10-second nature news digest

Conservation news digest for busy people from @Mongabay. Story summaries that can be read in about ten seconds per post.

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The Great Insect Dying: The tropics in trouble and some hope [06/10/2019]
- Insect species are most diverse in the tropics, but are largely unresearched, with many species not described by science. But entomologists believe abundance is being impacted by climate change, habitat destruction and the introduction of industrial agribusiness with its heavy pesticide use.
- A 2018 repeat of a 1976 study in Puerto Rico, which measured the total biomass of a rainforest’s arthropods, found that in the intervening decades populations collapsed. Sticky traps caught up to 60-fold fewer insects than 37 years prior, while ground netting caught 8 times fewer insects than in 1976.
- The same researchers also looked at insect abundance in a tropical forest in Western Mexico. There, biomass abundance fell eightfold in sticky traps from 1981 to 2014. Researchers from Southeast Asia, Australia, Oceania and Africa all expressed concern to Mongabay over possible insect abundance declines.
- In response to feared tropical declines, new insect surveys are being launched, including the Arthropod Initiative and Global Malaise Trap Program. But all of these new initiatives suffer the same dire problem: a dearth of funding and lack of interest from foundations, conservation groups and governments.

Audio: Tool-using, ground-nesting chimp culture discovered in DR Congo [04/16/2019]
- On today’s episode, we talk to primatologist Cleve Hicks, who recently led a research team that discovered a new tool-using chimp culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Hicks and team spent 12 years documenting the behaviors of a group of chimps in the Bili-Uéré region of northern DRC, and their findings include an entirely new chimpanzee tool kit featuring four different kinds of tools. The chimps also build ground nests, which is highly unusual for any group of chimps — but especially for chimps living around dangerous predators like lions and leopards.
- And the Eastern chimps’ novel use of tools and ground nesting aren’t even the most interesting behavioral quirks they displayed, Hicks says.

The hidden costs of hydro: We need to reconsider world’s dam plans [03/05/2019]
- As thousands of hydroelectric dams are planned worldwide, including 147 in the Amazon, a new study finds that the true socio-environmental and cultural costs of dams are rarely evaluated before construction. Were such factors counted into the lifetime cost of the dams, many would not be built.
- Dam repairs and removal at the end of a project’s life are rarely figured into upfront costs. Nor are impacts on river flow reduction, loss of fisheries, and aquatic habitat connectivity, destruction of productive farmlands drowned by reservoirs, and the displacement of riverine peoples.
- Lack of transparency and corruption between government and dam construction companies is at the heart of the problem preventing change. Researchers recommend that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and social impact assessments (SIAs) be granted enough weight so that if they turn out negatively it will prevent a bad dam from being built.
- EIAs and SIAs should be done by third parties serving citizens, not the dam company. Better governance surrounding dams needs to be organized and implemented. There needs to be increased transparency about the true financial, social, cultural and environmental costs of dams to the public. Maintaining river flows and fish migrations is also critical.

Saving the forests of the Congo Basin: Q&A with author Meindert Brouwer [01/23/2019]
- Central African Forests Forever, first published in 2017, takes readers to the heart of the continent, introducing them to the people and wildlife of this region.
- Its author, independent communications consultant Meindert Brouwer, says the book also functions as a tool for sharing information about efforts to address poverty and environmental issues in the region.
- Mongabay spoke with Brouwer to learn more about his motivations and the reception of his work in Central Africa.

Rapid population drop weakened the Grauer’s gorilla gene pool [01/10/2019]
- The loss of 80 percent of all Grauer’s, or eastern lowland, gorillas in the past two decades has led to a severe reduction in the subspecies’ genetic diversity, new research has found.
- That slide could make it more difficult for the fewer than 4,000 remaining Grauer’s gorillas to adapt to changes in their environment.
- Scientists look for signs of hope in the animal’s sister subspecies, the mountain gorilla, which, studies suggest, has adapted to its own low levels of genetic diversity.

Rainforests: storylines to watch in 2019 [01/02/2019]
- 2018 wasn’t a great year for tropical rainforests, with major conservation setbacks in Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and the United States coming on top of back-to-back years of high forest cover loss.
- Here are ten storylines we’re watching in the world of rainforests as we begin 2019.
- Brazil’s Bolsanaro, Democratic Republic of Congo election outcome, global economic health, Indonesia’s election, biofuel mandates, California forest carbon decision, forest monitoring technology, U.S. politics, and political momentum for biodiversity.

The biggest rainforest news stories in 2018 [12/30/2018]
- This is our annual rainforests year in review post.
- Overall, 2018 was not a good year for the planet’s tropical rainforests.
- Rainforest conservation suffered many setbacks, especially in Brazil, the Congo Basin, and Madagascar.
- Colombia was one of the few bright spots for rainforests in 2018.

Audio: How an African bat might help us prevent future Ebola outbreaks [10/02/2018]
- On this episode, we look at research into an African bat that might be the key to controlling future Ebola outbreaks.
- Our guest is Sarah Olson, an Associate Director of Wildlife Health for the Wildlife Conservation Society. With Ebola very much in the news lately due to a recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Olson is here to tell us how research into hammer-headed fruit bats might help us figure out how Ebola is transmitted from animals to humans — and potentially control or prevent future outbreaks of the viral disease.
- The bats don’t contract the disease, but there is evidence that they carry the virus. Olson is part of a study in the Republic of the Congo that seeks to understand how the Ebola virus is transmitted from carriers like hammer-headed fruit bats to other wildlife and humans.

Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago [08/15/2018]
- Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature.
- The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016.
- The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions.
- However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.

Study links US demand for Chinese furniture to deforestation in Africa [08/03/2018]
- Recent research links the U.S. demand for furniture made in China to tree cover loss in Africa’s Congo Basin.
- Between 2001 and 2015, China became the largest export market for timber from the Congo Basin, and over that same time period, the share of imports of furniture from China to the U.S. grew from 30 percent to 50 percent.
- The researchers suggest that public awareness campaigns aimed at curbing the demand for such furniture could be a boon for the Congo Basin’s forests.

Logging roads drive loss of intact forest in FSC-certified logging concessions [06/27/2018]
- Logging roads in Central Africa cause greater loss of intact forest landscapes, or IFLs, on certified timber concessions compared to non-certified concessions, an analysis shows.
- Certified timber companies typically build more robust road networks that are more apt to show up on satellite imagery than non-certified companies.
- The findings highlight an apparent contradiction between certification for logging and the protection of IFLs, leading some critics to argue that IFL protection should not be part of the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards.

Could El Niño and climate change spell the end for tropical forests? [06/25/2018]
- NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) allowed scientists to study the response of the world’s tropical rainforests to the 2015-16 El Niño in more detail than every before, potentially providing insight into the longer-term response of tropical forests to escalating climate change.
- During the El Niño, OCO-2 recorded a sudden global surge in CO2 emissions (above 400 ppm for a full year, the highest in modern history), an effect significantly enhanced by tropical forest emissions in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia – all responded to the El Niño by temporarily shifting from carbon sink to carbon source.
- However, each region responded differently: El Niño brought extreme drought to South America, and trees there stopped absorbing CO2. In Southeast Asia, major forest fires raged in extremely dry conditions, quickly releasing stored carbon. In Africa, rainfall was normal, but high temperatures drove increased ecosystem respiration.
- Scientists worry that a tipping point could be reached where tropical forests collapse, but more study is needed. Given the great uncertainties as to how tropical forests will respond to a warming world, taking action now to keep forests standing and healthy may offer the single best hope for mitigating negative impacts, say researchers.

DRC adopts a strategy that will bolster community forestry, conservation group says [06/25/2018]
- A new community forestry strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could help provide Congolese communities with a say in the management of the country’s forests.
- A group of local and international organizations, government agencies and community groups developed the strategy to strengthen the capacity of provincial authorities and ensure that the country’s community forestry laws do in fact include and benefit communities.
- The plan calls for an “experimental phase” over the next five years to gradually provide access to areas of the roughly 700,000 square kilometers (more than 270,000 square miles) of available forest through community management permits.

DRC’s Virunga National Park closes until 2019 due to violence [06/14/2018]
- Last month Mai Mai militia attacked a Virunga park vehicle carrying tourists from the city of Goma, killing park ranger, Rachel Makissa Baraka.
- Immediately following the incident, Virunga National Park said it was closing to visitors until June 4. Now officials are saying the park will be closed to tourists through the end of the year, until the security situation is more under control.
- Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. It is best known for its population of mountain gorillas.

East Africa’s mountain gorilla population now numbers more than 1,000 [06/05/2018]
- According to the results of a census released last week, the mountain gorilla population in East Africa’s Virunga Mountains numbered 604 as of June 2016, up from from 480 in 2010. The population hit an all-time low of 242 individuals in 1981.
- The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla with two distinct sub-populations: one in the Virunga Mountains and another in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A census conducted in 2011 found approximately 400 gorillas living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, meaning that the total number of mountain gorillas is now believed to be more than 1,000 individuals.
- Conservationists were quick to celebrate the increasing mountain gorilla population as a much-needed instance of good news, even if they remain wary of the many persistent and looming threats the subspecies must still contend with.

To protect the Congolese peatlands, protect local land rights (commentary) [06/04/2018]
- In 2017, researchers reported the existence of the largest tropical peatland complex in the world in the Congo Basin.
- In early 2018, a team of scientists, including the author, traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to probe deeper into the peatlands, which cover an area about the size of England and hold some 30 billion tons of carbon.
- Around the same time, the DRC government has awarded logging concessions that overlap with the peatlands, in violation of a 16-year-old moratorium on logging.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Save intact forests for humanity’s sake, urge experts [04/20/2018]
- The world’s largest forests can help solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity, but only if we move to safeguard them, argues a New York Times op-ed by Tom Lovejoy and John Reid.
- Lovejoy and Reid make a case for protecting the planet’s last “intact forest landscapes” for the role they can play in addressing critical social and environmental challenges.
- They argue that while the extent of intact forests have declined by 7 percent so far this century, there are “practical and affordable” options for protecting them.
- “aving forests more than just a nice thing to do; it’s a survival skill we’re going to need over the next hundred years or more,” Reid told Mongabay in an interview.

FSC-certified timber importer failed to check legality of shipment from Cameroon [03/19/2018]
- Hardwood Dimensions, a timber importer in the U.K., violated the EU Timber Regulation by not properly verifying the legality of a shipment of Cameroonian ayous in January 2017.
- A judge ordered Hardwood Dimensions to pay 4,000 pounds ($5,576) plus court costs in the case.
- The case calls into question the effectiveness of Forest Stewardship Council certification, which Hardwood Dimensions has held since 2000.

Report finds projects in DRC ‘REDD+ laboratory’ fall short of development, conservation goals [03/16/2018]
- The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) released a new report that found that 20 REDD+ projects in a province in DRC aren’t set to address forest conservation and economic development — the primary goals of the strategy.
- The Paris Agreement explicitly mentions the role of REDD+ projects, which channel funds from wealthy countries to heavily forested ones, in keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century.
- RRI is asking REDD+ donors to pause funding of projects in DRC until coordinators develop a more participatory approach that includes communities and indigenous groups.

Oil palm, rubber could trigger ‘storm’ of deforestation in the Congo Basin [03/12/2018]
- Earthsight documented approximately 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of deforestation to clear the way for new rubber and oil palm plantations in Central Africa’s rainforest countries in the past five years.
- The team also found that companies in five Central African countries hold licenses for industrial agriculture on another 8,400 square kilometers (3,243 square miles) of land.
- The investigators warn that thousands of hectares of forest could fall to industrial agriculture in the COngo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, if governance of the forest doesn’t improve.

NGOs seek suspension of forest-related funding to DRC in response to proposed end to logging moratorium [03/08/2018]
- More than 50 conservation and human rights organizations have called on international donors to halt forest conservation-related funding to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The call comes in response to signals by the country’s leaders of their intention to end a 16-year-old moratorium on new logging licenses in the country, including a secretive push to alter the DRC forest code.
- The NGOs argue that opening DRC up to logging will destabilize the country and damage the environment and forest-dependent communities.

‘It’s our home’: Pygmies fight for recognition as forest protectors in new film [02/20/2018]
- A recent short film, Pygmy Peoples of the DRC: A Rising Movement, tracks the push for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the DRC.
- The film catalogs the importance of the forest to pygmy groups, as well as their role as stewards of the forest.
- A raft of recent research has shown that indigenous groups around the world often do a better job of protecting forests than parks and reserves.

East Africa’s Albertine Rift needs protection now, scientists say [02/15/2018]
- The Albertine Rift in East Africa is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet.
- Created by the stretching apart of tectonic plates, the unique ecosystems of the Albertine Rift are also under threat from encroaching human population and climate change.
- A new report details a plan to protect the landscapes that make up the Rift at a cost of around $21 million per year — a bargain rate, scientists argue, given the number of threatened species that could be saved.

Maps tease apart complex relationship between agriculture and deforestation in DRC [02/02/2018]
- A team from the University of Maryland’s GLAD laboratory has analyzed satellite images of the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify different elements of the “rural complex” — where many of the DRC’s subsistence farmers live.
- Their new maps and visualizations allow scientists and land-use planners to pinpoint areas where the cycle of shifting cultivation is contained, and where it is causing new deforestation.
- The team and many experts believe that enhanced understanding of the rural complex could help establish baselines that further inform multi-pronged approaches to forest conservation and development, such as REDD+.

Rainforests: the year in review 2017 [01/04/2018]
- 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots.
- This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests.
- Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017.

New study: Gorillas fare better in logged forests than chimps [12/11/2017]
- A study in the northern Republic of Congo found that gorillas and chimpanzees both became scarcer at the onset of logging.
- However, gorillas move backed into logged areas more readily, while chimpanzees were more likely to stay away.
- The researchers believe that gorillas are better able to cope with logging because they’re not as territorial as chimps and they seem to be more flexible in their eating habits.

Waning plantain yields in rural Cameroon hurt college attendance [12/07/2017]
- Plantain yields in Cameroon have declined 43 percent in the 20 years since 1991 because of increasing temperatures and dryness.
- Villagers use proceeds from crop sales to pay for higher education, but this income is dwindling.
- As a result, college attendance rates have declined by six months, on average, during this period.

Supporting conservation by playing a game? Seriously? (commentary) [10/26/2017]
- Can you answer important questions about conservation by playing a game? Yes, and it works.
- In August, ForDev, the research team I lead, was invited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Congo Basin Office to facilitate a workshop of their Regional Working Group on High Conservation Values. FSC’s goal was to define regional indicators for the management of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) within certified forest concessions.
- We combined the MineSet role-playing game with facilitation techniques to help members of the Working Group understand each other, integrate research outputs in their discussions, and support the decision-making process.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New research suggests tropical forests are now a net source of carbon emissions [09/28/2017]
- Whether or not our planet’s rainforests are a net sink of carbon — meaning they sequester more than their destruction by human activities causes them to emit — is a much-debated issue.
- Research released today suggests an answer, however: due to deforestation and forest degradation and disturbance, tropical forests in Africa, the Americas, and Asia now emit more carbon into the atmosphere than they sequester on an annual basis, according to scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and Boston University.
- Over the study period, the rainforests of Africa, the Americas, and Asia were found to have gained approximately 437 teragrams of carbon every year, but to have lost about 862 teragrams of carbon. That means they were a net source of some 425 teragrams of carbon annually.

Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies of variable quality, we found that certified tropical forests can overall be better for the environment than forests managed conventionally.
- But there wasn’t enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people.
- We also found that profits and other economic benefits can be hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests.
- This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.

First ‘intrusions’ into unbroken forests drive pulses of biodiversity loss [07/28/2017]
- The study examined ‘initial intrusions’ into tropical forests and their effect on the threat status of species.
- The researchers found that deforestation at current rates in high-priority areas such as Borneo, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon could push 121 to 219 species closer to extinction in the next 30 years.
- While the authors point out that their conclusions are not a call to protect only intact landscapes, the data could help policymakers working with limited resources to decide where to place new protected areas.

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.

Big forests, big ag: Are rainforests the right place for industrial agriculture? (commentary) [07/20/2017]
- Gabon remains a relative stronghold for endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and forest elephants.
- Singapore-based Olam International, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, has agreed not to plant palm oil in protected wetlands, and also set aside conservation areas and corridors for wildlife in its concessions in Gabon.
- But there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of clearing 26,000 hectares in the middle of one of the world’s most forested countries.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

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.

Tropical forest diversity and carbon richness not linked, study finds [06/12/2017]
- Scientists theorize that increased forest biodiversity also increases productivity (growth), and therefore carbon sequestration. But, a new large-scale study found no consistent relationship in tropical forests studied in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo.
- Research by 100+ scientists combines data from 360 1-hectare plots in Amazon, Congo, and Borneo forests, resulting in one of the largest datasets yet to examine the relationship between tropical tree diversity and carbon storage.
- Tropical forests differ markedly between continents, researchers found: Borneo forests were a triple hotspot for biodiversity, carbon and threat, making a compelling global case for prioritizing their conservation. African plots tended toward higher carbon stocks and lower diversity; South American plots had lower carbon stocks.
- The researchers urge conservationists not to generalize forest attributes when setting conservation strategies, but instead to measure the diversity, productivity, and carbon storage capabilities of each forest in order to make informed conservation decisions. This approach could enhance the success of REDD+ and other programs.

New carbon map will help protect the DRC’s rainforests [06/01/2017]
- The DRC is home to 60 percent of the Congo rainforest, the second-largest contiguous tract of tropical forests in the world.
- According to WWF, which partnered with the the Ministry of Environment of the DRC and researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to map the aboveground biomass in the Central African country, the new carbon map will prove invaluable to the implementation of REDD+ initiatives in the DRC, and can also help guide land-use planning and development decisions.
- Researchers were able to map the aboveground biomass in the DRC down to the one-hectare level using high-resolution airborne Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, in combination with satellite imagery and machine learning geospatial algorithms.

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.

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.

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.

Meet the winners of the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize [04/24/2017]
- The Goldman Environmental Prize, dubbed the Green Nobel Prize, honors grassroots environmental heroes from Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and Islands and Island nations.
- The winners will be awarded the Prize today at the San Francisco Opera House.
- The winners include Uros Macerl from Slovenia, Prafulla Samantara from India, mark! Lopez from the United States, Rodrigo Tot from Guatemala, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo from DRC and Wendy Bowman from Australia.

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.

Illegal bushmeat trade threatens human health and great apes [04/06/2017]
- Hunting for bushmeat impacts over 500 wild species in Africa, but is particularly harmful to great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos — whose small, endangered populations struggle to rebound from over-hunting. Along with other major stressors including habitat loss, trafficking and climate change.
- Bushmeat brings humans into close contact with wildlife, creating a prime path for the transmission of diseases like Ebola, as well as new emerging infectious diseases. Disease spread is especially worrisome between humans and closely related African great ape species.
- Bushmeat consumption today is driven by an upscale urban African market, by illegal logging that offers easy access to remote great ape habitat, plus impoverished rural hunters in need of cash livelihoods.
- If the bushmeat problem is to be solved, ineffective enforcement of hunting quotas and inadequate endangered species protections must be addressed. Cultural preferences for bushmeat must also change. Educational programs focused on bushmeat disease risk may be the best way to alter public perceptions.

New species of wild ginger discovered in DR Congo [03/30/2017]
- Scientists have named the new ginger plant Aframomum ngamikkense after the proposed Ngamikka National Park in the Misotshi-Kabogo Massif.
- The species is currently known only from forests at higher elevations of 1,500-2000 meters, where the plant occurs in large patches.
- This discovery adds to the growing list of 50-odd known species of ginger found throughout Africa including Madagascar.

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.
- The alerts enable a user to sign up for daily or weekly notifications via email on topics they select.
- Our current topic list includes dozens of topics and locations.

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 [01/04/2017]
- 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 [12/31/2016]
- 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.

The assassinations of Mother Nature’s guardians (commentary) [05/24/2016]
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
- Protecting the planet is a dangerous job.
- The risk of murder is higher for environmental activists and wildlife officers than for police officers.

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.

First estimate of Congo Basin’s pygmy population comes with warning about increasing threat of deforestation [01/29/2016]
As many as 920,000 pygmies live in the forests of the Congo Basin, and deforestation of Central Africa’s rainforests is not only intensifying the threats to their lives but the survival of their very culture, a new study suggests. Pygmy communities occupy a large amount of territory in central Africa, from the Congo Basin to […]

Does sustainable forest management actually protect forests? [01/27/2016]
- 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]
Wildlife market in Togo. 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 that it says […]

‘Chaos’ in Congo’s logging sector [07/08/2015]
Dysfunction plagues DRC’s logging industry, say conservation and watchdog groups, but the government and timber companies want to grow the sector. 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 […]

Using DNA evidence to pinpoint poaching zones [06/30/2015]
- 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

Rainforest communities can now report illegal logging with their mobile phones [04/28/2015]
. Communities in the Central African rainforest can now report illegal logging in their territories as it happens, potentially enabling real-time law enforcement action. The system, developed in a partnership between Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER), enables users to collect information on a tablet or smart phone and rely the […]

‘Deforestation fronts’ revealed [04/27/2015]
Summary of main pressures on forests in different deforestation fronts. Graphics courtesy of WWF’s LIVING FORESTS REPORT: SAVING FORESTS AT RISK. Click to enlarge. 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, […]

Expedition in the Congo rediscovers lost primate [04/14/2015]
Young primatologist takes first photo ever of Bouvier’s red colobus Detail from the world’s first photo of Bouvier’s red colobus (Piliocolobus bouvieri) taken early March 2015 in the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park in the Republic of Congo. The photo shows an adult female with offspring. Photo by: Lieven Devreese. The last time there was a sighting […]

New group hopes to raise global profile of the peace-loving bonobo [04/08/2015]
Bonobo at Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Lola Ya Bonobo. 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. “The mission…is to elevate […]

Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013 [04/02/2015]
Global forest loss drops in 2013, but still tops 18M ha Forest loss in Malaysia and Indonesia, 2001-2013. Click to enlarge. 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 […]

DRC mulls changing Virunga’s boundaries for oil [03/19/2015]
Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. Photo by: Cai Tjeenk Willink/Creative Commons 3.0. 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 (Gorilla […]

Scientists sound the alarm on African palm oil investment [02/20/2015]
- Africa’s people, forests and wildlife are in trouble if the mostly unbridled expansion of oil palm in West and Central Africa is allowed to continue unchecked, says an organization of African scientists.

Selective logging causes long-term changes to forest structure [02/18/2015]
Logging in Gabon. Photos by Rhett A. Butler 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, led by Roberto Cazzolla Gatti of the University […]

Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015 [01/02/2015]
What’s in store for rainforests in the new year.

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. Other recurring rainforest-related themes in 2014 included palm oil, Indonesia, […]

Camera traps capture rare footage of wild bonobos (video) [12/29/2014]
Bonobo from still of camera trap video. Courtesy of: Terese Hart. 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. But capturing these […]

Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014 [12/29/2014]
The most positive environmental stories of the year Sunrise over the Okavango Delta. Photo by: Tiffany Roufs. Also see our Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014 1. China and the U.S. Pledge Joint Action on Global Warming: In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response […]

Tropical deforestation could disrupt rainfall globally [12/18/2014]
Rainforest destruction in the tropics could hurt farmers in Europe, U.S. 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. The research, authored by Deborah Lawrence […]

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]
This article is the first in a three-part series that will examine the global impact of oil palm agriculture on local communities. 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 […]

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 […]

Climate change to boost farmland, diminish harvests, says new study [09/29/2014]
Ninety-two percent of intact forests suitable for cultivation 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 […]

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. The Democratic Republic of the […]

Illegal tropical deforestation driven globally by “agro-conversion” [09/11/2014]
Illegal clearing for agriculture caused almost 50 percent of the world’s forest loss 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 […]

How do we save the world’s vanishing old-growth forests? [08/26/2014]
Scientists say both rich and developing countries must recognize primary forests as a conservation priority. Primary rainforest in Imbak Canyon in the state of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The forest is home to pygmy elephants, clouded leopard, orangutans, banteng, and proboscis monkeys among thousands of other species. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler. There’s nothing in the […]

Invasion of the oil palm: western Africa’s native son returns, threatening great apes [07/28/2014]
New research shows African apes likely to be affected by palm oil, but there’s hope, says the author 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 […]

Setting the stage: theater troupe revives tradition to promote conservation in DRC [07/22/2014]
Art-form helping establish new park by acting as communication bridge between conservationists, local people Two years ago, environmental artist Roger Peet set off to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to support the new Lomami National Park with bandanas that he designed. This time, Peet is back in Congo to carry out a conservation theater […]

Will the last ape found be the first to go? Bonobos’ biggest refuge under threat (Part I) [07/16/2014]
This is the first part of a series, Part II of which discusses the specific threats faced by bonobos and Sankuru Nature Reserve. The bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), is a species of great ape that has experienced a steep drop in population over the past two decades due to habitat loss and bushmeat […]

Next big idea in forest conservation? Playing games to understand what drives deforestation [06/26/2014]
Innovation in Tropical Forest Conservation: Q&A with Dr. Claude Garcia Ivindo National Park in Gabon. The loss of rainforest is an emerging issue in the Congo Basin. The forests of the Congo Basin are some of the wildest areas on Earth, and until now, the level of threat was comparatively low, a result of low […]

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. […]

Grenades, helicopters, and scooping out brains: poachers decimate elephant population in park [06/15/2014]
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW. Poached elephant skull shows bullet hole from above, likely from a helicopter. The elephant’s face was cut off by a chainsaw to remove the tusks. In addition, its brain was taken. Photo by: African Parks. Over the last two months, poachers have killed 68 African elephants in Garamba National Park representing […]

Greenpeace accuses controversial palm oil company and Cameroon government of illegal logging [05/28/2014]
Aerial view of Herakles Farm’s oil palm plantation nursery. Photo by: © Greenpeace/Alex Yallop. 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 from the environmental group, a stealth agreement […]

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. In a presentation given at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, DR Congo Minister of Environment Bavon N’sa Mputu Elima said his country needed foreign assistance to protect forests. […]

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 […]

Congo rainforest losing its greenness, finds NASA [04/25/2014]
The Congo, the world’s second largest rainforest, is losing its greenness, finds a new study published in Nature. The research, based on analysis of NASA satellite data, reveals the impact of long-term drought that has affected the region in 2000. The study may help scientists forecast the Congo rainforest’s future outlook. “It’s important to understand […]

Okapi-killing warlord shot dead in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [04/17/2014]
The okapi, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN, is only found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler. 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 […]

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 […]

Europe not doing enough to stop illegal logging imports says Greenpeace [03/04/2014]
Europe is failing to fully enforce its one-year-old EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), alleges Greenpeace, with illegally-logged wood still slipping into the continent, especially from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “The logging sector in Democratic republic of Congo is in a state of organized chaos and only by efficiently cutting off the EU as a […]

Rainforest news review for 2013 [12/26/2013]

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. Bonobos, which are […]

Conventional satellite imagery may underestimate forest clearing for subsistence agriculture [12/09/2013]
Analysis of forest cover using medium-scale satellite imagery may miss deforestation for small-scale subsistence agriculture, finds a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The study, which involved researchers from the University of Maryland, the State University of New York and Woods Hole Research Center, is based on change in forest cover in the […]

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 […]

Controversial palm oil project approved in Cameroon rainforest [11/26/2013]
Oil palm nursery in a Herakles Farm’s concession area. Last year Herakles Farms said it had permission to set up three nurseries covering 100 hectares even before producing a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA). Photo: © Greenpeace/Alex Yallop. A controversial palm oil project set in the West African rainforest in Cameroon has won a […]

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 […]

Orphaned gorillas successfully reintroduced where apes had been hunted to extinction [10/21/2013]
The reintroduction of captive gorillas to areas where they have been hunted to extinction appears to working, suggesting a possible new front in efforts to save great apes, finds a new study published in the journal Oryx. The study, conducted by researchers at the Aspinall Foundation, looked at long-running reintroduction projects in Gabon and the […]

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 a lot of 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 […]

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 […]

A year after devastating attack, security returns to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (photos) [09/09/2013]
John Lukas will be speaking at the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in San Francisco on October 12th, 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 Central Africa’s rainforests. 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] […]

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 […]

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 […]

Malaysian palm oil firm to establish $744m, 180,000 ha plantation in Congo [06/09/2013]
Wah Soeng Berhad, a Malaysian conglomerate, will invest $744 million over the next decade to an establish oil palm plantation in Republic of Congo, reports Reuters. The estate, which will be run under subsidiary ATAMA Plantation, will cover 180,000 hectares near Yengo, a region of forest and open areas some 800 kilometers north of the […]

Controversial palm oil project in Cameroon rainforest to resume [06/06/2013]
The Cameroonian government has lifted the suspension on controversial palm oil project in the northwestern part of the Central African nation, reports the AFP. The project, run by U.S.-based Herakles Farms, was suspended by the company last month pending a government review of its permits. But according to the AFP, Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and […]

Controversial palm oil project halted in Cameroon [05/24/2013]
An American company has halted work on a controversial palm oil project in Cameroon due to opposition from local communities and environmentalists, reports Reuters. Herakles Capital, a U.S.-based investment firm, said it has stopped development of its 73,000-hectare oil palm planation and laid of 690 workers pending a government review of the 2009 deal that […]

Forest certification body revokes Swiss logging company’s certificate over alleged Congo abuses [05/21/2013]
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a body that certifies forest management practices, has revoked all certificates granted to the Danzer Group, a multinational logging company, over alleged human rights abuses by one of its former subsidiaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reports Bloomberg. According to a complaint filed by Greenpeace, the subsidiary, Siforco, […]

Gabon steps in to help protect elephants from ivory poaching at Central African Republic site [05/18/2013]
Gabon has agreed to help battle poaching in protected areas in the Central African Republic following an elephant massacre at a renowned World Heritage site, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). According to the conservation group, Michel Djotodia, acting president of the Central African Republic (CAR) transitional government, and Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba met […]

Elephants massacred for ivory in Central African Republic [05/10/2013]
As anticipated earlier in the week by conservationists, poachers enter Dzanga Bai and slaughter dozens elephants for ivory. 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 […]

17 poachers allegedly enter elephant stronghold in Congo, conservationists fear massacre [05/07/2013]
WWF urges Central Africa Republic government to act. Local researchers and wildlife guards say 17 armed elephant poachers have gained access to Dzanga Bai, a famous large clearing and waterfole 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 […]

Conservation policies that boost farm yields may ultimately undermine forest protection, argues study [04/17/2013]
Rising agricultural profitability due to higher prices, improved crop productivity, and forest conservation itself could make it increasingly difficult for conservation programs tied to payments for ecosystem services to succeed, warns a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The prediction is based on a model that forecasts […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. The […]

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