Sep 30
Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing

Species: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the world’s largest species of butterfly

With an enormous wingspan of up to 28 centimetres, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing deservedly has the title of the world’s largest butterfly. Vibrantly coloured, this magnificent butterfly feeds only from a single species of vine. The vine contains a toxic substance which, when consumed by the caterpillar, makes them distasteful to potential predators. This trait is advertised by the caterpillar’s bright, conspicuous colouration, but if consumed by a naive predator, the toxin may cause severe vomiting. The adult Queen Alexandra’s birdwing feeds on the flowers of the same vine.

As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is extremely attractive to collectors. Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has suffered severely from over harvesting. This species is now protected from collectors, though it is still targeted illegally. Presently, the main threat to this butterfly species is the loss of its lowland rainforest habitat.

For more information on Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, visit the Natural History Museum website.

View images of Queen Alexandra’s birdwing on ARKive.

For more information on Endangered species, visit our new Endangered species pages.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Sep 30

One of the world’s most endangered dolphin species is sliding towards extinction due to damaging fishing methods, experts have warned.

Photo of Hector's dolphin pod

Hector’s dolphins

Also one of the world’s smallest marine dolphins, Hector’s dolphin lives only in waters around New Zealand, where its population has fallen from 30,000 to around 7,000 individuals since nylon fishing nets came into use in the 1970s.

A subspecies from New Zealand’s North Island, known as Maui’s dolphin, is particularly threatened. Classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, its population now numbers fewer than 100 individuals.

Photo of Hector's dolphins porpoising

Unsustainable dolphin mortality

According to research conducted by Dr Liz Slooten of the University of Otago in New Zealand, commercial gillnets (long nets set vertically in the water to entangle fish) are drowning around 23 Hector’s dolphins each year along the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

With the sustainable limit for dolphin bycatch in the area estimated at just one dolphin a year, the current levels of dolphin mortality would reduce the Hector’s dolphin population by at least a further 14% by 2050.

Photo of pair of Hector's dolphins

Hector’s dolphin is also threatened by other fishing methods, including trawl nets, which are likely to kill just as many individuals as gillnets. This brings the number of dolphin deaths due to fisheries to at least 46 a year along the east coast.

Dr Barbara Maas, head of endangered species conservation for NABU International – Foundation for Nature, said, “An annual loss of this size will wipe out 62% of the population by 2050. Only a scattering of animals will survive, potentially pushing the population beyond the point of no return.”

As a coastal species, Hector’s dolphin is also highly vulnerable to a range of other threats, including pollution, boat strikes and marine mining.

Photo of Hector's dolphins in typical habitat

Hector’s dolphins in typical habitat

More selective fishing methods needed

Although bans on gillnetting are already in force in some parts of New Zealand, the continuing high levels of dolphin mortality indicate that more work is needed to protect this rare species from extinction.

Dr Mass, who has been speaking at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Aberdeen this week, recommended that the only way to prevent the demise of Hector’s dolphin would be “absolute protection against commercial and recreational gill-netting and trawling.”

She urges the New Zealand government to ban these fishing methods in waters up to 100 metres deep, and suggests that more selective fishing methods which do not catch dolphins, such as hook and line fishing and fish traps, should be used instead.

Read more on this story at the Guardian – Endangered dolphins near extinction.

Find out more about the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity.

View photos and videos of Hector’s dolphin on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Sep 30

Becky Taylor, ARKive Media ResearcherAs with everyone working at ARKive, I have always had a big passion for the natural world and conservation, probably caused by all the wonderful David Attenborough programmes I watched when growing up. This is why working as an ARKive Media Researcher is perfect for me, as it combines my love of the natural world, and belief that images and videos are a great way of raising awareness!

Before working at ARKive I studied Biology at Bristol University, UK.

What are you currently working on?

We have been updating some of our UK species profiles, so I have recently been selecting images of species such as the red deer and grey heron. I have also been editing some of the texts we receive from students as part of our ARKive and University Scheme.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

I think I’d like to have gills, or the ability to breathe deep underwater for long periods like the sperm whale, which can stay submerged for up to two hours and go to depths of up to an incredible 3,000 metres! That way I could have a look at the great unknown, deep underwater, and find out what weird and wonderful creatures we have yet to discover down there (probably crazy looking species like the frilled shark or anglerfish). Also, I’m quite small, so it would be nice to see what it is like to be about 17 metres long!

Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?

This is a tough one, and I am going to say David Attenborough even though that is what everyone says, but who wouldn’t want to hear his amazing stories at a dinner party? I would probably also invite Stephen Fry, as his autobiography was great, and Johnny Depp (for obvious reasons)!

Where in the world would you most like to go?

I was lucky enough to get to go to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, which was absolutely amazing! I would love to go back to New Zealand again as it is so beautiful. I would also love to go to China, or go on safari in Africa to see all of the amazing wildlife, of course!

Which celebrity do you most look like?

I don’t think I really look like any celebrity to be honest! I am open to suggestions though….

What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?

It probably has to be when I was living in a hut in the rainforest in Costa Rica, doing some volunteer work. Every morning I would wake to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees surrounding us which was amazing. We also spotted a mother humpback whale and her calf while we were there, and watched sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night, which were also incredible moments.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

I really like the axolotl, as it always seems to be smiling! Either that or the sea otter, as they are so adorable when they carry their young on their bellies, and are very funny when they are grooming.

Tell us an animal related joke.

Deep within a forest a little turtle began to climb a tree. After hours of effort he reached the top, jumped into the air waving his front legs and crashed to the ground. After recovering, he slowly climbed the tree again, jumped, and fell to the ground.

The turtle tried again and again while a couple of birds sitting on a branch watched his sad efforts. Finally, the female bird turned to her mate.

“Dear,” she chirped, “I think it’s time to tell him he’s adopted.”

Sep 29

The purpose of a mysterious large, white dome that has appeared on the Abu Dhabi Corniche has finally been revealed. The dome will provide a unique ‘Bu Tinah Experience’, giving members of the public a chance to experience the wonders of Bu Tinah Island.

Hawksbill turtle

Hawksbill turtle










Bu Tinah Island, situated around 130 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi, is part of the UNESCO designated Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. It is the region’s first Marine Biosphere Reserve, and is home to a diverse range of spectacular animals including the hawksbill turtle, the dugong, the greater flamingo and the bottlenose dolphin, not to mention the spectacular corals and mangroves.

In order to protect the island’s ecosystem, Bu Tinah Island is closed to members of the public and can only be visited by scientists. The Bu Tinah Experience gives people the chance to immerse themselves in the island’s biodiversity, and includes a turtle rehabilitation centre and a mangrove nursery.

Dugong image


Greater flamingo image

Greater flamingo

The unique experience opens this Friday, 30th September, and will remain open until the 13th November. As well as giving people a taste of the United Arab Emirate’s spectacular biodiversity, it is hoped the experience will highlight the importance of conservation in the area.
Thanks to its rich fauna and flora, Bu Tinah Island is also currently a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition. The winners of the competition will be decided by a vote, with members of the public being asked to choose their favourite 7 candidates from a list of 28.
Bottlenose dolphin image

Bottlenose dolphins

Socotra cormorant image

Socotra cormorant








For more information on the Bu Tinah Experience, visit the Bu Tinah website.

Explore the Jewels of the UAE on ARKive, created with the support of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), and discover more of the region’s breathtaking biodiversity.

Sep 29

Almost half of the world’s most threatened sea turtle populations are found in the northern Indian Ocean, according to a new study carried out by the world’s top sea turtle experts. 

Scientists have evaluated the state of individual populations of sea turtles, enabling them to determine the 11 most threatened, as well as the 12 healthiest.

Photo of loggerhead turtle swimming

The loggerhead turtle is one of the most widespread of all marine turtles and also the most highly migratory. Several of the most threatened sea turtle populations included loggerhead turtles.

Populations at risk

The results of the study have revealed that five of the world’s eleven most threatened populations of sea turtles are found in the northern Indian Ocean, with populations of loggerhead turtles and olive ridley turtles appearing particularly at risk.

Several threatened populations of both species occur in waters and on nesting beaches around countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The report confirms that India is a home to many of the most threatened sea turtles in the world,” said Dr B.C. Choudhury, head of the Department of Endangered Species Management at the Wildlife Institute of India and a contributor to the study. “This paper is a wake-up call for the authorities to do more to protect India’s sea turtles and their habitats to ensure that they survive.”

The east Pacific Ocean from the USA to South America, and the east Atlantic Ocean off the coast of western Africa, have also been identified as areas with some of the world’s most threatened sea turtle populations.

Photo of olive ridley turtle crawling onto beach

The smallest of the marine turtles, the olive ridley turtle was identified as having a number of threatened populations in the northern Indian Ocean.

Highlighting healthy populations

The study also highlighted large sea turtle populations that are currently facing relatively low threat levels, with 12 populations identified as the healthiest in the world.

Among these healthy populations, which belong to five species including the hawksbill turtle and the green turtle, are populations with nesting and feeding areas in Australia, Mexico and Brazil.

Other areas that harbour healthy turtle populations include the southwest Indian Ocean, Micronesia and French Polynesia.

Photo of green turtle

A number of green turtle populations were identified as being among the world’s healthiest.

A conservation blueprint

The report has been produced by the IUCN and the Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG), and was supported by Conservation International (CI) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

It is the first comprehensive status assessment of all global sea turtle populations, and has been designed to provide a blueprint for future sea turtle conservation and research.

According to Roderic Mast, Co-Chair of the MTSG, CI Vice President, and one of the paper’s authors, “This assessment system provides a baseline status for all sea turtles from which we can gauge our progress on recovering these threatened populations in the future.”

Through this process, we have learned a lot about what is working and what isn’t in sea turtle conservation, so now we look forward to turning the lessons learned into sound conservation strategies for sea turtles and their habitats.

Identifying threats and priorities

As well as identifying the world’s most threatened sea turtle populations, the study looked at which threats had the most significant impact on these endangered turtles.

The study revealed that the most serious problems to sea turtles are being caused by fisheries bycatch (accidental catches of sea turtles by fishermen targeting other species) and the direct harvest of turtles or their eggs for food or turtle shell for commercial use.

Photo of a young hawksbill turtle caught in fishing net

A young hawksbill turtle caught in a fishing net. Although this species was identified as having some of the healthiest populations, it is not exempt from the many threats faced by sea turtles worldwide.

Dr Bryan Wallace, Director of Science for the Marine Flagship Species Program at CI, and lead author of the paper, said, “Before we conducted this study, the best we could say about sea turtles was that six of the seven sea turtle species are threatened with extinction globally.”

But this wasn’t very helpful for conservation because it didn’t help us set priorities for different populations in different regions. Sea turtles everywhere are conservation-dependent, but this framework will help us effectively target our conservation efforts around the world.”

A paper on the study, entitled ‘Global Conservation Priorities for Marine Turtles’, has been published in the online science journal PLoS ONE.

Find out more about sea turtles as part of Conservation International’s ‘Sea turtle September’.

Find out more about sea turtles on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author


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