10-second nature news digest

Conservation news digest for busy people from @Mongabay. Story summaries that can be read in about ten seconds per post.

Popular topics:: Amazon | Animals | Brazil | Congo | Conservation | Deforestation | Featured | Indonesia | Logging | Malaysia | Oceans | Palm oil | Rainforests | Wildlife



Thylacine survey: Are we going to rediscover the ‘moonlight tiger’? [05/26/2017]
- The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was declared extinct in 1936. But anecdotal reports of sightings of the marsupial inspired a recent media frenzy, leading to speculation that some might still be living in the forests of northern Queensland's Cape York Peninsula.
- A biological survey conducted via camera traps had been planned for the region before news of the reported sightings spread. The aim of the survey is to find out why so many of Australia’s native marsupials – and those of Cape York in particular – are disappearing. They also hope to figure out if there are any as-yet undocumented mammals living there, such as a small, endangered rat-kangaroo called the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica).
- A bettong expert says cattle ranching, invasive animals, and changing fire management regimes may be hurting native mammals in Australia.
- The researchers caution that the possibility of finding evidence of thylacines living in Cape York is vanishingly small. But, if the near-impossible happens and they do manage to document some, they say news of the rediscovery likely won't be released until protections are enacted.


Q&A with a champion of the “gendered approach” to conservation [05/26/2017]
- Over recent decades, conservation organizations have started listening to local communities for insight into how best to protect dwindling ecosystems. But only recently have some of them begun tuning in the voices of women, specifically.
- By adopting a “gendered approach” to conservation, some organizations believe they can improve both environmental and social outcomes.
- Kame Westerman, the Gender and Conservation Advisor at the NGO Conservation International, helps her group adopt the gendered approach in its projects.


Temer seeks to privatize Brazil’s deforestation remote sensing program [05/26/2017]
- Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment, in a surprise move at the end of April, tried to privatize much of the remote sensing deforestation work that, until now, has been successfully carried out by INPE, the federal National Institute for Space Research. So sudden was the move that INPE’s head learned of it from a journalist.
- Under the plan, private companies would take over monitoring for Amazonia, the Cerrado (where Brazilian deforestation is most intense), and indigenous reserves (under attack by the Temer administration). Experts view the move as a bow to the powerful agribusiness lobby, which wants more control of Amazonia, the Cerrado and indigenous preserves.
- The hurried maneuver was met with shock from experts inside and outside the government, with charges that the 8-day bid process was absurdly short, and with some calling the proposal incompetent. Critics suggest the privatization bid process may have been designed to turn over deforestation remote sensing to a foreign company.
- Vocal protests from 6,000 experts led the Ministry of the Environment to shelve privatization for now; though the measure could still be revived. A concern of experts was that the company engaged would have played a key role in assessing whether or not Brazil was meeting its carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.


Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species.
- In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area.
- However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.


Vietnam makes a big push for coal, while pledging to curb emissions [05/26/2017]
- Vietnam's current energy plan calls for more than half of electricity production to come from coal by 2030, compared to around a third as of 2015.
- In the same time period, Vietnam has also pledged to reduce emissions by 25 percent compared to business-as-usual.
- Any reforms will require substantial changes to the country's electricity sector, a tall order for a state-run industry that is notoriously slow to evolve.


Singapore is world’s second largest shark-fin trader: TRAFFIC [05/26/2017]
- In 2012-2013, Singapore exported $40 million worth of shark fins, closely following Hong Kong’s $45 million, and imported $51.4 million worth of fins, following Hong Kong's $170 million.
- More than 72 percent of Singapore's shark fin exports went to Hong Kong, mainland China and Japan in 2012-13.
- Spain, Namibia and Uruguay were the top three sources of shark fins during this period, accounting for more than 66 percent of Singapore’s imports.


Slight bumps in protected areas could be a boon for biodiversity [05/26/2017]
- Increasing protected areas by 5 percent in strategic locations could boost biodiversity protection by a factor of three.
- The study examined global protected areas and evaluated how well they safeguard species, functional and evolutionary biodiversity.
- More than a quarter of species live mostly outside protected areas.
- The new strategy from the research leverages the functional and evolutionary biodiversity found in certain spots and could help conservation planners pinpoint areas for protection that maximize all three types of biodiversity.


On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
- The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics.
- In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.


Bowling for Rhinos: a grassroots project with global reach [05/25/2017]
- Since the original event in 1987, Bowling for Rhinos — a project run completely by volunteers — has raised more than $6 million to support rhino conservation efforts around the world.
- Funds have supported ranger units that protect the Asian rhino species, as well as conservation programs for black and white rhinos.
- Fundraisers, which happen across the United States, go beyond just bowling — some groups opt to host events like Painting for Rhinos or Winos for Rhinos.
- Some participants and supporters point to Bowling for Rhinos as an antidote to feelings of hopelessness in the face of national and global environmental problems.


As Arctic sea ice shows record decline, scientists prepare to go blind [05/25/2017]
- Starting in the mid-1980s, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) constructed eight “F-series” satellites, in bulk, with the plan to launch satellites in succession as each one failed to maintain a continuous record of Arctic sea ice extent.
- But in 2016, Congress cut the program, resulting in the dismantling of the last, still not launched, satellite. It is now likely that an impending failure of the last DMSP satellites in orbit will leave the world blind until at least 2022, even as the Arctic shows signs of severe instability and decline.
- While international and U.S. monitoring is still being done for ice thickness, the Trump administration has proposed cuts to satellite missions, including NOAA’s next two polar orbiting satellites, NASA’s PACE Satellite (to monitor ocean and atmospheric pollution), and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (for carbon dioxide atmospheric measurements).
- All of these cuts in satellite monitoring come at a time when the world is seeing massive changes due to climate change, development and population growth. One satellite program spared Trump’s budgetary axe so far is Landsat 9, which tracks deforestation and glacial recession. How Congress will deal with Trump’s proposed cuts is unknown.


When it comes to the IUCN Red List, accuracy is the order of the day (commentary) [05/25/2017]
- It is clear that the IUCN tries to ensure that its criteria for determining threat status can be uniformly applied across all species. It is also clear that IUCN has applied this valuable service for a long time, for which we should all be grateful.
- The approach we have used takes advantage of the enormous amounts of freely available geo-referenced data to build much more accurate range maps based on expert filtered citizen science sightings, a plethora of high resolution ecological and geophysical data from the Western Ghats, and well-tested statistical tools.
- Since these data can now be found for many places in the world and for many taxonomic groups, we call on IUCN to embrace this approach.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Who owns Indonesia’s deadly abandoned coal mines? [05/25/2017]
- More than 630 open-pit coal mines have been left behind by mining companies in East Kalimantan. These holes have claimed the lives of at least 27 people, mostly children
- Indonesian law requires companies to fill in their mining pits, and prohibits mining within 500 meters of houses. However, these regulations are frequently violated.
- Mongabay-Indonesia spent months investigating the true scope of the problem, and the individuals responsible for these violations.


Rugged innovation: Meeting the challenges of bringing high tech DNA analysis to the field [05/25/2017]
- Expeditionlab’s GENE is a fusion of laboratory equipment and do-it-yourself (DIY) technological components adapted to conduct DNA extractions, amplifications, and sequencing outside of a standard laboratory setting.
- Researchers traveled to the Kabobo Massif in the Democratic Republic of Congo to collect wildlife samples and test the process of species’ identification in the field using Gene.
- The Expeditionlab team faced a host of challenges, including a shortage of electricity and hot, humid tropical weather, for which they successfully adapted the portable laboratory.


Meet the activists risking life and limb to protect rivers (commentary) [05/24/2017]
- Hailing from countries as diverse as Chile, Congo, Albania, Mongolia, China, Thailand, and Colombia, the activists had been invited to Georgia because the former Soviet Republic is in the grip of a dam-building boom.
- During one plenary session, a newly-minted Georgian activist shouted, “I’m just a grape farmer. I don’t know how to stop these projects. We need your help.”
- For these activists — and the other 85 participants from over 35 countries — the River Gathering in March was just the beginning.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Nepal burns more than 4,000 confiscated wildlife parts [05/24/2017]
- These illegally trafficked items were burned in Chitwan National Park in front of nearly 300 people.
- The wildlife parts, which were part of the burn, have been collected over the last 20 years.
- Officials hope that this burning will act as a deterrent to wildlife traffickers.


Communities band together to protect El Salvador’s last mangroves [05/24/2017]
- Jiquilisco Bay is home to about half of El Salvador's remaining mangroves. But many mangrove tracts were nearly wiped out by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and siltation from upstream deforestation and controlled flooding were damaging the rest.
- In response, local communities formed a coalition, called the Mangrove Association, to help protect and expand the region's mangroves.
- Around 80 communities are involved in the Mangrove Association. They work to restore damaged areas, and have re-planted hundreds of acres of mangrove forest.


Brazil agribusiness company accuses ally Temer in secret bribe taping [05/23/2017]
- The world’s largest meat processor, Brazil’s JBS has been rocked by scandal. In March, investigations revealed the company had bribed federal officials to turn a blind eye to tainted meat, and had also illegally raised 59,000 head of cattle on illegally deforested Amazon lands. JBS is a key backer of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby.
- Now, JBS owners the Batista brothers, in a plea bargain with federal investigators, have produced a tape in which Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, in conversation with one of the JBS owners, apparently enthusiastically endorses the use of bribes by the company. Temer claims the recording has been altered.
- Temer has consistently done the bidding of the agribusiness lobby, which brought him to power a year ago. He has worked to reverse indigenous land rights gained under the 1988 constitution, and to dismember conservation units, with up to 1.2 million hectares of forest to be turned over to land thieves who illegally seized federal lands.
- There are calls for the president to resign, though Temer has refused to step down. Legislation to dismember Amazon conservation units was recently approved by Brazil’s Assembly and is headed for the Senate, which has until 29 May to approve the bills, a timeline which is looking extremely tight considering current events.


Trump: the biggest threat to Earth’s climate balance (commentary) [05/23/2017]
- The backward climate policies of Donald Trump, including his climate change denier agency appointments, and abandonment of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, are detrimental to the U.S. economy, the international community, and the fight against climate change, says this commentary written by two members of the Network of Specialists in Nature Conservation, the WRI Brasil executive director and a senior Brazilian climate scientist.
- As the rest of the world moves toward a sustainable future — developing clean, cutting edge energy technologies and reducing fossil fuel emissions — the new president goes backward, embracing the dirty energy technologies of the 19th century.
- At a time when the world needs to urgently focus all its efforts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, instead the global community — including the G7, G20, banks and multilateral agencies — must divert their attention to U.S. attempts to subvert the Paris Agreement.
- To counter this lack of leadership, nations like Brazil, India and Indonesia, along with civil society leaders, must fill the void created by the United States, attracting investment for low-carbon economies, and eliminating the inefficiencies of out-dated regulatory and governance models.


Experts explore sustainable infrastructure amid major development needs [05/23/2017]
- The Asia-Pacific region's biological wealth and rapid development makes it a highly vulnerable and critical part of Earth's overall health, notes expert William Laurance.
- Laurance, a distinguished research professor at Australia’s James Cook University, noted that 95 percent of illegal deforestation takes place within 3.4 miles of a road.
- Southeast Asia, with the most wood per hectare of forests in the world and home to numerous developing nations, is particularly at risk.


Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose.
- The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities.
- Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.


New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia.
- They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation.
- Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.


Federal prosecutor in Brazil calls for suspension of licensing to drill near Amazon Reef [05/22/2017]
- The Prosecutor made the request in a formal recommendation sent to Brazil’s Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (better known by its acronym, IBAMA), the environmental regulator responsible for environmental licensing in the country, on May 3.
- According to a statement released by the prosecutor’s office, the prospect of oil spills and other accidents that could damage the unique marine environment were not the only motives for the request. The statement also notes that a possible international conflict could be sparked should any environmental pollutants like oil be released into the ecosystem by the drilling activities.
- Some observers have suggested that it’s possible IBAMA is reluctant to make a decision one way or the other given the most recent scandal rocking a Brazilian government that has been in turmoil for months now.


New lichen database takes big picture approach to forest monitoring [05/22/2017]
- Studying lichens is one way that scientists track air pollution in forests.
- A new database from the U.S. Forest Service will gather existing lichen information into a powerful centralized tool that is freely available.
- Scientists will be able to use the database to study lichen biodiversity, air quality, pollution, and forest health.


Skewed sex ratio spells danger for rhinos in India’s Gorumara National Park [05/22/2017]
- Gorumara National Park, in India's West Bengal State, is home to a small but steadily growing population of greater one-horned rhinoceroses, currently numbering 51 individuals.
- Despite its overall growth, the sex ratio of the park's rhino population is severely imbalanced, with more reproductive-aged males than females.
- Ideally, there should be more females than males. A male-heavy population threatens the long-term reproductive and genetic viability of the population, as well as leading to increased conflict over mates.
- Until this spring, Gorumara had been relatively free of poaching since the 1990s. However, two dead rhinos were found in April, and another suspected poaching incident was reported May 18.


Colombia’s constitutional court grants rights to the Atrato River and orders the government to clean up its waters [05/22/2017]
- The Atrato River and its tributaries are among the most polluted in Colombia.
- Semi-industrialized mining operations with illegal excavators and dredges are one of the main drivers of deforestation in Colombia's Chocó Department, where the Atrato River lives.
- In 2014, Colombia's ombudsman declared a humanitarian emergency in Chocó due to social, economic and environmental problems.
- Most threats to the environment were imposed by deforestation, active timber mafias and erosion in the Atrato watersheds.


Location, location, location goes high-tech: Facts and FAQs about satellite-based wildlife tracking [05/20/2017]
- Satellite-based tracking tags, including ARGOS and GPS systems, collect and communicate animal locations and in some cases, acceleration and physiological data—straight to your computer, 24/7.
- ARGOS satellites use their relative position and the Doppler shift to estimate a tag’s location, which they relay back to Earth. GPS tags receive position information from multiple satellites and either store it or resend it via another communications network.
- Satellite-based tags weigh more, cost more, and demand more power than VHF radio tags. Nevertheless, they provide automated collection of thousands of point locations of an animal, which helps researchers to more precisely define home ranges, migration routes, and the relationships of these patterns to landscape features.


Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year.
- In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual.
- Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard."
- His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.


Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon [05/19/2017]
- The 138-kilometer road was carved illegally through rainforest and used by the FARC rebel group to transport coca, from which cocaine is produced.
- Officials from city governments have begun a project to widen and pave the road, saying it will help communities transport agricultural goods to markets.
- Conservationists decry the move, citing research finding road expansion opens “a Pandora’s box of environmental evils” that includes land-grabbing, illegal road development and accelerated deforestation.
- A Colombian governmental agency recently ordered all construction on the road stop until further environmental studies could be performed and greater restrictions applied. However, an official said construction activity has not ceased.


Guatemalan authorities destroy secret airstrip in Laguna del Tigre National Park [05/19/2017]
- Clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by cattle ranchers who are actually working for drug traffickers.
- After Mongabay-Latam and Plaza Pública reported on the runway’s existence, the Guatemalan Army was ordered to destroy it.
- It is unclear if the strip was abandoned or under construction, but such structures pose a threat to the health of Laguna del Tigre National Park


China’s first national park, an experiment in living with snow leopards [05/19/2017]
- Sanjiangyuan National Park is expected to open in 2020 as China’s first park in its new national park system.
- As many as 1,500 endangered snow leopards (Panthera uncia) live in the area. The cats are subject to poaching and persecution in retaliation for their predation on livestock, which are edging out their natural prey.
- The new park seeks to capitalize on the reverence many local Tibetan Buddhists have for wildlife, employing a conservation model that engages the public and attempts to ease tensions between people and predators.
- The new national park system is intended to create a more effective kind of protected area than currently exists in China.


Ten good news stories for Endangered Species Day [05/19/2017]
- While the news about endangered species is often not good, there are always instances of progress and positive storylines
- From recently discovered populations of rare animals to canceled development projects, here is some good news we want to share


Government action needed on climate resiliency and food security in West Africa [05/19/2017]
- Increased extreme weather due to climate change and rising population could imperil West Africa’s food sources.
- Short-term planning and actions by non-state actors would do the least to combat hunger and climate impacts in the region.
- Burkina Faso and Ghana are already employing the study’s findings in their policies.


Meet the 2017 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [05/19/2017]
- The winners include Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela, Indira Lacerna-Widmann from Philippines, Ian Little from South Africa and Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia.
- At an awards ceremony held last evening at the Royal Geographic Society in London, each of the six winners received £35,000 (~$46,000) in project funding to help scale up their work.
- Zafer Kizilkaya, a 2013 Whitley Award winner from Turkey, received this year's Gold Award (£50,000) for his conservation project "Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline".


A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world.
- Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.”
- Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.


A stubborn dreamer who fought to save Amazon’s Waimiri-Atroari passes [05/18/2017]
- As a young man in the 1960s, José Porfirio Fontenele de Carvalho decided to resist Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship by going into the Amazon to help indigenous groups in their struggles against the military’s assault on their way of life.
- He made early contact with the warlike Waimiri-Atroari Indians, who were decimated in their struggle to block the BR-174 highway through their territory. The Indians tell of numerous atrocities committed against them by the government during this period.
- With Carvalho’s help, a new indigenous reserve, covering 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles), was established, along with a conservation unit — the Biological Reserve of Uatumã. Through the years, Carvalho won other concessions for the Waimiri-Atroari.
- Today, the group has increased its number to nearly 2,000, though the tribe continues fighting the government. President Temer is now determined to put a major transmission line through their lands. Most observers agree: without Carvalho’s assist, the Waimiri-Atroari would likely be extinct, and their forests gone. He died this month at age 70.


A new secret runway found in Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala [05/18/2017]
- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers.
- These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park.
- What does the head of Guatemala’s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?


Peru lost more than 1 million hectares of Amazon forest over a period of 15 years [05/18/2017]
- 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forests were lost between 2001 and 2015 with peaks of loss occurring in 2005, 2009 and 2014.
- The main causes of forest loss are deforestation and soil degradation, small and medium scale agriculture, large-scale agriculture, pasture for livestock, gold mining, coca cultivation and road construction, according to a MAAP report.
- Deforestation hotspots are concentrated in Peru’s central Amazon, in Huánuco and Ucayali, but there are also other important hotspots located in Madre de Dios and San Martín, according to a MAAP.


Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal.
- Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency.
- Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.


Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems.
- We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe.
- We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea.
- In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.


With poaching curtailed, a new menace to Nepal’s wildlife [05/17/2017]
- Since 2011, with poaching largely under control in the country, conservationists in Nepal have been paying increasing attention to the risks of diseases spreading to wildlife from domesticated animals.
- Domesticated animals near Chitwan National Park form a reservoir of pathogens that could cross to wildlife. Veterinarians have already identified tuberculosis in a dead rhino and a suspected case of canine distemper in a leopard.
- The country currently lacks facilities to fully analyze and respond to the threat of diseases, but local and international groups are working to rapidly increase capacity.


An evolving IUCN Red List needs to be both innovative and rigorous (commentary) [05/17/2017]
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species guides conservationists in their race against extinction by assessing the threats faced by species around the globe. Over 86,000 have been assessed so far.
- A recent Biological Conservation study suggested that using citizen science data in Red List assessments could help estimate the range bird species inhabit more accurately. When it comes to the importance of citizen science, IUCN couldn’t be more in agreement with the authors of the study.
- But just as it is important to embrace cutting-edge technologies, it is also fundamental to respect the rigorous system for assessing extinction risk for the Red List. Ramesh et al. made a fundamental error by confusing two definitions normally used in assessments.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Field Notes: Reinvigorating wild parrot populations with captive birds [05/17/2017]
- Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country.
- Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaws from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered.
- Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts.
- Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaws as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.


Microalgae genes help them adapt to harsh oceans, other species less lucky [05/17/2017]
- Researchers have long wondered how microalgae manage to survive in polar seas, where conditions are extreme and change rapidly.
- New research looking at the DNA of a diatom finds that the species likely evolved with the ability to quickly change which genes are expressed making it ready for anything.
- This research hints that diatoms may be able to adapt to climate change – but that doesn’t mean other vital species, such as krill, have the capacity to do the same.


More than 300 smuggled tortoises seized in Malaysia [05/17/2017]
- Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport raided the cargo area of the airport on May 14 following a tip-off, and found the tortoises packed into five boxes labeled as stones.
- The boxes reportedly arrived on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar, and were registered with a fake business address in Malaysia.
- No arrests have been made yet, but the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, officials say.


What would you do if you had “nature’s pharmacy” in your backyard? [05/17/2017]
- Though most cures are not medically proven and scientific experts remain skeptical of their benefits, others say that indigenous peoples’ long-accumulated wisdom of the forest and what grows in it is undeniable.
- In Ecuador, knowledge of the medicinal properties of the Amazon have been passed down throughout the generations by Yachaj, or medicine men, who spend years living with the forest, meditating and listening to nature.
- Training to become a Yachaj takes three to ten years and involves long separations from loved ones and society.


Wilmar appeals RSPO ruling that it grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra [05/17/2017]
- Palm oil giant Wilmar has been involved in a land conflict with the Kapa people of West Sumatra for years.
- Earlier this year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ruled in favor of a complaint filed against Wilmar. Wilmar said it accepted the ruling.
- Now Wilmar is appealing the ruling on procedural grounds. The company says it wasn't properly consulted during the process.
- The Forest Peoples Programme, an NGO helping the Kapa through the process, says the company is stalling, "which we see as a tactic to delay having to address outstanding human rights violations."


Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi).
- The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach.
- Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade.
- Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.


Papua New Guinea moves to launch new coal mining industry [05/16/2017]
- Two years ago, the Papua New Guinea government allocated $3 million for research into the viability of coal extraction.
- An Australian company plans to build three mixed coal power generation plants in the country.
- Proponents argue affordable and reliable electricity is needed to boost economic growth, while opponents cite environmental risks including the threat of climate change and rising sea levels.
- Analysts also question how much urban-based power plants will raise electrification rates, since most un-electrified households are in rural areas that cannot easily be connected to electrical grids.


Manmade noise pollution even more prevalent in US protected areas than researchers expected [05/16/2017]
- About 14 percent of the land mass in the United States has been afforded some kind of legally protected status, and noise pollution is noticeable even in these more remote areas where manmade disturbances are supposed to be kept to a minimum.
- According to a study published this month in the journal Science, the noise pollution from airplanes, highways, industry, and resource extraction is encroaching ever further into U.S. protected areas designed to preserve habitat for biodiversity.
- Using baseline sound levels for each study area established by machine learning algorithms that took into account geospatial features of the area, the researchers determined that anthropogenic noise pollution exceeds three decibels (dB), essentially doubling background sound levels, in 63 percent of the nation’s protected areas.


Burning wood: Can the EU see the forest for the trees? [05/16/2017]
- A new report argues that forests need more protection from the biomass industry in the EU, which is deforesting the American south to produce energy abroad.
- EU policy considers burning woody biomass as carbon neutral, even though other countries and many scientists say that doesn’t add up.
- Demand for wood pellets in the EU is growing: last year, the UK imported 8 million tons. This demand is leading to high quality wood – not waste – being burned.




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