World’s fastest shark, and many others, edge toward extinction [03/23/2019]
- Seventeen species of sharks and rays have joined th elist of those threatened with extinction, according to the latest updates from the Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the IUCN, which recently assessed the population trends of 58 shark and ray species. - Among them is the shortfin mako, the world’s fastest known shark, whose threat status has been uplisted from vulnerable to endangered, as well as its cousin, the longfin mako. - Three shark species — the Argentine angelshark, whitefin swellshark and smoothback angelshark — have been uplisted to critically endangered from lower threat categories.
Combining artificial intelligence and citizen science to improve wildlife surveys [03/22/2019]
- Migratory species play a key role in the health of the Serengeti ecosystem in East Africa, but monitoring their populations is a time- and labor-intensive task. - Scientists studying these wildebeest populations compared expert observer counts of aerial imagery to corresponding counts by both volunteer citizen scientists and deep learning algorithms. - Both novel methods were able to produce accurate wildebeest counts from the images with minor modifications, the algorithms doing so faster than humans. - Use of automated object detection algorithms requires prior “training” with specific data sets, which in this case came from the volunteer counts, suggesting that the two methods are both useful and complementary.
West Bengal’s rhino population hits a record high [03/22/2019]
- A census carried out in February in India’s West Bengal state counted 231 rhinos in Jaldapara National Park and 52 in Gorumara National Park, up from 204 and 49, respectively, in 2015. - Both figures are the highest recorded since authorities began taking official rhino counts in the 1920s. - While encouraged by the rising rhino numbers, conservationists have raised concerns about the skewed sex ratios in both parks, a scarcity of grazing land, and the ever-present threat of poaching.
Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest. - They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas. - The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.
Protecting small, old-growth forests fails to preserve bird diversity: Study [03/20/2019]
- Recent research suggests that designating small fragments of old-growth temperate forests as protected areas is not sufficient to halt loss of bird diversity, and that better monitoring and management of forests is required to achieve conservation goals. - A research team led by Jeffrey Brown, a doctoral student at Rutgers University in the U.S., used data spanning a 40-year time period to study bird populations in Mettler’s Woods, a 64-acre old-growth forest within the Rutgers-owned William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest in the state of New Jersey. - Mettler’s Woods is one of the last uncut stands of oak-hickory forest to be found in the United States. It would, on its surface, appear to provide ideal habitat for many bird species. But nine birds known to historically inhabit the forest no longer nest there, and many other species have lower populations than expected.
Sea otters leave behind unique archaeological traces, study finds [03/20/2019]
- Sea otters are the only marine mammals known to use stone tools. Now, a new study has found that by striking shells on rocks, sea otters leave behind distinct archaeological signatures. - These marks can be used to trace sea otters in locations where they are now extinct. - The study also found clear damage patterns on mussel shells left around the stationary rocks. These shell break patterns provide a new way to distinguish the evidence of sea otter food consumption from that of humans, researchers say.
Audio: What underwater sounds can tell us about Indian Ocean humpback dolphins [03/19/2019]
- On today’s episode, we speak with marine biologist Isha Bopardikar, an independent researcher who is using bioacoustics to study humpback dolphins off the west coast of India. - Last month, Mongabay’s India bureau published an article with the headline “What underwater sounds tell us about marine life.” As Mongabay contributor Sejal Mehta notes in the piece, the world beneath the ocean’s surface is a noisy place, with animals sounding off for a number of purposes. Now, of course, humanity is interjecting more and more frequently, intruding on the underwater soundscape. - As Isha Bopardikar tells Mehta in the Mongabay India piece, in order to understand how marine animals use the underwater space and how human activities affect their behavior, we need hard data. That’s where her current work off the west coast of India comes in. In this Fields Notes segment, Bopardikar plays for us some of her dolphin recordings and explains how they are informing her research.
Tear down the dams: New coalition strives to enshrine rights of orcas [03/19/2019]
- A new coalition of scientists, indigenous peoples, community groups and lawyers is pushing for legal recognition of the rights of an endangered orca population living in the Salish Sea. - The population, known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales, numbers just 75 individuals, down from 98 in 1995. - The orcas are imperiled by noise and chemical pollution, the impending construction of Canada’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, and, most of all, severe salmon shortages caused by the damming of the rivers that feed into the sea.
Bid to protect Borneo’s wild cattle hinges on whether it’s a new species [03/18/2019]
- Only 20 or 30 Bornean banteng are known to remain alive in the wild, all in a single group at the headwaters of the Belantikan River in central Borneo. - The Bornean banteng is considered to be a subspecies of the banteng found on Java, but some scientists are arguing the animal should be recognized as its own species. - Local indigenous communities are trying to protect the banteng, invoking customary law to fine their own members and outsiders who hunt it. Community planning has spaced rice fields farther apart so that the banteng have room to travel.
Super variable California salamander is ‘an evolutionist’s dream’ [03/18/2019]
- The ensatina is a widespread salamander species that can be found in forests along the entire western coast of North America. - It is one of only two species that broadly lives up to the “ring species” concept: the ensatina is considered to be a single species, but is characterized by a chain of interconnected populations around California’s Central Valley that can look strikingly different. While the intermediate populations can interbreed, the forms at the southern ends of the loop are so different that they can no longer mate successfully everywhere they meet. - Ensatinas are among the key predators on the forest floors they occupy, and play a critical role in sequestering carbon. - Researchers are now trying to figure out if ensatinas and other North American salamanders have any natural defenses against the deadly Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans fungus.
Invasive plants a fast-growing threat to India’s rhinos [03/18/2019]
- In 2018, biologists observed the invasive plant Parthenium, known locally as congress grass, establishing itself in grasslands of India’s Pobitora National Park. - Invasive species threaten protected areas in Assam state, and herbivores like the greater one-horned rhinos that live within them, by crowding out the native plants animals rely on for food. - Each of Assam state’s four rhino reserves currently faces threats from invasive plants including Parthenium, Mimosa, Mikania and water hyacinth. - Experts are contemplating the use of several strategies to tackle invasive plants, including manual removal and the introduction of biological control agents such as the Mexican beetle that feeds on Parthenium.
Possible vaquita death accompanies announcement that only 10 are left [03/18/2019]
- The environmental organization Sea Shepherd said it found a dead vaquita in a gillnet on March 12. - One day later, scientists from the group CIRVA announced that around 10 — as many as 22 or as few as six — vaquitas survive in the Gulf of California. - Despite a ban on gillnets used catch totoaba, a fish prized for its swim bladders used in traditional Chinese medicine, vaquita numbers have continued to decline.
Latam Eco Review: Bolivia’s Batman and Peru’s birdy cave drawings [03/16/2019]
A biologist known as Bolivia’s Batman, ground zero for Amazon deforestation in Peru, and camera traps showing the bird species from ancient cave drawings were among the top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Bolivia’s Batman: “There are many more bat species here” “Colombia gets the gold medal” for having the highest number of […]
Study identifies climate-resilient trees to help orangutan conservation [03/15/2019]
- Once written off as lost cause for conservation, Indonesia’s Kutai National Park supports one of the last intact forest canopies on Borneo’s eastern coast, a habitat for the critically endangered East Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus morio). - An IUCN study funded through the Indianapolis Zoological Society has identified tree species native to Kutai National Park that are resilient to climate change and support orangutan populations. - Climate change has become an emerging threat that is likely to intensify drought conditions and wildfires. Currently, land settlement and human-caused fires pose the greatest existential threat to the park’s ecosystem functions and biodiversity. - The study authors recommended that the fire-resistant native trees they identified in the study be planted in buffer zones around fire-prone areas. They hope the study will help spur research to enable forest restoration in other parts of the world.
New maps show where humans are pushing species closer to extinction [03/15/2019]
- A new study maps out how disruptive human changes to the environment affect the individual ranges of more than 5,400 mammal, bird and amphibian species around the world. - Almost a quarter of the species are threatened by human impacts in more than 90 percent of their range, and at least one human impact occurred in an average of 38 percent of the range of a given species. - The study also identified “cool” spots, where concentrations of species aren’t negatively impacted by humans. - The researchers say these “refugia” are good targets for conservation efforts.
A plea to Botswana: Please rethink a “Not Enough Fences” approach (commentary) [03/14/2019]
- The Government of Botswana is considering significant changes to the country’s approach to wildlife management. - The proposed policy reflects a worrying lack of recognition of the habitat and migration route requirements that the future of southern Africa’s wildlife fundamentally depends upon. - Now is not the time to cut-off migratory corridors or build new fences. Instead, it is time to make land-use decisions that will be socially, ecologically and economically sustainable for generations to come. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Like seeing a dinosaur’: Scientists locate mystery killer whales [03/14/2019]
- For years, there have been stories and photographs of “odd-looking” killer whales lurking in some of the roughest parts of the sub-Antarctic seas. - Named Type D killer whales, these whales are quite different from regular killer whales: they’re smaller, their heads are more rounded, they have considerably smaller white eye patches, and their dorsal fins are narrower with sharp pointed tips. - Now, researchers have finally located and filmed a group of these mysterious Type D killer whales off the tip of southern Chile. - They have also collected tiny bits of tissues from the animals that they hope to use to analyze the whales’ DNA to see if they’re actually new to science.
In East Africa, spread of sickle bush drives conflict with wildlife [03/13/2019]
- The rapid spread of sickle bush is causing habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict in East Africa. - Experts don’t yet know why this native plant is spreading, but animals from elephants to gazelles dislike it and seek food in farms like those neighboring Randilen Wildlife Management Area in Tanzania. - Methods ranging from burning to chemicals have been suggested to deal with the issue. - Until the bush’s spread is slowed, crude methods ranging from flashlights to fireworks will continue to be employed to keep wildlife clear of crops.
Wikipedia searches reveal how people’s interests in wildlife change [03/13/2019]
- By analyzing Wikipedia pages corresponding to nearly 32,000 species across 245 Wikipedia language editions, researchers have found that pageviews for more than a quarter of the species show seasonal patterns. This suggests people are paying attention to the animals and plants around them, researchers say. - The study also found that views for species-related pages showed a lot more seasonality than random, non-species-related pages, suggesting that people tend to interact with wildlife in a more seasonal way than other aspects of their lives. - The study, while identifying some interesting patterns, does not dig into the potential causes driving those patterns. - What it does uncover are patterns of when, where and how people interact with nature, which, researchers say, can help guide conservation education and marketing campaigns.
Wildlife conservation strategies must take animals’ social lives into account: Researchers [03/13/2019]
- In a paper published in Science last month, an international team of researchers argues that the growing body of evidence on the importance of social learning and animal cultures must be taken more fully into account in order to improve wildlife conservation efforts. - “Animal culture” consists of information and behaviors shared amongst members of a wildlife community, such as a flock of migratory birds, a herd of elephants, or a pod of whales. For whooping cranes to retain knowledge of migration routes across generations, for instance, this knowledge must be passed between members of the flock through what scientists call “social learning.” - Despite the mounting evidence of the far-reaching implications of social learning for the preservation of wildlife, however, international policy forums that devise large-scale conservation strategies “have so far not engaged substantially with the challenges and opportunities presented by this new scientific perspective,” the researchers note.
Freshwater fishes and other threatened but overlooked biodiversity must be new flagships for conservation (commentary) [03/12/2019]
- Today there are believed to be at least 15,000 species of freshwater fishes. Only 54 percent of them have been assessed under the IUCN Red List, and one-third of these species are considered to be under threat of extinction. For the many species that remain unassessed, or for which there is too little information to make an assessment, the situation is likely to be as bad or worse. - While there is so much to do, there are only a handful of dedicated freshwater fish conservation organizations, and few have full-time staff. Trout and salmon have received large amounts of attention and, as a consequence, there are many stories of conservation success. There are fewer stories of success for species outside North America and northern Europe. And this is what we will change with Shoal. - The call by leading conservation agencies for a “new deal for nature” at the next Conference of the Parties of the Convention for Biological Diversity in 2020 needs to be firmly founded on neglected species, particularly freshwater biodiversity. Shoal will engage thousands of people and businesses across the globe who share a love of and stake in the future of freshwater species and healthy, productive wetlands but until now have had little opportunity to engage in the more mainstream conservation movement. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Elephant in the room: Botswana deals with pachyderm population pressure [03/12/2019]
- The government of Botswana is considering measures to rein in its elephant population to address the problem of human-elephant conflicts. - These proposed measures include a resumption of big-game hunting and culling of elephants, which number about 130,000 in Botswana — the biggest population of the pachyderm in Africa. - An existing solution is a transboundary conservation area that straddles the borders between Botswana and Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola. - Given that many of the elephants inside Botswana come from these other countries, officials say having wildlife corridors in the border areas could ease the population pressure inside the country.
Bank of China to review funding of dam in orangutan habitat in Sumatra [03/12/2019]
- A major Chinese state-owned bank has promised to evaluate a hydropower project that it’s helping fund in Sumatra, following criticism that it threatens the world’s rarest great ape species with extinction. - Bank of China said it was “committed to supporting environmental protection globally,” but stopped short of saying what actions it would take in its review of the Batang Toru hydropower project. - The project site is located in a forest that’s the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, a species only described last year. Conservationists estimate the population of the species at about 800. - There has been a mixed response to BOC’s statement, with some conservationists welcoming it and others saying it rings hollow, while a senior Indonesian official has condemned foreign NGOs’ opposition to the project as a form of outside intervention.
Encounters with the Javan rhino (commentary) [03/11/2019]
- Relatively little is known about the behavior of the Javan rhinoceros, a famously elusive species with a global population of less than 70 individuals. - Understanding the rhinos’ behavior and how they interact with their environment is key to conservation efforts. - In this commentary, researcher Haeruddin Sadjudin looks back on four decades of work with rhinos to compile anecdotes that shed light on some characteristics of the species. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Latam Eco Review: Scandal rocks famed Easter Island park and a freshwater crab discovery [03/09/2019]
Scandal surrounds indigenous management of a major Easter Island protected area, a newly described freshwater crab species in Colombia, declines in Central America’s peccaries, and a man who can recognize more than 3,000 birdsongs were among the recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Nepotism in Easter Island: Fraud scandal rocks famous park […]
Tiny subterranean Texas salamanders could be extinct in 100 years [03/08/2019]
- A recent study has revealed the existence of three previously undescribed species living underground within an aquifer system in Central Texas. - The authors say one of these species is critically endangered due to human over-use of the aquifer. In all, they say that this unsustainable use could mean the extinction of all aquifer salamanders in the next century. - The researchers urge the creation of policies that would regulate groundwater usage, as well as greater protection of particularly at-risk species through the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Iran’s endangered cheetahs and imperiled conservationists (commentary) [03/08/2019]
- Eight Iranian wildlife conservationists have been imprisoned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps since January 2018, facing charges of espionage. All those in detention — Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani, Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Sam Radjabi and Morad Tahbaz — are among the most knowledgeable, experienced, and capable conservationists working in Iran. - All are accused of spying under the guise of conducting cheetah surveys by using camera traps to collect sensitive information. But camera-traps are an extremely poor tool for spying. They are indispensable for monitoring shy species like Asiatic cheetahs, but the cat must pass within the sensor’s very limited range — around 5-10 meters — to trigger the unit. - We hope that their body of excellent work is presented during the trials. We also hope that the Iranian authorities consider their profound contribution to conserving Iran’s magnificent natural heritage, and that these authorities agree with us that the future of the cheetah and of conservation in Iran relies on these very people being able to continue their vital work. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Wildlife traffickers thrive on Guatemala’s murky border with Belize [03/08/2019]
- Guatemala’s environmental prosecutor has revealed the existence of “criminal structures” involving farmers, intermediaries from Guatemala and Belize, public officials, and financiers from Asia. - According to experts and authorities, the long-running border conflict between the two countries has led to the unchecked extraction of natural resources. - Scarlet macaws and parrots are smuggled across the border and sold on the local black market and in Mexico. Rosewood, a precious tree species that is often shipped to Asia, is also a target for illegal harvest and trade.
Seahorse trade continues despite export bans, study finds [03/08/2019]
- Many countries with export bans on seahorses are still trading in the tiny animals, a new study has found. - Traders in Hong Kong, the world’s largest importer of dried seahorses, told researchers that their stocks of dried seahorses for 2016-17 had mostly come from Thailand, the Philippines, mainland China, Australia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam — most of these countries have export bans in place. - Much of the seahorse trade seems to persist despite the bans largely because of indiscriminate fishing practices like trawling that catch millions of seahorses every year while targeting other fish species. - This suggests that both outright bans on the seahorse trade as well as trade restrictions under CITES aren’t being enforced effectively.
New MPA established in Philippines includes community-led monitoring program [03/07/2019]
- A new marine protected area (MPA) has been founded in the Philippines within what are considered some of the most biologically diverse waters on Earth. - The new MPA, which has been given the name Pirasan, encompasses more than 54 acres (about 22 hectares) of thriving coral reef habitat. The MPA was designed to protect this pristine reef system and, at the same time, boost an emerging local ecotourism industry. - In addition to establishing the new protected area, the municipality of Tingloy has committed to a uniquely ambitious two-year program to monitor the reef’s health and empower local residents as stewards of the reef.
Can jaguar tourism save Bolivia’s fast dwindling forests? [03/07/2019]
- Few countries in the tropics have seen trees chopped down as quickly as Bolivia did between 2001 and 2017. - Within Bolivia, nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in just a single state—Santa Cruz—as agribusiness activity, namely cattle ranching and soy farming, ramped up. - This loss has greatly reduced the extent of habitat for some of Bolivia’s best known species, including the largest land predator in the Americas, the jaguar. On top of habitat loss, jaguars in Santa Cruz are both persecuted by landowners who see them as a danger to livestock, and targeted in a lucrative new trade in their parts, including teeth and bones. - Duston Larsen, the owner of San Miguelito Ranch, is working to reverse that trend by upending the perception that jaguars necessarily need be the enemy of ranchers.
Proximity to towns stretches giraffe home ranges [03/06/2019]
- A recent study found that female giraffes that live close to towns have larger home ranges than those living further afield. - The study’s authors believe that large human settlements reduce giraffes’ access to food and water. - The team cites the importance of understanding the size of the area that giraffe populations need to survive to address the precipitous decline in the animal’s numbers across Africa in the past 30 years.
Philippines customs find more than 1,500 live turtles in suitcases [03/06/2019]
- Customs officials in the Philippines have seized 1,529 live turtles found wrapped in duct tape inside four suitcases abandoned at the international airport in Manila. - The confiscated turtles include threatened species like the Indian star tortoise, red-footed tortoise, and the sulcata or African spurred tortoise, as well as red-eared sliders, one of the most commonly traded turtles in the world. - The officials say the suitcases belonged to a Filipino passenger who had arrived on a flight from Hong Kong. If caught, the passenger could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $3,800 for violating the country’s wildlife and customs laws, customs authorities said. - The seized turtles, estimated to be worth $86,000, have been turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit.
Salt fiends: Search for sodium puts Rwanda’s gorillas in harm’s way [03/06/2019]
- A recent study has identified a craving for sodium as the likely reason that mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park raid eucalyptus plantations outside the park. - Eucalyptus bark contains 100 times more sodium than the gorillas’ normal diet and accounts for up to two thirds of their total sodium intake. - A proposed buffer zone of nutritionally unattractive plants could help deter gorillas from crop raiding, which is the primary cause of human-gorilla conflict in the area.
You’re gonna need a smaller boat: Media obscures shrinking ‘newsworthy’ fish [03/05/2019]
- The sizes of certain species of fish that qualify as “newsworthy” have diminished over time, a new study has found. - The authors scoured English-language newspapers going back to 1869, searching for terms like “massive” and “giant” in mentions of noteworthy fish landings, and compared the reported lengths with the largest specimens on record for that species. - They found that for some “charismatic megafish,” such as whale sharks and manta rays, the size that qualified as large has declined over time. - That shifting baseline could pose a problem for conservation efforts because it gives the impression that “there are still a lot of very large fish in the sea,” marine ecologist Isabelle Côté said.
Activists fighting to save orangutan habitat from dam unfazed by legal setback [03/05/2019]
- An Indonesian court has ruled that construction of a hydroelectric dam in North Sumatra can proceed despite concerns it will harm the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan. - Conservationists plan to appeal, citing “irregularities” in the decision and saying important issues raised during the hearing were not taken into account. - The loss of even one or two orangutans per year due to impacts from the hydroelectric project could lead to eventual extinction, experts say.
180 years of herps: Q&A with Luis Ceríaco on Angola’s atlas of life [03/05/2019]
- Angola’s new atlas of amphibians and reptiles is a compendium of nearly 400 species recorded from thousands of scattered sources published between 1840 and 2017. - The atlas includes the history of research into Angola’s herpetofauna as well as detailed distribution and conservation concerns of 117 species of frogs and 278 species of reptiles currently recognized in the country. - By placing all available data on Angola’s herpetofauna in a single document, the atlas could serve as a tool for those interested in biodiversity conservation in the country, researchers say. - Mongabay spoke with Luis M.P. Ceríaco, one of the researchers involved in the project, to know more about the atlas.
Trouble in Botswana’s elephant paradise as poaching said to rise [03/05/2019]
- Botswana is home to 130,000 elephants, a third of Africa’s total elephant population, and has gained a reputation as a sanctuary for the threatened species. - The country has a hunting ban and strict anti-poaching measures in place. - But a report based on an aerial survey carried out last year appears to show an alarming increase in poaching, notably of male elephants for their typically larger tusks — a finding disputed by the government. - The government is considering ending the hunting ban to allow the trophy shooting and culling of elephants to get their population under control.
In Nigeria, hunters turn into guardians of the rarest gorilla on Earth [03/04/2019]
- The Cross River gorilla was thought to be extinct by the 1980s, even though people living and hunting in remote areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border knew the apes were still present deep in the forest. - After the ape was formally rediscovered in the late 1980s, conservation groups and the Nigerian government worked to protect its habitat. - In one part of the Cross River gorilla landscape, the Mbe Mountains, traditional landowners organized themselves into a community conservation association, keeping the forest under their stewardship. - The association faces ongoing challenges, but with the support of NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society, it works to protect gorillas while improving the livelihoods of local people.
As extinction looms, can Javan rhinos survive in Ujung Kulon? (Commentary) [03/04/2019]
- Indonesia’s Javan rhinos were widely hunted until they were protected by a Colonial-era law in 1910. Even then, enforcement was limited. - Since 1921, the Ujung Kulon peninsula in western Java has been protected as a reserve for Javan rhinos. It is now the species’ sole remaining habitat. - Ujung Kulon’s rhino population faces numerous challenges including invasive plants, competition from wild cattle and the risk of natural disasters and disease. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Marine protected areas are getting SMART (commentary) [03/03/2019]
- This year, World Wildlife Day will celebrate life in the world’s oceans. It’s a fitting tribute. Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the world’s surface, harbor hundreds of thousands of species, and provide important resources to coastal communities that house more than 35 percent of the global population. - Oceans also face significant threats, including overexploitation. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are central to the efforts to protect Earth’s seas and the wildlife that call them home. In recent years, there has been a surge in their creation. - In order for this strategy to succeed, though, new and existing MPAs must be managed effectively. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) was developed by the SMART Partnership, a collaboration of nine global conservation organizations to improve the performance of protected areas, both on land and at sea, and better use limited resources. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Video: scientists capture giant spider eating an opossum [03/02/2019]
- For the first time, researchers have documented a giant spider eating an opossum in the Amazon rainforest. - Writing in the February 28th issue of the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, a team of scientists describe several rarely observed cases of invertebrates eating various vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, snakes, and even a mammal — a mouse opossum. - The mouse opossum incident occurred in 2016 in the Peruvian Amazon and was captured on film by biology students. - The sighting was the first of a mygalomorph spider — a group of large spiders that includes tarantulas — preying on an opossum.
Taiwan: Extinct leopard subspecies allegedly seen by rangers [03/02/2019]
- Formosan clouded leopards were reportedly spotted by rangers in a remote part of Taiwan. - Declared extinct in 2013 after a years-long project to capture one on camera failed, community rangers say they saw the creatures twice last year. - Mongabay asked the IUCN about the reports, but their big cat experts could not comment officially due to the lack of verifiable info on the sightings. - “I believe this animal still does exist,” National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi said.
Why did Serengeti’s wild dogs disappear? Study challenges controversial hypothesis [03/01/2019]
- When African wild dogs disappeared from the famed Serengeti National Park in 1991, a controversial hypothesis that emerged was that handling by researchers to fit them with radio collars and take blood samples had compromised their immune systems and triggered a latent rabies virus. - Decades later, a new study challenges that hypothesis, showing that wild dogs exposed to similar stresses and conditions to the east of the park didn’t face the same mortality rate. - A proponent of the original hypothesis, though, says a more rigorous analysis of the wild dogs’ exposure to disease and levels of stress would have presented a more convincing argument. - The study’s authors posit that African wild dogs went missing from the Serengeti plains because of increasing competition with lions and hyenas, whose numbers have increased in the park.
Latam Eco Review: Mining bust in Peru, mining boom in Chile [03/01/2019]
A state of emergency against illegal mining in Peru, open season for new mining ports in Chile, drones vs rats in the Galápagos, and jaguar corridors in Colombia are among the top recent stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Massive raid on illegal mining in Peru’s Madre de Dios Peruvian security forces descended en […]
In the Congo Basin, a road cuts through once-untouched ape wilderness [03/01/2019]
- The TRIDOM landscape, encompassing forests in Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, is home to more than 40,000 great apes as well as Central Africa’s largest elephant population. - TRIDOM is in the path of a planned road link between Cameroon and Congo. Associated projects include a hydropower dam. - While the project’s environmental impact assessment estimated only 750 hectares (1,850 acres) of woodland would be cleared for the road, on-the-ground observation of work in progress indicates the impact will be much greater. - In addition to the direct impact of forest clearing, conservationists fear the road will increase habitat fragmentation, facilitate hunting and mining, and encourage human migration into the area — something that is already happening.
Protests flare as pressure mounts on dam project in orangutan habitat [03/01/2019]
- Activists in Jakarta and cities around the world staged protests outside Bank of China branches and Chinese diplomatic missions on March 1. - They called on state-owned BOC to end its funding for a hydroelectric project in Sumatra that threatens the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest great ape. - A lawsuit is pending in an Indonesian court, and a verdict due on March 4 could see the developer’s environmental permit rescinded, essentially halting the project. - The protests come amid a revelation, first reported by Mongabay, that the signature of a scientist involved in the environmental impact analysis was forged to obtain the permit.
Indigenous hunters vital to robust food webs in Australia [03/01/2019]
- A new study has found that the removal of indigenous hunters from a food web in the Australian desert contributed to the local extinction of mammal species. - The Martu people had subsisted in the deserts of western Australia for millennia before the government resettled them to make space for a missile test range in the 1950s. - A team of researchers modeled the effects of this loss, revealing that the hunting fires used by the Martu helped maintain a diverse landscape that supported a variety of mammals and kept invasive species in check.
Kenya: Maasai herders work to keep themselves and wildlife roaming free [02/28/2019]
- Government-run parks cover too little of Kenya’s territory to sustain the country’s wide-ranging wildlife populations, nearly two-thirds of which depend on open rangeland that indigenous herders also use. - Today, herders and wildlife must navigate pastures that are increasingly crowded, fragmented, and fragile. Livestock numbers have increased dramatically, while wildlife populations have declined precipitously. - The South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO), a collective of Maasai-owned group ranches spanning 10,000 square kilometers (3,800 square miles), formed to protect the free movement of both people and wildlife on its terrain. - While SORALO’s monitoring suggests its efforts are yielding results, South Rift communities face an extraordinarily complex future, and the goal of coexistence between herders and wildlife does not come easily.
Vaquita still doomed without further disruption of totoaba cartels (commentary) [02/28/2019]
- According to our sources on the ground in Baja California, recent arrests of totoaba traffickers in China and pressure on the Chinese traders in Mexico are beginning to have an effect on the illegal totoaba supply chain. - This is the most important news for the vaquita, the world’s smallest and most threatened porpoise, in years, and a result of — and proof that — intelligence activities and law enforcement can disrupt these criminal enterprises and significantly slow their illegal operations. Intelligence operations produce results. - Without these efforts aimed at direct disruption of the supply chain itself and the operations of the wildlife crime networks involved, there is absolutely no chance to win the war in the Sea of Cortez, save the vaquita, and save the rest of the region’s extraordinary marine life. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
For the famed chimps of Gombe, human encroachment takes a toll [02/28/2019]
- The chimpanzee population in Gombe National Park in Tanzania has declined significantly in recent years. - Among other factors, loss of suitable habitats due to charcoal production and smallholder agriculture has contributed to this drop. - The Jane Goodall Institute, domiciled in Gombe, is now working with the communities living near the park to address these issues.
Abandoned plantations in forested areas may not recover fully: Study [02/27/2019]
- In a eucalyptus plantation in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in southern India, abandoned for nearly 40 years and allowed to regenerate, researchers found that the number of tree species had increased since 2005, now making it similar that of the adjacent primary forest. - But the kinds of trees growing in the plantation were very different from those in the primary forest, suggesting that the latter provide ecosystem benefits, like greater carbon storage, that the plantation forests do not. - While plantation forests can provide benefits, such as serving as a corridor connecting primary forests, they are not a substitute for intact old-growth forests, the researchers conclude.
We know why zebras got their stripes, but how do they work? [02/27/2019]
- Scientists have long wondered why zebras wear striped coats and a 2014 study might have finally supplied the answer: biting flies like glossinids (tsetse flies) and tabanids (horseflies) appear to be the “evolutionary driver” of the zebra’s stripes. - Finding the answer to how zebras got their stripes led to another question: How exactly do stripes help zebras avoid biting insects? - Tim Caro, a professor of wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis in the US, and Martin How, a researcher at the University of Bristol in the UK, led a new study to examine how stripes might deter biting flies as they attempt to land on zebras.
Nepal, in a bid to create a new rhino population, pauses to take stock [02/27/2019]
- Efforts to establish a population of Indian rhinos in Nepal’s Bardia National Park have a checkered history. - The park received 87 rhinos from Chitwan National Park between 1986 and 2003, a process that continued even as Bardia was buffeted by armed conflict. Only 22 of those rhinos survived. - Two years ago, Bardia began receiving rhinos again, although so far just eight of a planned 25 have been relocated. Two of them have since died.
Blue whales remember best times and places to find prey [02/26/2019]
- A new study demonstrates that blue whales in the northern Pacific Ocean use their memories, instead of cues in the environment, to guide them to the best feeding spots. - The researchers used 10 years of data to discern the movements of 60 blue whales. - They compared the whales’ locations with spots with high concentrations of prey over the same period. - The whales’ reliance on memory could make them vulnerable to changes in the ocean brought about by climate change.
It pays, but does it stay? Hunting in Namibia’s community conservation system [02/26/2019]
- Namibia has designated about 20 percent of its area as 82 communal conservancies run by local communities. Of these, about two-thirds have hunting rights. They retain a portion of their allocated quota to hunt for food for the local community, and sell a portion to professional hunters, who in turn bring in trophy hunters. - In theory, it’s a win-win: income and development opportunities for impoverished local people that give them a reason to preserve their wildlife, while using hunting as a tool to keep the species in balance. - A visit to the system’s first and most successful conservancy, Nyae Nyae in remote northeastern Namibia, raises questions about how well the system is currently working for either the local San community or their wildlife.
Is there another Javan Rhino habitat as ideal as Ujung Kulon? (Commentary) [02/26/2019]
- Ujung Kulon National Park is the last habitat of the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), a critically endangered species. - A recent tsunami increased calls for a new habitat to be found in which to establish a second population. - Finding an ideal habitats elsewhere is important, but not as easy as some experts and conservationists think. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New map shows every forest matters in helping save the Javan leopard [02/26/2019]
- A new study outlines where Javan leopards live – and where suitable habitat remains on the densely inhabited island. - National parks remain the most stable habitat for the critically endangered species, but the study finds that half its potential habitat is in unprotected areas. - Partnering with companies and local people is necessary to keep Java’s last big cat from going extinct.
The odor side of otters: Tech reveals species’ adaptations to human activity [02/25/2019]
- Recent studies of an elusive otter species living in the highly modified mangroves and reclaimed lands on the coast of Goa, India offer new insights into otter behavior that could inform future conservation efforts. - Researchers have studied these adaptable otters with camera traps, ground GPS surveys, and satellite images; they’re now testing drone photogrammetry to improve the accuracy of their habitat mapping. - Using data gathered over a period of time, the researchers aim to pinpoint changes in the landscape and, in combination with the behavioral data gathered by the camera traps, understand how otters are reacting to these changes.
Allegation of forged signature casts shadow over China-backed dam in Sumatra [02/25/2019]
- A researcher has claimed that his signature was forged in a document used to obtain a permit for a Chinese-backed $1.6 billion hydropower project in Indonesia. - If his claim is proven true, the project’s environmental permit would presumably be rendered invalid, raising questions about the project’s future. - Environmentalists say the cancellation of the project is crucial for the future survival of the Tapanuli orangutan, a newly described great ape that is already at risk of extinction due to habitat fragmentation.
World’s largest bee filmed alive for the first time in Indonesia [02/25/2019]
- The world’s largest known bee, the Wallace’s giant bee, has been photographed and filmed in Indonesia’s North Maluku archipelago alive for the first time. - Wallace’s giant bee is listed as data deficient on the IUCN Red List and researchers know very little about the species. - But last year, researchers discovered listings of Wallace’s giant bee specimens up for auction on eBay. One specimen sold for $9,100, and another for $4,150. - Given that collectors already know that the bee is out there, researchers hope that the publicity of the bee will renew both research efforts to understand the bee’s life history better, as well as government efforts to protect the species.
Research into chimp health benefits human, ecosystem well-being too [02/22/2019]
- Decades of research at Tanzania’s Gombe National Park have identified two major threats facing the park’s chimpanzees: habitat loss and disease. - The two factors are linked, with human incursions into chimpanzee habitat increasing the risk of exposure to disease. - Given the close genetic relationship between chimps and humans, diseases can flow both ways. - Established 15 years ago, the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project aims to improve the health of chimps, humans and the wider ecosystem in the Gombe area.
In a predator-infested forest, survival for baby birds comes by the road [02/21/2019]
- Fledglings of a common bird, the white-rumped shama, in a tropical forest in Thailand were more likely to survive if they came from nests near a roadway than if they fledged deeper in the forest, researchers have found. - The scientists believe that predators’ preference for the forest’s interior at this study site led to the difference in survival rates. - Still, they caution that the apparent benefits of one road for a small subset of a single species don’t necessarily extend to the broader bird community, and say that planners should avoid building roads through areas of high conservation value. - More research is necessary to determine if this effect is specific just to this study site.
Audio: The sounds of a rare New Zealand bird reintroduced to its native habitat [02/20/2019]
- On today’s episode, we speak with Oliver Metcalf, lead author of a recent study that used bioacoustic recordings and machine learning to track birds in New Zealand after they’d been reintroduced into the wild. - In this Field Notes segment, Metcalf plays some of the recordings of the hihi, also known as the stitchbird, that informed his research and explains how bioacoustic monitoring can help improve reintroduction programs.
New Species of orangutan threatened from moment of its discovery [02/20/2019]
- In a November 2017 article, an international team of scientists described a new species of great ape: the Tapanuli orangutan. - The announcement was based on years of researched that demonstrated the species exhibited genetic, physical and behavioral differences that distinguished it from Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. - Even as conservationists celebrated the description of a new species, they raised an alarm about the dangers facing the ape — notably, a hydropower dam planned for its sole remaining habitat. - This is the second in a two-part series about the discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan.
Chinese ‘Queen of Ivory’ sentenced to 15 years in jail for tusk trafficking [02/20/2019]
- Tanzania has sentenced Yang Fenglan, a Chinese national dubbed the “Queen of Ivory,” to 15 years in prison for smuggling the tusks of more than 350 African elephants over several years. - Yang, 69, was arrested in 2015, along with two Tanzanian men, and charged with trafficking 860 ivory pieces, which according to authorities were worth at least $5.6 million. - On Feb. 19, a court convicted the three of organizing a criminal syndicate and sentenced them to 15 years each. It also ordered them to pay a fine double the market value of the ivory they were accused of smuggling, or face an additional two years in prison for failing to do so. - Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a press conference that China would support Tanzania’s investigation and handling of the case.
What does it take to discover a new great ape species? [02/19/2019]
- In a paper published November 2017, an international team of scientists described a new species of orangutan. - The Tapanuli orangutan, the eighth known great ape, is distinct from its Sumatran and Bornean cousins in several key ways. - The species is also highly threatened, with plans to develop a hydroelectric dam in its only known habitat raising alarm among conservationists. - This is the first in a two-part series about the discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan. Part Two will be published Feb. 20.
In the Solomon Islands, making amends in the name of conservation [02/19/2019]
- The Kwaio people of the Solomon Islands have been working with scientists to protect their homeland from resource extraction and development. - But violent clashes in 1927 between the Kwaio and the colonial government created a rift between members of this tribe and the outside world. - To heal those old wounds and continue with their conservation work, a trio of scientists joined the Kwaio in a sacred reconciliation ceremony in July 2018. - Kwaio leaders say that the ceremony opened the door to a more peaceful future for their people.
India-Nepal agreement to boost transborder conservation of rhinos, tigers [02/19/2019]
- India and Nepal, which share a border running more than 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles), are set to sign an agreement strengthening transboundary conservation of species like the Indian rhino, Bengal tiger and Asian elephant. - The memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed before India’s upcoming parliamentary elections, slated for April and May this year. - The MOU is expected to put an emphasis on cooperation for the conservation and protection of tigers, whose population has increased in both countries over the past decade.
Report: Turkish carrier is ‘poacher’s airline of choice’ for parrot trade [02/18/2019]
- In a recent report, the U.K.-based charity World Animal Protection (WAP) identified Turkish Airlines as one of the main airlines enabling the illegal trade in African grey parrots. - Calling the carrier the “poacher’s airline of choice,” the report published Feb. 4 noted that smugglers were using Turkish Airlines to illegally move a large number of African grey parrots on flights from the Democratic Republic of Congo to countries in the Middle East and western and southern Asia. - WAP also started an online campaign, “Wildlife. Not pets.”, demanding that Turkish Airlines stop transporting all birds “until it’s sure African grey parrots and other protected species aren’t being flown on its planes.” - In response, Turkish Airlines on Feb. 13 issued a global embargo on the transportation of African grey parrots on any of its planes, according to a press release from WAP.
The view from the bottleneck: Is nature poised for a big comeback? [02/18/2019]
- A new theory, from bottleneck to breakthrough, posits that urbanization, falling fertility and the end of extreme poverty could result in a much greener world than the one we inherited. - The scientists behind the idea believe that conservation must continue to “hold on” to species and places as nations make their way through the tightening bottleneck. - If trends today persist, the global population could urbanize and fall dramatically in the next couple of centuries, turning conservation into restoration. - This post is part of “Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild,” a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s original staff writers.
Corruption-riddled caviar trade pushes fish closer to extinction [02/18/2019]
- TRAFFIC, WWF and several other organizations and institutions have published a report demonstrating that corruption drives the illegal trade of caviar around the world. - Many of the species of fish, including those that produce the highest-priced caviar, are critically endangered. - The report’s authors surfaced evidence of bribery, conflicts of interest, poaching and improper labeling in the industry, all of which are putting further pressure on the resource.
Latam Eco Review: Twilight for Darwin’s foxes, nightlife for jaguarundis [02/15/2019]
Jaguarundis caught on camera in Peru, hydropower choking Colombia’s Cauca River, and Darwin’s foxes on the brink of extinction were among the recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Caught on camera: Unexpected nightlife of jaguarundi in Peru They were following spectacled bears in northern Peru, but at night camera traps caught species […]
Nepal court blocks road construction in rhino stronghold of Chitwan Park [02/15/2019]
- Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the second-largest population of greater one-horned rhinos, as well as Bengal tigers and hundreds of other species. - Plans to construct road and rail links through the park alarmed conservationists and landed Nepal with a formal warning from UNESCO. - On Feb. 13, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the government not to build new roads inside Chitwan without approval from UNESCO, the park management and other stakeholders.
Sri Lanka gets its first data-based elephant distribution map [02/15/2019]
- Researchers have produced the first ever data-based distribution map of Asian elephants for Sri Lanka. This is also the first evidence-based distribution map of Asian elephants for any of the 13 range countries, the researchers say. - The study found that elephants currently occur in 60 percent of Sri Lanka, a figure that’s higher than previous estimates based on expert opinions, and also higher than that for any other range state. - The majority of the elephants occur outside protected areas, sharing space with humans, the study found. So trying to confine the animals to the limits of protected areas is not a sound conservation strategy, the researchers say. - Instead, they recommend a “human–elephant coexistence model,” one that aims to reduce conflict by protecting villages and cultivations with barriers.
A snapshot of camera traps reveals user frustrations and hopes [02/14/2019]
- A team of camera trapping experts surveyed researchers and conservation professionals to identify limitations to their successful use of remote cameras, assess their wish list of technological developments, and predict what next-generation camera trapping will look like. - Their recently published study revealed that cost, theft, vulnerability of the cameras to environmental conditions, and several ongoing technical issues may be limiting the effectiveness of this popular technology in providing the utility the users seek. - The survey respondents offered numerous predictions for next-generation camera trapping, including solar and lithium-ion power sources, a wider range of sensors, and software-driven automation.
DRC’s Virunga to welcome visitors again after 8-month closure [02/14/2019]
- Escalating violence in mid-2018, resulting in the deaths of seven park rangers, forced the closure of Virunga National Park to visitors. - The park is known for its diverse wildlife, especially its mountain gorillas, as well as its active volcano, but its location in eastern DRC is one of the most volatile regions on earth. - After assessing the security of the park, officials will reopen stable areas for visitors on Feb. 15 interested in trekking to see the gorillas and to visit the rim of the volcano.
Massive pangolin seizure in Borneo smuggling operation bust [02/13/2019]
- A team of police and wildlife officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah seized nearly 30 metric tons (33 tons) of pangolins on Feb. 7. - The raids on a factory in the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, and a warehouse in a village outside the city revealed a “smuggling syndicate,” which police believe has been operating for seven years. - Sabah has become a waypoint for the trafficking of scales from pangolins in Africa to Asia. - In this case, however, a man arrested in the raid told police that he had purchased the pangolins from local hunters in Malaysian Borneo.
Wisdom, world’s oldest known wild bird, is a mother again at 68 [02/13/2019]
- Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is believed to be at least 68 years old and is the world’s oldest known wild bird. - She returned to her regular nesting site in Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, located within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the northern Pacific, in November last year, and her new chick hatched earlier this month. - Millions of Layson albatrosses were slaughtered in the early 1900s for their feathers, which were used in hats in Europe. That makes Wisdom’s contribution to the species’ regeneration important as it recovers from the large-scale hunting, biologists say.
Nicaragua crisis takes an environmental toll with plunder of turtle eggs [02/13/2019]
- Residents of communities around Nicaragua’s La Flor Wildlife Refuge raided some 2,000 turtle nests and killed at least six turtles during the summer of 2018, a conservation NGO says. - The scale of the theft was exacerbated by an ongoing political and security crisis that has left the refuge devoid of rangers and military patrols. - The country’s first lady has launched an “I love turtles” media campaign, but critics are skeptical about how effective it will be.
Grasshoppers: They come, they eat, they … pollinate? [02/13/2019]
- A new paper describes 41 species of orthopterans — grasshoppers, crickets and katydids — visiting flowers, making them potential pollinators. - More research is needed to understand what role these insects, often viewed as crop destroyers, play in pollination. - Insects worldwide are in crisis due to pesticide use, loss of habitat and climate change.
Tool innovation shows cultural evolution at work among chimpanzees [02/12/2019]
- Chimpanzees in the wild have long been known to use a balled-up wad of leaves as a sponge to soak up water to drink. - In 2011, researchers in Uganda observed chimps using a fistful of moss instead of leaves — and noted that the practice of “moss-sponging” was spreading throughout the chimp community. - The sudden emergence and then rapid spread of this new tool leads researchers to believe that chimpanzees are capable of cultural evolution. - Deforestation and hunting threaten chimpanzees with extinction, and may make it more difficult for cultural innovations to spread.
Six new catfish species, facial tentacles and all, described in Amazon [02/11/2019]
- Researchers have described six new species of catfish from the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America. - All six species belong to the genus Ancistrus, and have tentacles sprouting from their faces, spines sticking out from their heads, and armor-like bony plates covering their bodies. - The newly described fish were once plentiful but are now scarce, the researchers say, largely due to habitat destruction from agricultural expansion, deforestation and gold mining.
Jammin’ at wind farms may help save bats [02/11/2019]
- Hundreds of thousands of bats are killed by wind turbines each year in North America. - New technology that uses an ultrasonic acoustic field to jam bat echolocation was found to reduce bat fatalities by 54 percent at a wind energy facility in Texas. - The Bat Deterrent System will be released commercially in North America this year. - Tests are ongoing to maximize the system’s effectiveness for various bat species.
Sumatran tiger killed at London Zoo by potential mate [02/10/2019]
- Melati, a 10-year-old female Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), was killed Feb. 8 at ZSL London Zoo when she was introduced to a 7-year-old male called Asim. - Asim had been transferred from Denmark as part of the European Endangered Species Programme, a captive-breeding program. - The two tigers had been kept in separate but adjacent paddocks for 10 days before zookeepers opened the door between them on the morning of Feb. 8. - Scientists believe that fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers live on their namesake Indonesian island.
Indonesia rescues captive orangutans, but leaves their owners untouched [02/08/2019]
- Authorities in Indonesia have confiscated two juvenile Sumatran orangutans, a critically endangered species, being kept as pets. - Possession of an orangutan is punishable by up to five years in prison in Indonesia, but authorities have never prosecuted any pet owners, who tend to be powerful and influential figures, and instead go after the poachers and traders. - Conservationists say there need to be legal consequences for keeping orangutans as pets, in order to discourage the illegal trade, which involves poachers killing mother apes to capture babies and juveniles.
Latam Eco Review: ‘Andean ostrich’ gets some bling and Patagonia pumas protected [02/08/2019]
The most recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed Romeo, the incredibly rare Bolivian frog who’s finally found a mate; puma protection in Patagonia National Park; and the “Andean ostrich” that now features on a Peruvian coin. Love over extinction: Bolivia’s ‘Romeo’ frog finds his Juliet After a decade of solitude, Romeo, […]
What’s in a name? The role of defining ‘wilderness’ in conservation [02/07/2019]
- In a recent opinion piece published in the journal Nature, several ecologists question recent efforts to delineate areas of wilderness and intactness around the world to define conservation targets. - They argue that it would be better to build broadly supported consensus that includes the perspectives of local and indigenous communities. - But the leader of a team that recently mapped out the remaining wilderness on land and in the ocean said that identifying these areas and developing new targets that incorporate their conservation is critical because current international agreements do not prioritize their protection.
Conservation couture: Batik artisans make rhinos a fashion statement [02/07/2019]
- Campaigners in Indonesia have blended rhino conservation with artisanal batik production to raise awareness about saving the critically endangered species. - Under a program started by a conservationist, local batik designers are incorporating rhino motifs into the hand-dyed textiles, in the hope that this will get the public thinking about rhinos. - There may be as few as 30 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, following decades of poaching, habitat loss, and climate-induced forest fragmentation.
Fries with that shark? U.K. chippies found selling threatened species [02/06/2019]
- Researchers tested DNA from tissue samples collected from fish-and-chip shops and fishmongers in the U.K. and found that majority originated from the threatened spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), frequently sold under generic names like rock, huss, and rock salmon. - The study also analyzed shark fins from wholesalers in the U.K., and found that many of them had come from the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark. - Seafood should come with accurate, complete species information for consumers to make informed choices, the researchers write, instead of ambiguous, “umbrella” terms that cover multiple species.
Urbanization in Asia provides a window of hope for tigers, study finds [02/06/2019]
- The transition to cities by Asia’s human population is likely to affect the continent’s remaining tiger populations, according to a new study. - Depending on policy decisions around migration, urbanization, education and economics, the trend toward urbanization could provide more space for tiger numbers to rebound. - A team of researchers modeled five different “socioeconomic pathways” for the continent, showing that a focus on sustainable living could result in fewer than 40 million people living within the tiger’s range by the end of the century. - But that number could also balloon to more than 106 million people if countries veer away from international cooperation and poor management of urbanization.
Gorilla radio: Sending a conservation message in Nigeria [02/06/2019]
- The Cross River gorilla, the rarest great ape subspecies with only 300 individuals believed to survive in the wild, is found only in highland forests along the Nigeria-Cameroon border. - A 2014 survey of people living near Cross River gorilla habitat found that while the majority understood that gorillas are endangered and killing them is illegal, few supported measures to protect the gorilla or its habitat. - The Wildlife Conservation Society is working to build support for conservation via an educational and entertaining radio program called “My Gorilla My Community.”
Conservation groups press world leaders to protect 30% of the planet [02/05/2019]
- Thirteen nature conservation organizations are urging world leaders to back a plan to protect 30 percent of the world’s surface and oceans by 2030. - Recent research has shown that less than a quarter of the world’s wilderness still remains. - The group released a statement as negotiators were meeting in Japan to begin drafting a plan to meet that goal.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative could increase alien species invasion [02/05/2019]
- China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative could introduce alien invasive species into several countries, threatening their native biodiversity, warns a new study. - Researchers looked at the risk of invasion of more than 800 alien invasive vertebrate species and found that there were 14 invasion hotspots — areas that have both high introduction risk with the movement of people and goods, and conditions that would allow the invasive species to thrive. - These hotspots include areas in North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. - Other researchers say the study doesn’t include many other kinds of invaders, such as insects and pathogens, which can have major financial impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and livestock.
Tech prize encourages solutions to threats from invasive species [02/04/2019]
- The second round of the Con X Tech Prize offers 20 awards of $3,500 each, plus the chance to win the $20,000 grand prize, to help beginning inventors develop their ideas for solving conservation problems into prototypes. - The challenge particularly encourages interdisciplinary teams to generate technological ideas to address the threats to economies and ecosystems from invasive species, though it welcomes submissions to help other conservation challenges as well. - Teams must submit their proposals by March 13, 2019 to the Conservation X Labs Digital Makerspace.
Exit the dragons: Mexico tackles trafficking of endangered lizards [02/04/2019]
- The tree-dwelling lizards of the Abronia genus, native to Mexico and Central America, are traded internationally, often illegally, to supply the exotic pet market. - Customs officials have found them hidden in socks, concealed in car trunks or squeezed into the double-depth of a portfolio. - Mexico in 2016 recommended that all 29 Abronia species be listed in the CITES Appendix II, which would impose restrictions on their international trade, but legal traders say this will drive illegal trafficking of the lizards even deeper underground.
Wetland forests: What are they worth? (commentary) [02/01/2019]
- The wetland forests of the Southern United States are a valuable, yet vulnerable, national treasure. Their tangled branches, ancient butted roots, and swampy mystique conceal rare and beautiful wildlife and are deeply ingrained in the cultural heritage of the region. - Wetland forests provide vital ecosystem services for people living in the U.S. South. These benefits include protecting communities from the worst impacts of hurricanes and flooding, supporting a vibrant recreation economy, improving property values, providing opportunities for ecotourism, filtering water, treating waste, supporting pollinators, growing food and forest products, and even cooling the worst of the South’s sticky hot summers. - Just a few hundred years ago, the swamps of the South were drastically different. They stretched over the landscape where tree plantations, farms, and cities have now replaced them. The forested wetlands of the Southern US and the myriad benefits they provide are crucial to the health and wellbeing of the region, which is why we should work to protect them. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Latam Eco Review: Seeing red over pink dolphins and flamingos [02/01/2019]
The most popular stories published recently by our Spanish-language news service, Mongabay Latam, featured endangered pink Amazon river dolphins, the world’s rarest flamingos, palm oil plantations in Nicaragua, impunity in Peru, and mansions in Colombia. Mercury and accidental capture endanger Amazon river dolphins The Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) was recently categorized as endangered in […]
Haiti’s first private nature reserve seeks to protect rare plants and animals [02/01/2019]
- On Grand Bois, an isolated mountain in southwestern Haiti, researchers and conservation groups have carved out the island nation’s first ever private nature reserve. - The new reserve overlaps with the Grand Bois National Park declared by the Haiti government in 2015, and covers about 5 square kilometers (2 square miles) of mostly primary forest, offering protection to several rare species found nowhere else on Earth. - With the first private reserve created on Grand Bois, which will be managed with the help of local communities, the conservationists now plan to both build a network of private nature reserves and assist the government in managing other protected areas.
Octopus farming unsustainable, unethical, and unnecessary, scientists warn [01/31/2019]
- With efforts underway around the globe to develop commercial octopus farming operations, scientists from Australia, Spain, and the U.S. have penned an article, published in the journal Issues in Science and Technology this month, warning of the severe impacts octopus aquaculture would have on animal welfare and the environment. - Some 550 different aquatic animal species are currently raised in captivity in about 190 countries, accounting for as much as half of the seafood market in many industrialized countries. Spain is leading the charge to farm species like the common octopus, Octopus vulgaris, employing a variety of experimental aquaculture practices while the Spanish Institute of Oceanography carries out and publishes major research on octopus farming. - Even if a sustainable diet for captive octopus could be found, farming the cephalopods would still be unethical, researchers argue.
Wildlife rangers in DRC park report waning motivation, job satisfaction [01/31/2019]
- Surveys of more than 60 rangers in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo cite poor salaries, few chances for advancement, and security concerns as reasons for their low satisfaction with their jobs. - The authors of the study, published in the journal Oryx, believe that the rangers’ discontentment leads to waning motivation in protecting the park and its wildlife, which includes the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla. - Improved conditions, in the form of better salaries, opportunities for promotion, and better support from the judicial and legal authorities, could translate into improved protections for the park, the researchers write.
Deadly disease and warming ocean are wiping out a key starfish species [01/31/2019]
- The mysterious sea star wasting disease has caused massive declines of the sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), a major predator within kelp forests in the Northeast Pacific. - The widespread decline of the starfish, especially in deeper waters, has been particularly shocking, researchers say, because it means that the animals have not been able to take refuge in deep waters as people had expected. - The study found that the occurrence of the largest declines in the sunflower sea star numbers coincided with abnormally high sea surface temperatures, suggesting that warming oceans due to climate change could have exacerbated the disease’s impact. - The collapse of the sunflower sea star could have cascading effects on the ecosystem: the sea star is a major predator of sea urchins, and without the sea stars to keep a check on the urchin population, the latter would feast on the kelp forests, leaving behind a barren seascape.
House of the Royal Lady Bee: Maya revive native bees and ancient beekeeping [01/31/2019]
- Melipona beecheii, called Xunan-Kab in the Yucatec Maya language, is one of 16 stingless bee species native to the rainforests of the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico. - Xunan-Kab, like other stingless bees, is a prolific rainforest pollinator critical to the local ecosystem, but deforestation is gravely impacting wild populations. - Local beekeepers have kept domesticated colonies of Xunan-Kab for at least 3,000 years, but the practice declined strikingly in recent decades. - Today, however, traditional Xunan-Kab husbandry is experiencing a modest revival, offering hope for Mayan communities and rainforests of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Warmer waters shrink krill habitat around Antarctica [01/30/2019]
- A new study has found that fewer young krill are surviving to adulthood around Antarctica as ocean temperatures have risen in the Southern Ocean in the past few decades. - The researchers, who looked at decades of data on krill body lengths and abundance, found that the highest densities of krill had shifted southward by some 440 kilometers (273 miles) since the 1920s. - The scientists note that the findings could alter food webs in the Southern Ocean. - Currently, the internationally managed krill fishery does not take the location and size of the krill population into account.
To tackle great ape trafficking, follow the money, report says [01/29/2019]
- Critically endangered great apes in Africa and Asia are hunted to be sold as pets, for bushmeat, or for their body parts. - A recent study of the financial aspect of the trade in great apes reveals a complex system of multi-layered supply chains, embedded corruption, and soaring profits for those at the very top of these illicit networks. - Money connected to ape trafficking runs through the global financial system, often across multiple jurisdictions, opening a potential avenue for legal sanctions against traders.
Viral video of endangered lemur made people want one as a pet: Study [01/29/2019]
- A viral video of a ring-tailed lemur released in 2016 triggered a common sentiment: hundreds of people tweeted about “wanting to own pet lemurs,” a new study has found. - Researchers did not find any evidence of people buying or selling lemurs on Twitter. But viral videos like these can reinforce public interest in having wild animals as pets, they say. - Searches of the phrase “pet lemur” on Google and YouTube also spiked in the weeks immediately after the video went viral, compared to other weeks between 2013 and 2018.
For conservationists, crowdfunding sites raise both funds and awareness [01/28/2019]
- A new study analyzes the use of online crowdfunding platforms for conservation efforts across the globe. - Low-income countries are benefiting from supplementary funds for the conservation of biodiversity as a result of crowdfunding efforts thousands of miles away. - As with traditional sources of conservation funding, however, much of the capital raised through crowdfunding goes toward a handful of “charismatic” species, including elephants and wolves.
Latam Eco Review: Some whales may benefit from Japan’s whaling commission exit [01/26/2019]
More than 2,000 illegal mining sites in the Amazon, a wetland in Chile threatened by a highway extension, and a possible new monkey species in Peru were among the top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Interactive map shows more than 2,300 illegal mining sites across the Amazon A new interactive map shows 2,312 […]
Marine mammal and sea turtle populations benefitting from Endangered Species Act listing [01/25/2019]
- New research published in the journal PLoS ONE this month finds that the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is effectively aiding in the recovery of beleaguered populations of marine mammals and sea turtles. - Marine mammals and sea turtles comprise 62 of the 163 marine species that are currently afforded ESA protections. Researchers collected annual abundance estimates for populations of all 62 of those marine mammal and sea turtle species in order to analyze population trends and the magnitude of observed changes in population numbers. - The research team hypothesized that populations that have been listed under the ESA for longer periods of time would be more likely to be recovering than those species listed recently, regardless of whether they were listed as “threatened” or the more severe “endangered,” and that’s exactly what they found.
After a year of no babies, 3 right whale calves spotted off U.S. coast [01/24/2019]
- After a year of no reported births, whale surveying teams have observed three North Atlantic right whale calves so far during the 2018-2019 calving season, off the coast of Florida, U.S. - Researchers photographed the first calf in late December last year, followed by a second calf on Jan. 13 and a third baby on Jan. 17. - The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered species of whales in the world, with their numbers dropping due to a combination of human-caused factors like collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear, as well as a declining birth rate.
Romeo finally found his Juliet, and an endangered frog has new prospects for survival [01/24/2019]
- When Valentine’s Day rolled around last year, Romeo found himself without a date. That’s because Romeo is a Sehuencas water frog and, as far as scientists knew at the time, he was the last surviving member of his species. The last time he even bothered calling for a mate was apparently some time in late 2017. - So last year, the teams at the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny and the NGO Global Wildlife Conservation set up a dating profile for Romeo on Match.com as a means of raising money to fund an expedition into Bolivia’s cloud forests in search of a Juliet. - That expedition led to the rediscovery of the Sehuencas water frog in the wild and the collection of three males and two females, all of whom were taken to the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny’s K’ayra Center for Research and Conservation of Threatened Amphibians. Once the quarantine period is over, Romeo will finally meet his Juliet — and the species just might make a comeback from the brink of extinction.
Audio: IUCN’s Inger Andersen: “Women represent 3.5 billion solutions” [01/23/2019]
- On today’s episode, we talk with the Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Inger Andersen. - Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Switzerland, the IUCN is probably best known for its Red List of Threatened Species, a vital resource on the conservation statuses and extinction risks of tens of thousands of species with whom we share planet Earth. But the IUCN does much more than just maintain the Red List, as Inger Andersen, the organization’s director general, explains. - Andersen also discusses how updates are made to the Red List (and what updates we can expect to the List in 2019), the importance of empowering women in conservation and sustainable development, the need to tackle unsustainable production and consumption patterns, and why the 2020 installment of the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress will be perhaps the most important yet.
Rhinos or roads? Nepal deals with a tricky balancing act [01/23/2019]
- Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the world’s second largest population of greater one-horned rhinos, as well as nearly 100 Bengal tigers and more than 54 other mammal species. - After a 2016 mission, UNESCO warned that Chitwan could be placed on the World Heritage in Danger list if a number of planned infrastructure projects were completed as proposed. - Since then, the largest projects have been suspended or rerouted; now, conservationists say they are more concerned by the impacts of unplanned urbanization and local flood-control projects. - Local officials often struggle to balance protecting Chitwan’s ecosystem against the popular demand for infrastructure development projects.
New species of leaf-mimicking lizard could already be victim of pet trade [01/23/2019]
- From the forests of Marojejy National Park in Madagascar, researchers have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko that has a somewhat compressed body, a small triangular head, and a leaf-shaped tail. - So far, the gecko, named Uroplatus finaritra, is known only from within a small area at lower altitudes in Marojejy. Since forests in this area are rapidly disappearing due to illegal logging activity, both in and around the park, the researchers recommend that the gecko be listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. - The gecko may also have already appeared in the international pet trade under the label of the more common satanic leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus phantasticus.
Saving the forests of the Congo Basin: Q&A with author Meindert Brouwer [01/23/2019]
- Central African Forests Forever, first published in 2017, takes readers to the heart of the continent, introducing them to the people and wildlife of this region. - Its author, independent communications consultant Meindert Brouwer, says the book also functions as a tool for sharing information about efforts to address poverty and environmental issues in the region. - Mongabay spoke with Brouwer to learn more about his motivations and the reception of his work in Central Africa.
In Sumatra, a lone elephant leads rescuers on a cat-and-mouse chase [01/23/2019]
- Conservationists recently tried to relocate a wild elephant from one forest on the island of Sumatra to another. - The elephant’s original home, the Bukit Tigapuluh forest, has been heavily fragmented by human activity, pushing the animals within into nearby villages. - The elephant, a female named Karina, is the last remaining member of her herd.
Tanzania creates new reserve to protect rare colobus monkeys and trees [01/21/2019]
- Tanzania has officially created a new national park, the Magombera Nature Reserve, extending protection to numerous species of rare plants and animals, including the endangered Udzungwa red colobus monkey and Verdcourt’s Polyalthia tree. - The formal declaration of the reserve comes after some 40 years of research and conservation efforts. - The declaration of the reserve is just the first formal step, and one of the subsequent tasks will be to develop a management plan for the park together with local villages and other stakeholders, researchers say. - A key feature of the management plan is to boost tourism to the reserve, which can eventually benefit the local communities, if sustained over the long term.
Solomon Islands province bans logging in bid to protect environment [01/21/2019]
- The leaders of Central Island province, part of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, have decided not to issue new business licenses to logging and mining companies following a local petition and recent reports detailing the lack of sustainability and legality in the country’s logging sector. - Local and international organizations have blamed unsustainable and corrupt logging practices for destroying the islands’ sensitive habitats and creating civil strife among the people who live there. - Provincial governments in the Solomon Islands lack the power to block logging outright, leading Central Island province to take the licensing approach to stop new operations.
Why are more female than male Magellanic penguins stranded in South America every year? [01/17/2019]
- Thousands of Magellanic penguins become stranded every year along the coast of South America, from northern Argentina all the way down to southern Brazil, and are unable to make it back to their breeding grounds in Patagonia 1,000 miles or more away. - Scientists have observed that the penguins that get left behind are three times as likely to be female as male. But, due to a dearth of data on the penguins’ migratory habits, it could not be determined why there was such a gender-based discrepancy to the strandings. - New research published this month in the journal Current Biology sheds new light on the situation, however, finding that, among other behavioral differences, female Magellanic penguins are likely to venture farther north than their male counterparts — and that by doing so, they’re more likely to run into the kinds of trouble that can leave them stranded.
Cellphones are still endangering gorillas, but recycling old ones can help [01/17/2019]
- The Congo Basin, key habitat for gorillas and chimpanzees, is rich in minerals such as coltan, gold and tin that are used in electronics. - Mining is a major factor in the decline of species like the Grauer’s gorilla, which have lost habitat to the industry and are also hunted when forest is opened up for mining. - Participating in cellphone recycling programs helps reduce the demand for mining in gorilla habitat.
Camera traps find rich community of carnivores on Apostle Islands [01/16/2019]
- Some 160 camera traps deployed across the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in Wisconsin, U.S., have revealed a diverse community of carnivores, including the American marten, black bear, bobcat, coyote, and gray wolf. - The camera trap survey provided the first photographic evidence of the American marten in the islands in over 50 years. The marten is listed as endangered in Wisconsin. - The study also found that islands that were larger or closer to the mainland, or both, held a greater number of carnivore species than islands that were small or more distant — patterns consistent with the concept of island biogeography. - The movement of the carnivores, either through swimming or via ice bridges formed when parts of the lake freeze, could be under threat from climate change, the researchers warn.
Asiatic black bear cubs rescued from illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam [01/15/2019]
- Vietnamese authorities confiscated the two female bear cubs from wildlife smugglers in Hai Phong province on January 9, according to Vienna, Austria-based animal welfare NGO Four Paws. - After spending a night in a hotel, the cubs were taken to a Four Paws bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh on January 10, where they are receiving intensive medical care. - Authorities do not know who was meant to buy the bear cubs or where their ultimate destination was. It’s likely that the bears were imported from Laos, though they could also have come from a bear farm in Vietnam.
China busts major ivory trafficking gang following EIA investigation [01/15/2019]
- In 2017, an undercover operation by the watchdog group Environmental Investigation Agency identified three men involved in smuggling elephant ivory from Africa to the little-known town of Shuidong in China, which, according to the trafficking syndicate, receives up to 80 percent of all illegal ivory from Africa. - Following EIA’s report, Chinese enforcement authorities raided several places in Shuidong and surrounding areas and arrested one of the three men who received a jail term of 15 years. A second member of the gang voluntarily returned to face trial and was jailed for six years. - The third identified member of the syndicate has also been repatriated to China from Nigeria under an INTERPOL Red Notice and will face trial in China. - In addition to these three men, enforcement actions have also led to the conviction of 11 suspects by the local court, with jail terms ranging from six to 15 years.
For orangutans affected by El Niño, change unfolds over time [01/15/2019]
- A long-term study in Kutai National Park in Indonesian Borneo has shown how weather caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle affects the behavior, habitat requirements, feeding ecology and birth intervals of the park’s orangutans. - The study increases conservationists’ understanding of how orangutans survive in difficult and variable climatic conditions — important information given the likely impact of climate change. - Understanding the influence of the ENSO cycle was only possible through a multi-year study, highlighting the value of long-term projects. But the current trend is for short-term studies, which are often more appealing to funders and researchers.
Bringing the tapir back to Borneo [01/14/2019]
- Malayan tapirs were found in Borneo until at least 1,500 years ago and maybe into the modern era. - Some researchers have proposed bringing the tapir back to the island by rearing a new captive population on site. - Not everyone is convinced: some scientist view the idea as without conservation value and prohibitively expensive. - This post is part of “Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild”, a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s first staff writers.
Latam Eco Review: Resistance, hope and camera traps [01/11/2019]
The recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service, include a call to cover climate change, the dangers of opposing Colombia’s largest hydropower plant, and the most inspiring conservation news of 2018. ‘We are not doing enough’: 25 media groups commit to cover climate change “Journalists across the continent have a profound obligation to […]
Studying human behavior to protect orangutans: Q&A with Liana Chua [01/11/2019]
- Conservation efforts have traditionally focused too much on wildlife and not enough on human communities, says social anthropologist Liana Chua. - When it comes to orangutans, Chua says indigenous communities in Borneo are unlikely to share the concerns and priorities of international conservation organizations. Killing of orangutans by humans is a major threat to the apes’ survival. - Devoting real attention to the issues that are important to local people is key to developing better conservation policies, Chua says. - Chua leads a project billed as “a novel anthropology-conservation collaboration” that aims to improve human-orangutan coexistence in Borneo.
In Malta, legal loopholes give poachers cover to hunt migratory birds [01/11/2019]
- Malta is a stopping-off point for some 170 species of birds migrating between Europe and Africa. But poachers kill or capture up to 200,000 wild birds every year — a problem widespread across the Mediterranean. - In particular, illegal trapping of birds such as finches continues to persist in Malta, despite the European Court of Justice ruling against Malta for allowing the trapping of protected species. - To legalize finch trapping within the framework of European law, Malta used a legal maneuver called a derogation by claiming that finch trapping was a traditional practice in the country. - Such legal derogations are being used as a smokescreen to illegally trap finches and other protected species not just in Malta but in other countries as well.
Rapid population drop weakened the Grauer’s gorilla gene pool [01/10/2019]
- The loss of 80 percent of all Grauer’s, or eastern lowland, gorillas in the past two decades has led to a severe reduction in the subspecies’ genetic diversity, new research has found. - That slide could make it more difficult for the fewer than 4,000 remaining Grauer’s gorillas to adapt to changes in their environment. - Scientists look for signs of hope in the animal’s sister subspecies, the mountain gorilla, which, studies suggest, has adapted to its own low levels of genetic diversity.
Why are fewer monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico? [01/09/2019]
- Fewer and fewer monarch butterflies are reaching their overwintering grounds in Mexico every year, and new research might shed light on why. - A 2016 study found that the monarch population in Mexican overwintering colonies has declined by approximately 80 percent over the past two decades. Pinpointing the causes of this decline has proven difficult, however. - A study published in the journal Animal Migration last month suggests a possible cause: The monarchs are simply finding places other than Mexico to spend the winter months, and possibly even giving up their migratory ways altogether, in order to survive.
Community-based conservation offers hope for Amazon’s giant South American turtle [01/09/2019]
- Rural communities began protecting the threatened giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) along a 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) stretch of the remote Juruá River in Brazil’s Amazonas state back in 1977 – becoming the largest community-based conservation management initiative ever conducted in the Brazilian Amazon. - A new study shows that these community stewards – who protect turtle nests and receive payment only in food baskets – have had incredible success not only in preserving endangered turtle species, but also in conserving riverine invertebrate and vertebrate species, including migratory birds, large catfish, caiman, river dolphins and manatees. - Today, the Middle Juruá River community-protected beaches are “true islands of biodiversity, while other unprotected beaches are inhabited by few species. They are empty of life,” say study authors. On the protected beaches, turtle egg predation is a mere 2 percent. On unprotected beaches on the same river, predation rates are as high as 99 percent. - The study also helps debunk a Brazilian and international policy that proposed the eviction of local traditional communities from newly instituted conservation units because they would be detrimental to conservation goals. Instead, researchers agree, traditional communities should be allowed to keep their homes and recruited as environmental stewards.
Start them young: Uganda targets children for conservation awareness [01/09/2019]
- Uganda is home to a wide variety of primates, including chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Deforestation, hunting and rapid population growth are among the threats facing the country’s wildlife. - Aiming to inspire future generations to protect the country’s wildlife, Uganda has made conservation education part of its national curriculum. - Conservation education centers, which give children first-hand introductions to chimpanzees and other wildlife, are a key part of the education effort. - The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center in Entebbe is the country’s busiest, receiving more than 260,000 guests each year.
George, the last known Hawaiian snail of his kind, dies at 14 [01/09/2019]
- George, the last known member of the Hawaiian snail species Achatinella apexfulva, died on the first day of 2019. - In 1997, researchers collected the last 10 known A. apexfulva specimens from the island of O‘ahu in a last-gasp bid to save the species through captive breeding. A few offspring did result from the program, but none survived, except George. - George, who was 14 years old when he died, was emblematic of the plight of the Hawaiian land snails, which are threatened by habitat loss and the introduction of predatory species.
Flashing lights ward off livestock-hunting pumas in northern Chile [01/07/2019]
- A new paper reports that Foxlights, a brand of portable, intermittently flashing lights, kept pumas away from herds of alpacas and llamas during a recent calving season in northern Chile. - Herds without the lights nearby lost seven animals during the four-month study period. - The research used a “crossover” design, in which the herds without the lights at the beginning of the experiment had them installed halfway through, removing the possibility that the herds were protected by their locations and not the lights themselves.
New species of tree frog from Ecuador has a mysterious claw [01/07/2019]
- A team of biologists surveying a remote and largely unexplored part of the Andes in Ecuador have described a new species of tree frog that’s dark brown in color, with bright orange flecks dotting its body. - The researchers have named the tree frog Hyloscirtus hillisi, after David Hillis, a U.S. evolutionary biologist known for his work on the Hyloscirtus genus of tree frogs. - While the researchers don’t have an estimate of the frog’s population, they think its numbers are likely low. - The species’ small habitat also lies near a large-scale mining operation, putting the frog at immediate risk of extinction.
Indonesia confiscated some 200 pet cockatoos. What happened to them? [01/04/2019]
- As Indonesia cracks down on the illegal wildlife trade, it is struggling to deal with the influx of animals confiscated from traffickers. - Birds are among the most trafficked creatures. Due to a lack of rehabilitation centers, where they would slowly be prepared for life in the wild, many birds are released prematurely. - That seems to have been the case with a group of cockatoos that were handed into the state after the infamous “water bottle bust” of 2015, in which a smuggler was caught with 23 yellow-crested cockatoos stuffed into plastic water bottles in his luggage.
Eavesdrop on forest sounds to effectively monitor biodiversity, researchers say [01/03/2019]
- Recording and analyzing forest soundscapes can be an effective way of monitoring changes in animal communities in tropical forests and human presence, researchers say in a new commentary published in Science. - Bioacoustics, which can be used to cover a vast range of animal groups over large landscapes, can also fill the gap between the bird’s-eye view of satellites and the finer focus of on-the-ground surveys, to give a clearer picture of animal population trends over large landscapes. - Moreover, bioacoustics has the potential to be an important tool in assessing what’s working and what’s not working in conservation, such as to monitor forests maintained by companies under certification or zero-deforestation commitments. - The researchers have called for improvements in processing and analysis of huge acoustic data sets, which at the moment are the major bottlenecks in soundscape research.
Worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history was caused by global warming analogous to current climate crisis [01/03/2019]
- The Permian period ended about 250 million years ago with the largest recorded mass extinction in Earth’s history, when a series of massive volcanic eruptions is believed to have triggered global climate change that ultimately wiped out 96 percent of marine species in an event known as the “Great Dying.” - According to Justin Penn, a doctoral student at the University of Washington (UW), the Permian extinction can help us understand the impacts of climate change in our own current era. - Penn led a team of researchers that combined models of ocean conditions and animal metabolism with paleoceanographic records to show that the Permian mass extinction was caused by rising ocean temperatures, which in turn forced the metabolism of marine animals to speed up. Increased metabolism meant increased need for oxygen, but the warmer waters could not hold enough oxygen to meet those needs, and ocean life was left gasping for breath.
Cyclone harmed Fijian crab fishery in 2016, research finds [01/03/2019]
- Research published in the journal Climate and Development demonstrates that Tropical Cyclone Winston damaged mud-crab fisheries in Fiji in 2016. - Surveys of the mostly women crab fishers in Bua province before and after Winston, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, revealed that mud crabs were smaller and less numerous following the cyclone. - The research could help government agencies address the lingering impacts of natural disasters to community fisheries.
Vietnam’s illegal ivory market continues to thrive, report finds [01/02/2019]
- Over two surveys conducted between November 2016 and June 2017, TRAFFIC’s researchers found more than 10,000 ivory items being offered on sale across 852 physical outlets and 17 online platforms, suggesting an ivory market that has continued to thrive over the past few decades. - Physical retail stores in Ho Chi Minh City and Buon Ma Thuot had the highest number of ivory items for sale, the surveys found, but two villages, Ban Don and Lak, had a disproportionately high number of items on sale compared to the number of stores. Among the online platforms, social media sites had the highest number of posts offering ivory for sale. - The ivory markets in Vietnam are, however, changing constantly. TRAFFIC’s researchers not only found ivory for sale in places where previous studies had found none, they also observed shifts in markets within their two surveys, over just an eight-month period. - The surveyors also found that the sellers were aware that selling ivory was illegal, but “it does not deter them from offering it openly for sale in Vietnam,” they said.
As a pandemic looms, researchers rush to test salamander vulnerability [12/31/2018]
- Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), the “salamander-eating” fungus, was first described in 2013 after it had almost entirely killed off several populations of fire salamanders in Europe. Researchers believe it spread there from Asia via the pet trade. - Researchers have yet to detect it in North America, but are very worried about its impacts if it arrives. The U.S. is home to more salamander species than any other country, many of which belong to families that are known to be particularly susceptible to the disease. - Biologists are racing to figure out how different species react to Bsal in an effort to know how it may spread and where best to target conservation efforts. - So far, all salamander species tested at one lab have been susceptible to Bsal infection.
Top 10 happy environmental stories of 2018 [12/31/2018]
- Throughout 2018, efforts to protect habitats and conserve threatened species were driven by governments, scientists, NGOs and indigenous communities. - The world pledged more conservation funding to protect the oceans, while protections for coastal ecosystems were also boosted. - Conservation initiatives steered by indigenous communities continue to garner attention and praise, not least because they tend to be more sustainable and effective than top-down programs. - These were among the upbeat, happy environmental and conservation stories we reported on in 2018.
An expanding frontier: Top 10 global palm oil stories of 2018 [12/28/2018]
- The world’s palm oil supply used to come almost entirely from just two countries: Indonesia and Malaysia. But over the past couple decades, interest in the popular commodity crop has increased in other tropical countries around the world. - Expansion in these new frontiers has had a variety of impacts, from habitat loss and degradation to alleged violation of the land rights of local communities. - Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite Mongabay stories about palm oil expansion around the world and the issues that affect it. - A separate post will look at palm oil stories within Indonesia and Malaysia.
‘Conservation never ends’: 40 years in the kingdom of gorillas [12/28/2018]
- While studying Rwanda’s critically endangered mountain gorillas in the 1970s, newlywed graduate students Amy Vedder and Bill Weber learned that the government was considering converting gorilla habitat into a cattle ranch. - At the time, conventional wisdom held that the mountain gorillas would inevitably go extinct. But Vedder and Weber believed the species could be saved, and proposed a then-revolutionary ecotourism scheme to the Rwandan government. - Forty years later, that scheme has proved its worth. Mountain gorilla populations have rebounded, and tourism generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Vedder and Weber now work to inspire the next generation of conservationists both in Rwanda and abroad. - In a series of interviews with Mongabay, Vedder and Weber reflect on a life in conservation.
Deadly tsunami leaves Javan rhinos untouched, but peril persists [12/28/2018]
- A tsunami that killed more than 400 people in Indonesia has left the last remaining population of Javan rhinos unscathed. - The species’ last habitat, Ujung Kulon National Park, was hit by the Dec. 22 tsunami caused by an eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano, but the rhinos were not in harm’s way, officials have confirmed. - The disaster has once again highlighted the constant peril that the species lives under, and strengthened calls to establish a new habitat elsewhere to ensure the survival of the rhino.
In India, indigenous youths are filming their own forests and communities [12/27/2018]
- In India’s northeast, the Greenhub project is empowering indigenous youths to use video as a tool to forward forest conservation and social change. - Tallo Anthony, from the project’s first batch, has been one of the most successful participants, winning several awards. - The project strives to empower people living in remote areas of India’s northeast region, who don’t have access to technology and can’t afford to but are interested in and committed to using video as a tool for conservation. - Greenhub also encourages women to participate, with two out of 20 seats in every batch reserved for women, and more female candidates welcome.
Japan leaving IWC, to resume commercial whaling [12/26/2018]
- The government of Japan confirmed today that it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will resume commercial whaling operations in the North Pacific. - The IWC, an inter-governmental organization founded in 1946 focused on whale conservation and management of the whaling industry, adopted a moratorium on hunting whales in 1982. - The moratorium allows for IWC member nations to issue whaling permits for scientific research purposes. Japan has openly flouted the moratorium by issuing such permits and selling the harvested whale meat ever since the moratorium took effect in 1986.
Gardens with too many nonnative plants threaten populations of insect-eating birds, study finds [12/26/2018]
- Researchers teamed up with community scientists to explore how nonnative plants in yards and gardens affect the breeding success of chickadees, a common insect-eating bird in the U.S. - In gardens with less than 70% of native plants by biomass, chickadee populations crashed, because the insects they usually eat cannot live on nonnative trees and flowers. - Landscaping with native plants helps resident animals thrive by sustaining balanced populations of their prey.
Audio: The best wildlife calls featured on the Mongabay Newscast in 2018 [12/26/2018]
- The Mongabay Newscast featured a lot of big names in conservation and environmental science in 2018, from E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy to David Suzuki and Sylvia Earle. (We even had a rock star, Grammy-winning guitarist James Valentine of Maroon 5, on the podcast to discuss why he’s doing his part to help stop illegal logging). - We strive to make scientific research accessible to everyone by having these luminaries of the field on the show to explain their work and share their thoughts on the latest trends. Another way we provide our listeners with an up-close look at what’s going on in the conservation science world is through our Field Notes segments, which feature recordings of wildlife calls captured by research scientists in the field. - The growing fields of bioacoustics and soundscape ecology are shedding light on animal behavior, how wildlife react to human pressures on their habitat, and how ecosystems evolve and change over time. Here are the very best Field Notes we featured on the Mongabay Newscast in 2018 so you can dive into this exciting new method of examining the natural world and the creatures with whom we share planet Earth.
Is captive breeding the answer to Indonesia’s songbird crisis? [12/25/2018]
- In Indonesia, singing contests for songbirds have skyrocketed in popularity. Even the president is a fan. - Demand for some species has made them extremely valuable. Poaching has risen accordingly, and some birds have been driven to the brink of extinction. - The government is pushing captive breeding as a solution to the crisis. But some conservationists warn the policy may do more harm than good. - A prime concern is that breeding licenses are easily exploited by “wildlife launderers” who pass of wild-caught animals as captive-bred. This only increases poaching.