A Digital Library of Endangered Species

Photos by ARKive

ARKive’s Project Would Be a First


Should the researchers at ARKive ever find themselves out of work, they will be celebrating their layoffs on behalf of Planet Earth. Because theirs is an extraordinary – and, if they think about it too hard, depressing – mission.
Funded by the nonprofit Wildscreen, ARKive aims to compile the world’s first centralized digital library of endangered species, pulling together photographs, film and audio clips to give present and future generations a “unique audio-visual record of life on Earth.”
“We are literally working to get images of every single endangered species on the planet, from mice to mushrooms,” explains Liana Vitali, ARKive’s science, education and outreach officer, who is manning an exhibit at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Miami.
The collection is being based on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” of critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable species, which currently totals 19,000.

ARKive has so far checked off 14,000 species from the list, building a collection of some 90,000 images to date, and it’s adding between 150 and 200 more a month.
“But every year about 1,000 more are added to the list, so it’s a constant chase. It’s a terrible form of job security when you think about it,” says Vitali.
The initiative has dual bases in Bristol, England, and in Washington, D.C., and has more than 6,500 filmmakers and photographers as active
contributors, who include leading natural history broadcasters, scientists, photographers, commercial film and picture agencies, academic institutions and conservation organizations.
“Some places, or individuals,might have images in a dusty drawer they don’t even realize they had, pictures that could be really valuable towards recording these species’ existence – or, in the future, nonexistence,” said Vitali.
Leading conservation organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations Environment Program, and institutions including the Smithsonian and Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, have contributed.  The purpose is for ARKive’s online database to become an educational tool for the general public, and a resource for the media, scientists and conservationists, ensuring that even the rarest or most overlooked species are recorded before they disappear into extinction.

In documenting them, ARKive’s hope is also that it might also actually save some from extinction, by raising public awareness of the threats they face. Researchers insist on accuracy — “We can’t expect everyone out there to know their aasvogel from their bonobo,” the website quips — and have a “Most Wanted” list of elusive species that they are intent on getting right.
While images such as polar bears and elephants are prolific, pictures and footage of other species are less easy to track down; among them the
Mexican water mouse and Marley’s golden mole, a burrowing mammal native to South Africa.
“This is not a Mexican water mouse,” says the slogan on a photograph of a mouse with a sombrero superimposed on it, which forms part of ARKive’s display at the conference. “This is not a Jeweled Toad,” says the caption on another picture, showing a toad sporting a selection of fancy bling. A mole wearing a knitted Rasta hat is also depicted, with the wording: “This is not a Marley’s golden mole.”
Among ARKive’s triumphs: imagery of the purple frog, the sole surviving member of an ancient group of amphibians that evolved 130 million years ago, photographed in the Western Ghats of India and described as a “once-in-a-century find.”
British naturalist Sir David Attenborough is one of ARKive’s patrons.

 “A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent — or indeed its gaps — and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it,” he said in a statement.
“ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world.”

More like this: Daily Stories | Wild Things

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9 responses to “A Digital Library of Endangered Species”

  1. AC says:

    This is a remarkable effort and is undoubtedly worth supporting. I don’t think there is a better way for researchers to cooperate and spread valuable information across the globe about endangered species. I hope that this resource becomes accessible to all in an organized manner, that way ordinary individuals can try and keep track of these species and try to help preservation efforts the best they can.

  2. It is very refreshing to see those so passionate about their work. I’ve always said “Do what you love and not what you like”. When you wake up its important that what you do for a living is not a job but something you look forward to. The online digital is a great initiative as it not only a tool to view the species but also to educate the present and future generations as the article states. We often take for granted the beauties of the planet. I think this article is a wonderful insight to the world of endangered species. This article showcases what researches have long worked on to share with the public. I am moved by their passion.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What ARKive is doing is an incredible which does not get the credit it deserves. This article successfully captures the passion ARKive has for its work and how that passion has turned into results. Endangered species are a very important concept in today’s environmental society and ARKive has taken it upon themselves to document each and every species so that people will be aware.

  4. Bradorisa says:

    This is an amazing project! Kudos to everyone involved for their perseverance. I think this will be a great tool mapping the progress of conservation groups and will definitely help raise public awareness; most people don’t get involved unless the visually see what or who is being affected.

  5. Kiernan King says:

    ARKive has taken on an ambitious project, yet I do not doubt they will be successful in their mission. When they pull it off, they will target the future of our world and will be another step closer in sustaining endangered life on this earth. Doing so in an engaging, technological-friendly style is an important aspect in targeting the youth. Props to the innovation.

  6. Imperialshawn824 says:

    I think that the idea of ARKive is very cool and it would be a great thing for kids in the future to see animals that may not be around anymore. And it also raises awareness to those of use that don’t know what animals may be endangered. Maybe if we actually see the animals, then we would be apt to get involved in their preservation.

  7. Anonymous says:

    ARKive is an amazing idea that, while compiling a digital library of all the planet’s endangered species, also raises awareness about them. This a great project that will hopefully be incredibly successful and help generations upon generations see the life this planet has to offer.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you all so much for your kind comments and encouraging words! I and the ARKive team love every opportunity to share our work and ARKive’s large, growing and free collection of threatened species media with the world. Keep up the positivity, keep sharing ARKive with friends and family and I think we’ll be on a great path to protecting and preserving the wonderful wildlife on Earth!

  9. this is such a great initiative yet very sad that there are so many endangered species

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