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and the Russian Academy of Science, has carried out regular surveys for the Amur leopard over the past 6 years. However, this is the first time they have used video-enabled cameras to monitor the leopards.

In the previous 5 years of camera-trapping, we were able to identify between 7 and 9 individual leopards in this monitoring plot every year. But this year, the survey was record-breaking: today 12 different leopards inhabit the territory,” said Sergei Aramilev, Species Program Coordinator at WWF Russia’s Amur Branch.

I think we can attribute this to improvements in how our reserves are managed and the long-term efforts that have gone into leopard conservation.”

One scene captures a pair of Amur leopards moving languidly through a small forest clearing, while a second shows a female leopard parenting a nearly grown-up cub.

Photo of Amur leopard resting

Amur leopard resting

Most endangered cat

There are fewer than 50 Amur leopards remaining in the wild. It now inhabits only a fraction of its original range, which once extended throughout China’s north-eastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, and into the Korean Peninsula. In Russia, about 80 per cent of this species’ former range disappeared between 1970 and 1983.

Unsustainable logging, forest fires and land conversion for farming are the main causes. The Amur leopard has also been hit hard by poaching, mostly for its unique spotted fur.

Photo of wild Amur leopard with kill near den

Wild Amur leopard with kill near den

In December 2010, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the government would take urgent measures to protect this Critically Endangered species, including the creation of the new ‘Land of Leopard’ National park. The Hunchun Nature Reserve in China, also an important habitat for Amur leopards, is expected to be added to this protected area at a later date, to form a trans-boundary sanctuary for the Amur leopard.

Even the first steps towards establishing the “Land of Leopard” national park are having positive results. The fact that the number of Amur leopards has grown from 7 to 12 on the monitoring plot offers proof that creating one united trans-boundary protected area is the right idea,” says Yury Darman, director of WWF Russia’s Amur branch.

View more images of the Amur leopard on ARKive.

Find out more about other species found in Russia on ARKive.

Alex Royan, ARKive Scientific Text Author


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