Just sit down, watch the video, and enjoy the ride. It is so peaceful to get a turtle’s-eye view of the great barrier reef and to feel how graceful it moves through the water. Do you hear the cacophony of different sounds? They are created by the fish and marine inhabitants of the reef ecosystem, from shrimps snapping their claws to parrot fish scraping algae off coral and all kinds of fish communication! Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is home to almost 6000 species!
This little video was released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia in the run-up to the World Heritage Committee’s vote whether to put Australia on probation until the health of the reef improves. And great news, three days ago, Australia was voted to be placed on probation by the World Heritage Committee. The Australian government has now until 2016 to show that the reef’s health is improving and has until 2019 to show that the reef’s decline has stopped outright. This was an important and crucial decision that will hopefully help the future protection of the Reef.
The green sea turtle featured in the video is endangered and so are most other sea turtle species as a result of both habitat loss, wildlife trade, as well as climate change, amongst others… Let’s hope that this video will help raise awareness about the state of the world’s coral reefs and its amazing inhabitants.
Beautiful atmospheric shot of this wonderful place. By mezuni.
I love it to see when nature takes over man-made things and that, within a couple years, may be overtaken by mosses and plants to become little animal retreats. At first, left-behind objects or old buildings may be too bare for most flora and fauna to live. But over time, through a combination of the elements and pioneering species like lichen and fungi, soil may start to accumulate and the habitat may start to become more hospitable (known as primary succession), enabling larger plants like grasses and ferns and eventually trees to appear, making the environment more and more attractive to a variety of species.
A beautiful example of this process is what happened with the SS Ayrfield, an old shipwreck lying in Sydney’s Homebush Bay. This ship used to transport supplies to American troops stationed in the Pacific region during WWII and later served as a coal carrier but was retired in 1973 and sent to the ship-breaking yard in the bay. All usable parts of the ship were taken off and the hull was left to rot in the bay…
Although the SS Ayrfield would have been just a slowly disintegrating piece of metal, nature had other plans. Within 40 years the ship has become like a “floating forest” and lush mangrove vegetation now covers its rusty hull. But despite this story showing the amazing flexibility of nature and highlighting the beauty of nature taking over parts of our man-made world, it is of course also in parts a sad story.
Originally, the bay home to the wreck of the SS Ayrfield was dominated by industry which developed as a dumping ground for almost anything, badly contaminating the land with heavy metals poisons.. The metals of this ship and others in the bay are continuing to contaminate the waters around, affecting marine and other wildlife in the area.
Much has been done, much will continue to be done in the future, but the prospects for a pristine environment in the foreseeable future are still dreary. Nevertheless, hopefully this beautiful picture of an old steel ship covered with a little nature haven will fascinate many of you and thereby increase awareness for such contaminated areas around the world.
An amazingly detailed drawing of an adult male Elephant. Drawing by Rory Mccann.
One of the main aims of Mudfooted.com is to increase awareness for wildlife conservation. Fortunately I am not the only one who thinks this is important, many artists around the world are combining their imaginative skills and interests to promote appreciation for our wonderful natural world. So is Rory Mccann, a wildlife artist and conservationist working in Cambridge, UK. His drawings are characterised by an amazing precision and wonderful detail of often highly endangered wildlife. A selection of his work is featured below:
An amazing drawing of a Tiger. Drawing By Rory Mccann.
Wildlife drawing of a snow leopard. Drawing by Rory Mccann.
Drawing of a perched merlin, by Rory Mccann.
Wildlife drawing of a mother and baby hippo. Drawing by Rory Mccann.
Wildlife drawing of a mother and baby elephant. Drawing by Rory Mccann.
Wildlife drawing of an Eagle. Drawing by Rory Mccann.
A wildlife drawing called ‘thoughtful chimp’. Drawing by Rory Mccann.
Rory McCann is a wildlife artist and conservationist working in Cambridge at BirdLife International. He has been using his artwork to promote conservation issues for almost 10 years, through publications, exhibitions and mural paintings. He hopes to undertake even bigger projects combining art and conservation over the coming years.
He is available to do commissions of wild animals and pets and has a wide range of limited edition prints to buy, each for £25. Also, if you would like to get involved in his next exhibition, themed ‘Inspired by Nature’, he’d be happy to hear from you. To view more of his work, go to www.rorymccannart.com
World’s rarest birds. An amazing photo of the Kakapo, a flightless parrot from New Zealand, of which only 124 individuals are alive today. Photo by Shane McInnes.
A large proportion of the almost 10,000 World’s bird species is threatened with extinction and more than 2,000 species need urgent conservation action to ensure their survival. With this in mind, last year the international photo competition The World’s rarest birds was launched with the aim to photograph the 566 most threatened bird species on Earth. These bird species inhabit some of the most remote and inhospitable places on the planet and even seeing one could take weeks or months.
An amazing photo of a displaying Red-crowned Crane from East Asia which has a population of 1,700 mature individuals and is continuing to decrease. Photo by Huajin Sun
Thousands of fantastic images were submitted and hundreds will be featured in a new book that not only shows their beauty but includes specially written feature articles on the key bird conservation issues in each of the world’s regions. Profits from the book, published by WILDGuides, will be donated to BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. The world’s rarest birds.
A great photo of a Christmas Island Frigatebird in flight. Photo by David Boyle.
A fantastic photo of a flying Asian Crested Ibis from China. Just 250 individuals survive, but because of conservation action the population is slowly increasing! Photo by Quan Min Li.
A lovely image of a calling Critically Endangered Forest Owlet from India. Photo by Dr Jayesh K Joshi.
By Myrtille Guillon on November 9th 2010 in Animals
The face of a young bonobo.
Bonobos are the enigmatic fifth member of the great ape family which also consists of orang-utans, gorillas, common chimpanzees and humans. In the same way as we relate to common chimpanzees, the DNA recipe which makes up humans differs by around 1% to that which makes up bonobos, making them both equally our closest living genetic relatives. Their scientific name (Pan paniscus), means ‘diminutive Pan’: a minute version of the goat-horned and legged Greek forest god, who enjoyed some nymph debauchery while playing the pan flute in mythological times. This term has only been used to designate the bonobo since 1933 as prior to that date, bonobos were largely unknown or misunderstood to be dwarf chimpanzees.
Although the common chimpanzee and the bonobo are both members of the chimpanzee family, they are indeed distinct species which are thought to have diverged due to environmental change. Between 1.5 and 2 million years ago, the Congo river formed and started its course, which separates the North-western area of the land of Congo into two pieces. It is understood that the appearance of the Congo river led to a speciation event, where the ancestors of bonobos and common chimpanzees became isolated from each other both physically and socially on either side of the river. This theory is supported by the estimation that the genetic material of both species differs by a number of mutations which needed between 1 and 2 million years to arise.
A male bonobo sitting, staring thoughtfuly..
It is thought that there was a stark difference in the availability of food resources on one side of the Congo river compared to the other, and that this factor is crucially important in understanding the physical and behavioural contrast between the common chimpanzee and the bonobo. The southern area home to bonobos is characterized by lush jungle rich in foodstuffs, where every individual could afford to share what they had, while common chimpanzees probably had to compete and find innovative and sometimes devious methods to forage enough food to survive on the northern divide. These differential ecological conditions are thought to explain why bonobos have adopted some rather more peaceful social dynamics than common chimpanzees.
Indeed, the bonobo is an ape of a gentle nature. While the common chimpanzee society is one based on male dominance where individuals are seen to habitually raid steal and murder; bonobo societies are female-led but relatively egalitarian, and they have never been witnessed to kill another of their own kind. The key to the peaceful group cohesion of bonobos seems to be the way in which they deal with social tension, having replaced aggression with sex. For bonobos, sexuality and sociality are one and the same, leading to all group members interacting together sexually, regardless of age or gender. Female-female sex is particularly important among bonobos, as females leave their natal group at adolescence to avoid inbreeding, and use sex with the females in their new group to form and maintain bonds. The strong social bonding between females and the fact that sex is more powerful than aggression among bonobos, means that females are able to dominate males even though they are smaller in size.
Bonobos also use sexual contact to make sure that situations of potential conflict remain peaceful, such as at times of feeding. If a group of bonobos encounters a source of food, they will react by engaging in rapid successions of plentiful sexual encounters for everyone, before proceeding to the harmonious sharing of the food source.
Bonobos engaging in face-to-face sex, a behaviour only frequent in humans, bonobos and aquatic mammals. Photo by Animals zone.
These behavioural features of bonobo life have earned them the nickname in the popular press of ‘hippie apes’ or ‘make-love-not-war apes’, while common chimpanzees are increasingly demonized in contrast. Although there is debate regarding the true significance of bonobo behaviour and its evolution, there is no doubt that our two closest relatives are divergent in their natures. This idea is highlighted by primatologist Frans de Waal who has spent many years arguing that human nature may not be inherently selfish and violent, as there is such variation in the natural behaviour of our two closest relatives. De Waal illustrates this point with the story of the bombing of Hellabrun in Germany during the second World War, where explosions caused all the bonobos in a nearby zoo to die out of fright while the common chimpanzees were apparently not affected.
A male bonobo in human-like pose.
Bonobos only live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been a war torn region for many years. Civil hostilities and monetary struggles in the country have led to the rapidly increasing destruction of the habitat of bonobos, as well as to their mass murder for the black market bushmeat trade. Furthermore, the political and social instability of the country makes it very challenging to establish successful conservation projects to help bonobos. These factors, coupled with the fact that bonobo population growth is slow, have led to a dramatic loss of wild bonobos over recent times and they are now gravely endangered.
To find out more about bonobos, watch this amazing TED talk by Susan Savage Rumbaugh on her work with bonobos, showing some of their abilities such as writing, the playing of musical instruments and Pacman:
By now you must have heard words like “conservation”, “extinction” and “global warming” a thousand and one times – meaning they are often ignored. Conservationists have campaigned to inform the world about the severity of the damage being done to its ecosystems and in many cases humans are to blame.
However, not all ecosystems are endangered and, in fact, in a lot of cases many species and populations are on the increase, evolving to suit a changing habitat. So what’s all the hassle about?
Focusing on those Ecosystems most at risk
Not all environments are exposed and pressured by the same dangers, so why constantly try and grab readers’ attentions with the thousands of problems and threats that are arising across habitats? This only makes us feel like giving up if change is impossible, so instead we need to focus on the areas that are most at risk. Those areas that have suffered minor disturbance over a few decades will eventually recover, but more disrupted areas, such as the coral reefs and tropical rainforests, require our attention.
Endangered Corals and Freshwater Organisms
Unfortunately, areas which are home to the richest biodiversity often suffer from the greatest amount of damage and disruption, with the coral reefs being one of them. Before looking into the damage caused to these ecosystems, let’s first concentrate on why the coral reefs are so special.
Beauties of the Coral
Coral reefs are essential hot spots for locating beautiful diversity. Gliding rays, agile multi-coloured fish swimmers and scuttling mollusks are just a few examples of the wide range of animals that lives here. So why do these crystal blue waters flow with such magnificence? The answer can be found in the ecosystems efficient nutritional cycle.
Many intricate food webs, including the various predators, have evolved, effectively keeping a perfect balance between its members. In order for this food chain to begin it has to start with a producer. Say hello to the coral’s symbiotic algae.
Negative Ecological stresses and patterns
Unfortunately the extensive food web that coral depends on is becoming broken and fragmented, due to various unethical fishing techniques that involve using dangerous compounds such as cyanide and dynamite. These stresses pollute the water, causing disruption to the life and nutrient cycle that this ecosystem depends on, inflicting negative consequences. Using these fishing method cracks coral heads apart and stresses nearby coral colonies so much that they expel their symbiotic algae. As a result, large sections of reefs can be destroyed causing disruption to the life and nutrient cycle that the ecosystem depends on.
The death of zooxanthellae algae is becoming more apparent and frequent. This may not sound like such a big deal (considering our view of algae as a pest in ponds and lakes), but it has a knock on effect which can knock out a key level of the coral ecosystem.
The algae are key biotic (living) factors that live in symbiosis with the coral. Being photosynthetic (using sunlight to power carbon fixation) means the coral is provided with an essential source of energy, which phytoplankton eat and pass on to different levels of fish and crustaceans. This algae is also responsible for composing the vast deep colours to the coral, making it an attractive site for thousands of species’ homes and breeding grounds.
Dismantling this principle zooxanthellae algae causes ‘bleaching’ and the death of coral reefs throughout the ecosystem, stripping habitats and nutrition which are imperative to the freshwater organisms that thrive there.
The rate of overfishing, and of over exploitation for commercial and recreational purposes, is on the increase due to a boost in the aquarium and jewellery trades. Taking these resources not only disrupts the food chain but careless divers trample and kill fragile corals.
So how much of the coral reefs are we aware of already being affected?
How much of the coral do you think has been lost? 10%? 30%? In fact the numbers of bleached and dead coral reefs is double that, with some 60% of Caribbean reefs being affected.
Current estimates also show that 10% of all coral reefs are degraded beyond recovery and that 30% are in critical condition and could die within 10 to 20 years. Surely this should be an a sign that we must protect the endangered coral we have left?
The very sad picture of vast fields of bleeched coral. Photo by CAUT.
Rescuing the coral reefs: Ensuring future protection of the ecosystem and its species: Most readers must be thinking: “What shall I do with all this negative information? I can’t possibly stop the fishing trade.” Well I agree on this one. But nevertheless there are many other small steps we can take as a positive thinking community to help save what’s left of the alluring corals.
Supporting business that are reef-friendly: There is no harm in asking fishing, boating, aquarium and snorkelling services if and how they play a part in protecting the reefs. Make sure that they care for the living ecosystem they are gaining economic worth from, and if in doubt do not use their service – look for alternative organisations that are responsible for managing the reef ecosystem.
Cleanly disposing of litter: Don’t leave behind unwanted equipment, such as nets and fishing lines, along beach coasts. Any kind of litter is pollution and holds the chance of harming the reefs and its species.
Contacting government representatives: A quick letter of demand to take action in a project that works to protect reefs only takes 15 minutes and is a quick and cheap way of spreading the word on helping out corals. Alternatively, letters could ask to stop sewage pollution of our oceans and expanding marine protected areas.
Spreading the word: A free and essential way of showing support to reef ecosystems is to simply spread the word on the importance of keeping coral reefs. Excitement and encouraging others to learn on the matter is a key part of positive thinking and the start to securing change!
Let’s work hard to keep our coral reefs like this! Photo by Utnapistim.
As we continue to apply more strains across the world’s natural resources we should avoid forgetting that we as Homo sapiens are as much entwined and part of the animal world as any other species. Detaching ourselves from this outlook will only continue to inflict harm on the ecosystem. Let’s focus on these small operations to help protect the future of the enchanting colors of the coral and its species.
In the county of Leicestershire, UK, animal conservationists have come up with a creative way to protect the endangered harvest mouse, Britain’s smallest mammal. With the help of a local tennis club and Wimbledon, a couple hundred used tennis balls will be re-used to become tennis-ball-homes. Although little is known about the current status of the harvest mouse, population numbers have been under increasing pressure because of intense farming methods.
Let’s now just hope these tiny mice, which only weigh some 6 grams as adults, like their new home.
See another fantastic picture of harvest mice at the photo website of David Tipling.
Walking along one of the many canals or in one of the easy going parks you cannot miss the bright green coloured Rose-ringed parakeet that inhabits the Dutch capital city. However, for many it is mysterious how these tropical birds seem to thrive here so easily. The combination of a low breeding success with the availability of good nest holes and food seems to allow this exotic species to live peacefully next to its native neighbours.
The beautifully coloured Rose-ringed Parakeet.
It is well known that tropical parakeet species are popular as pets. Interestingly, an increasing number of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) have adapted to live in urban areas far away from their tropical home grounds and established feral populations in a number of European cities.
A growing group of rose-ringed Parakeets – often confused with parrots – have been living in Amsterdam since 1976. The very first birds were released pets that managed to survive the cold dutch winter by living in old trees in the well known Vondelpark. In the meantime, the exotic species has expanded to areas far outside the city centre. With their bright green feathers the exotic birds distinguished themselves from the dutch native species.
The Vondelpark is the main breeding place of these social birds. Bird countings in 2004 and 2006 revealed that more than 2000 Rose-ringed Parakeets were living in Amsterdam. Biologist Roelant Jonker who was the organiser of the countings postulated that 99 % of the birds was born in the wild (dutch link).
Apparently, for the birds it is not even a problem to find food and warmth during the cold dutch winters, with the continuous feeding by people always having played an important role. Nevertheless, their breeding success is much lower in West-Europe compared to India where these beautiful birds are native (dutch link).
Rose-ringed parakeets nesting in a tree in the Vondelpark, Amsterdam. Photo by Greenpeace/Baker
Although the increase in numbers is less strong than was feared for, the careful monitoring of exotic species is important. Research has shown that about 1 in 10 exotic species manifests itself as a plague (dutch link). Although there is not much hard proof, it has been shown that in areas where many Ringnecked Parakeets are living, lower numbers of birds species that also nest in holes are observed.
The possible competition for nestholes, resulted in a front-page article in Trouw, a major dutch newspaper, stating ‘Indian Ringnecked Parakeet expels our native woodpeckers’. Furthermore, recently members of the Dutch Parliament stated that this tropical bird species should be repelled because of their nest hole competition.
Overall, in the Netherlands as well as in Belgium, it seems however that the ecological impact of the green exotic bird is low. The birds have good possibilities to further expand their living area beyond the parks of the dutch ‘Randstad’, thereby only to a small amount influencing the populations of native birds. Furthermore, most people living in Amsterdam as well as the many tourists seem to like the brightly coloured birds. SOVON, the society for dutch bird research, even announced 2004 as the year of the Ringnecked Parakeet.
Rose-ringed Parakeet sitting on the tip of a branch
Walking through the snow covered Vondelpark I see a small group of the brightly feathered birds high up on the leafless branches of an old tree. Although their high-pitched twittering is noisy, their beautiful green feathers contrast enormously with the dreary tints of winter grey. Furthermore, their intense social interactions and assertive behaviour make them interesting to observe. If indeed the following years the birds will continue to be able to live jointly with the native birds, for me and many others the birds are a colourful addition to Amsterdam life.