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.

May 21

It’s our birthday!

Arkive is 15 years old!

We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate and share the incredible diversity of life on Earth. However our planet is currently under a crisis, our planet’s ecosystems are under threat like never before, and the world is watching as more and more species fall victim to habitat loss or wildlife crime. It’s easy to get lost in the science, but it does not lessen the urgency needed in combating these extinctions.

Here, as a stark reminder, we see 15 species which have become extinct, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, over the 15 years Arkive has been running.

Alaotra grebe

Declared extinct in 2010

Baiji – Yangtze river dolphin

Presumed extinct since 2006

West African black rhino

Southwestern black rhinoceros male charging

Diceros bicornis longipes, the Western black rhino, a subspecies of the black rhino Diceros bicornis, was declared extinct in 2011

Golden toad

Male golden toad

Declared extinct in 2007

Hawaiian crow

Hawaiian crow perched on branch

Declared extinct in the wild in 2004

Madeiran large white

Female Madeiran large white

Presumed extinct since 2007

Po’ouli (Black-faced honeycreeper)

Po'ouli in tree

Presumed extinct since 2004

Eastern cougar

Side view of a Patagonian puma

Puma concolor couguar, the Eastern cougar, a subspecies of Puma concolor was declared extinct in 2018, it’s cousin the Western cougar may now be expanding it’s range

Rabbs’ fringed-limbed treefrog

Captive Rabb's fringe-limbed treefrog

Declared extinct in 2016, the species has not been observed in the wild since 2007

Spix’s macaw

Spix's macaw

Presumed extinct in the wild since 2000

St Helena redwood

St Helena redwood with immature and pollinated flowers

Extinct in the wild since 2003

Pinta Island tortoise

Volcan Alcedo tortoise in habitat

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise died in 2012

Bramble cay melomys

Declared extinct in 2016

Japanese river otter

Close-up of common otter head among seaweed

Lutra lutra whiteleyi a subspecies of the common otter, Lutra lutra as seen above, and was declared extinct in 2012

Pyrenean ibex

Male Pyrenean ibex standing on rock

Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica is a subspecies of the Iberian ibex Capra pyrenaica, was declared extinct in 2000, but was one of the first species to be briefly made de-extinct in 2003

Feb 15

The race to become crowned as the World’s Most Unloved Species was hotly contested, once again, this year with 19 nominated species in the running.  After 12 days of fierce competition, impassioned pitches and over 4,500 votes, the top 10 was announced on Valentine’s Day.

But slithering into first place… it’s the Galapagos racer!

Often demonised, the Galapagos racer shot to fame during the BBC’s 2016 series Planet Earth II.  They are one of a few endemic snakes found in the Galapagos and can grow to a maximum of 125 centimetres.  However, little is known about the Galapagos racer and there is even confusion over the number of species or subspecies of racer snakes found in the Galapagos.  The Galapagos racer is already locally extinct on Floreana Island and are threatened following the introduction of cats and pigs onto neighbouring islands which forage for their eggs.

All the nominated species are worthy winners, and were chosen as they are often overshadowed and overlooked by the more cute, handsome and (supposedly) interesting members of the natural world.  But which species pulled at the public’s heartstrings the most and made it into the top 10?  Here’s a quick rundown:

Wombling into second place, it’s the bare-nosed wombat.  Also known as the ‘common wombat’ this furry marsupial may no longer be as ‘common’ as its namesake suggests, as the population battles an increasing number of fatal road strikes and the deadly skin condition mange.

Flying into third, and in the highest place a bird has had in this contest, it’s the lappet-faced vulture.  Definitely not noted for their cuddly nature, these birds have been known to take on jackals to defend a carcass!

In fourth place we dive underneath the waves with the first shark to enter the top 10!  The shortfin mako is a speed machine, capable of reaching 35 kilometres an hour and even having the power to launch itself clear out of the water.

At number five we have the Asian elephant.  Despite having had a close relationship with man over the centuries these giants are facing a number of threats including poaching and habitat loss, and are often overlooked by their larger African relatives.

Hopping into the top 10 at number six is the common toad.  Firmly rooted in English folklore and culture this gardener’s friend is another species with an unfortunate name as populations have taken a dramatic downturn declining by 68% over the last 30 years.

The ‘lucky number seven’ spot is taken by the red squirrel.  However this iconic species is not so lucky, facing habitat fragmentations, disease and competition with the grey squirrel, introduced into the UK in the 1870s.

Coming up in eighth place is the aye-aye.  Not known for its dashing good looks, this primate has been considered an omen of bad luck resulting in persecution by the Malagasy people!

Looking fine at nine is the Copan brook frog.  The second amphibian in the top 10, this tiny frog could be easily hidden if it wasn’t for its bright, lime green colouration.

And last but by no means least, it’s the blue shark.  This sleek apex predator is instantly recognisable as it moves gracefully through the water however it is one of the most heavily fished sharks in the world, with an estimated 15-20 million caught every year.

To find out more about these species and the work being done to research and conserve them, visit the results page here.

Sep 29

Thirteen ocean creatures have surfaced all around Bristol’s BS5 postcode, snapped by some of the world’s very best wildlife photographers. To prove how turtle-y awesome they all are, we’ve created blogs on all of the featured species sharing ten epic facts about them! Sail your way around the exhibition by downloading your very own map and guide.

1) Seals are believed to have evolved from land-based bear or otter-like ancestors, who then decided life was better under the sea, down where it’s wetter..

2) Seals mainly live in the water and only come ashore to mate, give birth, moult or escape from predators such as orca, whales and sharks.

3) Seals have more blood in their body than other animals, which helps them to dive for much longer than many other oxygen-breathing mammals.

4) Elephant seals can hold their breath for two hours – a record in the animal world! The longest ever held by a human is just 22 minutes.

5) Weddell seals can dive to over 600m!

6) Seals have whiskers that help them detect the vibration of their prey underwater.

7) As they can spend many months at sea at a time, seals have the ability to sleep underwater.

8) Male seals don’t eat anything during mating season, which can last up to three months! That’s some serious beach-body dieting.

9) A female seal’s milk contains up to 50% fat, and pups can put on 2kgs a DAY. That should make you feel a little better about your festive calorie splurges!

10) While orcas, sharks and polar bears are natural predators of seals, the biggest threat to seal populations is people.

Sep 29

Thirteen ocean creatures have surfaced all around Bristol’s BS5 postcode, snapped by some of the world’s very best wildlife photographers. To prove how turtle-y awesome they all are, we’ve created blogs on all of the featured species sharing ten epic facts about them! Sail your way around the exhibition by downloading your very own map and guide.

1) Northern gannets are the largest gannet subspecies, and also the largest seabird in Britain.

2) Scotland is home to over 40% of the world’s northern gannet breeding population.

3) If you’re lucky enough to see gannets travelling out to sea you’ll notice that they do so in large groups, sometimes up to 1,000 birds strong – a seabird squadron!

4) Seabirds have to be light enough to soar in the sky for long stretches of time and buoyant enough to float when they rest on the ocean’s surface. Some seabirds are so light and buoyant that they actually have trouble getting under the water at all!

5) Gannets are champions among the divers and can plummet into the ocean from as high as 40m, diving as deep as 35m.

6) When these seabirds hit the surface of the water they can be travelling as fast as 96km/h!

7) Air sacs between the sternum (chest bone) and chest muscles help to cushion the impact of fast diving.

8) They have nostrils that open inside, not outside, their bill to prevent water rushing up their nose when they dive.

9) Gannets don’t take off with their catch, they quickly swallow their fish before resurfacing, often whole. Greedy guts!

10) During the breeding season, gannets increase blood flow to their feet, helping them to incubate their eggs. The feet act like little hot plates to keep the eggs nice and toasty.

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