Visualizing the impacts of human disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity [07/26/2017]
- Efforts to protect biodiversity often focus on keeping forests and the habitat they represent from being cut down. But research published in the journal Nature last year suggests that forest degradation resulting from human activities is perhaps just as urgent a threat to biodiversity as deforestation. - According to the study, man-made disturbances in Pará’s tropical forests have resulted in levels of biodiversity loss equivalent to clearing 92,000 to 139,000 square kilometers (around 35,500 to 53,700 square miles) of pristine forest. - If that kind of raw data is hard to wrap your brain around, that’s where Silent Forest comes in. Thiago Medaglia described it as “a journalistic data visualization project” in an email to Mongabay.
Working with communities to fight fires in Way Kambas National Park [07/26/2017]
- Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra supports populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants, along with hundreds of other species. - In 1997, forest fires hit 70 percent of the park, killing many animals and hampering regeneration in previously logged areas. - Local authorities and conservation groups are now working with residents to prevent and fight fires, with notable success.
How effective are wildlife corridors like Singapore’s Eco-Link? [07/26/2017]
- Man-made wildlife corridors are becoming a popular policy tool to create connectivity between natural areas for animals – but how well are they working? - Early data suggests the [email protected] has helped some species, including the critically endangered Sunda pangolin. - More research is needed to understand which species benefit from eco corridors and why.
Audio: Global megadam activism and the sounds of nature in Taiwan [07/25/2017]
- Activists from around the world attended the conference to strategize around stopping what they see as destructive hydropower projects. As Bardeen relates in her commentary, many attendees at the conference have faced harassment, intimidation, and worse for their opposition to dam projects, but they’re still standing strong in defense of free-flowing rivers. - We also speak with Yannick Dauby, a French sound artist based in Taiwan. Since 2002, Dauby has been crafting sound art out of field recordings made throughout the small country of Taiwan and posting them on his website, Kalerne.net. - In this Field Notes segment, Dauby plays a recording of his favorite singer, a frog named Rhacophorus moltrechti; the sounds of the marine life of the corals of Penghu, which he is documenting together with biologists; the calls bats use to echolocate (slowed down 16 times so they can be heard by human ears!); and more! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Flood hits India’s Kaziranga National Park, killing four rhinos [07/24/2017]
- Annual monsoon floods are a natural part of Kaziranga National Park's ecosystem but pose multiple threats to animals, including the risk of drowning or getting poached or hit by cars while fleeing rising water. - According to officials, 81 animals have been killed in this year's flood, including four rhinos. Another 78 animals have been stranded or injured. - Mitigation measures include increased monitoring by rangers, police and drones; closely tracking the speed of vehicles through the park; and the construction of artificial highlands. - Authorities are also considering a controversial proposal to build a road-cum-embankment to prevent floodwaters from inundating the park.
Pangolin hunting skyrockets in Central Africa, driven by international trade [07/24/2017]
- The study pulled together information on markets, prices and hunting methods for pangolins from research in 14 countries in Africa. - Pangolins are hunted for their meat in some African countries, and their scales are used in traditional medicine, both locally and in several Asian countries, including China. - The researchers found that as many as 2.71 million pangolins from three species are killed every year across six Central African countries – at least a 145 percent increase since before 2000. - They recommend better enforcement of the 2016 CITES ban across the entire supply chain, from Africa to Asia.
Meet the new giant sunfish that has evaded scientists for centuries [07/24/2017]
- Scientists have named the new species the Hoodwinker sunfish or Mola tecta (derived from the Latin word tectus meaning disguised or hidden). - The team is yet to determine the Hoodwinker's range, but they have found the fish around New Zealand, off Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales (Australia), South Africa and southern Chile. - The Hoodwinker sunfish can grow up to 2.5 meters (over eight feet), the team estimates, and its slimmer, sleeker body doesn't change much between juveniles and adults.
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
On the front lines of conservation: How do rural women feel? [07/21/2017]
- Researchers interviewed women living inside a national park in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau about how the park affects their daily lives. - The women felt the park was the cause of malnutrition because chimpanzees and baboons in particular damaged their crops and they did not receive compensation. - Although reluctant to participate in conservation, they hoped the researchers could help provide compensation and improve their lives.
Will banning trade in fins help endangered sharks? Some experts say no [07/21/2017]
- The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017, introduced before Congress on March 9, would terminate the possession and trade of shark fins in all 50 U.S. states and 16 territories. - Activists and advocacy groups often cheer these bans as a way to protect sharks. Internationally about 70 of the planet’s 400-plus shark species now face extinction, often due to overfishing.. - However, some experts argue that better tracking to determine whether imported fins were caught sustainably, followed by trade restrictions on those that weren’t, represent the best steps toward saving threatened shark species. - Some go so far as to argue that a U.S. trade ban may do more harm than good, by crushing a domestic industry that exports sustainably caught fins to markets in Asia and allowing less-sustainable fisheries to take up the slack.
Camera traps capture elusive ocelots in Peru’s Madre de Dios [07/20/2017]
- The ocelot is a particularly important part of the Amazonian ecosystem because it’s a dominant species in the food chain, especially at the mesopredator level. - Between 1960 and 1970, Peru’s population of ocelots went through a crisis known as a population bottleneck. Even today, they are sometimes kept as pets or killed for their fur. - In addition to the hunting of ocelots, the study highlights the vulnerability of Peru’s Las Piedras District. Although it has some of the most remote forests in Peru, the district is at risk of deforestation and degradation due to the human pressures like logging.
Climate change is increasing the mortality rate of African wild dog pups [07/20/2017]
- The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), a native of sub-Saharan Africa, is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, which reports that there are only an estimated 6,600 adults in 39 subpopulations left in the wild — and that their numbers continue to decline due to ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with humans, and infectious disease. - Compounding these threats to the species’ survival, according to a paper published in the Journal of Animal Ecology yesterday, climate change appears to be increasing the mortality rate for African wild dog pups. - Researchers discovered that the packs spend less time hunting in hot weather. They also found that more pups died as the days got hotter, which they theorize is because, simply put, decreased hunting time means less food to feed the young.
Behind rising rhino numbers in Nepal, a complex human story [07/19/2017]
- The fortunes of the indigenous Tharu people and Nepal's rhinos have been linked for centuries. - The establishment of Chitwan National Park in 1973 deepened the marginalization the Tharu, evicting thousands from their land and depriving them of access to the forest. - Since the 1990s, conservation groups have been working to develop a community-based conservation model that includes the Tharu. - Other ethnic groups have long remained outside the community conservation model, and have in some cases turned to poaching for income.
Charcoal and cattle ranching tearing apart the Gran Chaco [07/19/2017]
- The year-long probe of Paraguay’s charcoal exports by the NGO Earthsight revealed that much of the product was coming from the Chaco, the world’s fastest-disappearing tropical forest. - Suppliers appear to have reassured international supermarket chains that it was sustainable and that they had certification from international groups such as FSC and PEFC. - But further digging by Earthsight revealed that the charcoal production methods used may not fit with the intent of certification. - Several grocery store chains mentioned in the report have said they’ll take a closer look at their supply chains, and the certification body PEFC is reexamining how its own standards are applied.
Investigation finds ‘thriving’ rhino horn trade in Asia [07/18/2017]
- Over 11 months, EAL investigators posed as potential buyers and identified 55 'persons of interest' involved in the trade of rhino horn. - The group mapped out the routes by which rhino horn – valued at tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram – arrives in China. - Recorded conversations during the investigation allude to the fact that dealers and traders understand that rhinos face the threat of extinction.
Nepal’s rhino numbers rise, thanks to national and local commitment [07/18/2017]
- Nepal's population of greater one-horned rhinos has fluctuated wildly over the past century. - Widespread in the early 1900s, rhinos were reduced to a few pockets by the 1950s and around 100 individuals in the 1970s. - Conservation efforts boosted the population by the 1990s, but the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency took a devastating toll. - Numbers are now rising again, a trend attributed to commitment at both the grassroots and the highest levels of government.
Inflated quotas for captive-bred wildlife in Indonesia may aid traffickers: report [07/18/2017]
- Indonesia's captive breeding plan is meant to enable the legal wildlife trade while protecting the country's natural riches, including its incredible biodiversity. - But "unrealistically high" quotas for the maximum production of certain species in the plan are likely being taken advantage of by wildlife traffickers, according to a new study. - The Indonesian environment ministry official in charge of setting the quotas says his department has audited the country's breeding centers to ensure their professionalism and quality.
Ranges for majority of world’s large carnivores have shrunk by more than 20 percent [07/17/2017]
- The red wolf’s (Canis rufus) global range, in particular, has shrunk almost entirely, with researchers quantifying the loss as 99.7 percent. - The range for five other species has also decreased by more than 90 percent: Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis, 99 percent), tiger (Panthera tigris, 95 percent), lion (Panthera leo, 94 percent), African wild dog (Lycaon pictus, 93 percent) and cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus, 92 percent). - Researchers found that proximity to higher densities of rural humans, livestock, and cropland area made the decline of large carnivore ranges far more likely — a finding that would seem to contradict previous research showing that larger-bodied carnivore species are at greater extinction risk due to their need for larger prey and extensive habitat.
As Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem faces multiple threats, local resistance grows [07/17/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth. - The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as "In Danger" since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month. - The local government's plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser. - Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area's human residents as well as to wildlife.
First ever photos of wild lion nursing leopard cub [07/17/2017]
- Five-year-old lioness named Nosikitok is currently collared and monitored by KopeLion, a conservation NGO in Tanzania. - The circumstances that brought the lioness and the leopard cub together still remain a mystery. - She is believed to have recently given birth to her second litter of cubs and scientists think that the lioness's maternal instincts may have driven her towards caring for the little leopard.
Big mammals flourish as Cerrado park’s savanna comes back [07/14/2017]
- The study examined a state park in the Brazilian Cerrado, which contains land used in recent decades for eucalyptus plantations, cattle ranching and charcoal production. - The researchers used camera traps, recording the dry season presence of 18 species of large mammals. - In a subsequent analysis, they found that the number of large mammals found in the ‘secondary’ savanna was similar to numbers found in untouched regions of the Cerrado.
Illegal mining threatens last remaining habitat of green peafowl in China [07/13/2017]
- China is home to about 500 green peafowls, all of which are known to occur only in the Yunnan province. - The mining operations — that include construction of roads, mine shafts and storehouses — are all illegal, the report says. - Greenpeace's investigation also revealed that two roads servicing a hydropower project have been built inside the core area of Konglong River Nature Reserve.
Seafood giant Thai Union commits to clean up supply chains following pressure campaign [07/12/2017]
- Said to be the largest tuna company in the world, Thai Union owns a number of popular canned tuna brands sold in markets around the globe, including Chicken of the Sea in North America; John West, Mareblu, and Petit Navire in Europe; and Sealect in the Asia Pacific region. - Tuna fleets are pulling the fish out of the ocean faster than tuna populations can recover, and the overuse of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and the practice of transhipment are compounding the problem, as is rampant illega fishing. - According to the agreement struck between Thai Union and environmental NGO Greenpeace, which spearheaded the campaign that compelled the company to adopt better sustainability policies, Thai Union’s new commitments are intended “to drive positive change within the industry” by addressing the issues of FADs, longlines, transhipment, and labor abuses.
Ongoing mass extinction causing ‘biological annihilation,’ new study says [07/11/2017]
- Building on research in which they showed that two species have gone extinct per year over the past century, a team of biologists analyzed the population trends for 27,600 vertebrates around the world. - They found that nearly a third of the animals they looked at were on the decline. - In a closer look at 177 well-studied mammals, the team found that all had lost 30 percent or more of their home ranges, and 40 percent had lost at least 80 percent of their habitat.
How a mass extinction event gave us the majority of frogs alive today [07/11/2017]
- Based on fossil records and the available genetic data, scientists have generally estimated that modern frog species first began to appear at a steady pace between 150 million and 66 million years ago. But new research shows that the timeframe for the first appearance of modern frog species was significantly tighter than that. - While most frogs alive at the time were also wiped out by the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, the researchers theorize that, with so many other species having disappeared, there were suddenly an abundance of new ecological niches that the surviving frogs could fill. Moving into all of those different habitats essentially jumpstarted the evolutionary process and allowed for rapid frog diversification. - Nearly 90 percent of the short-bodied, tailless amphibians roaming our planet right now first appeared in the years following the cataclysmic event that caused all dinosaurs but birds to go extinct, according to the study.
Study: Biodiversity poorly protected by conservation areas worldwide [07/10/2017]
- The study identified the highest concentrations of species, phylogenetic and functional biodiversity on Earth and determined how well the current network of protected areas encompasses these dimensions. - The three facets of biodiversity overlap on only 4.6 percent of land on Earth, with only 1 percent under protection. - The research points to areas that could be prioritized to maximize the amount of unique biodiversity protected.
A spotty revival amid decline for China’s endemic leopards [07/07/2017]
- The North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) is one of nine leopard subspecies and an endemic to China. - The cats’ population has shown signs of revival in certain parts of the country in recent years, according to conservation groups - However, industrial development and infrastructure construction remain major threats to the integrity of the leopards’ habitat and conflicts with people over livestock in their mountainous territories are intense.
African great ape bushmeat crisis intensifies; few solutions in sight [07/07/2017]
- Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are all Critically Endangered or Endangered, and continue to decline toward extinction due to habitat loss and degradation, disease, and illegal hunting. - Great ape poaching, which supplies growing urban and rural bushmeat markets, is now at crisis levels across Central Africa, and despite conservationists’ efforts, is showing no sign of slowing down. - Vast networks of logging roads, modern weapons, cell phones, cheap motorized transportation, and high demand for wild meat in urban centers is driving the booming bushmeat market. - Africa’s great ape sanctuaries rescue some survivors, and active outreach to local communities offer a partial solution. Educational programs for children and adults, teaching the value of great apes, are seen as essential.
Hong Kong officials seize ‘largest ever’ ivory shipment worth $9 million [07/07/2017]
- The customs authorities discovered the tusks inside a 40-feet Malaysian consignment declared as "frozen fish". - Following an initial investigation, the authorities have arrested the owner and two staff members of a trading company in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. - In December last year, Hong Kong government announced a three-step plan to phase out domestic ivory trade by the end of 2021.
Rare fishing cat photographed in Cambodia [07/06/2017]
- One researcher spotted a young fishing cat in the sanctuary in broad daylight, suggesting the population may not be under heavy pressure. - Globally, the cat’s numbers have plummeted by over 30 percent in the last 15 years, putting the species at high risk of extinction. - Research on the fishing cat began only in 2009, but it is already believed to be extinct in Vietnam; meanwhile, there are no confirmed records in Laos PDR and scarce information from Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. - This article is a news analysis by a non-Mongabay writer. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
The Chinese town at the epicenter of the global illegal ivory trade [07/05/2017]
- According to a report released yesterday by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Shuidong is “the world’s largest hub for ivory trafficking,” home to a network of criminal syndicates that have come to dominate the trade in illegal ivory poached from elephants in East and West Africa. - One illegal ivory trafficker told EIA’s undercover investigators that he estimated as much as 80 percent of all poached ivory smuggled out of Africa and into China goes through Shuidong. - The illegal trade in ivory is contributing to precipitous declines in African elephant populations.
India’s Assam state moves to fast track trials for wildlife crime [07/04/2017]
- Poachers in Assam state target endangered and vulnerable species including rhinos, tigers and leopards. - Even when poachers are caught, authorities have often struggled to secure convictions. - Assam is working to reverse this trend with the establishment of fast-track courts for wildlife crime, as well as training programs for police and forest officials. - Six convictions have been secured in wildlife cases this year, compared to just one in all of 2016.
Indonesia is running out of places to put rescued animals [07/04/2017]
- The head of the state conservation agency in North Sumatra says both of her rescue centers are over capacity. She is having to send animals to zoos. - The glut is due to an increase of people handing over protected species to the government, in line with efforts by authorities and NGOs to raise awareness of the law. - Dedicated facilities exist to receive some species, but for others, authorities have had to improvise.
As habitat fragmentation increases, so does extinction risk: study [07/04/2017]
- A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), set out to quantify habitat fragmentation and extinction risk for more than 4,000 land-dwelling mammal species. - Even when accounting for factors like range and body size, fragmentation was found to be a significant predictor of extinction risk. - The study also mapped "fragmentation hotspots," and found that very little high-suitability mammalian habitat falls within protected areas.
Harry Potter may have sparked illegal owl trade in Indonesia [07/03/2017]
- Owls were rarely recorded in the country's bird markets in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, but this trend appears to have changed in the late 2000s. - Surveys of 20 bird markets in Java and Bali conducted between 2012 and 2016 revealed that owls are now widely traded, with at least 12,000 Scops owls being sold in Indonesia's bird markets each year. - Most of these owls are caught from the wild, making the trade largely illegal.
Rate of human-wildlife conflict in India has researchers making urgent appeals for solutions [06/30/2017]
- Between 2011 and 2014, Dr. Krithi Karanth, a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Sahila Kudalkar, a research associate with the Centre for Wildlife Studies, surveyed 5,196 families from 2,855 villages adjacent to 11 different wildlife reserves in western, central, and southern India. - The researchers found that 71 percent of households surveyed have lost crops to wild animals, 17 percent have lost livestock, and three percent have had human injury or death result from a run-in with wildlife. - Tallying these losses and understanding the methods used to mitigate the impacts of human-wildlife conflict is crucial to designing better policies to deal with the problem, Karanth and Kudalkar write in the study.
The women who live alongside rhinos in India [06/30/2017]
- India's rising population of greater one-horned rhinos brings residents of villages bordering protected areas into proximity with the animals. - Women — who are generally responsible for collecting fodder, fuelwood and other forest products — are particularly likely to have encounters with rhinos. - In Manas and Orang national parks, where authorities allow local women access to the parks' buffer zones, such sightings are a source of joy and pride. - In Kaziranga, where access has been cut off, women express resentment that their fortunes have so far not risen in tandem with the rhinos'.
Photos: Four new species of burrowing frogs discovered in India [06/30/2017]
- The four new species include Kadar Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya kadar), CEPF Burrowing Frog (F. cepfi), Manoharan’s Burrowing Frog (F. Manoharani) and Neil Cox’s Burrowing Frog (F. neilcoxi). - Two of the newly described frogs, the Kadar Burrowing Frog and CEPF Burrowing Frog, could be facing serious threats, the researchers warn. - The Rufescent Burrowing Frog was previously listed as a Least Concern species under the IUCN Red List because of its wide distribution, but the new study shows that the species is actually restricted to a much smaller area.
Hard but worth it: researchers fight invasives on Subantarctic islands (commentary) [06/29/2017]
- Sealers and subsequent human visitors to the Southern Ocean’s windswept islands brought with them a variety of invasive species, such as mice, rats, cats, sheep, and goats, that have wrought havoc on the islands’ native wildlife and ecosystems. - On Marion Island, midway between South Africa and Antarctica, researchers and conservationists completed the largest successful cat eradication on an island in history in 1993. - Marion Island’s wildlife has largely rebounded from the sealers and cats, but invasive mice continue to take a toll. - The author points to other recent successful eradications of invasive species on Subantarctic islands and argues that they are a wise investment with benefits for wildlife as well as research into the region’s ecology and the effects of climate change. The views expressed are the author’s own, not necessarily Mongabay’s.
‘Tracking Gobi Grizzlies:’ Book excerpt and Q&A with Douglas Chadwick, wildlife biologist and author [06/29/2017]
- Gobi bears, or mazaalai in Mongolian, actually belong to the species Ursus arctos, more commonly known as brown bears or grizzly bears, though they’re the only bear of any species known to make their home exclusively in desert habitat. - Due to the impacts of climate change in their already punishing environment, it’s believed that there may be just 30 or so Gobi bears left in the world. - In this Q&A, Chadwick discusses why now was the right time for Tracking Gobi Grizzlies to be written, the conservation status of Gobi bears, and just how important the endangered bear’s survival is to the overall Gobi Desert ecosystem.
A dangerous path: New highway could jeopardize tigers in India [06/28/2017]
- Conservationists have witnessed several unsettling deaths of tigers in Corbett National Park recently, one of India’s most important tiger parks. - The state government of Uttarakhand, however, is moving forward on a plan to upgrade a road through the park into a full, public highway leading to alarm among tiger conservationists. - Officials are currently discussing turning portions of the highway into a flyover, allowing wildlife to pass underneath, but even this would only mitigate the impact.
Surprisingly, Indonesia’s most famous dive site is also a playground for whales and dolphins (commentary) [06/27/2017]
- Raja Ampat — an island chain in Indonesia’s West Papua province — is world renowned for its beautiful and unique marine biodiversity. But its marine mammals have not received as much attention. - Half of the 31 whale and dolphin species found in all of Indonesia — 16 different types — have been regularly observed there. - However, a designated long-term study of the behavior of whales and dolphins there has yet to be conducted. We don’t know much about them; more to the point, we don't know how to effectively protect them. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Audio: The fight to save Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [06/27/2017]
- One of the richest, most biodiverse tropical forests on the planet, Leuser is currently being targeted for expansion of oil palm plantations by a number of companies. - Tillack explains just what makes Leuser so unique and valuable, details some of her organization’s investigations into the ongoing clearance of Leuser in violation of Indonesia’s moratorium on deforestation for new oil palm plantations, and how consumers like you and me can help decide the fate of the region. - We also welcome to the show research ecologist Marcone Campos Cerqueira for our latest Field Notes segment. Cerqueira has recently completed a study that used bioacoustic monitoring to examine bird ranges in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and he’ll share some of his recordings with us on today’s show.
2 new reptiles discovered in Sumatra [06/27/2017]
- A newly discovered snake in Takengon, in the highlands of Aceh province, was named for one of Indonesia's few herpetologists. - The snake is non-venomous, but it mimics the characteristics of its venomous cousins as a survival technique. - The other creature, a lizard, inhabits the forests along central Sumatra's western coast.
Footprints in the forest: The future of the Sumatran rhino [06/23/2017]
- Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) remain in the wild, a number many biologists say is too low to ensure the survival of the species. - Several organizations have begun to build momentum toward a single program that pools resources and know-how in Malaysia and Indonesia, the last places in Southeast Asia where captive and wild rhinos still live. - Advocates for intensive efforts to breed animals in captivity fear that an emphasis on the protection of the remaining wild animals may divert attention and funding away from such projects. - They worry that if they don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino may pass a point of no return from which it cannot recover.
Dried lizard penis being sold online as rare ‘magical’ plant root [06/22/2017]
- The fake Hatha Jodi are not only being sold in stores in India, but also through major online retailers like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Snapdeal and Etsy to customers around the world. - Laboratory tests have confirmed that the Hatha Jodi being sold online as plant roots are in fact dried penises of the Bengal monitor lizard and the Yellow monitor lizard, as well as their plastic replicas. - The Bengal and Yellow monitor lizards are listed under Appendix I of CITES, which bans their global trade.
When it comes to rhino conservation, Asia and Africa can learn a lot from each other [06/21/2017]
- Despite its proximity to Asian markets for trafficked rhino horn, Nepal has lost only four rhinos to poaching since 2011. - Experts credit this success to a combination of top-down enforcement and efforts to involve the community in conservation. - Protected areas in Africa that have collaborated with area residents have shown promising results, suggesting lessons from Nepal can be successfully applied elsewhere. - In turn, conservationists say Nepal can benefit from African countries' expertise in promoting wildlife tourism, and alternate models of benefit sharing.
Research suggests less affluent countries more dedicated to wildlife conservation than rich countries [06/20/2017]
- A team of researchers with Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and non-profit conservation organization Panthera looked at 152 countries and compiled what they call a Megafauna Conservation Index in order to evaluate each country’s contributions to the conservation of the world’s biodiversity. - African countries Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, together with South Asian nation Bhutan, were the top five megafauna conservation performers, the researchers found. - Norway came in at sixth, the top-ranked developed country, followed by Canada, which came in at eighth. The United States ranked nineteenth, lower than countries like Malawi and Mozambique that are among the least-developed in the world.
Photos: India’s rarest crocodile, the gharial [06/19/2017]
- Indian gharials are fish-eating crocodiles. - These reptiles are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. - WCS recently imported eight young gharials from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust Center for Herpetology under a conservation partnership. - These gharials are on display at the Bronx Zoo.
DNA analysis reveals a third species of flying squirrel in North America [06/19/2017]
- Researchers described the new species in a study published in the Journal of Mammalogy in May. Glaucomys oregonensis, or Humboldt’s flying squirrel, can be found all along the Pacific Coast, from southern British Columbia all the way down to the mountains of southern California. - It is what’s known as a “cryptic species,” because coastal populations of the squirrel had previously been classified as northern flying squirrels (G. sabrinus) due to their similar appearance. - A genetic analysis revealed the coastal populations belong to a distinct species all their own.
Ring-tailed lemurs down by 95 percent? Maybe not. [06/19/2017]
- Two studies published this winter claim that Madagascar’s iconic ring-tailed lemur has suffered a 95 percent decline in its population and that only some 2,400 animals remain alive. - A new paper published in the International Journal of Primatology claims those studies exaggerate the severity of ring-tailed lemur declines. - It contends that the other papers have methodological problems, including misinterpretation of existing literature, incomplete sampling of lemur populations, and restricted geographic coverage.
Whale entanglements skyrocket off the U.S. West Coast [06/19/2017]
- Whale entanglements are rising, leading to concerns that current regulations are inadequate. - The most commonly entangled whale is the humpback. - California’s Dungeness crab fishery is responsible for a third of last year’s whale entanglements.
Wildlife ecologist killed in Rwandan national park by recently translocated rhino [06/16/2017]
- "It is with utmost regret that I inform you that Krisztián Gyöngyi was killed this morning by a rhinoceros in Akagera National Park in Rwanda while out tracking animals in the park,” Peter Fearnhead, CEO of the non-profit conservation organization African Parks, announced in a statement. - According to Fearnhead, Gyöngyi was a rhino specialist who had more than five years of experience monitoring and conserving rhinos in Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park, both in Malawi. - In a joint initiative of the Rwandan government and African Parks, which employs more than 600 rangers and manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries, 18 Eastern black rhinos were airlifted from South Africa to Akagera National Park.
Elusive seabird breeding grounds discovered in Chilean desert [06/16/2017]
- A Chilean expedition into the Atacama Desert has located the first known breeding grounds of the ringed storm-petrel, a seabird of unknown population size that is endemic to the western coast of South America. - The nests, located in natural cavities in the desert’s rocks and salt pans, were found 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the Pacific coast, where the birds feed and spend most of their time. - Chilean scientists see the discovery as critical to estimating the stability and size of the ringed storm-petrel population and determining the threat posed by mining and proposed wind farms in the region.
If we wish to save the Javan rhinoceros, we must work to know it (commentary) [06/15/2017]
- The Javan rhino survives in a single population of roughly 60 individuals in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. - Despite successful efforts to protect the park's rhinos from poachers, the species remains at risk due to multiple threats including lack of genetic diversity, disease and natural disasters. - Designing effective conservation strategies requires filling crucial gaps in knowledge about the population's size, status and behavior. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Mangrove loss threatens migratory shorebird route in North Sumatra [06/15/2017]
- A new study examines the impact of agricultural expansion on an important shorebird habitat in North Sumatra. - Mangrove cover in the Indonesian province has dropped 85 percent in the last 14 years. - The study's authors want the government to issue a regulation to protect shorebirds specifically.
New ‘Elfin mountain toad’ discovered in Annamite Mountains of Vietnam [06/14/2017]
- A team of Russian and Vietnamese researchers described Ophryophryne elfina, the Elfin mountain toad, in the journal ZooKeys last month. - The toad, one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads ever described to science, was given the name Ophryophryne elfina, which roughly translates to "elfish eyebrow toad” — and the researchers who made the discovery say that there is evidence to suggest that the species could already be considered endangered. - The species name "elfina," of course, derives from the English word "elf," small, magical forest creatures found in German and Celtic folklore.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
Audio: Activists determined to protect newly discovered Amazon Reef from oil drilling [06/13/2017]
- John talks about the discovery of the reef, what it’s like to be one of a few people on Earth who have ever seen it with their own eyes, and what the opposition to plans to drill for oil near the reef will look like should the plans move forward. - We also welcome two staffers from Mongabay Latin America to the show: MariaIsabel Torres and Romi Castagnino. - Mongabay LatAm just celebrated its one-year anniversary recently, so we wanted to take the chance to speak with MariaIsabel and Romi about what it’s like covering the environment in Latin America, what some of the site’s biggest successes are to date, and what we can expect from Mongabay LatAm in the future.
‘The ones we named are all dead now’: dolphins and fishers struggle to survive in Myanmar [06/13/2017]
- Irrawaddy dolphins and traditional fishermen hunt cooperatively along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. - Electro-fishermen are threatening this tradition by illegally overfishing the river. - The government of Myanmar and the Wildlife Conservation Society have responded by working together to implement ecotourism programs and conservation policies.
30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi [06/13/2017]
- The discovery of the elusive okapi, once believed to be a mythical unicorn, was one of the most exciting taxonomic findings of the twentieth century. - To protect this shy, giraffe-like animal, wildlife conservationist John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in 1987. - During the past three decades, the project team has seen both successes and challenges, from political unrest to a brutal rebel attack in 2012 that killed 6 people and 14 okapis.
Leonardo DiCaprio teams up with Mexico’s president and wealthiest individual to save the vaquita [06/08/2017]
- A report by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita released in February found that there are as few as 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the small marine cetacean species’ only known range. - Despite the ban adopted by Mexico two years ago, unlawful use of gillnets remains widespread in the Upper Gulf of California, where they’re used to catch totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is much prized by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. - Both the Carlos Slim Foundation and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will reportedly be backing the agreement by committing funds to local development projects and alternative fishing gear options. - In order to further crack down on illegal fishing activities, the agreement also includes a prohibition on night fishing and measures to tighten entry and exit controls in the vaquita reserve, according to the AP.
Field Notes: Pond turtle studies could help sea turtles survive toxic algal blooms [06/08/2017]
- Harmful algal blooms (HABs), dubbed “red tides,” occur worldwide. When ingested, tiny, toxin-producing algae threaten marine and human life. These events — sometimes natural, but often human-induced — now happen annually on the U.S. Gulf Coast and kill endangered turtle species. - Physiologist Sarah Milton, at Florida Atlantic University, researches the effect of HABs on freshwater turtles to improve treatment for endangered sea turtles that are rescued from toxin-filled waters. - Milton found that pond turtles tolerate far more algal toxin than similar sized mammals can survive — resistance possibly rooted in their ability to dive, living without oxygen for months. Understanding this ability could help sickened sea turtles rescued during harmful algal outbreaks. - Understanding the cellular mechanisms that allow pond turtles to maintain brain and body function during anoxic conditions could also help scientists improve outcomes for people who have suffered oxygen-deprivation events, such as stroke, which trigger irreversible brain cell death.
Can marine reserves help counteract climate change? [06/08/2017]
- Even if the nations of the world manage to meet their most ambitious goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100, elevated carbon dioxide levels will continue to stress and damage the oceans for the next half-century. - A new paper contends that marine reserves protected from fishing and other human exploitation can reduce the damage from acidification, rising sea levels, storm intensification, and other effects of climate change. - By sequestering and storing carbon, these protected areas can also benefit the whole planet, according to the paper. - The Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development calls on coastal nations to protect 10 percent of their waters by 2020, but the authors argue that 30 percent may be required to effectively counter the effects of global climate change.
Extinction in the wild looms for two California fish (commentary) [06/08/2017]
- The delta smelt is a three-to-four-inch long, silvery-blue fish that has long been at the center of California’s contentious water wars. - The species lives only in the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and its numbers have been declining for decades as enormous quantities of freshwater are diverted through the state’s vast network of aqueducts and canals. - The freshwater river flow also replenished Chinook salmon spawning grounds and freshened habitats (reducing salinity) in San Francisco Bay for waterfowl, Dungeness crab, and countless other aquatic flora and fauna in an immense system of sloughs, mudflats, and marshes. Now, however, most of that water is diverted to California’s thirsty farms and clamoring, growing cities. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Vaquita survival hinges on stopping international swim bladder trade [06/08/2017]
- Recent investigations by the Elephant Action League and WWF have uncovered the complicated trade in fish swim bladders from the Gulf of California that is pushing a porpoise known as the vaquita toward extinction. - A two-year-old gillnet ban so far has not yet stemmed the declining numbers of vaquita, which are down 50 percent since 2015 and 90 percent since 2011. - Not more than 30 vaquita remain in the wild, making it the most endangered cetacean on the planet. - The swim bladders can sell for as much as $20,000 per kilogram.
Bringing rhinos back to India’s parks [06/07/2017]
- Launched in 2005, the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 aimed to boost the population of rhinos in Assam State and expand the species' range within the state from three protected areas to seven. - Manas National Park was the first to receive translocated rhinos. The animals appeared to adapt well to their new home, but poachers repeatedly struck the park. - The program then turned to Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary, but the rhinos moved there grew sick and died. - Conservationists still believe the overarching goal of boosting the state's rhino population to 3,000 by 2020 is achievable.
‘Crunch time for biodiversity’: Farming, hunting push thousands of species toward extinction [06/07/2017]
- Eighty percent of threatened animals are losing ground - literally, in the form of habitat loss - to agriculture. - Up to 50 percent of threatened birds and mammals face extinction at the hands of hunters. - In a study published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists explores solutions to avoid destroying the habitats of these animals, such as increasing yields in the developed world and minimizing fertilizer use.
Gabon pledges ‘massive’ protected network for oceans [06/06/2017]
- The network of marine protected areas covers some 53,000 square kilometers (20,463 square miles) of ocean, an area larger than Costa Rica. - The marine parks and reserves could also draw tourists eager to catch a glimpse of the humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that all shuttle through Gabonese waters. - Government officials are in the process of overhauling how they manage fisheries, and they hope the move to protect Gabon’s territorial waters will improve the country’s food security and give its citizens a better chance to earn a living from fishing.
Small but not forgotten: Gibbons need more attention (commentary) [06/06/2017]
- Gibbons are frequently misidentified as monkeys, and few people are familiar with the taxonomic diversity represented by this primate family. - With the inclusion of the recently discovered Skywalker hoolock, there are now 17 recognized species of gibbon, and all but one of them are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN Redlist. - By failing to recognize the broad diversity within the gibbon family, policy makers and local stakeholders may underestimate the threat to individual species. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Underwater cameras let scientists dive beneath the surface with dolphins [06/05/2017]
- Using custom-made, noninvasive underwater cameras that they attached directly to the dolphins’ bodies, researchers with the University of Sydney and the University of Alaska Southeast captured more than 500 minutes of footage, allowing them to observe behaviors that humans rarely have the privilege of witnessing. - The study’s lead author, Heidi Pearson, a dolphin specialist and assistant professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska Southeast, said that the cameras provide such a fine degree of information that they could open up whole new avenues of research for protecting endangered species. - While the cameras themselves may represent the cutting-edge in technology, Pearson and team attached them to eight wild dusky dolphins off the coast of New Zealand with the aid of decidedly low-tech implements: a long pole and some Velcro pads.
One of Malaysia’s last rhinos euthanized to ‘end her suffering’ [06/05/2017]
- Puntung was one of three Sumatran rhinos known to survive in Malaysia, and one of fewer than 100 representatives of this Critically Endangered species. - Her health first raised concern in March, when she was found to suffer from an abscess in her jaw. - Dental surgery was successfully performed in April, but she was then found to have squamous cell cancer. - Veterinarians determined the disease was fatal and that treatment would only prolong her suffering. Puntung was euthanized just after dawn on Sunday, June 4.
Climate change may be choking the ocean’s oxygen supply, study shows [06/05/2017]
- A new study analyzed data on dissolved oxygen in the global ocean since 1958 from the World Ocean Database, the most comprehensive collection of ocean observations. - The study attributes the declining oxygen levels primarily to a combination of changes in ocean circulation, mixing, and biochemical processes resulting from ocean warming. - The declining oxygen levels could have dire ecological consequences, particularly in areas with naturally low oxygen levels.
Conservation group African Parks to look after West African wildlife [06/05/2017]
- The 10-year agreement includes funding of $26 million. - African Parks and the government of Benin aim to double wildlife populations in the park by training guards and shoring up protections from poaching. - The effort will create some 400 jobs and benefit the overall economy, say representatives of the government and the NGO.
New York detective work saves rhinos in South Africa (commentary) [06/02/2017]
- The slaughter of rhinos is due to demand for the very appendage that distinguishes a rhino from other creatures – its horn. Rhino horn has long been used in Asian traditional medicine, but the recent surge in the illegal horn market in countries like Vietnam and China has sent the price of horn skyrocketing to upwards of $65,000 (USD) per kilogram – more than the price of gold. - Southeast Asia isn’t the only market for smuggled rhino horns. In New York City, wildlife law enforcement officers and port authority agents are finding rhino horn in shipping containers and commercial luggage destined for markets in the United States and beyond. - One of the major anti-poaching operations funded by the Wild Tomorrow Fund with money from court-ordered donations by sellers of illegal ivory busted in New York City is the dehorning of a black rhino population at Phinda Private Game Reserve. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Fire a rising threat to Sulawesi’s black macaques [06/02/2017]
- Almost half of the black macaques on Sulawesi island live in the Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, which is still home to ancient forest. - Hunting of the macaques has declined, and the local population is showing signs of a rebound. - But fires set by local people to clear land for planting is seen as a major threat to the species.
Audio: Frances Seymour on why rich nations need to start paying up to protect the world’s tropical forests [05/31/2017]
- Seymour shares her thoughts on why now was such an opportune moment for the publication of the book, whether or not the large-scale investment necessary to protect the world’s tropical forests shows signs of materializing any time soon, and which countries are leading the forest conservation charge. - We also welcome Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer back to the program to answer a question from Newscast listener Brian Platt about which 'good news' stories are worth talking about more in these tough times for environmental and conservation news. - All that and the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
Lizard DNA reveals India’s grasslands are likely pre-human – and need protection [05/31/2017]
- Researchers have described 5 species of lacertid lizards in the genus Ophisops in India’s tropical grasslands, but recent genetic research shows there may be at least 30 species. - Tropical grasslands have been largely ignored by the Indian government, according to researchers, and are hugely threatened by conversion to agriculture. - Recognizing tropical grasslands as pre-human, natural ecosystems with rich biodiversity and endemic species may be the first step to better protection.
Is the snow leopard actually 3 distinct subspecies? [05/30/2017]
- All snow leopards were believed to belong to one monotypic species, Panthera uncia, prior to the present study. - Though the cats’ range is immense, extending across 1.6 million square kilometers (more than 600,000 square miles) and 12 Asian countries, while also being largely inaccessible to humans, as it includes some of the highest and coldest mountain ranges in the world, hunting and poaching still pose such a serious threat to snow leopards that an estimated population of just 3,500 to 7,000 individuals remains in the wild today. - After performing the first-ever range-wide genetic survey of snow leopards, researchers determined that there are three primary “genetic clusters” of the big cats, each of which qualifies as its own subspecies.
Cheetahs return to Malawi after decades [05/29/2017]
- The cheetahs have been moved into special enclosures called bomas for now, where the animals will learn to adapt to their new home under constant supervision. - After spending some time in the bomas, the cheetahs will be released into the wider park. - The cheetahs are the first large predator to be reintroduced into Liwonde National Park, and are said to be in good health.
Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species. - In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area. - However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.
Singapore is world’s second largest shark-fin trader: TRAFFIC [05/26/2017]
- In 2012-2013, Singapore exported $40 million worth of shark fins, closely following Hong Kong’s $45 million, and imported $51.4 million worth of fins, following Hong Kong's $170 million. - More than 72 percent of Singapore's shark fin exports went to Hong Kong, mainland China and Japan in 2012-13. - Spain, Namibia and Uruguay were the top three sources of shark fins during this period, accounting for more than 66 percent of Singapore’s imports.
Slight bumps in protected areas could be a boon for biodiversity [05/26/2017]
- Increasing protected areas by 5 percent in strategic locations could boost biodiversity protection by a factor of three. - The study examined global protected areas and evaluated how well they safeguard species, functional and evolutionary biodiversity. - More than a quarter of species live mostly outside protected areas. - The new strategy from the research leverages the functional and evolutionary biodiversity found in certain spots and could help conservation planners pinpoint areas for protection that maximize all three types of biodiversity.
On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. - The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics. - In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.
Bowling for Rhinos: a grassroots project with global reach [05/25/2017]
- Since the original event in 1987, Bowling for Rhinos — a project run completely by volunteers — has raised more than $6 million to support rhino conservation efforts around the world. - Funds have supported ranger units that protect the Asian rhino species, as well as conservation programs for black and white rhinos. - Fundraisers, which happen across the United States, go beyond just bowling — some groups opt to host events like Painting for Rhinos or Winos for Rhinos. - Some participants and supporters point to Bowling for Rhinos as an antidote to feelings of hopelessness in the face of national and global environmental problems.
When it comes to the IUCN Red List, accuracy is the order of the day (commentary) [05/25/2017]
- It is clear that the IUCN tries to ensure that its criteria for determining threat status can be uniformly applied across all species. It is also clear that IUCN has applied this valuable service for a long time, for which we should all be grateful. - The approach we have used takes advantage of the enormous amounts of freely available geo-referenced data to build much more accurate range maps based on expert filtered citizen science sightings, a plethora of high resolution ecological and geophysical data from the Western Ghats, and well-tested statistical tools. - Since these data can now be found for many places in the world and for many taxonomic groups, we call on IUCN to embrace this approach. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Nepal burns more than 4,000 confiscated wildlife parts [05/24/2017]
- These illegally trafficked items were burned in Chitwan National Park in front of nearly 300 people. - The wildlife parts, which were part of the burn, have been collected over the last 20 years. - Officials hope that this burning will act as a deterrent to wildlife traffickers.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
Skewed sex ratio spells danger for rhinos in India’s Gorumara National Park [05/22/2017]
- Gorumara National Park, in India's West Bengal State, is home to a small but steadily growing population of greater one-horned rhinoceroses, currently numbering 51 individuals. - Despite its overall growth, the sex ratio of the park's rhino population is severely imbalanced, with more reproductive-aged males than females. - Ideally, there should be more females than males. A male-heavy population threatens the long-term reproductive and genetic viability of the population, as well as leading to increased conflict over mates. - Until this spring, Gorumara had been relatively free of poaching since the 1990s. However, two dead rhinos were found in April, and another suspected poaching incident was reported May 18.
China’s first national park, an experiment in living with snow leopards [05/19/2017]
- Sanjiangyuan National Park is expected to open in 2020 as China’s first park in its new national park system. - As many as 1,500 endangered snow leopards (Panthera uncia) live in the area. The cats are subject to poaching and persecution in retaliation for their predation on livestock, which are edging out their natural prey. - The new park seeks to capitalize on the reverence many local Tibetan Buddhists have for wildlife, employing a conservation model that engages the public and attempts to ease tensions between people and predators. - The new national park system is intended to create a more effective kind of protected area than currently exists in China.
Meet the 2017 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [05/19/2017]
- The winners include Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela, Indira Lacerna-Widmann from Philippines, Ian Little from South Africa and Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia. - At an awards ceremony held last evening at the Royal Geographic Society in London, each of the six winners received £35,000 (~$46,000) in project funding to help scale up their work. - Zafer Kizilkaya, a 2013 Whitley Award winner from Turkey, received this year's Gold Award (£50,000) for his conservation project "Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline".
A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world. - Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.” - Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.
Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal. - Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency. - Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.
Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems. - We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe. - We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. - In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.
With poaching curtailed, a new menace to Nepal’s wildlife [05/17/2017]
- Since 2011, with poaching largely under control in the country, conservationists in Nepal have been paying increasing attention to the risks of diseases spreading to wildlife from domesticated animals. - Domesticated animals near Chitwan National Park form a reservoir of pathogens that could cross to wildlife. Veterinarians have already identified tuberculosis in a dead rhino and a suspected case of canine distemper in a leopard. - The country currently lacks facilities to fully analyze and respond to the threat of diseases, but local and international groups are working to rapidly increase capacity.
Field Notes: Reinvigorating wild parrot populations with captive birds [05/17/2017]
- Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country. - Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaws from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered. - Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts. - Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaws as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.
More than 300 smuggled tortoises seized in Malaysia [05/17/2017]
- Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport raided the cargo area of the airport on May 14 following a tip-off, and found the tortoises packed into five boxes labeled as stones. - The boxes reportedly arrived on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar, and were registered with a fake business address in Malaysia. - No arrests have been made yet, but the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, officials say.
Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi). - The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach. - Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade. - Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.
Manmade noise pollution even more prevalent in US protected areas than researchers expected [05/16/2017]
- About 14 percent of the land mass in the United States has been afforded some kind of legally protected status, and noise pollution is noticeable even in these more remote areas where manmade disturbances are supposed to be kept to a minimum. - According to a study published this month in the journal Science, the noise pollution from airplanes, highways, industry, and resource extraction is encroaching ever further into U.S. protected areas designed to preserve habitat for biodiversity. - Using baseline sound levels for each study area established by machine learning algorithms that took into account geospatial features of the area, the researchers determined that anthropogenic noise pollution exceeds three decibels (dB), essentially doubling background sound levels, in 63 percent of the nation’s protected areas.
50 new spiders discovered in Australia [05/12/2017]
- The two-week expedition in Australia's Cape York Peninsula involved 23 scientists, indigenous rangers and traditional owners. - This expedition will likely result in the greatest number of new species of spiders discovered on a Bush Blitz research trip, scientists say. - The researchers are now identifying and describing the spiders for formal scientific classification.
Hong Kong Ivory traders encouraging buyers to smuggle ivory: TRAFFIC [05/11/2017]
- Exporting ivory bought in Hong Kong to mainland China would involve crossing an international border, which is illegal and in violation of CITES regulations. - But 27 of the 74 traders that TRAFFIC surveyed encouraged buyers to take ivory out of Hong Kong without obtaining CITES permits. - While some shopkeepers suggested hiding small ivory trinkets in bags and luggage, others offered more detailed strategies to conceal purchased ivory.
Howler monkeys booming in Belize sanctuary 25 years after translocation [05/10/2017]
- Disease, hurricanes and hunting wiped out the native howler monkeys living in the Cockscomb Basin by the 1970s. - Between 1992 and 1994, 62 black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) were relocated from a nearby reserve. - After surveying the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in March and April, scientists figure there are at least 170 howler monkeys – and perhaps many more – living all over the 51,800-hectare (128,000-acre) preserve.
Extremely rare bay cat filmed in Borneo [05/09/2017]
- Researchers photographed the bay cat while conducting a wildlife survey in the Rungan Landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. - The forests in this landscape include peat swamps and heath, a habitat type in which bay cats have not previously been recorded, scientists say. - The team has not released the exact location of the potentially new population of bay cats because the forest where the cat was filmed is not legally protected.
DRC’s Garamba National Park: The last giraffes of the Congo [05/09/2017]
- Today there are only 46 giraffes left in Garamba National Park, in Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a nearly 2,000 square-mile area. - Garamba is situated in a dangerous part of Africa crawling with heavily armed poachers and various guerilla groups. - Garamba is one of 10 national parks and protected areas in 7 countries managed by African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization.
Protected species in Gulf of Mexico could take decades to recover from Deepwater Horizon oil spill [05/08/2017]
- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles in the Gulf, according to findings detailed in a special issue of the journal Endangered Species Research, published in January, comprised of 20 studies that collectively represent more than five years’-worth of data collection and analysis by scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their partners. - The research was performed as part of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), a process required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in which NOAA investigates the types of injuries to wildlife caused by an oil spill, determines the number of animals that were harmed, and develops a restoration plan designed to address the primary threats to impacted species. - In a statement, NOAA offered this succinct summation of the results of the studies: “The research indicates that populations of several marine mammal and sea turtle species will take decades to rebound. Significant habitat restoration in the region will also be needed.”
Study finds hundreds of thousands of tropical species at risk of extinction due to deforestation [05/05/2017]
- Scientists have long believed that the rate at which we are destroying tropical forests, and the habitat those forests represent, could drive a global mass extinction event, but the extent of the potential losses has never been fully understood. - John Alroy, a professor of biological sciences at Australia’s Macquarie University, examined local-scale ecological data in order to forecast potential global extinction rates and found that hundreds of thousands of species are at risk if humans disturb all pristine forests remaining in the tropics. - Mass extinction will occur primarily in tropical forests because Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity is so heavily concentrated in those ecosystems, Alroy notes in the study.
Fighting a plant to save rhinos in Nepal [05/05/2017]
- Mikania micrantha, a plant native to the Americas, has been present in Chitwan National Park since the 1990s. As of 2010, it was present in 20 percent of the park, becoming a threat to wildlife and local people's livelihoods. - The plant is particularly prevalent in habitats like wetlands, grasslands and riverine forests, which are also favored habitats for the more than 600 one-horned rhinos living in the park. - Mikania chokes out native fodder species, pushing rhinos and other grazers out of the safety of the park and increasing human-wildlife conflict, researchers have found. - Mikania is extremely difficult to eradicate since plants produce up to 40,000 seeds per year and can re-root from even small stems. Efforts are underway to improve removal strategies and engage local communities in the work.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru's forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru's parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
Scientists rediscover ‘lost’ monitor lizard in Papua New Guinea [05/05/2017]
- The only specimen of the monitor lizard Lesson collected on New Ireland never reached its destination in France and was not studied in detail. - Since then, it has been believed that the monitor lizards on New Ireland are the common mangrove monitors (Varanus indicus). - But the new study confirms that the monitor lizards on New Ireland are a distinct species.
Scientists mull risks of freeing rare albino orangutan in Borneo [05/05/2017]
- Caregivers are nursing the animal back to health at a rescue center in Central Kalimantan. - Biologists worry that releasing it into the wild will introduce its genetic defect into the population at large. - No data exists on the prevalence of albinoism among orangutans.
Balinese rituals fuel spike in trafficking of endangered sea turtles [05/05/2017]
- Indonesia is home to six of the world’s seven sea turtle species. International rules prevent any of them from being traded internationally, and the domestic trade is heavily controlled. - After Bali's high priests issued a strict regulation in 2005 on the use of turtles in ceremonies, consumption of their meat dropped dramatically. - But a recent series of busts seem to indicate a significant surge in turtle smuggling to the island. - For now, Indonesian authorities' main strategy appears to be education.
Two new species of tarsier, rumored to be inspiration for Yoda, announced on Star Wars Day [05/04/2017]
- Nocturnal creatures that weigh in at a maximum of about 120 grams (or 4.3 ounces) when fully grown, tarsiers can nevertheless easily leap as far as three meters (about 10 feet) or more in a single bound thanks to their super-elongated legs — the longest legs relative to arm length of any primate species. - The two new tarsier species, described in an article published in the journal Primate Conservation today, were found on the northern peninsula of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. - With these new members of the tarsier family, there are now 11 species known to reside on Sulawesi and nearby islands. It was believed there were just one or two tarsier species in the region as recently as the 1990s.
Over the bridge: The battle for the future of the Kinabatangan [05/03/2017]
- Proponents of the project contend that a bridge and associated paved road to Sukau would have helped the town grow and improve the standard of living for its residents. - Environmental groups argue that the region’s unrealized potential for high-end nature tourism could bring similar economic benefits without disturbing local populations of elephants, orangutans and other struggling wildlife. - The mid-April cancellation of the bridge was heralded as a success for rainforest conservation, but bigger questions loom about the future of local communities, the sanctuary and its wildlife.
Human-wildlife conflict is decimating leopard numbers in one of their last African strongholds [05/03/2017]
- A research team led by Dr. Samual Williams of the Department of Anthropology at Durham University in the UK conducted a long-term trap survey from 2012 to 2016 in order to study the leopard population in South Africa’s Soutpansberg Mountains, one of the leopard’s last strongholds in Africa. - They found that the cats’ population density decreased by 44 percent between 2012 and 2016. That means that, based on a previous estimate of their abundance, the leopard population in the Soutpansberg Mountains has decreased by two-thirds since 2008, Williams and his co-authors note in the study. - While the researchers argue that, based on their findings, a current ban on leopard hunting in South Africa should not be lifted in areas where the species is facing sharp declines in numbers, they add that efforts to reduce often-lethal conflicts between leopards and humans might have an even bigger impact.
Audio: A deep dive into the study of marine wildlife through bioacoustics [05/03/2017]
- Here at the Mongabay Newscast, we’re very interested in acoustic ecology, perhaps for obvious reasons: Acoustic ecology, sometimes known as ecoacoustics or soundscape studies, is the study of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment as mediated through bioacoustics, or the sounds that are produced by and affect living organisms. - In order to highlight the findings of this exciting line of research, we’ve created our ongoing Field Notes segment. And in this particular Field Note, which takes up the entire episode, Leah Barclay plays for us several of the underwater recordings she’s made of humpback whales, the Great Barrier Reef, water insects, and more. - Find all that plus the top news in this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Rwanda welcomes 20 black rhinos to Akagera National Park [05/03/2017]
- The 20 black rhinos are of the eastern subspecies (Diceros bicornis michaeli). - African Parks, the NGO that manages Akagera National Park in cooperation with the government of Rwanda, says that it has rhino trackers, canine patrols and a helicopter to protect the rhinos from poaching. - Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos exist in Africa. Their numbers have been decimated by poaching for their horns, which fetch high prices for use in traditional Chinese medicine. - Officials hope that the new rhino population will boost Akagera National Park's visibility as a ecotourism destination.
Preserving orangutan culture an ingredient for successful conservation [05/02/2017]
- Scientists once thought that all animal behavior was instinctual, but now know that many animals — particularly social animals — are able to think and to learn, and to display culturally learned behaviors. - Orangutans are one animal in which occurrences of culture have been fairly well proven, with orangutan groups at different study sites displaying variant behaviors that have neither environmental nor genetic origins, meaning they can only be cultural in nature. - Among these cultural behaviors are basic tool making and use for food harvesting, purposeful vocalizations, and variations in nest building materials and methods. Scientists fear habitat loss and crashing populations could cause this cultural heritage to vanish. - The loss of varied cultural behaviors could potentially make orangutans less adaptable to changes in their environment at a time when, under extreme pressure from human development, these great apes need all the resources they can muster.
Conservation lessons from the bonobos [05/01/2017]
- Lola ya Bonobo, the world’s first bonobo sanctuary, was founded in 1994 by Claudine Andre, who came to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at a young age, and who, after a chance meeting with a bonobo at the Kinshasa zoo, dedicated her life to the species. Today, Lola has been recognized worldwide as a model for primate rehabilitation. - The sanctuary primarily credits “inclusive conservation” for its success, a process by which Lola not only cares for rescued DRC bonobos, but also for nearby human communities — supporting farms, schools and medical facilities. The communities in turn support Lola. - The bonobos at the sanctuary — often traumatized after being rescued from the great ape trade — spend years in rehabilitation, being served by human foster mothers and other caring Lola staff. When deemed ready, bonobo troupes are returned to the wild Congo.
Despite numerous challenges, rhinos are thriving in India’s Jaldapara National Park [05/01/2017]
- Jaldapara National Park in the northern fringe of West Bengal hosts more than 200 one-horned rhinos. - Growing demand for rhino horn means poaching is a rising threat, especially when anti-poaching measures in neighboring Assam State prompt poaching networks to seek new targets. - In addition to extensive anti-poaching patrols, the park's management is relying on cooperation with residents of nearby villages to protect the park's wildlife. - The park now shares 40 percent of ecotourism revenue with community-based Joint Forest Management Committees, trains former offenders as wildlife protectors and is developing other projects to integrate the welfare of communities and wildlife.
Saving Congo’s sea turtles: progress made but dangers ahead [05/01/2017]
- Among the myriad threats facing turtles globally, coastal development has deprived females of the isolated, dry, sandy beaches they need to build nests for their eggs. - Until recently, homecoming was a death-trap for turtles as poor local communities took advantage of an immobile source of food appearing annually on their beaches and in their coastal waters. - The Congo’s 23-mile stretch of beach is home to a turtle conservation project that aims to give turtles born into the wild a fighting chance.
Delicate Solomon Island ecosystem in danger of heavy logging [05/01/2017]
- Foreign and domestic companies are making a push – at times using allegedly unethical means – for the timber found on the island of Nende in the Santa Cruz chain of the Solomon Islands. - The island’s old-growth forests are home to animals like the Santa Cruz shrikebill, which is found nowhere else on Earth. - Concerns have been voiced that logging could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, from the watersheds in the mountains down to the coral reefs ringing the island, if large-scale logging is allowed to proceed.
Corruption drives dealings with logging companies in the Solomon Islands [05/01/2017]
- The old-growth forests on the island of Nende anchor a unique ecosystem that hold creatures found nowhere else and that have supported communities for centuries. - Logging companies are eager to harvest the island’s timber, which could be worth as much as SI$10 million ($1.26 million). - Scientists worry that logging would destroy everything from the mountain sources of the island’s fresh water to the reefs where sedimentation as a result of logging could kill coral. - Conservation groups and sources from within the provincial government have charged that the companies are using coercion and bribes to convince landowners and development organizations to back their plans to log Nende’s forests.
Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
As forests disappear, human-elephant conflict escalates in Nepal [04/28/2017]
- Asian elephants are responsible for destroying crops, buildings, and even injuring or killing local people in Nepal. - A new study argues that Nepal’s government has not done enough to help villages in elephant areas. - Researchers measured the willingness-to-pay of villagers in offsetting elephant damage.
Overestimated range maps for endemic birds in India’s Western Ghats lead to underestimated threats, study finds [04/27/2017]
- In a paper published earlier this week in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers detail their findings that suggest the IUCN has “vastly” overestimated the geographic range sizes for 17 of 18 endemic birds studied in the Western Ghats. - In some cases, the researchers write in the study, the range maps supplied by BirdLife International (BLI) and used by the IUCN for its threat assessments of birds in the Western Ghats included “large areas of unsuitable habitat” and were so off that the threat status should be changed “for at least 10 of the 18 species based on area metrics used by the IUCN for threat assessment.” - The head of the IUCN Red List says that the study's authors made a "fundamental error" in applying threat assessment criteria to their datasets, however, adding that just two of the 10 birds identified in the study need to be examined more closely. - The key to the updated range maps created by the researchers behind the Biological Conservation study is citizen science. In particular, the researchers used data from eBird, an online checklist program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And on the point of the usefulness of citizen science, the researchers and the IUCN are in full agreement.
Illegal trade threatens nearly half the world’s natural heritage sites: WWF [04/27/2017]
- Poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing of rare species protected under CITES occurs in 45 percent of the natural World Heritage sites, a new WWF report says. - Illegal harvesting degrades the unique values that gave the heritage sites the status in the first place, the report says. - Current approaches to preventing illegal harvesting of CITES listed species in World Heritage sites is not working, the report concludes.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
2 wildlife rangers shot and killed by poachers in Congo park [04/24/2017]
- While out patrolling on April 11, Ari and Afokao heard gunshots. - The patrol unit followed signs and tracks until they discovered a group of six poachers who were cutting up a freshly slaughtered elephant carcass. - A shootout followed, in which both Ari and Afokao were fatally shot.
‘Lost & Found’: Telling the stories of rediscovered species [04/21/2017]
- The project is the brainchild of Diogo Veríssimo, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Veríssimo studies the ways human behavior and biodiversity conservation intersect, focusing in particular on conservation marketing. - “Talking about nature has too often become about extinction, decline and loss,” Veríssimo says. “With Lost & Found we aim to make it about hope, determination and passion.” - Mongabay spoke with Diogo Veríssimo about what first sparked his interest in rediscovered species, why it’s important to highlight the field researchers who track down lost species, and just what he hopes to ultimately achieve by telling these stories.
Women could be a key to great ape conservation in the Congo [04/21/2017]
- The Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), and Coopera are all organizations working with women in and around the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help advance great ape conservation through education, empowerment, healthcare and food security access. - Some examples: BCI helps fund pilot micro-credit projects for women who want to launch business enterprises, including soap and garment making. GRACE employs women as surrogate mothers for newly orphaned gorillas during an initial 30-day quarantine period. - GRACE also provides women and their families with bushmeat alternatives by teaching them to care for and breed alternative protein sources. Coopera helps provide alternative food sources through ECOLO-FEMMES, an organization that trains women in livestock breeding and agriculture to reduce great ape hunting in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. - Coopera, working with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, engages young rape victims in tree planting to provide food sources to wild chimpanzees. JGI’s women’s programs in Uganda and Tanzania keep girls in school through peer support, scholarship programs and sanitary supply access. Educated women have smaller families, reducing stress on the environment.
No safe forest left: 250 captive orphan chimps stuck in sanctuaries [04/20/2017]
- Cameroon currently has more than 250 rescued chimpanzees living in three chimp wildlife sanctuaries. Attempts to find forests into which to release them — safe from the bushmeat and pet trade, and not already occupied by other chimpanzee populations — have failed so far. - The intensification of logging, mining and agribusiness, plus new roads into remote areas, along with a growing rural human population, are putting intense pressure on un-conserved forests as well as protected lands. - Unless habitat loss, poaching and trafficking are controlled in Cameroon, reintroduction of captive chimpanzees may not be achievable. Some conservationists argue, however, that reintroduction of captive animals is needed to enhance genetic resilience in wild populations. - If current rates of decline are not curbed, primatologists estimate that chimpanzees could be gone from Cameroon’s forests within 15 to 20 years.
Skin slime of Indian frog can kill flu virus [04/20/2017]
- A team of researchers jolted some of the recently discovered Hydrophylax bahuvistara with mild electricity, collected their skin secretions, and then returned them to their natural habitat in India. - Then, from the secretions, the team identified and isolated 32 peptides (building blocks of proteins). - One of these peptides can attach itself to the surface of some strains of influenza viruses (such as the H1 strains of flu) and destroy them, the researchers observed.
Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra [04/20/2017]
- The two men were each sentenced to eight months imprisonment in Jambi province. - Conservationists said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment. - The maximum sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars, and activists are pushing for that to be revised upward, too. - Last year several tiger part smugglers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined 50 million rupiah.
Scientists launch global search for 25 ‘lost’ species [04/19/2017]
- The first phase of the this campaign, launched today by the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), will see groups of scientists spreading out across the world in search of "25 most wanted lost species". - Collectively, these 25 species have not been seen in more than 1,500 years. - The top 25 species include 10 mammals, three birds, three reptiles, two amphibians, three fish, one insect, one crustacean, one coral and one plant, found across 18 countries.
‘We can save life on Earth’: study reveals how to stop mass extinction [04/18/2017]
- Researchers analyzed 846 regional ecosystem types in 14 biomes in respect to the "Nature Needs Half" scientific concept that states proper functioning of an ecosystem requires at least half of it to be there. - They found 12 percent of ecoregions had half their land areas protected while 24 percent had protected areas and native vegetation that together covered less than 20 percent. - The study indicates the tropical dry forest biome is the most endangered. Closely behind it are two others: the tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, and the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome. All are highly biodiverse, providing habitat for many species. - The researchers say while many ecosystems have been highly degraded, achieving 50 percent protection is still possible – if current conservation goals are scaled up.
Audio: Crystal Davis, director of Global Forest Watch, on conservation and Big Data [04/18/2017]
- Mongabay has partnered with Global Forest Watch (GFW) over the years, and GFW has even funded some of our coverage of global forest issues. - Crystal Davis fills us in on how the GFW tool and dataset is being used to inform forest conservation initiatives right now, new features planned for the future, and her thoughts on the ways Big Data is changing how we approach conservation. - We also speak with Francesca Cunninghame, the Mangrove Finch Project Leader for the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, in our latest Field Notes segment.
Documenting the fight to save Borneo’s animals [04/18/2017]
- After graduating from school, Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski was on a fairly conventional career path for a young businessman. - But the more successful his agency became, the more Gekoski felt like something was missing. - So he quit the business and embarked on a totally new adventure: wildlife filmmaking. - Gekoski spoke about his unusual career path, his passion, and filmmaking during an April 2017 interview with Mongabay.com.
Wildbook: a social network for wildlife [04/18/2017]
- Wildbook is an open-source software platform that helps collaborative projects store and manage wildlife data. The user-friendly interface makes it easy for citizen scientists to contribute animal photos to be used as data for scientific studies. - Wildbook uses the Image Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS) to semi-automatically analyze the photos and determine, based on an animal’s unique markings, if it is a new individual or an animal already in the database. - The compiled images can help scientists assess species distributions, movement patterns and human-wildlife interactions, which, in turn, can support management and conservation decisions.
Rhino poachers in Borneo: Q&A with a conservationist who lived with them [04/17/2017]
- Fiffy Hanisdah Saikim — now a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation — spent two years living with Tidong communities on the outskirts of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysian Borneo. - These communities included both poachers and people employed in ecotourism and conservation programs centered around the Sumatran rhino and other endangered species. - According to Saikim, attempts to engage communities in anti-poaching programs can succeed when they demonstrate that conservation has better long-term economic returns than poaching. - The Sumatran rhino is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia, but Saikim believes lessons from Tabin can be applied in places where rhinos still exist in the wild.
Hunting is driving declines in bird and mammal populations across the tropics [04/14/2017]
- The team of ecologists and environmental scientists behind the research examined 176 studies, including many local studies, in order to get a larger picture of the magnitude of hunting-induced declines in tropical mammal and bird populations. - In areas impacted by hunting, bird abundance declined by an average of 58 percent compared to areas with no hunting, while mammals declined by an average of 83 percent, according to their study. - “Thanks to this study, we estimate that only 17 percent of the original mammal abundance and 42 percent of the birds remain in hunted areas.”
Rainforest conservation may be aimed at the wrong places, study finds [04/13/2017]
- Climate-based conservation policies often focus on forests with large carbon stores – but what this means for biodiversity protection has been unclear. - Previous research found a link between tree diversity and carbon storage on the small-scale, with tropical forests that have more tree species possessing larger stores of carbon. But this correlation had not been tested for larger areas. - Researchers examined thousands of trees at hundreds of sites in the tropical forests of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Their results indicate that on the one-hectare scale, tree diversity is low and carbon storage is quite high in Africa, while the opposite is the case in South America. In Southeast Asia, both carbon stocks and tree diversity appear to be high. - The researchers say their results indicate carbon-focused conservation policies may be missing highly biodiverse ecosystems, and recommend a more fine-tuned approach for prioritizing areas for conservation.
Connectivity and coexistence key to orangutan survival on croplands [04/13/2017]
- Orangutans are in drastic decline, largely due to habitat loss. From 1973–2010, Borneo lost 39 percent of its forests; estimates say that another 37 percent of orangutan-suitable habitat will be converted to agricultural use there through 2025. Similarly, 60 percent of habitat suitable for Sumatran orangutans was lost between 1985 and 2007. - If orangutans are to survive in the wild through the 21st century, researchers will need to discover ways in which the animals can be helped to coexist with humans within agricultural landscapes. Researchers are also looking for creative ways to provide connectivity between remaining forest patches to promote and preserve genetic resilience. - Scientists Gail Campbell-Smith, Marc Ancrenaz and others have shown that orangutans can use croplands, including oil palm plantations, if humans work to prevent conflict. Noise deterrents, such as bamboo cannon guns, along with the education of farm laborers and agribusiness companies, are techniques helping to reduce animal-human conflicts. - Researcher Marc Ancrenaz and colleagues provided orangutans and other arboreal wildlife with rope bridges over small rivers in Malaysia — a successful approach to providing connectivity. It took four years for orangutans to begin using the bridges, but now young orangutan males use the structures to disperse more widely.
New genus created for arboreal toads in Indonesia [04/13/2017]
- The proposed genus was created to fit two new species of toad. - The name of the genus, Sigalegalephrynus, was inspired by the toads' resemblance to a wooden puppet from North Sumatra. - The toads appear to have mating calls that are unlike those of other amphibians in the Sunda Shelf.
Researchers say advanced statistical models can make traditional wildlife surveys more reliable [04/12/2017]
- Calculating a moving average is a common way researchers "smooth" out the irregularities in year-to-year counts produced by the way the counts are actually performed. - Yet this method has never been subjected to much scrutiny, according to Brian Gerber of Colorado State University and William Kendall of the U.S. Geological Survey, the authors of a study published late last month in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. - Gerber and Kendall used the results of 31 annual surveys of sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) in North America’s Rocky Mountains to examine how accurate moving averages really are, then compared those results to the estimates produced by a more advanced statistical approach known as a hierarchical Bayesian time series (HBTS) model.
Great apes in Asian circus-style shows on rise — so is trafficking [04/12/2017]
- Asian zoos, circuses and safari parks are mounting large-scale productions with costumed, dancing, roller-skating great apes. Investigations show that nearly all of these trained primates were not bred in captivity, but illegally traded out of Africa and Indonesia, with destinations in China, Thailand and other Asian countries. - The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that the illegal trade may have removed as many as 22,218 great apes from the wild between 2005-2011. An estimated 64 percent were chimpanzees, whereas 56 percent of great apes seized by authorities were thought to be orangutans. - Wild young apes are traumatized by their capture, and many die along the supply chain, or with their final “owners” by whom they are frequently poorly treated. Young great apes trained in captivity become increasingly unmanageable as they age, and many are “retired” to tiny, solitary cages, or simply disappear. - Trafficking arrests are rare. UNEP recorded just 27 arrests in Africa and Asia between 2005-2011, over which time more than 1,800 cases of illegally trafficked great apes were documented, with many more undetected. Solutions are in the works, but time is running out for the world’s great apes if they are to be conserved.
Graffiti campaign brings rhino conservation message to urban Vietnam [04/12/2017]
- The campaign is aimed at educating locals and engaging neighborhood residents about the cost of sought-after rhino horn. - A prominent French graffiti artist, Suby One, is one of the artists whose work is featured in the campaign. - After difficulty obtaining government approval, the campaign put up 17 pieces of art throughout the month of March.
Rare barking deer photographed in Vietnam [04/11/2017]
- This is only the third site in Vietnam where the giant (or large-antlered) muntjak has been photographed in the last decade, conservationists say. - The giant muntjac is the largest species of muntjac, or barking deer. - It lives a cryptic life in the remote rainforests of the Annamite Mountain range in Southeast Asia. - Overhunting and habitat loss has wiped out the muntjac from across most of its previous range.
One-horned rhino killed by poachers in Nepal [04/11/2017]
- The body of a male one-horned rhinoceros was found with its horn gouged out on Saturday in Nepal's Chitwan Park. - Chitwan Park was gearing up to celebrate three consecutive years without any rhino poaching. - Nepal has one of the world's most effective anti-poaching programs, and the country's rhino population is on the rise.
Rare Malaysian rhino still sick, but showing signs of improvement [04/10/2017]
- Puntung, one of three Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos known to survive in Malaysia, is suffering from an abscess in her jaw. - The rhino's caretakers feared she would not survive the infection despite receiving round-the-clock veterinary care. - Since Saturday, Puntung has shown signs of improvement, although she is "not out of the woods yet."