Audio: Exploring humanity’s deep connection to water, plus the sounds of the Sandhill crane migration [03/20/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss humanity’s deep connection to water and hear sounds of one of the most ancient animal migrations on Earth, that of the Sandhill crane. - Our first guest today is marine biologist and conservationist Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do. - Our second guests are Ben Gottesman and Emma Brinley Buckley, researchers who are using bioacoustics to document Sandhill cranes on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska as the birds make a stopover during their annual migration. We’ll hear recordings of the cranes and other important species in this Field Notes segment.
The world’s last male northern white rhino has died [03/20/2018]
- Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino believed to be the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino, died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19. - Sudan had been battling ill health over the past few months, and after his condition worsened considerably in the last 24 hours, veterinarians decided to euthanize him. - Sudan lived at Ol Pejeta with the only other northern white rhinos left on Earth — his daughter, Najin, and her daughter, Fatu — under 24-hour armed surveillance. - The survival of the species now hinges on costly and never-before-attempted in vitro fertilization using eggs from the remaining females, stored sperm samples, and southern white rhino females as surrogates.
Belize creates one of Central America’s largest biological corridors [03/19/2018]
- On Feb. 13, the government of Belize approved the 110-square-kilometer Belize northeastern biological corridor. - The corridor aims to provide safe passage for wild animals like jaguars, pumas and Baird’s tapir to move freely between the Shipstern Nature Reserve and Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve in northern Belize. - Private landowners have agreed to place their corridor-designated lands into a trust in perpetuity, with the lands to be managed as part of the protected area system for conservation purposes.
Indonesia launches bid to restore national park that’s home to tigers, elephants [03/19/2018]
- Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra is home to critically endangered tigers and elephants, but has been heavily deforested by illegal oil palm plantations and human settlements. - The government has introduced a program to gradually relocate the people living within the park’s borders, by encouraging them to shift away from oil palm farming to alternative and sustainable forms of livelihood. - If successful, the program could serve as a model for restoring other national parks across Indonesia, which face similar problems of human encroachment.
Oil palm plantations’ dearth of biodiversity rubs off on nearby forests, study shows [03/19/2018]
- Oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo host a lower number of frog species than forests in same area. - However, the plantations exhibit an edge effect that extends as far as 4 kilometers, resulting in a decline in the diversity of frog species in adjacent forests. - The researchers suggest that for small forest patches or narrow corridors to be of long-term conservation value in oil palm landscapes, their sizes and widths need to adequately account for these edge effects.
Madagascar: Conservation official arrested for killing 11 endangered lemurs [03/16/2018]
- Two weeks ago, the bodies of 11 critically endangered lemurs were discovered in the Zahamena Ankeniheny Corridor protected area in eastern Madagascar. - The lemurs were allegedly killed by one of the local officials charged with protecting them, to the dismay of conservation leaders. - The alleged poacher was arrested on Feb. 27, and this week the police set out to arrest his suspected accomplices. - The Madagascar government reacted to the poaching incident at the highest level, including pledges by the prime minister and minister of the environment to crack down on poaching.
Sharp-eyed Mongabay readers spot a jaguarundi (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Last Monday, in an article about Brazil’s Cerrado, this Mongabay editor mistakenly identified an animal in a photo as a puma (Puma concolor). - Within hours multiple readers corrected that mistake, properly identifying the animal as a jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi). - Curiosity aroused, this editor went to work learning more about jaguarundis. - Most interesting find: these small cats of North, Central and South America, were until recently on track to be reintroduced to Texas, but a new president and his plan for a U.S. / Mexico border wall has put those plans in limbo.
Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. - It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. - However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.” - The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.
Save the Sumatran rhino ‘because we can’ (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Mongabay sent contributing editor Jeremy Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the last remaining Sumatran rhinos in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success. - Hance argues today in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.” - To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.
Conservationists rush to save Bolivian turtles threatened by egg trafficking [03/15/2018]
- The large-scale harvesting of the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) for human consumption has contributed to the species’ decline, according to scientists. It is currently classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. - A series of raids in mid-2017 saw authorities seize more than 50,000 river turtle eggs from poachers in the Beni department of Bolivia. - A conservation project is trying to help river turtle populations recover, and has released 70,000 baby turtles into the Maniqui River since 1992.
Indonesia races to catch tiger alive as villagers threaten to ‘kill the beast’ [03/15/2018]
- A conservation agency in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has deployed two teams to capture alive a wild tiger that has reportedly killed two people at an oil palm plantation. - The incidents prompted villagers living near the plantation to threaten to kill the tiger themselves if it was not caught. - Authorities are keen to take the animal alive, following the killing of a tiger earlier this month under similar circumstances.
Bushmeat hunting threatens hornbills and raptors in Cameroon’s forests, study finds [03/15/2018]
- A new study has found that hornbills, vultures and eagles are being hunted for bushmeat in Cameroon in much greater numbers than previously thought. - Researchers estimate that people living around the proposed Ebo National Park in Cameroon’s Littoral region consumed an average of 29 hornbills and eight raptors per month. - But they remain unsure how the current levels of hunting are affecting the bird populations, given that so little is known about the latter.
Activists eye bigger roles for local officials, businesses in Indonesia’s orangutan protection plan [03/15/2018]
- The Indonesian government is drafting another 10-year guideline for orangutan conservation that aims to staunch the decline in the population of the critically endangered great ape. - This time around, orangutan experts want the federal government to lay out clearer guidelines for conservation roles to be played by local authorities and companies working in orangutan habitats. - Local authorities and companies are seen as key to protecting the animals’ increasingly fragmented habitat, but tend to favor short-term development and business plans that don’t serve long-term conservation goals.
Will Madagascar’s industrial shrimp trawlers make way for local fishers? [03/14/2018]
- Shrimp is one of Madagascar’s most lucrative exports. - But local fishers and environmental groups say shrimp trawlers are harming the country’s marine environment and leaving too few fish in the sea for the fishing communities that depend on them. - Until now, relatively little has been done to address the issue. - But there are small signs that may be starting to change, with fishing communities raising their voices to press for exclusive access to Madagascar’s coastal waters.
Mysterious new butterfly named after YouTuber Emily Graslie [03/14/2018]
- Scientists have named a new species of butterfly for Emily Graslie, the writer, producer and host of the YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, and the chief curiosity correspondent of Chicago’s Field Museum. - The postage stamp-sized butterfly Wahydra graslieae is dark rust-colored with jagged bands of silver scales on the underside of its hind wings. - The scientists identified the butterfly from a single museum specimen collected by American biologist Harold Greeney from the Ecuadorian Andes in 2004. The specimen remained inside a Tupperware box until 2016.
Camera traps nab crop-raiding animals near farms in the Amazon [03/14/2018]
- A team of scientists from the U.K. and Brazil used an array of 132 camera traps to snap more than 60,000 photographs around 47 farming communities in the Amazon. - They also conducted 157 interviews with local farmers about the animals that they found most frequently in their fields. - The researchers found that the animals that were most destructive to crops were also among the ones nabbed most frequently by their cameras.
Hope for the rarest hornbill in the world (commentary) [03/13/2018]
- There are three Critically Endangered hornbill species in the world. The rarest, the Sulu hornbill in the Philippines, is little studied, does not occur in any protected areas, and is in imminent danger of extinction. - In January 2018, a team of conservationists from the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore visited the only known habitat of this bird to assess its status and make recommendations regarding its survival. - Five individuals were located, as well as a potential nesting site. Work will continue this year to train local rangers in hornbill study techniques; the patches of forest where the Sulu hornbill clings on should be granted legal protection from logging, hunting, and human encroachment. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Video: Rare newborn western lowland gorilla filmed in the wild [03/13/2018]
- The baby gorilla was born on Feb. 17 in the rainforests of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, according to WCS. - The infant is the offspring of a female gorilla named Mekome and a male silverback named Kingo, who has been studied by the WCS Congo researchers of the Mondika Gorilla Project for about two decades. - Mekome’s newest baby is her fifth offspring, and represents hope for the species, researchers say.
Cerrado: appreciation grows for Brazil’s savannah, even as it vanishes [03/12/2018]
- The Brazilian Cerrado – a vast savannah – once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, stretching to the east and south of the Amazon. - Long undervalued by scientists and environmental activists, researchers are today realizing that the Cerrado is incredibly biodiverse. The biome supports more than 10,000 plant species, over 900 bird and 300 mammal species. - The Cerrado’s deep-rooted plants and its soils also sequester huge amounts of carbon, making the region’s preservation key to curbing climate change, and to reducing Brazil’s deforestation and CO2 emissions to help meet its Paris carbon reduction pledge. - Agribusiness – hampered by Brazilian laws in the Amazon – has moved into the Cerrado in a big way. More than half of the biome’s native vegetation has already disappeared, as soy and cattle production rapidly replace habitat. This series explores the dynamics of change convulsing the region.
Oil palm, rubber could trigger ‘storm’ of deforestation in the Congo Basin [03/12/2018]
- Earthsight documented approximately 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of deforestation to clear the way for new rubber and oil palm plantations in Central Africa’s rainforest countries in the past five years. - The team also found that companies in five Central African countries hold licenses for industrial agriculture on another 8,400 square kilometers (3,243 square miles) of land. - The investigators warn that thousands of hectares of forest could fall to industrial agriculture in the COngo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, if governance of the forest doesn’t improve.
Cambodia creates its first marine national park where pirate fishers prowl [03/12/2018]
- In February, Cambodia announced the establishment of its very first marine national park, covering 524 square kilometers (202 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand. - Koh Rong Marine National Park takes in the seven islands of the Koh Rong archipelago and the web of coral, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems around them. - Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s tiny territorial waters have long been plundered by illegal fishing gangs feeding an ever-rising demand for seafood. - But the declaration of the new park does nothing to protect the environment, at least in the short term, with no new patrols of the heavily fished waters until next year and a $2 billion island development plan allowed to continue unhindered.
Only 12 vaquita porpoises remain, watchdog group reports [03/08/2018]
- The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita reported in 2017 that there were just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - Mongabay contacted Andrea Crosta, director of the international wildlife trade watchdog group Elephant Action League, just before his return to Mexico in early March 2018. - After his previous trip in February 2018, Crosta said his sources reported that no more than a dozen vaquitas remain. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to illegally catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are in high demand, especially in China.
Trump to allow elephant and lion trophies on case-by-case basis [03/08/2018]
- President Obama banned U.S. citizens from bringing home elephant and lion trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe. In November, 2017, Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed that ban until Trump himself overruled the USFWS, pausing the new rule until the president could make a final decision. - This week, the USFWS said in a memorandum that it will permit U.S. citizens to bring lion and elephant hunting trophies home from Africa – potentially including Zimbabwe and Zambia – on a case-by-case basis. - Conservationists largely responded negatively to the decision, critiquing it for offering little or no transparency, inviting corruption, and identifying no stated system or criteria for determining how permit selections will be made. - A variety of lawsuits are ongoing which could still influence the shape of the new rule.
Beyond polar bears: Arctic animals share in vulnerable climate future [03/07/2018]
- The media has long focused on the impacts of climate change on polar bears. But with Arctic temperatures rising fast (this winter saw the warmest October to February temperatures ever recorded), a wide range of Arctic fauna appears to be at risk, though more studies are needed to determine precise causes, current effects on population, and future projections. - Diminishing Arctic snow, especially in the spring, may leave wolverines without ideal places to den. Caribou and reindeer populations have been in serious decline due to natural population fluctuation, but scientists don’t know if their numbers will recover under changed climate conditions. - Lemmings are also being impacted by diminishing snow, often leaving the rodents without cover in spring and autumn. Their decline could impact the predators that prey on them, including Arctic foxes, red foxes, weasels, wolverines, and snowy and short-eared owls. - Snowy owls have raised concerns because the seabirds they hunt in winter, which congregate around small holes in the Arctic ice, could become more widely dispersed in broader stretches of open water and therefore be harder to prey on. Scientists say more study of Arctic wildlife is urgently needed, but funding and media attention remains sparse.
Jaguar numbers rising at field sites, WCS says [03/07/2018]
- WCS reports that jaguar numbers have risen by almost 8 percent a year between 2002 and 2016 at study sites in Central and South America. - The sites cover around 400,000 square kilometers (154,440 square miles) of jaguar habitat. - Despite the promising findings, WCS scientists caution that habitat destruction, hunting in response to livestock killings, and poaching for their body parts remain critical threats to jaguars.
How Tibetan Buddhism and conservation efforts helped Eurasian otters thrive in a city of 200,000 people (commentary) [03/07/2018]
- The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is now locally extinct in most of its former range in China due to hunting for its pelt, water pollution, and habitat destruction. - Recently, researchers recorded a healthy population of otters in Yushu, Qinghai, a city of 200,000 people. - What allowed this population to survive? Besides conservation efforts, Tibetan Buddhism traditions also played a vital role in reducing hunting and maintaining freshwater ecosystem health. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Bornean bearded pigs seen adapting to oil palm habitats, study finds [03/06/2018]
- Bornean bearded pigs appear to thrive in oil palm plantations, but remain heavily dependent on nearby forests as their primary habitat, a recent study indicates. - The findings are crucial because of the species’ key role as an “ecosystem engineer,” controlling the spread of tree species and turning over the soil with their rooting behavior. - The researchers have called on the Malaysian government to better protect these forests in a bid to ensure a sustainable population of bearded pigs in mixed forest-oil palm areas.
Villagers cite self-defense in tiger killing, but missing body parts point to the illegal wildlife trade [03/06/2018]
- Villagers in Indonesia have killed a critically endangered Sumatran tiger, after labeling it a menace to the village. - Conservation authorities, though, have found strong indications that the animal may have been killed for its body parts, which are highly prized in the illegal wildlife trade. - Habitat loss and poaching have already driven two other species of tiger in Indonesia to extinction, and conservationists warn the Sumatran tiger is being pushed along the same same path. - Warning: The article contains some disturbing images.
Ecotourism payments for more wildlife sightings linked to conservation benefits in Laos [03/05/2018]
- A four-year research project in a national protected area in Laos established a connection between higher payments for more wildlife sightings and improved protections for wildlife. - Over the course of the study, sightings of common wildlife rose by more than 60 percent. - Payments were funded by the entry fees paid by tourists. - They were placed in village development funds, which would then finance projects like school construction and healthcare.
Epic battle between tiger and sloth bear caught on film [03/03/2018]
- Footage of a fight between a male tiger and a mother sloth bear in an India wildlife reserve has gone viral on Facebook. - The video, shot this week in Tadoba National Park, was captured by Akshay Kumar, the chief naturalist at Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge in Maharashtra. - The video starts with the tiger chasing off a sloth bear that was headed with her cub toward a water body. - The bear then charges the tiger and the fight ensues.
Penguin mega-colony discovered using satellites and drones, raising scientists’ hopes [03/03/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a mega-colony of Adélie penguins in Antarctica’s remote Danger Islands. - The researchers utilized quadcopter drones to survey the nesting grounds in an automated manner and then used software to process the imagery for individual nests. - The approach enabled a fast and highly accurate count relative to ground observations. - The study validates the approach of combining satellite imagery with ground and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys.
Last of its kind: sole surviving male northern white rhino is gravely ill [03/03/2018]
- The planet’s last male northern white rhino is gravely ill. - Sudan, as the rhino is named, has developed a serious infection. - Only three northern white rhinos remain, including two females who are Sudan’s offspring. - The northern white rhinos are protected from poachers by armed guards.
New thumbnail-sized pygmy squid discovered in Australia [03/02/2018]
- The new species of pygmy squid belongs to the genus Idiosepius, a group of tiny, squid-like marine animals that are believed to be the world’s smallest cephalopods. - Researchers have named the new species Idiosepius hallami, or Hallam’s pygmy squid after Australian malacologist Amanda Reid’s son, Hallam, who helped her collect live animals for further comparisons. - Pygmy squids are generally found in shallow waters among seagrass and mangroves, some of the most threatened marine habitats.
Judge OKs waiving environmental laws to build U.S.-Mexico border wall [03/01/2018]
- On Tuesday, a federal judge in California ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not abuse its authority in waiving dozens of environmental laws to build sections of wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. - The ruling frees the department to waive laws for future border wall construction projects. - President Trump has pushed to erect walls along the entire 2,000-mile border, saying it is necessary to prevent the flow of drugs and undocumented immigrants over the border. - The proposal is intensely controversial, with opponents raising practical, humanitarian, and environmental concerns. Conservationists say that existing border infrastructure has disrupted connectivity for wildlife and that coast-to-coast fencing would be devastating.
‘S.O.S.’ carved out of former plantation shines a light on palm oil-driven deforestation [03/01/2018]
- A dramatic S.O.S. sign has been carved out of a stand of oil palms on a former plantation in Sumatra, serving to highlight the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. - The work is part of a campaign by a Lithuanian artist, a conservation group and a cosmetics firm to raise awareness about palm oil-driven deforestation in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity. - Extensive deforestation has for decades threatened the lives of the island’s native wildlife and the people who depend on the forests for a living.
Javan rhino population holds steady amid ever-present peril [03/01/2018]
- The latest survey from the Indonesian government shows the population of the Javan rhino, one of the world’s most endangered large mammals, holding steady in its last remaining habitat. - While the findings indicate a healthy and breeding rhino population, wildlife experts warn of the dangers looming over the animal’s existence, including human encroachment into its habitat and the ever-present threat of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. - The Javan rhino is one of the last three Asian rhino species — alongside the Sumatran and Indian rhinos — all of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
Five-year sentences for elephant poachers in Republic of Congo [02/28/2018]
- A court in the Republic of Congo has convicted three men of killing elephants for their tusks. They were handed five-year prison sentences and fined $10,000 each. - The three men were part of a six-member poaching gang that managed to escape an ambush set up by park authorities, but not before leaving behind some 70 kilograms of ivory as well as an AK-47 rifle, according to the WCS. - The gang is believed to have links to some of northern Congo’s most notorious elephant poachers and ivory traffickers, including two who were jailed in the last two years.
New study: Radar reveals bats are a bellwether of climate change [02/28/2018]
- New research indicates that bats could signal seasonal shifts due to climate change. - The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is the first to use radar to track an animal migration. - The scientists found that bats that migrate between Mexico and a cave in Texas are now arriving about two weeks earlier than they did in 1995.
African Parks to manage gorges, rock art and crocodiles of Chad’s Ennedi [02/27/2018]
- African Parks will manage the 40,000-square-kilometer (15,444-square-mile) Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve in Chad. - The reserve is home to unique rock formations, ancient human art, and wildlife, including a small population of crocodiles. - Two semi-nomadic groups currently depend on the oases found in the Ennedi Reserve.
Cambodia’s banteng-eating leopards edge closer to extinction, new study finds [02/27/2018]
- In just five years, the population density of Indochinese leopards within a protected area in eastern Cambodia has fallen from about 3 leopards per 100 square kilometers in 2009 to 1 leopard per 100 square kilometers in 2014, a new study has found. - This is one of the lowest densities of leopards reported in Asia, researchers say. - This statistic is worrying because the eastern Cambodian population is the last remaining breeding leopard population within a huge region spanning southeastern China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. - Eastern Cambodia’s leopards are also part of the only leopard population in the world to prey predominantly on an animal weighing more than 500 kilograms — the banteng.
Why intact forests are important [02/26/2018]
- Overall, the world lost more than 7 percent of its intact forest landscapes in just over a decade, a trend that appears to be accelerating. - A new study discusses how intact forests are critically important for mitigating climate change, maintaining water supplies, safeguarding biodiversity and even protecting human health. - However, it warns that global policies aimed at reducing deforestation are not putting enough emphasis on the preservation of the world’s dwindling intact forests, instead relying on a one-size-fits-all approach that may end up doing more harm than good. - The researchers urge more inclusion and prioritization of intact forests in global commitments and policies aimed at curbing deforestation.
Scientists aim to give engineers the tools for ecologically sensitive development [02/26/2018]
- EIAs, or environmental impact assessments, are notoriously flawed and don’t always provide an accurate assessment of the risks of development projects. - A recent article by a team of scientists is part of a larger effort to give planners and engineers the data for more environmentally sensitive development. - The article appears in the February issue of Jurutera: The Journal of Malaysian Engineers.
New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans [02/24/2018]
- Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. - While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas. - Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.
Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain [02/22/2018]
- The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain. - The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises. - The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank. - The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
Land plants may have evolved much earlier than we thought [02/21/2018]
- The results of a new study push back the date of emergence of land plants around 80 million years to approximately 500 million years ago. - This new date coincides with the emergence of the first land animals. - The study also finds the earliest land plants may have had roots. Plant roots are a powerful erosive force, and the researchers believe these plants could have had a big impact on the Earth’s climate.
Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals [02/20/2018]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about. - Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us. - Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at india.mongabay.com.
Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact [02/20/2018]
- A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them. - The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains. - The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.
Films celebrate big cats on World Wildlife Day [02/19/2018]
- Big cats is the theme of the global celebration of this year’s World Wildlife Day on March 3. - A big cats film festival hosted by CITES and Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival at the UN headquarters in New York City will screen 16 films selected as finalists. - Big cats are key apex predators that keep ecosystems healthy, and eight species are being celebrated for the event: the clouded leopard, jaguar, cheetah, leopard, lion, snow leopard, tiger and puma.
Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times [02/18/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested four farmers for allegedly shooting a Bornean orangutan whose body was found riddled with 130 air gun pellets. - The suspects claimed to have killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop. - The killing was the second such case reported this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are ostensibly protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.
Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic [02/16/2018]
- Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time. - The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales. - At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.
Borneo, ravaged by deforestation, loses nearly 150,000 orangutans in 16 years, study finds [02/15/2018]
- A new study calculates that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans in the period between 1999 and 2015, largely as a result of deforestation and killing. There were an estimated 104,700 of the critically endangered apes left as of 2012. - The study also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050 under the business-as-usual scenario, where forests are cleared for logging, palm oil, mining and pulpwood leases. Orangutans are also disappearing from intact forests, most likely being killed, the researchers say. - The researchers have called for more effective partnerships between governments, industries and local communities to ensure the Bornean orangutan’s survival. Public education and awareness will also be key.
Webs under water: The really bizarre lives of intertidal spiders [02/15/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a 15th species of intertidal spider, a family of unusual arachnids that live in coastal habitats that are submerged during high tides. - The newest species, named after singer Bob Marley, was discovered living on brain coral off the Australian coast. - Scientists know that some species create air pockets with their hairs, while others build waterproof webs, but little is known about most of these fascinating spiders. - Intertidal spiders face a number of threats, including rising sea levels due to climate change, and pollution.
New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania [02/14/2018]
- Last month, divers discovered a new population of the critically endangered red handfish off Tasmania’s coast. - The new site, currently undisclosed, potentially harbors about 20 to 40 individuals, doubling the number of known red handfish on Earth. - The new population is helping scientists understand the rare fish better.
Illegal ‘white gold,’ South Africa’s abalone, pouring into Hong Kong: TRAFFIC [02/13/2018]
- South African abalone imports into Hong Kong have progressively increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2000 to 6,170 tonnes in 2015, according to a new report by TRAFFIC. - During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Much of these imports were illegal, the researchers found. - While most abalone traders in Hong Kong seem to be aware that South African abalone is frequently poached, fewer consumers know about the illegal trade.
Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk [02/12/2018]
- Mexican conservationists are alarmed over Trump’s wall, with the loss of connectivity threatening already stressed bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals. - About one-third of the border, roughly 700 miles, already has fencing; President Trump has been pushing a controversial plan to fence the remainder. - A wall running the entire nearly 2,000-mile frontier from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, conservationists warn, would be catastrophic for borderland ecosystems and many wildlife species, undoing years of environmental cooperation between the two countries to protect animals that must move freely or die. - The wall is currently a key bargaining chip, and a sticking point, in ongoing immigration legislation negotiations taking place this week in Congress. Also expected this week: a federal court ruling on whether the administration can legally waive environmental laws to expedite border wall construction.
Indonesian police bust Chinese nationals with 200 kg of turtle shells [02/12/2018]
- Police in eastern Indonesia have arrested two Chinese men for illegally being in possession of 200 kilos (440 pounds) of turtle shells, which they believe was headed to China. - All turtle species are protected under Indonesian law, and the possession or trade in their parts is punishable by up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines. The estimated value of the seized shells was $13,200. - The bust highlights the continued role of the city of Makassar as the main gateway for traffickers moving wildlife products out of the biodiversity haven of Papua, where the suspects say they obtained the turtle shells.
Tree-dwelling animals can ‘climb’ away from climate change, study finds [02/09/2018]
- A new study has found that the temperature within a tropical forest varies considerably, with tree canopies experiencing wider extremes of heating and cooling compared to the ground or soil. - The range of canopy temperatures in tropical forests at the bottom of mountains overlaps considerably with those at the top of the mountains, which suggests that canopy animals likely have the physiology that might allow them to move across a mountain gradient freely unhindered by the climate. - This implies that tree-dwelling tropical animals might be more resilient to climate change, according to the study.
Whale of a tale: Protecting Panama’s humpbacks from ship collisions [02/08/2018]
- The key to alleviating whale strikes in the Panama Canal ended up being inspired by a solution used on land — and led to a years-long struggle for a Panama Canal pilot and a whale biologist to help reduce whale strikes in the Gulf of Panama, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. - Similar to how roads are now sometimes built to curve around the natural habitats of land creatures, Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) create shipping lanes that restrict marine traffic to certain areas. - But in order to get all shipping to abide by this system, countries need the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body that regulates shipping safety and navigation around the world.
Ecuador announces a new national park in the Andes [02/07/2018]
- The new Río Negro-Sopladora National Park comprises more than 30,000 hectares of almost-intact alpine plateaus and forests in Ecuador’s Andes and will protect an estimated 546 species of plants and animals. - In July 2017, after just 12 days of exploring the area, investigators found three new species of amphibians. Scientists think more species await discovery in the forests and alpine plateaus of the new park.
A tale of two otters: settling in Singapore, suffering in China [02/07/2018]
- New research shows a massive decline in China’s otter populations, including the possible local extinction of the smooth-coated otter. - But otters have recolonized Singapore, even appearing near the city center due to the island-nation’s campaign to clean up its rivers. - If China can successfully tackle fur trading and rampant river pollution, could otters one day make a comeback there?
Orangutan shot 130 times in Indonesia, in second killing reported this year [02/07/2018]
- A second Bornean orangutan has been killed in Indonesia this year after being shot multiple times with an air gun. - An autopsy revealed 130 pellets in the animal’s body, most of them in its head. Authorities managed to recover 48 of them. - Wildlife conservation activists have called on the authorities to launch an investigation into the killing of the critically endangered ape.
Earthquake triggers spawning in world’s rarest fish a few thousand miles away [02/07/2018]
- An earthquake that struck Alaska, U.S., on Jan. 23 caused more than 1-foot high waves in Devils Hole, a small water-filled limestone cave in the Death Valley National Park in Nevada, more than 2,000 miles away. - Devils Hole is the only known natural habitat of the incredibly rare Devils Hole pupfish. - Immediately after the waves hit the pool, the pupfish started spawning, indicated by the females turning a drab olive brown, which made the brilliant blue males stand out.
Audio: The cutting-edge technologies allowing us to monitor ecosystems like never before [02/06/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss the cutting-edge remote sensing technologies used to monitor ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs. We also listen to a few ecoacoustic recordings that are used to analyze species richness in tropical forests. - Our first guest today is Greg Asner, who leads the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science. Asner invented a technique he calls “airborne laser-guided imaging spectroscopy” that utilizes imaging spectrometers mounted on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory airplane to produce highly detailed data on large and complex ecosystems like tropical forests. - Our second guest is Mitch Aide, the principal investigator at the University of Puerto Rico’s Tropical Community Ecology Lab. In this Field Notes segment, Aide will play us a few of the audio recordings he’s uploaded to Arbimon as part of his recent research and will explain how these recordings are used to examine species richness in tropical forests.
Fishing with insecticide-laced mosquito nets is a global phenomenon [02/06/2018]
- In regions of the world threatened by malaria, bed nets treated with insecticides are an increasingly common public health tool to fend off mosquitos. - But there is growing evidence that the nets, often provided for free or at a subsidized price by hospitals and aid organizations, are being put to other uses, including fishing. - A new study is the first to document just how common fishing with mosquito nets may be, finding that people in countries around the world are doing it. - The practice could have significant environmental and socioeconomic implications.
Robbery or retribution? Police investigate death of prominent conservationist in Kenya [02/06/2018]
- Esmond Bradley Martin, a 76-year-old American, was found stabbed to death in the home he shared with his wife in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday. - Martin had been working in Africa and around the world since the 1970s to stop the slaughter of rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks. - Colleagues credit Martin with increasing the conservation community’s understanding of the trade of wildlife parts through his often-undercover investigations.
Mountain lions often lose to wolves and bears, study finds [02/06/2018]
- When the hunting grounds of pumas overlap with those of other top predators, such as wolves, bears and jaguars, pumas are often the losers, a new study has found. - The findings from the study, a review of existing scientific literature, are especially important given how pumas are still being intensively hunted over much of their range in a bid to reduce conflicts with people and livestock, researchers say. - In some puma habitats where wolves and brown bears are recolonizing and recovering, wildlife managers need to be cautious about hunting limits for pumas, the authors write.
Maps tease apart complex relationship between agriculture and deforestation in DRC [02/02/2018]
- A team from the University of Maryland’s GLAD laboratory has analyzed satellite images of the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify different elements of the “rural complex” — where many of the DRC’s subsistence farmers live. - Their new maps and visualizations allow scientists and land-use planners to pinpoint areas where the cycle of shifting cultivation is contained, and where it is causing new deforestation. - The team and many experts believe that enhanced understanding of the rural complex could help establish baselines that further inform multi-pronged approaches to forest conservation and development, such as REDD+.
Indonesian rubber farmers charged in gruesome killing of Bornean orangutan [02/02/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested two rubber farmers for allegedly shooting and beheading a Bornean orangutan whose body was discovered last month in a river. - The suspects claimed they killed the animal in self-defense, saying it attacked them after encroaching on their farm. - Wildlife conservation activists have lauded the police’s determination to catch the perpetrators and have called on the courts to be just as strict in trying them. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Hong Kong votes to ban ivory trade by 2021 [02/01/2018]
- Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest ivory markets, has overwhelmingly voted to ban its domestic ivory trade. - This ban comes just a month after China shut down all of its ivory markets on the mainland. - The ban will be implemented in a three-step plan over the next three years.
$23.5 million funding pledge aims to protect critical West African national park [02/01/2018]
- The National Geographic Society, Wyss Foundation, African Parks and the government of Benin have announced a combined commitment of more than $23 million to secure and restore the Pendjari National Park in Benin, West Africa. - The park is one of the last remaining strongholds for elephants in West Africa, and is also home to the critically endangered West African lion and Saharan cheetah. - In 2017, African Parks assumed management of the national park.
Corals thrive on remotest islands in the Galápagos [01/31/2018]
- Our first reef community stop in the Reefscape project was the Galápagos Islands in December 2017. - We found that ocean events such as El Niño can wipe out huge areas of reef, yet coral survival and regrowth remain evident. - Our direct actions, be the destructive overfishing or constructive protection, have a huge impact on the future of coral reef ecosystems. - One size does not fit all when it comes to coral reefs — even an archipelago hammered by coral-killing warm waters can harbor refugia for biodiversity.
New study suggests Borneo’s had elephants for thousands of years [01/31/2018]
- The research, published in January in the journal Scientific Reports, used genetic information and changes to the topography of the region to surmise that Asian elephants arrived in Borneo between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago. - The authors hypothesize that elephants moved from nearby islands or the Malaysian peninsula to Borneo via land bridges. - It’s an indication that the elephants are ‘native’ to Borneo, the scientists argue, and points to the need to bolster conservation efforts.
Two new dog-faced bats discovered in Panama and Ecuador [01/31/2018]
- Researchers have described two new species of dog-faced bats: the Freeman’s dog-faced bat (Cynomops freemani) from Panama and the Waorani dog-faced bat (Cynomops tonkigui) from Ecuador. - The Freeman’s dog-faced bat was named after bat specialist Patricia Freeman. - The species name of the Waorani dog-faced bat, “tonkigui,” honors the Waorani tribe of Ecuador that lives near one of the locations where the bats were captured, the study says.
Sumatra’s ‘tiger descendants’ cling to their customs as coal mines encroach [01/30/2018]
- Sekalak village in southern Sumatra lies in one of the last remaining strongholds of the Sumatran tiger, a critically endangered species that the locals revere as both an ancestral spirit and the guardian of the forest. - This respect for the tiger has sustained a generations-long pledge to protect the local environment, including the wildlife and water resources. - However, the presence of a coal-mining operation in the area poses a threat to both the tigers and the villagers’ way of life: the mining road gives poachers greater access to once-secluded tiger habitat, and the mining waste is polluting the river on which the villagers depend.
For Australia’s fire-starting falcons, pyromania serves up the prey [01/30/2018]
- Australia’s indigenous peoples have long spoken of birds of prey intentionally starting bushfires to flush out prey. - In a new study, researchers have now compiled observations and anecdotes from scientific reports, firefighters and Aboriginal peoples to get a better understanding of how such bird-caused fires spread in Australia’s Northern Territory. - Overall, most instances of fire-spreading by birds seem to be intentional, the authors say, but it is hard to say how common such fires are.
Camera trap captures spotted hyena in Gabon national park, the first in 20 years [01/29/2018]
- The spotted hyena was thought to be extinct in Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park for 20 years as a result of wildlife poaching. - But the camera trap image captured has given conservation groups hope that protection of the park is working and allowing wildlife to return. - Camera traps have also recently snagged images of a lion, a serval and chimpanzees.
Elephant tusks and pangolin scales seized, six suspects arrested in Ivory Coast [01/29/2018]
- Ivory Coast officials have announced the seizure of over half a ton each of elephant tusks and pangolin scales. - The ivory and pangolin scales were being shipped to Vietnam and other Asian countries, officials said. - Six people, including a Vietnamese national alleged to be the leader of the criminal syndicate, were also arrested.
Fang trafficking to China is putting Bolivia’s jaguars in jeopardy [01/26/2018]
- Residents in Bolivia’s Sena community say that they can sell a jaguar canine for about $215 on the Chinese market. - According to Bolivian authorities, the fangs are valued in the Asian market at prices as high as cocaine. - Between 2013 and 2016, 380 jaguar canines were seized by Bolivian authorities, which correlates to 95 jaguars killed. - Residents say an influx of Chinese companies to build roads and bridges in Bolivia is contributing to increased trafficking of jaguar parts. However, authorities deny these claims.
Baby photos of 10 of the world’s rarest turtles from the zoo trying to save them [01/26/2018]
- This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group. - This month, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Don Boyer, Avishai Shuter, and Julie Larsen Maher write about endangered turtles and tortoises WCS is trying to save. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, head photographer for WCS.
Do catch and release-induced abortions harm shark and ray populations? [01/26/2018]
- Female sharks and rays are more susceptible to aborting their young after being captured than previously realized, according to a recent review of scientific literature. - The review found that 88 species that bear live young were susceptible. Among a subset of those species for which adequate data was available, researchers estimated that an average of 24 percent of pregnant females abort their offspring when captured. - The authors argue that the phenomenon may be responsible for lost generations of threatened species. - However, outside researchers consulted for this story say that the killing of adult sharks poses a much bigger threat to species survival.
Rhino poaching in South Africa dipped slightly last year, but ‘crisis continues unabated,’ conservationists say [01/25/2018]
- South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa announced in a press briefing today that 1,028 rhinos were illegally killed in the country in 2017. - In Kruger National Park, which has typically been the epicenter of rhino poaching in South Africa, 504 illegal killings were recorded last year, Molewa reported. That’s a 24 percent reduction over 2016 — but these gains were offset by poaching in other regions, particularly KwaZulu Natal province. - While the rhino poaching rate in South Africa has slowly decreased every year since peaking in 2014 with 1,215 animals lost, conservationists were not encouraged by the slightly lower number of rhinos killed last year.
The ups and downs of marine protected areas: Examining the evidence [01/25/2018]
- To find out if marine protected areas achieve their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 42 scientific studies and talked to seven experts. - Overall, marine protected areas do appear to help marine animals recover within their boundaries. But a lot more rigorous research is needed. - The effects of marine protected areas on socioeconomic outcomes and fisheries are less clear. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Stranger than fiction? New spiders found in Brazil named after creatures from popular fantasy stories [01/24/2018]
- Seven recently discovered spiders all belong to the genus Ochyrocera and were found in the iron caves of Floresta Nacional de Carajás in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. - While all seven species can live and breed without sunlight, they’re not necessarily consigned to the deepest depths of the underworld. The same cannot be said for some of the new spiders’ namesakes, however. - Researchers with the Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Instituto Butantan have named the seven new spiders in honor of characters from fantasy works like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series.
Smallest wild cat in the Americas faces big problems — but hope exists [01/24/2018]
- The güiña (Leopardus guigna) is the smallest wild cat species in the Americas. It lives in the temperate rainforests of Chile and western Argentina. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with habitat loss and illegal killing considered the major causes of its decline. - Scientists from institutions around the world interviewed residents and surveyed güiña habitat using camera traps and remote-sensed imagery to model the drivers of local extinction in the Chilean portion of the species’ range. - They found the biggest threat to the güiña in Chile is agricultural land subdivision, which is causing habitat fragmentation. However, the study also revealed that the güiña appears to be able to tolerate a fair amount of habitat loss. - But as agricultural land is subdivided, understory forest — important habitat for the güiña — is being cleared. The researchers write it’s important to build spatial plans for this species at the landscape scale and incentivize farmers to manage their lands in a güiña-friendly way.
No more elephants? Poaching crisis takes its toll in the Central African Republic [01/24/2018]
- An aerial survey last year found that elephants might be locally extinct in northern Central African Republic. - The survey also showed that the poaching crisis had taken a considerable toll on many other large mammals, including giraffe, African buffalo and the giant eland. - A park in eastern CAR shows that threats to wildlife can be tackled, but security is required first and foremost.
Indonesia hints rhino sperm transfer to Malaysia may finally happen this year [01/24/2018]
- Indonesia has signaled it may send a much-needed sample of Sumatran rhino sperm to Malaysia for use in a captive-breeding program seen as the last means of saving the critically endangered species. - If it goes to plan, the program would boost the genetic diversity of the species, of which only 30 to 100 individuals are believed to remain in the wild. - The Sumatran rhino population has been decimated by poaching and habitat loss, but the biggest threat facing the species today is the small and fragmented nature of their populations, with an increased risk of inbreeding.
Muskox and other Arctic mammals are feeling the heat of climate change [01/23/2018]
- Past studies have looked at Arctic climate change impacts on wildlife primarily among marine animals and with polar bears, but there is little data on most terrestrial mammals. - Now, As part of a broader attempt to develop an ecological baseline for Arctic wildlife, researchers have focused on muskoxen, the least studied mammal in North America. - According to a new study, increasingly common extreme weather events – such as rain-on-snow and extremely dry winter conditions occurring in Russia and Alaska during muskox gestation – result in smaller head size among muskox young. Smaller animals generally have poor survivorship rates. - Scientists say that, with the Arctic warming twice as fast as the world average, new studies are urgently needed on cold climate mammals including muskoxen, reindeer and caribou, to determine how rapidly escalating climate change up North is impacting wildlife, habitats and ecosystems.
After exporting baby elephants, Zimbabwe pledges to turn over new leaf on conservation [01/23/2018]
- On December 23, Zimbabwe officials quietly loaded thirty-five elephants between the ages of three and five onto planes that would fly them thousands of miles to safari parks in China. The elephants had been taken from the wild and their families in Hwange National Park. - Zimbabwe airlifted the elephants to their new homes just a month after a stunning bloodless coup in the country led to the ouster of Robert Mugabe, who oppressively ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, and the installation of Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former First Vice President and ally of Mugabe’s. - For years, Zimbabwe conservation policies have largely depended on exploitation, often via trophy hunting and selling animals abroad. But change may be in the air.
Friend, not foe: Review highlights benefits of predators and scavengers [01/23/2018]
- Predators are typically better known for harassing pets and livestock or being the source of disease than they are for the valuable — and often less visible — services they provide. - A review published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution catalogs benefits provided by predators to humans documented in the scientific literature. - Authors of the review highlighted instances that ranged from the potential for mountain lions to cut down deer-vehicle collisions, bats that save corn farmers at least $1 billion annually, and vultures that clear away tons of organic waste.
New app hopes to reduce wildlife deaths on India’s roads, railway lines [01/23/2018]
- Roadkills, a newly launched Android app, lets users in India record information on deaths of animals — both domestic and wild — on roads or railway lines, and upload geotagged photos. - Such roadkill data can be useful for both researchers and people planning infrastructure projects across the country, conservationists say. - The app data can help identify what sections of roads and railway lines animals use the most, for instance, which could in turn help guide measures that would reduce or prevent wildlife deaths. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Mesoamerican Reef gets improving bill of health [01/22/2018]
- The Healthy Reefs Initiative released its report card on the state of the Mesoamerican Reef. In the last decade, the grade has risen from poor to fair. - The Mesoamerican Reef runs along about 1,000 kilometers of the coastlines of Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. - Fish populations have grown, as have the coral that make up the reef. - But scientists were concerned to see an increase in macroalgae on the reef, which results from runoff and improperly treated sewage effluent.
Thai police bust leading wildlife trafficker [01/22/2018]
- Thai police have arrested Boonchai Bach, the alleged kingpin behind one of the world’s biggest and most notorious wildlife trafficking syndicates. - Bach and his family operation have been the target of authorities and anti-trafficking groups for more than a decade for moving vast quantities of rhino horns and elephant tusks to markets in China, Vietnam and Laos, via their hub in Thailand. - One of the family’s main customers remains at large, however. Vixay Keosavang, said to be the most prominent wildlife dealer in Southeast Asia, is beyond the reach of Thai authorities, in Laos.
To Counter Wildlife Trafficking, Local Enforcement, Not En-Route Interdiction, Is Key (commentary) [01/19/2018]
The global poaching crisis has induced large segments of the conservation community to call for far tougher law enforcement. Many look to policing lessons from decades of counter-narcotics efforts for solutions. Boosting enforcement of wildlife regulations is overdue, as they have long been accorded the least priority by many enforcement authorities and corruption has further […]
Decapitated orangutan found near palm plantations shot 17 times, autopsy finds [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian authorities have found 17 air gun pellets in the headless body of an orangutan found floating in a river in Borneo’s Central Kalimantan province earlier this week. - The body was found in an area close to five plantations, whose operators the government plans to question about the killing of the protected species. - Orangutans are often killed in human-animal conflicts, and wildlife activists have slammed the authorities for not doing enough to prosecute such cases. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Facebook being used for illegal reptile trade in the Philippines [01/19/2018]
- Researchers from TRAFFIC, who monitored 90 Facebook groups over a three-month period in 2016, recorded 2,245 live reptile advertisements representing more than 5,000 individual animals from 115 taxa. - Most advertisements were for the ball python and the Burmese python, and also included critically endangered species such as the Philippine crocodile and the Philippine forest turtle. - At least 80 percent of the documented online traders on Facebook were selling reptiles illegally, the report concluded.
Camera traps confirm existence of ‘world’s ugliest pig’ in the wild, warts and all [01/18/2018]
- Researchers have used camera traps on the island of Java, Indonesia to capture what they say is the first-ever footage of the Javan warty pig in the wild. - Sometimes referred to as “the world’s ugliest pig” because of the eponymous warts that grow on its face, the Javan warty pig (Sus verrucosus) has seen its numbers decline precipitously over the past few decades, leading to fears that it might be locally extinct in a number of locations and perhaps even on the brink of extinction as a species. - The Javan warty pig is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to a drastic population decline, “estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (approximately 18 years).”
A saiga time bomb? Bad news for Central Asia’s beleaguered antelope [01/17/2018]
- In May 2015, more than 200,000 saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) suddenly died in Kazakhstan, reducing the global population of the critically endangered species by two-thirds. - Research indicates the saigas were likely killed by hemorrhagic septicemia caused by a type of bacteria called Pasteurella multocida. But P. multocida generally exists harmlessly in healthy saigas and other animals, so the question remained: Why did so many saigas become infected so suddenly and severely by a normally benign type of bacteria? - A new analysis may have solved part of this mystery, linking the spread of P. multocida to unusually high humidity levels and temperatures. - The results indicate that saigas may be particularly sensitive to climate change, which stands to increase both temperature and humidity in Kazakhstan.
Company to probe for minerals close to Mekong River dolphin habitat [01/17/2018]
- The Phnom Penh Post reported today that Medusa Mining, an Australian company, plans to invest $3 million over four years in explorations for gold, copper, oil, gas and precious stones in tributaries of the Mekong River in Cambodia. - Irrawaddy river dolphins, an endangered species of cetacean, live in the Mekong adjacent to the areas slated for exploration. - Only about 80 dolphins remain in the Mekong River, and, although their numbers are on the rise, they face threats from gillnets, dams, boat traffic and water pollution, which could be exacerbated by mining activity.
Orangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probe [01/16/2018]
- The discovery of a headless orangutan body bearing signs of extensive physical abuse has prompted an investigation by authorities in Central Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo. - Authorities, however, have drawn criticism for hastily burying the body before carrying out a necropsy, which could have helped determine the cause of death and aided in the investigation. - Orangutans face a range of threats in the wild, including loss of habitat as their forests are razed for plantations and mines, and hunting for the illegal pet trade. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Belize imposes offshore oil moratorium to protect reefs [01/15/2018]
- Belize stopped the exploration for oil in its waters as of Dec. 29, 2017. - Environmentalists and local businesses opposed a 2016 plan to begin wider oil exploration around Belize, halting those plans within weeks. - Tourism directly contributed about 14 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, and 50 percent of Belize’s 360,000 people depend on tourism or fishing for their livelihoods. - Conversely, WWF estimated that an oil spill would cost $280 million in cleanup costs.
Peru declares a huge new national park in the Amazon [01/12/2018]
- Yaguas National Park is located in the Loreto Region of northern Peru and covers more than 868,000 hectares of Amazonian rainforest – around the size of Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. - Peru’s newest national park is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals. - Yaguas National Park holds around 550 fish species, representing two-thirds of Peru’s freshwater fish diversity – more than any other place in the country, and one of the richest freshwater fish assemblages in the world.
A Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $323,000. Can the species be saved? [01/12/2018]
- A single Pacific bluefin tuna sold for 36.45 million yen, or $323,111, during the famed New Year auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market last Friday, Jan. 5. - The sale took place amid ongoing concerns over the dire status of stocks of the species, Thunnus orientalis, which are now at 2.6 percent of pre-fishing levels. - An international agreement reached in September aims to rebuild Pacific bluefin populations to 20 percent of pre-fishing levels by 2034. - Observers are urging countries to fulfill their commitments under the agreement in order to preserve the species.
Moth rediscovered in Malaysia mimics appearance and behavior of bees to escape predators [01/12/2018]
- The Oriental blue clearwing (Heterosphecia tawonoides) was rediscovered in Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park by Marta Skowron Volponi, a Ph.D. student at Poland’s University of Gdansk and lead author of a paper about the moth recently published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. - The moths have legs like bees, bright blue bands on their abdomens (bees in Southeast Asia can be a variety of colors, including blue), and furry bodies that resemble those of bees — though the moths’ “fur” is actually elongated scales. - While the conservation status of the moths is unknown, Skowron Volponi found that the Oriental blue clearwing’s preferred habitat seems to be the banks of clean watercourses flowing through the primary rainforests of Malaysia — a country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.
Natural World Heritage Sites in trouble, especially in the Tropics [01/11/2018]
- From the Great Barrier Reef to the Galapagos Islands and the forests of central Africa, over a third of Natural World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO are under threat from myriad problems. - Of the seventeen locations with a critical conservation outlook, sixteen are in the Tropics, and the majority of those are in Africa. Less than half of African World Heritage sites received a “good” outlook. Lack of funding in developing nations is a major problem. - Sites harboring rich biodiversity, such as Virunga and Garamba national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, are especially at risk. - The most common threats to Natural World Heritage Sites are invasive non-native species, unsustainable tourism, poaching, hydroelectric dams, and logging, with climate change the fastest growing threat.
There’s a new member of the lemur family [01/11/2018]
- Grove’s Dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus grovesi) was discovered in two of Madagascar’s national parks, Ranomafana and Andringitra, both of which are part of the Rainforests of Atsinanana UNESCO World Heritage Site. - The new lemur is a nocturnal primate that is smaller than a squirrel. The fur on its back, limbs, and head are a reddish-brown in color, and there are brownish-black rings around its large eyes. - The species was named for British-Australian biological anthropologist and primate taxonomist Colin Groves, who passed away last year.
Critically endangered monkeys found in Ghana forest slated for mining [01/11/2018]
- Researchers were surprised to discover white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus) while reviewing camera trap footage captured in Ghana’s Atewa mountain range. - The white-naped mangabey has declined by more than 50 percent in less than three decades and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Habitat loss and hunting are its major threats. The camera trap footage is the first record of the species in eastern Ghana. - Deposits of bauxite, from which aluminum is produced, underlie Atewa’s forests. The Ghanaian government is reportedly gearing up to develop mining operations and associated infrastructure for bauxite extraction, refinement and export. - Conservation organizations and other stakeholders are urging the government to cease its plans for mining and more effectively protect Atewa by turning the region into a national park.
Poachers blamed as body of Sumatran elephant, missing tusks, found in protected forest [01/11/2018]
- Farmers in southern Sumatra found the body of a young male elephant inside a protected forest and missing its tusks. - No external injuries were found that could point to a cause of death, leading wildlife activists to suspect it was killed by poisoning, a common tactic used by poachers. - The discovery comes less than a month after a pregnant elephant was found poisoned to death in northern Sumatra — although in that case the tuskless female appeared more likely to have been killed for encroaching on farms than by poachers.
Wars kill wildlife in Africa’s protected areas, study finds [01/11/2018]
- Researchers have found that wars and armed conflict have led to severe declines in large mammal populations in Africa’s protected areas. - Even low-grade, infrequent conflicts were enough to reduce large mammal numbers, the study found. - Despite devastation, wild animal populations can recover if efforts are made to conserve them, the researchers conclude.
Lions deal blow to giraffe numbers by targeting young, study finds [01/11/2018]
- New research demonstrates that lions can diminish the number of young giraffes in a population by more than 80 percent. - The giraffe species was recently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, after its numbers dropped by nearly 40 percent in just three decades. - A 2015 estimate puts numbers at 97,500, down from 157,000 in 1985. - The findings could prompt the rethinking of conservation strategies aimed at protecting giraffes.
Efforts to save island wildlife from extinction get a boost from new database [01/10/2018]
- Though the approximately 465,000 islands on planet Earth represent just over five percent of total global land area, they are disproportionately rich in threatened biodiversity — and researchers have now identified which are the most important to protect from invasive species, a major driver of species extinction on islands. - Researchers found that there are 1,189 “highly threatened” vertebrate species — 319 amphibians, 296 birds, 292 mammals, and 282 reptiles listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species — that breed on 1,288 of the world’s islands. - Conservation interventions like prevention, control, and eradication of invasive vertebrates could benefit 41 percent of the world’s highly threatened terrestrial vertebrates that are largely confined to islands, the researchers determined.
Indonesian ex-soldier among three jailed for illegal trade in Sumatran rhino, tiger parts [01/10/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has jailed three men for the illegal trade in endangered Sumatran rhino and tiger parts. - An ex-Army captain and a middleman were sentenced to two years for trying to trade in a rhino horn, while a similar sentence was handed down to a man convicted of trapping and killing a tiger and trying to sell it - While both the Sumatran rhino and Sumatran tiger are deemed critically endangered, or just a step away from being extinct in the wild, conservationists say enforcement of local laws meant to protect them remains lax.
Audio: Lessons from indigenous peoples about coping with climate change, plus the call of the night parrot [01/09/2018]
- Happy new year to all our listeners out there! On our first episode of 2018, we speak with the author of a book about the resilience of indigenous peoples in the face of climate change, and we’ll hear some recordings of the elusive night parrot in Australia! - Our first guest today is Gleb Raygorodetsky, the author of The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change, which details the author’s experiences with a number of Indigenous cultures and the ways their lives on their traditional territories are being reshaped by the impacts of global warming. - Our second guest is Nick Leseberg, a PhD student at the University of Queensland in Australia whose work focuses solely on the night parrot, a species endemic to Australia that scientists have only recently been able to study. Just four years ago, nobody knew what a night parrot sounded like — but now Leseberg is here to play us some of the calls he’s recorded in this Field Notes segment.
‘AudioMoth’ device aims to deliver low-cost, power-efficient monitoring of remote landscapes [01/08/2018]
- UK-based researchers who have developed a low-power, open-source acoustic monitoring device say it shows promise for monitoring wildlife and illicit incursions by mankind into remote habitats. - The researchers say that the device, which is about the size of a matchbox, can be made for as little as $43 per unit — a price-point that could be key to ensuring coverage across large landscapes, where numerous monitoring devices are required. - The AudioMoth can be programmed to monitor wildlife populations by recording the calls of specific target species while at the same time serving as an alert system when the sounds of human exploitation, such as the blast of a shotgun or the roar of a chainsaw, are detected.
Rhino DNA database helps officials nab poachers and traffickers [01/08/2018]
- A DNA-based system is helping authorities prosecute and convict poachers and rhino horn traffickers in Africa. - RhODIS, as the system is called, is built on a foundational database with genetic information from nearly 4,000 individual rhinos. - By comparing the frequencies of alleles in confiscated horn and horn products with those in tissue from a poached animal, investigators can then come up with a probable match for where that horn came from. - So far, RhODIS has been instrumental in nine convictions in East and Southern Africa.
IUCN, UN, global NGOs, likely to see major budget cuts under Trump [01/08/2018]
- President Donald Trump has proposed cutting foreign aid funding to nations and inter-governmental organizations by 32 percent, about $19 billion – cuts the U.S. Congress has yet to vote on. Voting has been delayed since September, and is next scheduled for 19 January, though another delay may occur. - One inter-governmental organization on Trump’s cutting block is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) best known for its global Red List, the go-to resource for the status of endangered species planet-wide. Over the past four years the U.S. contributed between 5 and 9 percent of the IUCN’s total framework funding, and 4 to 7 percent of its programmatic funding. - Currently it remains unclear just how much, or even if, the IUCN budget will be slashed by Congress, leaving the organization in limbo. Another organization potentially looking at major cuts under Trump is TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network. - Also under Trump’s axe are the UN Population Fund ($79 million), the Green Climate Fund ($2 billion, which no nation has stepped up to replace), and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ($1.96 million annually, funding already replaced by other nations for 2018).
Florida’s iguanas falling from trees in cold snap [01/05/2018]
- Green iguanas are not native to southern Florida, but typically do well in the region’s mild temperatures. - During the recent cold snap, stunned iguanas have been losing their grip on their tree perches and falling to the ground, semi-frozen. - Some sea animals are also showing signs of stress from the cold, including sea turtles and manatees.
U.S. zoos learn how to keep captive pangolins alive, helping wild ones [01/05/2018]
- The Pangolin Consortium, a partnership between six U.S. zoos and Pangolin Conservation, an NGO, launched a project in 2014 which today houses fifty White-bellied tree pangolins (Phataginus tricuspis). - Common knowledge says that pangolins are almost impossible to keep alive in captivity, but the consortium has done basic research to boost survival rates, traveling to Africa and working with a company, EnviroFlight, to develop a natural nutritious insect-derived diet for pangolins in captivity. - While some conservationists are critical of the project, actions by the Pangolin Consortium have resulted in high captive survival rates, and even in the successful breeding of pangolins in captivity. - The Pangolin Consortium is able to conduct basic research under controlled conditions at zoos on pangolin behavior and health ¬– research that can’t be done in the wild. Zoos can also present pangolins to the public, educating about their endangered status, improving conservation funding.
Meet Indonesia’s new honeyeater species from Rote Island [01/05/2018]
- A new bird species from Indonesia has been described by a group of scientists after it was first observed in 1990, a paper said. - The bird, which belongs to the honeyeater family, has been named after Indonesia’s first lady, Iriana Joko Widodo, as a way to promote the protection of the species. - The researchers said the newly described species’ population was primarily threatened by deforestation to clear land for residential and agricultural use.
Scientists surprised by orchid bee biodiversity near oil palm plantations [01/04/2018]
- A recent study finds orchid bee diversity is supported by forest patches along rivers near oil palm plantations in Brazil. - The study lends evidence that remnant patches of forest support the movement and survival of plant and animal species in deforested landscapes. - Brazil’s new forest code revisions greatly reduce or eliminate the requirement for some agricultural producers to maintain river forest patches.
Reef bleaching five times more frequent now than in the 1980s, study finds [01/04/2018]
- Severe coral bleaching is now happening about every six years, whereas in the 1980s, it took place every 25 to 30 years. - Severe bleaching can kill the reef’s constituent corals. - It takes at least a decade for a reef to recover from bleaching. - Unless humans act to halt the rise of global temperatures, scientists predict that we’re headed for a time when bleaching might be an annual occurrence.
New ‘ghost’ scorpion among several species recorded for the first time in Malaysian rainforest [01/04/2018]
- For the first time ever, scientists have surveyed the rainforest of Penang Hill comprehensively. The 130-million-year old forest is believed to have never been cut before and has remained largely unexplored. - Among the exciting discoveries is a potentially new species of “ghost” scorpion, and numerous first records for Penang Hill. - With a more complete understanding of the forests of Penang Hill, the scientists hope to nominate Penang’s forest as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Rhino horn seizure taps into Southeast Asian trafficking ring [01/03/2018]
- Officials confiscated 12.5 kilograms (27.6 pounds) of South African rhino horn on Dec. 12. - The seizure led to the arrest of a member of the Bach family, which is suspected of running a wildlife trafficking syndicate from Thailand. - The NGO Elephant Action League provided Thai authorities with information that led to the arrest, as well as that of another wildlife trafficking ‘kingpin’ in December.
U.S. court ruling complicates Trump’s elephant and lion policy [01/02/2018]
- A federal appeals court has found that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures in 2014 when it banned importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. The USFWS failed to seek public comment at the time, among other infractions. - This new ruling puts the Trump administration decision, made in November, ending the ban and allowing elephant trophy hunting imports, into question. - Further complicating matters is Trump’s dubbing of the November USFWS decision as a “horror show,” and his putting of the policy on hold awaiting his response. To date, Trump has said nothing further. - The way things stand now, U.S. hunters can import elephant trophies from South Africa and Namibia. They can import lion body parts from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. But the legality of importing elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe remains in limbo.
Ivory trade in China is now banned [01/02/2018]
- China has shut its legal, domestic ivory markets and banned all commercial ivory trade. - Conservationists have welcomed this ban, calling it “one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation”. - But for China’s ivory ban to work, neighboring countries must follow suit, conservationists say.
‘New’ giant octopus discovered in the Pacific [12/29/2017]
- The world’s largest octopus — the giant Pacific octopus — is actually represented by more than one species. - New research indicates there are at least two species of octopus housed under what is traditionally called the giant Pacific octopus. - The new species is called the frilled giant Pacific octopus. - The giant Pacific octopus can weigh up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Top 20 forest stories of 2017 [12/29/2017]
Mongabay published hundreds of stories on forests in 2017. Here are some of our favorites. 1. Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon With the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC militant group, the country is expanding agriculture and infrastructure in places in the country once too dangerous to develop. One of these areas is […]
How a hunger for teeth is driving a bat toward extinction [12/29/2017]
- Bat teeth are more valuable than paper money on the island of Makira, in the eastern Solomon Islands. - The use of bat teeth as a currency means that bats on the island are commonly hunted. One species, the Makira flying fox, is found only on the island and is being threatened with extinction due to human pressures. - In addition to direct hunting, human population growth and logging are also threatening the bats. - To save the species, researchers recommend developing quotas for sustainable harvesting, as well as an outreach campaign connecting the survival of this key piece of Makiran culture with the need to conserve the bats.
Waterbirds flock to well-run countries, new study shows [12/29/2017]
- A new study demonstrates that how a country is governed is the factor that has the most influence on waterbird populations. - Governance plays a bigger role than climate change or human population booms. - The authors suggest that waterbirds, which include ducks, flamingos and pelicans, could serve as indicators to demonstrate the impact that governance has on biodiversity in general.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct. - Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities. - In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.
Photos: Top 20 new species of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- There’s still so much we don’t know about life on planet Earth that scientists discover new species with whom we share this planet nearly every day. - For instance, this year scientists described a new species of orangutan in Sumatra — just the eighth great ape species known to exist on planet Earth. And that’s just one of many notable, bizarre, or downright fascinating discoveries made this year. - Here, in no particular order, we present the top 20 new species discovered in 2017.
2017’s top 10 ocean news stories [12/27/2017]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2017. - Huge new ocean protected areas and steps toward an international treaty to protect the high seas brought hope. - Meanwhile, the U.S.’s decision to drop out of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and an intensely destructive Atlantic hurricane season spotlighted the unfolding threat of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
The top 6 moments from the Mongabay Newscast in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Now that we’ve arrived at the end of 2017, we’ve decided to take a break from our regular production schedule and instead take a look back at some of the most compelling conversations we featured on the Mongabay Newscast this year. - From world-famous conservationists like Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson to renowned musicians like Paul Simon and best-selling authors like Margaret Atwood, we welcomed a lot of truly fascinating people onto our podcast in 2017. - Here are six of our favorite quotes from the Newscast this year, which will hopefully provide jumping off points for you to dig in more deeply.
Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development. - As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow. - Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.
Glimmer of hope as Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino shows signs of recovery [12/27/2017]
- The worst appears to be over for Iman, Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, after she suffered massive bleeding from a ruptured tumor in her uterus earlier this month. - Veterinarians and rhino experts are hopeful but cautious about Iman’s recovery prospects, and continue to provide around-the-clock care. - The rhino is Malaysia’s last hope for saving the nearly extinct species, which is thought to number as few as 30 individuals in the world.
So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? [12/26/2017]
- Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018. - Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans. - UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities. - Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.
Video: Power lines killing the last remaining Great Indian Bustards in India [12/26/2017]
- Of the 160-odd great Indian bustards remaining in the wild, about 140 occur in the Thar desert in Rajasthan, India. - The bird’s prime habitat in Thar, however, is being taken over by a growing, dense network of wind turbines and electric power lines that have become a death trap for the birds. - Even a few accidental deaths due to collisions could lead to extinction of the species, according to experts. - Conservationists and forest department officials have recommended mitigation measures, but nothing has been implemented on ground.
Videos unlock secrets of jellyfish as deep-sea killers [12/24/2017]
- Scientists have for the first time captured extensive visual documentation of deep-sea food webs using 27 years’ worth of video observations from remotely operated vehicles run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). - The research greatly enhances scientists’ understanding of deep-sea food webs by documenting the importance of soft-bodied predators like jellyfish. - Until now, our understanding of food webs in the deep ocean have been limited by what can be captured by net and whose bodies survive a journey to the survey.
Scientists determine there are seven species of silky anteater, not one [12/22/2017]
- A study published earlier this month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society describes six distinct new species of silky anteater, meaning there are now officially seven species of the elusive mammal, not just one. - Silky anteaters are small, nocturnal animals that live in the canopies of trees in the tropical forests of South and Central America. They are known as very discreet and thus difficult to find, which helps explain why Cyclopes didactylus, the common anteater, was one of the least studied anteaters in the world and had been considered to be a single species up until now. - The common silky anteater is listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but that may not pertain to all of the newly discovered species.
The toughest snake on Earth lives in central Africa and eats baby rodents [12/19/2017]
- The skin of the Calabar burrowing python is 15 times thicker and orders of magnitude harder to pierce than the average snake. The skin’s puncture resistance is owed to its layered sheets of collagen fibers. - Scientists think the snake’s tough skin may have evolved to protect the snake from the bites of mother rodents defending their young, which make up the entirety of the Calabar’s diet. - The snake’s skin is flexible despite being thick and nearly impenetrable. This unique combination of qualities has already intrigued a pharmaceutical company hoping to mimic its structure to create puncture-resistant medical gloves that don’t restrict movement.
Zanzibar’s red colobus monkeys much more numerous than thought [12/18/2017]
- The team logged 4,725 hours over 2 years tracking down more than 4,000 individual Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus kirkii). - Protected areas house nearly 70 percent of the monkeys they found, where monkey groups tended to be larger and to have more females than those outside of parks and reserves. - The team also found that a relatively small number of young monkeys survive to adulthood, and they concluded that the overall population might be declining.
Do protected areas work in the tropics? [12/18/2017]
- To find out if terrestrial protected areas are effective in achieving their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 56 scientific studies. (See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, protected areas do appear to reduce forest cover loss. But other ecological outcomes of protected areas, like biodiversity or illegal hunting, remain extremely understudied. - The evidence on socioeconomic impacts is very thin. What limited rigorous research exists shows that protected areas do not exacerbate poverty generally, but anecdotal studies suggest that protected areas could be making other aspects of people’s well-being worse off. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino falls ill [12/17/2017]
- Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, which was captured from the wild for a captive-breeding program to save the species, has fallen ill from a ruptured tumor in her uterus. - Veterinarians have been unable to provide the necessary medical treatment because of the rhino’s behavior and adverse conditions on the ground. - The captive-breeding program was dashed by the death of the only other female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia earlier this year and the refusal of the Indonesian government to share a frozen sperm sample for artificial insemination.
‘A vicious cycle towards extinction:’ Hunting and trade can push even abundant wildlife populations to the brink [12/15/2017]
- Researchers at the University of Queensland looked at something called the anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE), a theory that proposes a critical population level threshold below which the likelihood of a species going extinct increases substantially due to rising prices for rare animals incentivizing more hunting. - Using mathematical models to determine how quickly wildlife populations can decrease as prices for animal products rise in response to animal scarcity, the researchers found that the population thresholds proposed by AAE theory can drastically underestimate extinction risks. - While these findings would appear to call into question the biological sustainability of trophy hunting, the debate over trophy hunting is typically centered on social and economic outcomes.
DNA analysis shows Sumatran rhinos peaked during last Ice Age, never recovered [12/14/2017]
- Genome analysis shows that the Sumatran rhino has been on the path toward extinction for almost 12,000 years, as the end of the last Ice Age cut off much of its former territory, a new report says. - Habitat loss from deforestation and overhunting further devastated the species’ population, and it has never recovered. - Scientists continue to make the case for captive breeding as the best effort to boost the rhino population and stave off extinction.
Building a refuge where trawlers now ravage Cambodia’s marine life [12/14/2017]
- In Cambodia’s Kep Archipelago, fleets of trawlers dragging weighted, electrified nets have reduced the area’s once sprawling seagrass meadows to a sludgy underwater wasteland and sent fisheries into a tailspin. - Here and around the world, seagrass meadows are in decline. But these critical habitats serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for many marine organisms, as well as bulwarks against climate change and ocean acidification by capturing carbon dioxide. - In the Kep Archipelago a small NGO is working to establish a marine refuge that will keep the trawlers at bay so seagrass meadows can recover and depleted fish stocks can return to life.
Land reclamation threatens extremely rare spoon-billed sandpipers in China [12/14/2017]
- Every year, the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper makes a crucial three-month stopover at Tiaozini mudflats in Jiangsu province on China’s eastern coast. - The Jiangsu government, however, has already converted 67.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini’s coastal waters into land and plans to reclaim another 599.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini by 2020. - Conservationists say that virtually all spoon-billed sandpipers that currently use Tiaozini could disappear if the reclamation goes ahead as planned, pushing the species to extinction.
African Parks backs marine reserve brimming with wildlife in Mozambique [12/14/2017]
- The conservation NGO African Parks signed an agreement to manage Bazaruto Archipelago National Park in Mozambique. - Leaders established the park in 1971, but recent illegal fishing and unregulated tourism has threatened the ecosystem and its economic value, African Parks said. - The park is home to 2,000 species of fish and hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and mammals, including some of the last dugongs in the western Indian Ocean.