The people of DRC’s forests [03/21/2017]
- DRC's unstable political situation, security risks, poverty, and weak governance contribute to putting the country's forests at risk. - Africa's most popular fuel - charcoal - is largely unregulated in DRC and comes at the expense of vast tracts of primary forest. - Some DRC residents have a lifelong connection to the forests and rely on it for their livelihood.
Successful forest protection in DRC hinges on community participation [03/12/2017]
- Forest covers at least 112 million hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Studies from 2013 show that subsistence agriculture and the need for firewood threaten DRC’s forests, and new investments in the countries forests by industrial outfits could contribute to the problem. - DRC’s leaders have signed on to international agreements and have begun to receive millions of dollars to finance projects aimed at keeping DRC’s forests standing, protecting global climate and reducing poverty.
Discovering the Congo carbon sink [03/03/2017]
- Cuvette Centrale, as it is known, stores as much carbon as has been emitted by the U.S. over the last 20 years. - The peatland ecosystem is home to wetland birds, forest elephants, and western lowland gorillas. - Threats to the vast carbon sink include climate change and conversion to agriculture.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
World’s largest tropical peatlands discovered in swamp forests of Congo Basin [02/09/2017]
- The peatlands, which weren’t even known to exist as recently as five years ago, were revealed to cover 145,500 square kilometres (or more than 17,500 square miles), an area larger than England, and to sequester some 30 billion metric tons of carbon. - That makes them one of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth, according to the researchers who made the discovery and subsequently mapped the peatlands. - Professor Simon Lewis and Dr. Greta Dargie, who are both affiliated with the University of Leeds and University College London, first discovered the peatlands’ existence while doing fieldwork in the region in 2012.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts.
Forest protection funds flow to DRC despite ‘illegal’ logging permits [02/01/2017]
- Since signing agreements with the government of Norway and the Central African Forests Initiative, Greenpeace says leaders in Congo have approved two concessions on 4,000 square kilometers of forest. - DRC expects to receive tens of millions of dollars from CAFI and the Norwegian government for forest protection and sustainable development. - Greenpeace and other watchdog groups have called for an investigation into how these concessions are awarded and an overhaul of donor funding.
NGO takes action to save great apes in Cameroon’s Lebialem Highlands [01/31/2017]
- The Lebialem Highlands, in Cameroon’s southwest, is a rugged mountainous and plateaued region still inhabited by the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla, the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and the Vulnerable African forest elephant. - While the Cameroon government has taken action by protecting swathes of forest in the region, they admit to being unable to fully protect this habitat from incursions by surrounding communities, who go to the protected lands to farm, harvest bushmeat, hunt, log and mine. - The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), an NGO, has stepped in to help protect Highlands conserved areas — including the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the still to be created Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. - Supported by the Rainforest Trust-USA, ERuDeF is also working to improve local village economies and livelihoods in order to take pressure off of wildlife.
Logging in certified concessions drove intact forest landscape loss in Congo Basin [01/30/2017]
- A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent. - Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of intact forest landscapes (IFLs) in the Congo Basin, according to the study. - According to Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council US, the findings of the study may be noteworthy, but they don’t apply to how FSC operates today.
Primates face impending extinction – what’s next? [01/24/2017]
- Nonhuman primates are on the decline almost everywhere. - The third most diverse Order of mammals, primates are under the highest level of threat of any larger group of mammals, and among the highest of any group of vertebrates - 63% of primates are threatened, meaning that they fall into one of the three IUCN categories of threat—Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. - This post is a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
Indigenous traditional knowledge revival helps conserve great apes [01/20/2017]
- Deforestation and hunting continue to put Africa’s great apes at risk. National parks and other top down strategies have met with limited success. Many conservationists are trying alternative strategies, especially harnessing the power of indigenous taboos and other traditional knowledge to motivate local communities to protect great apes. - In remote parts of Africa, taboos against hunting have long helped conserve gorilla populations. However, those ancient traditions are being weakened by globalization, modernization and Christianity, with anti-hunting taboos and other traditional beliefs being abandoned at a time when they are most needed to conserve great apes. - Primatologist Denis Ndeloh Etiendem suggests a unique approach to reviving indigenous taboos and traditional beliefs — the creation of videos and films in which these beliefs are presented as a prime reason for conserving wildlife. He also urges that African environmental and general educational curricula focus not on endangered dolphins or whales, but on wildlife found in interior Africa. - Development specialist Dominique Bikaba emphasizes the importance of moving away from top down federal management, and to local management of community forests by indigenous communities, whose leaders mesh traditional beliefs with modern conservation strategies. Prime examples are successes seen at Burhinyi Community Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Trade in skulls, body parts severely threatens Cameroon’s great apes [01/19/2017]
- Primatologists in Cameroon have been heartened in recent years by the discoveries of new great ape populations scattered around the country. Unfortunately for these gorillas and chimpanzees, their numbers are being rapidly diminished by deforestation and human exploitation. - Cameroon’s gorillas and chimps have long fallen victim to the bushmeat trade, but they are now being hunted vigorously to feed a national and international illegal trade in skulls and other body parts which are being exported to Nigeria, other West African coastal states, and especially to the US and China, either as trophies or for use in traditional medicine. - Great ape trafficking operations in Cameroon are starting to resemble the ivory trade: International trafficking networks are financing hunters, providing them with motorbikes and sophisticated weapons. A spreading network of logging and agribusiness roads and a porous border between Cameroon and Nigeria are further facilitating the trade. - The seriousness of this poaching hits home when one considers that during a four-month period in 2015, anti-poaching and anti-trafficking squads in Cameroon arrested 22 dealers and seized 16 great ape limbs, 24 gorilla heads and 34 chimpanzee skulls in separate operations around the country. Law enforcement is likely only detecting 10 percent of the trade.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/05/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [01/01/2017]
- After 2015's radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world's largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Protecting gorillas at all costs: park rangers of the Congo [11/20/2016]
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo's Kahuzi-Biega National Park is home to a rare subspecies, Grauer’s gorilla, which has just been classified as critically endangered. - In October, one of the hundreds of rangers employed to patrol the park and protect the gorillas was ambushed and killed by armed gunmen. It was the third such attack in six months - two of which were fatal. - Thomas Nicolon reports from inside Kahuzi-Biega for Mongabay mere hours before the latest ranger death.
Brazzaville-issued mining permits dip into Congo’s flagship park [10/31/2016]
- In 2016 the Ministry of Mines and Energy issued at least seven permits that allow companies to prospect or begin mining for gold inside the Republic of Congo’s largest national park. - Odzala-Kokoua became a national park in 2001 by presidential decree, which does not allow mining. - Congo’s pivot toward mineral extraction as an economic development strategy may mean that the government could change the park’s borders to allow mining if it is 'in the public interest.'
From paper to tablet: A new way to record animal behavior [10/14/2016]
- Animal Observer is a free, new iPad app that helps researchers collect animal behavior data such as activity, diet and social interactions. - Developed by the Fossey Fund and initially designed for gorillas, the app is now customizable to a variety of observation types and species. - GPS capabilities allow the app to record spatial positions of the animals being observed, providing critical data for social network and spatial analyses. - Animal Observer is perhaps best applied for studying species that have a strong group dynamic or social structure.
Cables reveal US gov’t role in Herakles Farms land grab in Cameroon [08/30/2016]
- Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SG-SOC), a subsidiary of U.S. agribusiness Herakles Farms, signed a convention with a Cameroonian government minister in 2009 to develop a large-scale palm oil plantation that included a 99-year lease for 73,086 hectares (about 180,600 acres) of land — which was likely illegal, given that land in excess of 50 hectares can only be granted by presidential decree under Cameroonian law. - In 2013, President Paul Biya signed three decrees green-lighting the project, though it had been scaled back significantly, from a 99-year lease to a three-year probationary lease for just 19,843 hectares. - “It was shocking that President Biya signed the decrees despite the mountain of evidence exposing the vast social, economic, and environmental consequences of the project,” Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute, said in a statement. “We now know that behind the scenes, US government officials were applying serious pressure to the Cameroonian government to grant Herakles Farms the land.”
Two businessmen arrested for ivory trafficking [08/08/2016]
- The two detainees own shipping companies based in the Republic of the Congo. - The shipping companies are allegedly involved in covertly moving large consignments of elephant tusks out of West Africa to Asia. - Investigations into the dealings of the two businessmen began in 2014 after 1,493 kilograms of ivory were seized by Vietnamese officers, followed by several other ivory seizures by Thai, Vietnamese, and Singaporean authorities in 2015.
In unprecedented move, Michelin adopts zero deforestation for rubber sourcing [06/13/2016]
- Michelin Group, one of the world's three largest tire companies, has just adopted a zero deforestation policy for its rubber sourcing. - The move is significant because rubber is a major driver of tropical forest destruction through the conversion of natural forests for plantations. - Forests in West Africa and Southeast Asia have been particularly hard hit by the commodity's production. - Activist groups had been slow to target rubber relative to other commodities like soy, palm oil oil, timber, and wood-fiber.
Gabon moves to share forestry profits with local forest communities [05/18/2016]
- Since it was made law in 2001, the Gabonese Forest Code has required companies to share the revenues from timber harvesting with the local communities in which they are operating. But the Forest Code itself did not specify how exactly that should happen in practice. - An implementing decree published 13 years later proposed a benefit sharing agreement template, but the two texts still did not provide enough detail to make benefit sharing actually become a reality. - Then, in 2014, the Ministry of Forests requested a guidance document for the implementing decree. Multiple stakeholders from local forest communities responded with the Technical Guide on Benefit Sharing, developed with input from a legal working group supported by ClientEarth, a legal non-profit based in London.
5 wildlife rangers shot – 3 killed – by poachers in Congo park [04/25/2016]
- Elephant poachers killed three wildlife rangers and wounded two more in a shootout yesterday in Garamba National Park. - All five victims were members of African Parks. - Garamba - once a stronghold for elephants and other wildlife - has been hard hit by poaching and violence against conservation workers.
Protections for Africa’s rainforests aren’t working for people or wildlife: report [04/22/2016]
- Rainforest Foundation UK researchers examined 34 protected areas across the Congo Basin, from Cameroon and the Central African Republic to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. - Of the 34 protected areas the RFUK team studied, 26 have displaced local people and 21 have seen conflicts between park managers and local communities. Meanwhile, wildlife poaching continues to increase. - RFUK also released a short film about forest communities affected by the Tumba Lediima Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Eavesdropping on Cameroon’s poachers to save endangered primates [04/20/2016]
- Gathering data on poaching is challenging, not only due to the large areas that need to be covered by researchers, but also because much of that vast terrain is often composed of impenetrable forests, mountain thickets and wetlands. - An international team of scientists working in Cameroon’s Korup National Park recently completed a study in which they recorded all the sounds heard over a 54 square kilometer (21 square mile) area for more than two-years to determine where and when gunshots were being fired. - Data showed that hunting is highest in the park early in the week, as poachers ready for Saturday markets; it occurs year-round, but peaks during the November-to-March dry season, and before major holidays. Preferred hunting locations were also located. - The data collected could be valuable to Korup law enforcement officials as they try to target limited funding and personnel to most effectively track and curtail poachers. Acoustic monitoring could be very useful in preserves around the globe, to protect great apes, elephants and other heavily poached species.
An agribusiness revolution is needed to save Africa’s last great apes [04/12/2016]
- Since 2005 up to 227,000 square kilometers (87,645 square miles), an area nearly the size of Ghana, has been acquired in sub-Saharan Africa for large-scale agricultural and forestry concessions. And more concessions are on the way. - With oil palm production poised to explode in Africa, conservationists are scrambling to set up standards for the industry, an effort complicated by by the extreme poverty and corrupt power elites found in many nations. - If Africa’s priceless natural heritage is to be preserved, including its great apes, then a revolution in agricultural practices is needed which will demand a cooperative effort by governments, agribusiness and conservationists.
Palm oil’s new frontier: averting a Great Ape catastrophe in Cameroon [04/01/2016]
- Cameroon, with its vast bio-diverse forests and key great ape habitat, is being eyed as a prime site for oil palm production, making it a center of agro-industry development in Africa. Conservationists hope to avoid mistakes made in Asia. - Conservationists in Africa are working to implement oil palm standards that will limit deforestation, protect biodiversity, limit carbon emissions, and benefit smallholders, while also supporting economic growth and job creation. - A key to Africa’s sustainable oil palm production is the implementation of mutually agreed upon industry-wide, and possibly nationwide, sustainable standards for siting and development of plantations. - Standards being tested are: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) that identifies High Conservation Value areas; a system favored by WWF using integrated land-use planning / smallholders; and Zero Deforestation (ZD) favored by Greenpeace.
Major legal system breakdowns threaten great apes of Africa, Asia [03/31/2016]
- A comparison of the legal systems in Asian and African developing nations finds similar regulatory defects putting great apes greatly at risk in the face of rapid agribusiness development. - Gabon, Liberia, Indonesia and Myanmar, for example, have all created conserved areas — protections deeply flawed by a lack of institutional capacity, inadequate funding, and poor enforcement. - These nations, like other developing countries, suffer from a top-down concentration of political and legal power with centralized urban elites far from the backcountry where environmental and societal harm unfolds. - The conservation laws of developing nations do not well address the leading cause of great ape decline: an explosion in habitat loss — the chief result of industrial agricultural expansion.
Leuser’s Legacy: how rescued orangutans help assure species survival [03/30/2016]
- Agribusiness is rapidly razing the prime forest habitat of Sumatra’s 14,600 remaining orangutans; replacing it with vast stretches of oil palm plantation. The species’ population is predicted to plummet unless a way is found to protect their habitat. - SOCP, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, is working to rescue orangutans left without their forest homes by new oil palm plantations; relocating the animals to intact forests not included in proposed concessions. - This story moves beyond the statistics of wildlife conservation and follows the lives of a single family of orangutans: blind parents Leuser and Gober, and their offspring Ganteng and Ginting — animals left homeless then rescued.
Oil palm company takes lead on sustainable agriculture in Gabon [03/15/2016]
- To meet global demand for palm oil, companies are rapidly shifting their focus from Southeast Asia to Africa, where conservationists and some companies are working together to avoid mistakes made in Indonesia and Malaysia. One such company is Olam-Gabon, which is teaming up with researchers to site new plantations to minimize biodiversity impacts. - Some companies are increasingly using Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil standards (RSPO), developed in collaboration with conservation groups, to allow a nuanced approach to site selection that looks at ecosystems, biodiversity, key species, landscapes, carbon sequestration and human use. - The challenge is finding a balance that allows for new palm oil plantation creation, providing economic growth for developing companies, along with jobs, while maximizing safeguards to protect forests and biodiversity.
Conservation and birth control: a controversial mix? [03/14/2016]
- Some 215 million women in the Global South have an unmet need for modern contraception, with many of them living in remote communities that may lack basic health care services. - To meet some of this need and reduce pressure on the environment, some conservation groups have started providing health and family-planning services. - But critics, including some women’s rights advocates, contend that it’s difficult for organizations to ethically mix conservation and family planning.
A new plan to pull the “forest giraffe” back from the brink of extinction [02/23/2016]
- Okapi are sometimes referred to as “forest giraffes” because they are the only other member of the Giraffidae family besides giraffes. - Okapi are currently listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. - The okapi is an iconic species for the DRC, but we still don’t know much about them, largely due to security concerns across their range that prevent scientists from being able to study the animals on the ground.
Survival International files formal complaint against WWF for allegedly violating human rights of Baka ‘Pygmies’ [02/22/2016]
- Survival International has lodged a formal complaint to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) against WWF in Cameroon for violating the human rights of the indigenous Baka “Pygmies” of southeast Cameroon. - Survival has alleged that WWF has helped introduce protected areas to southeast Cameroon without the free prior and informed consent of the Baka. But WWF maintains that local communities were consulted at the time of the national parks were created, and added that the nature of consultation has been changing over the years. - Survival’s complaint also alleges that since the creation of the national parks, the Baka have been subjected to "violent abuse" by anti-poaching squads supported by WWF. But WWF says that while allegations of abuse did become more frequent from 2009 to about 2013, this was linked to a flood of arms to the region, more involvement by the Cameroon military, more poaching, war in nearby areas of the Central African Republic and an influx of refugees.
Focus on great apes, draws attention from other species, finds study [02/12/2016]
- Study found that in African and Asian countries with great apes, scientists tend to focus on few big national parks while ignoring many others. - Researchers found that 71 percent of published studies focused on mammals, while 31 percent focused on great apes alone. - Such bias could mean that knowledge of conservation today could become less applicable in the future, researchers say.
Republic of Congo awards two million hectares of timber concessions [02/11/2016]
- The Republic of the Congo recently announced 2 million hectares in new logging concessions. Those awards, some occurring ahead of government bid deadlines, should be seen as a warning bell of possible political corruption, said a number of NGO watchdog groups. - The large new concessions come shortly after a constitutional re-write that allows longstanding President Nguesso to run for a third term in upcoming elections, causing critics to wonder if the forest sell-off could have been prompted by a political campaign shortfall. - Several of the companies who were granted large concessions have spotty legal records, including environmental and social violations. Critics say that Congo’s forestry laws need to be reformed, and that penalties against rampant logging violations need to be enforced.
Prospective Congo palm oil plantation wrecking prime great ape habitat [02/05/2016]
- The Atama project was announced in 2012, and would impact a huge area of swamp and forest in one of the wildest parts of the Republic of the Congo. While the plantation remains largely unplanted, the land is still seeing significant timber harvesting and habit damage. - This region includes some of the highest gorilla densities on earth, and could contain some 80,000 Critically Endangered western lowland gorillas, as well as large populations of chimpanzees and forest elephants. Bouvier's red colobus, thought to be extinct, has also been found there. - Conservationists fear that the Atama project — with its secrecy, vast scale, forest clearing, and possible abandonment — may be a harbinger of development to come in Africa, as palm oil companies employ unsustainable practices similar to those seen in Southeast Asia.
Does sustainable forest management actually protect forests? [01/28/2016]
- A team of scientists is questioning whether sustainable forest management (SFM) is as effective as believed, based on their analysis of timber concessions in the Central African nation of the Republic of Congo. - In a recent study, they find that timber concessions operating under forest management plans (FMPs) showed higher rates of deforestation than concessions without them. - However, other experts in the field of tropical forestry say the study is overly simplistic, arguing that FMP performance alone should not be used as a barometer of SFM success or failure.
The year in rainforests: 2015 [12/29/2015]
- Between the landmark climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015, Indonesia's fire and haze crisis of the late summer and early fall, and continuing adoption of zero deforestation policies by some of the world's largest companies, tropical forests grabbed the spotlight more than usual in 2015. - Here's a look at some of the biggest tropical forest-related developments from the past year. - Trends in forest cover tend to lag broad economic trends, but there were indications that the global economic slowdown driven by declining growth in China may be starting to impact tropical forests.
Roads to ruin: Africa’s massive infrastructure expansions could have major consequences [11/25/2015]
- Lawmakers have seized upon the idea of development corridors – massive, concerted efforts to build up infrastructure designed to kick start the economy and find ways to feed a population set to quadruple this century. - However, the study finds few corridors have promising agricultural potential, and many stand to go through valuable conservation areas. As many as 2,100 protected areas could be affected. - Researchers say there is a disconnect between policy and science when it comes to the impacts of infrastructure expansion in Africa. They recommend that policymakers adopt greater awareness of the surrounding issues.
Cameroon convicts activist campaigning against palm oil company [11/16/2015]
- Herakles Farms, a controversial U.S.-based company, plans to clear develop oil palm plantations in the country's northeast region. - The company maintains its project will be environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial for local communities. But watchdog organizations say it will displace the habitat of endangered species, hurt the livelihoods of local people, and sully water supplies. Satellite date show many of the plantations are slated to be developed in primary forest. - International environmental and human rights organizations are speaking out against the conviction of Besingi. His lawyer is calling the charges "trumped up" and says they plan to appeal.
Key forest countries’ climate pledges fall short on emissions from land use and deforestation [11/13/2015]
- A new analysis finds that Brazil, Indonesia and India have submitted plans that fall well short of the actions needed. - The climate plan submitted to the UN by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the other hand, is held up as a model for taking action on land use changes, such as deforestation for agriculture, to achieve emissions reductions. - Countries' climate plans will be revised after the December 2015 climate negotiations in Paris, and experts hope to see richer nations follow the examples of the DRC.
Norway pledges $47M/yr to help Congo countries save forests [09/30/2015]
- Norway and several other countries and multilaterals have created the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). - CAFI will function as a trust fund to support efforts to reduce deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. - Deforestation is currently on the rise in the region.
Scientists urge greater enforcement of wildlife laws in Africa [07/12/2015]
The world’s largest association of tropical biologists and conservationists is urging African leaders to step up efforts to protect wildlife from poaching. In a resolution released June 30, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) called for several measures to counter the commercial bushmeat and hunting trade.
‘Chaos’ in Congo’s logging sector [07/08/2015]
Little of the timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo that finds its way onto international markets can be considered legal, according to a pair of advocacy organizations that recently investigated the forestry sector in the country.
Using DNA evidence to pinpoint poaching zones [07/01/2015]
- Most of the ivory being trafficked today comes from two areas in Africa. - Researchers compared DNA from confiscated tusks to a reference database from elephant skin, dung, and hair collected across Africa. - DNA data also show that poached ivory is shipped out of Africa from countries other than where the elephants were killed
‘Deforestation fronts’ revealed [04/27/2015]
Environmental group WWF has released a new report projecting where the organization believes the bulk of global deforestation is likely to occur over the next 15 years. The analysis, published today, highlights eleven regions where ‘the bulk of global deforestation is projected to take place’ by 2030.
Expedition in the Congo rediscovers lost primate [04/14/2015]
The last time there was a sighting of Bouvier’s red colobus disco was all the rage, the Internet was non-existent, and Madonna still referred solely to the mother of God. But then the African monkey vanished and conservationists feared it had gone extinct—a victim of the bushmeat trade. For years, research groups called for an expedition to find out if Bouvier’s red colobus still survived.
New group hopes to raise global profile of the peace-loving bonobo [04/08/2015]
Of the world’s six species of great ape (not including us), it’s safe to say that bonobos (Pan paniscus) are the least studied and least known publicly. But a new organization, the Bonobo Project, is hoping to change that. To the untrained eye, a bonobo looks little different from their closest relative, the chimpanzee. But the differences between these two cousins are actually quite large.
Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013 [04/02/2015]
Russia and Canada led the world in forest loss, accounting for nearly forty percent of the 18 million hectares of forest lost globally in 2013, reveals a new analysis based on high resolution satellite imagery. The research — released today on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring and research platform — was led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland and involved Google, World Resources Institute (WRI), and other institutions
DRC mulls changing Virunga’s boundaries for oil [03/19/2015]
Last Friday, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced it was considering changing the boundaries of Virunga National Park to accommodate oil exploitation. Africa’s oldest park, Virunga is home to around a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas as well as thousands of other species, many of them threatened with extinction.
Selective logging causes long-term changes to forest structure [02/18/2015]
Selective logging is causing long-term changes to tropical forests in Africa by facilitating the growth of weeds and vines, which reduces plant diversity and diminishes carbon storage, reports a new paper published in the journal Ecological Research. The paper is based on field data from more than 500 plots in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon and Gabon.
Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015 [01/02/2015]
2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here’s a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.
2014: the year in rainforests [12/30/2014]
2014 could be classified as ‘The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment’. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
Camera traps capture rare footage of wild bonobos (video) [12/29/2014]
Bonobos, our ape cousins, love peace. Unlike chimpanzees, also our close relatives, bonobos are known to resolve conflict through sex instead of aggression. They kiss, they caress, and females display genito-genital rubbing (also called G-G rubbing) to communicate, bond, and reconcile.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014 [12/29/2014]
In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response to global warming, China and the U.S. announced joint actions this year. On November 12th, the world’s two most powerful countries surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that they would work together to tackle the crisis.
Tropical deforestation could disrupt rainfall globally [12/18/2014]
Large-scale deforestation in the tropics could drive significant and widespread shifts in rainfall distribution and temperatures, potentially affecting agriculture both locally and far from where forest loss is occurring, concludes a study published today in Nature Climate Change.
Surprising reasons to be optimistic about saving forests [11/14/2014]
In the 1990s, the world watched with alarm as vast tracts of tropical rainforest were torn down for timber and croplands, dug up for minerals and energy, and flooded for hydroelectric projects. Conservation groups, governments, philanthropists, and institutions like the World Bank collectively spent billions of dollars on programs to stop the carnage. But as viewed from satellites high above Earth’s surface, those efforts barely dented deforestation rates.
‘Militarized occupation’: local communities pay the price for palm oil [11/11/2014]
There’s little doubt that the use of palm oil is expanding rapidly throughout the world, and with it the need for millions of hectares of land to grow oil palm trees. The results can be devastating for local communities who depend on the agriculture and forests that these lands support. A recent report catalogs the issues that arise with oil palm expansion.
Beef, palm oil, soy, and wood products from 8 countries responsible for 1/3 of forest destruction [10/23/2014]
Four commodities produced in just eight countries are responsible for a third of the world’s forest loss, according to a new report. Those familiar with the long-standing effort to stop deforestation won’t be surprised by the commodities named: beef, palm oil, soy, and wood products (including timber and paper). Nor will they be very surprised by most of the countries: Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Climate change to boost farmland, diminish harvests, says new study [09/29/2014]
Climate change is likely to alter how we humans grow adequate amounts of food for a swelling global population. Assessing just how much and where those changes will occur has been difficult. But a new study takes aim at those very questions and could provide a guide for the debate over feeding the planet while also preserving biodiversity and the forests that filter out the carbon we produce.
Four countries pledge to restore 30 million hectares of degraded lands at UN Summit [09/25/2014]
In 2011, Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature launched the Bonn Challenge, which pledged to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. Several countries have already made commitments—including the U.S.—but this week at the UN Climate Summit four more jumped on board.
Illegal tropical deforestation driven globally by “agro-conversion” [09/11/2014]
Nearly 50 percent of tropical deforestation to make room for commercial agriculture between 2000 and 2012 was done so illegally. That’s a key finding of a report published by the U.S.-based nonprofit organization Forest Trends looking at the global tide of tropical forest “agro-conversion.”
How do we save the world’s vanishing old-growth forests? [08/26/2014]
There’s nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world’s primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Invasion of the oil palm: western Africa’s native son returns, threatening great apes [07/28/2014]
As palm oil producers increasingly look to Africa’s tropical forests as suitable candidates for their next plantations, primate scientists are sounding the alarm about the destruction of ape habitat that can go hand in hand with oil palm expansion. A recent study sought to take those warnings a step further by quantifying the overlap in suitable oil palm land with current ape habitat.
Will the last ape found be the first to go? Bonobos’ biggest refuge under threat (Part I) [07/16/2014]
Bonobos have been declining sharply over the past few decades. In response, several non-profit organizations teamed up with governmental agencies in the DRC to create Sankuru Nature Reserve, a massive protected area in the midst of bonobo habitat. However, the reserve is not safe from deforestation, and has lost more than one percent of its forest cover in less than a decade.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Playing games to understand what drives deforestation [06/26/2014]
Dr. Claude Garcia plays games, but you won’t find him betting his shirt at the casino. As leader of the Forest Management and Development Research Group at ETH Zürich, Garcia and his team use participatory modeling and role-playing games, merged with more traditional disciplinary sciences such as ecology, economics, and sociology to understand and manage complex landscape change in the tropics.
Discarded cell phones to help fight rainforest poachers, loggers in real-time [06/24/2014]
A technology that uses discarded mobile phones to create a real-time alert system against logging and poaching will soon be deployed in the endangered rainforests of Central Africa. Rainforest Connection (RFCx), a San Francisco-based non-profit startup, is partnering with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to install its real-time anti-deforestation technology at sites in Cameroon. 30 RFCx devices — recycled from old Android handsets — will monitor 10,000 hectares or nearly 40 square miles of rainforest, listening for audio signals associated with logging and poaching.
Grenades, helicopters, and scooping out brains: poachers decimate elephant population in park [06/15/2014]
Over the last two months, poachers have killed 68 African elephants in Garamba National Park representing around four percent of the population. Poachers have used helicopters, grenades, and chainsaws to undertake their gruesome trade, and, for the first time, the park has recorded that the criminals are removing the elephant’s brains in addition to tusks and genitals.
Greenpeace accuses controversial palm oil company and Cameroon government of illegal logging [05/28/2014]
Greenpeace has just accused one of the world’s most controversial oil palm companies, Herakles Farms, of colluding with top government officials to sell off illegally logged timber to China. According to a new report, an agreement between Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and Herkales Farms—through a shell company—could torpedo the country’s agreement with the EU for better timber management.
DRC seeks $1B to save its rainforest [05/22/2014]
The Democratic Republic of Congo is seeking a billion dollars for a plan to protect up to 9 million hectares of rainforests, reports the Financial Times.
Almost 90 percent of Republic of the Congo’s lowland forests open to logging [05/06/2014]
Although the Republic of the Congo has opened up nearly 90 percent of its lowland forests to logging, the majority of the logging occurring in the country is still illegal, according to a new report from the Chatham House. In fact the UK policy institute finds that illegal logging in the Republic of the Congo may make up as much as 70-75 percent of the industry.
Okapi-killing warlord shot dead in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [04/17/2014]
The head of an informal militia and poaching group, Paul Sadala a.k.a. ‘Morgan,’ was killed on Monday after surrendering himself to the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A well-known elephant poacher and terrorist, Morgan became most famous for leading an attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in 2012.
Nearly 90 percent of logging in the DRC is illegal [04/08/2014]
The forestry sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is completely out of control, according to a new eye-opening report. Put together by the Chatham House, the report estimates that at least 87 percent of logging in the DRC was illegal in 2011, making the DRC possibly the most high-risk country in the world for purchasing legal wood products.
Rainforest news review for 2013 [12/26/2013]
2013 was full of major developments in efforts to understand and protect the world’s tropical rainforests. The following is a review of some of the major tropical forest-related news stories for the year. As a review, this post will not cover everything that transpired during 2013 in the world of tropical forests. Please feel free to highlight anything this post missed via the comments section at the bottom. Also please note that this review focuses only on tropical forests.
Bonobos: the Congo Basin’s great gardeners [12/11/2013]
The survival of primary forests depends on many overlapping interactions. Among these interactions include tropical gardeners, like the bonobo (Pan pansicus) in the Congo Basin, according to a new study in the Journal of Tropical Ecology. Bonobos are known as a keystone species, vital to the diversification and existence of their forests.
28 percent of potential bonobo habitat remains suitable [11/27/2013]
Only 27.5 percent of potential bonobo habitat is still suitable for the African great ape, according to the most comprehensive study of species’ range yet appearing in Biodiversity Conservation. ‘Bonobos are only found in lowland rainforest south of the sweeping arch of the Congo River, west of the Lualaba River, and north of the Kasai River,’ lead author Jena Hickey with Cornell told mongabay.com. ‘Our model identified 28 percent of that range as suitable for bonobos. This species of ape could use much more of its range if it weren’t for the habitat loss and forest fragmentation that gives poachers easier access to illegally hunt bonobos.’
Controversial palm oil project approved in Cameroon rainforest [11/26/2013]
A controversial palm oil project set in the West African rainforest in Cameroon has won a three-year provisional lease to convert 20,000 hectares of land for plantations. The project, which is run by U.S.-based Herakles Farms, has been heavily opposed by environmental groups who say it will destroy blocks of wildlife-rich forest.
Elusive giraffe-relative – the okapi – now listed as Endangered [11/26/2013]
The discovery of the okapi shocked the world in 1901. African explorer, Henry Stanley, called it ‘donkey-like,’ while others thought it a new species of zebra, given the stripes. However, this notoriously-secretive rainforest ungulate proved to be the world’s only living relative of the giraffe, making it one of most incredible taxonomic discoveries of the Twentieth Century as well as one of the last large-bodied mammals to be uncovered by scientists. But the future of the okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is increasingly in doubt: a new update of the IUCN Red List released today has raised the threatened level for the okapi from Vulnerable to Endangered.
Honey badgers and more: camera traps reveal wealth of small carnivores in Gabon (photos) [10/17/2013]
Gabon has lost most of its big meat-eaters including lions, spotted hyenas, and African wild dogs (although it’s still home to leopards), but a new study focuses on the country’s lesser-known species with an appetite for flesh. For the first time, researchers surveyed Gabon’s small carnivores, including 12 species from the honey badger (Mellivora capensis) to the marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosus).
Controversial oil palm company now accused of illegal logging in Cameroon rainforest [09/18/2013]
Environmental group, Greenpeace, has accused Herakles Farms of illegal logging in Cameroon after the company has already been lambasted by scientists and conservationists for its plan to build a 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation in one of Africa’s most biodiverse rainforests. Herakles Farms has been under fire from green groups—both in Cameroon and abroad—for years over its oil palm plantation plans, including facing protests from locals who live in the forest to be cleared.
A year after devastating attack, security returns to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (photos) [09/09/2013]
On June 24th of last year, MaiMai Simba rebels, led by an elephant poacher known as Morgan, launched a devastating attack on the headquarters of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The attack, which was reportedly in response to a crack down on poaching and illegal mining in the park, left buildings burned, equipment destroyed, and six people dead including two rangers. The militia also left with 28 women hostages, many of them minors. As if to add insult to injury, the militia didn’t leave until they shot dead all 14 captive okapis at the headquarters, which were used as wildlife ambassadors for the local community.
Elephant killer gets five years in prison in the Republic of Congo [08/01/2013]
The Congolese Supreme Court has ordered Ghislain Ngondjo (known as Pepito) to five years in prison for slaughtering dozens of elephants for their ivory tusks. The five year sentence is the maximum in the Republic of Congo for poaching. Ngondjo was considered the “kingpin” of an elephant poaching group; in addition to killing pachyderms, Ngondjo recruited new poachers and made death threats to park rangers and staff in Odzala National Park.
Meet Thor’s shrew: scientists discover new mammal with a superior spine [07/30/2013]
In 1917, Joel Asaph Allen examined an innocuous species of shrew from the Congo Basin and made a remarkable discovery: the shrew’s spine was unlike any seen before. Interlocking lumbar vertebrae made the species’ spine four times strong than any other vertebrate on Earth adjusted for its size. The small mammal had been discovered only seven years before and was dubbed the hero shrew (Scutisorex somereni), after the name give to it by the local Mangbetu people, who had long known of the shrew’s remarkable abilities.
NGO hits out at study for downplaying logging threat in Congo rainforest [07/23/2013]
Global Witness has called in question conclusions reached in a study on logging in the Congo rainforest. The group, which has published a series of investigative reports on abuses by logging companies operating the world’s second largest tropical forest, said that a review published Monday in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B ‘[presents] a misleading and inaccurate picture of the present and growing threats to the Congo Basin rainforest.’
Hunting, logging could threaten long-term health of Congo forests by wiping out key animals [07/23/2013]
Unsustainable hunting of forest elephants, gorillas, forest antelopes, and other seed-dispersers could have long-term impacts on the health and resilience of Congo Basin rainforests, warns a study published today in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B. Conducting a review of more than 160 papers and reports on trends in wildlife populations, hunting, and land use in the Congo Basin, an international team of researchers conclude that unless effective management plans are put into place, hunting pressure in the region is likely to increase, with knock-on ecological effects.
Deforestation rate falls in Congo Basin countries [07/22/2013]
Deforestation has fallen in Congo Basin countries over the past decade despite a sharp increase in the rate of forest clearing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B as part of a set of 18 papers on the region’s tropical forests. The special issue, which was put together by Oxford University’s Yadvinder Malhi, covers a range of issues relating to the rainforests of the Congo Basin, including deforestation, the impacts of global change, the history and key characteristics of the region’s forests, and resource extraction, among others.
Elephants massacred for ivory in Central African Republic [05/10/2013]
Dozens of elephants have been slaughtered in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic just days after conservationists warned about an impending threat from the movement of 17 heavily armed poachers. The massacre occurred at a site renowned as ‘village of elephants’, where tourists and scientists have for decades observed wild elephants congregating at a large clearing to feed on minerals.
17 poachers allegedly enter elephant stronghold in Congo, conservationists fear massacre [05/07/2013]
Local researchers and wildlife guards say 17 armed elephant poachers have gained access to Dzanga Bai, a large waterhole and clearing where up to 200 forest elephants visit daily in the Central African Republic (CAR)’s Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. WWF, which works in the region but has recently evacuated due to rising violence, is calling on the CAR government to rapidly mobilize its military to stop another elephant bloodbath in central Africa. Elephants are being killed across their range for their ivory, which is mostly smuggled to East Asia.
Beautiful striped bat is the “find of a lifetime” (photos) [04/10/2013]
Scientists have uncovered a rare, brilliantly-striped bat in South Sudan that has yielded new secrets after close study. Working in Bangangai Game Reserve during July of last year, biologist DeeAnn Redeer and conservationist Adrian Garsdie with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) came across an unmissable bat, which has been dubbed by various media outlets as the “badger bat” and the “panda bat.”
An insidious threat to tropical forests: over-hunting endangers tree species in Asia and Africa [04/04/2013]
A fruit falls to the floor in a rainforest. It waits. And waits. Inside the fruit is a seed, and like most seeds in tropical forests, this one needs an animal—a good-sized animal—to move it to a new place where it can germinate and grow. But it may be waiting in vain. Hunting and poaching has decimated many mammal and bird populations across the tropics, and according to two new studies the loss of these important seed-disperser are imperiling the very nature of rainforests.
Infamous elephant poacher turns cannibal in the Congo [04/03/2013]
Early on a Sunday morning last summer, the villagers of Epulu awoke to the sounds of shots and screaming. In the eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that can often mean another round of violence and ethnic murder is under way. In this case, however, something even more horrific was afoot.
Forging zoos into global conservation centers, an interview with Cristian Samper, head of WCS [03/25/2013]
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is one of the world’s leading environmental organizations. Founded in 1895 (originally as the New York Zoological Society), the WCS manages 200 million acres of wild places around the globe, with over 500 field conservation projects in 65 countries, and 200 scientists on staff. The WCS also runs five facilities in New York City: the Central Park Zoo, the New York Aquarium, Prospect Park and Queens Zoos, and the world renowned Bronx Zoo.
Seeing the forest through the elephants: slaughtered elephants taking rainforest trees with them [03/11/2013]
Elephants are vanishing. The booming illegal ivory trade is decimating the world’s largest land animal, but no place has been harder hit than the Congo basin and its forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). The numbers are staggering: a single park in Gabon, Minkebe National Park, has seen 11,100 forest elephants killed in the last eight years; Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has lost 75 percent of its elephants in fifteen years; and a new study in PLoS ONE estimates that in total 60 percent of the world’s forest elephants have been killed in the last decade alone. But what does that mean for the Congo forest?
62% of all Africa’s forest elephants killed in 10 years (warning: graphic images) [03/04/2013]
More than 60 percent of Africa’s forest elephants have been killed in the past decade due to the ivory trade, reports a new study published in the online journal PLOS ONE. The study warns that the diminutive elephant species — genetically distinct from the better-known savanna elephant — is rapidly heading toward extinction.
New illegal logging ban in EU could sever all ties with companies working in DRC [03/04/2013]
Yesterday, the EU joined the U.S. and Australia in banning all timber that was illegally harvested abroad. The new regulation could have a major impact on where the EU sources its timber, and no where more so than the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to a new report by Greenpeace, the DRC’s current moratorium on industrial logging is being systematically circumvented making all timber from the country suspect.
Elephant massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [02/28/2013]
A key Congo wildlife reserve has lost 75 percent of its elephants in just 15 years due to poaching to meet Asian demand for ivory, reports a new survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Democratic Republic of Congo authorities.
Warlords, sorcery, and wildlife: an environmental artist ventures into the Congo [02/25/2013]
Last year, Roger Peet, an American artist, traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to visit one of the world’s most remote and wild forests. Peet spent three months in a region that is largely unknown to the outside world, but where a group of conservationists, headed by Terese and John Hart, are working diligently to create a new national park, known as Lomami. Here, the printmaker met a local warlord, discovered a downed plane, and designed a tomb for a wildlife ranger killed by disease, in addition to seeing some of the region’s astounding wildlife. Notably, the burgeoning Lomami National Park is home to the world’s newest monkey species, only announced by scientists last September.
Activists warn of industrial palm oil expansion in Congo rainforest [02/21/2013]
Industrial oil palm plantations are spreading from Malaysia and Indonesia to the Congo raising fears about deforestation and social conflict. A new report by The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), dramatically entitled The Seeds of Destruction, announces that new palm oil plantations in the Congo rainforest will soon increase fivefold to half a million hectares, an area nearly the size of Delaware. But conservationists warn that by ignoring the lessons of palm oil in Southeast Asia, this trend could be disastrous for the region’s forests, wildlife, and people.
Controversial palm oil project concession in Cameroon is 89 percent ‘dense natural forest’ [02/21/2013]
Satellite mapping and aerial surveys have revealed that a controversial palm oil concession in Cameroon is almost entirely covered by “dense natural forest,” according to a new report by Greenpeace. The activist group alleges that the concession, owned by Herakles Farms, is under 89 percent forest cover. The U.S.-based corporation intends to build a 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation in a region surrounded by four protected areas, including Korup National Park, but has faced stiff criticism from numerous environmental groups as well as conflict with locals.
Over 11,000 elephants killed by poachers in a single park [warning: graphic photo] [02/06/2013]
Surveys in Gabon’s Minkebe National Park have revealed rare and hard data on the scale of the illegal ivory trade over the last eight years: 11,100 forest elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks in this remote protected area since 2004. In all, poachers have cut down the park’s elephant population by two-thirds, decimating what was once believed to be the largest forest elephant population in the world.
Gorilla paradise: new park safeguards 15,000 western lowland gorillas [01/31/2013]
In 2008 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced a jaw-dropping discovery: remote swamp forests in northern Republic of Congo contained a stunning population of 125,000 western lowland gorillas that had somehow gone unnoticed by scientists. At the time the President of WCS, Steven E. Sanderson, called the area the “mother lode of gorillas,” and expressed hope that the discovery would lead to a new park. Well, late last year, a park was finalized.
The year in rainforests [12/31/2012]
2012 was another year of mixed news for the world’s tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there’s something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
Congo ranger ambushed and killed defending wildlife [12/18/2012]
Atamato Madrandele, Chief Warden of Upemba National Park, was ambushed and killed December 16, 2012 by Mai Mai militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reports the Upemba Conservation Project.
Okapi Conservation Project wins mongabay’s 2012 conservation award [12/06/2012]
A group that works to protect the rare okapi, a type of forest giraffe found only in the Congo Basin, has has won mongabay.com’s 2012 conservation award. The Okapi Conservation Project has been working to protect the okapi and its habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 25 years. The group was instrumental in establishing the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a 13,700-square-kilometer tract of wilderness in the Ituri Forest of northeastern DRC. While the Okapi Conservation Project has had a long track record of success, earlier this year it was devastated by a brutal attack on the reserve’s headquarters. Two wildlife rangers were among the six people killed during June 24 assault.
‘Exporting deforestation’: China is the kingpin of illegal logging [11/29/2012]
Runaway economic growth comes with costs: in the case of China’s economic engine, one of them has been the world’s forests. According to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), China has become the number one importer of illegal wood products from around the world. Illegal logging—which threatens biodiversity, emits carbon, impoverishes local communities, and is often coupled with other crimes—has come under heavy pressure in recent years from the U.S., the EU, and Australia. Each of these has implemented, or will soon implement, new laws that make importing and selling illegal wood products domestic crimes. However, China’s unwillingness to tackle its vast appetite for illegal timber means the trade continues to decimate forests worldwide.
Mountain gorilla population up by over 20 percent in five years [11/13/2012]
A mountain gorilla census in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has a population that continues to rise, hitting 400 animals. The new census in Bwindi means the total population of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) has reached 880—up from 720 in 2007—and marking a growth of about 4 percent per year.
Foreign loggers and corrupt officials flouting logging moratorium in the Democratic Republic of Congo [11/08/2012]
In 2002 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced a moratorium on commercial logging in a bid to save rapidly falling forests, however a new report by Global Witness alleges that industrial loggers are finding a way around the logging freeze. Through unscrupulous officials, foreign companies are abusing artisanal permits—meant for local community logging—to clear-cut wide swathes of tropical forest in the country. These logging companies are often targeting an endangered tree—wenge (Millettia laurentii)—largely for buyers in China and Europe.
‘The ivory trade is like drug trafficking’ (warning graphic images) [11/05/2012]
For the past five years, Spanish biologist Luis Arranz has been the director of Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Arranz and a team of nearly 240 people, 140 guards among them, work to protect a vast area of about 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of virgin forest, home to a population of more than 2.300 elephants that are facing a new and more powerful enemy. The guards are encountering not only bigger groups of poachers, but with ever more sophisticated weapons. According to Arranz, armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda are now killing elephants for their ivory.
NASA satellites catch vast deforestation inside Virunga National Park [10/03/2012]
Two satellite images by NASA, one from February 13, 1999 and the other from September 1, 2008 (see below), show that Virunga National Park is under assault from deforestation. Located in the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the park has been assailed by entrenched conflict between rebels and government forces, as well as slash-and-burn farming, the charcoal trade, and a booming human population.
British government comes out against drilling in Virunga National Park by UK company [10/01/2012]
The British government has come out in opposition against oil drilling plans by UK-based, SOCO International, in Virunga National Park, reports Reuters. The first national park established on the continent, Virunga is home to one of only two populations of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the world. In March of this year, two oil exploratory permits came to light granting SOCO seismic testing inside the park by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Illegal logging worth $30-100B annually [10/01/2012]
Illegal logging accounts for 15-30 percent of forestry in the tropics and is worth $30-100 billion worldwide, alleges a new report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL. Consuming countries play a major role in the trade, which is increasingly sophisticated and in some places is facilitated by the expansion of industrial plantations.
Rarest gorillas lose half their habitat in 20 years [10/01/2012]
Cross River gorillas and eastern gorillas lost more than half their habitat since the early 1990s due to deforestation, logging, and other human activities, finds a comprehensive new assessment across great apes’ range in West and Central Africa.
Rodents have lowest diversity in primary forests in the Congo [09/17/2012]
For many animal families, diversity and abundance rises as one moves away from human-impacted landscapes, like agricultural areas, into untouched places, such as primary rainforests. However, a new study in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, shows that the inverse can also be true. In this case, scientists working in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Maskao Forest found that both rodent diversity and abundance was lowest in primary forest.
Remarkable new monkey discovered in remote Congo rainforest [09/12/2012]
In a massive, wildlife-rich, and largely unexplored rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), researchers have made an astounding discovery: a new monkey species, known to locals as the ‘lesula’. The new primate, which is described in a paper in the open access PLoS ONE journal, was first noticed by scientist and explorer, John Hart, in 2007. John, along with his wife Terese, run the TL2 project, so named for its aim to create a park within three river systems: the Tshuapa, Lomami and the Lualaba (i.e. TL2), a region home to bonobos, okapi, forest elephants, Congo peacock, as well as the newly-described lesula.
Palm oil company in Cameroon drops bid for eco-certification of controversial plantation [09/05/2012]
Herakles Farm, a U.S.-based agricultural developer, will no longer seek eco-certification of its 70,000-hectare oil palm plantation in Cameroon, reports the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The move comes amid criticism from environmental groups that Herakles is converting high conservation value rainforest for the plantation.
Nintendo is ‘worst’ company on conflict minerals [08/16/2012]
Gaming giant Nintendo is the worst company for ensuring that materials used in its electronics are not linked to bloodshed in war-torn regions like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to an assessment released today by the Enough Project, an initiative that aims to boost transparency around minerals sourcing.
Turning gorilla poachers into conservationists in the Congo [warning: graphic photos] [08/13/2012]
Although founded only four years ago, Endangered Species International-Congo, has ambitious plans to protect dwindling Western gorilla populations and aid local people in the Republic of the Congo. The organization, an offshoot of Endangered Species International (ESI), has been spending the last few years studying the bushmeat trade in Pointe-Noire, the country’s second largest city, and developing plans for turning hunters into conservationists.
Cute animal picture of the day: sitatunga calf [07/24/2012]
The sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii) is a swamp-dwelling antelope that makes its home in Central and Southern Africa, including the Congo Rainforest. They have waterproof coats and often take to the water to help avoid predators. The sitatunga is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
Innovative conservation: bandanas to promote new park in the Congo [07/16/2012]
American artist, Roger Peet—a member of the art cooperative, Justseeds, and known for his print images of vanishing species—is headed off to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to help survey a new protected area, Lomami National Park. With him, he’ll be bringing 400 bandanas sporting beautifully-crafted images of the park’s endangered fauna. Peet hopes the bandanas, which he’ll be handing out freely to locals, will not only create support and awareness for the fledgling park, but also help local people recognize threatened species.
Poacher known as ‘Morgan’ behind devastating massacre at Okapi Wildlife Reserve [07/05/2012]
Officials have pointed to an infamous elephant poacher known as ‘Morgan’ as the head of the murderous attack at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) late last month. The attack by Morgan and his crew left seven people dead, including two wildlife rangers. The poachers also shot dead 13 captive okapis at the headquarters, which were considered ambassadors for the imperiled forest. One okapi remains alive, but injured and conservationists are not optimistic about its survival. UNESCO and the the NGO Fauna and Flora international have issued an emergency appeal to raise $120,000 dollars within two weeks for the victim’s families as well as for rapidly rebuilding the station.
Gabon torches their ivory stock as poachers attack okapi reserve [07/02/2012]
Last week, the west African nation of Gabon committed over 1,200 ivory tusks and carvings to the fire. The act, which was meant to send a strong signal to illegal wildlife poachers across Africa, came only a few days after militia poachers stormed the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The assailants killed 13 okapis and six people, including two wildlife rangers, in retaliation for a crackdown against poaching and mining in the protected area. Poaching has reached epidemic levels in Africa due to increasing bushmeat consumption and a rise in East Asian demand for black-market ivory and rhino horns.
Militia massacres rangers, 13 endangered okapi at Congo wildlife reserve [06/29/2012]
Two wildlife rangers were among the six people killed during brazen attack on a wildlife facility by a militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo last Sunday. 13 endangered okapi were slaughtered during the early morning raid, which was reportedly a response to a crackdown on illegal elephant poaching and gold mining inside the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
Congolese experts needed to protect Congo Basin rainforests [06/20/2012]
This summer, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to approve a new higher education strategy which the country has developed with the World Bank and other international donors. The shape of this educational reform initiative will be critical to Congo’s future in many ways. It could finally offer Congo’s long-suffering people a route into the 21st century. It will also help determine the future of the DRC’s forests. Nearly half of the Congo Basin’s remaining rainforest is in the DRC—yet the critical role of Congolese experts in forestry, agricultural science, wildlife management and other rural sciences in protecting this forest is not widely recognized.
Over 700 people killed defending forest and land rights in past ten years [06/19/2012]
On May 24th, 2011, forest activist José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, were gunned down in an ambush in the Brazilian state of Pará. A longtime activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva had made a name for himself for openly criticizing illegal logging in the state which is rife with deforestation. The killers even cut off the ears of the da Silvas, a common practice of assassins in Brazil to prove to their employers that they had committed the deed. Less than a year before he was murdered, da Silva warned in a TEDx Talk, “I could get a bullet in my head at any moment…because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers.”
Elephant numbers halved in Central Africa in 5 years [06/08/2012]
Elephant numbers in areas surveyed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Central Africa halved between 2006 and 2011, hinting at the carnage wrought by the surging commercial ivory trade and demonstrating a need to boost protection efforts, said the Bronx Zoo-based conservation group.
Bigger is better for gorillas [05/02/2012]
A new study confirms that bigger and stronger silverback gorillas have more success finding mates and raising offspring.
Gabon to burn ivory stockpiles [04/09/2012]
The government of Gabon has announced it will burn its stockpiles of ivory later this year in a bid to undercut illegal elephant poaching, which is decimating populations in central Africa.
Controversial logging company sells operations in DR Congo [03/23/2012]
Danzer, a Swiss-German forestry company that has been subject to much criticism by environmentalists for its logging practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has sold its operations in the Central African country, reports Greenpeace.
Deforestation increases in the Congo rainforest [03/20/2012]
Deforestation in the Congo Basin has increased sharply since the 1990s, reports an extensive new assessment of forests in the six-nation region. Released by the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) and members of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, The State of the Forest finds that the region’s annual gross deforestation rate doubled from 0.13 percent to 0.26 percent between the 1990s and the 2000-2005 period. Gross degradation caused by logging, fire, and other impacts increased from 0.07 percent to 0.14 percent on an annual basis. Despite the jump, rates in the Congo Basin remain well below those in Latin America and Southeast Asia, but the region is seen as a prime target for future agroindustrial expansion.
Oil exploration approved in Africa’s oldest park, Virunga National Park [03/19/2012]
Permits for controversial oil exploration in Virunga National Park have been released after request by NGO Global Witness. Oil company, SOCO International, has confirmed it has received two permits to undertake preliminary exploration, including seismic tests, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Virunga is famous for its population of the Critically Endangered mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei).
Republic of the Congo expands park to protect fearless chimps [02/16/2012]
The Republic of the Congo has expanded its Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park by 37,295 hectares (144 square miles) to include a dense swamp forest, home to a population of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) that show no fear of humans. Known as the Goualougo Triangle, the swamp forest is also home to forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The expansion of the park to include the Goualougo Triangle makes good on a government commitment from 2001.
Humans drove rainforest into savannah in ancient Africa [02/09/2012]
Three thousand years ago (around 1000 BCE) several large sections of the Congo rainforest in central Africa suddenly vanished and became savannah. Scientists have long believed the loss of the forest was due to changes in the climate, however a new study in Science implicates an additional culprit: humans. The study argues that a migration of farmers into the region led to rapid land-use changes from agriculture and iron smelting, eventually causing the collapse of rainforest in places and a rise of grasslands. The study has implications for today as scientists warn that the potent combination of deforestation and climate change could flip parts of the Amazon rainforest as well into savannah.