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Yellow-naped amazon, Ometepe, Nicaragua. © Evan Bowen-Jones / Fauna & Flora

Yellow-naped amazon, Ometepe, Nicaragua. © Evan Bowen-Jones / Fauna & Flora

Biodiversity challenge – Ten species to watch in 2024

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As we look forward to the various conservation challenges – new and familiar – that we’ll be tackling this year, we want to highlight some of the many species that we hope will benefit from our efforts to safeguard the world’s threatened landscapes, seascapes and freshwater habitats in 2024.

They range from massive to minuscule. Some are household names. Others are far less familiar. What they have in common is that they all matter – and are all threatened with extinction. By protecting and restoring the wild spaces on which these and other species depend, Fauna & Flora and our partners aim to secure their long-term future.

Female eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). © Eric Baccega / NaturePL

Female eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). © Eric Baccega / NaturePL

A contemplative female eastern lowland gorilla.

Hunted high and low: eastern lowland gorilla

Eastern lowland gorillas are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their name is misleading, as they also inhabit higher ground, so primatologists often refer to them by their alternative name: Grauer’s gorilla. Whatever we choose to call them, these formidable great apes are critically endangered. Fauna & Flora was delighted to capture them on film recently at one of our project sites in DRC. It’s the first time we’ve recorded them on our camera traps in the community forests bordering Maiko National Park. With our support, locally led biomonitoring patrols are helping to protect eastern lowland gorillas in this crucial and threatened forest landscape.

 More about the eastern lowland gorilla

Eastern lowland gorilla caught on camera trap in community forest project site in Democratic Republic of Congo. © Fauna & Flora

Eastern lowland gorilla caught on camera trap in community forest project site in Democratic Republic of Congo. © Fauna & Flora

Eastern lowland gorilla caught on camera in community forest bordering Maiko National Park.

Prime target: yellow-naped amazon

One of the most sought-after parrots in the world, owing to its dazzling plumage and ability to talk, the yellow-naped amazon is a frequent victim of the pet trade. Encouragingly, the most recent survey conducted by Fauna & Flora’s local partner Biometepe recorded an estimated 1,383 adult yellow-naped amazons on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, a global stronghold of this critically endangered parrot. Over 50 chicks fledged successfully from the nests we monitored, with just three birds poached – down a massive 87% on the previous year. As educational initiatives and community engagement activities continue to bear fruit, we’re looking to consolidate this recovery in 2024.

More about the yellow-naped amazon

Yellow-naped amazon monitoring, Ometepe, Nicaragua. © Biometepe Team / Fauna & Flora

Yellow-naped amazon monitoring, Ometepe, Nicaragua. © Biometepe Team / Fauna & Flora

Yellow-naped amazon monitoring on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

Europe’s rarest fish: asprete

Unknown to science until 1956, the asprete is an incredibly rare freshwater fish, found only in Romania. It was once feared extinct after dam construction destroyed much of its original habitat, but was rediscovered in the Vâlsan River, its last known refuge. In late 2022, Fauna & Flora joined forces with local asprete champions the Alex Găvan Foundation to conduct the most comprehensive surveys ever carried out for the species. We discovered record numbers of this critically endangered fish, but that was just the start. We’re eagerly awaiting the results of follow-up surveys that will help shed light on the current status of the asprete and how best to safeguard its freshwater habitat.

Asprete in the Vâlsan river. © Alex Găvan Foundation

Asprete in the Vâlsan river, Romania.

A trio of scientists combing a stretch of the Vâlsan River during the asprete survey. © Alex Găvan Foundation

A trio of scientists combing a stretch of the Vâlsan River during the asprete survey. © Alex Găvan Foundation

Scientists combing a stretch of the Vâlsan River during the asprete survey.

On a slippery slope: cave squeaker frog

Until its rediscovery in Mozambique’s Chimanimani National Park in 2020, the cave squeaker frog hadn’t been seen since 1962 and was widely believed to be extinct. This elusive amphibian was tracked down in the foothills of Monte Binga, the highest mountain in Mozambique. Since then, Fauna & Flora and partners have recorded 275 of these frogs, but the entire population appears to be restricted to a 700-hectare area of caves and rocky grasslands above 1,600 metres. The cave squeaker is therefore at grave risk from climate change and other threats and merits urgent conservation attention.

Student holding a cave squeaker frog (Arthroleptis troglodytes) in Chimanimani, Mozambique.

Student holding a Cave squeaker frog (Arthroleptis troglodytes) in Chimanimani, Mozambique.

Student holding a cave squeaker frog found in Chimanimani National Park, Mozambique.

Rarity on the radar: Annamite striped rabbit

Named after the mountain range where it was first found, the Annamite striped rabbit first came to light in 1996 when several dead specimens were seen in a market in Laos. Very little is known about this intriguing but endangered species, which is rarely encountered in the wild but has been captured on camera by Fauna & Flora close to the Laos-Vietnam border. The Annamite striped rabbit is one of just two species in its genus. Its closest surviving relative is found in Sumatra, but the two probably diverged around eight million years ago. As we scale up our work across the vast Annamites landscape, this is one of the mysterious creatures we’re hoping to encounter.

Annamite striped rabbit. © Trinh Viet Cuong / Fauna & Flora / WWF

Annamite striped rabbit. © Trinh Viet Cuong / Fauna & Flora / WWF

One of the very few photos of an Annamite striped rabbit in the wild.

Baby pygmy hippo. © Cyril Ruoso / Nature Picture Library

Baby pygmy hippo. © Cyril Ruoso / Nature Picture Library

Baby pygmy hippos are suckled for up to six months, during which time they grow rapidly.

Small-scale model: pygmy hippo

It sounds like a contradiction in terms, and it’s fair to say that pygmy hippos aren’t exactly tiny. They weigh around 250 kilos. However, they’re much smaller than their better-known cousins – and also much rarer. Found only in pockets of dense forest in West Africa, pygmy hippos are rapidly running out of habitat. Working with local partners in Liberia – a key stronghold – we’re taking action to safeguard some of the most crucial tracts of the Upper Guinea Forest. This threatened wilderness is a vital source of local livelihoods, a haven of biodiversity and a crucial carbon sink. As such, it’s one of the highest priorities within our expanding African landscapes programme.

More about pygmy hippos

Young male pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis). © stockfotocz / Adobe Stock

Young male pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis). © stockfotocz / Adobe Stock

Young male pygmy hippopotamus.

Ludlow’s Bhutan swallowtail (Bhutanitis ludlowi). © Sarika Baidya

Ludlow’s Bhutan swallowtail (Bhutanitis ludlowi). © Sarika Baidya

Ludlow’s Bhutan swallowtail in all its glory.

Neglected beauty: Ludlow’s Bhutan swallowtail

One of the most breathtaking butterflies in the world, the spectacular Ludlow’s Bhutan swallowtail is found only in Bhutan and a corner of north-east India. Despite its beauty and rarity, this endangered species has received very little conservation attention and minimal protection, particularly in its only known haven outside Bhutan. With support from the Conservation Leadership Programme (a partnership between Fauna & Flora, BirdLife International and WCS), an award-winning team from India is aiming to address the decline of this endangered insect through a combination of community engagement, population status surveys and habitat protection.

Adult male Grenadines pink rhino iguana (Iguana insularis insularis) on Palm Island. © Jenny Daltry

Adult male Grenadines pink rhino iguana (Iguana insularis insularis) on Palm Island. © Jenny Daltry

Adult male Grenadines pink rhino iguana, complete with his striking nasal horns.

Identity crisis: Southern Antilles horned iguana

The demand for exotic pets, particularly in Europe, the US and Japan, is having a severe impact on wild populations of some of the Caribbean’s most charismatic – and endangered – reptiles. Among the most threatened is the Southern Antilles horned iguana. This ‘species’ has yet to be formally accepted by the Iguana Specialist Group (the process is complicated, as this article explains). We’re working with our Caribbean and international partners to protect the two recognised subspecies – the Grenadines pink rhino iguana and Saint Lucia iguana, which are already attracting considerable interest from unscrupulous collectors and the poachers who stand to profit from that demand.

Pride after the fall: African lion

A world without lions is hard to imagine, but it’s a very real possibility. Ridiculous as it sounds, the King of the Beasts is in real danger of being wiped off the face of the planet. Lion numbers have been in freefall for decades and their populations and range continue to decline rapidly across Africa. The vast Southern National Park is the cornerstone of Fauna & Flora’s community-led conservation programme in South Sudan. It also offers an unprecedented opportunity to help reverse the decline of one of the world’s most recognisable and charismatic carnivores, which we are now recording regularly on our camera traps in this huge haven of biodiversity.

Learn more about our work in South Sudan

Inquisitve lion caught on a Fauna & Flora camera trap in Southern National Park, South Sudan.

Green turtles. © Luiz Felipe Puntel / Getty Images / EyeEm Premium

Green turtles. © Luiz Felipe Puntel / Getty Images / EyeEm Premium

Green turtles are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Many happy returns: green turtle

The world’s sea turtles are under serious pressure as a result of human impact, with poaching, pollution, habitat loss and climate change all taking a heavy toll. Green turtles are no exception, so the news that they are nesting again in Cambodia after a ten-year absence was a tremendous boost. In the longer term, the marine protected areas that Fauna & Flora and our partners have helped to make a reality in Cambodia could be a vital refuge for this and other endangered marine species. As the year unfolds, we hope to bring you further news of additional turtle nests as our coastal conservation and community engagement activities continue to pay dividends.

Turtle eggs in sand, Koh Tang, Cambodia. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Turtle eggs in sand, Koh Tang, Cambodia. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Turtle eggs on a remote beach in Cambodia.

Together, we can save nature

Join us on our urgent quest to reverse rampant biodiversity loss and avert climate catastrophe, and help us to stop that two-headed monster in its tracks. It’s the wisest New Year’s Resolution you’ll ever make.

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