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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
New genus created for arboreal toads in Indonesia [04/13/2017]
- The proposed genus was created to fit two new species of toad. - The name of the genus, Sigalegalephrynus, was inspired by the toads' resemblance to a wooden puppet from North Sumatra. - The toads appear to have mating calls that are unlike those of other amphibians in the Sunda Shelf.
Researchers say advanced statistical models can make traditional wildlife surveys more reliable [04/12/2017]
- Calculating a moving average is a common way researchers "smooth" out the irregularities in year-to-year counts produced by the way the counts are actually performed. - Yet this method has never been subjected to much scrutiny, according to Brian Gerber of Colorado State University and William Kendall of the U.S. Geological Survey, the authors of a study published late last month in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. - Gerber and Kendall used the results of 31 annual surveys of sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) in North America’s Rocky Mountains to examine how accurate moving averages really are, then compared those results to the estimates produced by a more advanced statistical approach known as a hierarchical Bayesian time series (HBTS) model.
Great apes in Asian circus-style shows on rise — so is trafficking [04/12/2017]
- Asian zoos, circuses and safari parks are mounting large-scale productions with costumed, dancing, roller-skating great apes. Investigations show that nearly all of these trained primates were not bred in captivity, but illegally traded out of Africa and Indonesia, with destinations in China, Thailand and other Asian countries. - The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that the illegal trade may have removed as many as 22,218 great apes from the wild between 2005-2011. An estimated 64 percent were chimpanzees, whereas 56 percent of great apes seized by authorities were thought to be orangutans. - Wild young apes are traumatized by their capture, and many die along the supply chain, or with their final “owners” by whom they are frequently poorly treated. Young great apes trained in captivity become increasingly unmanageable as they age, and many are “retired” to tiny, solitary cages, or simply disappear. - Trafficking arrests are rare. UNEP recorded just 27 arrests in Africa and Asia between 2005-2011, over which time more than 1,800 cases of illegally trafficked great apes were documented, with many more undetected. Solutions are in the works, but time is running out for the world’s great apes if they are to be conserved.
Graffiti campaign brings rhino conservation message to urban Vietnam [04/12/2017]
- The campaign is aimed at educating locals and engaging neighborhood residents about the cost of sought-after rhino horn. - A prominent French graffiti artist, Suby One, is one of the artists whose work is featured in the campaign. - After difficulty obtaining government approval, the campaign put up 17 pieces of art throughout the month of March.
Rare barking deer photographed in Vietnam [04/11/2017]
- This is only the third site in Vietnam where the giant (or large-antlered) muntjak has been photographed in the last decade, conservationists say. - The giant muntjac is the largest species of muntjac, or barking deer. - It lives a cryptic life in the remote rainforests of the Annamite Mountain range in Southeast Asia. - Overhunting and habitat loss has wiped out the muntjac from across most of its previous range.
One-horned rhino killed by poachers in Nepal [04/11/2017]
- The body of a male one-horned rhinoceros was found with its horn gouged out on Saturday in Nepal's Chitwan Park. - Chitwan Park was gearing up to celebrate three consecutive years without any rhino poaching. - Nepal has one of the world's most effective anti-poaching programs, and the country's rhino population is on the rise.
Rare Malaysian rhino still sick, but showing signs of improvement [04/10/2017]
- Puntung, one of three Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos known to survive in Malaysia, is suffering from an abscess in her jaw. - The rhino's caretakers feared she would not survive the infection despite receiving round-the-clock veterinary care. - Since Saturday, Puntung has shown signs of improvement, although she is "not out of the woods yet."
One of the last three rhinos in Malaysia is critically ill [04/07/2017]
- Wildlife officials fear Puntung, one of the last three rhinos known to survive in Malaysia, is on the brink of death due to an abscess in her jaw. - The abscess has not responded to veterinary treatment provided at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah, where Puntung lives with the other two surviving rhinos in Malaysia. - The Sumatran rhino was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015. Fewer than 100 are believed to remain, mostly in Indonesia.
Latest death highlights plight of spectacled bear in Colombia [04/07/2017]
- The bear was killed in Colombia during the same week a farmer was convicted for a previous killing. - One expert estimates that as many as 10 bears are killed per year by humans in Colombia. - Despite a special investigator and a big bounty for information, the main drivers of bear losses persist.
Murky future for freshwater fish in the Amazon floodplains [04/07/2017]
- An extreme drought in 2005 decreased many freshwater fish species abundance in areas like Lago Catalão, and many haven’t recovered yet. - Drought overturned the ecology of the lake over time – big fish populations declined while little fish boomed. - The shift has direct impacts on diets in the region since many local people depend on fish for protein, meaning that climate change is already influencing food reserves here.
South Africa makes it legal to sell rhino horns [04/06/2017]
- Commercial rhino breeders have welcomed the decision, arguing that an open, legal trade in rhino horns will end the poaching of rhinos and will help pay for their protection. - However, several conservationists argue that there is no domestic market for rhino horns within South Africa and that a legal domestic trade would only worsen rhino poaching in the country. - The Environment Affairs Minister said that all domestic trade in rhino horn would be subject to obtaining the relevant permits and to applicable provincial legislation being obtained.
Illegal bushmeat trade threatens human health and great apes [04/06/2017]
- Hunting for bushmeat impacts over 500 wild species in Africa, but is particularly harmful to great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos — whose small, endangered populations struggle to rebound from over-hunting. Along with other major stressors including habitat loss, trafficking and climate change. - Bushmeat brings humans into close contact with wildlife, creating a prime path for the transmission of diseases like Ebola, as well as new emerging infectious diseases. Disease spread is especially worrisome between humans and closely related African great ape species. - Bushmeat consumption today is driven by an upscale urban African market, by illegal logging that offers easy access to remote great ape habitat, plus impoverished rural hunters in need of cash livelihoods. - If the bushmeat problem is to be solved, ineffective enforcement of hunting quotas and inadequate endangered species protections must be addressed. Cultural preferences for bushmeat must also change. Educational programs focused on bushmeat disease risk may be the best way to alter public perceptions.
Audio: WildTech covers the high- and low-tech solutions making conservation more effective [04/04/2017]
- Sue shares with us some of the most interesting technologies and trends that she sees as having the biggest potential to transform the way we go about conserving Earth’s natural resources and wildlife. - Also on the program, we feature a live-taped conversation with Jonathan Thompson and Clarisse Hart, two scientists with the Harvard Forest, a long-term ecological research project of Harvard University. - Guest co-host and Mongabay editor Becky Kessler helps lead a conversation about Thompson and Hart’s work, including a study they released looking at multiple scenarios for the future of Massachusetts’ forests that they say changed the way they approach research altogether.
Kaziranga: the frontline of India’s rhino wars [04/04/2017]
- Kaziranga National Park in India's Assam State is home to around 2,400 one-horned rhinos, as well as elephants, tigers and hundreds of other mammal and bird species. - India's rhinos were hunted nearly to extinction by the early 20th century, but have rebounded since the park was established. However, rhino horn is highly sought in the black market and poaching remains a constant threat. - Rangers in Kaziranga rely on antiquated weaponry to face off against poachers, whose links with international crime syndicates mean they are often better armed and better financed than forest guards. - The park's approach to conservation has drawn criticism from indigenous rights group Survival International, a critique that gained prominence in a recent BBC documentary.
Ebo forest great apes threatened by stalled Cameroon national park [04/03/2017]
- Cameroon’s Ebo forest is home to key populations of tool-wielding Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, along with an unspecified subspecies of gorilla, drills, Preuss’s Red Colobus, forest elephants, and a great deal more biodiversity. - The forest is vulnerable, unprotected due to a drawn-out fight to secure its status as a national park. Logging and hunting threaten Ebo’s biodiversity. The Cameroonian palm oil company Azur recently began planting a 123,000 hectare plantation on its boundary. - The Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working successfully to change the habits of local people who have long subsisted on the forest’s natural resources — turning hunters into great ape guardians. But without the establishment of the national park and full legal protection and enforcement, everyone’s efforts may be in vain.
Reptiles being sold openly and illegally in Moroccan markets [04/03/2017]
- Several species of lizards, snakes, tortoise and crocodiles are being traded openly in Moroccan markets for use in traditional medicine. - Much of the trade is illegal, researchers say. - Since this trade is largely unregulated, scientists are yet to understand the effects of the trade on the species' populations.
Officials, Greenpeace nab four boats for illegally fishing near Guinea-Bissau [04/03/2017]
- Between March 21-24, Greenpeace and officials from Guinea-Bissau’s Fisheries Surveillance Department sent four boats into the port of Bissau, where the companies that own the boats face sanctions for unpaid fines for past violations, improperly indicating the names of vessels, and what’s known as ‘illegal transshipment.’ - Two of the boats were owned by a Spanish company, and the other two were owned by companies based in China, which has by far the most ‘distant-water fishing’ boats at sea of any country. - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that, in 2009, the fisheries off West Africa had the highest rates of overexploitation in the world.
Watch a leatherback sea turtle return to the ocean after nesting on a Costa Rica beach [03/29/2017]
- While leatherback sea turtles typically do their nesting at night, a prospective mother turtle is sometimes up so late laying her eggs that she is still on the beach at sunrise. - It’s a rare sight, but those who are lucky enough to witness it get to watch the endangered turtle slowly make her way back to the ocean before gliding off into the open water. - Jenell Black, field manager for US- and Costa Rica-based NGO The Leatherback Trust, was conducting a morning survey on Playa Grande, the largest beach in Las Baulas National Park on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, when she was fortunate enough to observe just such a sight. And fortunately for the rest of us, she had a drone with her at the time.
The military family that kept a pet orangutan in Indonesia [03/29/2017]
- Wildlife traffickers are chipping away at the dwindling populations of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. Deforestation lends poachers an assist, rendering the primates homeless and easier to catch. - Keeping an orangutan pet is illegal in Indonesia, but not once has a citizen been prosecuted for it. The owners tend to be influential figures -- police officers, soldiers, politicians. - Krismon was separated from his mother as an infant in the late 1990s. Only last year was he finally recovered from the military family he was living with. - The ape will spend the rest of his life behind metal bars — unless a plan to construct an orangutan haven comes to fruition in North Sumatra.
Paying for healthcare with trees: win-win for orangutans and communities [03/28/2017]
- In 2016, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) was declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Orangutan habitat is fast disappearing due to deforestation caused by industrial agriculture, forest fires, slash and burn agriculture, and logging. - One of the most important remaining P. pygmaeus populations, with roughly 2,000 individuals, is in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park. Alam Sehat Lestari (Healthy Nature Everlasting, or ASRI) is partnering with U.S. NGO Health in Harmony and effectively reducing illegal logging in the park via a unique healthcare offering. - When communities were asked what was needed to stop them from logging conserved forest, the people answered: affordable healthcare and organic farming. Expensive medical costs were forcing people to log to pay medical bills, while unsustainable agricultural practices depleted the soil, necessitating the use of costly fertilizers. - The two NGOs opened an affordable health clinic, and later a hospital, offering discounted medical service to communities that stop logging. Forest guardians, recruited in every village, encourage people to curb deforestation. They also monitor illegal activity and reforestation, while offering training in organic farming methods. And the program works!
Survey of previously inaccessible region of Myanmar reveals many endangered species [03/28/2017]
- 17 of the 31 species are threatened, including tigers, Asian elephants, Phayre’s langurs, and dholes. - The camera traps also detected images of the indochinese leopard across all survey sites, suggesting that Karen State could be supporting one of the most significant leopard populations remaining in South-east Asia. - A major concern in the region is poaching of high value species like tiger and elephant for the international illegal wildlife trade, the researchers say.
Extinct mammoths and rhinos portend a grim future in a warming climate [03/28/2017]
- The new analysis shows that, while hunting caused problems for cold-dwelling rhinos and mammoths, and in some cases drove them from certain areas completely, the changing climate ultimately led to their extinction. - Hunting pressure also eradicated some species of horses, but others, such as wild horses (E. przewalskii) and donkeys (E. asinus), were able to survive. - Along with deer, these mammals probably survived because of their smaller sizes, increased mobility and higher reproductive rates than either mammoths or rhinos. - With just a 1-degree Celsius rise in Earth's temperature per century, we could see the same rise in temperatures over the next 500-1,000 years that took 10,000-15,000 years at the end of the last ice age.
World’s second breeding population of Indochinese tigers discovered in Thailand’s forests [03/28/2017]
- The world’s second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) confirmed in Eastern Thailand’s Dong-Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex - a UNESCO World Heritage site. - Remarkable discovery now makes Thailand home to two breeding populations of this tiger subspecies, a significant step toward ensuring their long-term survival in the wild. - Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and conservation groups Freeland and Panthera have conducted a scientific survey on the tiger population using the ‘photographic capture-recapture’ method, indicating a density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometers. - While conservationists welcome these exciting new findings, they warn of the continued decline of tigers elsewhere in Thailand and across their global range.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Sand mining ban lifted on beach in Suriname, causing public backlash [03/27/2017]
- Sand mining could decrease the ability of Braamspunt beach to protect Suriname’s capital city from rising sea levels and storms surges. - Conservationists also fear for sea turtles nesting on the beach, which may be disturbed by the bright lights and loud noises of the industrial activity. - Sand mining in coastal environments has become a global industry, threatening biodiversity and natural defenses against climate change.
Yellow fever is killing howler monkeys in Brazil [03/27/2017]
- Brown howler monkeys are extremely susceptible to yellow fever, and an outbreak can cause local extinctions. - Hundreds of brown howler monkeys are estimated to have died at the RPPN-FMA reserve due to yellow fever. - Fortunately, the critically endangerd muriquis (also found in the reserve) seem less susceptible to yellow fever than the howler monkeys.
Will Madagascar lose its most iconic primate? [03/24/2017]
- Ring-tailed lemurs have suffered a drastic population decline in the last 15 years due to habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for the pet trade. - The ring-tailed lemur is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Madagascar’s other lemur species, providing an urgent need for increased conservation capacity on the island. - Ring-tailed lemurs could recover quickly if threats were removed, given their well-known adaptability.
A Czech zoo is dehorning its rhinos [03/24/2017]
- The dehorning is in response to an incident in Paris earlier this month, in which poachers broke into a zoo near the city, shot dead a 4-year-old male white rhino, and hacked off one of its horns. - The Dvůr Králove Zoo, home to 21 rhinos, sawed the horns off its first rhino on March 20. - The authorities said that the horns will be stored in a "safe place" outside the zoo.
Marine protected areas suffer from lack of funds, staff [03/22/2017]
- About 65 percent of the 433 surveyed MPAs reportedly suffered from inadequate budget for the management of the protected areas. - Nearly 91 percent of MPAs lacked sufficient staff to carry out critical management activities. - The findings suggest that effective biodiversity conservation is not just dependent on environmental conditions or MPA features (such as MPA size, fishing regulations), but is also heavily dependent on available capacity.
Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach? [03/22/2017]
- Researchers interviewed 173 self-admitted rural poachers living in the margins of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania to understand why they harvest bushmeat. - While poverty was a major factor, not all poachers were destitute; a sizeable proportion say they poach to supplement their income. - How the villagers view their financial status compared to others reflected their poaching activities. - Conservation strategies should adopt a multidimensional approach to target those who are well-off in addition to the poor, according to the researchers.
Audio: Paul Simon on his new tour in support of E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth initiative [03/21/2017]
- The 12-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter recently announced on Mongabay.com that he is embarking on a 17-date US concert tour, with all proceeds benefitting Half-Earth, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso interviewed Paul Simon about his long-time friendship with E.O. Wilson and why Dr. Wilson’s Half-Earth idea inspired him to get involved in this environmental cause. - We also feature another Field Notes segment, this time with Zuzana Burivalova, a conservation scientist at Princeton University who has recorded the soundscapes of over 100 sites in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
New ‘stone’ frog discovered in Vietnam [03/21/2017]
- Researchers first collected specimens of the frog in 2013 while surveying forests covering limestone hills in Vietnam's Lai Chau and Tuyen Quang Provinces. - After analyzing and comparing this frog's appearance, call, as well as DNA with that of closely related frogs, the team confirmed that it was indeed a new species. - Unfortunately, the researchers suspect that the new species is already threatened with extinction and recommend listing it as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
“Endangered species to declare?” Europe’s understudied bushmeat trade [03/20/2017]
- Bushmeat can be purchased in Europe’s capital cities, with the meat of endangered species such as primates and pangolins available. But the scale of the problem is not fully understood as few studies have been undertaken at airports and other points of entry to determine its scope. - In a Paris airport study, 134 passengers arriving from Africa were searched over a period of 17 days; nine were found to be carrying a total of 188 kilograms (414 pounds) of bushmeat. A more recent study of bushmeat arriving from Africa at two Swiss airports found that one third of meat seized was from threatened CITES species including pangolins, small carnivores and primates. - Based on what evidence there is of the trade, some appears to be organized for profit, with traffickers transporting suitcases full of bushmeat to sell on the black market. Africans who reside in Europe also sometimes bring back bushmeat from Africa as a “taste of home,” potentially contributing to the risk of spreading diseases that may be found in the meat. - Researchers are urging that DNA analysis tools be used more widely to learn what species are being transported as bushmeat into Europe, and to bring about more prosecutions of bushmeat traffickers who are dealing in endangered species. But with customs officials already stretched, and bushmeat a low priority, the technology is rarely utilized at present.
Catching up to the Ruby Seadragon: new species raises new questions [03/20/2017]
- The ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) avoided scientific detection for so long due to its deepwater habitat and the fact that bodies changed color after they perished. - The discovery has raised new questions about the evolution of seadragons. - Researchers don’t know how threatened the ruby seadragon is, but have petitioned the government for proactive protections.
Saving orphaned baby rhinos in India [03/17/2017]
- The Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, near Kaziranga National Park in Assam State, is currently home to nine greater one-horned rhino calves, including eight orphaned in monsoon floods last year. - Carers at the center hand raise these young rhinos with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves. - Since 2002, the center has raised and released 14 rhino calves, along with young from other species including elephants and wild buffalo. - Raising these vulnerable animals requires years of painstaking effort.
World’s first fluorescent frog discovered [03/17/2017]
- The polka dot tree frog is the first record of a fluorescent amphibian, researchers say. - The scientists traced the fluorescence to a new group of molecules, which they named hyloins, occuring in the frog's lymph tissue, skin and glandular secretions. - Fluorescence in these tree frogs most likely enhances brightness and visual detection among individuals under conditions of moonlight or twilight, researchers say.
13,000 acres of cloud forest now protected in Colombia [03/16/2017]
- Cacica Noría Regional Protected Area safeguards one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. - The reserve will be managed by CorAntioquia, the Anorí Environmental Working Group and Proaves. - Despite protection, the new park remains threatened by climate change.
Climate change-induced bleaching decimating Great Barrier Reef [03/15/2017]
- In 2016, scientists reported the largest die-off ever on the Great Barrier Reef. - Some 70,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment in the tourism industry, and it’s worth about $5 billion annually. - The study’s authors report that repeated exposure to higher-than-normal sea temperatures submarines the corals’ chances at recovery. Even corals that survive don’t appear to be more tolerant of extreme temperatures, and high water quality – important for coral regrowth – doesn’t seem to offer much protection against bleaching.
Among their many impacts, roads are driving rapid evolutionary adaptation in adjacent populations [03/15/2017]
- The global road network covers close to 40 million miles, and is projected to grow by 60 percent by 2050. - The field of road ecology, which has emerged over the past two decades, has looked at a variety of roads’ negative consequences, such as roadkill, contamination runoff, and forest and habitat fragmentation. - As scientists continue to add to our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics that lead to adaptation and maladaptation in road-adjacent populations, our ability to predict and in turn reduce negative road effects will also increase, the authors argue.
Keeping up with the Juncos: How birds thrive or die in the suburbs [03/15/2017]
- New study finds that some bird species, the adapters, thrive in the suburbs while others, the avoiders, don’t. - Avoider species require specific ecological components for survival, ones that are rarely found in developed areas. - The implications for tropical birds may be large. Researchers believe there are more ‘avoider’ species in the tropics.
Americans live increasingly far from forests — which is a problem for wildlife [03/14/2017]
- Giorgos Mountrakis and Sheng Yang of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry analyzed satellite-derived land cover data in order to look at geographic patterns of forest loss in the continental US during the 1990s. - The average distance from any point in the U.S. to the nearest forest increased some 14 percent just between the years 1990 and 2000 — a difference of about one-third of a mile. - They found that total forest cover loss across the country during that decade was close to 35,000 square miles (a little over 90,000 square kilometers), a decline of about 2.96 percent, or roughly an area the size of the state of Maine.
Breakthrough boosts hope for treating contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils [03/14/2017]
- The devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has spread across most of the Tasmanian devil's range and has wiped out more than 80 percent of these animals in Tasmania. - In a new study, researchers could successfully trigger the devil’s immune system to recognise and destroy established DFTD tumours. - The findings show that a DFTD vaccine is feasible, researchers say.
“Predator Mobbing:” Watch gibbons, monkeys team up to fight off leopard [03/13/2017]
- A field team with the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) was in the Sabangau Forest of Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo studying wild Maroon Langur monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) as part of a long-term behavioral research project when they witnessed the rare phenomenon, known as “predator mobbing,” first-hand. - The monkeys responded after a group of Endangered Bornean White-bearded Gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) started making alarm calls upon discovering a Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) hiding in their midst. - The two primate species then proceeded to continuously issue warning calls for over two-and-a-half hours in the direction of tangled lianas in the forest canopy in which the leopard was hiding — a cooperative, multi-species interaction that is incredibly unusual for researchers to observe in the wild.
Tracking the numerous tactics used to attack environmental protections around the globe [03/10/2017]
- The international team of researchers behind the study note that Earth’s wild fauna and flora would be far worse off if it wasn’t for the legal protections they are already afforded, such as biodiversity laws that control the exploitation of wildlife and designate certain areas as off-limits to human industry in order to protect vital habitat. - But these laws face constant tests as proponents of economic development seek to weaken their ability to regulate human activities that impact the natural world. - The researchers are maintaining a list of attempts to weaken biodiversity laws by country on a github repository and invite conservationists, scientists, and the general public to make contributions.
Cattle ranching devours Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve [03/10/2017]
- The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is the third largest forest reserve in the world and is home to indigenous people and 21 ecosystem types, which host high levels of biodiversity. - Nicaragua’s booming livestock industry is causing a migration of ranchers to the reserve where they often pay land traffickers to illegally secure title to land. - From 1987 to 2010, more than 564,000 hectares of the reserve were cleared and replaced with ranch lands and farms. 92,000 hectares have been cleared in the last 5 years.
Controversial policy could spur tiger trade in China [03/10/2017]
- In China, around 6,000 captive tigers are raised on “farms,” often under inhumane conditions, and their pelts sold for hefty sums in a poorly regulated market upheld through legal loopholes by the Chinese government. Breeding tigers on these farms is legal, but sale of their parts is not — something that may be about to change. - The State Forestry Administration, tasked with protecting wildlife and overseeing China’s tiger farms, is now deciding whether to commercialize tigers by adding them to a list of legally farmed wildlife, paving the way for tiger parts to be sold to supply a growing Chinese luxury market. - Long used in Chinese medicine, tiger products are now a status purchase for China’s wealthiest and most powerful. Collectors stockpile tiger bone wine; tiger skins are regularly gifted to seal business deals. Some wealthy Chinese hold “visual feasts” where guests watch a tiger be killed and cooked — then eat it. - Breeding tigers for trade in their parts contravenes a 2007 decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty signed by 183 nations, including China. There is pressure in China and abroad to shut down tiger farms, even as Chinese business interests lobby to expand a lucrative industry.
Climate change driving widespread local extinctions; tropics most at risk [03/09/2017]
- Climate change forces three fates on species: adapt, flee or die. A new meta-analysis compiled data from 27 studies to see how species distributions have changed over timescales of 10-159 years, and included 976 species. Almost half (47 percent) had seen some local populations disappear along the warming edge of their ranges. - The tropics were especially vulnerable to climate change-driven local extinctions. The data showed that 55 percent of tropical and subtropical species experienced local extinctions, whereas the figure was only 39 percent for temperate species. Though the tropical data set was not large, this higher tropical risk concurs with past studies. - Tropical species are at greater risk due to climate change because they live in some of the world’s hottest environments, so are already at the upper limit of known temperature adaptation, are restricted to small areas, particular rare habitats, and narrow temperature ranges, or have poor dispersal ability and slow reproductive rates. - Scientists see multiple solutions to the problem: beyond the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, they recommend conserving large core areas of habitat, and preserving strong connectivity between those core areas, so plants and animals can move more freely between them as required as the world warms.
Reducing Asia’s hunger for rhino horn [03/09/2017]
- In 2015, the most recent full year for which data is available, more than 1,350 rhinos were killed for their horns in Africa and Asia. - The vast majority of rhino horn is bound for destinations outside of the source country, meaning that conservationists in places like South Africa or India can do little to fight demand. - Demand reduction efforts currently center on China and Vietnam, the primary destinations for poached rhino horn. - Effective demand reduction campaigns require research into consumer behavior and careful targeting of messages.
Notorious elephant poacher, ‘The Devil’, sentenced to 12 years in jail [03/09/2017]
- Mariango was arrested in October 2015 with his brothers Lucas Mathayo Malyango and Abdallah Ally Chaoga while attempting to smuggle 118 tusks worth over $863,000. - Aged 47, Mariango was one of the poachers featured in the Netflix documentary film, The Ivory Game, produced by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. - He also stands accused of supplying ivory to Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese national nicknamed “Queen of Ivory,” who is on trial in Tanzania for smuggling ivory worth $2.5 million.
Short film takes you into the Amazon with researcher who discovered a new frog species [03/08/2017]
- Back in January, biologist Jennifer Serrano and a team of researchers published a paper officially describing a new species of poison dart frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, which was given the name Ameerega shihuemoy, to science. - Finding Frogs, a short documentary by filmmaker Nick Werber, captures the sense of awe and discovery inherent in doing fieldwork like Jennifer Serrano’s. - In this Q&A, Mongabay speaks with Werber about his motivation for making the documentary in the first place, the difficulties of shooting a film in a humid environment like a rainforest, and why it’s so important for scientific discoveries to be more widely shared via media like film.
Poachers kill rhino at French zoo [03/08/2017]
- Poachers killed four-year-old rhino named Vince at the Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park near Paris. - Vince's keeper found him the next morning, with one of his horns hacked off, probably with a chainsaw, the zoo said in a statement. - Two other white rhinoceros living in the Thoiry zoo — Gracie aged 37 and Bruno aged 5 years — have "escaped the massacre" and are safe, the zoo said.
Audio: Meet the ‘Almost Famous Animals’ that deserve more conservation recognition [03/07/2017]
- The Almost Famous series was created in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action for under-appreciated species. Glenn tells us all about how species get selected for coverage and his favorite animals profiled in the series. - We also feature another installment of our Field Notes segment on this episode of the Newscast. - Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, recently helped establish a new genus of galagos, or bushbabies, found in southeastern Africa. We play some of the calls made by galagos in the wild, and Luca explains how those recordings aid in our scientific knowledge about wildlife.
The last elephants of Cambodia’s Virachey National Park [03/07/2017]
- Virachey is Cambodia’s largest national park, with 3,325 square kilometers of mountainous jungle, upland savannas, and deep river gorges spanning across Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces in the extreme northeast of the country. - Economic Land Concessions, some of which have now been revoked, chipped away at the area of the park that borders Vietnam, while selective illegal logging takes place throughout Virachey (and every “protected area” in Cambodia) and poaching is rife. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Rare beaked whale filmed underwater for the first time [03/07/2017]
- True's beaked whale is difficult to spot at sea, and remains a poorly studied species. - By analyzing stranding data and live sightings of the whale, researchers confirm that the Azores and Canary Islands may actually be a hotspot for studying the natural behavior of the species. - For the data-scarce whale species, live sightings and video recordings are highly valuable because they add to information that helps identify a species accurately. - This in turn can help scientists monitor the status of their populations and protect them.
Nearly half of Mount Oku frogs are in danger of croaking, study finds [03/07/2017]
- Survey work discovers at least 50 amphibian species living on Mount Oku, a dormant volcano in Cameroon. - Mount Oku’s puddle frogs are vanishing – and no one knows why. Some species may already be extinct. - Researchers say survey work is often overlooked for ‘sexier’ science, but this could hamper saving species.
A Christmas Miracle? Perhaps someday [03/06/2017]
- In the 1990s most of Christmas Island’s lizard species began plummeting. The cause remains a mystery. - Scientists began a captive breeding program in 2009 – saving two species – but one species had already gone extinct and another is extirpated from the island, but can still be found elsewhere. - Researchers will not be able to reintroduce the captive species until the cause of the decline is uncovered.
Nitrogen pollution slows down forest decomposers [03/06/2017]
- Soil fungi are the primary decomposers in temperate forests. - Scientists found that fungi species reared in nitrogen polluted soils were able to decompose far less plant material than the same species collected from less polluted soil. - Even when fungi from polluted areas were grown in un-polluted petri dishes, they still could not decompose as well as fungi collected from cleaner soils. - Researchers hypothesize that nitrogen pollution could be altering how fungi metabolize nitrogen.
African Parks gets $65M for conservation in Rwanda and Malawi [03/05/2017]
- African Parks will receive $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to bolster conservation efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and beyond. - The funds will go toward African Parks' management of Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi; Akagera National Park in Rwanda; and five still-to-be-identified protected areas in other countries. - African Parks privately manages protected areas, effectively taking over operations traditionally managed by governments.
Trapped elephants face attacks by mob in India [03/03/2017]
- The herd of about 25 elephants is "trapped" within dense human habitation in an area called Athgarh in the state of Orissa in India. - The elephants take shelter in some of the small forest patches during the day, and go out to look for food in the evenings, which mostly constitutes of crops, getting harassed in the process. - Conservationists say that harassing elephants has now become a form of entertainment in the area.
The two sides of Indonesia’s Baluran National Park [03/02/2017]
- A recent commentary piece by Dr. Erik Meijaard provides a comprehensive view of the current situation and conservation actions undertaken in Baluran National Park as compared to time he spent there in the 1990’s - However, as so often happens with this beautiful park, the focus remained on the well-known part that has earned it the nickname ‘Africa of Java,’ the area surrounding the Bekol savannah in the southeastern reaches of the park. - If one were to slice the park horizontally in two, right through mount Baluran, and compare the northern and southern parts, a sharp contrast would become visible, a contrast of mooing and ringing bells. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Need a Trump break? Meet Obama’s fish [03/02/2017]
- Researcher names new species of deep coral fish after the 44th President of the U.S. - Scientists don’t know if the new species is threatened, but it is found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. - Discovery hints at how many species still await names.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
LemurFaceID: The facial recognition tech helping researchers track lemurs in the wild [03/02/2017]
- Thanks to threats like hunting and the destruction of their tropical forest habitat by illegal loggers, lemurs — small primates endemic to Madagascar — are generally considered some of the most endangered mammals on Earth. - Researchers say a new computer-assisted recognition system called LemurFaceID uses facial characteristics of lemurs from photographs taken in the wild to make positive identifications of individual animals. - Lines of research facilitated by LemurFaceID are manifold: individual lemurs can be tracked over time, records of how many individuals there are in any given population can be compiled, and the social systems of those populations can be more closely examined.
A golden jackal settles down just outside of Prague [03/01/2017]
- With complete disregard for political boundaries, the golden jackal (Canis aureus) settles down in shrub-land near Prague. - An individual golden jackal repeatedly modeled for the cameras as researchers documented its unprecedented move into the Czech Republic. - The jackal's arrival in the Czech Republic, however, raises questions about its legal status in the country and across the EU.
Cars and STDs killing koalas in Queensland [03/01/2017]
- Scientists analyzed more than 20,000 hospital records of koala disease and death from 1997 to 2013. - Car accidents seem to be the major cause of koala death. - Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that also affects humans, is the second most frequent cause of koala death in southeast Queensland. - Koalas in the state are also frequently killed by domestic dogs.
Climate change impacts on birds and mammals much more prevalent than reported [02/28/2017]
- Researchers examined 130 previous studies on the impacts of climate change on threatened birds and mammals and found evidence that nearly 700 species have already exhibited negative responses to recent changes in climate. - The researchers estimate that 47 percent of the 873 species of threatened terrestrial mammals and 23 percent of the 1,272 species of threatened birds included in the study have already been adversely impacted by climate change in at least some portion of their range or population. - That makes it all the more important to understand the impacts already observable in wildlife due to climatic changes, given that, as noted in the study, the rate of warming over the past 50 years has been around 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade, nearly twice the rate of warming recorded over the previous five decades.
Field Notes: Finding Jacobo; an Andean cat captivates conservationists [02/28/2017]
- The Andean cat ranges from remote areas of central Peru to the Patagonian steppe. Perfectly adapted to extreme environments, this small feline is threatened by habitat degradation and hunting, but most of all it suffers from anonymity: it’s hard to save an animal that no one ever sees. - So few of these endangered cats are scattered across such vast landscapes that even most of their advocates have never seen the species they’re trying to protect. But the conservation efforts that could save this cat could also preserve the wild places where Andean cats live. - When a male Andean cat was found wandering around a soccer field, Andean Cat Alliance members agreed to forego the extraordinary opportunity to study the animal in captivity, and try instead to return “Jacobo” to the wild. - Andean Cat Alliance coordinators Rocío Palacios and Lilian Villalba orchestrated the multinational volunteer release effort. Conservationists equipped Jacobo with a GPS collar and hope that tracking his travels will reveal new data about this secretive cat, considered a symbol of the Andes.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
7 new frogs discovered in India, some smaller than a thumbnail [02/27/2017]
- All the newly described species belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. - Apart from being tiny, these frogs live a secretive life under forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation and they sound like insects, making it difficult for researchers to locate them. - But these species seem to be common and abundant in the locations they were found, researchers say. - Despite being commonly encountered, all seven species might be threatened by habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
The Spirit of the Steppes: Saving Central Asia’s saiga [02/27/2017]
- The Critically Endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica) once numbered in the millions. This large antelope was perhaps best known for making one of the last of the world’s remaining great mammal migrations — a trek sweeping twice per year across the steppes of Central Asia. - Saiga populations declined more than 95 percent by 2004, according to the IUCN. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan banned hunting in the 1990s, but the horns of male saiga are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and illegal trafficking is a major threat; if not curtailed the trade could doom the species. - In the 21st century, international NGOs and regional organizations such as the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) formed partnerships with Central Asian nations to better conserve the species. And their work was paying off, until 2015. - That’s when disease killed over 200,000 adult saiga of the Betpak Dala population in Central Kazakhstan. At the end of 2016, the Mongolian herd was hit hard by a new viral infection, with 4,000 saiga carcasses buried so far. But the saiga is reproductively resilient, and could be saved, if the species receives sufficient attention, say conservationists.
Feral cats now dominate the Australian landscape [02/27/2017]
- Feral cats occupy 99.8 percent of the Australian continent. - Cats, brought by European explorers on ships, are blamed for the extinction and endangerment of numerous mammal species found nowhere else. - The government plans to cull two million feral cats, but researchers say a more pointed approach – focusing on breeding ground – could be more effective in the long-term.
More than 25,000 elephants were killed in a Gabon national park in one decade [02/24/2017]
- A decline of somewhere between 78 and 81 percent in the park’s forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) population over the span of just one decade was largely driven by poachers who crossed the border into Gabon from its neighbor to the north, Cameroon, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University and published in the journal Current Biology this week. - The fact that Cameroon’s national road is so close to the park makes it relatively easy for poachers to slip into the park, make their illegal kills, and then transport elephant tusks back to Cameroon’s largest city, Douala, which has become a major hub of the international ivory trade. - Nearly half of Central Africa's estimated 100,000 forest elephants are thought to live in Gabon, making the loss of 25,000 elephants from a key sanctuary a considerable setback for the preservation of the species, according to John Poulsen, assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and the lead author of the study.
This new primate is a ‘giant’ among tiny bush babies [02/22/2017]
- The Angolan dwarf galago is about 17 to 20 centimeters in length (with an additional 17 to 24 centimeters long tail). - It has a very distinctive call: a loud chirping crescendo of longer notes, followed by a fading twitter. - Scientists have named the new species Galagoides kumbirensis after the Kumbira forest it was first observed in.
How acoustic monitoring gave us a last chance to save the vaquita [02/22/2017]
- Monitoring the vaquita’s vocalizations has allowed scientists to closely and accurately monitor the species’ unfortunate decline. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the biggest threat to the vaquita. They are killed as bycatch, drowning in nets meant for the fish. - Conservationists say the next step is to capture vaquitas for captivity, a highly controversial plan with major risks.
Scrapping Nigerian superhighway buffer isn’t enough, say conservation groups [02/22/2017]
- The superhighway project, intended to stimulate the Cross River state economy, will no longer include a 20-kilometer-wide buffer zone along its 260-kilometer length. - The NGO Wildlife Conservation Society said minimizing the destruction necessary for the buffer zone was an important step, but that it will still disrupt communities and wildlife. - Representatives of the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, told the media that they intended to move forward with the superhighway despite the criticism.
Audio: Naomi Oreskes on what stories we can’t let get lost in the noise of 2017 and why scientists should speak up [02/21/2017]
- Because there is so much uncertainty around the new Trump Administration, especially around its energy, environment, and climate policies, we decided to dedicate this episode to trying to answer some of those questions. - We continue to take a look at what this year will bring for energy and the environment under President Trump with Bobby Magill, a senior science writer for Climate Central and the president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. - We also welcome Jeff Ruch, executive director of the non-profit service organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to share with us what he’s been hearing so far from employees of the Environmental Protection Agency about their concerns with the Trump Administration’s environmental policies.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
Scimitar-horned oryx return to the Sahara nearly two decades after going extinct in the wild [02/20/2017]
- This is the second group to be returned to the wild since the species was listed as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List in 2000. - Eight female and six male scimitar-horned oryx were released on January 21 in the hopes that they would join the herd of 21 oryx that were reintroduced to Chad’s Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve on August 14, 2016. - The initial group of oryx — 13 females and 8 males — have reportedly thrived in their new habitat. In fact, on September 21, 2016, the herd welcomed what is believed to be the first scimitar-horned oryx born in the wild in more than 20 years.
African bush babies gain a new genus [02/20/2017]
- Genetic data has pointed toward a unique group of dwarf galagos living in Africa for a long time, but the physical similarity between the primates in the Galago family has confounded scientists. - Using these genetic clues as a guide, a team of researchers examined the skulls and teeth of galagos and analyzed their calls. - They concluded that five species previously placed in other genera should be placed in a sixth genus of the family Galagidae. They chose the name ‘Paragalago’ for the new genus.
Singapore’s wild bird trade threatens exotic species [02/20/2017]
- About 48 of the 108 species observed in Singapore's bird markets were listed in either CITES Appendix I or II, which means that their international trade is restricted. - Unfortunately, most birds being sold in the markets are not listed in CITES, meaning that these birds are not subject to international regulations. - Information about the harvesting, breeding, and trading of animals in Singapore is very hard to obtain, making it difficult to ascertain the impact of the trade on the birds' wild populations.
It’s World Pangolin Day! [02/18/2017]
- Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal. - Populations of all eight species of pangolins are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, mainly due to the demand for their meat and scales. - Hopefully, increased protection and attention will give these animals a chance to bounce back from near-extinction.
Saving Jamaica Bay’s diamondback terrapins [02/16/2017]
- The Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a turtle species native to coastal tidal marshes in the eastern and southern United States. - Its population in New York City's Jamaica Bay has declined by more than half in the last decade – to an estimated 10,000 turtles today. - The underlying causes for this decline are a mystery, but researchers are now engaged in a multi-year study to identify them. As the terrapin plays a crucial role in the ecosystem’s health and resiliency, their findings have important implications for Jamaica Bay.
Camera traps proving to be powerful tool for studying endangered species in remote locations [02/15/2017]
- The only known population of the Sira curassow, a large bird in the Cracidae family listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, resides within the Sira Communal Reserve, a chain of isolated and high-elevation outcrops of the Peruvian Andes. - Any monitoring technique that can potentially allow closer study of the Sira curassow (Pauxi koepckeae) is of critical importance in order to inform management strategies for the preservation of the species. - The authors of a study published earlier this month in the journal Endangered Species Research say that the discovery that camera traps are such an effective tool for detecting the Sira curassow makes it possible to perform a robust assessment of the bird’s distribution and population size for the first time.
Seven ‘most wanted’ elephant poachers arrested in Malaysia [02/15/2017]
- The poachers were caught in a joint operation between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Malaysia's Armed Forces on February 10. - During the raid, the authorities seized animal parts worth about $112,300, as well as hunting gear and firearms, including shotguns, machetes, knives, bullets, explosives and firecrackers. - During subsequent raids on February 11 and 12, Perhilitan officers seized two elephant tusks, elephant meat, and more weapons and equipment.
Endangered species and habitats threatened by US-Mexico border wall [02/14/2017]
- In late January, the Trump administration announced that it will be moving forward with plans to build ‘the wall’ along the southern border with Mexico. - According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an impregnable wall running across the entire 2,000-mile border between the two countries would “potentially impact” more than 111 endangered species, 108 migratory bird species, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Trees need a little help to reclaim deforested land, study finds [02/14/2017]
- Scientists with the Swiss university ETH Zurich used forensic genetics to determine that seed dispersal and seedling establishment rarely occured more than a few hundred meters from the seed tree in their 216-square-kilometer (about 83-square-mile) study area in an agro-forest landscape in India’s Western Ghats. - The scientists say theirs is the first large-scale, direct estimate of realized seed dispersal of a high-value timber tree — in this case, Dysoxylum malabaricum, or White Cedar, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. - That means that many tropical tree species that are important to humanity and for preserving biodiversity, like Dysoxylum malabaricum, are less likely to recover from logging and habitat degradation than we previously thought, according to Dr. Christopher Kettle of ETH Zürich, a co-author of the study.
India’s Manas National Park illustrates the human dimension of rhino conservation [02/13/2017]
- Manas National Park, one of India's rhino conservation areas, is at the heart of a proposed homeland for the Bodos, an indigenous ethnic group. - From the 1980s until 2003, the park was engulfed by armed conflict, and its rhino population was wiped out. During this period, the Bodos were frequently portrayed as hostile to conservation efforts. - A 2003 peace accord paved the way for the establishment of autonomous local governance, and the restoration of rhinos to the park. Former guerrillas now serve as anti-poaching patrols. - With the Bodos in power, a new group has been cast as ecological villains: Bengali Muslims living in the fringes of the park.
Field Notes: Predicting how the pet trade spreads infectious disease [02/13/2017]
- The exotic animal trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the US is the world’s leading importer. While the US government is on the alert for well known animal-transmitted diseases, there is no mandatory health surveillance for most animals coming though US ports for commercial distribution. - Live animal imports could bring new diseases into the US and infect endemic wildlife, with devastating consequences as, for example, was seen with the worldwide exposure of amphibians to Chytrid fungus which resulted in the decline of more than 200 species. - Elizabeth Daut is drawing on her training as a veterinarian and her extensive experience with wildlife to create a computer model that evaluates the risk of importing infectious diseases to the US via the exotic animal trade. - Predictions produced by her model could help prioritize which species and exporting countries might warrant extra attention at ports of entry. With a better understanding of disease risks, government agencies could improve surveillance and develop better infectious disease prevention plans.
Increasing tree cover threatens world’s most endangered antelope [02/13/2017]
- Between 1985 and 2012, tree cover in hirola’s habitat has more than doubled. - This increasing encroachment by trees is likely to blame for the decline in hirola populations in Africa, researchers say. - Decline in elephant and cattle numbers in the region, an increase in browsing livestock, and increased drier conditions could have resulted in the increasing tree cover.
Trophy hunters overstate contribution of big game hunting to African economies: Report [02/10/2017]
- Humane Society International (HSI) timed the release of the report to coincide with the start of Safari Club International’s (SCI) annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 1. - US-based SCI, one of the world’s largest trophy hunting advocacy organizations, released a report in 2015 that claimed trophy hunting-related tourism contributes $426 million annually to the economies of eight African countries and creates more than 53,400 full- and part-time jobs. - But the HSI report, prepared by Melbourne, Australia-based consultancy Economists At Large, found that SCI had “grossly overstated the contribution of big game hunting to eight African economies and that overall tourism in Africa dwarfs trophy hunting as a source of revenue,” according to a statement.
Trump administration delays listing of rusty patched bumblebee as endangered [02/10/2017]
- In January, 2017, the US FWS declared that it was placing the rusty patched bumblebee on the U.S. endangered species list. - The listing would have taken effect today, making it the first wild bee species to be declared endangered in the continental US. - But the USFWS has tentatively postponed the bee’s listing from February 10 to March 21.
Camera traps reveal undiscovered leopard population in Javan forest [02/10/2017]
- Government camera traps spotted three individuals in the Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve, along the southern coast of Indonesia's main central island of Java. - The environment ministry says 11 leopards are thought to exist in the sanctuary. - The Javan leopard is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
Ecological trap ensnares endangered African penguins [02/10/2017]
- Juveniles of the Western Cape population of African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered species, still frequent a subpar hunting ground, even though other options are within reach. - This population of penguins has declined by 80 percent in recent decades. - The current research projects that Western Cape penguin numbers are half of what they would be without this ecological trap.
World’s largest tropical peatlands discovered in swamp forests of Congo Basin [02/09/2017]
- The peatlands, which weren’t even known to exist as recently as five years ago, were revealed to cover 145,500 square kilometres (or more than 17,500 square miles), an area larger than England, and to sequester some 30 billion metric tons of carbon. - That makes them one of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth, according to the researchers who made the discovery and subsequently mapped the peatlands. - Professor Simon Lewis and Dr. Greta Dargie, who are both affiliated with the University of Leeds and University College London, first discovered the peatlands’ existence while doing fieldwork in the region in 2012.
Anger rises over human-elephant conflict in Tanzania [02/09/2017]
- On January 29, 2017, approximately 200 farmers from the village of Malinzanga in Tanzania stormed the office of the village chairman demanding something be done to protect their crops from elephants. - Malinzanga is one of 23 agrarian villages that flank the eastern border of a large network of protected areas in Southern Tanzania, most notably Ruaha National Park. - Ruaha and the surrounding territory currently support the largest population of elephants in East Africa, with just over 20,000 individuals. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat [02/09/2017]
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. - Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012. - Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population. - Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
Fighting rhino poaching in India, CSI-style [02/09/2017]
- RhODIS, the Rhino DNA Index System, relies on a database of rhino DNA collected from across rhino range states in Africa. - The system, developed in South Africa, allows investigators to link captured poachers and confiscated horns to specific poaching incidents. - Researchers are currently working to expand the database to include Asian rhino species. - This year, India is expected to be the first Asian country to roll out the program as part of its anti-poaching strategy.
Giant catfish clocks longest ever freshwater migration [02/08/2017]
- The dorado catfish uses the massive Amazon River as its roadway, beginning its journey at the river's headwaters. - It spawns in the far western Amazon, then drifts thousands of miles towards the estuary in the opposite direction. - After two to three years in the estuary, the catfish makes its way back towards the headwaters through the Amazon floodplain.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence [02/07/2017]
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species. - The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development. - Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
New species of dwarf lemur discovered in Madagascar [02/07/2017]
- The lemur's body is only about 16 to 17 centimeters long, with an additional 16 centimeters long tail, making it one of the smallest lemurs in its genus Cheirogaleus. - The lemur has a grey body and a white underbelly, and its tiny hands and feet are lightly colored. - It is separated from other species of dwarf lemurs both genetically, and geographically, the authors say.
Q&A with director of short film on The Black Mambas anti-poaching unit in South Africa [02/03/2017]
- In 2016, filmmaker Dan Sadgrove went to South Africa to visit the world's first all-female anti-poaching unit, The Black Mambas, who operate in the Balule Nature Reserve. - Last month, Sadgrove released the short documentary film he made about The Black Mambas, called "The Rhino Guardians." - South Africa, home to as much as 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, is considered ground zero for rhino poaching in Africa.
Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong [02/03/2017]
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian. - At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding. - When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked. - While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
New population of rare Dryas monkey videotaped for the first time [02/03/2017]
- Fewer than 200 Dryas monkeys are believed to survive in the wild today. - Videotaping the secretive monkeys was not easy. - Researchers set up cameras on the ground, in the understory and even climbed very tall trees to attach cameras in the canopy. - The team hopes that their camera trapping exercise will help them document where new Dryas populations live.
There are now just 30 vaquita left in the wild [02/02/2017]
- According to a recent report by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), there are now just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - About 49 percent of the remaining vaquita population was lost between 2015 and 2016, CIRVA found. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are much in demand, especially in China.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
The Philippines declares more than 100,000 acres as critical habitat [02/02/2017]
- Critical habitats — portions of land outside protected areas that have known habitats of threatened or endemic species — are usually small, focusing on one or a few species. - The newly declared Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat is the Philippines’ largest, and aims to protect several threatened species. - The declaration of CNCH involved over three years of negotiations with various stakeholders including Indigenous Peoples communities, government agencies, universities, non-government and private-sector organizations.
Efforts to conserve sea turtles disrupted by coal plant in East Java [01/31/2017]
- Fuel for the Pacitan coal-fired power plant is brought by sea-going barges, which pass through turtle breeding areas. - Conservation areas near the power plant provide nesting sites for green, hawksbill and olive ridley sea turtles. Local conservationists say the presence of coal barges — and several spills — reduces the number of hatchlings. - Villagers say the river near the power plant is now empty of the fish and shrimp that once formed a regular part of the local diet. - This article is the second in a series on Pacitan originally posted on Mongabay's Indonesian-language site.
NGO takes action to save great apes in Cameroon’s Lebialem Highlands [01/31/2017]
- The Lebialem Highlands, in Cameroon’s southwest, is a rugged mountainous and plateaued region still inhabited by the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla, the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and the Vulnerable African forest elephant. - While the Cameroon government has taken action by protecting swathes of forest in the region, they admit to being unable to fully protect this habitat from incursions by surrounding communities, who go to the protected lands to farm, harvest bushmeat, hunt, log and mine. - The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), an NGO, has stepped in to help protect Highlands conserved areas — including the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the still to be created Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. - Supported by the Rainforest Trust-USA, ERuDeF is also working to improve local village economies and livelihoods in order to take pressure off of wildlife.
Meet one of the filmmakers behind Planet Earth 2 [01/31/2017]
- Planet Earth II, produced by the BBC, involved 40 different countries and more than 2,000 days of shooting. - The six-part series showcased some of the rarest footage of wildlife from remote islands and deserts to high mountain ranges, forests, grasslands and bustling cities. - Mongabay interviewed one of the filmmakers involved, Sandesh Kadur, to understand what it takes to film captivating sequences of animals in the wild and within cities.
A possible undiscovered orangutan population in Borneo? [01/31/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is the final part.
First-ever underwater photos of newly discovered Amazon Reef have surfaced [01/30/2017]
- Extending from French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil, the Amazon Reef is a 9500-square-kilometer (or nearly 3,700-square-mile) system of corals, sponges, and rhodoliths (a colorful marine algae that resembles coral) located where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean — a region currently threatened by oil exploration activities. - When the reef was discovered in April 2016, Fabiano Thompson of Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, who was part of the team of scientists who made the discovery, told Mongabay that “The oceanographic conditions (biogeochemistry and microbiology) of this system are unique, not found in other places of the planet.” - The mouth of the Amazon River basin also provides valuable habitat for a range of species, including the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, dolphins, and giant river otters, which are listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List.
27 critically endangered Javan slow lorises rescued from online traders in Indonesia [01/27/2017]
- The Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and is considered one of the most endangered primate species in the world due mainly to habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. - Mortality rates of confiscated lorises is typically quite high, according to Christine Rattel, a program advisor at International Animal Rescue Indonesia, because traders load them into small, cramped crates, which can cause wounds, stress, and more serious medical problems that can result in death. - Perpetrators of wildlife crime can be prosecuted under Indonesia’s Natural Protection Law and face up to five years in prison as well as fines of 100 million Indonesian Rupiah (about $7,400).
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Increased use of snares in Southeast Asia driving extinction crisis, scientists warn [01/25/2017]
- The authors of an article published in Science last week say that unsustainable hunting methods both inside and outside of protected areas, mainly the use of homemade wire snares that kill or maim any animal entrapped by them, is pushing numerous large mammals to the brink of extinction. - Because the snares are indiscriminate in what they catch, they frequently result in the capture of nontarget species, as well as females and young animals. - Hundreds of thousands of snares are removed from protected forests in Southeast Asia every year, the authors of the Science article write, but law enforcement and snare removal teams can’t keep up with the pace that they’re being set by poachers.
Bridge through Borneo wildlife sanctuary moving forward [01/22/2017]
- For more than a year, scientists and conservationists have argued that the 350-meter (1,148-foot) Sukau bridge crossing the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah would hurt wildlife populations and a blossoming ecotourism market more than it would boost local economies. - The paved road that would accompany the bridge would cut through the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to Borneo elephants and 11 species of primates including orangutans. - A government official responded to recent reports about the bridge’s construction, saying that it would not begin until the environmental impact assessment has been completed.
Then and now: 100 years of wildlife loss and deforestation in Borneo [01/22/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part III.
Scientists ‘impressed and delighted’ by animals found in remnant forests [01/21/2017]
- A new study finds promising conservation value in forest corridors along rivers in Sumatra's plantation-dominated landscape. - But government regulations require areas of forest that border rivers -- called "riparian" forests – be left standing to safeguard water quality for downstream communities. - In the first study of its kind conducted in the tropics, researchers set camera traps in riparian forests through tree plantations near Tesso Nilo National Park. They found a significant mammal presence, including tapirs, tigers, bears, pangolins, and elephants. - The researchers say their findings indicate Sumatra's forest remnants could help keep wildlife populations afloat in areas with lots of habitat loss. However, they caution that these corridors are threatened by lax regulation enforcement, and can only work in tandem with larger forested areas.
This newly discovered moth has a hairdo just like Trump’s [01/20/2017]
- Neopalpa donaldtrumpi was formally described in the journal ZooKeys this week, just days before Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States. - A very small moth with a wingspan of just nine millimeters (0.4 inches), N. donaldtrumpi is the second species of twirler moth found throughout Southern California in the United States and Baja California, Mexico. - The researcher who made the discovery said he hopes that naming the new moth N. donaldtrumpi on the eve of Trump's inauguration will raise public awareness about the critical need for conservation of areas like the threatened habitat of the new species.
Indigenous traditional knowledge revival helps conserve great apes [01/20/2017]
- Deforestation and hunting continue to put Africa’s great apes at risk. National parks and other top down strategies have met with limited success. Many conservationists are trying alternative strategies, especially harnessing the power of indigenous taboos and other traditional knowledge to motivate local communities to protect great apes. - In remote parts of Africa, taboos against hunting have long helped conserve gorilla populations. However, those ancient traditions are being weakened by globalization, modernization and Christianity, with anti-hunting taboos and other traditional beliefs being abandoned at a time when they are most needed to conserve great apes. - Primatologist Denis Ndeloh Etiendem suggests a unique approach to reviving indigenous taboos and traditional beliefs — the creation of videos and films in which these beliefs are presented as a prime reason for conserving wildlife. He also urges that African environmental and general educational curricula focus not on endangered dolphins or whales, but on wildlife found in interior Africa. - Development specialist Dominique Bikaba emphasizes the importance of moving away from top down federal management, and to local management of community forests by indigenous communities, whose leaders mesh traditional beliefs with modern conservation strategies. Prime examples are successes seen at Burhinyi Community Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Saving the Sumatran rhino requires changing the status quo [01/20/2017]
- With a small, fragmented population, the Sumatran rhino is currently on the path to extinction. - Despite dedicated efforts by conservationists, existing policies -- population surveys, anti-poaching efforts and a small breeding program -- have been unable to reverse this trend. - Attorney and nonprofit consultant W. Aaron Vandiver argues that we now face a binary choice between maintaining the status quo until the species goes extinct, or embracing the expense and "risk" required to carry out an ambitious plan to capture and manage the surviving population. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Running out of time’: 60 percent of primates sliding toward extinction [01/19/2017]
- The assessment of 504 primate species found that 60 percent are on track toward extinction, and the numbers of 75 percent are going down. - Agricultural expansion led to the clearing of primate habitat three times the size of France between 1990 and 2010, impinging on the range of 76 percent of apes and monkeys. - By region, Madagascar and Southeast Asia have the most species in trouble. Nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s more than 100 primates are moving toward extinction. - Primates also face serious threats from hunting, logging and ranching.
Trade in skulls, body parts severely threatens Cameroon’s great apes [01/19/2017]
- Primatologists in Cameroon have been heartened in recent years by the discoveries of new great ape populations scattered around the country. Unfortunately for these gorillas and chimpanzees, their numbers are being rapidly diminished by deforestation and human exploitation. - Cameroon’s gorillas and chimps have long fallen victim to the bushmeat trade, but they are now being hunted vigorously to feed a national and international illegal trade in skulls and other body parts which are being exported to Nigeria, other West African coastal states, and especially to the US and China, either as trophies or for use in traditional medicine. - Great ape trafficking operations in Cameroon are starting to resemble the ivory trade: International trafficking networks are financing hunters, providing them with motorbikes and sophisticated weapons. A spreading network of logging and agribusiness roads and a porous border between Cameroon and Nigeria are further facilitating the trade. - The seriousness of this poaching hits home when one considers that during a four-month period in 2015, anti-poaching and anti-trafficking squads in Cameroon arrested 22 dealers and seized 16 great ape limbs, 24 gorilla heads and 34 chimpanzee skulls in separate operations around the country. Law enforcement is likely only detecting 10 percent of the trade.
Conservation’s best kept secret (database) [01/18/2017]
- The ZIMS database manages millions of medical and genetic records on 21,000 species cared for in captivity. - Long-used by zoos and aquariums, ZIMS could be useful for managing small populations of endangered species in the wild. - Data from ZIMS is now being used to improve wildlife recovery efforts and to better understand wildlife trade patterns.
New species of poison frog discovered in Amazonian slopes of Andes in southeastern Peru [01/17/2017]
- The species was found in just nine locales in the buffer zones of Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, at the transition between montane forests and the lowlands, from 340 to 850 meters (1,115 to 2,788 feet) above sea level. - The region that the Amarakaeri poison frog calls home is considered one of the most biodiverse on the planet for herpetofauna, but it is also threatened by human activities, including agriculture, gold mining, logging, and an illegally constructed road meant for the transport of fuel for illegal miners and loggers in the area. - Based on IUCN Red List criteria, the research team that made the discovery propose that A. shihuemoy likely qualifies as Near Threatened.
Pileated gibbons poached as bushmeat to feed illegal rosewood loggers [01/17/2017]
- There were 14,000 Pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) in southeast Thailand in 2005, the last time a census survey was done. No one knows what those numbers look like today. The animals are falling victim to illegal hunting, which is the most serious threat to wildlife across Southeast Asia according to a recent study. - The gibbons are especially being poached as bushmeat in Thap Lan National Park by poachers who feed on them when they venture deep into the forest to cut Endangered rosewood trees. 'Hongmu' (red wood) timber imports from the Mekong region to China between 2000 and 2014 were valued at nearly US $2.4 billion. - Underfunded and under-equipped Thai park rangers regularly engage in firefights with the armed loggers, but it is believed that gibbon numbers continue to fall, as the animals are easily spotted when they sing, and are shot out of the trees. - “In the past we used to hear [the gibbons singing] a lot, but now we don’t hear them so much. I think it’s people going into the forest to log that is affecting them,” said Surat Monyupanao, head ranger at Thap Lan National Park.