Jun 30
Puritan tiger beetle  (Cicindela puritana)

Puritan tiger beetle (Cicindela puritana)

Species: Puritan tiger beetle (Cicindela puritana)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Tiger beetles are named for their tiger-like hunting behaviour – they will chase down and capture prey in their large mandibles.

The Puritan tiger beetle is a medium-sized terrestrial beetle found in north-eastern North America. It can be found on sandy beaches around fresh or brackish water. The adults are voracious hunters and will actively pursue their invertebrate prey. These beetles may in turn be predated by dragonflies, robber flies and jumping spiders.

The Puritan tiger beetle spends 23 months of its 2-year life cycle as a larva. These larvae create burrows, where they lie in wait for passing invertebrate prey. The larvae pass through three developmental stages before pupation in June of the second year, with adults emerging several weeks later. The adult mating season lasts between mid-July and continues until mid-August. The adults die off once the eggs have been laid. These hatch after about a week, completing the Puritan tiger beetle lifecycle.

The range of the Puritan tiger beetle has reduced drastically. Limited by the availability of sandy beach habitats, many suitable sites have been lost to urbanisation, river management works, plant succession and recreational use. Since 1990, the Puritan tiger beetle has been listed as ‘threatened’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and is also listed as ‘endangered’ in a number of states.  A recovery plan is also in place, aiming to protect the habitat, educate public and to monitor and reintroduce populations to its historical range. Since the Puritan tiger beetle was listed, the more intensely managed populations have increased in size. However, further declines have occurred at other sites.

Find out more about the Puritan tiger beetle on the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Find out more about the Puritan tiger beetle on ARKive.

Jun 29

Almost half of Canada’s bird species are in serious decline, according to the first comprehensive report on the state of the country’s bird populations.

Photo of spotted owl amongst moss

The spotted owl, just one of Canada’s declining bird species.

The report, entitled “The State of Canada’s Birds”, summarises the status of bird populations across eight regions, including the boreal forests, prairies and oceans. Drawing on 40 years of data, it presents an overview of how Canada’s bird species are faring.

Overall, Canadian bird populations have declined by 12% since the 1970s, with particularly serious declines in grassland birds, shorebirds and aerial insectivores, which catch their insect prey on the wing. These groups have all decreased by over 40%, with some individual species falling by an alarming 90% or more.

Photo of Sprague's pipit on frozen mud

Like many of Canada’s grassland birds, Sprague’s pipit is declining due to habitat loss.

Although some birds were found to have stable or even increasing populations, overall more species are declining than increasing, with around 44% of Canada’s bird species having decreasing populations.

Threats to Canada’s birds

One of the major threats to Canada’s bird populations is habitat loss, such as the loss of grasslands and prairies. Shorebirds, which have declined by almost a half, are also affected by the loss and alteration of wetlands. Aerial insectivores are declining more steeply than any other group; the exact reasons for this are unclear, but could include the use of pesticides and changes in insect populations due to climate change.

We need to find ways to do better because right now we are in the process of losing species. It takes a big investment to recover a species and in a difficult economic time it will be very difficult to find these sorts of resources,” says Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation programmes at Nature Canada, who contributed to the report.

Photo of barn swallow fledgling being fed by adult

Birds that catch insects in the air, such as the barn swallow, are declining more steeply than any other bird group in Canada.

Not all of the threats to Canada’s birds occur within its borders. About three-quarters of Canadian bird species spend part of their life cycle elsewhere, with many heading south for the winter. This means that habitat loss and other threats along migratory routes and in wintering grounds can have significant impacts on Canadian bird populations.

Good news stories

It is not all bad news, however, with some Canadian species showing increased populations as a result of successful conservation efforts. For example, birds of prey such as the peregrine falcon, osprey and bald eagle have begun to recover after a ban on pesticides in the 1970s. Effective management of wetlands and hunting have also benefitted many waterfowl species.

We can bring them back again,” says Charles Francis, programme manager at the Canadian Wildlife Service, part of Environment Canada, “but that can only happen if we take action on time and promptly.”

Photo of osprey adult flying, about to land

Raptors such as the osprey are faring better in Canada after bans on harmful pesticides.

Conserving Canada’s birds

New and ongoing conservation efforts will be needed to ensure that the successes shown in raptors and waterfowl continue, and to reverse the worrying downward trends seen in other bird groups. The conservation of Canada’s birds will require coordinated efforts by individuals, conservation organisations and governments, both in Canada and internationally, and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative is working to help achieve this.

This report illustrates that direct conservation efforts can have a positive impact. Nevertheless, many threats to wetlands and upland habitats remain, so it is important that focus on these important habitats is maintained to ensure waterfowl populations continue to thrive and populations of other bird groups can be conserved,” says Dave Howerter, National Manager for the Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research at Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Read more on this story at Nature News Blog – Fowl trends for Canadian birds.

Read the full report at The State of Canada’s Birds 2012.

View photos and videos of species from Canada on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Jun 27

Despite years of costly conservation efforts, extremely rare California condors are still dying from lead poisoning as a result of scavenging on carcasses contaminated by lead bullets.

California condor image

The California condor has an impressive wingspan of just under three metres

Conservation and contamination

The California condor, the largest and most threatened wild bird species in the United States, has been teetering on the brink of extinction for more than three decades, with just 22 individuals remaining in 1982. Thanks to intensive conservation efforts, this iconic species has made a modest recovery in recent years, with the total population increasing to about 400 individuals, half of which are in captivity.

Yet recent research indicates that it is still too soon to celebrate; without the continuation of the extensive support given to the California condor, including the millions of US dollars which are put into its conservation each year, it will not be able to persist in the wild.

Lead poisoning, as a result of scavenging from carcasses contaminated by lead bullets, remains a lethal threat to this Critically Endangered bird, and recent research has revealed that unless hunters change their practices, this iconic species faces an uncertain future.

California condor image

The California condor is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Lead ban

The troubling data, released in a report this week, suggests that the California condor is currently facing an ‘epidemic’ of lead poisoning, despite a state-wide ban on the use of lead shot in key regions back in 2008. The research indicates that the number of chronic poisoning cases has not decreased in spite of the attempts to limit the use of lead bullets.

We will never have a self-sustaining wild condor population if we don’t solve this problem,” said Myra Finkelstein, a research toxicologist at the University of California Santa Cruz and one of the authors of the study.

The ban on lead shot was met with fierce resistance from gun rights groups, but this new study has provided further evidence that the lead which is poisoning the California condors is the type which hails from lead bullets. “Unfortunately, even if only a few people are still using lead ammunition, there will be enough contaminated carcasses to cause lead poisoning in a significant number of condors,” said Ms Finkelstein.

California condor image

California condor adult and chick

The inefficiency of the lead bullet ban has been blamed on a lack of resources to enforce it, including a lack of game wardens, which means that the future of the California condor now depends on the goodwill of hunters.

Kudos to the hunters who are using copper [bullets], but it isn’t going to be effective until you get all the lead out,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), based in Tucson, Arizona.

California condor image

California condor flying over habitat

Costly conservation

As part of conservation efforts, California condors are currently tagged and monitored, and are trapped twice a year for blood tests. The latest study has showed that approximately 20% of condors in the wild have blood lead levels that are high enough to require costly treatment to remove the toxins from their bodies.

Furthermore, since 1997 around half of all free-flying condors in California have required some form of veterinary treatment for lead poisoning. Without this medical intervention, the birds suffer paralysis, stiff joints, and lose their ability to fly. Should blood lead levels become too high, the birds can die.

Lead exposure and poisoning levels in condors continue to be epidemic,” said co-author Dan Doak, a professor in Colorado University-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program. “Despite the current efforts to help the species, the wild population will decline again toward extinction in a few decades unless these unsustainable and very expensive efforts continue in perpetuity.”

Read more on this story at Scientific American – California condors face menace of carcasses laden with bullet lead.

Find out more about the California condor on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Jun 25

Lonesome George, a Galapagos giant tortoise believed to be the last of his subspecies, has died, according to Galapagos National Park officials.

Photo of male Abingdon Island tortoise - Lonesome George - resting

“Lonesome George”, the last of his subspecies

First seen by a Hungarian scientist on the Galapagos island of Pinta, or Abingdon, in 1972, Lonesome George became a symbol of the Galapagos Islands. With no other known individuals of his subspecies left, George had the unfortunate distinction of being considered the rarest animal in the world.

Giant tortoise declines

Galapagos giant tortoises were once so numerous that Spanish explorers named the Galapagos archipelago after them. However, these large reptiles were hunted by sailors and fishermen for their meat and oil, and more recently have suffered habitat loss and competition due to introduced goats and cattle. Introduced predators such as cats, dogs and rats also predate the more vulnerable juveniles.

Photo of Galapagos giant tortoise hatchling breaking out of shell

Young Galapagos giant tortoises are vulnerable to introduced predators such as cats and rats

There are a number of different subspecies of Galapagos giant tortoise, and the differences in appearance between the tortoises from different islands were among the features that helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution.

Overall, around 20,000 giant tortoises are thought to now remain on the Galapagos Islands, but three subspecies have already become extinct or are extinct in the wild.

Photo of an old male Duncan Island tortoise in typical habitat

Duncan Island tortoise. Some Galapagos giant tortoise subspecies have “saddleback” shells, while in others the shell is more domed.

Failed breeding attempts

Despite efforts by conservationists to breed George with females from closely related giant tortoise subspecies, he sadly failed to reproduce successfully. With his death, the Pinta Island subspecies, also known as the Abingdon giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni), is the latest giant tortoise subspecies to become extinct.

Lonesome George was estimated to be around 100 years old at his death, although Galapagos giant tortoises can potentially live up to 150 years or more. Park officials are due to carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death.

Photo of male Abingdon Island tortoise - Lonesome George - feeding

Lonesome George feeding

Conservation efforts

Fortunately, conservation efforts are underway to save other Galapagos giant tortoise subspecies. For example, a programme running since the 1970s raises hatchlings in captivity until they are large and robust enough not to succumb to predators in the wild.

This programme has shown encouraging success, increasing the population of the Critically Endangered Hood Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra hoodensis) from just 13 individuals in the 1970s to over 1,000 in the wild today.

Read more about Lonesome George at BBC – Last Pinta giant tortoise Lonesome George dies.

View photos and videos of the Galapagos giant tortoise on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Jun 25

ARKive is working with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) to help highlight the plight of the world’s invertebrates. Through our joint Invertebrate Photography Competition, we hope to increase the availablility of invertebrate imagery for conservation purposes.

We’re looking for images of the world’s invertebrates – from snails to spiders, beetles to butterflies or corals to crabs. Show us your best photos to help promote invertebrate conservation and to be in with a chance of winning some brilliant prizes!


The winning entry will receive a two-day ticket to WildPhotos 2012!

Presented by Mark Carwardine and Chris Packham, the annual two-day event is packed full of inspirational talks from the world’s top wildlife and conservation photographers where you can learn from industry experts, hear the stories behind the spectacular images, find out about the latest technologies and join the debate on the hottest topical issues.

Other prizes to be won

  • The best images will be displayed at a special exhibition at ZSL London Zoo in August 2012. Photographers whose images are selected will receive a pair of tickets to London Zoo to attend the photographic exhibition.
  • The winner and runners up will also receive a copy of ZSL’s report on the status and trends of invertebrates.

If you’re in need of some inspiration, explore the amazing variety of invertebrates on ARKive as well as some of the fabulous entries we’ve received so far. ..

© Adrian Gonzales-Guillen, Polymita picta form iolimbata

© Adrian Gonzales-Guillen

© Madjid Momeni Moghaddam

© Madjid Momeni Moghaddam










© P. Jeganathan, weaver Ant

© P. Jeganathan

© James Reardon

© James Reardon








© Heather Hillard, red pencil urchin

© Heather Hillard

© Elyssa Kellerman, Giraffe-necked weevil

© Elyssa Kellerman

Please submit your entries directly to ARKive at the following email address: invertphotocomp@wildscreen.org.uk
The deadline to enter the competition is 20th July 2012. Entries received after this date may still be used by ARKive, ZSL and IUCN (please see further information below).

We look forward to receiving your images of the world’s invertebrates. Good luck!


Terms and conditions for use of imagery by ARKive, IUCN and ZSL

  • All submitted images will be held in the repositories at ARKive, where they are being preserved and maintained for the benefit of future generations, and made available for non-commercial awareness-raising and educational purposes via the ARKive website. ARKive does not sell photographs, but rather the ARKive website acts as a showcase for image providers, displaying copyright and contact details with every image, as well as links to each media donor’s own web activities. See ARKive’s full terms and conditions.
  • The electronic copies of the images provided to ARKive may be made available to IUCN for electronic publishing on the IUCN Red List and the Amazing Species websites.
  • IUCN and ZSL may use images in electronic press-releases and resulting news stories promoting, for example, the IUCN Red List and the ZSL report on invertebrate status and trends.
  • ZSL may use the images in its report on invertebrate status and trends to be launched at Jeju, and related exhibitions, as specified in the letter above IUCN may also use the images in, for example, reports on the IUCN Red List. Copyright holders will be contacted prior to these activities.
  • Copyright holders will be acknowledged in any use of their images.
  • The images on the IUCN Red List websites and in associated IUCN and ZSL electronic products, as listed above, will be low-resolution (no larger than roughly 480×320) and will be clearly marked with a copyright notice. In addition, the Red List website ‘Terms of Use’ will include a restriction that those wishing to republish or otherwise use the images found on the Red List website or in Red List products should contact the copyright holders directly for approval for such use. ZSL terms and conditions for website use can be viewed at http://www.zsl.org/info/legal/content/general-terms,208,AR.html



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