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



Amber deposits yield oldest evidence of frogs in wet, tropical forests [06/20/2018]
- Scientists have found the oldest frog fossils known to have been preserved in amber, from deposits in northern Myanmar.
- These fossils, together with other fossils of mosses and bamboo-like plants recovered from the same amber deposits, provide the first definitive evidence that the amber-trapped frogs lived in wet, tropical forests alongside dinosaurs some 99 million years ago, researchers say.
- One of the four frogs, which was trapped in sap alongside an unidentified beetle, has a nearly intact skeleton, and has been described as a new, extinct species, Electrorana limoae.


Commercial values are a key driver of Zero Deforestation policies (commentary) [06/20/2018]
- Zero Deforestation Policies (ZDPs) are mostly developed in response to campaigns and motivated by risk management and protection of commercial values, a new enquiry finds, although personal and company values do factor in.
- ZDP implementation often focuses on integrating commercial values, reflecting a “quick-fix” approach.
- Personal and company values have high potential to influence ZDP implementation, especially when people are genuinely committed to the purpose. People can be genuinely committed when they relate the ZDP to their own personal values or to company values, which they identify with and feel empowered to act on.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Illegal mining creeps into southern Bahuaja-Sonene National Park [06/20/2018]
- A large amount of fuel trafficking takes place Massiapo, the capital of the district of Alto Inambari, mostly for use in illegal gold mining operations.
- A regional committee against illegal mining in Puno is considering declaring the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park a mining exclusion zone.


Puan, the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, dies at 62 [06/20/2018]
- Puan, the world’s oldest living Sumatran orangutan, was euthanized on June 18 at Perth Zoo in Australia due to age-related complications.
- Her death left an incredible legacy of 11 children and a total of 54 descendants across the world, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the global Sumatran orangutan zoo population.
- Due to her genetic legacy, Puan played a vital role in ensuring the survival of the species, which has been categorized as critically endangered.


Here’s how much Antarctica’s melting ice is already contributing to sea level rise [06/19/2018]
- According to new research, ice-melt in Antarctica has caused global sea levels to rise by as much as 7.6 millimeters since 1992 — and about 40 percent of that, some 3 millimeters, came in just the past five years.
- That’s the finding of a major climate assessment called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE), the results of which were published in the journal Nature last week.
- The findings of the IMBIE show that Antarctica is losing ice at a rate three times faster than it was just six years ago. Prior to 2012, Antarctica lost ice at a fairly steady rate of 76 billion metric tons annually, contributing about 0.2 millimeters to sea level rise. From 2012 to 2017, however, that rate of loss increased sharply to 219 billion metric tons of ice per year, contributing about 0.6 millimeters to rising sea levels.


Peru’s Bahuaja-Sonene National Park at risk over illegal mining [06/19/2018]
- The illegal mining, which also takes place in the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and in Tambopata National Reserve, has isolated part of the giant river otter population.
- The current leaders of the Kotsimba indigenous community are creating a plan with the Ministry of Environment to abandon illegal mining, although an environmental disaster from over 10 years ago remains unaddressed.


Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted [06/19/2018]
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month.
- The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials.
- Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood.
- Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.


Facing resource crisis, Indonesia charts a ‘green development’ course [06/19/2018]
- Faced with housing, water and food shortages and massive natural destruction, Indonesia is developing a five-year development plan that will become the country’s first low-carbon development initiative.
- Under the new plan, the government hopes to keep future development projects within the limits of the country’s ecological “carrying capacity” of fast-depleting natural resources.
- The green development plan also aims to attract green investment, which is crucial if the country wants to meet its stated target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent by 2030 from the business-as-usual scenario.


2018 Arctic sea ice melt season just got a big headstart [06/19/2018]
- This Spring, Arctic sea ice extent nearly achieved a new record low for May, but instead came in at second place at 12.2 million square kilometers (4.7 million square miles). That’s 310,000 square kilometers (120,000 square miles) greater than the all time May record set in 2016.
- While scientists and the media have focused in the past mostly on the September sea ice extent minimum, four years in a row of record winter Arctic heatwaves, along with a better understanding of ice melt mechanisms, has resulted in researchers putting much more attention on Spring events as the annual melt season gets underway.
- It is now understood that shrinking Arctic sea ice extent is having a significant influence on the global climate system, but extent isn’t all researchers are watching. They are becoming more and more concerned about the quality of the sea ice at the start of each melt season – thickness, as well as the disappearance of large amounts of multiyear ice.
- Thinner, more fractured ice, and more numerous Spring melt ponds make the Arctic ice more vulnerable to summer heatwaves and a warmer Arctic Ocean. As with May, June 2018 has so far seen rapid ice melt, with extent lagging only slightly behind the record set in June 2016. That doesn’t bode well for the September sea ice extent minimum.


Animals are becoming night owls to avoid humans [06/19/2018]
- By analyzing 76 studies and activity patterns of 62 mammal species, including bears, deer, coyotes and tigers, researchers have found that large mammals are 1.36 times more active at night in areas with high human presence compared to areas with low human presence.
- These results seemed to be consistent across species and continents.
- Animals seem to be becoming more nocturnal not only to avoid direct threats like hunting, but to avoid even recreational human activities like hiking and mountain biking.


One tortoise at a time: Q&A with zoo veterinarian Justin Rosenberg [06/19/2018]
- In April, authorities discovered around 10,000 radiated tortoises, believed to be destined for the Asian pet trade, in an abandoned house in southwestern Madagascar.
- The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) took the animals to its rescue center in Ifaty, and soon, veterinarians and keepers from around the world began traveling to Madagascar to help the animals.
- Currently, between 9,000 and 10,000 tortoises are alive, with around 100 still in need of critical care.
- Mongabay spoke with a veterinarian who spent several weeks at TSA’s facility about the ongoing efforts.


Oil palm plantations in Amazonia inhospitable to tropical forest biodiversity: Study [06/18/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal PloS One late last year, the Brazilian Amazon has about 2.3 million square kilometers (nearly 900,000 square miles) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, making it one of the largest areas in the world for potential expansion of the palm oil industry.
- Researchers investigated the responses of tropical forest mammals to living in a landscape made up of a mosaic of 39,000 hectares (more than 96,000 acres) of mature oil palm plantations and 64,000 hectares (a little over 158,000 acres) of primary Eastern Amazon forest patches in the Brazilian state of Pará.
- They write in the study that their results in the Amazon “clearly” reinforce “the notion that oil palm plantations can be extremely hostile to native tropical forest biodiversity, as has been shown in more traditional oil palm countries in South-East Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.”


‘Not all doom and gloom’: Q&A with conservation job market researchers [06/18/2018]
- Intense competition, a flood of unpaid internships, a prevalence of short-term work, high student-loan debt: young conservationists are reporting a tough, rough time in the job market.
- A recent study in Conservation Biology attempts to uncover some concrete data on the hard-to-quantify conservation job market in an effort to help students prepare themselves for the competitive hunt for paid employment.
- Mongabay interviewed study co-authors Jane Lucas, who is now doing a postdoc at the University of Idaho, and Evan Gora, who is now doing a postdoc at the University of Louisville, to hear what they learned.
- Their advice? Start researching the job market early, even before you’re actively looking for work. Reach out to people who have the career you want. And make sure you’re gaining diverse skills.


Community evicted by accused murderer seeks justice for Gabriel Filho [06/18/2018]
- Under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, all private land must serve a social function. So unused property without a social function can legally be occupied and claimed by landless communities. However, this law has created major land conflicts between large-scale landowners, who lay claim to vast properties, and landless communities seeking land.
- One egregious case occurred in Tocantins state. Families began occupying, and homesteading on, an abandoned piece of land in 2007. Almost immediately, two landowners claimed the property, and began battling in court for ownership. The landless settlers stayed on the land, expecting the government to settle in their favor.
- In 2010, according to witnesses, one of the landowners shot a community member through the heart, but a trial date has still not been set. In April, the alleged murderer convinced the courts of his land claim and the residents of Gabriel Filho (named for the murdered community member), were evicted, and denied access to their homes, crops and livestock.
- Federal and state officials responsible for resolving the land dispute have stonewalled, and failed to take action on the community’s behalf. Legal experts say that Brazil’s landless movement typically receives little support in its land claims from government agencies or the justice system, and has gained limited sympathy from the general public.


In Peru, coca puts one of the world’s best coffee crops at risk [06/18/2018]
- Of the more than 8,400 hectares (nearly 21,000 acres) of coffee planted, only 2,330 hectares (about 5,700 acres) remain in operation.
- A buffer zone around Bahuaja-Sonene National Park has been impacted: Drug trafficking has expanded into the protected area, damaging more than 400 hectares (over 980 acres) of important biological corridors.
- Coffee production of the area’s central coffee cooperative, Cecovasa, has dropped from 8.5 million pounds to 600,000 pounds, jeopardizing the group’s survival.


In a land hit by the resource curse, a new gold mine spooks officials [06/17/2018]
- A company in Indonesia plans to start mining gold in a district in the country’s West Papua province that forms part of the ecologically important Cendrawasih Bay National Park — an ostensibly protected area.
- The company is currently applying for an environmental impact assessment that would allow it to obtain a mining permit, but local officials involved in the process say they see little benefit to the proposed mine. They say they prefer a development model built on tourism based on the region’s rich biodiversity.
- The district chief, who has the final say in issuing the permit, has signaled he approves of the project — flip-flopping on a pledge he made at the end of last year to prioritize an environment-focused development framework.


Latam Eco Review: Paddington Bear Captured on Camera in Peru [06/15/2018]
Among the top articles from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of June 4 – 10 was one about a golden spectacled bear named after Paddington Bear that was caught by a camera trap for the first time in Peru. In other news, the debate on hydroelectric plants intensifies in Colombia, and […]

Footage of elusive Negros bleeding-heart dove captured in the wild [06/15/2018]
- New footage of one of one of the most elusive birds in the world — the critically endangered Negros bleeding heart dove — has been released.
- A team with the Bristol Zoological Society, a UK-based conservation and education NGO, spent five days searching for the bird in the forests of the Philippines’ Panay Island in order to capture a video of the rarely seen species in the wild.
- The Negros bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba keayi) is a medium-sized, ground-dwelling species of pigeon endemic to the Philippine islands of Negros and Panay. There are perhaps as few as 70 and no more than 400 individuals of the species left on the two islands it calls home, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Scientists find new snail-eating snakes, auction naming rights to save them [06/15/2018]
- An expedition in Ecuador has uncovered five new species of snail-eating snakes.
- Four out of the five species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss.
- The researchers who conducted the expedition auctioned off their naming rights and used the funds to purchase and protect an area of forest where two of the most threatened new species are known to live.


Species recognition shifts into auto with neural networks [06/15/2018]
- Scientists have shown that a cutting-edge type of artificial intelligence can automatically count, identify, and describe the behaviors of 48 animal species in camera trap images taken in the Serengeti ecosystem.
- The team used a dataset of 3.2 million wildlife images to train and test deep convolutional neural networks to recognize not only individual animals but also what the animals are doing in each image.
- The models performed as well as human volunteers in identifying, counting, and describing the behavior of animals in nearly all the Serengeti camera trap images and also identified those images that required human review.
- The widespread use of motion-sensor camera traps for wildlife research and conservation, coupled with the inefficiency of manual image processing, means successful automation of some or all of the image analysis process is likely to save researchers time and money, as well as catalyze new uses of remote camera photos.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 15, 2018 [06/15/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Primate-rich countries are becoming less hospitable places for monkeys, apes and lemurs [06/15/2018]
- New research shows that many of the 65 percent of the world’s primate species found in four countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo — face the threat of extinction.
- The scientists involved in the study used maps of primate ranges and information on the threats they face to predict what might happen to the animals through the end of the 21st century.
- They found that increases in the amount of land turned over for human food production could cause the primate habitats to shrink substantially in these countries.
- However, the team also found that intensive conservation measures could dramatically reduce the loss of primate habitat by 2100 and potentially avert the mass extinction of these species.


Facebook video shows orangutan defending forest against bulldozer [06/15/2018]
- Dramatic footage released last week by an animal welfare group shows a wild orangutan trying in vain to fight off destruction of its rainforest home in Borneo.
- The video, filmed in 2013 but posted on Facebook on June 5th for World Environment Day by International Animal Rescue (IAR), was shot in Sungai Putri, a tract of forest in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province.
- Sungai Putri is one of the most important refuges for orangutans left in Indonesian Borneo. According to orangutan expert Erik Meijaard, Sungai Putri may be home to over 1,000 orangutans.


DRC’s Virunga National Park closes until 2019 due to violence [06/14/2018]
- Last month Mai Mai militia attacked a Virunga park vehicle carrying tourists from the city of Goma, killing park ranger, Rachel Makissa Baraka.
- Immediately following the incident, Virunga National Park said it was closing to visitors until June 4. Now officials are saying the park will be closed to tourists through the end of the year, until the security situation is more under control.
- Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. It is best known for its population of mountain gorillas.


There’s now an app for mapping seagrass, the oceans’ great carbon sink [06/14/2018]
- A new online tool aims to crowdsource an image and location database of the world’s seagrass, in a bid to shed light on the threatened and fast-receding underwater flowering plants.
- Anyone with a camera and internet access can upload images of seagrass beds and location info to SeagrassSpotter, available on desktop and mobile apps.
- Project Seagrass, the group behind the mapping tool, hopes it will help countries that are seagrass hotspots but lacking data, like Indonesia, to improve efforts to conserve these vitally important carbon sinks.
- Globally, the group hopes to obtain at least 100,000 records by engaging people from all around the world to collect data about seagrass in their locality. All collected data will be made freely available.


Researchers say economic models are greatly understating potential impacts of climate change [06/14/2018]
- Researchers in the US and the UK are sounding the alarm over what they say are misleading conclusions reached by current models for estimating the future economic damages of global climate change.
- In a recent paper, Thomas Stoerk of the Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment, and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science write that there is “mounting evidence that current economic models of the aggregate global impacts of climate change are inadequate in their treatment of uncertainty and grossly underestimate potential future risks.”
- The authors sent a letter to Hans-Otto Pörtner and Debra Roberts, the co-chairs of the working group that is currently preparing the IPCC’s AR6, to make them aware of the paper and its recommendations for how to better account for “the uncertainties inherent in climate policy decisions.”


Activists blast EU for extending deadline to ban palm oil in biofuels [06/14/2018]
- The European Parliament and EU member states have agreed to phase out palm oil from motor fuels by 2030, much later than the initially proposed deadline of 2021.
- Environmental activists say the extension will allow the environmental and human rights violations linked to the production of palm oil — which prompted the push for the ban in the first place — to continue unabated for several more years.
- By one estimate, swaths of rainforest and peatland the size of the Netherlands could be destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations in the intervening years.


The diversity of biodiversity: Connecting shrews, ants and slime molds with carbon storage [06/14/2018]
- Research has shown that, in some cases, high-carbon forests support high levels of biodiversity.
- But a recent study, which looked at a wide variety of species groups, demonstrates that regrowth forests can support a greater number of representatives of some species groups.
- The findings support the conclusion that recovering forests should be included in conservation planning alongside old-growth forests.


Renowned wildlife conservationist Russell Mittermeier awarded 2018 Indianapolis Prize [06/13/2018]
- Mittermeier, a primatologist, herpetologist, and highly accomplished conservationist, is the seventh recipient of the prestigious prize, which has been awarded by the Indianapolis Zoological Society along with $250,000 in prize money every two years since 2006 to “the most successful animal conservationist in the world.”
- He spent 11 years at WWF–U.S. before becoming president of Conservation International (CI) in 1989. It was while he was at CI that Mittermeier first heard of the concept of “biodiversity hotspots” — a concept he would go on to popularize and utilize to achieve a number of conservation successes.
- “Russ Mittermeier is a consummate scientist, a visionary leader, a deft policy advocate and an inspiring mentor to many,” Michael Crowther, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, said in a statement. “Perhaps most important, he is a consistent winner in the battles for species and ecosystem survival.”


Shark fisheries hunting dolphins, other marine mammals as bait: Study [06/13/2018]
- Global shark fisheries have for decades engaged in the deliberate catch of dolphins, seals and other marine mammals to use as bait for sharks, a new study has found.
- The researchers found the practice picked up when prices for shark fin, a prized delicacy in Chinese cuisine, went up from the late 1990s onward.
- The researchers have warned that the targeting of these species could hit unsustainable levels, and have called for more studies into the species in question as well as better enforcement of existing law protecting marine mammals.


Hunting, fishing causing dramatic decline in Amazon river dolphins [06/13/2018]
- Both species of Amazon river dolphin appear to be in deep decline, according to a recent study. Boto (Inia geoffrensis) populations fell by 94 percent and Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) numbers fell by 97 percent in the Mamirauá Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil between 1994 and 2017, according to researchers.
- Difficult to detect in the Amazon’s murky waters, both species are listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN. But researchers maintain that if region-wide surveys were conducted both species would end up being listed as Critically Endangered.
- The team noticed scars from harpoon and machete injuries on the dolphins they caught. Interviews with fishermen confirmed the team’s suspicions: dolphins were being hunted for use as bait. The mammals also get entangled in nets and other fishing gear, are hunted as food, eliminated as pests, and suffer mercury poisoning.
- Researchers believe the passage and enforcement of new conservation laws could save Amazon river dolphins, and halt their plunge toward extinction. But a lack of political will, drastic draconian cuts to the Brazilian environmental ministry budget, and continued illegal dolphin hunting and fishing make action unlikely for now.


Mongabay discusses technology’s role in conservation at Seattle event [VIDEO] [06/13/2018]
- A team from Mongabay discussed new applications of technology for conservation with representatives of Seattle Audubon and Acate Amazon Conservation during an event at Seattle Central College, Washington.
- In this video recording, the panelists discuss topics ranging from bioacoustics to remote sensing and AI and answer questions from the audience.


Climate change could be killing Africa’s giant baobabs [06/13/2018]
- More than half of the oldest and largest trees in a recent study died — or had significant parts of their structures die — between 2005 and 2017.
- Nearly all of these trees were at least 1,000 years old, and one was nearly 2,500 years old.
- The researchers believe that higher temperatures and more than a decade of drought in southern Africa, likely due to climate change, may have killed these baobabs.


Audio: How soundscapes are helping us better understand animal behavior and landscape ecology [06/12/2018]
- On today’s episode, we take a look at soundscape phenology and the emerging role it’s playing in the study of animal behavior and landscape ecology.
- The Mongabay Newscast previously looked at how soundscapes are being used in phenological studies when we talked about the great Sandhill crane migration on the Platte River in the US state of Nebraska. Today, we take a deeper dive into soundscape phenology with researcher Anne Axel, a landscape ecologist and professor at Marshall University in the US state of West Virginia.
- Axel tells us all about this new field of study and plays a few of the recordings that have informed her research in this Field Notes segment.


In a country long wary of nuclear, an Indonesian chases the thorium dream [06/12/2018]
- The image of nuclear energy took a huge hit after the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in 2011. Some countries are phasing out their nuclear power programs.
- Around the world, however, proponents of an alternative type of reactor billed as safer and more efficient are gaining steam with their ideas. One of them is Bob Effendi, a native of Indonesia.
- Indonesia has long been skeptical of nuclear power. But at the country struggles to meet its targets for renewable energy, some within the government appear to be listening to the thorium pitch.


Citigroup limits financing for mines that dump tailings at sea [06/12/2018]
- Following pressure from advocates, Citigroup said last month that it will not fund any future mining projects over $50 million that dispose of mine waste in the oceans.
- Tailings, a fine-grained, often toxic slurry left over after the processing of mined ore, are still disposed of in oceans, lakes and rivers in several countries.
- Mines in Papua New Guinea, Norway and Chile are proposing to dispose of tailings in the ocean.
- Local communities are often most affected by pollution from mines and have vocally opposed tailings disposal in the ocean in Norway and Papua New Guinea.


As biomass energy gains traction, southern US forests feel the burn [06/11/2018]
- An estimated 50 to 80 percent of southern wetland forest is now gone, and that which remains provides ecosystem services totaling $500 billion as well as important wildlife habitat. Logging is considered one of the biggest threats to the 35 million acres of remaining wetland forest in the southern U.S., and conservation organizations are saying this threat is coming largely from the wood pellet biomass industry.
- Touted as a renewable energy source, research shows wood pellets release more carbon dioxide than coal per megawatt of electricity produced and industry critics worry that incentivizing this energy source could actually be accelerating climate change.
- Experts argue that biomass energy effectively acts as a loophole for countries to under-report their carbon emissions and give a false impression of meeting Paris Agreement objectives. Research indicates pellet production plants also have a negative impact on air and water quality.
- But industry proponents say biomass energy is an important component of mitigating climate change and that regulations will ensure its sustainability.


India eyes coal reserves in Indonesian Papua  [06/11/2018]
- India is looking to get in on the ground floor of coal mining in previously unexploited deposits in Indonesian Papua.
- The details of an Indian mining project in Papua are still being negotiated — what India will get in return for financing surveys is said to be a sticking point — but the Indonesian government is keen to explore energy resources in the country’s easternmost provinces.
- Rights activists fear the launch of a new mining industry could deepen tensions in a region where existing extractive projects have damaged the environment and inflamed a long-running armed conflict.


Video: Mariyady, the priest investigating the corporate takeover of indigenous peoples’ forests in Borneo [06/11/2018]
- “Ghosts in the Machine” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight.
- The article follows the money used to bribe Indonesia’s highest-ranking judge in 2013 to a series of massive land deals in the interior of Borneo, where a corrupt politician presided over a scheme to sell oil palm plantation licenses to a Malaysian firm.
- Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of the people affected by Hambit’s licensing scheme. One of them, a local priest named Mariyady, researched the contracts signed between villagers and the company, and determined they were ripped off by the compensation they were paid — he described it as “murder.”


Poachers blamed in second Sumatran elephant death this year [06/11/2018]
- Forest rangers in northern Sumatra have found one of their patrol elephants dead and missing a tusk inside a protected forest.
- Authorities have cited poisoning by poachers as the cause of death, making it the second such poaching-related elephant killing in Sumatra this year.
- The local conservation agency has called on law enforcers to bring the perpetrators to justice, but past cases suggest this will be slow in coming.


Latam Eco Review: More than 100 new species in Bolivian park [06/08/2018]
Among the top articles from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of May 23 – June 3 is one about researchers who were surprised to find more than 100 possible new species in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park. In other news, given the possibility of an oil concession on their territory, the Waorani are […]

Super plane, satellites help map the Caribbean’s hidden coral reefs [06/08/2018]
- Satellites, aircraft and scuba divers are creating the first ever high-resolution map of coral reefs throughout the Caribbean region.
- Layers of data with 10-centimeter (4-inch) resolution will reveal the extent of damage from recent hurricanes and identify pockets of living coral to protect, as well as ailing coral that can be restored.
- The maps will be used to declare new marine protected areas, guide management plans and select areas for post-hurricane restoration.


Online pet trade in Southeast Asia poses a major new threat to otters [06/08/2018]
- Poaching of otters, especially juveniles, for the online pet trade is so widespread in Southeast Asia that it has emerged as a major new threat to the survival of Asia’s otter species.
- A report from the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC and the IUCN Otter Specialist Group released today details the results of a two-year investigation that uncovered hundreds of otters for sale on Facebook and other online platforms. Sales of juvenile otters were especially prominent: over 70 percent of the animals found for sale online were under one year old, according to the report.
- The report identified a lack of strong national legislation to protect these species in many of their range countries as a major reason the illegal exploitation of otters has been able to flourish online.


In pursuit of traceability, palm oil giant tests GPS-based solution [06/08/2018]
- Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), one of the world’s biggest palm oil companies, is testing new GPS-based technology to establish traceability for the palm oil it sources from third-party mills in Indonesia.
- GAR says it has already achieved traceability, down to the plantation level, for the palm fruit processed by the 44 mills that it owns. But these mills account for just 39 percent of the palm oil that GAR sells.
- The company has long acknowledged the difficulty in extending that traceability standard to the more than 400 third-party mills from which it buys the bulk of its palm oil. This is in large part because of the unregulated nature of the middlemen who buy the palm fruit from farmers and sell it to the mills.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 8, 2018 [06/08/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Innovative ideas sought for new conservation tech prize [06/08/2018]
- The non-profit Conservation X Labs has launched a competition aimed at encouraging teams with diverse skillsets to propose novel technology solutions to conservation challenges.
- The competition offers prizes of $3,500 to 20 finalists — who will compete for a grand prize of $20,000 — based on the proposed solutions’ novelty, sustainability, and feasibility.
- Applicants must submit their proposals by June 30, 2018, and winners will be announced in July.


‘I’m only going to eat animals I kill myself’: Q&A with Louise Gray, author of ‘The Ethical Carnivore’ [06/08/2018]
- Mongabay recently talked with Gray about her unusual year, the paradox of being a hunter who cares about animal welfare, and her new adventures in service to the humble vegetable.
- Can we be sure that as we wipe the plate after seared scallops we are not wiping the ocean floor of its plants and corals? What sleight of hand really distinguishes humane from cruel? And how much deforested land does it take to make a steak?
- These are some of the questions that Louise Gray set out to answer in her 2016 book “The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat.”


Bust of shark smugglers in Galápagos waters leads to breakthrough in global transshipment data [06/08/2018]
- Global Fishing Watch, a publicly available platform launched by the NGOs Oceana and SkyTruth in partnership with Google, adds a new layer to its map today on “encounters” at sea.
- The new layer gives unprecedented visibility to the practice of transshipment, which is when vessels meet at sea to transfer fish or even people from one to the other. Transshipment is often used to disguise illegal fishing.
- Global Fishing Watch now also contains a layer that shows clusters of night lights out at sea where they’re not expected.


Government subsidies serving to prop up destructive high-seas fishing: study [06/08/2018]
- More than half of fisheries on the world’s high seas would be running a loss without the billions of dollars in government subsidies that keep the ecologically destructive industry afloat, a recent study suggests.
- The researchers described the annual subsidies as being far in excess of the net economic benefit from fishing in these international waters.
- They called for greater transparency by governments and substantial reforms of high-seas fisheries in a bid to improve the management of the industry they labeled as ecologically and economically unsustainable.


Study reveals China’s new forests aren’t really forests [06/07/2018]
- In the late 1990s, China instituted ambitious reforestation policies to mitigate flooding disasters.
- By 2013, these policies had convinced famers to plant more than 69.2 million acres of trees on what once was cropland and scrubland. By 2015, China’s tree cover had increased by 32 percent.
- But a recently published study reveals most reforestation efforts simply planted one tree species, making a plot of reforested land ecologically akin to a monoculture plantation.




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