DRC set to reclassify national parks for oil, open rainforest to logging [07/19/2018]
- An investigation by Greenpeace finds that since February, DRC’s environment ministry has handed over control of three logging concessions in Congo Basin rainforest to Chinese-owned logging companies. Two of these concessions are located in a massive peatland – the largest in the tropics – that was discovered last year. - Fourteen more concessions are expected to be awarded to companies in the coming months. - The DRC government is also reportedly planning to declassify large portions of Salonga and Virunga national parks to allow oil exploration. Virunga is one of the last bastions of critically endangered mountain gorillas. - These moves threaten a long-standing logging moratorium in the country, as well as forest protection agreements between the DRC and other countries.
Securing a future for Grevy’s zebras and the cultures of northern Kenya (commentary) [07/19/2018]
- Grevy’s zebras were once widespread across the Horn of Africa, but their numbers were decimated by poaching and civil unrest during the 1970s and 80s. Fewer than 3,000 endangered Grevy’s zebras remain worldwide today. - Habitat loss and competition with people and livestock for water and pasture pose a bigger threat than poaching to the species’ survival today. - Conservation initiatives devised and implemented at the grassroots level hold the key to the species’ future. Local efforts by the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) seek to promote sustainable grazing practices and employ local communities in monitoring zebra movements, thereby safeguarding both the area’s natural and cultural heritage. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Plant communities roar back after rat removal from Pacific islands [07/19/2018]
- In a multi-year study, scientists found that tree seedlings were more than 5,000 percent more abundant after rats were eradicated from Palmyra Atoll, a group of 25 small islands in the Pacific Ocean. - Invasive rats, brought by ships over the past few centuries, eat tree seedlings and vegetation, in addition to driving down seabird numbers. - Managers eradicated the islands’ rats in 2011, and within a month, seedling densities had increased.
Cross-border camera trap research puts wild Amur leopard number at 84 [07/19/2018]
- Scientists working in Russia and China have used camera traps to estimate that 84 Amur leopards remain in the wild. - Previous studies tracked the cats using their footprints in snow, but the camera trap photographs allowed the researchers to identify individual animals by their unique spot patterns. - The team found that 20 percent of the Amur leopards appeared on both sides of the border between China and Russia, highlighting the importance of cross-border collaboration.
How a better understanding of psychopathology in captive primates can aid in conservation efforts [07/18/2018]
- Maya Kummrow, a doctor of veterinary medicine, writes in a paper recently published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine that non-human primates have been used as models of human psychopathology — the study of mental illness — for decades. But, she notes, “the acquired knowledge has only hesitantly been applied to primates themselves.” - In the paper, Kummrow states that she is seeking to raise awareness among her fellow veterinarians about the wealth of information on NHP psychopathology that is available in human medicine and anthropology literature and calls for “mental health assessments and professionally structured treatment approaches” in NHP medicine, as well. - In this Q&A, Mongabay spoke with Kummrow about how her review of the literature on NHP psychopathology and treatment might apply to primate conservation efforts.
Pushing Vietnam’s shrimp industry toward sustainability [07/17/2018]
- Shrimp farming is one of the biggest industries in Vietnam, and the government is pushing to expand it, having announced plans last year to boost exports from $3 billion in 2016 to $10 billion by 2025. - But there are significant environmental problems associated with current farming methods, which contribute to deforestation, erosion, land subsidence and rising salinity levels that are threatening the stability of the entire Mekong region. - The Vietnamese government and a range of international development partners are working to improve the way the country farms shrimp, with an emphasis on small-scale operators. - However, the reality is that most farmers are reluctant to change.
New species of venomous snake discovered by accident in Australia [07/17/2018]
- While researching sea snakes in the mining town of Weipa in Australia’s remote Cape York Peninsula, a team of biologists chanced upon a black and white snake that’s new to science. - The venomous snake, now named Vermicella parscauda, belongs to a group of snakes called bandy bandies that live in burrows and feed on a specialized diet of blindsnakes. - So far, the team has found only six individuals of the new species in the Weipa area, a site with large-scale bauxite mining, which could suggest that the burrowing snake might be in trouble.
EU demand siphons illicit timber from Ukraine, investigation finds [07/17/2018]
- Corrupt management of Ukraine’s timber sector is supplying the EU with large amounts of wood from the country’s dense forests. - The London-based investigative nonprofit Earthsight found evidence that forestry officials have taken bribes to supply major European firms with Ukrainian wood that may have been harvested illegally. - Earthsight argues that EU-based companies are not carrying out the due diligence that the EU Timber Regulation requires when buying from “high-risk” sources of timber.
Scientists urge Indonesian president to nix dam in orangutan habitat [07/13/2018]
- Twenty-five of the world’s top environmental scientists have sent a letter to Indonesia’s president, seeking a halt to a planned hydroelectric dam in the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the rarest species of great ape on Earth. - The scientists also slammed the Chinese government for funding the project as a part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, saying it has disregarded the environmental consequences of building and operating the dam. - The developers of the project have dismissed the criticism, saying they will enforce strong environmental safeguards to protect the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.
Another Cecil? Secrecy surrounds June trophy lion hunt [07/13/2018]
- A U.S. trophy hunter baited and killed a male lion on June 7th in Umbabat Private Nature Reserve, a part of Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Suspicions are that the animal shot was Skye, a beloved lion in the region. - U.S. citizen Jared Whitworth allegedly paid nearly $80,000 for the hunt. Authorities say the animal killed wasn’t Skye, but have offered no proof. Skye hasn’t been seen since the day Whitworth made his kill, and one of the lion’s cubs was found dead, which often happens when other males take over a pride. - If the killed lion was Skye, this would be a breach of South African regulations, because the lion was too young to be legally hunted. Authorities also say that if it is confirmed that the lion was baited, that could violate South African laws. - In response, the U.S. Humane Society and Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking it to reject importation of the mystery lion’s body. In March, the Trump administration’s USFWS announced a new policy to consider African trophy import permits on a case-by-case basis.
Latam Eco Review: Spectacled bears in the spotlight [07/13/2018]
Among the most read stories at our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were articles about camera traps providing new insights into the spectacled bear’s natural habitat in Peru, and in Ecuador both private and governmental initiatives which are successfully fighting to protect the dry forest ecosystem in the southern part of the country. The […]
Salamanders have ‘tricks up their sleeves’ for weathering climate change [07/12/2018]
- North America is the world’s salamander diversity hotspot, and the Appalachian Mountains are home to around 10 percent of all species. - Salamanders play a big role in forest ecosystems, both as predators and prey, as well as helping keep carbon in the ground. - Previous research found that global warming stands to make a large portion of the Appalachians unsuitable for salamanders by the end of the century. - But a new study reveals Appalachian salamanders may be better able to acclimate to warmer, drier conditions than previously believed.
Krill fishing companies pledge to protect key food of Antarctic animals [07/12/2018]
- A majority of krill fishing companies have announced their commitment to voluntarily stop harvesting the tiny crustaceans from vast areas of the Antarctic Peninsula, including around important breeding penguin colonies. - These companies are all members of the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK), representing 85 percent of the krill fishing industry in the Antarctic. - The companies have also pledged to support the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Antarctic, the details of which will be finalized by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at a conference in Australia later this year.
Species evolve more than twice as fast at poles as in tropics: study [07/12/2018]
- Considering the swarming biodiversity at the equator, and the lack of diversity near the poles, scientists have long assumed that species evolve more rapidly in warm waters. But a new study of the evolutionary development of 30,000 fish species has turned that idea on its head. - Biologists found that a fish species in the tropics split into a new species on average every 10 to 20 million years. But near the poles, that average rate is roughly every four million years – more than twice as fast. - The reason may be the far more extreme and less stable climatic conditions found near the poles. This results in more frequent extinctions, which clears out species diversity and empties ecological niches, setting the stage for the next new burst of species formation in other groups of organisms. - But if species form faster at the poles than in the tropics, why isn’t there greater biodiversity in the Arctic and Antarctic than at the equator? One possibility: while speciation is more rapid at the poles, extinctions may be more numerous too. But this still isn’t clear, and more research will be needed to find out.
Rhino poop gives villagers in India a conservation incentive [07/11/2018]
- Elrhino company uses the fiber from rhino dung, along with other locally available products, to produce high-end paper products. - The founders of the company aim to help preserve India’s greater one-horned rhinos by giving villagers a financial incentive to help protect the species. - The company employs local residents to collect rhino waste, to work in the paper factory, and to produce decorations for its paper products.
Coral reefs thrive next to rat-free islands, new study finds [07/11/2018]
- A team of ecologists examined the impacts that invasive rats on tropical islands have on coral reef ecosystems. - Because rats eat seabird eggs and young, they can decimate seabird populations. - With fewer seabirds depositing their guano on islands, coral reef ecosystems near rat-infested islands can’t support as much life. - The findings suggest that eradicating rats from tropical islands could be a straightforward way of bolstering the health of coral reefs.
Vietnam’s bear bile farms are collapsing — but it may not be good news [07/11/2018]
- Consumer interest in farmed bear bile seems to be declining in Vietnam, according to a new study, but this raises concerns for both captive and wild bears. - Farmers are now spending very little on food for the bears, for instance, and often kill the bears after seven to eight years of extensive bile extraction. - Moreover, bear farming appears to be less lucrative than illegal hunting of wild bears because of both high consumer demand for wild-sourced products and underresourced law enforcement, the authors write.
Audio: How to use drones without stressing wildlife [07/10/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss the increasing use of drones by wildlife lovers, researchers, and businesses, how that might be stressing animals out, and how drone hobbyists can actually make a meaningful contribution to science while avoiding the harassment of wildlife. - Our guest is Alicia Amerson, a marine biologist, drone pilot, and science communicator. She tells us why it’s critical that we have best practices for drones in place before we allow companies like Amazon and Uber to deploy fleets of drones in our skies. - “I want to hit the panic button and create policy” before we have drone-based delivery services by companies like Amazon and Uber “and look and collect data to make sure that we understand what populations are using the skies before we release all of these drones into our world. And so you have to create best practices and policies before all this really gets out of control.”
Tiger, clouded leopard skins among illegal wildlife parts seized in Malaysia [07/09/2018]
- Malaysian authorities have seized wildlife parts worth 500,000 ringgit ($124,000) during a raid in the town of Kuala Lipis, outside Taman Negara, the country’s oldest national park. - Officials also arrested six Vietnamese nationals — four men and two women — alleged to be part of a larger tiger-poaching gang. - The confiscated animal parts include two entire tiger pelts suspected to have come from critically endangered Malayan tigers. Each of those pelts is estimated to be worth 200,000 Ringgit ($50,000) on the black market.
Investigation reveals illegal trade cartels decimating vaquita porpoises [07/09/2018]
- An investigation has exposed new details of the illegal trade in the totoaba fish’s swim bladder. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the primary reason vaquita porpoises are headed toward extinction. - Elephant Action League’s investigation has identified the people involved and the routes they use to smuggle the bladders to buyers in China.
Ice-free passage for ships through the Arctic could cause problems for marine mammals [07/09/2018]
- A new study suggests that increased ship traffic in the Arctic, as ice there melts due to climate change, could disturb marine mammal species. - In their assessment of 80 subpopulations living along the Northwest Passage and Russia’s Northern Sea Route, 42 are likely to be affected by a greater number of commercial ships, researchers found. - The team suggests that mitigation measures, such as those employed in other parts of the world to protect North Atlantic right whales, could be effective.
Latam Eco Review: Five newly described snakes named by auction in Ecuador [07/06/2018]
Among the top stories published by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were features about five newly described snake species being named by auction in Ecuador, and news that Bolivia’s Madidi Park could possibly be the most biodiverse park on Earth. The banner image above shows one of the newly described snakes, a Bob […]
And then there were 12: Why don’t we hear about extinction until it’s too late? (commentary) [07/06/2018]
- Species threatened with extinction often don’t get the public’s attention until they no longer exist. - The author, zoologist Sam Turvey, argues that more attention to these critical cases is required. - Ahead of International Save the Vaquita Day on July 7, Turvey points out that the world’s most endangered marine mammal is dangerously close to extinction, and it’s not alone. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Scientists reveal yet another reason fig trees are titans of biodiversity [07/06/2018]
- Biologist David Mackay got a surprise when he began studying the birds visiting fig trees in his native Australia: While he expected to see plenty of species coming to eat the figs, he didn’t expect the insect eaters to outnumber them two-to-one. - Mackay already knew that figs feed more bird species than any other fruit. His research, published in June, would show that fig trees are disproportionately important for insect-eaters, too. It adds to growing evidence that fig trees are titans of biodiversity with important roles to play in conservation. - Altogether, Mackay recorded 55 bird species visiting Ficus rubiginosa fig trees to feed on insects. They included ten species — such as the superb fairy-wren and the shining bronze-cuckoo —whose recent declines in numbers have concerned conservationists.
Orangutan found shot, hacked at palm plantation with history of deaths [07/05/2018]
- An orangutan previously captured from an oil palm plantation in Borneo and released into a nearby national park has been found dead inside the plantation, with extensive bullet and knife wounds. - The killing is the third being investigated this year, and the fifth recorded at the plantation in question, run by a subsidiary of palm oil giant Best Agro Plantation, since September 2015. - The company says it has made efforts to protect the wildlife entering its plantation, but declined to answer questions about the string of orangutan deaths. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Two suspected poachers arrested for killing of Sumatran elephant [07/05/2018]
- Indonesian authorities have arrested two of four suspects alleged to have killed a rare Sumatran elephant and hacked off one of its tusks. - The arrest took place about a month after the elephant was found dead in the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra’s Aceh province. News of the killing garnered widespread attention and calls to solve the case. - There are only an estimated 2,400 Sumatran elephants left in the wild, scattered across 25 fragmented habitats on the island.
Lab-grown embryos raise hope of saving near-extinct rhino [07/05/2018]
- For the first time ever, scientists have successfully used IVF techniques to combine sperm from the near-extinct northern white rhino with eggs from the more abundant southern white rhino to create viable hybrid embryos. - The researchers hope to implant the embryos into surrogate female southern white rhinos to produce hybrid baby rhinos that can then ensure that at least some of the northern white rhino DNA is preserved. - Such IVF techniques can also be used to rescue populations of other endangered rhino species, such as the Sumatran rhino, researchers say. - But other experts say that while the science is promising, the underlying threat to the survival of all rhino species remains the insatiable demand for the animals’ horns.
Fingerprinting technology gives investigators an edge against pangolin traffickers [07/04/2018]
- Researchers in the U.K. have modified the gelatin lifters used in criminal forensic investigations so they can pick up clues from pangolin scales and other illegally traded wildlife body parts. - Wildlife guards in Kenya and Cameroon are using packs of the gelatin lifters in the field to gather evidence. - The researchers say this new technology allows wildlife conservation officials to collect this evidence more quickly in remote areas, which in turn helps to ensure their safety.
Global frog pandemic may become even deadlier as strains combine [07/03/2018]
- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis – Bd for short – causes a disease called chytridiomycosis that affects a frog’s ability to absorb water and electrolytes through its skin. By 2007, Bd had spread around the world and had been implicated in the decline or extinction of some 200 species. - A new study finds that hybridization between a native strain of Bd and the one that’s caused the global pandemic can lead to greater infection rates and illness strength than either can alone. - It was conducted by researchers from universities in Brazil and the U.S. who looked at infection in several frog species in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. They chose that region because of its high amphibian biodiversity (despite being one of the most deforested ecosystems on the planet), as well as because it is the only known region in the world where multiple strains of Bd coexist and hybridize. - The researchers say their results indicate frogs may face a future even more dire than anticipated as different strains of Bd spread around the world and combine into more harmful forms. They call for increasing global monitoring efforts to detect these shifts before they lead to new outbreaks.
Rare nursery for baby manta rays discovered in Gulf of Mexico [07/03/2018]
- Adult giant manta rays can be seen in subtropical and tropical waters around the world, but baby and juvenile mantas are rarely encountered. - So when marine biologist Joshua Stewart saw several baby and juvenile mantas at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off Texas and Louisiana, he was surprised. - By looking through 25 years of dive data from the sanctuary, including photographs of manta rays, Stewart and his team confirmed that the sanctuary was a nursery ground for the mantas.
Leprosy prevalent among Amazon’s armadillos, study finds [06/29/2018]
- Researchers have found a high prevalence of leprosy among nine-banded armadillos in Brazil’s western state of Pará. - They also surveyed 146 people in the region and found that people who ate armadillos more than once a month showed higher signs of exposure to leprosy infection compared to people who consumed armadillos less frequently or not at all. - Overall, the study found that frequently handling armadillos, such as hunting or cleaning or cooking armadillo meat, puts people at higher risk of getting infected with leprosy.
Latam Eco Review: Chocolate as a conservation strategy [06/29/2018]
The most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of June 18- 24 include features in honor of Colombia’s World Cup team (Humboldt Institute created “Colombian Biodiversity Team” cards profiling the country’s most iconic wildlife) and in other news, Peruvian farmers in a region once dominated by narcotrafficking now seek […]
‘Urban Raptors’: Q&A with authors of book on ecology and conservation of city-dwelling birds of prey [06/29/2018]
- Nest cameras have been set up in cities across the United States to give viewers an intimate look into the nesting activities of urban-dwelling birds of prey like eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls. These raptors represent a rare instance of wildlife thriving amidst the hustle and bustle of areas densely populated by mankind. - Raptor researchers Clint W. Boal and Cheryl Dykstra are co-authors of Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities, a new book that explores the science of how these birds of prey have adapted to city life and what humans can do to support them. - Mongabay spoke with Boal and Dykstra about the urban raptor species discussed in the book, what kinds of unique threats the birds of prey face in cities, and how important these urban populations are to overall raptor conservation.
After logging, activists hope to extend protections for Bialowieza Forest [06/28/2018]
- Bialoweiza Forest straddles Poland and Belarus and is Europe’s largest remaining lowland old growth forest, home to wildlife that has disappeared from much of the rest of Europe. In March 2016, the government approved a plan to triple industrial logging in Poland’s Bialoweiza forest. The government argued it was the only way to combat a spruce bark beetle outbreak, but environmentalists believed that was largely an excuse to give access to the state-run logging regime. - According to watchdog organizations, loggers cut 190,000 cubic meters of wood in 2017. This amounts to around 160,000-180,000 trees and affects an area of about 1,900 hectares. It also represents the most trees cut in the forest in any one year since 1987 when Poland was under a communist government. - In May 2018, Europe’s highest court ruled the logging illegal, noting that the government’s own documents showed that logging was a bigger threat than the beetles, which are a part of natural, cyclical process that is likely exacerbated by climate change. Poland, threatened with high fines, backed down—and the logging stopped. - Activists and environmentalists are calling for expanding national park status – which currently applies to just a small portion of Poland’s portion of the forest – over its entirety. But they worry a government panel of experts will once again push to open Bialoweiza to logging.
In its fight against rhino poachers, India lets the dogs out [06/28/2018]
- Since 2011, two dog squads have been deployed to help protect the greater one-horned rhinos of India’s Assam state. - Together, the squads are credited with assisting in more than 46 arrests. - Both the dogs and their handlers go through intensive training to develop and maintain their skills and the crucial bond that allows them to work as a team.
Belize Barrier Reef gets UNESCO upgrade [06/28/2018]
- UNESCO has announced that the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which it added to the World Heritage List in 1996, has been removed from its list of ‘sites in danger.’ - The system’s seven sites are a significant habitat for threatened species, including sea turtles, manatees, and marine crocodiles. - The area is also a popular tourist destination and global hotspot for diving. - The site was added to UNESCO’s list of sites in danger in 2009 due to the destruction of mangrove forests and marine ecosystems, the looming threat of offshore oil extraction, and unsustainable coastal development.
The plastic crisis sinks to a new low in the deep sea [06/28/2018]
- Plastic water bottles and snack-food packaging can be found in the deepest parts of the oceans, a new study has found. - By poring over the three decades of deep-sea videos, researchers have found that fragments of plastic made up one-third of the debris, of which, 89 percent were single-use items such as plastic bags and water bottles. - However, how all that plastic reaches the deep sea and affects deep sea creatures is still unclear.
Rwandan people and mountain gorillas face changing climate together [06/27/2018]
- The Critically Endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), has been brought back from extinction’s brink in Rwanda, with numbers in the Virunga Mountains around Volcanoes National Park estimated at 604 individuals in 2016, up from 480 in 2010. But long-time observers say climate change is bringing new survival challenges to the area. - Longer and deeper droughts in recent years have caused serious water shortages, which impact both local farmers and the mountain gorillas. People now must often go deep into the park to find clean water, which increases the likelihood of contact with the great apes, which increases the likelihood for the transfer of human diseases to the animals. - Hotter temps and dryer conditions could also pressure farmers to move into gorilla habitat in future, as they seek more productive cropland at higher altitudes. Also, as the climate changes, bamboo availability may be decreasing, depriving gorillas of a favorite food. This could force troops to forage outside the park in croplands, possibly leading to conflict. - Forced changes in diet could impact gorilla nutrition, making the great apes more susceptible to disease. A major disease outbreak could be disastrous due to low population numbers. Scientists urge more research to understand how climate change affects human behavior, which then affects gorillas, and how the fate of the two primates intertwines.
Uncertainty around Madagascar mine in wake of cyclone [06/27/2018]
- The Ambatovy mine complex near Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina is a massive operation to extract nickel and cobalt from the country’s rich soil. - The $8 billion complex represents the largest-ever foreign investment in the country. - Over the years, local residents have suspected the mine of causing environmental and health problems, including air and water pollution. - Locals now fear that Tropical Cyclone Ava, which hit Toamasina hard in January, may have exacerbated these problems — fears that Ambatovy and local officials assert are unfounded.
Logging roads drive loss of intact forest in FSC-certified logging concessions [06/27/2018]
- Logging roads in Central Africa cause greater loss of intact forest landscapes, or IFLs, on certified timber concessions compared to non-certified concessions, an analysis shows. - Certified timber companies typically build more robust road networks that are more apt to show up on satellite imagery than non-certified companies. - The findings highlight an apparent contradiction between certification for logging and the protection of IFLs, leading some critics to argue that IFL protection should not be part of the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards.
Audio: The dialogue between science and indigenous knowledge [06/26/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss traditional indigenous knowledge and climate change with Snowchange Cooperative director Tero Mustonen. - Through Snowchange, which is based in Finland, Mustonen works with indigenous communities around the world on projects related to climate change. He will also be one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s next assessment report, due out in the early 2020s. We were interested to hear how Mustonen thinks traditional indigenous knowledge can inform climate science. - We also speak with Mustonen about Snowchange’s work with indigenous communities, from ecological restoration to solar initiatives, the latter of which are specifically designed to empower women in remote indigenous communities.
For Madagascar’s park managers, the science literature is out of reach [06/26/2018]
- The park directors and conservation managers responsible for managing Madagascar’s protected areas tend not to rely on scientific research to make on-the-ground decisions, opting instead for experience and advice from others, a new study has found. - Several managers, for instance, felt there was “limited research of relevance to them and their needs.” - Others complained that even when relevant research was carried out, researchers often did not share the results with them. - Overall, Madagascar’s protected area managers need better access to research, and more relevant research, to help them manage the country’s parks more efficiently and effectively, the study’s authors write.
Latam Eco Review: Ports imperil Colombian crocodiles [06/23/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of June 11 – 17. Among the top articles: Port projects in northern Colombia threaten the mangrove habitats of American crocodiles. In other news, the Waorani people of Ecuador use camera traps to record an astonishing diversity […]
Last Glimpses of a Cambodian Paradise? Documenting an area on the eve of its likely destruction (commentary) [06/22/2018]
- The sheer scale of the logging operations in Cambodia’s Virachey National Park makes it a wonder that there’s anything left of the forest, especially as the timber just keeps flowing into Vietnam unabated. In fact, Cambodia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates. - Yet there is still plenty of wildlife, at least in Virachey National Park, where I have been part of a team that has been conducting a wildlife survey for four years now. - All hope could well be lost — man/progress must be served. But are the nails firmly placed in the biodiversity coffin and awaiting final pounding? Perhaps not. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Coral reef ‘oases’ that thrive amid threats give hope for conservation [06/22/2018]
- Scientists have identified 38 coral reef “oases” in the Pacific and western Atlantic that have either “escaped,” “resisted” or “rebounded” from declines in coral cover, even as neighboring reefs have not. - While these success stories do not discount reports that many coral reefs across the world are under grave threat, they do offer examples of places where corals are doing better, or not as bad, as coral communities elsewhere, scientists say in a new study. - The researchers are hopeful that the framework they’ve developed to identify the coral reef oases will be helpful in pinpointing oases across other ecosystems as well.
New ‘goblin spiders’ from Sri Lanka named after Enid Blyton characters [06/22/2018]
- Scientists have discovered nine new species of “goblin spiders” in Sri Lanka, of which they’ve named six after popular goblin characters from Enid Blyton’s children’s books. - Two of the nine newly described species belong to genera (Cavisternum and Grymeus) that have never been recorded outside of Australia before. - Most of the newly described goblin spider species seem to occur only in a few sites, or just a single forest patch, and may all be critically endangered, the authors of the study think.
As Colombia expands its palm oil sector, scientists worry about wildlife [06/21/2018]
- Colombia’s aims to overtake Thailand to become the world’s third largest supplier of palm oil, a popular plant-based oil used in many products around the world. - Studies have shown that oil palm plantations provide poor habitat for wildlife, supporting a fraction of the species as neighboring forest. - Researchers say Colombia’s palm oil expansion could have minimal impacts on the country’s biodiversity if it takes places on already-degraded land, such as cattle pasture. They caution that development should not happen in areas that provide habitat for threatened species, or regions that are ecologically important. They say smaller plantations will have less of an impact, and recommend planting understory vegetation. - Biologists are also concerned the most common species of oil palm, called African oil palm, could hybridize with native palm plants and degrade the species’ genetic integrity.
Warmer sea surface temperatures imperil the survival of juvenile albatross: Study [06/21/2018]
- New research finds that increased sea surface temperatures can affect the survival of juvenile albatross during their first year at sea and lead to reduced population growth rates. - Ecologists in the US and France examined how climate change and functional traits — attributes like body size and foraging habits that define a species’ role in the broader ecosystem — impact population dynamics of the black‐browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) by studying 200 breeding pairs of the long‐lived, migratory seabirds at Kerguelen Island in the southern Indian Ocean. - Changes in sea surface temperature during the breeding season were found to have little impact on black-browed albatross population growth rates, but higher sea surface temperatures in late winter did have a significant impact because of their effect on the survival of juveniles, according to the study.
Orangutan forest school in Indonesia takes on its first eight students [06/21/2018]
- A forest school in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, funded by the Vienna-based animal welfare organization Four Paws and run by the local organization Jejak Pulang, has just started training its first eight orangutan orphans to learn the skills they need to live independently in the forest. - Borneo’s orangutans are in crisis, with more than 100,000 lost since 1999 through direct killings and loss of habitat, particularly to oil palm and pulpwood plantations. - Security forces often confiscate juvenile orangutans under 7 years of age, and without their mothers to teach them the skills they need, they cannot be released back into the forest. - Jejak Pulang’s team of 15 orangutan caretakers, a biologist, two veterinarians and the center’s director aim to prepare the orphaned orangutans for independence.
Amber deposits yield oldest evidence of frogs in wet, tropical forests [06/20/2018]
- Scientists have found the oldest frog fossils known to have been preserved in amber, from deposits in northern Myanmar. - These fossils, together with other fossils of mosses and bamboo-like plants recovered from the same amber deposits, provide the first definitive evidence that the amber-trapped frogs lived in wet, tropical forests alongside dinosaurs some 99 million years ago, researchers say. - One of the four frogs, which was trapped in sap alongside an unidentified beetle, has a nearly intact skeleton, and has been described as a new, extinct species, Electrorana limoae.
Puan, the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, dies at 62 [06/20/2018]
- Puan, the world’s oldest living Sumatran orangutan, was euthanized on June 18 at Perth Zoo in Australia due to age-related complications. - Her death left an incredible legacy of 11 children and a total of 54 descendants across the world, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the global Sumatran orangutan zoo population. - Due to her genetic legacy, Puan played a vital role in ensuring the survival of the species, which has been categorized as critically endangered.
Animals are becoming night owls to avoid humans [06/19/2018]
- By analyzing 76 studies and activity patterns of 62 mammal species, including bears, deer, coyotes and tigers, researchers have found that large mammals are 1.36 times more active at night in areas with high human presence compared to areas with low human presence. - These results seemed to be consistent across species and continents. - Animals seem to be becoming more nocturnal not only to avoid direct threats like hunting, but to avoid even recreational human activities like hiking and mountain biking.
One tortoise at a time: Q&A with zoo veterinarian Justin Rosenberg [06/19/2018]
- In April, authorities discovered around 10,000 radiated tortoises, believed to be destined for the Asian pet trade, in an abandoned house in southwestern Madagascar. - The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) took the animals to its rescue center in Ifaty, and soon, veterinarians and keepers from around the world began traveling to Madagascar to help the animals. - Currently, between 9,000 and 10,000 tortoises are alive, with around 100 still in need of critical care. - Mongabay spoke with a veterinarian who spent several weeks at TSA’s facility about the ongoing efforts.
Oil palm plantations in Amazonia inhospitable to tropical forest biodiversity: Study [06/18/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal PloS One late last year, the Brazilian Amazon has about 2.3 million square kilometers (nearly 900,000 square miles) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, making it one of the largest areas in the world for potential expansion of the palm oil industry. - Researchers investigated the responses of tropical forest mammals to living in a landscape made up of a mosaic of 39,000 hectares (more than 96,000 acres) of mature oil palm plantations and 64,000 hectares (a little over 158,000 acres) of primary Eastern Amazon forest patches in the Brazilian state of Pará. - They write in the study that their results in the Amazon “clearly” reinforce “the notion that oil palm plantations can be extremely hostile to native tropical forest biodiversity, as has been shown in more traditional oil palm countries in South-East Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Latam Eco Review: Paddington Bear Captured on Camera in Peru [06/15/2018]
Among the top articles from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of June 4 – 10 was one about a golden spectacled bear named after Paddington Bear that was caught by a camera trap for the first time in Peru. In other news, the debate on hydroelectric plants intensifies in Colombia, and […]
Footage of elusive Negros bleeding-heart dove captured in the wild [06/15/2018]
- New footage of one of one of the most elusive birds in the world — the critically endangered Negros bleeding heart dove — has been released. - A team with the Bristol Zoological Society, a UK-based conservation and education NGO, spent five days searching for the bird in the forests of the Philippines’ Panay Island in order to capture a video of the rarely seen species in the wild. - The Negros bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba keayi) is a medium-sized, ground-dwelling species of pigeon endemic to the Philippine islands of Negros and Panay. There are perhaps as few as 70 and no more than 400 individuals of the species left on the two islands it calls home, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Scientists find new snail-eating snakes, auction naming rights to save them [06/15/2018]
- An expedition in Ecuador has uncovered five new species of snail-eating snakes. - Four out of the five species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss. - The researchers who conducted the expedition auctioned off their naming rights and used the funds to purchase and protect an area of forest where two of the most threatened new species are known to live.
Primate-rich countries are becoming less hospitable places for monkeys, apes and lemurs [06/15/2018]
- New research shows that many of the 65 percent of the world’s primate species found in four countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo — face the threat of extinction. - The scientists involved in the study used maps of primate ranges and information on the threats they face to predict what might happen to the animals through the end of the 21st century. - They found that increases in the amount of land turned over for human food production could cause the primate habitats to shrink substantially in these countries. - However, the team also found that intensive conservation measures could dramatically reduce the loss of primate habitat by 2100 and potentially avert the mass extinction of these species.
The diversity of biodiversity: Connecting shrews, ants and slime molds with carbon storage [06/14/2018]
- Research has shown that, in some cases, high-carbon forests support high levels of biodiversity. - But a recent study, which looked at a wide variety of species groups, demonstrates that regrowth forests can support a greater number of representatives of some species groups. - The findings support the conclusion that recovering forests should be included in conservation planning alongside old-growth forests.
Renowned wildlife conservationist Russell Mittermeier awarded 2018 Indianapolis Prize [06/13/2018]
- Mittermeier, a primatologist, herpetologist, and highly accomplished conservationist, is the seventh recipient of the prestigious prize, which has been awarded by the Indianapolis Zoological Society along with $250,000 in prize money every two years since 2006 to “the most successful animal conservationist in the world.” - He spent 11 years at WWF–U.S. before becoming president of Conservation International (CI) in 1989. It was while he was at CI that Mittermeier first heard of the concept of “biodiversity hotspots” — a concept he would go on to popularize and utilize to achieve a number of conservation successes. - “Russ Mittermeier is a consummate scientist, a visionary leader, a deft policy advocate and an inspiring mentor to many,” Michael Crowther, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, said in a statement. “Perhaps most important, he is a consistent winner in the battles for species and ecosystem survival.”
Shark fisheries hunting dolphins, other marine mammals as bait: Study [06/13/2018]
- Global shark fisheries have for decades engaged in the deliberate catch of dolphins, seals and other marine mammals to use as bait for sharks, a new study has found. - The researchers found the practice picked up when prices for shark fin, a prized delicacy in Chinese cuisine, went up from the late 1990s onward. - The researchers have warned that the targeting of these species could hit unsustainable levels, and have called for more studies into the species in question as well as better enforcement of existing law protecting marine mammals.
Hunting, fishing causing dramatic decline in Amazon river dolphins [06/13/2018]
- Both species of Amazon river dolphin appear to be in deep decline, according to a recent study. Boto (Inia geoffrensis) populations fell by 94 percent and Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) numbers fell by 97 percent in the Mamirauá Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil between 1994 and 2017, according to researchers. - Difficult to detect in the Amazon’s murky waters, both species are listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN. But researchers maintain that if region-wide surveys were conducted both species would end up being listed as Critically Endangered. - The team noticed scars from harpoon and machete injuries on the dolphins they caught. Interviews with fishermen confirmed the team’s suspicions: dolphins were being hunted for use as bait. The mammals also get entangled in nets and other fishing gear, are hunted as food, eliminated as pests, and suffer mercury poisoning. - Researchers believe the passage and enforcement of new conservation laws could save Amazon river dolphins, and halt their plunge toward extinction. But a lack of political will, drastic draconian cuts to the Brazilian environmental ministry budget, and continued illegal dolphin hunting and fishing make action unlikely for now.
Audio: How soundscapes are helping us better understand animal behavior and landscape ecology [06/12/2018]
- On today’s episode, we take a look at soundscape phenology and the emerging role it’s playing in the study of animal behavior and landscape ecology. - The Mongabay Newscast previously looked at how soundscapes are being used in phenological studies when we talked about the great Sandhill crane migration on the Platte River in the US state of Nebraska. Today, we take a deeper dive into soundscape phenology with researcher Anne Axel, a landscape ecologist and professor at Marshall University in the US state of West Virginia. - Axel tells us all about this new field of study and plays a few of the recordings that have informed her research in this Field Notes segment.
Poachers blamed in second Sumatran elephant death this year [06/11/2018]
- Forest rangers in northern Sumatra have found one of their patrol elephants dead and missing a tusk inside a protected forest. - Authorities have cited poisoning by poachers as the cause of death, making it the second such poaching-related elephant killing in Sumatra this year. - The local conservation agency has called on law enforcers to bring the perpetrators to justice, but past cases suggest this will be slow in coming.
Online pet trade in Southeast Asia poses a major new threat to otters [06/08/2018]
- Poaching of otters, especially juveniles, for the online pet trade is so widespread in Southeast Asia that it has emerged as a major new threat to the survival of Asia’s otter species. - A report from the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC and the IUCN Otter Specialist Group released today details the results of a two-year investigation that uncovered hundreds of otters for sale on Facebook and other online platforms. Sales of juvenile otters were especially prominent: over 70 percent of the animals found for sale online were under one year old, according to the report. - The report identified a lack of strong national legislation to protect these species in many of their range countries as a major reason the illegal exploitation of otters has been able to flourish online.
New technology leads to the arrest of eight people suspected of trafficking wildlife parts [06/07/2018]
- Eight men, including three government officials, all from African countries, have been arrested for allegedly trafficking wildlife body parts to Southeast Asia. - Officers from the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, based in Nairobi, Kenya, used data analytics software to track down the alleged smugglers, who were arrested in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo in May. - The investigation linked the accused to shipments of pangolin scales and elephant tusks seized in Southeast Asia.
Illegal logging persists in Borneo orangutan habitat despite government ban [06/07/2018]
- Illegal logging continues inside an orangutan habitat in Borneo that the Indonesian government had decreed off-limits last year, an investigation by Greenpeace has found. - The group reported at least six logging camps in the concession held by a timber company, but noted that it was unclear whether the company itself, PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK), was engaged in the illegal logging. - This is the second time Greenpeace has found indications of commercial exploitation in the area since the government ordered PT MPK to halt its operations last year.
East Africa’s mountain gorilla population now numbers more than 1,000 [06/05/2018]
- According to the results of a census released last week, the mountain gorilla population in East Africa’s Virunga Mountains numbered 604 as of June 2016, up from from 480 in 2010. The population hit an all-time low of 242 individuals in 1981. - The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla with two distinct sub-populations: one in the Virunga Mountains and another in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A census conducted in 2011 found approximately 400 gorillas living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, meaning that the total number of mountain gorillas is now believed to be more than 1,000 individuals. - Conservationists were quick to celebrate the increasing mountain gorilla population as a much-needed instance of good news, even if they remain wary of the many persistent and looming threats the subspecies must still contend with.
Owner of South African hunting company indicted by US prosecutors over illegal elephant hunt [06/04/2018]
- The owner of a trophy hunting business in South Africa has been indicted by prosecutors with the United States Department of Justice for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. - Prosecutors in the US state of Colorado have alleged that Hanno van Rensburg, a South African national and owner of Authentic African Adventures, led an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park in 2015 and bribed Zimbabwean government officials with somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000 to look the other way. Van Rensburg is also accused of conspiring with a member of the hunting party from Colorado to illegally export elephant ivory to the US by falsifying documents to claim that the hunter was a South African resident and did not shoot the elephant inside the national park. - While prosecutors did not name the Colorado hunter with whom van Rensburg conspired to illegally export the elephant trophies, he has been identified as Paul Ross Jackson of Evergreen, Colorado. Jackson, a former vice president of the Dallas Safari Club, pleaded guilty in April to violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act in connection to the same hunt.
Death by hippo poop: Scientists solve a fish massacre in the Mara River [05/30/2018]
- In the Mara River in Kenya, an overload of hippo feces can deplete the oxygen in the river water, resulting in mass fish die-offs downstream, a new study has found. - Hippo pools are not just oxygen-poor, but also full of ammonium, hydrogen sulfide, methane and carbon dioxide — byproducts of microbial metabolism, some of which are potentially toxic to fish, the researchers say. - When it rains heavily, the feces-laden, oxygen-poor water from the hippo pools gets flushed downstream, causing fish deaths. - These frequent fish-kill events provide a great resource for the scavenger community in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, and have likely shaped The Mara River’s ecosystem, scientists say.
Audio: Mexico’s ejidos find sustainability by including women and youth [05/30/2018]
- On today’s episode, a special report on the community-based conservation and agroforestry operations known as ejidos in Mexico. - Mongabay Newscast host Mike Gaworecki traveled to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in February to visit several ejidos in the states of Quintana Roo and Campeche. Ejidos are lands that are communally owned and operated as agroforestry operations, and they’ve proven to be effective at conserving forests while creating economic opportunities for the local rural communities who live and work on the land. - But ejidos have also faced a threat to their own survival over the past decade, as younger generations, seeing no place for themselves in the fairly rigid structure of ejido governance, have moved out of the communities in large numbers. At the same time, the lack of inclusion of women in the official decision-making bodies, known as ejidatario assemblies, has also posed a challenge.
Bolivia’s Madidi National Park home to world’s largest array of land life, survey finds [05/30/2018]
- A two-and-a-half-year biological survey of Madidi National Park in Bolivia added 1,382 species and subspecies of plants and animals to the list of those living in the park. - The team believes that 124 species and subspecies may be new to science. - WCS, the organization that led the study, said the 18,958-square-kilometer (7,320-square-mile) park is the world’s most biodiverse protected area.
There may be hope for the extremely rare ‘sneezing monkey,’ report finds [05/29/2018]
- In a new report, researchers have confirmed the presence of five subpopulations of the extremely rare Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: three in Myanmar and two in China. - Logging, proposed hydropower projects, road construction and hunting continue to threaten the species. - However, the creation of two new protected areas to safeguard the monkeys’ habitat, one each in Myanmar and China, as well as improved cross-border collaboration between the two countries is helping reduce the risk of extinction for the species, researchers say.
Geneticists: It’s time to mix the Sumatran rhino subspecies [05/29/2018]
- The Sumatran rhino populations living in Borneo and Sumatra have been genetically separated for hundreds of thousands of years. - The species as a whole has no more than 100 living individuals in the wild, and perhaps as few as 30. Another nine are in captivity. - In a recent study of Sumatran rhinos’ mitochondrial DNA, geneticists argue it’s time to combine the subspecies, despite the potential risks and drawbacks. - The question is given extra urgency with plans afoot to capture a female rhino in Indonesian Borneo.
Mining, erosion threaten Indian rhino haven [05/28/2018]
- India’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest population of the greater one-horned rhinoceros, is under great risk of losing its connectivity with the larger Karbi Anglong landscape due to mining, quarrying and river erosion, a new report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has warned. - The NTCA report and directive comes in response to a complaint filed by activist Rohit Choudhury alleging significant environmental degradation and habitat destruction in the foothills of Karbi Anglong, a prime elephant habitat during the flood season. - Illegal mining and stone crushing aside, the NTCA report highlighted river erosion as a “natural threat” to Kaziranga. But experts caution that erosion is a natural part of Kaziranga’s flood-plain ecology, and isn’t necessarily bad.
Biomass study finds people are wiping out wild mammals [05/28/2018]
- A team of scientists mined previous studies for estimates of the total mass of carbon found in each group of organisms on Earth as a way to measure relative biomass. - Plants house some 450 gigatons of the 550 gigatons — or about 80 percent — of the carbon found in all of Earth’s life-forms, the team found, and bacteria account for another 15 percent. - Humans represent just a hundredth of a percent of the Earth’s biomass, but we’ve driven down the biomass of land animals by 85 percent and marine mammals by about 80 percent since the beginning of the last major extinction about 50,000 years ago.
Palm oil certification? No silver bullet, but essential for sustainability (commentary) [05/25/2018]
- We need a global standard on what constitutes sustainable palm oil and a common system to implement it. Arriving at this consensus requires a convening body to connect every link in the palm oil supply chain, across different countries and jurisdictions. - A recent report from Changing Markets Foundation, released with additional comments by NGOs such as FERN, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Mighty Earth, and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, criticizes the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and proposes that certification standards are — as stated by the same NGOs — ‘holding back the progressive reform of the sector’ and may even be causing ‘active damage.’ - This report disregards some of the important realities in the industry and on the ground, and fails to offer practical solutions. Simply bashing certification because of its imperfections puts the advances made at risk, instead of helping develop standards and synergies that facilitate compliance across the global palm oil supply chain. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Guardians of India’s rhinos find it takes a village to fight poachers [05/24/2018]
- Adjacent to an international border and with roads, a rail line and tea plantations within its boundaries, India’s Jaldapara National Park — home to more than 200 rhinos — is particularly vulnerable to poaching. - The forest department works closely with local residents to protect rhinos, and 40 percent of tourist revenues are earmarked to support community projects. - Forest department strategies range from rehabilitation of confessed poachers to joint exercises with the police and border patrol.
Chinese giant salamander is at least five species — all nearly extinct [05/24/2018]
- Scientists who spent four years surveying the Chinese giant salamander’s preferred river habitats across 97 counties in China spotted only 24 individuals at four sites. - None of the 24 individuals were “pure natural forms,” the researchers found, and were likely farm releases or escapees. - The Chinese giant salamander also represents not one but at least five different species-level lineages. However, the large extent of hybridization in these animals through farming could mean that these distinct lineages are already functionally extinct.
Making the most of conservation science (commentary) [05/23/2018]
- Increasing numbers of scientific papers on conservation are published every year, but for many people these remain inaccessible behind paywalls, difficult to locate in a vast ocean of research, or time-consuming to read. - There are increasing attempts to bring the evidence for particular questions together in digestible formats, such as systematic reviews or Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series. One such enterprise is the Conservation Evidence project, which assesses the evidence for the effectiveness of conservation interventions. - A new edition of the book ‘What Works in Conservation,’ produced by Conservation Evidence, is available and free to download. This book helps us to see which conservation interventions have been shown to work, which have been shown not to work, and where we need more evidence. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Hunters are wiping out hornbills in Ghana’s forests [05/23/2018]
- According to a new study, Ghana is losing hornbill species to “uncontrolled” hunting, mostly for meat, from its forested parks and reserves. - The researchers found that the five largest species of hornbills in the Bia Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have disappeared in recent decades. - The authors of the paper suggest that increased enforcement will help protect threatened hornbills, as well as other wildlife species, in areas under intense pressure from humans.
Trio of studies challenges Indian government claim of increasing forest cover [05/23/2018]
- Three studies published over the past seven months show that forest cover in India is declining, contrary to findings from the latest Forest Survey of India report. - One study found 16 to 30 percent forest loss in the eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, while another study found that the Eastern Ghats lost nearly 16 percent of their forest area between 1920 and 2015. - The third study, which analyzed patterns of forest cover across India from 2001 to 2014, found “significant negative changes” in the seasonal green cover, with the highest decline recorded in tropical moist deciduous forests.
Roads might pose even bigger threat to Southeast Asian forests, biodiversity than previously understood [05/22/2018]
- According to Alice Hughes, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Centre for Integrative Conservation, global analyses often underestimate levels of deforestation driven by road-building in the Indo-Malaysia region. This is because many of those analyses rely on a widely used global map of roads compiled by Open Street Maps (OSM) that misses as much as 99 percent of roads in parts of the region. - According to Hughes, this level of inaccuracy can have serious consequences: “Not only does it mean that any analysis based on global roads datasets will underestimate the level of fragmentation and overestimate the forest coverage of a region, but most forms of exploitation also occur within close proximity to a road.” - Increasing deforestation is not the only threat posed by opening new areas to roads. “These growing road networks provide accessibility for other forms of resource exploitation,” Hughes notes in the study. “Most notably this includes selective logging, and hunting, which in the Indo-Malay region also targets a vast suite of species as pets, medicine and meat.”
Fishing gear poses the greatest danger to young great whites off the West Coast of the U.S. [05/22/2018]
- Fishing lines and nets pose the most significant threat to the survival of young white sharks in the waters off Mexico and southern California, according to a new study. - A team of scientists used a relatively “untapped” but ubiquitous storehouse of data to develop a statistical model for the survival rates of juvenile white sharks. - The researchers calculated that 63 percent of young white sharks living in this part of the Pacific survive annually, but that nearly half probably come in contact with gillnets set by commercial fishers. - The findings point to best practices, such as barring gillnets from inshore “nurseries” and asking fishers to check their nets for trapped sharks more regularly, that could help protect great whites.
In unsuspecting Indian villages, the international rhino horn trade takes a toll [05/22/2018]
- The vast majority of villagers around India’s Jaldapara National Park live in harmony with the area’s wildlife, but a small minority get involved in rhino poaching. - Experts and former poachers say villagers are recruited by organized poaching syndicates. Locals serve as guides and lookouts, while syndicates arrange for the transport and sale of rhino horns. - From West Bengal, rhino horns are taken to India’s northeastern states and then across the border to Myanmar and eventually to China.
African vultures under the gun as lead ammunition takes a toll [05/22/2018]
- Fragments of lead ammunition in abandoned animal carcasses may be poisoning Africa’s vultures, a new study has found. - Researchers found elevated blood lead levels among vultures in hunting areas and during hunting season in Botswana. - This study adds to the growing evidence from around the world that identifies lead ammunition as a problem for a number of bird species. - South African hunters are sympathetic to vultures but oppose a total ban on lead ammunition, citing the cost and availability of lead-free alternatives.
Lessons for developing countries in expansion of Madagascar’s protected area network [05/21/2018]
- Between 2003 and 2016, protected area coverage in Madagascar was quadrupled, from 1.7 to 7.1 million hectares. Whereas most protected areas (PAs) established in Madagascar prior to 2003 were managed solely by the Malagasy government, post-2003 PAs adopted a variety of new management and governance systems. - The aggressive growth of Madagascar’s PA system and the diversity of approaches employed make for a particularly poignant case study, according to the authors of a recent paper published in the journal Biological Conservation that looks at what other developed countries can take away from Madagascar’s experience. - The researchers hope that the successes achieved and the challenges identified via their examination of Madagascar’s efforts to expand its PA system might help inform how global protected area coverage continues to expand.
Venezuela’s hungry hunt wildlife, zoo animals, as economic crisis grows [05/21/2018]
- Venezuela is suffering a disastrous economic crisis. With inflation expected to hit 13,000 percent in 2018, there has been a collapse of agricultural productivity, commercial transportation and other services, which has resulted in severe food shortages. As people starve, they are increasingly hunting wildlife, and sometimes zoo animals. - Reports from the nation’s zoos say that animals are emaciated, with keepers sometimes forced to feed one form of wildlife to another, just to keep some animals alive. There have also been reports of mammals and birds being stolen from zoo collections. Zoos have reached out to Venezuelans, seeking donations to help feed their wild animals. - The economic crisis makes scientific data gathering difficult, but a significant uptick in the harvesting of Guiana dolphin, known locally as tonina, has been observed. The dolphin is protected from commercial trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). - The grisly remains of hunted pink flamingos have been found repeatedly on Lake Maracaibo. Also within the estuary, there has also been a rise in the harvesting of sea turtle species, including the vulnerable leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and the critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Tiny marsupials that practice ‘suicidal’ mating declared endangered [05/21/2018]
- On May 11, the Australian government officially declared two species of recently described antechinuses, a mouse-like marsupial, as endangered. - The species are famed for their marathon mating sessions that leave the males so exhausted that they die. - Both species occur only in high-altitude forests, and are threatened by climate change, habitat loss and threats from feral cats, cattle and horses.
TV host Ellen DeGeneres to visit Rwanda in mountain gorilla conservation effort [05/18/2018]
- Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year established a fund that will finance the building of a campus in Rwanda to support conservation and protection efforts for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. - The campus is being built in collaboration with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and DeGeneres is scheduled to visit the site in the Virunga Mountains next week. - The initiative has been welcomed by conservationists and Rwandan government officials, and has received financial support and endorsements from prominent figures in Hollywood.
How an island of mice is changing what we know about evolution [05/17/2018]
- Researchers have identified the smallest-known island where multiple species of mammals evolved from a single founding species. The Philippine island of Mindoro is the size of Yellowstone National Park and host to four species of earthworm mice. - Genetic analysis indicates all members from these four species descended from just a few individuals that rafted to Mindoro from a neighboring island millions of years ago. - Three of the species are endemic to Mindoro, and the researchers believe they evolved on different mountains. The study’s findings highlight the pivotal role mountains can play in speciation, and provide evidence that evolution can occur even in small areas. - The researchers say this underlines the importance of protected areas not just for species preservation, but for species emergence as well. The apparent success of such a small founding population may also give hope for species currently hovering on the precipice of extinction.
Humans are leaving their mark on the world’s protected areas, study finds [05/17/2018]
- About one-third of the world’s total protected area — around 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) — bears the scars of substantial degradation at the hands of humans, according to research published in the journal Science. - The researchers found that large parks and reserves held to the toughest standards are doing significantly better than those with laxer controls. - The authors argue that assessments of the effectiveness of protected areas should be considered, especially as governments try to meet one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets calling for protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area by 2020.
Will China’s new ban on the ivory trade help or hurt? (Commentary) [05/16/2018]
- At the end of 2017, China announced that it had closed down the domestic legal trade in ivory, to global acclaim. - The new ban represents all the makings of excellent global public relations, but conservationist Karl Amman asks whether it will do more harm than good for elephants without effective enforcement. - The post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Rainbow’ chameleon among three new species described from Madagascar [05/16/2018]
- Researchers discovered the brilliantly colored rainbow chameleon, now named Calumma uetzi, during an expedition to the remote Sorata massif in northern Madagascar in 2012. - Over surveys between 2015 and 2016, the researchers found another new species of chameleon, now dubbed Calumma juliae, in a 15-square-kilometer patch of forest. The researchers were unable to find any males of this species. - They also found only a single male specimen of the third new chameleon species, Calumma lefona, spotted in Andrevorevo in northern Madagascar.
Sifaka lemurs listed as “critically endangered” amid mysterious die-off [05/15/2018]
- In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in Berenty Reserve near Madagascar’s southern tip. - It’s one of the largest lemur die-offs scientists can remember. - Experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown. - At a large IUCN meeting held last week in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, primate specialists decided to uplist all nine sifaka species from endangered to critically endangered.
Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans [05/15/2018]
- On today’s episode, renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle joins us for an in-depth conversation about marine conservation. - Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy. - She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.
Scientists highlight 9 potentially new reef fish species off West Papua [05/14/2018]
- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province. - The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity. - However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.
Longest recorded whale shark migration eclipses 20,000 kilometers [05/14/2018]
- Scientists followed the movements of a whale shark for nearly two and a half years as she swam more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) from the coast of Central America to the Marianas Trench near Asia. - Whale sharks, whose numbers have dropped by more than half in the past 75 years according to the IUCN, are taken by fishing boats for their fins, cartilage, meat and teeth, and studies have shown that boats bringing tourists to swim with the largest fish in the ocean change the species’ behavior. - Given these threats, scientists hope studies such as this one will help guide conservation policy aimed at protecting these animals throughout their migrations.
Report unmasks indiscriminate killer of elephants: poaching not for ivory, but for skin [05/14/2018]
- Myanmar has seen an increase in the number of elephants killed over the past several years, with some of the carcasses found skinned. - A report by the U.K.-based conservation group Elephant Family has identified growing demand for elephant skin products from Myanmar’s giant neighbor, China, which it blames for driving elephant poaching in the Southeast Asian country. - Conservationists are calling on the Myanmar government to boost law enforcement, beef up forest patrols, and increase conservation outreach and awareness on elephants in the country. - Warning: Some images may be disturbing or graphic.
Scientists find ‘ground zero’ of deadly frog pandemic [05/11/2018]
- First observed by scientists in the 1970s, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) had spread around the world by the early 2000s. The fungus kills frogs by colonizing their skin and impairing their ability to absorb water and electrolytes. - By 2007, Bd infection had led to the decline or extinction of around 200 species of frogs, and today is considered one of the biggest single threats to amphibians worldwide. - For a new study, researchers genetically analyzed hundreds of Bd samples; their results suggest that the fungus is from the Korean peninsula and began spreading between 50-120 years ago with the expansion of international trade. - The researchers say the pet trade needs much stronger regulations if the spread of Bd – as well as the emerging salamander-killing fungus B. salamandrivorans – is to be stopped before it causes more devastation.
A boon for birds: Once overlooked, China’s mudflats gain protections [05/11/2018]
- The shoreline of the Yellow Sea has been transformed dramatically over the last half-century as mudflats have been filled in with rock and soil, replacing dynamic, natural tidal zones with solid ground for ports, chemical plants and farmland. - Losing the intertidal flats has proved devastating for the millions of shorebirds that funnel through the Yellow Sea during migration. - In January, the Chinese government announced a sweeping package of reforms aimed at ending much of the land reclamation taking place on the mudflats. - “Stunned joy” is how one bird conservationist described her reaction to news of the reforms, which she said could avert one of the biggest extinction crises facing migratory birds — if they work.
Latam Eco Review: Colombia’s last nomadic tribe faces extinction [05/11/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 30 – May 6. Among the top articles: more than 20 families of the last nomadic indigenous peoples of Colombia face a serious food crisis. In other news, a new app allows fisherfolk and others […]
Tanzania’s Maasai losing ground to tourism in the name of conservation, investigation finds [05/11/2018]
- An investigation by the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, has turned up allegations that the government of Tanzania is sidelining the country’s Maasai population in favor of tourism. - The government and some foreign investors worry that the Maasai, semi-nomadic herders who have lived in the Rift Valley for centuries, are degrading parts of the Serengeti ecosystem. - The authors of the Oakland Institute’s report argue that approaches aimed at conservation should focus on the participation and engagement of Maasai communities rather than their removal from lands to be set aside for high-end tourism.
New species of shrew discovered on a single mountaintop in the Philippines [05/11/2018]
- The newly described Palawanosorex muscorum, or the Palawan moss shrew, is known to live only near the peak of Mount Mantalingajan on Palawan Island in the southern Philippines. - The shrew has a stout body and broad forefeet with long claws, which it uses to dig through humus on the forest floor to look for earthworms. - The moss shrew has no close known relatives in Asia, and how it came to live on Mount Mantalingajan is a mystery, researchers say.
Can India’s ‘People’s Forest’ also serve as a haven for rhinos? [05/10/2018]
- Jadav Payeng, India’s “Forest Man,” transformed a barren island in Assam state into a 550-hectare (1,360-acre) forest that hosts rare species including rhinos, tigers and elephants. - Some conservationists fear that the animals living on the island are vulnerable to poaching, since the forest lacks formal protected status and therefore is not allotted official forest guards. - Payeng, however, resists seeking formal protected status for the forest, fearing it would limit local peoples’ access to the forest’s resources.
Wildlife decimated by the surge in conflicts in the Sahara and the Sahel [05/09/2018]
- An escalation in the number of conflicts across the Sahara and the Sahel in Africa is driving down numbers of the region’s wildlife, a new study finds. - The authors found that the number of conflicts in the region has risen by 565 percent since 2011. - At the same time, 12 species of vertebrate have either gone extinct or are much closer to extinction as a result of conflicts in the region.
Indonesian activists protest China-funded dam in orangutan habitat [05/09/2018]
- The Chinese government plans to fund a massive hydroelectric power dam in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, where the newly described Tapanuli orangutan lives. - Activists staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta on May 8, coinciding with a state visit by Premier Li Keqiang, to condemn Beijing’s involvement in the project. - In a letter submitted by the demonstrators to the embassy, they demanded China withdraw its support for the project due to the massive environmental threats posed by the endeavor.
South Georgia declared ‘rat-free’ in largest-ever rodent eradication program [05/09/2018]
- Ships of sealers and whalers arriving on South Georgia brought with them rats and mice that spread over much of the island, eating eggs and chicks of the native birds. - To counter the problem of invasive rats, the South Georgia Heritage Trust launched a $13.5 million rodent eradication operation in 2011, using helicopters to drop poisoned bait in every part of the island that could be infested with rodents. - In the final phase of monitoring that concluded in April this year — a six-month survey that included three trained sniffer dogs — the SGHT team found no signs of rats or mice.
Pleistocene climates help scientists pick out targets for conservation in Brazil’s forests [05/08/2018]
- A team of scientists looked for places in the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest that have had stable weather patterns for a long time — going back to the Pleistocene Epoch — but that don’t fall within the boundaries of existing parks or reserves. - They measured the efficiency of the current network of protected areas in these areas, and they also came up with a prioritization scale for conservation efforts that incorporated the locations of intact forest landscapes. - The team reports that protected areas in the Amazon are four times as efficient at safeguarding these “climatically stable areas” as protected areas in the Atlantic Forest.
Humpback whales near Antarctica making a comeback, study finds [05/08/2018]
- Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found. - Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing. - So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.
Pangolins on the brink as Africa-China trafficking persists unabated [05/08/2018]
- Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with more than a million snatched from the wild in the past decade, according to IUCN estimates. The four Asian species have been hunted nearly to extinction, while the four African species are being poached in record numbers. - The illegal trade largely goes to China and other East Asian nations, where pangolin meat is an expensive delicacy served to flaunt wealth and influence. Pangolin is also a preferred ingredient in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa. Traditional healers in Sierra Leone use pangolin to treat 59 medical conditions, though there is no evidence of efficacy. - In 2016, pangolins were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations. But laws and enforcement in African nations, along illegal trade routes, and in Asia continue to be weak, with conservationists working hard to strengthen them. - Pangolins don’t thrive in captivity, but the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife have succeeded in rescuing confiscated pangolins and restoring them to the wild. Six U.S. zoos are trying to raise pangolins as part of the controversial Pangolin Consortium project — only 29 of 45 imported individuals remain alive.
Crisis in Venezuela: Caparo Experimental Station invaded by 200 farmers [05/07/2018]
- The Caparo Forest Reserve in Barinas state, Venezuela, created in 1961, covers almost 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres). The Caparo Experimental Station, located within the reserve, encompasses 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) and has been under the administration of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) since 1982 for scientific research and education. - The reserve has been heavily degraded in past decades, as farmers intruded and burned forest to make way for crops. But the Experimental Station’s forest has remained mostly intact. In January, 200 members of the 777 Christ Ambassadors Cooperative (Cooperativa Embajadores de Cristo 777) invaded the Experimental Station. Mongabay reports from the scene. - The intruders claim to have a legitimate permit for the tract. But the courts have nullified that permit and ordered an eviction. The National Guard failed to remove the invaders, so in April on a visit to the site, the Ecosocialism minister promised the settlers new land elsewhere. At the start of May, the squatters remained in place in an apparent standoff. - The ULA is concerned about the threat the invasion poses to one of the last major surviving tracts of Colombian-Venezuelan lowland forest. The ULA continues seeking the community’s eviction, with a series of protests by academics and NGOs scheduled for May in Caracas. The groups are asking that the Caparo Reserve and Experimental Station are given national park status.
Black rhinos return to Zakouma National Park in Chad [05/07/2018]
- The NGO African Parks and its partners in South Africa and Chad reintroduced six black rhinos to Zakouma National Park on May 4. - Chad’s oldest national park had not had rhinos since the early 1970s, when they were wiped out by hunting. - After a brief acclimation period in transitional bomas, or enclosures, the rhinos will be released into a protected sanctuary in the park. - Around 5,000 black rhinos remain on the African continent, and poaching for their horns, used in traditional Asian medicine, continues to be a threat to their survival as a species.
India’s foxes and monkeys are dumpster diving and eating food scraps [05/04/2018]
- In Spiti Valley in northern India, red foxes can be seen rummaging through kitchen waste. Such dumpster diving could potentially bring wild animals in close proximity to humans and increase conflict, researchers say. - Increasing reliance of wild animals on food waste could affect other ecological processes. - In the state of West Bengal, for example, some troops of rhesus macaques spend most of their time “begging or chasing” tourists for food. These troops, unlike the forest-dwelling ones, contribute very little to the dispersal of seeds, researchers have found.
Indonesia cites twisted bowel in death of Javan rhino [05/04/2018]
- Last month, rangers in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park found an adult male rhino dead on a beach. - A necropsy determined the rhino’s death was due to complications from a twisted bowel, putting to rest fears of poaching or contagion. - Despite the death, the Javan rhino population has shown stable growth with the birth of two calves earlier this year, putting the tally at minimum 68 individuals.
There is still a chance to save the Sumatran rhino (commentary) [05/03/2018]
- In 2017, rhino experts from around the world and government officials reached a consensus that saving the Sumatran rhino requires the capture and consolidation of remaining wild populations in intensively managed captive breeding facilities. - A female rhino has been identified for immediate capture in Indonesian Borneo. - In this commentary, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader Margaret Kinnaird and IUCN Species Survival Commission Chair Jon Paul Rodriguez say that local and international conservation groups are ready to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to save the Sumatran rhino through captive breeding and release into safe sites. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Rarest’ ape’s path to survival blocked by roads, dams and agriculture [05/03/2018]
- According to a new study, the Tapanuli orangutan, one of only seven species of non-human great ape alive today, faces serious threats to its survival as infrastructure development and agriculture threaten more than one-quarter of its habitat. - In November, a team of scientists reported that a new species of orangutan living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra was distinct from Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. - They believe that fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans survive. - Conservationists and scientists warn that a proposed 510-megawatt hydroelectric dam could push the new species closer to extinction.
Australia to invest $379 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef [05/03/2018]
- Australia is set to invest more than 500 million Australian dollars ($379 million) in funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef. - The investment will help restore water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish attacks on coral, and fund research on coral resilience and adaptation. - Some critics are, however, concerned that the funding aims to target strategies that have already being tried in the past, and have seen limited success.
Sending a message about rhino conservation in Nepal [05/02/2018]
- Since 2011, Nepal has recorded five 365-day periods without any rhinos poached, despite its proximity to the key rhino-horn markets of Vietnam and China. - Experts say strategic communications have been an important tool in this conservation success. - The communications strategies used involve not just getting out the word about conservation successes through new and old media, but also seeking ideas and feedback from local communities.
More than 800 totoaba swim bladders confiscated by Mexican authorities in smuggling busts [05/01/2018]
- In two separate arrests of Chinese nationals, Mexican police confiscated more than 800 swim bladders from a large fish called the totoaba. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Fishing for totoaba has also pushed a small porpoise called the vaquita close to extinction. One recent estimate puts the number of animals left in the wild at 12.
Audio: Seabird secrets revealed by bioacoustics in New Zealand [05/01/2018]
- Megan Friesen is a behavioral ecologist who is currently working with the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust to examine the breeding behaviors of a Pacific seabird species called Buller’s shearwater. - In this Field Notes segment, Friesen explains why bioacoustics are so important to the research she and the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust are doing, and plays recordings of the birds from both of the islands where it breeds. - Plus the top news and inspiration from nature’s frontline!
First record of ultrasound communication in the mysterious Sunda colugo [05/01/2018]
- Until recently, the Sunda colugo was known to only produce calls in the audible range. But scientists have now published the first-ever record of these animals producing ultrasound calls in the Penang Hill forests of Malaysia. - Overall, the researchers recorded colugo ultrasound calls 16 times and spotted seven individuals likely associated with those calls. - The team has yet to determine the purpose of the ultrasound calls.
New species of Malaysian water beetle named after Leonardo DiCaprio [04/30/2018]
- A new species of water beetle has been named after actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. - The species was discovered in Borneo during a survey organized by Taxon Expeditions, which sets up trips for citizen scientists to discover undescribed species. - The discoverers chose to honor DiCaprio for his support of environmental causes.
First increase in Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins in 20 years [04/30/2018]
- Numbers of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River have risen from 80 in 2015 to 92 in 2017, according to WWF-Cambodia. - The WWF team has found other signs of improvements in the Mekong dolphin population, including more dolphins surviving into adulthood, increase in the number of dolphin calves, and a drop in dolphin deaths. - These improvements are largely due to more effective patrolling by river guards, and increasing awareness about the dolphins among local communities, WWF said.
Pesticides banned by EU for their potential harm to bees [04/30/2018]
- The EU will ban three commonly used pesticides by the end of 2018 in a bid to protect bee populations. - A committee passed the measure with a majority vote after research emerged earlier this year demonstrating that each compound posed a threat to wild bees and honeybees (Apis mellifera), whose pollination services are critical for crop production. - Environmental and consumer groups applauded the decision. - But several groups representing farmers voiced concerns about how effectively the measure would improve bee health, as well as the difficulty its passage posed to farmers who depend on using these pesticides.
More gorillas and chimpanzees living in Central Africa’s forests than thought [04/27/2018]
- A study led by WCS researchers pulled together wildlife survey data collected between 2003 and 2013 at 59 sites in five countries across western Central Africa. - They then developed mathematical models to understand where the highest densities of gorillas and chimpanzees are and why, as well as broader trends in the populations. - They found that more than 361,000 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and almost 129,000 central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) inhabit these forests — about 30 percent more gorillas and 10 percent more chimpanzees than previously estimated. - The team’s analyses also demonstrate that western lowland gorilla numbers are slipping by 2.7 percent a year.
Photos: Meet the 2018 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [04/27/2018]
- The six winners of 2018 Whitley Award are Munir Virani of Kenya; Shahriar Caesar Rahman of Bangladesh; Kerstin Forsberg of Peru; Dominique Bikaba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Anjali Chandraraj Watson of Sri Lanka; and Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda. - Each recipient was awarded £40,000 ($56,000) in project funding over one year at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Geographic Society in London, U.K., on April 25. - A seventh conservationist, Pablo “Popi” Garcia Borboroglu from Argentina, who won the Whitley Award in 2010, received the Whitley Gold Award for his commitment to safeguarding the world’s penguin species.
‘Shocking and worrying’: Selective logging has big, lasting impact on fish [04/26/2018]
- A new study finds nearly as few fish species in selectively logged forests as they did in forests clear-cut for plantations. Both selectively logged and clear-cut areas had around half the number fish species present in protected, intact forests. - These findings run counter to conventional wisdom that holds selective logging is not as ecologically destructive as complete deforestation. - The study also found a similar number of fish species in streams in oil palm plantations with and without remnant forest buffers, which are often mandated in the hopes of safeguarding biodiversity. - The study’s authors say their findings underline the importance of protecting remaining primary forest.
Signoff on rhino sperm transfer between Indonesia, Malaysia expected mid-May: Official [04/26/2018]
- Indonesia has sent a memorandum of understanding to the Malaysian government regarding the transfer of sperm for use in a captive-breeding attempt, an official confirmed to Mongabay on April 26. - Hoping the sperm can be used to fertilize Malaysia’s last remaining female Sumatran rhino, conservationists have been awaiting permission for the transfer for years. - Herry Subagiadi, secretary to the conservation director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, says he expects Malaysia to sign the agreement in mid-May. - Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with just nine living in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia, and as few as 30 surviving in the wild.
Two newborn Javan rhinos spotted on camera in Indonesian park [04/26/2018]
- Officials from Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park announced Thursday that two new Javan rhino calves were born this year. - An adult male, estimated to be around 30 years old, was found dead in the park this week. Officials have found no indication the death was due to poaching, poison or acute infection. - Ujung Kulon is the sole remaining habitat of the species. With two births and one death, the official population estimate now stands at 68.
Better than bottled: How a Dutch company uses bison to maintain pure drinking water [04/26/2018]
- Water companies in the Netherlands have introduced bison and other large grazers to the dunelands from which they draw water to serve more than 4 million customers. - The grazers keep tree and shrub growth in check and allow the dune ecosystem, home to 50 percent of the country’s biodiversity, to reach optimal ecological health. - The reintroduction of the bison, which has been extinct in the Netherlands for thousands of years, also gives conservationists new insights into the management of the iconic species outside of forests.
‘Monumental’ bust in Madagascar triggers effort to save thousands of endangered tortoises [04/25/2018]
- Authorities discovered 9,888 starving and dehydrated radiated tortoises in a vacant house in southwestern Madagascar on April 10. - Since then, a team of organizations led by the Turtle Survival Alliance has been working to provide care for the critically endangered tortoises, 574 of which died during the first week. - The tortoises, endemic to Madagascar, have lost around 40 percent of their habitat to deforestation, and poachers commonly capture them for the pet trade in Asia and the United States.
In the Canary Islands, a good seed disperser is hard to find [04/25/2018]
- Researchers have found that the bigger lizards of the Canary Islands are better seed dispersers than smaller ones. - But habitat loss and invasive species have threatened the islands’ lizards, with large specimens increasingly hard to come by. - Successive generations of lizards are getting smaller in size, making scientists fear for native plants’ survival.
New species of superb bird-of-paradise has special dance moves [04/25/2018]
- Until recently, researchers thought that the island of New Guinea was home to a single species of the superb bird-of-paradise, the bird with the now-famous “smiley face” dance routine. - Now, researchers have confirmed yet another species of the superb bird-of-paradise in the Indonesian Bird’s Head or Vogelkop region of the island, called the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise. - The males of the two species have different dance moves and calls, and the females look different too, researchers have found.
Restoring flagging oil palm plantations to forest may benefit clouded leopards, study finds [04/24/2018]
- A team of biologists fitted four clouded leopards in the Kinabatangan region of Malaysian Borneo with satellite collars, and they gathered several months of data on the animals’ movements. - They found that the cats stuck to areas with canopy cover, and they avoided land cleared for oil palm. - Converting underperforming oil palm plantations back to forest could help the clouded leopard population with minimal impact on the state’s production of palm oil, the authors predict.
Sumatran tiger blamed for killing two people is captured alive after marathon hunt [04/24/2018]
- Authorities in Indonesia have captured alive a critically endangered Sumatran tiger blamed for the deaths of two people in an oil palm plantation. - The tiger has been moved to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will undergo medical tests ahead of being released back into the wild. - The capture averts a repeat of a near-identical case in March, in which villagers killed and mutilated a tiger blamed for attacking two members of a hunting party. - The whole incident, which an official described as the longest ever search-and-rescue operation for a Sumatran tiger, has highlighted the importance of protecting wildlife habitats, which often are lost to plantations or human settlements, driving the animals into conflict with people.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Camera trap videos capture biodiversity of conservation area in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula [04/23/2018]
- Many ejidos, such as Ejido Caoba in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, run sustainable forestry enterprises on their land, harvesting and selling wood for the benefit of the entire community and replanting the trees they cut down in order to ensure the health of the ecosystem as a whole. - One way to measure how well an ecosystem has been maintained is through the levels of biodiversity the land is capable of sustaining — and by that measure, Ejido Caoba’s efforts to preserve the ecosystem appear to be quite successful, as the camera trap videos below suggest. - After this year’s harvest of timber and non-timber forest products comes to an end, the ejido will once again install the camera traps in harvest areas in order to continue monitoring wildlife populations on their land. But for now, you can enjoy these videos captured in November and December 2017.
New short film captures rare spider monkey feeding behavior (commentary) [04/23/2018]
- A new short film captures rarely seen footage of endangered spider monkeys feeding at a mammal clay lick in the remote Peruvian Amazon. - A Rainforest Reborn, a short documentary by filmmaker Eilidh Munro, was captured in the Crees Reserve, a regenerating rainforest within the Manu Biosphere Reserve, giving us hope that endangered species can return to previously disturbed forests. - In this commentary, the filmmaker, Eilidh Munro, talks about the difficulties of filming spider monkeys in a rainforest and the importance of this story for conservation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality. - As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals. - The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.
Bornean bantengs feeling the heat in logged forests, study finds [04/20/2018]
- A recent study shows that Bornean bantengs in recently logged forests in Malaysia’s Sabah state have become less active during the daytime in response to the hotter temperatures brought on by there being fewer trees providing shade. - Banteng herds living in forests with more regrowth continue to be active throughout the day as they have more shade and refuge. - The paper’s researchers suggest that steps must be taken to reduce the stress upon bantengs, such as limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest.
New species of ‘exploding ant’ discovered in Borneo [04/19/2018]
- Researchers have revealed a new species of exploding ant, which they discovered living in the rainforest canopy of Brunei on the island of Borneo. - Named Colobopsis explodens, the new ant ruptures its abdomen when threatened, killing itself in the process. This rupturing releases a sticky, yellow, toxic goo that has a spicy smell. - The researchers expect more exploding ant species will be described in the near future.
Half a ton of pangolin scales seized on the way to Asia from Benin [04/19/2018]
- More than 500 kilograms of pangolin scales were confiscated at the Cotonou airport in Benin on March 19. - Three people suspected of trying to smuggle 23 bags of scales, used in traditional medicine in Asia, were arrested on their way to Vietnam. - Research indicates that a hunter captures a pangolin in the wild once every five minutes, adding up to more than a million taken over the past 10 years.
Scientists stumble upon hundreds of octopus moms in the deep sea [04/19/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a large nursery of octopus mothers some 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) deep in the Pacific Ocean. - The octopuses are an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus, a group of deep-sea octopuses generally known to lead solitary lives. - The octopuses and their eggs will likely not survive, researchers say, because the animals are exposed to warmer temperatures than they are used to. - But the presence of this large, “suicidal” population of octopuses suggests that there must be many more octopuses living in cooler, more livable crevices on the seafloor, researchers add.
Conservationist known as a caretaker for Kenya’s orphaned elephants dies at 83 [04/18/2018]
- Conservationist Daphne Sheldrick died of breast cancer on April 12, according to the conservation organization she founded. - Born in Kenya, she spent her life working to care for orphaned elephants in Kenya and fighting to save the species through her advocacy. - She started the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, named for her husband, in 1977. - The organization runs an orphan elephant project, as well as de-snaring and veterinary care teams.
‘Boom and bust’ cycle of deep-sea trawling unsustainable, study finds [04/18/2018]
- Researchers have built a global picture of deep-sea fish catches from bottom trawling from 1950 to 2015. - Deep-sea trawling can be extremely destructive for fish populations, while providing minimal economic benefits, the study found. - Researchers also found that large quantities of fish caught in the deep sea go unreported.
Suspected poisoning takes down 11 lions in Uganda park [04/17/2018]
- Eight cubs and three female lions have been found dead, apparently from eating poisoned meat in Queen Elizabeth National Park. - Lions, along with other predators, have been in decline across Uganda since the 1970s. - Recent studies indicate that the country’s growing human population has driven lions out of their former habitats and that the big cats are killed to defend the livestock of local communities.
Dogs in India are a problem for wildlife, study finds [04/16/2018]
- India is home to an estimated 60 million dogs, the fourth highest in the world. - In a pan-India online survey, people reported domestic dogs attacking 80 species of Indian wildlife, of which 31 are listed under a threatened category on the IUCN Red List. - Some experts have called for rethinking both dog population management and dog ownership policies in India, and addressing the threat of dogs as a conservation problem for wildlife.
Population of world’s rarest giant turtle rises to 4 with new discovery [04/13/2018]
- Some experts have now confirmed the presence of a Yangtze giant softshell turtle in Vietnam, increasing the total known population of the turtle to four individuals. - Researchers matched environmental DNA collected from water samples from Xuan Khanh Lake in Vietnam to known samples from the species, and confirmed that the giant turtle living in the lake was most likely the Yangtze giant softshell turtle. - Threats remain for the recently identified Yangtze giant softshell turtle. Xuan Khanh Lake is not protected, and commercial fishing is allowed there.