Jul 31

Since its inception in 1982 each Wildscreen Festival has utilised wildlife photographs or illustrations to provide each year with a unique and memorable visual identity.  As the 2018 Festival draws closer, we are incredibly excited to introduce the illustrations that will become the face of this year’s Festival!

The 2018 Festival focuses on telling the story of biodiversity – the amazing diversity of life on Earth, from species to ecosystems.  We value the world’s more underappreciated and endangered species and habitats, and have therefore chosen five to showcase as the 2018 Festival Mascots!

Flying the flag for the insects is Queen Alexandra’s birdwing and we’ve been speaking to Dr Mark Collins, Chairman of the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust, about conserving this legendary butterfly.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly. Illustration by Lorna Leigh Harrington

Firstly, tell us a bit about the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing – we’ve heard it can get pretty big!

It’s the biggest butterfly in the world with females reaching a wingspan of up to 30cm! They fly high in the forest canopy of Papua New Guinea, so high in fact that the first specimen, discovered by Albert Stewart Meek in 1906, had to be shot down with pepper-shot and the rather ragged specimen, stored in the Natural History Museum, still bears the scars! The males are rather smaller at 20cm wingspan but make up for it with their amazing iridescent blue and green colours, contrasting with the predominantly brown and cream females.

This butterfly has a very grand name, who is it named after?

Albert Meek was a professional collector who worked for the second Baron Rothschild (he famously put together the collection in Tring, now part of the Natural History Museum). When Walter Rothschild described the species in 1907 he recognised its beauty and rarity and named it in honour of Alexandra of Denmark, the wife and Queen Consort of King Edward VII. A memorial to this statuesque and remarkable lady may be seen in London’s Marlborough Road, opposite St James’s Palace.

Male Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly | © Francois Gilson

How endangered is this species and what threats does it face?

This is one of the most endangered species of butterflies in the world and it faces a very uncertain future indeed. Confined to four sub-populations in secondary forest fragments scattered across only a few thousand square kilometres in Northern Province of Papua New Guinea, and with fewer than 10 females per square kilometre, it is a very difficult species to find. Much of its former habitat in the Popondetta region has been lost to deforestation, agriculture and oil palm plantations. Its stronghold is probably now the Managalas Plateau, a remote and rarely visited area of highland forest.

Ever since its discovery, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing has been highly sought after by collectors and it was declared totally protected from all trade by CITES in the late 1980s. Some poaching and smuggling is believed still to go on, but not enough to threaten the species in the wild, where habitat loss is the real issue.

What conservation projects are the SBBT working on to protect this species?

In 2017 the Trust voluntarily advised on the establishment of a new three-year project, now financed by the Sime Darby Foundation of Malaysia and operated entirely by New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL), which has plantations at Higaturu in the Popondetta region.  NBPOL is in the process of setting up a breeding facility there within its secure residential and operations compound. Security is an issue because the butterfly can be so valuable in the wrong hands. The project is now in the process of building its advisory and management infrastructure with local and national government, local NGOs and community organisations. The Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust is not directly advising the project at present but may do so once it becomes more fully operational.

In a parallel initiative, SBBT has proposed to the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that birdwings in general could benefit from a “Periodic Review” of the current CITES listings of birdwings. There are differing opinions on the value of these listings. Dating back to the 1980s, it has been argued that the blanket regulations have a tendency to suppress a range of scientific and educational activities for the many quite common birdwing species while at the same time driving the international trade in the more endangered species underground. One problem is that identifying the various species is a job for experts and rare and valuable species being internationally traded could be unscrupulously labelled as common ones.

Female Queen Alexandra’s birdwing feeding on hibiscus flower | © Francois Gilson

Why was it important for the SBBT to work in partnership with New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL) when the palm oil industry is so often involved in controversial conservation stories?

The political, economic and scientific circumstances in the region that Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing inhabits are complicated and it has proved difficult to adopt traditional approaches to conservation, for example by setting up secure reserves and parks in suitable areas. The Wildlife Management Areas system in PNG requires the support of local people and communities who own the land under traditional rights of tenure and they have been challenging to establish and protect for the long term.

Companies such as NBPOL have for many years been able to obtain land for oil palm production but within their vast monoculture estates there does remain a residual complex of riverine and topographically dissected habitats that are difficult to access but have potential for conservation of butterfly communities. NBPOL has its own charitable Foundation and is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which requires its members to act as responsible stewards of threatened species on their properties. In reports on the Higaturu palm oil estates published by RSPO in 2016, NBPOL identified some high conservation value sites on its estates that might be suitable for protection and used for the butterfly’s safety and reintroduction. In May this year, the Rainforest Alliance awarded NBPOL its Sustainable Pathfinder Award, stating that “NBPOL’s diligence in adopting the FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent) in its oil palm development and climate change adaptation as well as mitigation measures to improve farmers’ livelihoods in PNG are some of the works that entitled the company for the award.”

NBPOL is now in the process of building and equipping a new laboratory, flight cages and some foodplant nurseries to try to breed Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, with a view to releasing it into areas that it once inhabited and that can be enriched with additional foodplants. An entomologist, Dr Darren Bito, has been employed to run the project and he is gaining some hands-on experience at the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary in Cairns, which has a breeding facility for the Cairns Birdwing, Ornithoptera euphorion. Hopefully he will also visit the Queensland Wildlife Preservation Society in Brisbane, where a ground-breaking project on the Richmond Birdwing (Ornithoptera richmondia) has much to offer the PNG project.

Have there been any conservation breakthroughs since the start of this project?

Clearly it is early days for this project and at this point NBPOL is still building the laboratories and accommodation that it needs. There remain some fundamental questions that need to be answered as the breeding program gets into full swing. For example, we don’t know how much genetic variation there is between the four sub-populations. If they are fairly distinct they may have different ecological requirements, even in terms of their specific foodplants, which is clearly vital information for breeding success. Also, before any releases can be contemplated, surveys of existing populations need to be consolidated in order to establish a baseline against which future success can be measured. NBPOL’s recently-recruited CEO James Graham is charged with ensuring that the Queen Alexandra’s Butterfly project goes from strength to strength.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing feeding | © Francois Gilson

To find out more about SBBT’s work with the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, check out their website.

Jul 18

The Wildscreen Festival is the world’s biggest global gathering of natural world storytellers.  It convenes over 850 filmmakers, photographers, broadcasters, technologists and conservationists from over 40 countries for one week in Bristol, UK, to celebrate and nurture the wildlife film and TV genre.

Since its inception in 1982, each Festival has utilised wildlife photographs or illustrations to provide its unique and memorable visual identity. As the 2018 Festival draws closer, we are thrilled to introduce Lorna Leigh Harrington, whose illustrations will become the face of this year’s Festival.  We have commissioned Lorna to create five illustrations of species that highlight the diversity of life on Earth, focusing on the more underappreciated or endangered species from different habitats.  The species are: the Iberian lynx, helmeted hornbill, Muller’s mushroomtounge salamander, Queen Alexandra’s butterfly and sea urchins, all of which will have their time in the spotlight throughout the Festival and will be showcased in this blog series.

We spoke to Lorna about her passion for the natural world and how it inspires her work.

Lorna Leigh Harrington | © Lucy Baker

Wildscreen are extremely excited that your illustrations will become the visual identity of the 2018 Wildscreen Festival.  Firstly, and most importantly: what is your favourite animal & why?!

My favourite animal would have to be an elephant. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. It amazes me that they can express emotions such as joy, love and grief. They are beautiful and intelligent.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started in this creative industry

I’ve always had a real passion for art and design, and have always doodled. I find drawing really cathartic. I started working within the industry shortly after graduating university, taking up a few intern roles in London for a couple of magazines and a fashion website. After this I worked as a freelance illustrator and designer for a few years which took me from sunny Bognor Regis to Bristol city life. I have been lucky enough to work for some really great clients over print, web, app design and fashion.

Drawing the Iberian lynx | © Lorna Leigh Harrington

What was it about this particular project that made you want to get involved?

I think that Wildscreen is such a fantastic way to celebrate Natural history film makers, and is a great way to get people excited about conservation and learning about new species. I’ve learnt a lot about the species chosen for Wildscreen’s branding!

When you decide to create a new piece of work, what is your process? 

I work for Aardman Animations by day as a Graphic Designer, so I’m constantly in a creative environment which provides a great hub of inspiration. I get inspired by the world around me, whether it be from a song I’ve heard on the radio, a poem or even a road sign! Usually I will get an idea during the day and will make a note of it and begin work of an evening, and tend to not sleep until they have been executed on paper.

Working on the helmeted hornbill | © Lorna Leigh Harrington

What techniques/mediums do you use to create your illustrations?

I tend to sketch an outline in pencil and then go over it with a black ballpoint pen, adding in detail. A sketch never feels complete to me until I have added some strong black lines. I then scan the image into photoshop where I colour and add textures and layers.

The natural world features heavily in your work, what is it about nature and wildlife that inspires you?

I’ve always had a fascination with the world around us, and particularly the animals that inhabit it with us. As a kid I had a lot of pets, so I put this interest down to that. I think that species can be so diverse in shape and colour that the possible outcomes of a piece of work are never ending.

What is your favourite subject to draw?

Aside from animals and plants, I also love drawing faces, and experimenting with shading. I have recently got into painting large portraits on canvases with acrylic. I like to mix up my style from time to time.

The five Wildscreen species, clockwise from left: helmeted hornbil, Iberian lynx, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, Muller’s mushroomtounge salamander, sea urchins.

To see more of Lorna’s work, check out her website and Instagram.

Jun 19

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 12, 2015

U.S. grants new protections for captive chimpanzees

Young-Eastern-chimpanzee-

Young eastern chimpanzee

On June 12th the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared that all chimpanzees both in the wild and captive are endangered. Poaching and habitat degradation are the main factors affecting wild populations.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 13, 2015

Questions about black rhino sent to Botswana

Black-rhinoceros-drinking

Black rhinoceros drinking

Botswana asked Zimbabwe to supply it with 10 black rhinos for its Moremi Game Reserve. Botswana received 5 black rhinos that apparently originated from South Africa not Zimbabwe. Some experts are against mixing Zimbabwean rhinos with the South African ones, since they are genetically distinct.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 14, 2015

“Critically endangered” dusky gopher frogs released into wildlife refuge in Mississippi

Dusky-gopher-frog-metamorph

Dusky gopher frog metamorph

Wildlife officials have release 1,074 dusky gopher frogs since May. Every frog, which is released, has a tracking device attached to its leg so their progress can be monitored. The dusky gopher frog has been on the list of endangered species since 2001.

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Article originally published on Monday, Jun 15, 2015

France bans the world’s leading herbicide from garden stores

Monarch-butterfly-resting-on-a-flowering-plant

Monarch butterfly resting on a flowering plant

France has banned Roundup, a herbicide since it contains glyphosate, which is potentially a carcinogen. Glyphosate has been linked to the decline in monarch butterflies. The chemical kills milkweed which is the monarch caterpillar’s only food source.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015

Mind meld: Social wasps share brainpower

Close-up-of-common-wasp-feeding

Common wasp feeding

Researchers found that as wasps become more social, the brain regions responsible for complex cognition decreases in size. Researchers hypothesize that wasps make up for this decrease by working together and “sharing brain power”.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2015

Finding more ammo than animals in huge African rain forest

Forest-elephant-bull

Forest elephant bull

Scientists undertook an expedition into Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve hoping to find chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and forest elephants. Instead however, they found poaching camps and gun cartridges and few signs of animals.

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Male-western-lowland-gorilla-portrait (1)

Male western lowland gorilla

Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

All kangaroos are left-handed

Red-kangaroo-hopping

Red kangaroo photo

It was previously thought that “true” handedness, which is predictably using one hand over another, was unique to primates.  However,  researchers found that kangaroos show a natural preference for their left hands when performing daily tasks. This feature was especially apparent in eastern grey kangaroos and red kangaroos.

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Male-female-and-young-eastern-grey-kangaroo

Male, female and young eastern grey kangaroo

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Apr 3

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Mar 27, 2015

New species of monitor lizards found on the black market

varanus-bitatawa

Northern Sierra Madre forest monitor

In a black market in Manila, researchers discovered two new monitor lizard species for sale. They obtained the lizards and took them back to the United States for genetic analysis.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Malawi to burn its £5m ivory stockpile this week – and demonstrate its commitment to wildlife conservation

African-elephant-family

African elephant family

On Thursday (Apr.2), Malawi President Peter Mutharika will lead the march to the incineration of the country’s ivory stockpile. In purely commercial terms a live elephant is worth 75 times more than a dead one.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Injured tortoise given 3D printed shell

Burmese-starred-tortoise

Burmese starred tortoise

An injured female leopard turtle has been given a prosthetic shell to protect her as she heals. With a healthy diet and optimum temperature, the shell is expected to regrow properly. She belongs to the Testudinidae family that includes the equally stunning Burmese starred tortoise.

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Article originally published on Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Sexy male birds ‘make worse dads’

Male-blue-and-yellow-tanager-perched-on-branch

Blue-and-yellow tanager perched on branch

Among male blue-black grassquits, who  belong to the tanager family Thraupidae, those with more striking coloration provided less food to their offspring when compared to less ornamented males. Attractive males tend to pursue extra pair copulation.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

New Report: Five years after Deepwater Horizon, wildlife still struggling

Pair-of-bottlenose-dolphins-breaching

Pair of bottlenose dolphins breaching

Species are still feeling the effects of the Deepwater Horizon event. In 2014, dolphins on the Louisiana coast, were found dead at four times the historic rate which is connected to the oil spill. After the spill, the number of Kemp’s ridley turtle nests has on average declined.

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kemps-ridley-turtle

Kemp’s ridley turtle

Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 1, 2015

Warm spring helps endangered butterfly’s numbers soar

High-brown-fritillary-feeding-on-marsh-thistle (1)

High brown fritillary feeding on marsh thistle

The high brown fritillary is one of the UK’s rarest butterflies. Since the 1950’s the butterflies numbers have fallen dramatically. In 2014, however its population increased by more than 180% compared to the previous year.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 2, 2015

Tarantulas’ movements get a ‘little wonky’ if its too hot

Curlyhair-tarantula

Curlyhair tarantula

A recent study looked at the effect of temperature on the locomotion of tarantulas. Higher temperatures caused their coordination to decrease, while cooler temperatures caused them to slow down.

View original article

 Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

 

Mar 8

Attention all you butterfly lovers out there! The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois, is dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of Midwestern environmental issues and has made incredible strides in the conservation and restoration of the stunning swamp metalmark. Read this next installment in the Going WILD in Illinois mini blog series to learn just how threatened this butterfly is and how the Museum is working to protect it!

The Swamp Metalmark: An At-Risk Species

The swamp metalmark (Calephelis muticum) is a small yellow and rust colored butterfly from the central United States.  It formerly ranged from Michigan and Ohio south to Kentucky and west to Arkansas, Wisconsin and Iowa.  Populations have recently been discovered in Alabama and northeastern Oklahoma.  It inhabits alkaline wetlands called fens, where its host plant, swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum), grows.

Swamp metalmark photo

Swamp metalmark –  Credit: The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

As a result of destruction of many fen wetlands, swamp metalmarks are now critically imperiled through most of their range.  With the exception of Missouri, the species has received a sub-national heritage ranking of S1 or S2 (critically imperiled or imperiled) in all states where it occurs.  There are more populations in Missouri, however even there it is classified as vulnerable.

The swamp metalmark typically inhabits just a few hundred yards over the course of its lifetime.

Conservation efforts through most of the species’ range consist of monitoring and habitat protection.  Some active restoration efforts are taking place in the upper Midwest.  For example, biologists at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago recently released lab-reared adults onto a fen in northeastern Illinois in an attempt to return the species to that part of its range.  The release site was the known home of a population of swamp metalmarks that disappeared sometime between 1940 and 1980.  Since the early 1980s, extensive ecological restoration work has removed invasive species and restored hydrology to the site, paving the way for the return of the butterfly.

Doug Taron in the field releasing swamp metalmark butterflies raised at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Doug Taron, Curator of Biology and VP of Research and Conservation, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 

I think we can all agree that the valuable work of The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in support of the swamp metalmark can not be understated! To keep up with the conservation efforts and general goings-on at the museum, have a look at their blog and to explore more Illinois species, dive into our new Illinois feature page. Thanks for sharing a wonderful conservation story with us, Doug!

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