‘Tis the season for ARKiving

Horsfield’s tarsier on ARKive.org

I had planned to blog about crocodiles this week and post an accompanying video. But unfortunately my video editing program developed a mind of its own just before the car showed up to transport me to the airport and back to my hometown of Seattle for the holidays. Ah, techmology [sic]!

So I started looking for something else to write about and came across the ARKive.org website.  ARKive is an initiative of  the  UK-based Wildscreen organization, whose mission is “to promote the public understanding and appreciation of the world’s biodiversity, and the need for its conservation, through the power of wildlife imagery.”

Living in the U.S., I’d never heard of ARKive  before, even though it’s been around since the early 2000s. It was launched by legendary broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and the basic idea is to collect and consolidate high-quality video and images of endangered species into a massive database. The goal is to “create a unique audio-visual record of life on Earth, prioritising those species at most risk of extinction.”

Once these materials are collected, they’re made accessible to all, “from scientists and conservationists to the general public and school children.” The thinking is that increased access leads to increased awareness and a greater likelihood of conservation. A lofty mission, but no easy task, because according to the project’s website, the materials are spread amongst various broadcast outlets and organizations. In short, a rights-management nightmare.

One of the coolest things about the ARKive.org site is that anyone can contribute video or images. They’ve developed a “most-wanted” list of endangered species for which very few images exist and for which they’ll readily take donations. For example, the Mekong Giant Salmon Carp (Aaptosyax grypus) is the  first species on the list and a quick Google search turns up zero image  hits. In theory, someone living in the Mekong Delta who spots a giant carp could snap a photo and send it to the ARKive team. This makes ARKive a forerunner of the ‘citizen science’ movement currently running rampant on the web.

Another way to contribute to this not-for-profit organization is to give money. And as I don’t have any photos of giant salmon carp lying around, I’ll be making a small donation to ARKive this holiday season*. As I’ve blogged about before, I don’t think species “awareness” necessarily leads directly to actions that protect species–especially when that awareness lacks context. But in this case, the beautiful images on the ARKive site are accompanied by an important  message of conservation.

*In full disclosure, I have no connection to the ARKive organization. I just think it’s a worthwhile cause.

  • Kristin Olson

    Thanks Eric! Kristin