Oct 31

Officials in Bangladesh are declaring three areas within the southern Sundarbans mangrove forest as dolphin sanctuaries.

Ganges river dolphin image

The Ganges river dolphin is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Protecting freshwater dolphins

The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest forests of its kind, is an area of great biological diversity, housing hundreds of species including the majestic Bengal tiger and more than 260 bird species. Its waters are particularly important, being the only place in the world where threatened Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins can be found.

Tapan Kumar Dey, a senior wildlife conservation official, spoke about the creation of the three freshwater havens: “We have decided to declare Dhangmari, Chandpai and Dudhmukhi areas of eastern Sundarbans as dolphin sanctuaries so that these mammals can survive in a safe environment.

Irrawaddy dolphin image

Irrawaddy dolphin breaching

Identifying hotspots

The sites were identified as dolphin hotspots following a nine-day survey conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) in the western part of the Sundarbans mangrove forest earlier this month.

The waters of the Sundarbans play host not only to the endemic Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins, but also to other cetacean species including the finless porpoise and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. These two species are normally found along the coast, but migrate upriver during the winter when salinity levels are high, only returning to coastal waters once fresh water begins flowing into the rivers.

Rubaiyat Mansur Mowgli, principal researcher of the BCDP, said: “This year we encountered many of them during the recent survey, soon after the rains when the salinity level is low. Their presence in this region at this time may be an indication of the rising salinity level.

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin image

Adult female Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin with a calf

Risk factors

The impressive diversity of cetaceans found within the aquatic ecosystem of the Sundarbans is at risk from a variety of factors, including rising salinity levels and pollution. Fishing is another threat, as although dolphin species are not usually targeted by fishermen, the animals do still get entangled in fishing nets and drown.

Mr Dey hopes that the creation of the new dolphin sanctuaries will go someway to reducing death tolls as a result of accidental entanglement: “The waterways in these areas will be clearly demarcated and there will be signpostings so that local fishermen will not venture into this region for fishing.

Irrawaddy dolphin and boat image

Irrawaddy dolphin swimming alongside a fishing boat

A step forwards

An official notice regarding the establishment of the sanctuaries is expected to be issued by the ministry of environment soon.

The creation of the protected areas is certainly a positive step towards safeguarding the future of the Sundarbans’ aquatic life, but Mr Mowgli warns that the battle to protect threatened species in the region is not yet over: “Declining freshwater supplies and rising sea levels due to global climate change are affecting the dolphin population.

Read more on this story at the BBC – Bangladesh dolphins get Sundarbans sanctuaries.

View photos and videos of species from Bangladesh.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Oct 28
Javan rhinoceros image

Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)

Species: Javan rhinoceros                       (Rhinoceros sondaicus)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Rhino horn is not made of bone, but keratin, the same substance that forms nails and hair.

The prehistoric-looking Javan rhinoceros is one of the world’s rarest large mammals. This amazing species has a single horn and an armour-plated appearance caused by the deep folds of hairless skin. Little is known of this exceptionally rare mammal. It is mainly a browser of leaves, twigs, fruits and shoots and often breaks saplings down to access food. The rate of reproduction in this species is relatively slow; females give birth to a single young every one to three years, after a presumed gestation of 15 to 16 months, as in other rhinos.

Habitat loss and poaching for its horn have played a major role in the decline of the Javan rhino, which, until recently, existed in just two populations, one in Vietnam and one on the island of Java. The last rhino in Vietnam has recently been killed by poachers, leaving this species extinct in Vietnam, and there are fears it may be too late to save the remaining 50 or so individuals left on Java.

Find out more about the Javan rhinoceros on the EDGE website.

View images and videos of the Javan rhinoceros on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Oct 28

Scientists have confirmed that the disease killing bats across North America, known as white-nose syndrome (WNS), is caused by a fungus.

Little brown myotis image

Little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus)

Deadly fungus

The disease, first discovered in a New York cave in 2006, is now believed to have killed over a million little brown myotis bats in North America. The fungus, Geomyces destructans, grows on the bats’ noses, ears and wings while they are hibernating, causing them to become restless and use up their vital winter fat reserves. It also causes heavy damage to the wings, which play a crucial role in water balance and blood pressure regulation in hibernating bats.

Although scientists already suspected the fungus to be the main cause of WNS, it has not been proven until now. By infecting healthy little brown myotis bats with cultured fungus spores, scientists were able to prove the direct link between the fungus and the disease. They also showed that the fungus is spread by direct contact between bats, rather than by air.

Gray myotis image

The gray myotis appears to be immune to the disease

The future for North America’s bats

White-nose syndrome is believed to have originated in Europe, where bats appear to be immune. Some species in North America, such as the gray myotis, have also shown resistance to the disease. Scientists are hoping to understand why certain species are immune and use this to save others that are susceptible to the fungus.

Now that the fungal pathogen has been confirmed as the cause of WNS, recommendations have been made in order to slow its spread. By closing caves to people and decontaminating anyone visiting a hibernation cave, it is hoped that transmission by humans can be reduced.

Daubenton's bat image

Daubenton's bat hibernating

UK’s bats on the increase

A more positive outlook has been predicted for bat species in the UK, with a recent survey by British Waterways indicating a 9% increase in bats spotted over rivers and canals. Ecologists at the organisation are also predicting that the coming cold winter will be good for bats, helping them to hibernate properly.

Bats, such as Daubenton’s bat, use canals and rivers in order to hunt, flying low over the water to capture insects. An ecologist for the organisation responsible for the survey reiterated the importance of waterways for UK bat species:

Canals and rivers are a bit like supermarket shopping aisles for bats, and having spent the autumn using these corridors to travel and feed, bats should by now have stored up as much fat as they can, ready for the cold.

Read more on the white-nose syndrome story at the BBC – Bat killer cause confirmed as fungus.

Read about the recent UK bat survey in the Guardian – UK bat numbers on the up.

View images and footage of bats on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Oct 28

David Attenborough photoSir David Attenborough, Britain’s best-known natural history film-maker, once again took to our screens across the UK this week, presenting and narrating the BBC’s latest landmark series Frozen Planet. Unsurprisingly, this latest installment from Sir David drew in viewing figures of around 6.8 million, and critics have been united in their praise for the opening episode. The Frozen Planet website reveals that although Sir David first visited Antarctica 17 years ago, filming for Frozen Planet was his first ever visit to the geographical North Pole.

Now at the age of 85, and having begun his broadcasting career over half a century ago, Attenborough’s spectacular series for the BBC are surely responsible for many people’s passion for wildlife. In 1982, David Attenborough received the Panda Award for Outstanding Achievement at the Wildscreen Festival, and was knighted for his services to broadcasting in 1985.

Life on Earth was the first of David’s epic Life series, and told the story of the evolution of life on the planet within thirteen 50-minute programmes. Universally acclaimed by both press and public, it remains to this day the series that David is the most proud of and that has given him most satisfaction. In 1984, The Living Planet was screened, which surveyed the natural world from an ecological point of view and this was followed by the conclusion to the trilogy in 1990 – The Trials of Life, which dealt with animal behaviour.

David Attenborough photo

David Attenborough photo









Sir David’s passion for the natural world is clear, and Wildscreen is fortunate enough to have him on board as a Patron, make sure you check out his video introduction to ARKive. We are even lucky enough to include a couple of his own photographs in our collection.

Indri photoVerreaux's sifaka photo











You can read more about Sir David’s work on the WildFilmHistory website, another of Wildscreen’s initiatives, where you can explore the history of wildlife filmmaking, with ‘behind the scenes’ photographs, essential production information, and a unique collection of oral histories, including one from Sir David himself.

Frozen Planet continues next Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One for viewers in the UK. You can check out our blog on the first episode, and let us know your thoughts by posting comments, or joining in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Oct 27

Breathtaking scenery, beautiful coastline, a subtropical climate and cultural diversity attract around 246 million tourists to the Mediterranean region every year.

The beauty of the Mediterranean Basin is world famous, but how much do you know about the animals and plants found there? As part of our Mediterranean Basin eco-region pages, profiled with support from the MAVA Foundation, we have created a quiz to test your knowledge about the animals and plants living in the region.

Some of the species featured in our Mediterranean Basin quiz include:

The magnificent Spanish imperial eagle 

Spanish imperial eagle image

Spanish imperial eagle


The Critically Endangered Mediterranean monk seal

Mediterranean monk seal image

Mediterranean monk seal


The charismatic loggerhead turtle

Loggerhead turtle image

Loggerhead turtle

Want to challenge your friends and find out more about animals and plants living in the Mediterranean?

Play the Mediterranean Basin quiz now!

Rebecca Goatman, ARKive Media Researcher


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