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.
Global warming may poison monarch butterflies, study finds [04/12/2018]
- Monarch numbers have plummeted in recent decades and scientists think it’s due in large part to the reduction of milkweed in the U.S. and Canada from increased herbicide use, as well as deforestation of monarch overwintering grounds in Mexico. - A recently published study finds a new threat: warming temperatures may be making milkweed, the only plant monarch caterpillars can eat, too toxic for the butterflies. - The researchers estimate that at current warming rates in the southern U.S., tropical milkweed will be too toxic for monarchs within 40 years. - Monarchs prefer tropical milkweed to native species and the plant is now widespread throughout the southern U.S.
India’s new forest policy draft draws criticism for emphasis on industrial timber [04/12/2018]
- The Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is now open for public comments, and will replace the older 1988 policy once it comes into force. - Critics are apprehensive about how the draft policy deals with community participation and industrial forestry. - The current draft is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions, some experts say.
List of 100 most unique and endangered reptiles released [04/11/2018]
- Zoological Society of London has released a list of the 100 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered Reptiles. - Using a formula published in a PLOS ONE Study, each species receives a score that takes into account how evolutionarily unusual it is as well as its risk for extinction. - ZSL hopes these rankings will provide a scientifically rigorous and standardized method to assign conservation priority to vanishing species.
Wildlife trade detective Samuel Wasser receives prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal [04/11/2018]
- Samuel K. Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, U.S., has pioneered ways of using DNA from animal feces to track wildlife poachers. - In recognition of his achievements, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has honored Wasser with the Albert Schweitzer Medal, an award that “recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.” - In a brief Q&A, Wasser told Mongabay that it was “heartening” to win the Albert Schweitzer Medal, and that he is proud to see his work make a difference in the world.
46% of Albertine Rift species may be threatened by 2080, study finds [04/10/2018]
- East Africa’s Albertine Rift region hosts many animal and plant species that evolved in isolation and are endemic – meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world. - But a recent study estimates nearly half of the Albertine Rift’s endemic species may become threatened with extinction by 2080 as climate change shrinks their habitat. - The study also finds certain species have already lost as much as 90 percent of their habitat to agriculture. - The researchers say that their findings could be used to predict how the ranges of wildlife populations will shift in response to a changing climate so that conservation workers can focus their efforts on the areas most likely to retain important habitat.
Animal trainers are teaching wildlife to conserve themselves [04/10/2018]
- Positive training helps pets and their owners bond. But animal trainers working to conserve wildlife often have the opposite goal: teaching animals in the wild to avoid human beings — people often being the most dangerous creatures in the jungle. - Wildlife kept in zoos have been trained with rewards to accept unnatural processes, procedures that previously might have required restraint or even anesthesia: allowing tooth brushing, hoof trimming, injections and blood draws — turning once alien actions into positive experiences for the captive animals. - Animal trainers decades ago learned to train dolphins without having physical contact with the animals. More recently, a chimpanzee troop in Sierra Leone was taught to scream alarm in unison when poachers approached, alerting nearby rangers to come to the rescue — achieving an 80 percent decrease in poaching. - Trainers have taught captive bred condors how to be more like wild condors, seeking food within their natural habitat and not congregating in towns. They’ve also taught polar bears to avoid anything associated with humans, preventing the bears from raiding trash cans and significantly decreasing wildlife conflicts.
Six staff killed in deadliest attack at Congo’s Virunga National Park [04/10/2018]
- Suspected members of an armed militia ambushed and killed five park rangers and a driver in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on April 9, park authorities said - The attack, the deadliest in the park’s history, brings to 175 the toll of Virunga rangers who have been killed while guarding the park to date. - Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to rare mountain gorillas, but continues to be plagued by the long-running armed conflict wracking the eastern DRC.
How to help penguins (photos) [04/09/2018]
- This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group. - This month, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s David Oehler, Megan Maher, and Julie Larsen Maher write about penguins. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, head photographer for WCS.
Rubber plantation in Cameroon edges closer to UNESCO World Heritage Site [04/06/2018]
- Satellite data indicate the rubber plantation, operated by China-owned Sud Cameroun Hévéa (Sudcam), is currently less than one kilometer away from intact primary forest habitat. Development is ongoing amidst concerns about threats to endangered species within and outside the park, as well as alleged violations of community land rights and political affiliations with the Cameroonian government. - The expansion of this rubber plantation is “by far the most devastating new clearing of forest for industrial agriculture in the Congo Basin,” according to Greenpeace. - Rubber expansion also stands to affect the 9,500 people who live in villages on the reserve’s periphery. According to Greenpeace Africa, Sudcam did not obtain Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from these communities before acquiring the land and residents have claimed that subsistence farmland has been taken away with little or no compensation. - Members of the conservation community say that in order for rubber development to happen sustainably in Cameroon, companies need to collaborate with conservation NGOs to create robust buffers around wetlands and streams, develop wildlife corridors, establish areas to filter the runoff of toxins and sediment, and create bushmeat alternatives. They also recommend regulatory actions be taken in the U.S. and EU, which are major buyers of rubber.
Audio: Bowhead whales in the Arctic sing hundreds of complex songs [04/06/2018]
- Scientists have recorded 184 elaborate, very different bowhead whale songs in a bowhead subpopulation living east of Greenland. This makes it the largest set of bowhead whale song recordings ever. - The bowhead’s vocal repertoire is rivaled only by a few species of songbirds, researchers say. - But why these whales have so many different song types and why they change their songs each year is still a mystery.
Kaziranga’s rhino census finds the population is growing, but more slowly than expected [04/05/2018]
- Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam state is home to the majority of the world’s greater one-horned rhinos. - A census completed in March counted 2,413 rhinos, an increase of 12 individuals since 2015. - Officials believe rhinos were undercounted, likely due to poor visibility. Other observers suggest changes should be made to survey methodology. - If the numbers are accurate, it could suggest the park has reached its carrying capacity. However, a large number of young rhinos were counted, indicating that the population remains healthy and breeding.
For Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, elephants pose a new threat [04/05/2018]
- Twelve people have been killed by elephants in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. - Fleeing military operations in Myanmar, the refugees have settled in elephant corridors. - Training is underway to help the refugees negotiate their encounters with the endangered animals safely.
‘Lost’ fairy lantern spotted in Malaysian Borneo after 151 years [04/04/2018]
- In January last year, a team of botanists spotted Thismia neptunis again, 151 years after it was first recorded in the rainforests of western Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo. - Thismia neptunis is tiny, standing at just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) when flowering, and spends its life underground, parasitizing fungi for its food supply. - Given that the species is likely restricted to a small area within a primary lowland rainforest of Sarawak, and might have fewer than 50 individuals, the researchers believe that the species qualifies as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Audio: Maroon 5’s James Valentine on why he’s working to stop illegal logging [04/03/2018]
- On today’s episode, we speak with multiple-Grammy-winning musician James Valentine about his work to stop illegal logging and make concert tours more environmentally friendly. - As lead guitarist of Maroon 5, Valentine has traversed the globe numerous times on tour, taking the band’s music around the world. But late last year, Valentine went to Peru with a much different mission: he was part of a group of musicians who spoke in Lima in support of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign. He also visited a sustainable logging operation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in 2016. - Valentine is here to tell us about his experiences in Peru and Guatemala and to tell us all about the work he and Reverb are doing to keep illegal wood out of musical instruments, lower the environmental impact of touring, and engage music fans in environmental action.
U.K. ban relegates legal ivory trade to ‘a thing of the past’ [04/03/2018]
- The United Kingdom says it will ban, with a few exceptions, the sale of all ivory in the country. - Conservation groups have welcomed the move and pointed out that poaching to fuel the global ivory trade leads to the deaths of 55 elephants a day, or around 20,000 per year. - The closure of domestic markets in the U.K., along with similar moves in China, Hong Kong and the U.S., will close the loopholes that allow illegal traders to launder their illicitly acquired ivory, proponents of the measure say.
NOAA publishes global list of fisheries and their risks to marine mammals [04/02/2018]
- The list, published in draft form in late 2017 as part of requirements laid out by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, includes nearly 4,000 fisheries across some 135 countries. - NOAA says the list represents ‘a strong step forward’ in developing sustainable fisheries. - These fisheries have until 2022 to demonstrate that the methods they use to catch fish and other marine animals either pose little risk to marine mammals or employ comparable methods to similar operations in the United States.
New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest [04/02/2018]
- By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists has identified 81 pre-Columbian human settlements. - The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks, challenging a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched. - The researchers’ computer model predicted that the southern rim of the Amazon likely supported up to 1 million people in pre-Columbian times, a population that’s much larger than previous estimates.
Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas [03/30/2018]
- The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean. - Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland. - The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast. - However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.
Frogs may be ‘fighting back’ against deadly pandemic [03/30/2018]
- Chytridiomycosis is caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a type of chytrid fungus. - Scientists believe Bd originated in Africa, and has spread around the world where it has contributed to the declines and extinctions of at least 200 amphibian species globally. - But a new study finds populations of several Panamanian frog species exposed to Bd appear to have gained resistance to the pathogen. Previous research indicates U.S. frogs may also have developed resistance after exposure. - The authors of the study say their findings offer hope for the survival of amphibians around the world. But they caution that detecting the remnant populations that survive infection and helping them persist and proliferate will require extensive monitoring efforts.
‘Ropeless’ consortium aims to end entanglements of declining North Atlantic right whales [03/29/2018]
- ‘Fishermen, engineers, manufacturers, scientists and managers’ have come together to develop ropeless fishing gear to keep North Atlantic right whales from getting entangled. - Only 451 right whales are left, and it’s likely that fewer than 100 are breeding females. - Research teams have recorded no new calves this breeding season, which ended this month. - Scientists warn that the North Atlantic right whale could go extinct if the trend in their numbers doesn’t change.
Australia opens vast swaths of famed marine parks to fishing [03/29/2018]
- Australia is known for protecting its sea life in a 3.3 million square kilometer (1.3 million square mile) system of marine parks that cover 36 percent of the country’s oceans. - The protection of those parks is now at stake, as the government last week approved five long-awaited management plans covering 44 parks. The new plans open an area almost the size of Japan to commercial and recreational fishing compared to the original plans formed by the previous government when the parks were proclaimed in 2012. - A coalition of opposition parties attempted to block the new plans in parliament on Tuesday but failed. - Conservation groups and hundreds of marine scientists have voiced vehement opposition to the government’s new plans.
Small section of controversial refinery wall in Indian ‘elephant corridor’ demolished [03/28/2018]
- On March 13, officials tore down a 289-meter (948-foot) stretch of a 2.2-kilometer (1.4-mile) concrete wall built by an Indian oil refinery, allegedly blocking an elephant corridor. - In August 2016, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) — tasked with ensuring the speedy disposal of environmental cases — ordered NRL to demolish the entire length of the wall within a month. - But only a 289-meter-stretch was demolished, reportedly because that stretch encircled an area of land that fell within a proposed reserved forest. The case is ongoing.
PHOTOS: The great Sandhill crane migration makes its annual stopover on the Platte River [03/27/2018]
- The annual migration undertaken by sandhill cranes in North America is considered one of the world’s great natural spectacles, on par with Africa’s wildebeest migration and the “march of the penguins” in Antarctica. - Nowhere is the sandhill crane migration more visible in all its majesty than on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska — you truly have to see it to believe it. - You can hear many of the sounds of the sandhill crane migration on a recent episode of the Mongabay Newscast. It’s one thing to hear the migration, however, and quite another to see it.
‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent [03/27/2018]
- For years marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling, a fishing technique that unintentionally scoops up non-targeted creatures as bycatch and disrupts marine habitat. - While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem: in Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all but going after any and all sea life for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products. - In an interview with Mongabay, Vincent describes her observations in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Borneo’s elephants prefer degraded forests, a new study finds [03/27/2018]
- New research has found that Bornean elephants most often use degraded forests with canopy heights topping out at around 13 meters (43 feet). - Less than 25 percent of the state’s protected intact forests, which include primary forests, are suitable for elephants, the authors concluded. - The team suggests that maintaining suitable elephant habitat in Malaysian Borneo will require the protection of relatively small patches of degraded forests that elephants favor.
Range countries to lead new estimate of global snow leopard population as downgraded threat status remains controversial [03/26/2018]
- The newly announced Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards initiative, called PAWS for short, will be overseen by the Steering Committee of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), which is comprised of the Environment Ministers of all twelve snow leopard range states. - The snow leopard had been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1986 until late last year, when its threat status was downgraded to Vulnerable — ostensibly welcome news that ultimately proved quite controversial. - In a recent commentary for the journal Science, snow leopard researchers questioned the scientific merit of the data the IUCN relied on in downgrading the threat status of snow leopards. GSLEP says it categorically rejects any change in snow leopards’ threat status until PAWS is complete and a scientifically reliable population estimate is available.
Trump’s elephant, lion trophy hunting policy hit with double lawsuits [03/26/2018]
- In policymaking, the Interior Dept. announced it was allowing U.S. citizens to import elephant and lion body parts to the United States last November. President Trump immediately put that decision on hold. Then in 2018, the USFWS said trophy hunting decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. - Now, Born Free USA, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other litigants have filed a lawsuit against the plan, saying USFWS policymaking failed to offer a public comment period, lacked transparency, and didn’t outline a process as to how decisions will be made. - In a second lawsuit, Born Free USA, an NGO, accused the Trump administration of stacking its newly formed International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) with pro-trophy hunting members, some with ties to the gun industry, an allegation largely confirmed by an Associated Press study. - The IWCC held its first meeting this month. A critic who attended said she was shocked that a council meant to advise the government on conservation seemed to know very little about the poaching crisis in Africa. A renowned trophy hunter was appointed to head the group’s conservation subcommittee.
‘IUCN Green List of species’: A new way to measure conservation success [03/26/2018]
- Scientists have proposed a framework for a new “Green List of species” that outlines a standard way of measuring species recovery and conservation success. - The framework starts by defining what a “fully recovered species” looks like, then lays down four metrics that quantify the importance of conservation efforts for a species’ recovery. - The Green List will eventually become a part of the IUCN Red List, the scientists say, with the final species assessment including both the extinction risk categories as well as the four conservation metrics to help judge whether conservation actions are helping a species recover.
In Jakarta, wildlife monitors find a hotspot for the illegal tortoise trade [03/26/2018]
- Indonesia’s capital has seen an increase in the sale of non-native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles that are prohibited for international commercial trade, according to a report by the wildlife-monitoring group TRAFFIC. - Growing demand for these species, coupled with Indonesia’s lax enforcement of customs regulation at international ports of entry and an outdated conservation act, have allowed the illicit international animal trade to grow, TRAFFIC said. - The group has called on the Indonesian government to improve the country’s conservation laws and regulations, and urged more stringent monitoring of the markets, pet stores and expos in Jakarta and across the country to document and assess the extent of any illegal trade.
Study reveals the Pacific Garbage Patch is much heftier than thought — and it’s growing [03/26/2018]
- A recent survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that the aggregated plastic there weighs in at 79,000 metric tons (87,100 short tons). - The plastic is floating across an area larger than Mongolia at 1.6 million square kilometers (618,000 square miles). - Around 75 percent of the pieces that are larger than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in length, and old fishing nets make up a minimum of 46 percent of the total mass. - The scientists calculated that 94 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch are microplastics.
Colombia scraps Amazon highway plans due to deforestation concerns [03/23/2018]
- The Marginal de la Selva highway is part of $1 billion infrastructure project that would have opened a trade route for heavy land cargo to pass from Venezuela to Ecuador through Colombia without having to enter the treacherous Andes mountains. - Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos declared earlier the controversial project will not be completed, citing rampant deforestation and potentially irreversible environmental impacts to a sensitive ecological corridor near three national parks if the highway were developed as planned. - Conservationists are lauding the President’s announcement, calling it “extraordinary news for deforestation mitigation and restoration efforts” to restore the region’s ecological integrity.
Microplastic pollution in world’s oceans poses major threat to filter-feeding megafauna [03/23/2018]
- A study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution last month looks at how filter-feeding marine animals like baleen whales, manta rays, and whale sharks are impacted by microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. - Filter-feeding megafauna must swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water every day in order to catch enough plankton to keep themselves nourished. That means that these species are probably ingesting microplastics both directly from polluted water and indirectly through the consumption of contaminated plankton prey. - Microplastic particles can block nutrient absorption and damage the digestive tracts of the filter-feeding marine life that ingest them, while toxins and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in plastic can accumulate in the bodies of marine wildlife over time, changing biological processes such as growth and reproduction and even leading to decreased fertility.
In Bali fish die-offs, researchers spot a human hand [03/22/2018]
- Mass fish die-offs are not uncommon in the volcanic lakes that dot Indonesia, including Bali’s Lake Batur, which sits in the crater of an active volcano. - While sulfur releases, steep temperature gradients and other natural phenomena are responsible for some of the bigger die-offs, researchers have identified the chemicals from excess fish feed as the main culprit for the more frequent die-offs caused by oxygen depletion. - Similar die-offs in other lakes around Indonesia have also been traced back to household and industrial waste, as well as agricultural runoff and fish farms. Researchers have warned that more than a dozen lakes could die out as soon as 2025 as a result of this chemical assault.
New report highlights top 50 tortoises and turtles on brink of extinction [03/22/2018]
- More than 50 percent of the world’s tortoises and turtles are threatened with extinction, according to a new report. - The 2018 report presents an updated list of 50 species that are at immediate risk of extinction, selected on the basis of their “survival prospects and extinction risks.” - Some 58 percent of the top 50 species are native to Asia, the report said, with most species coming from China, followed by Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Madagascar.
More than 40 percent of Madagascar’s freshwater life sliding toward extinction, IUCN finds [03/22/2018]
- In an assessment of 653 freshwater plant and animal species living on Madagascar and nearby islands, biologists found that 43 percent are threatened with extinction or there isn’t enough information to assess how well they’re doing. - Nearly 80 percent of endemic plants examined in the study face extinction. - The team lists unsustainable farming practices, deforestation, dam construction, mining and the overuse of natural resources, such as overfishing, as causes for the widespread declines.
Leopards could reduce rabies by controlling stray dog numbers in India, study finds [03/21/2018]
- Stray dogs make up about 40 percent of the diet of the roughly 40 leopards currently living in Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park, according to a recent study. - Dog bites lead to perhaps 20,000 deaths from rabies each year in India, according to the World Health Organization. - A team of scientists figures that leopards kill 1,500 stray dogs each year, reducing the number of bites by about 1,000 per year and the number of rabies cases by 90.
Audio: Exploring humanity’s deep connection to water, plus the sounds of the Sandhill crane migration [03/20/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss humanity’s deep connection to water and hear sounds of one of the most ancient animal migrations on Earth, that of the Sandhill crane. - Our first guest today is marine biologist and conservationist Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do. - Our second guests are Ben Gottesman and Emma Brinley Buckley, researchers who are using bioacoustics to document Sandhill cranes on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska as the birds make a stopover during their annual migration. We’ll hear recordings of the cranes and other important species in this Field Notes segment.
The world’s last male northern white rhino has died [03/20/2018]
- Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino believed to be the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino, died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19. - Sudan had been battling ill health over the past few months, and after his condition worsened considerably in the last 24 hours, veterinarians decided to euthanize him. - Sudan lived at Ol Pejeta with the only other northern white rhinos left on Earth — his daughter, Najin, and her daughter, Fatu — under 24-hour armed surveillance. - The survival of the species now hinges on costly and never-before-attempted in vitro fertilization using eggs from the remaining females, stored sperm samples, and southern white rhino females as surrogates.
Belize creates one of Central America’s largest biological corridors [03/19/2018]
- On Feb. 13, the government of Belize approved the 110-square-kilometer Belize northeastern biological corridor. - The corridor aims to provide safe passage for wild animals like jaguars, pumas and Baird’s tapir to move freely between the Shipstern Nature Reserve and Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve in northern Belize. - Private landowners have agreed to place their corridor-designated lands into a trust in perpetuity, with the lands to be managed as part of the protected area system for conservation purposes.
Indonesia launches bid to restore national park that’s home to tigers, elephants [03/19/2018]
- Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra is home to critically endangered tigers and elephants, but has been heavily deforested by illegal oil palm plantations and human settlements. - The government has introduced a program to gradually relocate the people living within the park’s borders, by encouraging them to shift away from oil palm farming to alternative and sustainable forms of livelihood. - If successful, the program could serve as a model for restoring other national parks across Indonesia, which face similar problems of human encroachment.
Oil palm plantations’ dearth of biodiversity rubs off on nearby forests, study shows [03/19/2018]
- Oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo host a lower number of frog species than forests in same area. - However, the plantations exhibit an edge effect that extends as far as 4 kilometers, resulting in a decline in the diversity of frog species in adjacent forests. - The researchers suggest that for small forest patches or narrow corridors to be of long-term conservation value in oil palm landscapes, their sizes and widths need to adequately account for these edge effects.
Madagascar: Conservation official arrested for killing 11 endangered lemurs [03/16/2018]
- Two weeks ago, the bodies of 11 critically endangered lemurs were discovered in the Zahamena Ankeniheny Corridor protected area in eastern Madagascar. - The lemurs were allegedly killed by one of the local officials charged with protecting them, to the dismay of conservation leaders. - The alleged poacher was arrested on Feb. 27, and this week the police set out to arrest his suspected accomplices. - The Madagascar government reacted to the poaching incident at the highest level, including pledges by the prime minister and minister of the environment to crack down on poaching.
Sharp-eyed Mongabay readers spot a jaguarundi (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Last Monday, in an article about Brazil’s Cerrado, this Mongabay editor mistakenly identified an animal in a photo as a puma (Puma concolor). - Within hours multiple readers corrected that mistake, properly identifying the animal as a jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi). - Curiosity aroused, this editor went to work learning more about jaguarundis. - Most interesting find: these small cats of North, Central and South America, were until recently on track to be reintroduced to Texas, but a new president and his plan for a U.S. / Mexico border wall has put those plans in limbo.
Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. - It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. - However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.” - The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.
Save the Sumatran rhino ‘because we can’ (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Mongabay sent contributing editor Jeremy Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the last remaining Sumatran rhinos in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success. - Hance argues today in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.” - To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.
Conservationists rush to save Bolivian turtles threatened by egg trafficking [03/15/2018]
- The large-scale harvesting of the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) for human consumption has contributed to the species’ decline, according to scientists. It is currently classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. - A series of raids in mid-2017 saw authorities seize more than 50,000 river turtle eggs from poachers in the Beni department of Bolivia. - A conservation project is trying to help river turtle populations recover, and has released 70,000 baby turtles into the Maniqui River since 1992.
Indonesia races to catch tiger alive as villagers threaten to ‘kill the beast’ [03/15/2018]
- A conservation agency in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has deployed two teams to capture alive a wild tiger that has reportedly killed two people at an oil palm plantation. - The incidents prompted villagers living near the plantation to threaten to kill the tiger themselves if it was not caught. - Authorities are keen to take the animal alive, following the killing of a tiger earlier this month under similar circumstances.
Bushmeat hunting threatens hornbills and raptors in Cameroon’s forests, study finds [03/15/2018]
- A new study has found that hornbills, vultures and eagles are being hunted for bushmeat in Cameroon in much greater numbers than previously thought. - Researchers estimate that people living around the proposed Ebo National Park in Cameroon’s Littoral region consumed an average of 29 hornbills and eight raptors per month. - But they remain unsure how the current levels of hunting are affecting the bird populations, given that so little is known about the latter.
Activists eye bigger roles for local officials, businesses in Indonesia’s orangutan protection plan [03/15/2018]
- The Indonesian government is drafting another 10-year guideline for orangutan conservation that aims to staunch the decline in the population of the critically endangered great ape. - This time around, orangutan experts want the federal government to lay out clearer guidelines for conservation roles to be played by local authorities and companies working in orangutan habitats. - Local authorities and companies are seen as key to protecting the animals’ increasingly fragmented habitat, but tend to favor short-term development and business plans that don’t serve long-term conservation goals.
Will Madagascar’s industrial shrimp trawlers make way for local fishers? [03/14/2018]
- Shrimp is one of Madagascar’s most lucrative exports. - But local fishers and environmental groups say shrimp trawlers are harming the country’s marine environment and leaving too few fish in the sea for the fishing communities that depend on them. - Until now, relatively little has been done to address the issue. - But there are small signs that may be starting to change, with fishing communities raising their voices to press for exclusive access to Madagascar’s coastal waters.
Mysterious new butterfly named after YouTuber Emily Graslie [03/14/2018]
- Scientists have named a new species of butterfly for Emily Graslie, the writer, producer and host of the YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, and the chief curiosity correspondent of Chicago’s Field Museum. - The postage stamp-sized butterfly Wahydra graslieae is dark rust-colored with jagged bands of silver scales on the underside of its hind wings. - The scientists identified the butterfly from a single museum specimen collected by American biologist Harold Greeney from the Ecuadorian Andes in 2004. The specimen remained inside a Tupperware box until 2016.
Camera traps nab crop-raiding animals near farms in the Amazon [03/14/2018]
- A team of scientists from the U.K. and Brazil used an array of 132 camera traps to snap more than 60,000 photographs around 47 farming communities in the Amazon. - They also conducted 157 interviews with local farmers about the animals that they found most frequently in their fields. - The researchers found that the animals that were most destructive to crops were also among the ones nabbed most frequently by their cameras.
Hope for the rarest hornbill in the world (commentary) [03/13/2018]
- There are three Critically Endangered hornbill species in the world. The rarest, the Sulu hornbill in the Philippines, is little studied, does not occur in any protected areas, and is in imminent danger of extinction. - In January 2018, a team of conservationists from the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore visited the only known habitat of this bird to assess its status and make recommendations regarding its survival. - Five individuals were located, as well as a potential nesting site. Work will continue this year to train local rangers in hornbill study techniques; the patches of forest where the Sulu hornbill clings on should be granted legal protection from logging, hunting, and human encroachment. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Video: Rare newborn western lowland gorilla filmed in the wild [03/13/2018]
- The baby gorilla was born on Feb. 17 in the rainforests of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, according to WCS. - The infant is the offspring of a female gorilla named Mekome and a male silverback named Kingo, who has been studied by the WCS Congo researchers of the Mondika Gorilla Project for about two decades. - Mekome’s newest baby is her fifth offspring, and represents hope for the species, researchers say.
Cerrado: appreciation grows for Brazil’s savannah, even as it vanishes [03/12/2018]
- The Brazilian Cerrado – a vast savannah – once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, stretching to the east and south of the Amazon. - Long undervalued by scientists and environmental activists, researchers are today realizing that the Cerrado is incredibly biodiverse. The biome supports more than 10,000 plant species, over 900 bird and 300 mammal species. - The Cerrado’s deep-rooted plants and its soils also sequester huge amounts of carbon, making the region’s preservation key to curbing climate change, and to reducing Brazil’s deforestation and CO2 emissions to help meet its Paris carbon reduction pledge. - Agribusiness – hampered by Brazilian laws in the Amazon – has moved into the Cerrado in a big way. More than half of the biome’s native vegetation has already disappeared, as soy and cattle production rapidly replace habitat. This series explores the dynamics of change convulsing the region.
Oil palm, rubber could trigger ‘storm’ of deforestation in the Congo Basin [03/12/2018]
- Earthsight documented approximately 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of deforestation to clear the way for new rubber and oil palm plantations in Central Africa’s rainforest countries in the past five years. - The team also found that companies in five Central African countries hold licenses for industrial agriculture on another 8,400 square kilometers (3,243 square miles) of land. - The investigators warn that thousands of hectares of forest could fall to industrial agriculture in the COngo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, if governance of the forest doesn’t improve.
Cambodia creates its first marine national park where pirate fishers prowl [03/12/2018]
- In February, Cambodia announced the establishment of its very first marine national park, covering 524 square kilometers (202 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand. - Koh Rong Marine National Park takes in the seven islands of the Koh Rong archipelago and the web of coral, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems around them. - Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s tiny territorial waters have long been plundered by illegal fishing gangs feeding an ever-rising demand for seafood. - But the declaration of the new park does nothing to protect the environment, at least in the short term, with no new patrols of the heavily fished waters until next year and a $2 billion island development plan allowed to continue unhindered.
Only 12 vaquita porpoises remain, watchdog group reports [03/08/2018]
- The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita reported in 2017 that there were just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - Mongabay contacted Andrea Crosta, director of the international wildlife trade watchdog group Elephant Action League, just before his return to Mexico in early March 2018. - After his previous trip in February 2018, Crosta said his sources reported that no more than a dozen vaquitas remain. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to illegally catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are in high demand, especially in China.
Trump to allow elephant and lion trophies on case-by-case basis [03/08/2018]
- President Obama banned U.S. citizens from bringing home elephant and lion trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe. In November, 2017, Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed that ban until Trump himself overruled the USFWS, pausing the new rule until the president could make a final decision. - This week, the USFWS said in a memorandum that it will permit U.S. citizens to bring lion and elephant hunting trophies home from Africa – potentially including Zimbabwe and Zambia – on a case-by-case basis. - Conservationists largely responded negatively to the decision, critiquing it for offering little or no transparency, inviting corruption, and identifying no stated system or criteria for determining how permit selections will be made. - A variety of lawsuits are ongoing which could still influence the shape of the new rule.
Beyond polar bears: Arctic animals share in vulnerable climate future [03/07/2018]
- The media has long focused on the impacts of climate change on polar bears. But with Arctic temperatures rising fast (this winter saw the warmest October to February temperatures ever recorded), a wide range of Arctic fauna appears to be at risk, though more studies are needed to determine precise causes, current effects on population, and future projections. - Diminishing Arctic snow, especially in the spring, may leave wolverines without ideal places to den. Caribou and reindeer populations have been in serious decline due to natural population fluctuation, but scientists don’t know if their numbers will recover under changed climate conditions. - Lemmings are also being impacted by diminishing snow, often leaving the rodents without cover in spring and autumn. Their decline could impact the predators that prey on them, including Arctic foxes, red foxes, weasels, wolverines, and snowy and short-eared owls. - Snowy owls have raised concerns because the seabirds they hunt in winter, which congregate around small holes in the Arctic ice, could become more widely dispersed in broader stretches of open water and therefore be harder to prey on. Scientists say more study of Arctic wildlife is urgently needed, but funding and media attention remains sparse.
Jaguar numbers rising at field sites, WCS says [03/07/2018]
- WCS reports that jaguar numbers have risen by almost 8 percent a year between 2002 and 2016 at study sites in Central and South America. - The sites cover around 400,000 square kilometers (154,440 square miles) of jaguar habitat. - Despite the promising findings, WCS scientists caution that habitat destruction, hunting in response to livestock killings, and poaching for their body parts remain critical threats to jaguars.
How Tibetan Buddhism and conservation efforts helped Eurasian otters thrive in a city of 200,000 people (commentary) [03/07/2018]
- The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is now locally extinct in most of its former range in China due to hunting for its pelt, water pollution, and habitat destruction. - Recently, researchers recorded a healthy population of otters in Yushu, Qinghai, a city of 200,000 people. - What allowed this population to survive? Besides conservation efforts, Tibetan Buddhism traditions also played a vital role in reducing hunting and maintaining freshwater ecosystem health. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Bornean bearded pigs seen adapting to oil palm habitats, study finds [03/06/2018]
- Bornean bearded pigs appear to thrive in oil palm plantations, but remain heavily dependent on nearby forests as their primary habitat, a recent study indicates. - The findings are crucial because of the species’ key role as an “ecosystem engineer,” controlling the spread of tree species and turning over the soil with their rooting behavior. - The researchers have called on the Malaysian government to better protect these forests in a bid to ensure a sustainable population of bearded pigs in mixed forest-oil palm areas.
Villagers cite self-defense in tiger killing, but missing body parts point to the illegal wildlife trade [03/06/2018]
- Villagers in Indonesia have killed a critically endangered Sumatran tiger, after labeling it a menace to the village. - Conservation authorities, though, have found strong indications that the animal may have been killed for its body parts, which are highly prized in the illegal wildlife trade. - Habitat loss and poaching have already driven two other species of tiger in Indonesia to extinction, and conservationists warn the Sumatran tiger is being pushed along the same same path. - Warning: The article contains some disturbing images.
Ecotourism payments for more wildlife sightings linked to conservation benefits in Laos [03/05/2018]
- A four-year research project in a national protected area in Laos established a connection between higher payments for more wildlife sightings and improved protections for wildlife. - Over the course of the study, sightings of common wildlife rose by more than 60 percent. - Payments were funded by the entry fees paid by tourists. - They were placed in village development funds, which would then finance projects like school construction and healthcare.
Epic battle between tiger and sloth bear caught on film [03/03/2018]
- Footage of a fight between a male tiger and a mother sloth bear in an India wildlife reserve has gone viral on Facebook. - The video, shot this week in Tadoba National Park, was captured by Akshay Kumar, the chief naturalist at Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge in Maharashtra. - The video starts with the tiger chasing off a sloth bear that was headed with her cub toward a water body. - The bear then charges the tiger and the fight ensues.
Penguin mega-colony discovered using satellites and drones, raising scientists’ hopes [03/03/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a mega-colony of Adélie penguins in Antarctica’s remote Danger Islands. - The researchers utilized quadcopter drones to survey the nesting grounds in an automated manner and then used software to process the imagery for individual nests. - The approach enabled a fast and highly accurate count relative to ground observations. - The study validates the approach of combining satellite imagery with ground and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys.
Last of its kind: sole surviving male northern white rhino is gravely ill [03/03/2018]
- The planet’s last male northern white rhino is gravely ill. - Sudan, as the rhino is named, has developed a serious infection. - Only three northern white rhinos remain, including two females who are Sudan’s offspring. - The northern white rhinos are protected from poachers by armed guards.
New thumbnail-sized pygmy squid discovered in Australia [03/02/2018]
- The new species of pygmy squid belongs to the genus Idiosepius, a group of tiny, squid-like marine animals that are believed to be the world’s smallest cephalopods. - Researchers have named the new species Idiosepius hallami, or Hallam’s pygmy squid after Australian malacologist Amanda Reid’s son, Hallam, who helped her collect live animals for further comparisons. - Pygmy squids are generally found in shallow waters among seagrass and mangroves, some of the most threatened marine habitats.
Judge OKs waiving environmental laws to build U.S.-Mexico border wall [03/01/2018]
- On Tuesday, a federal judge in California ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not abuse its authority in waiving dozens of environmental laws to build sections of wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. - The ruling frees the department to waive laws for future border wall construction projects. - President Trump has pushed to erect walls along the entire 2,000-mile border, saying it is necessary to prevent the flow of drugs and undocumented immigrants over the border. - The proposal is intensely controversial, with opponents raising practical, humanitarian, and environmental concerns. Conservationists say that existing border infrastructure has disrupted connectivity for wildlife and that coast-to-coast fencing would be devastating.
‘S.O.S.’ carved out of former plantation shines a light on palm oil-driven deforestation [03/01/2018]
- A dramatic S.O.S. sign has been carved out of a stand of oil palms on a former plantation in Sumatra, serving to highlight the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. - The work is part of a campaign by a Lithuanian artist, a conservation group and a cosmetics firm to raise awareness about palm oil-driven deforestation in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity. - Extensive deforestation has for decades threatened the lives of the island’s native wildlife and the people who depend on the forests for a living.
Javan rhino population holds steady amid ever-present peril [03/01/2018]
- The latest survey from the Indonesian government shows the population of the Javan rhino, one of the world’s most endangered large mammals, holding steady in its last remaining habitat. - While the findings indicate a healthy and breeding rhino population, wildlife experts warn of the dangers looming over the animal’s existence, including human encroachment into its habitat and the ever-present threat of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. - The Javan rhino is one of the last three Asian rhino species — alongside the Sumatran and Indian rhinos — all of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
Five-year sentences for elephant poachers in Republic of Congo [02/28/2018]
- A court in the Republic of Congo has convicted three men of killing elephants for their tusks. They were handed five-year prison sentences and fined $10,000 each. - The three men were part of a six-member poaching gang that managed to escape an ambush set up by park authorities, but not before leaving behind some 70 kilograms of ivory as well as an AK-47 rifle, according to the WCS. - The gang is believed to have links to some of northern Congo’s most notorious elephant poachers and ivory traffickers, including two who were jailed in the last two years.
New study: Radar reveals bats are a bellwether of climate change [02/28/2018]
- New research indicates that bats could signal seasonal shifts due to climate change. - The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is the first to use radar to track an animal migration. - The scientists found that bats that migrate between Mexico and a cave in Texas are now arriving about two weeks earlier than they did in 1995.
African Parks to manage gorges, rock art and crocodiles of Chad’s Ennedi [02/27/2018]
- African Parks will manage the 40,000-square-kilometer (15,444-square-mile) Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve in Chad. - The reserve is home to unique rock formations, ancient human art, and wildlife, including a small population of crocodiles. - Two semi-nomadic groups currently depend on the oases found in the Ennedi Reserve.