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



Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff” has been fired [04/28/2017]
- A little more than a year after being named Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff,” Thelma Krug has reportedly been fired after a dispute over how trends in forest destruction are monitored in the country.
- Climate Home’s Claudio Angelo reports from Brasilia that government officials told members of the press that Krug had “expressed her interest in leaving” in order to “dedicate more time to her attributions at IPCC” — but that sources say Krug's dismissal was actually the result of a dispute with vice-minister Marcelo Cruz, who questioned the deforestation data produced by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), where Krug is a senior scientist.
- Brazil has already named Krug’s replacement: Jair Schmitt, a biologist with the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Brazil’s equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he oversees the agency’s environmental inspections.


An interactive map connects landowners and forest change in one of the world’s most biodiverse places [04/28/2017]
- The Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo documents the loss of rainforest over 40 years from oil palm and pulpwood plantations in one of Earth’s most biodiverse places.
- By connecting landowners and deforestation patterns publicly available, the atlas adds transparency to wood and oil palm supply chains.
- Allowing users to see how human impacts have reshaped Borneo is essential amid competing demands for cheap oil and conserved forest.


Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed.
- The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas.
- The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
- The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.


Philippines bans new open-pit metal mines [04/28/2017]
- The Philippines has banned new open-pit gold, copper and silver mines, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Regina Lopez announced April 27.
- Lopez cited the need to protect biodiversity, evidence of injuries to communities and water supplies, and violations of environmental law by the mining industry.
- Since taking office in July, Lopez has lauched an aggressive campaign to force the mining industry to improve its practices.
- The ban could be one of Lopez's last acts in office; on May 3, she faces review from a legislative committee that includes people linked to the mining industry.


As forests disappear, human-elephant conflict escalates in Nepal [04/28/2017]
- Asian elephants are responsible for destroying crops, buildings, and even injuring or killing local people in Nepal.
- A new study argues that Nepal’s government has not done enough to help villages in elephant areas.
- Researchers measured the willingness-to-pay of villagers in offsetting elephant damage.


Overestimated range maps for endemic birds in India’s Western Ghats lead to underestimated threats, study finds [04/27/2017]
- In a paper published earlier this week in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers detail their findings that suggest the IUCN has “vastly” overestimated the geographic range sizes for 17 of 18 endemic birds studied in the Western Ghats.
- In some cases, the researchers write in the study, the range maps supplied by BirdLife International (BLI) and used by the IUCN for its threat assessments of birds in the Western Ghats included “large areas of unsuitable habitat” and were so off that the threat status should be changed “for at least 10 of the 18 species based on area metrics used by the IUCN for threat assessment.”
- The head of the IUCN Red List says that the study's authors made a "fundamental error" in applying threat assessment criteria to their datasets, however, adding that just two of the 10 birds identified in the study need to be examined more closely.
- The key to the updated range maps created by the researchers behind the Biological Conservation study is citizen science. In particular, the researchers used data from eBird, an online checklist program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And on the point of the usefulness of citizen science, the researchers and the IUCN are in full agreement.


Indigenous communities resisting dams in Indonesia claim they face repression, rights abuses [04/27/2017]
- Developers plan to build a hydropower dam in Seko, a remote sub-district in North Luwu, Sulawesi that is home to several indigenous communities.
- Some residents support the project, but many other have resisted since developers arrived in 2014, launching road blockades and protests.
- Thirteen residents have been imprisoned for involvement in an August 2016 demonstration in which protestors dismantled tents used by company workers and took drilling samples.
- Villagers allege people opposed to the dam have been arrested with force, have had to flee their homes, and that even school children have been beaten.


Amazon’s fate hangs on outcome of war between opposing worldviews [04/27/2017]
- The battle for the Amazon is being fought over two opposing viewpoints: the first, mostly held by indigenous and traditional people and their conservationist allies, sees forests and rivers as valuable for their own sake, and for the livelihoods, biodiversity, ecological services and climate change mitigation they provide. For them the forests need protection.
- The second worldview holds that Amazon forests are natural resources to be harvested and turned into dollars, an outlook largely held by wealthy landowners, land thieves, loggers, cattle ranchers and farmers. For them the forests are there to be cut down, and the land is there to be used for economic benefit.
- The bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby now has overwhelming political power in the Brazilian Congress and the Temer administration, which are pushing a raft of bills and administrative actions to take away indigenous land rights, dismember conservation units, gut environmental licensing laws and defund environmental protection agencies.
- The great fear is that the collision of the two worldviews in the wilds of the Amazon will result in escalating lawlessness and bloodshed against indigenous and traditional people, along with significant environmental destruction. The loss of Amazon ecosystems could be catastrophic for humanity, as the region’s forests are crucial for global carbon storage.


Illegal trade threatens nearly half the world’s natural heritage sites: WWF [04/27/2017]
- Poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing of rare species protected under CITES occurs in 45 percent of the natural World Heritage sites, a new WWF report says.
- Illegal harvesting degrades the unique values that gave the heritage sites the status in the first place, the report says.
- Current approaches to preventing illegal harvesting of CITES listed species in World Heritage sites is not working, the report concludes.


The meat hook: satiating Asia’s demand for beef [04/27/2017]
- Traditionally, beef was never a favored meat across much of Asia, but rising incomes and changing cultures are dramatically increasing beef demand on the continent.
- Increased beef demand in China is bumping up imports from Brazil, leading to a new boom in local beef production.
- Given the massive climate impact of beef production, some Asian nations are trying to dissuade beef consumption but the results, if any, remain to be seen.


Plans to drill for oil near newly discovered Amazon Reef alarm scientists [04/26/2017]
- The reef system is believed to extend 9,500 square kilometers (or nearly 3,700 square miles), from the territorial waters of French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil.
- Exploratory drilling could start as soon as this summer, with the closest well to be drilled just 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the reef, according to Greenpeace.
- But there are hurdles yet to be cleared by oil companies hoping to drill near the Amazon Reef. A spokesperson for the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), told Mongabay that Total and BP are still awaiting permits to begin exploratory drilling, the aim of which would be to verify the existence of the oil reservoirs beneath the ocean floor.


Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities.
- The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.


Colombia’s indigenous Arhuaco awarded 500 hectares in ongoing bid to regain ancestral lands [04/26/2017]
- Having survived Spanish colonizers and internal conflict, climate change and deforestation pose new threats to the cultural survival of the Arhuaco indigenous peoples.
- The Arhuaco people in Colombia describe themselves as global custodians of the world who bear the responsibility for the wellbeing of the mountains.
- These so-called indigenous “forest wardens” are sounding the alarm over fears that mankind is irreparably impacting and harming the environment.


Conserving Congo’s wild places on a shoestring [04/25/2017]
- The park operates on a budget so small they can hardly afford to patrol the 76,000 hectares (188,000 acres) of mangroves, waterways, beach and ocean.
- Though the beach and savannah portions of the park are partially protected areas, a handful of communities have continuously lived there since long before the park’s creation.
- Park officials and rangers face the difficult task of protecting the vast area with just a handful of rangers and are up against generations of ingrained practices by residents, such as poaching turtles and their eggs.


Namibia’s low cost, sustainable solution to seabird bycatch [04/25/2017]
- Accidental take of marine animals by commercial fisheries is a serious global environmental problem, with 40 percent of the world’s ocean fishing totals disposed of as bycatch annually.
- Roughly 63 billion pounds of unwanted wildlife — seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles, countless fish species, rays, and cephalopods — are killed as bycatch due to the swallowing of baited hooks or entanglement in nets.
- Nambia, once known as the “world’s worst fishery” regarding avian bycatch is addressing the problem. It has installed “bird-scaring” lines on the nation’s 70 trawlers and on its 12 longline fishing vessels, and has also adopted other low cost methods to minimize avian bycatch, which once killed more than 30,000 birds annually.
- The Meme Itumbapo Women’s Group, known for its seashell necklaces and other jewelry, is now sustainably manufacturing and supplying the bird-scaring lines from their headquarters “Bird’s Paradise,” in Walvis Bay, Namibia. The hope is that these combined efforts will reduce avian bycatch by 85-90 percent in the near future.


Indonesian court revokes environmental license for the Cirebon coal plant expansion [04/25/2017]
- An Indonesian administrative court ruled that expansion plans for the Cirebon coal-fired power plant in West Java are in violation of the local spatial planning law.
- The court ordered the project's environmental license be revoked, without which development should not be able to continue.
- The verdict came one day after a consortium of lenders, led by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), committed to providing $1.74 billion in project financing.
- Local and international environment activists have protested the expansion plans for years, and the project is currently the subject of a civil suit.


The land is forever: Rodrigo Tot wins Goldman Prize for land-title quest [04/24/2017]
- Rodrigo Tot is one of this year’s winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize honoring global “grassroots environmental heroes.”
- He has been working for decades to secure title to his community’s lands, which are embroiled in an ongoing dispute with mining interests.
- Tot has faced threats to his safety as well as the murder of his son in 2012, in what he believes was retaliation for his land-rights work.


The March for Science makes its stand: “There is no Planet B” [04/24/2017]
- On Saturday, April 22nd tens of thousands of protestors defied bone chilling rain to march on Washington D.C., while fellow marchers protested at “March for Science” events across America and around the world.
- The D.C. march, attended by prominent scientists and supporters of science, was held in opposition to the anti-science policies of Congress and the Trump administration — which has proposed draconian cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, and a virtual shutdown of U.S. climate research.
- Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, summed up the purpose of the march: “to insure that policy is informed by an objective assessment of scientific evidence.“
- Caroline Weinberg, co-founder of the U.S. March for Science, noted that: “Science extends our lives, protects our planet, puts food on our table [and] contributes to the economy.… [P]olicymakers threaten our present and future by ignoring scientific evidence.”


2 wildlife rangers shot and killed by poachers in Congo park [04/24/2017]
- While out patrolling on April 11, Ari and Afokao heard gunshots.
- The patrol unit followed signs and tracks until they discovered a group of six poachers who were cutting up a freshly slaughtered elephant carcass.
- A shootout followed, in which both Ari and Afokao were fatally shot.


Meet the winners of the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize [04/24/2017]
- The Goldman Environmental Prize, dubbed the Green Nobel Prize, honors grassroots environmental heroes from Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and Islands and Island nations.
- The winners will be awarded the Prize today at the San Francisco Opera House.
- The winners include Uros Macerl from Slovenia, Prafulla Samantara from India, mark! Lopez from the United States, Rodrigo Tot from Guatemala, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo from DRC and Wendy Bowman from Australia.


‘Lost & Found’: Telling the stories of rediscovered species [04/21/2017]
- The project is the brainchild of Diogo Veríssimo, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Veríssimo studies the ways human behavior and biodiversity conservation intersect, focusing in particular on conservation marketing.
- “Talking about nature has too often become about extinction, decline and loss,” Veríssimo says. “With Lost & Found we aim to make it about hope, determination and passion.”
- Mongabay spoke with Diogo Veríssimo about what first sparked his interest in rediscovered species, why it’s important to highlight the field researchers who track down lost species, and just what he hopes to ultimately achieve by telling these stories.


Women could be a key to great ape conservation in the Congo [04/21/2017]
- The Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), and Coopera are all organizations working with women in and around the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help advance great ape conservation through education, empowerment, healthcare and food security access.
- Some examples: BCI helps fund pilot micro-credit projects for women who want to launch business enterprises, including soap and garment making. GRACE employs women as surrogate mothers for newly orphaned gorillas during an initial 30-day quarantine period.
- GRACE also provides women and their families with bushmeat alternatives by teaching them to care for and breed alternative protein sources. Coopera helps provide alternative food sources through ECOLO-FEMMES, an organization that trains women in livestock breeding and agriculture to reduce great ape hunting in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
- Coopera, working with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, engages young rape victims in tree planting to provide food sources to wild chimpanzees. JGI’s women’s programs in Uganda and Tanzania keep girls in school through peer support, scholarship programs and sanitary supply access. Educated women have smaller families, reducing stress on the environment.


Mapping indigenous lands in Indonesia’s tallest mountains [04/21/2017]
- Local NGOs in the Baliem Valley of Indonesia's Papua province are working with indigenous peoples to map their customary territories.
- Over the past two decades, one foundation has mapped 19 of the 27 customary territories in Papua's Jayawijaya district.
- Some communities who were initially suspicious of the program have decided to trust it.


BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused $17.2 billion in environmental damage to the Gulf of Mexico [04/20/2017]
- The Deepwater Horizon disaster is considered the largest marine oil spill in United States history.
- New research to be published in the journal Science tomorrow quantifies for the first time the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources by the 2010 disaster.
- Researchers determined that the average U.S. household is willing to pay $153 for a program to prevent future oil spills, and this figure was used to extrapolate the final $17.2 billion estimate of how much the Gulf’s natural resources are worth.


Canceled: Plans for a bridge in a critical wildlife area in Borneo have been scrapped [04/20/2017]
- Plans for the Sukau Bridge, crossing the Kinabatangan River near a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo, raised a global outcry.
- "We are not going ahead with the bridge," Sabah Forest Department Chief Conservator Sam Mannan announced at an event in London.
- In explaining his decision, Mannan reportedly cited a recent letter by celebrated naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, as well as concerns expressed by scientists, NGOs and corporations.


Study finds there are ways to mitigate deforestation risks of palm oil expansion in Africa [04/20/2017]
- It’s been estimated that, over the next five years, as much as 22 million hectares (or more than 54 million acres) of land in Central and West Africa could be converted to oil palm plantations.
- Seven African nations signed a pledge dedicating themselves to the sustainable development of the palm oil sector, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco last November.
- According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters earlier this month, those seven nations, which collectively represent 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, have good reason to be proactive when it comes to managing the rollout of oil palm operations within their borders. But there is also reason to hope that oil palm expansion in Africa will be done more sustainably in Africa.


No safe forest left: 250 captive orphan chimps stuck in sanctuaries [04/20/2017]
- Cameroon currently has more than 250 rescued chimpanzees living in three chimp wildlife sanctuaries. Attempts to find forests into which to release them — safe from the bushmeat and pet trade, and not already occupied by other chimpanzee populations — have failed so far.
- The intensification of logging, mining and agribusiness, plus new roads into remote areas, along with a growing rural human population, are putting intense pressure on un-conserved forests as well as protected lands.
- Unless habitat loss, poaching and trafficking are controlled in Cameroon, reintroduction of captive chimpanzees may not be achievable. Some conservationists argue, however, that reintroduction of captive animals is needed to enhance genetic resilience in wild populations.
- If current rates of decline are not curbed, primatologists estimate that chimpanzees could be gone from Cameroon’s forests within 15 to 20 years.


A foreseen environmental disaster in Colombia? [04/20/2017]
- On the morning of April 1, more than 60,000 people were hit by a massive landslide that dragged large amounts of water, dirt and mud downhill and buried 17 neighborhoods of Mocoa in the process.
- For risk management expert Gustavo Wilches-Chaux, the lack of land use planning is one of the factors that determined the impact of this natural disaster.
- Wilches-Chaux notes that some Colombian populations have settled along the tributaries of the main rivers of the country — areas highly vulnerable to floods, landslides and avalanches.


Skin slime of Indian frog can kill flu virus [04/20/2017]
- A team of researchers jolted some of the recently discovered Hydrophylax bahuvistara with mild electricity, collected their skin secretions, and then returned them to their natural habitat in India.
- Then, from the secretions, the team identified and isolated 32 peptides (building blocks of proteins).
- One of these peptides can attach itself to the surface of some strains of influenza viruses (such as the H1 strains of flu) and destroy them, the researchers observed.


Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra [04/20/2017]
- The two men were each sentenced to eight months imprisonment in Jambi province.
- Conservationists said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment.
- The maximum sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars, and activists are pushing for that to be revised upward, too.
- Last year several tiger part smugglers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined 50 million rupiah.


Guatemala declares state of emergency as rainforest goes up in flames [04/19/2017]
- The fires have been concentrated in Maya Biosphere Reserve, a collection of protected areas – including national parks – in the country's north.
- Officials believe many of the fires were started to clear land for illegal cattle ranching and drug trafficking.
- Declaring a state of emergency will allow agencies to more quickly deploy firefighters to affected areas.
- Community-managed areas in the biosphere reserve have seen less fire activity, reportedly due to higher fire prevention capacity.


Giraffes are endangered, groups argue, file petition with U.S. [04/19/2017]
- In December 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified giraffes as “Vulnerable” to extinction.
- Giraffe numbers have plummeted since about 1985 from over 150,000 to about 97,000. Habitat fragmentation and destruction are the major causes of the decline.
- The decline in giraffes is due in part to importation to the U.S. of giraffe parts, including trophies, skins, and bone carvings.


Brazil moves to cut Amazon conservation units by 1.2 million hectares [04/19/2017]
- Under the cover of Brazil’s current political crisis, the Congress — dominated by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby — is pushing forward measures to dramatically slash the size of conservation units in Pará state in the eastern Amazon, removing conservation protection from 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million acres) of forest.
- The moves, yet to be approved by the full Congress, would reduce Jamanxim Flona (National Forest) by 480,000 hectares, Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve by 180,000 hectares, the National Park of Jamanxin by 344,000 hectares, and the Itaituba II National Forest by 169,000 hectares.
- The dismembered portions of the conservation units would be re-designated as Areas of Environmental Protection (APAs), where private land ownership, agriculture and forest clearing is allowed. Brazilian agribusiness — wealthy ranchers and farmers — are likely to benefit significantly from the shift, while forests and biodiversity would suffer.
- Some of the conservation units have received significant funding from foreign donors, including the European Union and the World Bank. The congressional measures must now go for approval to the lower Chamber of Deputies and then to the Senate. Both measures must be approved by the end of May or lose validity. Approval seems likely.


Is a property boom in Malaysia causing a fisheries bust in Penang? [04/19/2017]
- Driven by high demand for housing, developers in Malaysia's Penang Island are artificially expanding the coastline and planning to construct new islands.
- Local fishers say building works have already damaged their livelihoods, and fear further construction will destroy their fishing grounds.
- Mangroves and endangered bird species are also threatened, and the mining and transport of construction materials could spread adverse environmental impacts beyond just Penang.


Forest conservation might be an even more important climate solution than we realize: Study [04/19/2017]
- Trees are a crucial regulating factor in the cycle of water and heat exchange between Earth’s surface and atmosphere — and thus forests play a key role in regulating local climates and surface temperatures, according to the authors of the study.
- The researchers discovered that forests often help keep temperate and tropical regions cooler, while contributing to warming in northern high-latitude areas.
- “Forests play a more important role in cooling the surface in almost all regions of the Earth than was previously thought,” Kaiguang Zhao, an assistant professor of environment modeling and spatial analysis at The Ohio State University and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.


Scientists launch global search for 25 ‘lost’ species [04/19/2017]
- The first phase of the this campaign, launched today by the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), will see groups of scientists spreading out across the world in search of "25 most wanted lost species".
- Collectively, these 25 species have not been seen in more than 1,500 years.
- The top 25 species include 10 mammals, three birds, three reptiles, two amphibians, three fish, one insect, one crustacean, one coral and one plant, found across 18 countries.


‘We can save life on Earth’: study reveals how to stop mass extinction [04/18/2017]
- Researchers analyzed 846 regional ecosystem types in 14 biomes in respect to the "Nature Needs Half" scientific concept that states proper functioning of an ecosystem requires at least half of it to be there.
- They found 12 percent of ecoregions had half their land areas protected while 24 percent had protected areas and native vegetation that together covered less than 20 percent.
- The study indicates the tropical dry forest biome is the most endangered. Closely behind it are two others: the tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, and the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome. All are highly biodiverse, providing habitat for many species.
- The researchers say while many ecosystems have been highly degraded, achieving 50 percent protection is still possible – if current conservation goals are scaled up.


Deforestation has become big business in the Brazilian Amazon [04/18/2017]
- Agamenom da Silva Menezes, is typical of modern Amazonian real estate operators: he is a wealthy individual who openly works with those who make a living by illegally laying claim to, deforesting and selling public lands for a high price. Lawlessness in the region means such land theft is rarely punished.
- Agamenom and others like him use militias, hired thugs, to intimidate landless peasant farmers as well as less powerful land thieves who try to claim Amazonian forests. The land is then deforested and sold to cattle ranchers, with each tract of stolen federal land bringing in an estimated R$20 million (US$6.4 million) on average.
- In March, the Temer government slashed by over 50 percent the budget of the Ministry of the Environment, responsible for both IBAMA, the federal environmental agency, and the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), which oversees Brazil’s conservation units.
- As a result, land thieves are likely to get bolder in their theft, deforestation and sale of public lands to cattle ranchers and others. Without a major shift in federal forestry policy and a dramatic improvement in enforcement, land theft and deforestation are likely to worsen across the Amazon basin.


Audio: Crystal Davis, director of Global Forest Watch, on conservation and Big Data [04/18/2017]
- Mongabay has partnered with Global Forest Watch (GFW) over the years, and GFW has even funded some of our coverage of global forest issues.
- Crystal Davis fills us in on how the GFW tool and dataset is being used to inform forest conservation initiatives right now, new features planned for the future, and her thoughts on the ways Big Data is changing how we approach conservation.
- We also speak with Francesca Cunninghame, the Mangrove Finch Project Leader for the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, in our latest Field Notes segment.


Documenting the fight to save Borneo’s animals [04/18/2017]
- After graduating from school, Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski was on a fairly conventional career path for a young businessman.
- But the more successful his agency became, the more Gekoski felt like something was missing.
- So he quit the business and embarked on a totally new adventure: wildlife filmmaking.
- Gekoski spoke about his unusual career path, his passion, and filmmaking during an April 2017 interview with Mongabay.com.


Wildbook: a social network for wildlife [04/18/2017]
- Wildbook is an open-source software platform that helps collaborative projects store and manage wildlife data. The user-friendly interface makes it easy for citizen scientists to contribute animal photos to be used as data for scientific studies.
- Wildbook uses the Image Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS) to semi-automatically analyze the photos and determine, based on an animal’s unique markings, if it is a new individual or an animal already in the database.
- The compiled images can help scientists assess species distributions, movement patterns and human-wildlife interactions, which, in turn, can support management and conservation decisions.


Nepal tests fencing approach to protect farms and elephants [04/18/2017]
- With people and wildlife co-existing ever more closely, conflict situations often arise. What to do? Shooting animals is a frequent solution. In Nepal, an alternative approach is tried.
- The Himalayan Tiger Foundation is working with the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), WWF-Nepal and the authorities of Bardiya National Park to test a new approach for keeping elephants and people separated.
- An electric fence has been developed that should stop elephants from raiding people’s crops and houses, but allow other wildlife, people and cattle to pass through unhindered.
- Fences only work where communities support and maintain them. Getting this support is not easy. Co-financing schemes appear necessary to create the required sense of ownership from communities.


Fantastic Beasts star Alison Sudol talks conservation and inspiration [04/17/2017]
- In an exclusive interview, the breakout star of the latest Harry Potter movie argues that it’s deeply important for people to connect with nature
- “Art has a profound ability to connect people to their own hearts, and to each other,” she says, and uses her art to inspire others
- She is herself inspired by how much more there is to know about nature, and were she not performing for large audiences, would perhaps like to study marine mammals


Rhino poachers in Borneo: Q&A with a conservationist who lived with them [04/17/2017]
- Fiffy Hanisdah Saikim — now a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation — spent two years living with Tidong communities on the outskirts of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysian Borneo.
- These communities included both poachers and people employed in ecotourism and conservation programs centered around the Sumatran rhino and other endangered species.
- According to Saikim, attempts to engage communities in anti-poaching programs can succeed when they demonstrate that conservation has better long-term economic returns than poaching.
- The Sumatran rhino is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia, but Saikim believes lessons from Tabin can be applied in places where rhinos still exist in the wild.


North Sumatra mining chief caught taking bribe in Indonesia [04/17/2017]
- Eddy Saputra Salim was arrested by police at his office in Medan earlier this month.
- Police caught him taking a bribe from two businessmen in connection with documents related to the licensing process.
- Salim had attended a meeting on corruption prevention earlier on the day of his arrest.


Hunting is driving declines in bird and mammal populations across the tropics [04/14/2017]
- The team of ecologists and environmental scientists behind the research examined 176 studies, including many local studies, in order to get a larger picture of the magnitude of hunting-induced declines in tropical mammal and bird populations.
- In areas impacted by hunting, bird abundance declined by an average of 58 percent compared to areas with no hunting, while mammals declined by an average of 83 percent, according to their study.
- “Thanks to this study, we estimate that only 17 percent of the original mammal abundance and 42 percent of the birds remain in hunted areas.”


The Tana River, Kenya’s lifeblood, strains under development and drought [04/14/2017]
- Local fishermen say that just five years ago they could catch up to 90 pounds of fish per day - now they are lucky to get 20 pounds' worth.
- Extensive mangrove forests in the Tana Delta — declared a protected site under the RAMSAR convention (an intergovernmental treaty on wetlands) in 2012 — are at risk.
- The Kenyan government is implementing plans for the country’s biggest dam to date, called the High Grand Falls Dam, as well as a scheme to irrigate a million acres along the banks of the Tana.
- While the dam has many downstream worried, the government has said it will be vital to Kenya's economic development and will help the delta in times of flooding.


RSPO accused of letting palm oil firm proceed with dodgy audits in Papua [04/14/2017]
- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is the world's largest association for ethical production of the commodity, found in everything from chocolate to makeup and laundry detergent.
- The RSPO's credibility rests on the quality of its system for ensuring its member companies actually adhere to its standards.
- Two years after the RSPO finally acknowledged deficiencies in its certification system, observers say the organization has done little to follow up on its commitment to address the issue.


Rainforest conservation may be aimed at the wrong places, study finds [04/13/2017]
- Climate-based conservation policies often focus on forests with large carbon stores – but what this means for biodiversity protection has been unclear.
- Previous research found a link between tree diversity and carbon storage on the small-scale, with tropical forests that have more tree species possessing larger stores of carbon. But this correlation had not been tested for larger areas.
- Researchers examined thousands of trees at hundreds of sites in the tropical forests of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Their results indicate that on the one-hectare scale, tree diversity is low and carbon storage is quite high in Africa, while the opposite is the case in South America. In Southeast Asia, both carbon stocks and tree diversity appear to be high.
- The researchers say their results indicate carbon-focused conservation policies may be missing highly biodiverse ecosystems, and recommend a more fine-tuned approach for prioritizing areas for conservation.


Connectivity and coexistence key to orangutan survival on croplands [04/13/2017]
- Orangutans are in drastic decline, largely due to habitat loss. From 1973–2010, Borneo lost 39 percent of its forests; estimates say that another 37 percent of orangutan-suitable habitat will be converted to agricultural use there through 2025. Similarly, 60 percent of habitat suitable for Sumatran orangutans was lost between 1985 and 2007.
- If orangutans are to survive in the wild through the 21st century, researchers will need to discover ways in which the animals can be helped to coexist with humans within agricultural landscapes. Researchers are also looking for creative ways to provide connectivity between remaining forest patches to promote and preserve genetic resilience.
- Scientists Gail Campbell-Smith, Marc Ancrenaz and others have shown that orangutans can use croplands, including oil palm plantations, if humans work to prevent conflict. Noise deterrents, such as bamboo cannon guns, along with the education of farm laborers and agribusiness companies, are techniques helping to reduce animal-human conflicts.
- Researcher Marc Ancrenaz and colleagues provided orangutans and other arboreal wildlife with rope bridges over small rivers in Malaysia — a successful approach to providing connectivity. It took four years for orangutans to begin using the bridges, but now young orangutan males use the structures to disperse more widely.




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