They are calling it the "world wild web" and the most comprehensive online reference source on the world's most endangered species. The ARKive website opened for business in Britain this week in a flurry of media interest, generated by grandees of British wildlife broadcasting such as David Attenborough and by endorsements from conservation scientists from around the world.

But how useful is it? Is it meant for schools or research, for education or play? It is first and foremost a place for images, both still and moving, of charismatic and endangered species. Currently, it contains pages for only about 500 species, half of them British. But you can watch brown hares boxing, a dormouse giving birth, the only known footage of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, and the last film of the Spix macaw in the wild; or you can read notes on the conservation status of tigers and toads, bats...

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