Feb 1

Species name: red-footed booby

Nominated by: Chagos Conservation Trust


IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

With a funny name comes some funny feet, but no one can deny that the red footed booby is one of the most beautiful seabirds found in the Chagos Archipelago and certainly stands out in a crowd!  With their bright red feet they are ready for Valentine’s Day every day.  These colourful birds spend much of their time on the islands of the archipelago with regular visits to the ocean to feed.  Having an aerodynamic body and closeable nostrils means they can dive into the water to catch squid and small fish with ease.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

In the Chagos Archipelago invasive black rats are one of the biggest threats to red footed boobies. These seabirds nest on the ground providing easy access for these introduced predators to prey on eggs and chicks. Out at sea, overfishing threatens the food supplies for red footed boobies.

What can people do to help your species?

Always choose sustainably sourced seafood to ensure that there is enough available for the other species that depend on seafood for their survival. You can also support the Chagos Conservation Trust in its efforts to eradicate invasive black rats from the islands of the Chagos Archipelago.

 

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Feb 1

Species name: Copan brook frog

Nominated by: World Land Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Endangered

What is so special about your species?

This striking, little-known amphibian has lime green leopard spots and deep, ruby-red eyes. They are very small, between 3-4cm, and their latin name ‘soralia’ is a Greek word for lichen, reflecting how the green spots resemble the lichens of its habitat.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Unfortunately this beautiful, tiny frog is restricted to small fragments of habitat that remain in the mountain rainforests of Caribbean Guatemala and Honduras. Protecting these last remnants of forest from deforestation for agriculture is of high conservation priority for this species and the other endangered, endemic amphibians that can be found in this region. The other major threat facing this species is the infamous fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which is one of the main causes (alongside habitat loss) for the drastic decline of amphibian species worldwide.

What can people do to help your species?

Support World Land Trust’s (WLT) efforts to preserve Caribbean Rainforest habitat in Guatemala for endangered and endemic amphibians. WLT’s partner Fundación Para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO) protect one of its last remaining forests, Sierra Caral, as part of their Conservation Coast programme.

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Feb 1

Species name: common wombat

(bare-nosed wombat)

Nominated by: Wildlife Land Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

Bare-nosed wombats bring out the best in people. There are thousands of Australians so inspired by the species they dedicate their lives to caring for injured and orphaned wombats, waking at all hours to feed and comfort them, helping them recover in the wild by preparing and placing burrow flaps to treat mange, and protecting their habitats.

They have an incredibly endearing no-nonsense nature – if a wombat has somewhere to go nobody is going to stop it getting there, especially if there’s a joey on board! They are playful, loving, and as tough as nails. Characteristics we would like to think are quintessentially Australian!

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

While the bare-nosed wombat is relatively abundant, they have been treated terribly in Australia in recent times and their wellbeing remains under serious threat. Wombats were classified as vermin in 1906, there was a bounty put on their heads in 1925, and they continue to suffer from shootings, rampant habitat clearance, a disturbing amount of road strikes (occasionally intentional, including an instance where 11 wombats, some carrying joeys, were mown down in a camping ground in 2015), and the highly distressing disease mange.

Mange is a horrific skin infection caused by a parasitic mite that results in aggressive itching, hair loss, skin crusting, and open wounds. Of the native Australian mammal species known to be affected, wombats are the most impacted, with mange limiting wombats’ ability to forage and drink, resulting in weight loss and compromised immune systems which help the infection on. If left untreated, scabbing gets so bad that wombats can become deaf and blind, almost inevitably leading to a painful death.

What can people do to help your species?

Mange can be treated through medication placed in cleverly designed burrow flaps, and hundreds of wildlife carers around Australia spend their time and money erecting them to help reduce the suffering of this species they adore so much. But the task is too big for carers alone and support is desperately needed.

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Feb 1

Species name: spiny butterfly ray

Nominated by: Project AWARE

IUCN Red List classification: Vulnerable; Europe & Mediterranean – Critically Endangered

What is so special about your species?

Butterfly, diamond shaped, what’s not to love about this ray species? For scuba divers, getting up close and personal with rays in their natural habitat makes for an unforgettable experience. Some of the most beloved ray species are the majestic manta ray or graceful eagle ray but there are so many other rays who deserve love and attention. The spiny butterfly ray gets its name from its wide, wing-like pectoral fins and its short, sharp tail that has one or more serrated spines used to stun preys such as crustaceans, molluscs, plankton and small fishes. This very large, diamond shaped ray has a flat body and coloration which enables the little known and rarely seen creature to effectively camouflage itself in the sandy and muddy sea floor. If buried in the sand, the spiny butterfly ray will often remain motionless while divers pass. They are sometimes spotted around the popular dive destination, the Canary Islands. Rumour has it that there is one that has taken up residence in the harbour on El Hiero.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Coastal development, pollution and disturbances caused by humans or their activities, tourism in particular, are a threat to the spiny butterfly ray shallow coastal habitat. They produce few young (1-8 depending on geographic location), making them especially vulnerable to fishing pressure and overexploitation. Noted for the quality of its wing meat and sometimes landed for human consumption, they are particularly susceptible to a range of fishing gear and commonly taken in inshore fisheries. Along the coast of West Africa, large mesh bottom gillnets are used to target the spiny butterfly ray in huge numbers. In the Mediterranean, this ray was moderately abundant but they are now very rare or absent from local catch records. In this region, the suspected population decline over the past 20 years exceeds 80%. In West Africa, abundance has declined severely and the median size has been dramatically reduced as most of the adults have been removed by fishing activities.

What can people do to help your species?

One of the best ways to help the spiny butterfly ray, and other sharks and rays of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is to support science-based shark conservation measures. NGOs like Project AWARE and its conservation partners, including Shark Advocates International, The Shark Trust and Ecology Action Center are working hard to gain increased protections for some of these lesser known species. Together, we have formed the Shark League. We advocate for ground-breaking safeguards for sharks and rays at specific Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, including GFCM – the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. Our coalition is hopeful for effective collaboration in implementing science-based shark conservation measures to safeguard the Mediterranean’s exceptionally vulnerable sharks and rays, including the spiny butterfly ray.

At Project AWARE we love all shark and ray species – from the mako shark to the thorny skate, blue shark to spiny butterfly ray – all Love Species nominated this year by Shark League partners.

Follow #SharkLeague on Twitter over the coming months to learn more and get involved. Thank you!

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Feb 1

Species name: Galapagos racer

Nominated by: Galapagos Conservation Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Near Threatened

What is so special about your species?

Galapagos racer snakes shot to fame in 2016 in the BBC’s Planet Earth II when they were filmed hunting baby marine iguanas on Fernandina Island. Despite the scene taking place during their best feeding opportunity of the year, the public and media were quick to demonise the ‘evil’ snakes.

Little is actually known about Galapagos racers. Unlike many other Galapagos species, they are shy of humans and hide away. There is even confusion over the number of species or subspecies of racer snake found in Galapagos. Traditionally three subspecies are recognised, though others argue that there is enough distinction to classify four separate species.

Galapagos racers are constrictors and only mildly venomous, tending to prey on smaller species such as lava lizards and insects. The racers on Fernandina, however, have developed a unique behaviour for a terrestrial snake – hunting marine fish from rock pools!

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Introduced species are the main threat to Galapagos racers. They are hunted by cats and pigs forage for their eggs – in fact it is thought that this is the reason that they are locally extinct from the island of Floreana. They are also under-studied meaning that population declines could possibly be going undetected.

What can people do to help your species?

Many of the islands on which Galapagos racers are currently found still have invasive predators, hindering their chance of survival. However, along with partners including Island Conservation, Galapagos Conservation Trust are working on an ambitious project to restore Floreana Island which was historically home to racers. Once invasive species are removed and the habitat restored, Galapagos racers can be reintroduced to Floreana, which could hugely improve the species’ chance of survival. We cannot do this, however, without your support. Visit our website to find out more about the project, including how you can help.

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