21st Century "Noah's Ark"

In Focus, June 2003

A multi-million dollar online resource launched in May to enable global access to photographs, footage and sound recordings of the world's endangered plant and animal species.

The project, known as ARKive, is being hailed as the Noah's Ark of the 21st Century. Famed biologist E.O. Wilson has declared it "a noble project, one of the most valuable in all of biology and conservation practice."

An initiative of The Wildscreen Trust, ARKive is harnessing the latest in digital technology to create audio-visual profiles of the planet's wildlife most at riskā€”from Clanwilliam cedar, a majestic cypress pine found only in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa to the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, the most endangered of China's three snub-nosed monkey species.

"Wildlife images possess enormous power - they are often what first inspire people to care about the environment and they capture details of plants and animals which are invaluable to our greater understanding of life on our planet," Trust Chairman Chris Curling says.

The Online Resource

ARKive contributors include many of the best-known names in natural history broadcasting and picture libraries such as the BBC Natural History Unit and National Geographic. Conservation organizations and individual scientists and photographers have also contributed images and films.

To date, ARKive includes audio-visual records of more than 200 globally endangered species. Each species profile includes an average of 10 minutes of moving footage, 6-10 photographs, sound recordings, where relevant, and facts such as status, range and threats.

The project also includes:

The Trust ultimately aims to profile all of the world's 11,000 animals and plants included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The audio and visual records of these rare species are endangered themselves, with no guarantee that they will survive for future generations. Many films and photographs are scattered in different places around the world, often in places or systems difficult to access or where their value is poorly understood.

The team is also working with the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a coral identification pilot project for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The project will provide identification pages of CITES-listed coral species to be used by customs officers around the world.