Feb 1

Species name: aye-aye

Nominated by: Rainforest Trust UK

IUCN Red List classification: Endangered

What is so special about your species?

The aye-aye is one of a kind, a unique creature spectacularly evolved to thrive in the rainforests of Madagascar. It may not be the cutest lemur in the canopy – it looks like a cross between a giant vampire bat and Golum from Lord of the Rings – but what the aye-aye lacks in looks it makes up for in specialisation. The largest nocturnal primate in the world, the aye-aye finds its food by tapping on trees with its extraordinarily long middle finger and listening for insect larvae moving under the bark. It then gnaws a hole in the wood with its vampire-like incisors and uses the same middle finger to hook them out. Not the most romantic Valentine date, we admit, but it’s the only primate to use echolocation to find its dinner. They also mate upside down, hanging from a tree branch for up to an hour. Which isn’t easy, especially when you have a stomach full of insect larvae.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Aye-ayes have long been considered omens of bad luck by the Malagasy people due to their vampiric appearance, and some locals even think that if they point their long middle finger at you, you are marked for death. For this reason aye-ayes are often killed on sight and hung up at the edge of the village so that the evil spirit will be carried away by travellers. Add to this the widespread habitat loss and intensive farming that have destroyed much of their habitat across Madagascar, it’s clear that the aye-aye is only hanging on by its freakishly long fingertips and deserves your love this Valentine’s Day.

What can people do to help your species?

Rainforest Trust are working with our local Conservation Partners to conserve a number of crucial areas of rainforest for threatened endemic wildlife across Madagascar, including the newly discovered Lost Forest, a spectacular intact primary rainforest that has avoided degradation, unlike almost all other remaining Malagasy forests. And as a special Valentine’s Day gift, all donations to this project will be quadrupled, meaning you can save four times as much rainforest for our long-fingered friends!

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Feb 1

Species name: lappet-faced vulture

Nominated by: Pro Wildlife

IUCN Red List classification: Endangered

What is so special about your species?

In our society vultures are an omen of death. The myth that vultures circle dying animals waiting for their meal is deeply rooted and has badly damaged the image of those majestic animals. However, vultures fulfil an important function within our ecosystems and are highly specialised. For example, their strong stomach acid can kill deadly bacteria which allows them to safely digest carcasses infected with dangerous diseases such as anthrax and hog cholera bacteria.

Many vulture species are threatened with extinction which has the potential to destabilize entire ecosystems, as vultures play an important role in disposing of dead animals.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Habitat loss and degradation, and toxins are the main threats faced by vultures.  African species, such as the lappet-faced vulture, have become victims of the cattle drug ‘diclofenac’ and poisons used to kill predators such as jackals and hyenas.  Vultures are also deliberately poisoned by poachers as their circling behaviours act as an alarm for authorities and expose the poachers’ illegal activities.

Vultures only produce a few offspring during their lifetime, resulting in a slow recovery from dramatic population crashes.

What can people do to help your species?

Worldwide banning of the chemicals that kill vultures indirect would help them to recover themselves. By combating illegal poaching in Africa, the cause for systematic poisoning of vultures can be tackled. Pro Wildlife supports local organisations to stop the illegal hunting of animals and to maintain the balance of the ecosystem.

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Feb 1

Species name: red squirrel

Nominated by: The Wildlife Trust for

Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside

IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

For many in the United Kingdon, the red squirrel brings back childhood memories of Squirrel Nutkin, a character from the famous Beatrix Potter series. The red squirrel is one of our most iconic, native and much loved small mammals in the UK. Seeing a red squirrel for the first time is a special moment, and something that everybody should experience.

In terms of ecological niche, the red squirrel is a key seed disperser for our native tree species such as Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). They also spread mychorrizal fungi spores that are incredibly important for their symbiosis with trees. Red squirrels therefore play a vital role in regeneration of coniferous woodlands which are also an important habitat for other species, such as the goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), pine marten (Martes martes) and wildcat (Felis silvestris).

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

The red squirrel has nearly completely disappeared from the UK in just under 150 years, declining from around 3.5 million to just 140,000. However they are now a protected species in the UK.

Sadly, the biggest threat to the species has been the introduction of the invasive grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), brought over by the Victorians in the 1870s. Not only do grey squirrels outcompete Reds in for food and resources, they also carry the squirrel pox virus. This virus is highly pathogenic to reds, yet carried by greys without impact on their health. Currently 61% of Greys have been exposed to and may carry the virus. Where the virus is present, Greys replace red squirrels twenty times faster than through competition alone.

What can people do to help your species?

If you are in an area in the UK which currently has a population of red squirrels nearby and you spot a grey squirrel, please contact your local Wildlife Trust or Red Squirrels United (a partnership of many organisations working together to save the Red), and inform them of your sighting.

If you would like to get involved in long term monitoring and survey work, helping towards understanding population trends, impacts of Greys and the effects of conservation management techniques then please contact us.

If you don’t live close to a population of Reds, one way you can help is by raising awareness about the red squirrel through community engagement and fundraising. Get creative and get in touch and let’s save the last red squirrel together!

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Feb 1

Species name: common toad

Nominated by: Froglife

 

IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

Toads are full of character, crucial to our ecosystem and central to our culture (no need for them to turn into a handsome prince when kissed!). They do a great job eating slugs and snails in our gardens. Toads have a gorgeous warty skin with a really nifty defence mechanism – glands leave a disgusting taste in a predator’s mouth. They are amazing mini navigators which means they can return to ancestral breeding ponds along the very same route each year.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

There has been a massive loss of toads – they have declined by over 68% in the last 30 years in the UK. At this rate this once common species will be considered vulnerable to extinction. There is a disturbing level of toad deaths each year on our roads and they have really suffered from loss of habitat, loss of ponds for breeding and the destruction of migration routes from housing and industrial developments.

What can people do to help your species?

Join or set up your own ‘toad patrol’ through our Toads on Roads project, which involves volunteers counting, collecting and carrying toads over roads during their spring migration. We can save thousands of toads each year!

Record your sightings on Froglife’s Dragonfinder app.

Make your garden wildlife friendly by providing places for toads to feed and hide.

Create a wildlife pond with a section of deeper water so toads can breed.

Donate to Froglife’s Tuppence a Toad appeal which will enable us to support our voluntary toad patrollers, carry out further research using the data collected, and deliver practical conservation projects to improve toad habitats.

VOTE NOW!

 

Feb 1

Species name: blue shark

Nominated by: Hector the Blue Shark

(official spokeshark for the Ecology Action Centre)

IUCN Red List classification: Near Threatened

What is so special about your species?

Blue sharks are sleek and streamlined, zipping through the water, crossing entire oceans. As they zip around, blue sharks use proton filled jelly in their heads to detect electrical fields generated by other fish and animals in the water – even miles away. And, of course, they have unique super cool, blue tinted skin making them very recognizable.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Blue sharks are the most heavily fished shark in the world caught in many types of fisheries throughout our oceans with estimates ranging from 15-20 million caught every year. The fins of blue sharks make up the largest percentage of the global fin trade and the number of blue sharks being landed continues to rise in many areas. These amounts don’t even capture the tens of thousands of blue sharks that are hooked and cut off lines while at sea because they are unwanted catch. With some regions seeing upwards of 30% declines in population, there are increasing concerns about blue sharks and whether they can continue to withstand this amount of fishing.

Unfortunately, despite their amazingness and their important role as a widely distributed apex predator, the blue shark is often considered a pest by fishers trying to catch other more valuable species. They remain unloved and underappreciated and, as such, there are almost no limits on how many blue sharks can be caught by fisheries nor fishing controls in place that would ensure the blue shark remains throughout our oceans in the future. Ignoring proper management and conservation for such an ecologically important species, especially one so heavily impacted by human activities, should no longer be acceptable in 2018, .

What can people do to help your species?

Follow Hector the Blue Shark, the most famous blue spokeshark, in his work with friends at the Ecology Action Centre to get science-based, strict fishing limits in place for him and his blue shark kin around the world. Supporting an organization with dedicated experts that work with fisheries managers, conservationists, researchers, and governments is one of the best ways people can help blue sharks and other sharks and rays. It takes years of work and dedication to move conservation forward for these animals and organizations need your support!

The Ecology Action Centre together with partners Project Aware, Shark Trust, and Sharks Advocates International are SLAM, the Shark League of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, working for groundbreaking conservation at the international level for sharks, rays, and skates.

VOTE NOW!

 

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