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 contributes about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Quartz, and 50 percent of Belize’s 190,000 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.
Audio: Amazon tribe’s traditional medicine encyclopedia gets an update, and conservation effectiveness in Madagascar examined [12/12/2017]
- On today’s episode, we’ll get an update on an ambitious effort to document traditional indigenous healing and medicinal practices in the Amazon and speak with the reporter behind Mongabay’s popular new series on conservation efforts in Madagascar. - Our first guest on today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Christopher Herndon, who, as co-founder and president of the group Acaté Amazon Conservation, has supported the Matsés people in planting healing gardens, which are basically living pharmacies as well as classrooms, and to document their traditional healing and plant knowledge in an encyclopedia. - Our second guest is Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety, the writer behind our recent series on the effectiveness of conservation interventions in Madagascar.
Monkey business: Building a global database of primate conservation studies (commentary) [12/12/2017]
- While one primate — Homo sapiens — has flourished and spread across the planet, about 60 percent of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction. Conservation of these intelligent, complex creatures can be challenging on many levels. - Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with researchers at the University of Cambridge (where I work), have just published the results of a three-year project gathering the data on how well primate conservation initiatives have worked to conserve species from lemurs to chimpanzees. - The idea is simple: to present the current evidence for every intervention people might do to conserve primates, so that primate conservationists can learn from the best available data at the click of a mouse. This global database on primate conservation interventions is available to view for free. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
As 2017 hurricane season ends, scientists assess tropical forest harm [12/11/2017]
- This year’s Atlantic hurricane season – one for the record books – ended on 30 November, seeing six Category 3 to 5 storms wreaking massive destruction across the Caribbean, in the U.S. and Mexico. While damage to the built environment is fairly easy to assess, harm to conserved areas and species is more difficult to determine. - Satellite images show extensive damage to the 28,400-acre El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, the United States’ only national tropical rainforest. However, observers on the ground say the forest is showing signs of a quick recovery. - More serious is harm to already stressed, endangered species with small populations. El Yunque’s Critically Endangered Puerto Rican parrot was hard hit: out of 50 endemic wild parrots, 16 are known dead. Likewise, the Endangered imperial parrot endemic to Dominica, spotted just three times since Hurricane Maria. - Ecosystems and species need time to recover between storms. If the intensity of hurricanes continues to increase due to escalating global warming as predicted, tropical ecosystem and species resilience may be seriously tested.
Scientists call for cheetahs to be listed as Endangered [12/11/2017]
- Only about 3,577 adult cheetahs remain in southern Africa, a new study has found. - More than 50 percent of these animals live on unprotected lands, where they are sometimes persecuted due to conflict with local farmers. - Revising the status of the cheetah from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List could help conservationists create more awareness about the species and “open more avenues to fund conservation and population monitoring efforts,” researchers say.
New study: Gorillas fare better in logged forests than chimps [12/11/2017]
- A study in the northern Republic of Congo found that gorillas and chimpanzees both became scarcer at the onset of logging. - However, gorillas move backed into logged areas more readily, while chimpanzees were more likely to stay away. - The researchers believe that gorillas are better able to cope with logging because they’re not as territorial as chimps and they seem to be more flexible in their eating habits.
Tanzania used as case study for quickly and cheaply identifying wildlife corridors in need of conservation [12/08/2017]
- Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a methodology that they say can help identify the most important wildlife corridors to keep open in a cost-effective and timely manner. - In a study summarizing their results published in the journal PloS one, the authors note that wildlife populations that are isolated due to not having access to corridors that allow them to move between protected areas can suffer from compromised genetic variability and are less able to shift their range in response to global climate change. - The researchers used what they describe as “least-cost methods” to develop a methodology for assessing wildlife corridors at a national scale, which they then applied to Tanzania as a case study.
The world’s newest great ape, revealed a month ago, is already nearly extinct: IUCN [12/07/2017]
- This week, the world’s newest great ape Tapanuli orangutan was officially categorized as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN as the species lost over 80 percent of its global population over generations due to habitat loss. - The classification of the orangutan came in conjunction with the conservation union releasing its latest Red List of “Threatened” Species which added thousands of animal and plant species. - The list is a mixed bag of good and bad news for conservation.
Forest Code falls short in protecting Amazonian fish [12/07/2017]
- A team of scientists reports that Brazil’s Forest Code doesn’t address significant impacts that agriculture can have on fish habitat in the rainforest’s streams and tributaries. - The study cataloged more than 130 species of fish, some of them new to science, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon. - The authors argue for protections that encompass entire basins and the complex drainage networks that together form the lifeblood of the Amazon rainforest.
Camera traps reveal surprises in Peru [12/06/2017]
- Scientists set 72 camera traps and audio recorders to compare biodiversity across certified forested areas and forests that are not certified for sustainable use. - The first few images reveal the presence of jaguars, pumas, jaguarundis, tapirs, red deer, tufted capuchins and even bush dogs, which are elusive and difficult to find.
Mammal diversity may increase carbon storage in rainforests [12/05/2017]
- Having a diverse mix of mammals may play a more pivotal role than expected in the carbon cycle of tropical forests, by feeding microbes that lock the carbon from food scraps in the soil. - Hundreds of indigenous research technicians collected data for this study across an area roughly the size of Costa Rica. - Conserving mammal species will become increasingly important in efforts to protect the health of rainforest ecosystems, researchers suggest.
Huge new ocean reserves announced in Mexico, Arctic [12/05/2017]
- The past couple weeks have brought major news about two important marine protected area projects. - On November 24, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree creating the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, protecting nearly 150,000 square kilometers (close to 58,000 square miles) from all fishing and extractive activities. It is said to be the largest ocean reserve ever created by Mexico. - Less than a week later, on the night of November 30, countries including Canada, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, among others, announced that they had reached an agreement to protect 2.8 million square kilometers (more than 1 million square miles) of the central Arctic Ocean from commercial fishing.
Entanglements hamper reproduction as right whale population slides [12/05/2017]
- Just 451 North Atlantic right whales remain, down from 458 in 2016 and 483 in 2010. - Entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes remain the two most important threats to right whale survival. - A study published in November in the journal Ecology and Evolution finds that fewer females are surviving than males and the interval between calving is growing longer.
Orangutans process plants into medicine, study finds [12/04/2017]
- Scientists have observed Bornean orangutans chewing on the leaves of the Dracaena cantleyi plant, producing a soapy lather they then spread onto their skin. - A new study finds D. cantleyi has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting the orangutans are using it to self-medicate. - Indigenous communities also use D. cantleyi as a pain reliever. - The researchers say their study provides the first scientific evidence of deliberate, external self-medication in great apes.
Extreme seasonal changes in Amazon river levels threaten forest conservation by indigenous people [12/04/2017]
- The Amazon has experienced intense floods and droughts for the past 10 years, a likely effect of climate change. - Surveys taken of animals between 2009 and 2015 showed terrestrial mammal populations dropped by 95 percent during intense floods, whereas aquatic animals suffered dramatic declines during an extreme drought. - Scientists fear these seasonal extremes will drive the Cocama people of Peru out of the forest, depriving it of its primary conservationists.
The curious case of the phantom hippo teeth [12/04/2017]
- Hippo ivory is an affordable alternative to elephant ivory, whose international trade is prohibited by many countries. - The reported export and import numbers of legal wildlife trade in the CITES database are dramatically mismatched for some species, including the numbers for hippo teeth. - An updated population estimate for hippos could indicate how much illegal poaching for their ivory is threatening them.
Catch-all fisheries are squeezing Asia’s seahorses [12/01/2017]
- Tens of millions of seahorses are traded each year as pets, trinkets and for use in traditional medicine. - But the greater threat comes from incidental bycatch by indiscriminate fishing gear, according to researchers. - Seahorse researchers argue that improving fishing practices would protect seahorses, as well as many other species and their habitats.
Forced out or killed: rare chimps go missing from Cameroon mountain forest [12/01/2017]
- The Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) is the least numerous subspecies of chimpanzee, with a total population almost certainly less than 9,000, and probably less than 6,000 individuals. - The estimated population is far smaller in Cameroon, where just four known populations number some 250 individuals, all located in the Northwest region. - One of those groups, known as “The Great Apes of Tubah” was until recently found in the unprotected Kejom-Keku Mountain Forest. - But the chimps haven’t been seen in three years, and conservationists fear they’ve been killed or forced to move on. A new road into the Kejom-Keku area has resulted in the loss of half its forest, as herders, farmers, loggers and poachers move in.
Harnessing the power of camera trap bycatch data to monitor threatened species (commentary) [12/01/2017]
- Historically, due to a lack of data, estimates of sun bear population trends have been little more than educated guesses made by experts. A major obstacle to monitoring population trends is that there are only a handful of sun bear-focused studies that collect data on population dynamics. - Satellite imagery of tree cover change through time is available globally, as are bycatch camera trap data. There are many camera trap studies going on within the sun bear’s range that collect huge volumes of bycatch data, which are data on species that are not the primary focus of the study. - With these tools at our disposal, it seemed that a more objective, data-driven measure of sun bear population trends was possible, and we believe that the innovate approach we ended up using has broad potential. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New research might finally establish true identity of the mysterious Yeti [11/30/2017]
- Bits of hair and old bones purported to belong to a Yeti have been collected throughout the years, and an untold number of people have claimed to have seen one of the creatures, or at least its footprints, firsthand. Yet documented proof of the Yeti and its species identity has remained elusive. - New research might finally answer the question of what the Yeti really is, however. An international team of scientists led by Tianying Lan of the University at Buffalo in New York analyzed 24 samples of bone, feces, hair, and skin from the Tibetan Plateau-Himalaya region that either belonged to a bear or, allegedly, a Yeti. - Researchers determined that all of the Yeti samples they collected for their study came from the bear species that call the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding Himalayan mountains home, except for one specimen collected from a stuffed exhibit in a museum that they determined had come from a dog
‘Extreme concern’: Report gives glimpse into scale of Kalimantan bird trade [11/30/2017]
- More than 25,000 birds from nearly 150 species, including those on the brink of extinction, were found for sale at hundreds of shops across Indonesian Borneo, according to a recent report. - The report is said to be the first to provide data on the trade in Kalimantan, which is increasingly being targeted by trappers and traders who have decimated bird populations in Java and Sumatra. - The researchers are calling for more surveys on bird populations in the wild and stronger law enforcement to protect endangered species.
Malaysia seizes 337 kg of pangolin scales worth nearly $1 million [11/30/2017]
- The 337 kilograms of pangolin scales had been mailed from Sarawak and Sabah in 13 different boxes, and were being exported to Hong Kong. - With this latest seizure, Malaysian customs officials have confiscated a total of 15,000 kilograms of scales in just seven months, according to TRAFFIC. - The origin of the scales is still unknown, officials say.
Carbon dreams: Can REDD+ save a Yosemite-size forest in Madagascar? [11/29/2017]
- When Makira Natural Park launched in 2005, it seemed to present a solution to one of the most intractable problems in conservation: finding a source of funding that could be counted on year after year. - The sale of carbon offset credits would fund the park itself as well as development projects aimed at helping nearby communities improve their standard of living and curtail deforestation. - But more than a decade later, carbon buyers are scarce and much of the funding for community development has been held up. And although deforestation has slowed considerably in and around Makira, it is falling well short of deforestation targets set at the outset of the project. - This is the seventh story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
WATCH: Rare sighting of mother Sunda clouded leopard and cubs caught on film [11/29/2017]
- On the afternoon of November 6, while traveling through Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, photographer Michael Gordon came across a sight he was not expecting: a Sunda clouded leopard mother with her cubs. - “When I first saw the clouded leopards from a distance I thought it was just some macaques on the road,” he told Mongabay. “Once I realized that it was actually three clouded leopards I stopped the car right away. I had my camera close by, but with only a 15mm macro lens attached. I wasn’t sure whether to just enjoy the moment or go into the boot of the car and change lenses. I figured I would regret it badly if I didn’t record it.” - The Sunda clouded leopard, found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, is such a rare and elusive big cat that it’s traditionally been rather difficult to study, never mind casually sight while driving through the forest.
New carbon maps of Sabah’s forests guide conservation in Borneo [11/29/2017]
- Airborne LiDAR mapping combined with satellite imagery analysis has provided scientists, government agencies and NGOs with a “wall-to-wall” account of the carbon held in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The study, led by ecologists from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, revealed that more than 40 percent of the forests with the highest carbon stocks aren’t covered by the state’s most stringent protections. - The findings give wildlife biologists the chance to examine how carbon stocks correlate with the presence of biodiversity; NGOs the opportunity to identify new high-carbon areas to set aside under oil palm certification schemes; and the Sabah government the information to determine which forests are the most valuable and therefore need further protections.
Here is the most current list of the world’s top 25 most endangered primates [11/28/2017]
- According to the biennial Primates In Peril report, the latest installment of which was released today at the Primate Society of Great Britain’s 50th anniversary conference in London, 62 percent of the more than 700 known species and subspecies of apes, lemurs, monkeys, and other primates are currently facing serious threats to their survival. Forty-two percent of them are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered. - The report lists the top 25 most endangered primate species, and while the list was compiled before the Batang Toru orangutan was described to science, the authors of the report said it would almost certainly appear on the list next year. - The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), the Batang Toru orangutan’s closest relative, makes its first-ever appearance on the list, however. Eight other species from Asia join the Bornean orangutan on the list, as do five species from the Neotropics, five species from Africa, and six lemurs from Madagascar.
Trump’s indecision on trophy hunting reignites heated debate [11/28/2017]
- On November 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted a ban on the U.S. import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The president put a hold on the order two days later, calling trophy hunting in a tweet a “horror show.” He has yet to make a final determination regarding the USFWS order. - At the same time, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the establishment of the International Wildlife Conservation Council. One goal of the body will be to promote with the U.S. public the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to [trophy] hunt.” - While trophy hunting does provide revenue for land and wildlife conservation in some special cases in Africa, the new U.S. council will likely have its work cut out for it, since many Americans no longer see trophy hunting of endangered species as ethical. - Conservationists counter pro-trophy hunting advocates by noting that rampant government corruption in nations like Zimbabwe and Zambia make it unlikely that most trophy hunting revenues ever reach the African preserves, local communities or rangers that need the funding.
Audio: Margaret Atwood on her conservation-themed graphic novel, dystopian futures, and how not to despair [11/28/2017]
- Today’s episode features best-selling author and environmental activist Margaret Atwood as well as the founder of a beverage company rooted in the Amazon whose new book details the lessons he’s learned from indigenous rainforest peoples. - Margaret Atwood, whose novels and poetry have won everything from an Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction to the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, recently tackled a medium she is not as well-known for: comic books. Not only that, but she has written a comic book series, called Angel Catbird, that “was a conservation project from the get-go,” she told Mongabay. - Our second guest is Tyler Gage, co-founder of the beverage company Runa. “Runa” is the word the indigenous Kichwa people use to describe the effects of drinking guayusa; it translates to “fully alive” — which also happens to be the name of a new book that Gage has just published detailing the lessons he learned in the Amazon that led to the launch of Runa and its mission to partner with indigenous communities in business.
In search of the fireface: The precarious, scandalous lives of the slow lorises of Java [11/26/2017]
- Cute and fuzzy but also vicious and venomous, Javan slow lorises have been driven to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. - The Little Fireface Project in West Java is the first long-term research project focusing on the critically endangered primate. - In addition to making strides toward understanding how to care for and reintroduce lorises to the wild, the project has revealed new details about the species’ complex, and often reality-show-worthy social behavior.
Brilliant blue tarantula among potentially new species discovered in Guyana [11/24/2017]
- In the forests of the Potaro plateau of Guyana, scientists have discovered a bright blue tarantula that is likely new to science. - The discovery was part of a larger biodiversity assessment survey of the Kaieteur Plateau and Upper Potaro area of Guyana, within the Pakaraima Mountains range. - Overall, the team uncovered more than 30 species that are potentially new to science, and found several species that are known only from the Kaieteur Plateau-Upper Potaro region and nowhere else.
The tenacity of tigers: how the biggest cat varies across its range (photos) [11/22/2017]
- 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. - This month Jonathan C. Slaght writes about tigers. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, WCS’s staff photographer.
Biofuel project near India’s rhino heartland sparks protests [11/22/2017]
- India’s state-owned Numaligarh Refinery Limited and Finnish firm Chempolis Oy plan to build a bioethanol refinery near Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam State. - The project is touted as green and sustainable, but faces opposition from local activists who fear it will cause pollution, increase human-wildlife conflict, and negatively impact the habitat of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife. - Activists also cite concerns about the project’s environmental impact assessment process, and its proposed location in an officially designated “no-development zone.”
Unquestioning defence of ‘militarized conservation’ is naïve (commentary) [11/22/2017]
- In a recent article, Niall McCann attacks critiques of the “militarization” of conservation by academics such as Professor Rosaleen Duffy of the University of Sheffield in the UK. - McCann’s position and argument not only fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents the position of many committed conservationists but also uses an array of flawed and incomplete arguments to defend increasingly militant enforcement of wildlife crime. - We share McCann’s concern about the fact that many species, and the natural world as a whole, face huge challenges over the coming decades. Law enforcement is one of an array of tools that play an important role in species protection. However, it is not without it’s own issues and problems. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
eBay is outselling the darknet in the illegal wildlife trade, fret researchers [11/22/2017]
- Repeated searches of markets on the dark web have found negligible trace of illegal wildlife products. - This news is troubling, conservationists say, because it suggests that traders are content to sell wildlife products on mainstream websites like eBay, where they rely on the sheer volume of transactions and lack of regulation to mask their activity. - Regulating the wildlife trade on sites like eBay can be complex because the legality of sales is difficult to establish. - Machine learning — developing computer systems capable of monitoring and policing online transactions — holds promise for enforcement on the surface web, but is currently hampered by online market operators’ failure to engage with the issue.
Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. - However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. - For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
From friends to strangers: The decline of the Irrawaddy dolphin (commentary) [11/20/2017]
- Now critically endangered, the last of the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are concentrated in nine deep-water pools over a 190-kilometer stretch of the Mekong between Cambodia’s Sambor district and Khone Falls on the Lao border. - Today the Mekong’s dolphins face a new threat. The proposed Sambor Dam on the river’s mainstream would catalyze the extinction of the remaining dolphin population and have disastrous consequences for many other fish species, as well as the communities that depend on them. - Can Cambodia bring this river dolphin back from the brink of extinction? - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Trump puts controversial decision allowing elephant trophy imports ‘on hold’ [11/20/2017]
- Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported to the U.S., lifting a previous ban under former President Barack Obama. - This move sparked criticism not only from conservationists and animal rights activists, but also from some President Trump supporters. - Following the widespread criticism, Trump tweeted that he would announce his decision on trophy imports next week.
A tranquilizer shortage is holding back rhino management plans in India [11/16/2017]
- Conservationists rely on a semi-synthetic opioid called Etorphine HCl to tranquilize rhinos for veterinary care, translocation and other critical interventions. - Due to export regulations in South Africa, and red tape at home, Indian states face a critical shortage of the drug. - The lack of Etorphine is already holding up translocation plans in several protected areas, and preventing veterinarians from caring for injured animals.
Video: Thousands of illegally caught African gray parrots being rehabilitated [11/16/2017]
- The Wildlife Conservation Society has released a video showing seized African gray parrots being treated at a rescue facility built specially for the rehabilitation of these birds. - The birds were collected from the wild in the Republic of the Congo, and were most likely being smuggled to markets in Europe and the Middle East. - So far, the WCS team has rehabilitated and released almost 900 parrots back into the wild.
Scientists give humanity ‘second notice’ to shape up or suffer the consequences [11/15/2017]
- In a paper published this week in Bioscience, scientists issue a second warning to humanity to adopt more sustainable practices and check in on how the world has fared since the first warning was published in 1992. - They found most environmental problems have gotten far worse during the past 25 years. - The paper puts forth ways in which humanity could improve its relationship with the natural world. If we don’t, the scientists warn we are “jeopardizing our future.” - More than 15,000 scientists from 180 countries have signed the paper in support.
Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar [11/15/2017]
- Officials in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region say lemur is served illegally in restaurants. - One conservationist says people use a code to order lemur meat. - More than 90 percent of lemur species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Audio: Dr. Jane Goodall on being proven right about animals having personalities, plus updates direct from COP23 [11/15/2017]
- On today’s episode, we speak with the legendary Jane Goodall, who truly needs no introduction, and will have a direct report from the United Nations’ climate talks happening now in Bonn, Germany. - Just before Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler was scheduled to speak with Goodall recently, research came out that vindicated her contention, which she’s held for nearly 60 years, that animals have personalities just like people. So we decided to record her thoughts about that for the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest today is Mongabay contributor and Wake Forest University journalism professor Justin Catanoso, who appears on the podcast direct from COP23 to tell us how the UN climate talks are going in Bonn, Germany, what the mood is like amongst delegates, and how the US delegation is factoring into the talks as the Trump Administration continues to pursue a pullout from the Paris Climate Agreement.
More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study [11/15/2017]
- The researchers used satellite data to measure forest carbon values and camera trap photographs to tally the mammal species present in forests and oil palm plantations. - Finer-scale data did reveal that high-carbon areas do support more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction. - Experts say that this research validates the high carbon stock approach for identifying priority areas for conservation. - Still, further research is required to better understand the role of connectivity between high-carbon forests in supporting biodiversity.
4 sperm whales dead after mass stranding in Sumatra [11/14/2017]
- A pod of 10 sperm whales beached earlier this week in shallow waters in western Indonesia. - Despite attempts by authorities and residents to push the animals back out into deeper water, four of the whales died after being stranded overnight. - Experts are looking into what caused the whales to swim so close to shore.
VaquitaCPR ends capture program in Gulf of California after vaquita dies in captivity [11/13/2017]
- VaquitaCPR, the emergency conservation team pulled together by the Mexican government in a desperate attempt to save the vaquita from extinction, announced last Friday that its capture program had come to an end. - Just two of the marine mammals were taken into captivity by VaquitaCPR’s scientists, and neither was able to adapt to human care. The second, a breeding-age female that was not pregnant or lactating, responded poorly to being under the care of humans and died as the team was attempting to return her to the wild. - With the vaquita population continuing to plummet, a prohibition on the use of gillnets adopted by the Mexican government does not appear to have made much difference thus far — but environmentalists say that much tougher enforcement of the ban is the only way to save the vaquita at this point.
Citizen scientists around the world are monitoring elephants in Gabon via camera traps — and you can too [11/10/2017]
- Camera traps have proven to be a powerful tool in conservationists’ arsenal for monitoring forests and wildlife. But the mountains of data they capture need to be sifted through in order to be useful, which often presents a significant challenge for cash-strapped conservationists and researchers. - To meet this challenge, a team led by Anabelle Cardoso, a PhD candidate at Oxford University in the UK, has turned to another promising new method that is reshaping the way research is done in modern times: citizen science. - Slow population growth and the ivory poaching crisis have driven down the numbers of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in recent years. “We want to conserve these beautiful creatures, but to do that effectively we need to know where these elephants are and how many of them there are, so we can pick the best places to focus our efforts,” Cardoso and her colleagues write.
The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands [11/10/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino edges closer to extinction, aggressive interventions have stalled. Even ongoing efforts like ranger protection have been undercut by lack of government support. - As of May, conservation groups are united in their calls to ramp up captive-breeding efforts in Indonesia, but the government has not yet responded. - Frustrated conservationists cite bureaucracy, risk aversion, opaque and arbitrary decisions, and territorial squabbling as barriers to progress — but remain hopeful the government will act in time.
Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? [11/09/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino’s population dwindled, conservationists were locked in a debate about whether resources should be directed toward captive breeding or protecting wild populations. - With captive breeding efforts showing success, and wild populations becoming non-viable, the pendulum has swung in favor of captive breeding. - Experts agree that action is needed now more than ever, but any steps rely on support from the Indonesian government.
Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? [11/08/2017]
- Some claim a small but viable population of about a dozen rhinos persists deep within the forests of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on Sumatra’s southwestern coast. - Camera traps haven’t captured a single rhino there since 2014, spurring doubts there are any rhinos remaining at all. - The disputed numbers lead to questions about what should happen to any rhinos that might remain in the park — and to the rangers assigned to protect them.
Top 10 most widely traded animals in the Golden Triangle identified in new report [11/08/2017]
- Recent surveys by WWF and TRAFFIC have identified 10 of the most widely trafficked animals in the Golden Triangle. - These top 10 animals are: the tiger, elephant, pangolin, bear, rhinoceros, serow, helmeted hornbill, gaur, leopard, and turtles. - The wildlife markets in the Golden Triangle cater mostly to tourists from China and Vietnam, the report noted.
Scientists plan to map a ‘safety net’ for Planet Earth [11/07/2017]
- The mapping effort, to be led by Washington, D.C.-based non-profit research organization RESOLVE together with Globaïa, an NGO based in Quebec, Canada, and Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Viçosa, aims to identify the most critical terrestrial regions to protect as we work towards the goal of conserving 50 percent of the world’s land area. - Scientists and conservationists have argued for years that setting aside at least half of the world’s land mass as off-limits to human enterprise is necessary if we are to conserve our planet’s biodiversity. - The “safety net” that RESOLVE and its partner institutions plan to map out will consist of a network of wildlife corridors that connect every protected area on Earth and link them up with other high-priority landscapes, as well, even those that are unprotected.
Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left [11/07/2017]
- In 1986, scientists estimated there could be as many as 800 Sumatran rhinos left. That fell to 400 in 1996, then 275 in 2008. - Today the official estimate is 100 rhinos, but almost all experts believe that figure is overly optimistic. - Adding up the minimum estimate for each of the four known wild populations yields a total of just 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left on earth, plus another nine in captivity.
Breeding-age female vaquita dies after being taken into captivity [11/06/2017]
- A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called VaquitaCPR that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating “sea pens.” - Late last month, scientists with VaquitaCPR took the first of the marine mammals into captivity. Though the 6-month-old calf became so stressed by its capture that the team quickly chose to release it back into the wild, Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a scientist with the Mexican government who heads the VaquitaCPR program, suggested that the fact that they were able to successfully find and capture a vaquita at all was an encouraging sign. - This past weekend, however, it was announced that another vaquita — a breeding-age female — was taken into captivity and subsequently died. This has prompted calls to shut down the vaquita capture program altogether.
Recent report: Totoaba trafficking a conservation and security problem [11/06/2017]
- The NGO C4ADS reports that the trade of totoaba swim bladders to feed Asian markets is as much a security issue as a conservation problem. - Fishermen and women in the Gulf of California have continued to pursue the critically endangered fish, despite the ban on gillnets, which have also decimated the vaquita porpoise. - Vaquita in the wild number fewer than 30 animals, scientists say. - C4ADS has published the results of its investigation with evidence of the overlap between totoaba traders and drug traffickers on a new website, and will published their recent report in Spanish.
Three rhinos killed in 48 hours in India’s Kaziranga National Park [11/06/2017]
- An adult female rhino was killed by poachers Nov. 2, and a female and her calf Nov. 4, in Kaziranga National Park. - Kaziranga, which is home to the world’s largest population of greater one-horned rhinoceros, had previously only lost two rhinos to poachers in 2017. - State officials have vowed to provide park guards with more sophisticated arms, while park authorities cite the need to more surveillance inside the park’s difficult terrain.
Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species [11/06/2017]
- With an estimated population of less than 800, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan is already at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. - The Indonesian government will come up with a strategy to protect the orangutan, including the establishment of protected forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. - The government will also review a plan to build a hydroelectric plant in an area with the highest known density of Tapanuli orangutans.
Scientists surprised to discover new butterflyfish [11/03/2017]
- Because they are relatively well studied, scientists generally don’t expect to come across a new butterflyfish species. But that’s exactly what happened on an expedition by scientists with the San Francisco-based California Academy of Sciences when they were collecting live specimens 360 feet beneath the ocean’s surface in the Philippine’s Verde Island Passage. - Roa rumsfeldi was found on a mesophotic reef, which is a coral reef system that lies in a narrow band of the ocean known as the “twilight zone” — deep enough for sunlight to be scarce, but not pitch black like the deep sea. Mesophotic reefs are typically located somewhere between 200 and 500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. - Scientists with the California Academy of Science’s Hope for Reefs initiative are trained to dive deep into the ocean’s twilight zone in order to explore the mostly unexamined coral reefs that lie there. They frequently collect live fish on their expeditions to these mesophotic reefs, and that is how they first came across Roa rumsfeldi.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
A new species of orangutan from Indonesia (analysis) [11/02/2017]
- Scientists have described a third species of orangutan. - The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is found in the Tapanuli region of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province. - The species is already considered at risk of extinction. - This guest post is an analysis by researchers, including authors of the paper that describes the new primate species.
Will the bird that dodged a bullet pay the price of peace? [11/02/2017]
- Back in 1965, researchers reported that the Blue-billed Curassow was “becoming very rare.” But that same year a conflict began that may have bought the species some time. - The conflict claimed 270,000 lives and displaced seven million people. Out of this darkness shines one ray of light: the violence protected large portions of the natural wealth that will be key to Colombia’s future. - But researchers warn of risks to Colombia’s natural heritage as people return to rural areas from which they had fled, and as mining and agriculture expand into forests that were previously off-limits because of the fighting. These areas include the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía de San Lucas, two mountain ranges that are among the last refuges of Crax alberti.
Fish vs. forests? Madagascar’s marine conservation boom [11/01/2017]
- Inspired by early successes in marine conservation, locally controlled fisheries projects have expanded quickly along Madagascar’s 3,000-mile-long coastline over the past 15 years. - Now that growth is poised to skyrocket, with rising interest in fisheries management and conservation from international donors, including a planned injection of more than $70 million by the World Bank. - But the scale of funding for marine conservation has prompted concerns from both small NGOs that already work on fisheries and advocates of terrestrial conservation, who point to the uneven track record of locally controlled fisheries projects around the country. - This is the fifth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Audio: Impacts of gas drilling on wildlife in Peru and a Goldman Prize winner on mercury contamination [11/01/2017]
- On today’s episode: a look at the impacts of drilling for natural gas on birds and amphibians through bioacoustics, and a Goldman Prize winner discusses her ongoing campaign to rid mercury contamination from the environment. - Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Jessica Deichmann, a research scientist with the Center for Conservation and Sustainability at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Deichmann led a study that used acoustic monitoring, among other methods, to examine the impacts on wildlife of a gas drilling platform in the forests of southeastern Peru. - Next, we talk with 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Yuyun Ismawati, an environmental engineer from Indonesia who currently lives in the UK. As the founder of an NGO called BaliFokus and a steering committee member of IPEN, a non-profit based in Sweden that works to improve chemicals policies and practices around the world, Ismawati has made it her life’s mission to stop the use of mercury in activities like gold mining that cause the toxin to leach into the environment and thereby threaten human health and wildlife.
Carbon sequestration role of savanna soils key to climate goals [11/01/2017]
- Savannas and grasslands cover a vast area, some 20 percent of the earth’s land surface — from sub-Saharan Africa, to the Cerrado in Brazil, to North America’s heartland. They also offer an enormous and underappreciated capacity for carbon sequestration. - However, the role of forests in storing carbon has long been emphasized over the role of savannas (and savanna soils) by international climate negotiators, resulting in policies such as REDD+ for preserving and restoring forests, with no such incentives for protecting grasslands. - Scientists warn that the planting of trees, such as nonnative eucalyptus in Africa and Brazil, could be counterproductive in the long term, potentially contributing to climate change emissions while harming grassland biodiversity and altering ecosystems. - As participants prepare to meet for the COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany next week, grassland scientists are urging that policymakers turn an eye toward savannas, and begin to develop incentives for preserving them and their carbon storing soils. More research is also needed to fully understand the role savannas can play in carbon sequestration.
Is Cambodia’s plan to reintroduce tigers doomed to fail? [11/01/2017]
- As recently as 1999, Cambodia was home to one of the world’s largest tiger populations. Today the Indochinese tiger is considered functionally extinct in the country. - Cambodia is now looking to emulate the profitable success of India’s tiger reserves by reintroducing the big cats to its own forests - Experts say poaching, rampant corruption and weak law enforcement could spell disaster for the endangered animals.
Brilliantly colored ‘lost’ salamander rediscovered after 42 years [11/01/2017]
- The striking, yellow-hued Jackson’s climbing salamander was first reported to science in 1975, then never recorded again. - But last month, a guard at a recently created amphibian reserve in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes Mountain range spotted a juvenile of the species while he was patrolling. - Conservationists are excited because the salamander was “rediscovered” in a reserve especially created to help protect the habitat of amphibians like the Jackson’s climbing salamander.
Trump budget undercuts U.S. commitment to global wildlife conservation [10/30/2017]
- President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would make extensive cuts to already underfunded programs to combat wildlife trafficking and to aid African and Asian nations in protecting elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins and other endangered wildlife. - Trump’s budget proposes a 32 percent across-the-board cut in U.S. foreign assistance, affecting hundreds of sustainability, health and environmental programs. - Major cuts would come to the Department of State, USAID, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs. - Congress needs to approve a 2018 budget by December, and no one knows if it will approve the president’s desired deep cuts. However, hostility from the administration and many in the GOP to wildlife programs is unlikely to go away any time soon, with more and larger reductions in years to come.
Parks and reserves ‘significant’ force for slowing climate change [10/30/2017]
- Protecting tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 amounted to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to a 29 percent cut in deforestation rates. - The authors used statistical models to estimate the amount of CO2 that would have been released if currently protected areas in South America, Asia and Africa had instead been cleared. - The researchers argue that their findings bolster the conservation case for safeguarding tropical forests.
A roar for nature in Indonesia: Q&A with the poet behind ‘Indigenous Species’ [10/30/2017]
- “Indigenous Species” is a book-length poem that highlights environmental crimes and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. - The literary work has been performed at international events since 2013 and was published last December. - Mongabay caught up with poet Khairani Barokka to discuss her book, activism and environmental issues in literature.
‘Decimated’: Germany’s birds disappear as insect abundance plummets 76% [10/27/2017]
- A new study in PLOS ONE reveals a 76 percent reduction in Germany’s flying insect biomass over the past 27 years while another reports the country’s bird abundance has declined 15 percent in just over a decade. - While the causes behind the insect decline haven’t yet been conclusively studied, the PLOS ONE study suggests agricultural intensification like increased pesticide use may be contributing to the decline. - Neonicotinoid pesticides have been blamed for bee declines, and studies also link them to declines in aquatic insect communities. Many flying insects have aquatic life stages. - More research is underway to better understand the causes and ramifications of such a big decline in flying insect biomass.
Lemur species losing favorite food to climate change, new study says [10/26/2017]
- The greater bamboo lemur tends to feed on nutritious bamboo shoots, switching to the woody trunk of the plant only during the dry season. - A longer dry season due to climate change could force them to subsist on this less-than-optimal food source for more of the year, potentially pushing this critically endangered species closer to extinction, according to a new study. - This discovery could have implications for other threatened species, like the giant panda, that depend on one type of food.
As Grauer’s gorillas cling to survival, new population found [10/26/2017]
- Since 1994, civil war has left over 5 million people dead and wildlife decimated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Today, heavily armed militia and illegal miners prospect for “conflict minerals” needed for modern electronic devices made and sold in the U.S. and around the globe. - Hunters have targeted Grauer’s gorillas to feed miners and militias: in just two decades, these great apes have declined by 77 percent. A 2016 survey found only 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas, the world’s largest primates, still hanging on in the most rugged parts of eastern DRC. - The good news: a bold group of scientists, under the protection of armed rangers, has found 50 previously uncounted Grauer’s gorillas in DRC’s Maiko National Park. And more may exist within the 4,000 square-mile park. - The bad news: the US House of Representatives voted last month to defund the “Conflict Mineral Rule,” which required US companies to report where conflict minerals, such as coltan used in cell phones and computers, were sourced. The Senate has yet to take action on the legislation.
First vaquita ‘rescued’ in bid to save the porpoise from extinction [10/25/2017]
- A project to save a small, critically endangered porpoise called the vaquita in the Gulf of California succeeded in capturing a 6-month-old calf in mid-October. - Veterinarians noticed signs of stress, so they made the decision to release it back into the wild, rather than keep it in a sea pen. - The project’s leaders are heartened by the experience and hope to round up more vaquita to keep them safe from the still-present threat of gillnet entanglement in the northern Sea of Cortez.
Rhino poacher sentenced to 18 years in prison [10/25/2017]
- A court in Malawi has convicted and sentenced a rhino poacher to 18 years in prison for killing an adult female black rhinoceros. - Two of his accomplices were also handed sentences of ten and eight years each. - The recent 18-year sentence might serve as a deterrent to would-be poachers, some experts say.
Black rhinos in Tanzania now monitored via sensors implanted directly in their horns [10/24/2017]
- In a first for the species, several black rhinos in Tanzania’s Mkomazi National Park have had small, networked sensors embedded directly in their horns in order to allow park rangers to monitor the animals much more closely than in the past. - The sensors make use of LoRaWAN technology (which stands for “Long Range Wide Area Network”), designed to allow low-powered devices, like sensors in rhino horns, to communicate with Internet-connected devices, like computers in a ranger station, over long-range wireless networks. - LoRaWAN is one of several technologies currently being put to use for real-time monitoring of wildlife. The network in Tanzania’s Mkomazi National Park, where the sensors were recently deployed, covers the entire rhino sanctuary in the park.
Saving the ‘Star Wars gibbon’: Q&A with primatologist Carolyn Thompson [10/24/2017]
- Carolyn Thompson, a Ph.D. student at University College London, is studying the newly described and little-known Skywalker hoolock gibbon. - She is working with the very team that first described the small ape in the China-Myanmar border region. - Thompson hopes that her research will contribute to the gibbon’s threat assessment on the International Union of Conservation for Nature Species Red List.
Life and death and the jaguars of the mind (commentary) [10/23/2017]
- The jaguar is the largest predator in the lands it roams. It once thrived across much of South America, all of Central America, and into the southwestern United States, but hunting and deforestation have slashed its numbers and range. - For a species being nudged to the edge of extinction, the way people think matters. But the jaguars of the mind are always evolving. And, as new research shows, when money enters the picture, opinions can soon shift. - Whether cast as violent killers or noble beasts, as ghosts or money-makers, jaguars are always shifting into new forms, reflecting changes in how we think about the world about us. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
As Northwest salmon economy teeters on brink, Trump gives it a push [10/23/2017]
- Northwest salmon fisheries are in trouble, impacted by warming oceans and overdeveloped, dammed and silted spawning rivers and streams. - Pre-contact indigenous groups in the region once organized their societies around sustainable fishing tribal agreements that worked. More recently, under past presidential administrations, Canadian, US and tribal authorities came together to save the declining salmon fisheries. - Especially successful have been federally funded local, state and tribal programs, administered by NOAA, that protect and restore Northwest spawning streams — an investment in habitat and healthy local economies. - Trump’s 2018 budget would cut all those programs, though for now Congress has restored them. However, politicians and regulators are concerned that Trump’s abandonment of Northwest fisheries and local economies will persist through his administration.
Helmeted hornbill, on verge of extinction, finds respite in new zone outside of known range [10/23/2017]
- A recent survey has found a high concentration of near-extinct helmeted hornbills in a conservation area in western Borneo. - This “hornbill paradise” is currently not included in the IUCN range map for this particular species. - Conservationists have called for the map to be updated, for more research in the area, and for stronger law enforcement to protect the distinctive bird.
Half-Earth Day to be celebrated next week [10/20/2017]
- This Monday, October 23, marks the first-ever Half-Earth Day. - The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and National Geographic timed the event to occur exactly half a year after Earth Day (April 22). But Half-Earth Day also gets its name from the biodiversity conservation initiative spearheaded by renowned biologist and conservationist Edward O. Wilson, discussed in his 2016 book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. - Wilson’s idea, which he says is backed up by research, is that we can protect 85 percent of Earth’s biodiversity by conserving half of the world’s land and seas. - The evening program at Half-Earth Day will feature legendary singer/songwriter Paul Simon, who recently did a 19-city tour in support of Half-Earth.
The Philippines commits to science-anchored fishery policies [10/20/2017]
- The Philippines ranks 10th in the world in terms of its annual catch, and Filipinos consume 32.7 kilograms (72.1 pounds) of fish each year. - At the same time, 70 percent of the Philippines’ fish populations are overfished. - The country is now set to work with the Environmental Defense Fund to bring data analysis and science into fisheries decisions by 2022.
Amazonian manatee migration at risk from disruption by proposed dams [10/19/2017]
- Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis) spend the high-water season feeding in flooded forests, but migrate to deeper permanent water bodies to see out the dry season. - Researchers have found that as the dry season approaches, manatees time their migration out of the floodplain to avoid bottlenecks that would block their route, and doom them. - But, the scientists warn, those bottlenecks will become far more common, and less predictable, if the hundreds of hydropower dams planned for the Amazon go forward. - The dams, and the bottleneck problem they create, “generates profound concern for the conservation of manatees,” the scientists write.
Leading US plywood firm linked to alleged destruction, rights violations in Malaysia [10/19/2017]
- An investigation has found that Liberty Woods, the top importer of plywood in the US, buys wood from a Malaysian company that has faced numerous allegations of environmentally unsustainable logging and indigenous rights violations. - Environmental NGOs have accused the timber industry in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, of clearing too much forest too quickly, polluting streams and rivers and failing to obtain consent to log from local communities. - Satellite imagery analysis in 2013 showed that, between 2000 and 2012, Malaysia had the world’s highest deforestation rate. - In Sarawak, where logging company Shin Yang is based, only 5 percent of forests remain relatively untouched.
Seychelles home to new species of caecilian, a legless amphibian [10/19/2017]
- The Petite Praslin caecilian (Hypogeophis pti) is the world’s newest — and possibly the smallest — caecilian, a type of legless amphibian. - Scientists discovered the animal on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. - The new species is the seventh caecilian species found in the Seychelles, where the amphibians have been evolving for 64 million years.
Unfair trade: US beef has a climate problem [10/18/2017]
- Across the globe, beef consumption, is seeing rapid growth, fed by cheap imports and served by an industrialized agricultural global trade model that’s been linked to a host of environmental impacts, climate change chief among them. - Beef consumption in previously meat-light countries like Japan presents profit opportunities for the global beef industry. But scientists and activists argue that increasing beef consumption and industrial farm production go against efforts to combat climate change. - President Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade deal, upset the US beef industry’s plans of expanding into lucrative Asian markets, including Japan, calling into question if, or when, a future deal will be signed. - TPP, like other global trade treaties, fails to acknowledge climate change or include mechanisms to curb it. Critics say TPP (which continues to be negotiated by 11 nations) and future trade deals must change radically — protecting not only business and the economy, but the environment.
Audio: Indonesian rainforests for sale and bat calls of the Amazon [10/18/2017]
- This episode of the Mongabay Newscast takes a look at the first installment of our new investigative series, “Indonesia for Sale,” and features the sounds of Amazonian bats. - Mongabay’s Indonesia-based editor Phil Jacobson joins the Newscast to tell us all about “Indonesia for Sale” and the first piece in the series, “The palm oil fiefdom.” - We also speak with Adrià López-Baucells, a PhD student in bat ecology who has conducted acoustic studies of bats in the central Amazon for the past several years. In this Field Notes segment, López-Baucells plays some of the recordings he used to study the effects of Amazon forest fragmentation on bat foraging behavior.
Study maps out reptiles’ ranges, completing the ‘atlas of life’ [10/17/2017]
- The study’s 39 authors, from 30 institutions around the world, pulled together data on the habitats of more than 10,000 species of reptiles. - They found little overlap with current conservation areas, many of which have used the numbers of mammal and bird species present as proxies for overall biodiversity. - In particular, lizards and turtles aren’t afforded much protection under current schemes. - The authors report that they’ve identified high-priority areas for conservation that protects reptile diversity, ranging from deserts in the Middle East, Africa and Australia, to grass- and scrublands in Asia and Brazil.
When a rhino calls in the forest, this guy hears it: Q&A with a Javan rhino researcher [10/16/2017]
- Javan rhinos are so cryptic and elusive that they are difficult to study, despite the entire species being confined to a single site. - Camera traps are giving researchers new insights into the species’ behaviors and environmental needs. - Steve Wilson, a doctoral student working on a dissertation about Javan rhinos, explains some of these new findings — and how novel research methods might help guide conservation strategies.
Questioning militarization is essential for successful and socially just conservation (commentary) [10/16/2017]
- It is important to question and critically analyze new directions in conservation, as failing to do so will undoubtedly lead to negative outcomes for people and wildlife. Justice for animals is not well served by perpetrating other injustices. - I can agree that poaching is against the law and therefore is a crime. But the law is not a neutral or apolitical instrument. For example, the argument that wildlife laws are neutral instruments renders invisible the colonial origins of wildlife laws in Africa, which separated wildlife and people in ways that actively produce human-wildlife conflict today. - It is useful and important to debate the problems of militarization, because this can and should shape policy and funding strategies for conservation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Photo of ‘resurrected’ extinct Indonesian tiger is actually leopard, scientists say [10/15/2017]
- A recent photograph of a big cat by park rangers in Java sparked suggestions that it could be the Javan tiger, which was officially declared extinct in 2003. - Scientists, however, have concluded that the animal in the picture is a Javan leopard. - The sighting of the critically endangered leopard subspecies has renewed calls to protect it from also going extinct.
Mexico takes ‘unprecedented’ action to save vaquita [10/15/2017]
- A team of marine mammal experts have begun a search for the last vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) in a last-ditch effort to capture the remaining 30 porpoises until they’re no longer threatened by gillnets. - VaquitaCPR seeks to house the vaquita in sea pens and includes plans for long-term care and breeding. - Though seen as ‘risky’ and ‘bold,’ many conservation organizations agree that finding the animals before it’s too late is the only option.
Photos: night owls [10/13/2017]
- 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. - This month, David A. Oehler writes about owls.
Is Bangladesh’s expanded sanctuary a brave step or a paper tiger? [10/13/2017]
- The government’s decision increases the proportion of the Bangladesh Sundarbans that is off-limits to people from 23 to 52 percent, although pollution from a proposed coal power plant nearby would be an ongoing risk. - Locals living near the forest have minimized the number of tigers killed in conflict with humans by forming response teams that ward tigers away from villages. - Policy tailored to addressing the myriad reasons for tiger killing would have even more success in reversing the decline of the Bengal tiger, research suggests.
Cash for conservation: Do payments for ecosystem services work? [10/12/2017]
- What can we say about the effectiveness of payments for ecosystem services (PES) based on the available scientific literature? To find out, we examined 38 studies that represent the best evidence we could find. - The vast majority of the evidence in those 38 studies was still very weak, however. In other words, most of the studies did not compare areas where PES had been implemented with non-PES control areas or some other kind of countervailing example. - On average, the more rigorously designed studies showed very modest reductions in deforestation, generally of just a few percentage points. Meanwhile, the majority of the available evidence suggests that payments were often too low to cover the opportunity costs of agricultural development or other profitable activities that the land could have been used for. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Ivory is out in the UK, as government moves to shutter legal trade [10/12/2017]
- The British government began a 12-week consultation period on Oct. 6 to sort out the details for a near-total ban on its domestic ivory trade. - Conservation groups have long worried that even a legal trade can mask the illicit movement of ivory and stimulate further demand for ivory from poached elephants. - The conservation groups WCS and Stop Ivory applauded the announcement and pledged to work with the government to put the ban in place.
Island-hopping toxic toad threatens iconic Komodo dragon [10/11/2017]
- The islands of Wallacea, which include parts of Indonesia, are home to many species that exist nowhere else in the world. - The Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) has spread across the islands under the conservation radar while conservationists struggle to cope with a similar invasion in Madagascar. - If the advance of the toad across Wallacea is not stopped, scientists worry it could have devastating consequences for the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon.