Founder of the Photo Ark, a 25-year project to show the world the beauty of biodiversity in all its forms, and inspire action to save species.
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Barn owls like this one photographed at @penangbirdpark are the most widespread of any owl species, thriving in six continents and on many islands. This bird’s ghostly appearance, eerie call, and habit of roosting in places like church belfries and abandoned buildings has provoked a lot of negative superstition. However, since barn owls prey mainly on rats and mice, their presence has actually proven to be quite beneficial for some. Barn owls have very soft feathers, which help them fly silently while on the hunt. Their ears are lopsided on the sides of their heads, one higher than the other, which helps them to triangulate the sound made by prey, and detect its exact location, even in total darkness.
Bald eagles aren’t born with that 'bald' look. When they’re young, these birds have a fully brown plumage and don’t develop the white feathers on their heads for another four or five years. During courtship, bald eagles display an incredible aerial dance wherein they grasp each other by the talons and spin in mid-air. After this strange display, those who mate will stay together for their entire lives, which can last up to 38 years! The two eagles will work together to build their record-breaking, 4.5 foot wide nests, and even take turns incubating their eggs.
Bald eagles are a true conservation success story. They were once abundant in the United States, but when European settlers arrived, their numbers dropped drastically. In 1940 Congress passed an act to protect them, and though the act was helpful in protecting eagles, their populations didn’t really start to grow again until the early 1970s when a deadly insecticide called DDT was finally banned. In 2007, bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list and there are now about 9,700 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states.
This bald eagle was photographed at the @suttoncenter. To see a video of a bald eagle, check out @natgeo.
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The queen of this #pollinatormonday is this no-spot ladybug from Salt Lake City, Utah. Did you know that there are more than 5,000 species of ladybug in the world? These industrious pollinators are highly desired by gardeners and farmers alike, as they feed on pests such as mites, mealybugs, and aphids. The name "ladybug" was coined by farmers in Europe during the Middle Ages who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops. After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them "beetle of Our Lady." This eventually was shortened to "lady beetle" and finally "ladybug”. Even today, many gardeners order ladybugs as a natural way to combat pests and improve crop yields. In addition to fighting pests, these beetles secondarily feed on both pollen and nectar, and thus pollinate many different kinds of flowering plants and legumes.
Many animals who typically choose fight as opposed to flight against predators have markings that proudly display their most useful weapon of defense. This is why skunks have white stripes pointing directly toward their rear end. Though emitting a controlled stream of smelly, oily spray up to ten feet (3 meters) toward an opponent is a powerful defense mechanism, it’s not usually a skunk’s first means of deterrence. Since spraying will leave them helpless until they can “reload”, skunks will first try to scare their attacker off by locking eyes and standing on their front paws, pointing their tail directly at the predator. Most skunks are not aggressive and their spray causes no harm to humans other than a lingering smell that might last for a couple days.
The baby skunk pictured here was orphaned and rescued in Dunbar, Nebraska.
I am thrilled to announce that with this image of the Leadbeater’s possum at @ZoosVictoria, the Photo Ark has surpassed the 7,000 species milestone!
This adorable marsupial was missing in action for more than 50 years before being rediscovered in 1961. The tiny possums are speedy and feisty, and, with estimates as low as 50 for the Lowland population, their status has recently been upgraded to critically endangered. Zoos Victoria has led extensive research on the possum for a number years and has hopes to soon begin a breeding population.
The possums are nicknamed ‘forest fairies’, referencing the way these little critters navigate the forest understory at night and the fact that they nest in hollow-bearing trees. These unique animals are threatened due to the loss of these types of trees, the threat of wildlife and the loss of suitable habitat due to land clearing which has led to smaller and fragmented populations.
Join the conversation and follow the rest of the #PhotoArk journey by using the hashtag #SaveTogether.
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In early May, this beautiful barn swallow arrived at @iowabirdrehab with a bad shoulder. This type of injury typically heals poorly, especially with migratory birds and aerial insectivores. While it's unknown how the bird was hurt, most likely she had just returned to Iowa after spending the winter in Central and South America, and was preparing to nest and raise young in Iowa for the summer.
One of the most acrobatic of all North American bird species, barn swallows feed on insects almost exclusively in flight, so perfect wings are essential for their survival. After 3 months in rehabilitation, she was finally well enough to be released in mid-August, and is flying free again! Hopefully she will feed well in the Iowa skies and gain some strength over the next few weeks before starting the long journey back south for the winter.
Iowa Bird Rehabilitation (IBR) admits all types of birds year round, from tiny hummingbirds to giant pelicans and everything in between. As word spreads of the work they do, their patient numbers have increased, and this year IBR expects to take in around 600 birds. The work is all volunteer and they receive no state or federal funding. The goal is simple but challenging: to rehabilitate and release all wild birds that come in.
To see a video of this barn swallow, check out @natgeo!
Male river cooters are known to use their long claws to stroke the female's face during the initiation of courtship. Often, this gesture is ignored. However, if the male is accepted, the female will sink to the bottom of the river and allow the male to mate with her. After several weeks, the female will seek a nesting spot on land for her to lay between 12 and 20 eggs. River cooter hatchlings are omnivorous, consuming both plant and animal matter, but once they reach adulthood they become largely herbivorous.
Brush rabbits live in brushy habitat for a very good reason-- many other creatures like to eat them. In California alone, predators of adult and young brush rabbits include snakes, barn owls, great-horned owls, red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, coyotes, gray foxes, mink, weasels, and bobcats. Once common in California’s Central Valley, the riparian brush rabbit is now endangered. Their plight isn’t that surprising considering the Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, providing more than half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the U.S.
Twenty years ago, concerns about the subspecies’ future were so great, that a cooperative recovery effort was initiated. This effort was centered on the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), where this adult male was photographed before he was released back into the wild. The charismatic and shy nature of the rabbit has helped garner millions of dollars to support the conservation program, which included captive breeding and reintroduction. Another major element was the largest contiguous riparian woodland restoration program in California, the design of which was guided in part by using the brush rabbit as an umbrella species. Over a 12-year period ending in 2013, about 1,500 captive-bred rabbits were released on NWR lands. As a result of these measures, the refuge now hosts the largest and most robust population of riparian brush rabbits.
For a video of this rabbit, check out @natgeo.
The great green macaw once thrived in substantial numbers in Central and northern South America, but today their populations are dwindling. The illegal pet trade in conjunction with habitat loss due to agricultural development and logging has sadly pushed this bird onto the #IUCN endangered species list. Thankfully, the great green macaw is protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and there are numerous conservation programs for this species. However, this bird and many other rainforest species will not survive if we do not fight to protect their habitats.
This bird was photographed at @tracyaviary, an institution dedicated to conserving species as well as educating and inspiring its visitors to love nature.
To see a video of this bird, check out @natgeo.
This endangered pollinator has a tongue as long as its body, and uses it to feed on cacti, agave, and other nectar-laden plants in the American Southwest and Mexico. The lesser long-nosed fruit bat has a special relationship with its environment, as it must migrate to stay within areas that contain the blooming plants that provide its nutrition. These areas are usually in longitudinal lines called “nectar corridors”, and the lesser long-nosed bat will travel more than any other bat in order to secure its meals. Unlike other bats that primarily feed on readily available insects in a smaller area, the lesser long-nosed bat has a large foraging area and thus contributes to the spread of genetic diversity of many species of desert plants, including the protected saguaro cactus of the Sonoran Desert. The greatest threat to the lesser long-nosed bat is the conversion of wild land to ranches, agricultural, and urban development. Because it is a nectarivore that travels in accordance with the blooming of desert plants, a great understanding of this bat’s migration patterns in necessary in order for conservation efforts to be truly effective.
If you ever spot a white-tailed deer fawn lying in the grass alone, don’t worry! Its mother most likely didn’t abandon it. Mother deer will leave their fawns alone under the cover of tall grass or forests in order to hide them from predators. If she has twins, the mother will leave them at least 25 feet apart as an extra safety precaution. White-tailed deer fawns are born with an average of 300 little white spots on their backs that they’ll eventually grow out of. Since they spend the first few months of their lives lying in the grass waiting to nurse their mothers, this pattern that mimics dappled sunlight on the ground is essential in helping them blend in with the vegetation.
This white-tailed deer fawn was photographed at the @gladysporterzoo in Brownsville, Texas.
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Blue is a relatively rare color for animals to be, unless you're a crayfish! Over twenty species, including the blue crayfish (Cambarus monongalensis) which live in seeps and roadside ditches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia in the U.S.A., are dominated by various shades of blue. In North America, all crayfish that are blue are burrowing species that do not live in streams. Burrowing crayfish serve as ecosystem engineers and create habitat that is utilized by hundreds of species-- from insects to massasauga rattlesnakes. Their presence on the landscape literally leads to increased biodiversity, making 'mudbugs' an invaluable member of the communities they are part of. The West Liberty University Crayfish Conservation Laboratory studies these animals and supplied the crayfish pictured here.
To see a video of this blue crayfish, check out @natgeo.
A critically-endangered, female South China tiger at the Suzhou Zoo in China. These tigers were once viewed as pests and killed by the thousands before the Chinese government banned such activity in 1979. For more than 25 years now, however, there have been no reported sightings of the South China tiger in the wild, and as of 2015, there are fewer than 100 left in captivity. Even if there were individuals still living in the wild, there are sadly no areas left that are suitably large, protected or undisturbed in which the population could thrive. Having plenty of adequate habitat is crucial when it comes to all species' survival in the long term.
To see a video of this tiger, check out @natgeo.
This juvenile snipe and its sibling were found sitting in the middle of the street as newly hatched chicks. Although they’re usually relatively mature upon hatching, these snipes were brought into the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (@wrcmn) at only 1-2 days old and, at this stage, were unable to thermoregulate on their own. The fragile chicks received round-the-clock care until they were old enough for outdoor caging. Soon after, they were both successfully released back into the wild.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (@wrcmn) exists solely because residents of Minnesota care about wildlife enough to bring them into the Center for treatment. The Center is entirely funded by donations and will go on to treat an estimated 13,000+ animals this year alone.
This #pollinatormonday gives us a peek at the metamorphosis of the Karner blue butterfly (swipe to see). Because the Karner blue depends on one tiny flower called the wild lupine, their numbers have decreased drastically in the wild. Two generations of these butterflies are born per year in accordance with the blooming of the wild lupine flower, and once hatched, the caterpillars only feed and lay their eggs on the leaves of this special plant. But as the lupine flower decreased as a result of heavy herbicides, fires, and urban development, the Karner blue decreased as well. But conservationists are working to help the species survive. Though still seriously threatened, the karner blue butterfly is slowing making a comeback due to the extraordinary efforts of habitat restoration, rehabilitation, and release programs. @thetoledozoo, where this butterfly was photographed, has pioneered propagation techniques for the Karner blue butterfly beginning in 1998 and the species is now on track to be delisted.
This Abert’s squirrel, named Spaz, was photographed during snack time at @LibertyWildlifeAZ, a center dedicated to conserving the nature of Arizona through rehabilitation, education and community service.
Abert’s squirrels make their homes all throughout the Rocky Mountains and can be found in the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Colorado and other areas with enough Ponderosa pine forests to sustain their nutritional needs. The relationship between these squirrels and their favorite trees is an important and complex one. As the squirrel munches on pinecones from the trees, they also consume a specific type of fungi that is essential to the survival of the Ponderosa tree. The squirrel then goes on to spread the fungi all around the forest, contributing the nourishment and development of the trees. The relationship between the Abert’s squirrel and the Ponderosa tree is a reminder that all living things are connected and in order to protect one, we must protect them all.
To see a video of Spaz, check out @natgeo.