Wildlife detectives link smuggled African elephant ivory to 3 major cartels [09/20/2018]
- By matching DNA from elephant tusks found in major illegal ivory shipments, and using information on the ports of origin of the shipments, researchers have pinpointed three major cartels that moved most of Africa’s large illegal ivory shipments between 2011 and 2014. - These three cartels operated from Entebbe in Uganda, Mombasa in Kenya, and Lomé in Togo. - The researchers hope that links established in the study will help tie ivory-trafficking kingpins to multiple large ivory seizures, and strengthen the case against them.
Indonesia’s Teater Potlot takes on the plight of the Sumatran tiger [09/19/2018]
- A seventh-century Srivijaya king, Srijayanasa, believed progress should bring merit to man and creature alike. - “Puyang,” a play by a South Sumatra theater group, explores the undoing of this pact through the eyes of a mythical tiger. - Today, there are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers believed to be living in the wild, as plantation and mining interests raze their forest homes.
As turtles go, so go their ecosystems [09/19/2018]
- Turtles are among the most threatened of the major groups of vertebrates in the world, a new review paper says, perhaps even more so than birds, mammals, fish or amphibians. - Of the 356 species of turtles recognized today, about 61 percent are either threatened or have become extinct in modern times. - Turtles contribute to the health of a variety of environments, including desert, wetland, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and losing these animals could have serious ecological consequences, researchers say.
Indonesian province calls time-out on mining [09/19/2018]
- The new government of East Nusa Tenggara, a mineral-rich province in eastern Indonesia, has pledged to reform its mining sector as officials and environmentalists cite the lack of benefits from the extractive industry. - The administration said it would not accept new mining license applications, and that those awaiting approval would be rejected. - Some environmental groups have praised the new government’s plan to reform the mining sector, calling it a positive step for sustainability.
Audio: How the social sciences can help conservationists save species [09/18/2018]
- On this episode, we take a look at how the social sciences can boost conservation efforts. - Our guest is Diogo Verissimo, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Oxford in the UK and the Institute for Conservation Research at the US-based San Diego Zoo Global. Verissimo designs and evaluates programs that aim to change human behavior as a means of combating the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. - While we all come in contact with marketing campaigns nearly every single day of our lives, conservationists have been much slower to employ marketing principles in the interest of influencing human behaviors that are harmful to the planet. We discuss with Verissimo the intersection of social marketing and conservation science — in other words, how the social sciences can provide us with a better understanding of human motivation and behavior and help create a more sustainable world.
Study games out oil palm development scenarios in Borneo [09/17/2018]
- The study authors quantify what will happen under a business as usual (BAU) approach, a strict conservation plan (CON), and expansion guided by sustainable intensification (SUS-INT). - Under a BAU scenario, all land currently zoned for corporate oil palm concessions are utilized to their maximum capacity. - At the other end of the spectrum, the CON scenario considers what will happen if Indonesia’s 2011 forest moratorium preventing new concessions on primary forest and peatland is applied to all currently undeveloped land, and companies adhere to zero-deforestation commitments. - In between the two, the SUS-INT option considers what would happen if plantations are expanded only in non-forested and non-peat areas, while yields are increased through improved cultivars and intensive management.
Latam Eco Review: Gold fever in Peru and cryptic fish from the deep [09/14/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, followed new deforestation from gold mining in Peru, new fish species deep in Chile’s sea, mining on Ecuador’s beaches, and hundreds of dead turtles in Mexico. Gold mining tears through Peru’s Amazon A new study shows that gold mining in Peru’s Madre de Dios region has […]
How much plastic is too much plastic for sea turtles? [09/14/2018]
- Researchers in Australia examined the digestive tracts of 246 dead sea turtles collected from along the coast of the state of Queensland and counted up to 329 pieces of plastic. - Younger turtles were found to have consumed considerably higher amounts of plastic pieces than adult turtles, the study found, possibly because they are less selective about what they eat. The young turtles also drift with ocean currents, just like plastic debris tends to do, and both might end up aggregating in the same places. - The higher the number of plastic pieces a turtle has inside its gut, the higher the chance of it being killed by the plastic. For an average-sized turtle, ingesting more than 14 pieces of plastic translates into a 50 percent likelihood of death.
Tagging and tracking the Tour de Turtles [09/13/2018]
- The Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Tour de Turtles kicked off last month, tagging and tracking 17 sea turtles during a marathon migration. - Turtles wear small transmitters during the annual event as they travel thousands of miles to from their nesting beaches to feeding grounds. - Data collected from satellite telemetry help scientists gain a clearer understanding of how four species of turtles behave at sea, furthering efforts to protect endangered species.
Forests and indigenous rights land $459M commitment [09/12/2018]
- A group of 17 philanthropic foundations has committed nearly half a billion dollars in support of land-based solutions to climate change and the recognition of indigenous peoples’ and traditional communities’ collective land rights and resource management. - The announcement is notable because it brings together a range of philanthropies that have often taken a siloed approach to tackling the world’s social and environmental problems. - The pledge, which includes both previous commitments and new money, raises the profile of two often overlooked opportunities in climate change mitigation: forests, which could help meet up to a third of global emissions targets by 2030, and indigenous and local communities, whose lands comprise nearly a sixth of global forest cover. - The foundations signed an agreement stating five shared priorities, ranging from the rights of indigenous communities to transitioning toward more sustainable food systems.
Why keep Africa’s dryland forests alive? [09/12/2018]
- Small holder farmers from 6,000 Malian households have restored 320 hectares of land through a combination of on-farm natural tree regeneration, water harvesting, moisture retention technologies, improved soil filtration, and enhanced soil humus. - This is just one of many efforts currently underway to restore Africa’s dryland forests. There are many obstacles left to overcome, but as the Mali example clearly shows, there are successes to celebrate and build upon, as well. - In sub-Saharan Africa, 80 percent of charcoal and firewood used by about 2.4 million people is harvested in woodlands found in the dryland areas. Experts say it’s time to start packaging these fragile yet rich and highly adaptive ecosystems into investment opportunities.
Illegal wildlife trade on Facebook in Thailand open ‘for all to see’ [09/12/2018]
- In a rapid assessment in 2016, carried out for just 30 minutes a day over a total of 23 days, wildlife trade watchdog TRAFFIC found 1,521 listings of live wild animals for sale on Facebook in Thailand. - The animals on offer belonged to at least 200 species, of which about half are protected by the country’s laws, while the rest aren’t regulated at all. - More than 500 individuals listed were mammals, with 139 listings of the Sunda slow loris, a threatened primate. - The listings also included the critically endangered helmeted hornbill and Siamese crocodile.
Conservation groups herald protection of tiger habitat in Malaysia [09/11/2018]
- The state government of Terengganu has set aside more than 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) for critically endangered Malayan tigers and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia. - The state’s chief minister said the newly created Lawit-Cenana State Park’s high density of threatened species made the area a priority for protection. - The park is home to 291 species of birds and 18 species of mammals, including elephants, tapirs and pangolins.
The search for survivors in a post-nuclear reefscape [09/10/2018]
- The United States tested its largest thermonuclear bomb in 1954 over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, generating radioactive fallout downwind, including over remote Rongelap Atoll. - We surveyed protected reefs of Rongelap and neighboring Ailinginae Atoll, finding extremely variable coral condition and widespread evidence of recent ocean warming. - Variation in reef condition underscored an increasing need to assist diver-based surveys with improved satellite and aircraft imaging to assess the health of the coral reefs. - Climate change mitigation is paramount to coral reef survival, as increasing ocean temperature could trump earlier nuclear radiation as a driver of reef degradation in the Marshall Islands.
Aligning forces for tropical forests as a climate change solution (commentary) [09/08/2018]
- Tropical forest governments need help to achieve their commitments to slow deforestation and are not getting it fast enough; companies could deliver some of that help through strategic partnerships, especially if environmental advocacy strategies evolve to favor these partnerships. Aspiring governments also need a mechanism for registering and disseminating their commitments and for finding potential partners. - Climate finance is reaching most jurisdictions, but not at the speed or scale that is needed. Tropical forest governments need help making their jurisdictions easier to do business in and more bankable; they are beginning to develop innovative ways to use verified emissions reductions, to create industries and institutions for low-carbon development, and to establish efficient, transparent mechanisms for companies to deliver finance for technical assistance to farmers. - Partnerships between indigenous peoples and subnational governments have emerged as a promising new approach for both improving representation of forest communities in subnational governance and delivering greater support, unlocking climate finance in the process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 7, 2018 [09/07/2018]
- Of this lost forest, 90,000 hectares were in the environmental corridor that connects the national natural parks of La Macarena and Serranía del Chiribiquete. - The government was late to arrive at the territories left by the now-extinct FARC guerrilla group. - New paramilitary groups, including the ELN guerrillas, criminal gangs and drug trafficking enterprises have taken control of the territory, causing immense environmental and social damage. - The region is now facing an acceleration of what many have long feared: deforestation, land grabbing, expansion of the agricultural frontier and an increase in illicit crops and illegal mining.
Indonesia gives in to bird traders, rescinds protection for 3 species [09/07/2018]
- The Indonesian government has removed three popular songbirds from its newly updated list of protected species. They are the white-rumped shama, straw-headed bulbul and Javan pied starling — a critically endangered species. - The move comes amid protests from songbird owners and breeders, who have raised concerns about loss of livelihoods. - The owners and breeders now say they will push for more species to be removed from the list. - Conservationists and scientists have blasted the ministry for backing down and called into question its assessment that protecting the three species would have had an adverse economic impact.
8 species of birds have possibly gone extinct over past few decades [09/06/2018]
- A new study has found that eight species of birds are likely to have completely disappeared in the past couple of decades. - Researchers recommend that three species currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List be reclassified as extinct, while one be treated as extinct in the wild. - Four more bird species are dangerously close to extinction, if not already there, and should be re-classified as critically endangered (possibly extinct), researchers say.
‘Diaper Brigade’ fights a chemical crisis in Java’s rivers [09/06/2018]
- Indonesian biologist Prigi Arisandi leads a movement to tackle the dumping of millions of disposable diapers into rivers across Indonesia’s Java Island every year. - Used diapers contain a long list of chemical components that don’t degrade easily, contaminating river ecosystems. - Fishing the diapers from the rivers is a quick solution. Over the long term, Prigi says, governments and diaper manufacturers must establish better waste management policies, and consumers must cut back on their use of disposable diapers.
Improving rural credit in Brazil: More production, better environment (commentary) [09/06/2018]
- One of the biggest challenges for the global economy is to use natural resources more efficiently, increasing food and energy production while preserving the environment. - Brazil is at the center of this process, since it has abundant natural resources and is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world—the fourth largest according to FAO (2016). Controlling deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening the agribusiness should occur together. - The primary public policy for Brazilian agriculture is rural credit. A thorough analysis of the rural credit system shows the need to reform the policy, simplify the rules, improve distribution channels, and more closely align it with the Brazilian Forest Code. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A civic outcry in Malaysia forces a Chinese builder to live up to its eco-friendly tag [09/05/2018]
- Forest City, a massive land reclamation project built by a Chinese developer and backed by the sultan of Johor state in Malaysia, was initially allowed to begin construction without a detailed environmental impact assessment. - Facing public protests, and concern from neighboring Singapore, the government halted the project and required a laundry list of design changes to the city, which is projected to house 700,000 people upon completion. - The project is marketed as an eco-friendly “future city,” but has been met with concern by environmentalists. China’s involvement has also caused political problems, including an announcement in August that Malaysia will not allow foreigners to purchase property in the development. - This is the final installment in a six-part series on infrastructure development in Peninsular Malaysia.
Diverse family of algae could help corals survive warming seas [09/05/2018]
- Scientists have found that some algae that associate with corals are much more diverse and much older than previously thought. - The origin of certain algae occurred at around the same time corals began building reefs on a grand scale around the world, the researchers showed. - The diversity of these algae could boost corals’ resistance to higher ocean temperatures.
87 elephants found dead in Botswana, one of last safe havens for the species [09/05/2018]
- At least 87 elephants were killed by poachers in recent months, conservation nonprofit Elephants Without Borders said based on an ongoing aerial survey in northern Botswana. - Given that the current aerial survey is only halfway through, conservationists worry the final number of poached elephants will be much higher. - The government of Botswana, however, has refuted the organization’s claims and called the figures “unsubstantiated,” in a statement published on Twitter.
Monitoring the ambitious land restoration commitments in Africa [09/03/2018]
- Announcements by Burkina Faso and Tanzania at the GLF Africa Conference, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya this week, brings restoration commitments under AFR100 to a total of 96.4 million hectares by 27 African countries. - Making pledges is one thing, however, while monitoring and tracking progress in actually achieving these restoration goals is another. Attendees of the GLF Africa Conference were keenly aware of this challenge, and a variety of tools for monitoring and tracking restoration activities was a topic of much discussion. - Restoration requires more than the planting of trees, as Charles Karangwa, an IUCN Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Coordinator, noted at the conference: “Countries must enact polices, allocate budget to restoration implementation, track and learn from their progress.”
New Zealand penguins make ‘crazy’ 7,000-km round trip for food [09/03/2018]
- Until recently, researchers did not know where the Fiordland penguins of New Zealand, known locally as tawaki, went to hunt during their pre-moult summer period. - A new study that tracked 17 penguins has found that the birds made a round trip of up to 6,800 kilometers (4,225 miles) in 2016, making it one of the longest-known pre-moult penguin migrations to date. - The penguins went nearly halfway to Antarctica, traveling to the sub-tropical front south of Tasmania or to the sub-Antarctic front to hunt, the researchers found. - It’s not clear why they went so far, given that other penguin species in New Zealand seem to find enough food in the waters near their breeding colonies. Researchers say more studies over several seasons and involving more individual penguins are needed.
The secret life of the southern naked-tailed armadillo [09/03/2018]
- The southern naked-tailed armadillo spends 99.25 percent of its time underground. If by chance you locate one above ground, it can dig away in a matter of seconds. - The air of mystery surrounding this species led Desbiez and his team to seek out any information they could about its day-to-day activities and its natural history in Brazil’s Pantanal region. - Unlike other species that Desbiez studies, such as the giant armadillo and the giant anteater, the southern naked-tailed armadillo is rated as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Madagascar: Where young whale sharks party [08/31/2018]
- Whale sharks don’t need help being spectacular. The world’s biggest fish is impressive in nearly every aspect, growing as long as 12 meters (40 feet) and weighing up to 21 tons. - A new study in the journal Endangered Species Research used photo-identification techniques based on the sharks’ distinctive spots to discover a new hotspot for juvenile whale sharks around the tiny island of Nosy Be, in northwest Madagascar. - This is a rare bit of good news for a species that, like many other sharks, is struggling to survive in oceans increasingly subject to the negative impacts of human activity.
Cheap prices lead to more exotic pets in the wild, research finds [08/30/2018]
- New research shows that exotic amphibians and reptiles sold inexpensively as pets are more likely to end up in the wild, where they can pose problems for native wildlife. - The authors of the study believe that many pet owners may not fully understand the responsibility of owning these animals, some of which can grow to large sizes and live for decades. - They suggest that limiting the numbers of certain species popular as pets could help limit their often-destructive impact on ecosystems.
Will protecting half the Earth save biodiversity? Depends which half [08/30/2018]
- Adding large swaths of “wild areas” to the current network of protected areas in order to protect half of the Earth doesn’t mean more species will be protected, or that a larger portion of species’ ranges will be covered, a new study has found. - Researchers say it’s important to not be seduced by the idea of protecting areas simply because they’re big and politically easier to protect, but instead to prioritize areas because they’re special and/or have key species in them. - The study also revealed a surprising trend: existing protected areas around the world are good at covering at least some of the range of most of the world’s birds, mammals and amphibians.
More remote islands might be more susceptible to invasive species: study [08/29/2018]
More isolated oceanic islands harbor fewer native species due to the fact that plants and animals are less capable of naturally dispersing to and colonizing those islands. This is known as the species-isolation relationship (SIR), one of the most fundamental concepts in the study of island biogeography. While the isolation of islands means that they […]
California’s big climate change opportunity: tropical forests (commentary) [08/29/2018]
- California Governor Jerry Brown has yet to seize one of California’s best opportunities to slow climate change: tropical forests. - Governor Brown has the opportunity to unleash one of the world’s most cost-effective climate solutions using the global influence of California’s climate policies, increasing the impact of the Action Summit in the process. - Governor Brown could use California’s global influence to show governments of tropical forest regions that their efforts to slow deforestation and speed forest recovery will be recognized and rewarded. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Deforestation continues upward trend in Brazil, says NGO [08/28/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to trend higher, reports Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that independently tracks developments in Earth’s largest rainforest. - Data from Imazon’s monthly deforestation tracking system indicates 778 square kilometers of forest were cleared in July, a 43 percent increase over a year ago. - Imazon’s findings contrast with official data from Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, which shows a comparably flat trend line.
For India’s black-necked cranes, dogs are a major threat [08/28/2018]
- In the cold desert region of Ladakh in northern India, dogs are currently the “single biggest threat” to black-necked cranes, experts say. - Recent surveys have found feral dogs responsible for driving down the bird’s population by eating its eggs and chicks. - The forest department’s dog-sterilization efforts have not had any impact so far, officials say.
Bandits raid village near Madagascar park, killing conservation worker [08/27/2018]
- Armed bandits attacked a village on the edge of Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar in late July. - They robbed residents and killed a technician for the Centre ValBio research institute. - The incident is part of a growing pattern of banditry, both in the Ranomafana area and across Madagascar, where instability has increased in the run up to presidential elections scheduled for later this year.
Study finds widespread degradation, deforestation in African woodlands [08/27/2018]
- New research has found that deforestation rates between 2007 and 2010 in the woodlands of southern Africa were five times greater than previously thought. - Similarly, carbon losses from the region during that time period were three to six times higher. - The study used radar data, as opposed to visual satellite imagery, to measure the biomass found in southern Africa’s woodlands. - Around 17 percent of the region’s area was degraded during the time period, the researchers found.
Rare bird, feared extinct after hurricane, is spotted in Bahamas again [08/27/2018]
- The Bahama nuthatch (Sitta insularis), known only from a small pine forest on the island of Grand Bahama, some 84 kilometers (52 miles) east of Palm Beach, Florida, was thought to have gone extinct after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. - But two recent, independent expeditions have yielded sightings of the bird again. - Only a handful of individuals have been spotted, though, and researchers fear that chances of reviving the species’ population look bleak.
As the DMZ turns 65, a call for Korean peace through conservation (commentary) [08/24/2018]
- Long viewed as an untouchable border between two hostile nations, the DMZ has become an accidental paradise for plants and animals. Its 400 square miles have been largely unmarred by human activities since the 1950s, providing refuge for some 90 threatened or endangered species, including some that are found nowhere else on the planet. - As relations in the Korean Peninsula improve, there is now an opportunity to establish the DMZ as a globally significant natural site and cultural venue. - Imagine the enduring symbol of hope and collaboration that the DMZ would represent: A shared commitment to a wondrous and sustainable future for generations of people and wildlife to come. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
In Morocco’s markets, conditions for wildlife are ‘universally poor’ [08/24/2018]
- In Morocco’s wildlife markets, animals are usually kept in poor conditions without water, food and shade, a new study has found. - This is because vendors are largely unaware of the animals’ needs, researchers found. - Much of the trade is also illegal, but a lack of enforcement of existing animal welfare laws means there’s little deterrent to end the trade, researchers say. - Current Moroccan laws also do not reflect the stated commitment of the government to international standards for animal welfare.
A Malaysian port city grapples with the fallout from Chinese funding [08/24/2018]
- Pahang state on Malaysia’s east coast was selected as the site of several key projects in the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s colossal, international infrastructure development plan. - Newly elected prime minister Mahathir Mohamed has put brakes on several key projects, including a rail link that was intended to serve Kuantan Port and other sites on the east coast. - The rationale for the projects’ cancellation has been political and economic, but conservationists worry about environmental impacts. - This is the fifth in a six-part series of articles on infrastructure projects in Peninsular Malaysia.
Brazil hits emissions target early, but rising deforestation risks reversal [08/23/2018]
- The decline in deforestation between 2016 and 2017 saved emissions of the equivalent of 610 million metric tons (672 million tons) of carbon dioxide from the Brazilian Amazon and 170 million metric tons (187 million tons) from the Cerrado, Brazil’s wooded savanna, according to the Brazilian government. - The emissions reductions, announced Aug. 9, eclipsed the targets that the Brazilian government set for 2020. - However, amid rising deforestation over the past few years, particularly in the Amazon, experts have expressed concern that the reductions in emissions might not hold.
Murder of activist in India highlights growing risk to environmental defenders [08/23/2018]
- Ajit Maneshwar Naik, a 57-year-old environmental activist who fought against the construction of new dams on the Kali River in the state of Karnataka in India, was killed last month. - India has one of the highest rates of murders of environmental activists in the world, with 16 activists killed in 2016, up from six in 2015, according to a recent report. - The city of Dandeli, where Naik worked, is especially notorious for crimes against environmental activists.
Saving rare orchids that are ‘confusingly difficult’ to grow in labs: Q&A with orchid expert Marc Freestone [08/22/2018]
- Leek orchids are a group of small, native wildflowers found in bushlands across southern Australia. Of the 140-odd leek orchids known today, one-third are at risk of extinction, primarily from habitat loss. - For some of the more threatened leek orchids with just a handful of plants known to exist, captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild might be the only way to save them, researchers say. - But leek orchids are notoriously difficult to grow in labs, unlike many other orchids that can be easily artificially propagated. - Mongabay spoke with orchid expert Marc Freestone who is trying to save leek orchids along with his colleagues at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Australia National University.
Poachers caught on video killing mother bear and cubs at den in Alaska [08/21/2018]
- Two hunters allegedly killed a female bear and her cubs at the animals’ den in April, in violation of hunting laws. - The mother bear was part of a wildlife study and wore a tracking collar. - As part of the study, a video camera had been set up near the den and captured the hunters’ alleged actions. - The U.S. Humane Society says proposed changes to federal hunting laws that would make killing bears in their dens legal are “cruel and unsporting,” while several hunting groups argue that the law changes are necessary to stop the federal government’s overreach into Alaska’s wildlife management.
Fight to protect the world’s most threatened great ape goes to court [08/21/2018]
- Indonesia’s leading environmental watchdog has filed a lawsuit to block a project to build a dam and hydroelectric power plant in the Sumatran habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s newest known and most endangered great ape. - The lawsuit claims a series of administrative oversights in the project’s environmental impact permit, as well as a breach of zoning laws by building along a known tectonic fault line. - An online petition has also taken off, with more than 1.3 million people signing to call on President Joko Widodo to scrap the project. - Opposition to the project has also drawn the attention of top scientists from around the world, who last month signed an open letter to the president to press their case for the habitat to be preserved.
Scientists call on California governor to OK carbon credits from forest conservation [08/21/2018]
- A group of prominent scientists is calling on California governor Jerry Brown to incorporate tropical forest conservation into the state’s cap-and-trade regulation. - California has been mulling the inclusion of tropical forests in its cap-and-trade regulation, which was authorized by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32), for a decade. - If California were to adopt the tropical forest standard in its climate law, the move would signal to tropical forests nations that industrialized countries are willing to put money into forest conservation efforts as part of their climate change mitigation frameworks, say the scientists.
Komodo protesters say no to development in the dragons’ den [08/21/2018]
- Two private developers are set to build a restaurant and accommodation on islands that are home to the rare and threatened Komodo dragon in Indonesia. - Residents have protested the plans, however, saying the giant lizards’ island habitat should be kept in pristine condition. - They have also questioned the government’s commitment to the conservation of the dragons and their own livelihoods. - For its part, the government says the developments will have a minimal footprint and will boost tourism revenue.
Wild-caught timber elephants in Myanmar die earlier than captive-born ones [08/20/2018]
- Myanmar’s wild-caught timber elephants have higher rates of mortality and shorter life spans compared to those born in captivity, a new study has found. - Among wild-caught individuals, elephants that were captured at older ages were worse off than those caught at younger ages, the researchers found. - Wild-caught elephants also suffered the highest mortality rates during the first year after capture, which decreased slowly over subsequent years. - The high number of deaths in the year following capture is likely related to capture-related injuries and trauma, followed by harsh taming, the authors say.
Latam Eco Review: Hunger for wildlife, mercury rising, and a black jaguar sighting [08/17/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, in the last week investigated how human hunger is driving hunting in Venezuela (and danger for zoo animals, pictured above), how gold miners are contaminating Bolivia’s rivers with mercury, and news of Ecuador’s first wildlife corridor. Economic crisis in Venezuela: Hungry citizens hunt wildlife and zoo […]
The Japan pig is a tiny colorful pygmy seahorse smaller than a fingernail [08/17/2018]
- Scientists have described a new species of pygmy seahorse that’s colorful and smaller than the average fingernail. - The researchers have officially named the tiny seahorse Japan pig, or Hippocampus japapigu, because local people believe the animal resembles a “tiny baby pig.” - Unlike other pygmy seahorses, the newly described species has an elevated ridge on its upper back made of triangular bones, the purpose of which is still unclear. - The Japan pig is now the fifth pygmy seahorse species to be recorded in Japan.
Protected landscape across India-Bhutan border a refuge for wildlife during armed conflict [08/17/2018]
- From the late 1980s until 2003, ethno-political violence rocked Manas National Park (MNP), home to Bengal tigers and Indian rhinos, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. - But a shared border between the park and Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) helped the wildlife find refuge from the human presence. Since the end of the unrest, MNP has managed to preserve its overall animal diversity, according to a new study. - Extensive camera-trapping exercise across the three ranges of the park have confirmed the presence of 25 mammalian species, including threatened species such as clouded leopards, Asian elephants, Indian hog deer, and swamp deer.
New Caledonia votes to protect coral reefs [08/16/2018]
- The government of New Caledonia voted on Tuesday to establish marine protected areas across 28,000 square kilometers of waters around the French overseas territory. - The move safeguards coral reefs, marine habitats, and critical bird nesting areas. - New Caledonia is known for its rich marine life, including nesting grounds for turtles, humpback whales, and sea birds.
‘Biological passports’ show whale sharks travel less than we thought [08/15/2018]
- A study looking at chemical signatures in whale shark tissue and using photographic identification has revealed that young sharks in three countries along the western rim of the Indian Ocean don’t typically stray more than a few hundred kilometers from their feeding sites. - Of the more than 1,200 sharks photographed, only two traveled between different feeding sites — in this case, about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) between Mozambique and Tanzania. - The authors of the study say their findings demonstrate that local conservation of these populations is important because if whale sharks are wiped out in an area, they’re unlikely to repopulate it later on.
Recovering conservationist: Q&A with orangutan ecologist June Mary Rubis [08/15/2018]
- The rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak is one of last remaining habitats of the nearly extinct Bornean orangutan. - Orangutan conservation efforts have made the region a top priority for protecting the iconic species, but Malaysian conservationist June Mary Rubis says these efforts often sideline the indigenous peoples who live along with the great apes. - Mongabay spoke with Rubis after she gave the keynote speech at the recent conference of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, in which she reflected on mainstream conservation narratives, politics, and power relations around orangutan conservation in Sarawak and elsewhere in Borneo. - Rubis says she believes indigenous knowledge is crucial for the success of conservation and community development in orangutan landscapes.
When it comes to carbon storage, not all mangroves are equal [08/14/2018]
- Where a mangrove forest grows determines how much carbon gets stored in its soil, a new study has found. - The study found that past research underestimated the amount of carbon stored in forests growing on limestone or carbonate soils by up to 50 percent, and overestimated blue carbon stored in deltaic settings by up to 86 percent. - These differences in carbon density among the various mangrove ecosystems come down to the soils in which they grow, researchers say.
The tropics are in trouble, warn scientists [08/14/2018]
- Plants and animals in the tropics are threatened by a range of issues, warn researchers writing in the journal Nature. - The tropics are facing a mélange of well-documented human-driven threats: destruction of forests and marine ecosystems, overexploitation by the likes of industrial fishing fleets and commercial hunters, the spread of diseases and invasive species, and the growing impacts of climate change, which stress both ecosystems and their inhabitants. - These threats aren’t likely to diminish soon. Human population continues to rise, but growing affluence means that it is increasingly outpaced by resource consumption, which acts a multiplier in terms of humanity’s planetary footprint. - To stave off this bleak future, the researchers call for “major improvements in local and global governance capacity and a step-change in how environmental objectives are integrated into broader development goals.”
Predatory coral bring down jellyfish by working together [08/14/2018]
- For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that corals can work cooperatively to capture jellyfish. - The team observed the bright orange Astroides calycularis, which lives on sea walls and caves in the Mediterranean Sea, snagging mauve stinger jellyfish that became trapped by ocean currents. - Coral polyps first grab onto a jellyfish’s bell, and then others will begin ingesting the jellyfish’s arms in a process that takes just a few minutes.
In protecting songbirds, Indonesia ruffles owners & breeders’ feathers [08/13/2018]
- Songbird owners and breeders have denounced the Indonesian government’s recent decision to add hundreds of bird species to the national list of protected species. - Birdkeeping has long been a popular and highly lucrative pastime in the country, with deep cultural roots. - The government has sought to accommodate the owners’ concerns by insisting that enforcement of bans on capturing and trading in the newly protected species will not be applied retroactively. - It has also given owners and breeders a generous window in which to register their birds — an opportunity that conservation activists say could be exploited by people looking to stock up on wild-caught birds.
Ecology monks in Thailand seek to end environmental suffering [08/13/2018]
- At a time when Pope Francis is calling upon religious leaders to step up as environmental advocates, Thai Buddhist monks are answering the call. Through rituals like tree ordinations, monks are integrating Buddhist principles into the environmental movement in order to garner support from their followers and encourage sustainable practices. - Although Buddhism is typically a religion famed for its detachment from society, ecology monks believe that their religion is inherently tied to nature. - With such an immense amount of influence in villages throughout Thailand, Buddhist monks are utilizing their position to add a unique moral dimension to the environmental movement. However, rituals alone are not enough.
Millipedes might soothe itchy lemurs, research finds [08/13/2018]
- Scientists have observed red-fronted lemurs in Madagascar biting millipedes and then rubbing themselves with the secretions. - A team of researchers published their observations in the journal Primates, along with their hypothesis that the lemurs were using the millipede secretions to treat worm infections. - The study’s lead author also observed lemurs eating the millipedes, which may slow the growth of parasites living in the primates’ intestines.
Earless African pygmy toad discovered on remote mountain in Angola [08/13/2018]
- Researchers have found a new species of African pygmy toad in Serra da Neve Inselberg, an isolated mountain and Angola’s second-highest peak. - The new species, formally named Poyntonophrynus pachnodes, or the Serra da Neve pygmy toad, lacks both external and internal parts of the ear that help frogs hear. - While earless toads aren’t rare, this is the first time a Poyntonophrynus species has been reported without ears.
Top forestry official out in Malaysia [08/11/2018]
- According to press reports, Datuk Sam Mannan will be removed from his role as head of the Sabah Forestry Department. - Mannan’s reign as Sabah’s top forestry official was not without controversy. - Often blunt and outspoken toward critics, he aggravated timber companies — and won accolades from conservationists — by converting hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest in forestry concessions into permanent forest reserves, making them off-limits from logging. - It’s unclear where Mannan will end up — reached by Mongabay, Mannan did not offer comment about his departure or plans — but it’s not the first time he has left the directorship.
Rare mountain-dwelling Nilgiri tahr could lose 60% of habitat as climate warms [08/10/2018]
- The shy, elusive Nilgiri tahr once occurred over a large area in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot in India, but its distribution has shrunk considerably since the 1950s. - Currently, about 3,000 individuals are known to occur in isolated groups that are restricted to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, covering less than 10 percent of their former range. - Extreme global warming could slash by 60 percent the amount of available habitat that’s suitable for the tahr, a new study has found.
In protecting the Javan rhino, locals gain a ‘more meaningful life’ [08/10/2018]
- Working in Javan rhino protection programs is no mean feat, according to locals who have dedicated decades of their lives to the endeavor. - From getting chased by rhinos to meeting face-to-face with armed hunters, their experiences speak to the often grueling reality of on-the-ground conservation work, highlighted by rare encounters with the elusive animals. - Yet despite the challenges, the workers say they have found worth in their daily duties, and have come to value the rhinos even more as a result.
Camera trap videos help protect biodiversity of Bigal River Biological Reserve in Ecuador [08/09/2018]
- Bigal River Biological Reserve is located in the southern buffer zone of Ecuador’s Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, a less-explored national park that the biological reserve helps to protect, according to Thierry Garcia of the Sumac Muyu Foundation, which founded and manages the reserve. - As part of its Bigal River Conservation Project, the Sumac Muyu Foundation has maintained camera traps in the reserve since 2014 and has collected hundreds of hours of footage showing big mammals like jaguars and tapirs as well as rare birds and other species going about their business in the foothill forests. - The main goals of the camera trap program run by the Sumac Muyu Foundation include documenting the mammals present in the reserve and which parts of the reserve they tend to roam, as well as monitoring those mammal populations and studying variations in their behavior due to natural forest dynamics or human pressures.
‘High risk’ that China’s timber from PNG is illegal: New report [08/09/2018]
- China, as the main destination for Papua New Guinea’s timber, could help tackle illegality in PNG’s forestry sector with stricter enforcement, according to a new report from the watchdog NGO Global Witness. - The report contends that companies operating in Papua New Guinea continue to harvest timber unsustainably, often in violation of the laws of a country that is 70 percent forest. - Global Witness calls for a moratorium on logging operations and a review of permits to harvest timber. - The organization also argues that Chinese companies should increase their own due diligence to avoid purchasing illegally sourced timber.
A river restored breathes new life into Kuala Lumpur [08/08/2018]
- Inspired by a global trend of urban river restorations, then-prime minister Najib Razak in 2012 launched a megaproject to clean up the Kuala Lumpur’s rivers and beautify riverfront areas. - Ridiculed at first, the River of Life project has made notable strides towards its goals, and officials say it is on track to be completed on time and below budget. - The initiative is part of a complex legacy left by Najib, who was swept out of power amid a corruption scandal and is currently awaiting trial for breach of trust and abuse of power. - This is the third article in a six-part series about infrastructure projects in Peninsular Malaysia.
Madagascar proposes paying illegal loggers to audit or buy their rosewood [08/08/2018]
- In June, the World Bank facilitated a workshop to discuss what Madagascar should do with its stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood. - Madagascar has been grappling with the question for years, but has been unable to make a proper inventory of the stockpiled wood or control illegal exports. - The rosewood could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the international market, but the country cannot sell it until it shows progress in enforcing its own environmental laws. - At the workshop, Madagascar’s government proposed a radical solution: paying loggers for access to their illicit stockpiles in order to keep tabs on the wood, or even buying the wood back from them directly.
Africa’s biggest cobra is five species, not one, study finds [08/08/2018]
- Africa’s largest true cobra is not one, but five separate species, a new study has confirmed. - Two of these species, the black forest cobra (N. guineensis) and the West African banded cobra (N. savannula), are new to science. - As a single species, forest cobras were not considered threatened. But with the splitting of the cobra into five species, some species could be more vulnerable to forest loss and bushmeat hunting than others. - The occurrence of five forest cobra species also has implications for the development of antivenom to treat forest cobra bites, researchers say.
Soggier forest soils thwart the uptake of climate-warming methane [08/07/2018]
- A recent investigation has revealed that the ability of forest soils to absorb methane has declined over time, likely due to an increase in precipitation as a result of climate change. - The authors of a new study found that methane uptake declined by as much as 89 percent, and a review of the scientific literature demonstrated that the phenomenon was taking place around the world. - These findings suggest that current carbon budgets may be overestimating the amount of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, that forest soils can siphon from the atmosphere, the scientists write.
Alan Rabinowitz, big cat evangelist and voice of the wild, dies at 64 [08/07/2018]
- Alan Rabinowitz, a U.S. zoologist dubbed the “Indiana Jones of wildlife protection” by Time Magazine, died of cancer on Aug. 5 at the age of 64. He leaves behind a legacy of more than three decades of unceasing efforts to protect big cats and other wildlife at risk of extinction. - Rabinowitz was instrumental in the creation the world’s first jaguar sanctuary, the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve in Belize, as well the creation of protected areas in Thailand and Myanmar, and the discovery of new species. - In 2006, Rabinowitz co-founded Panthera, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation the world’s 40 wild cat species and the vast landscapes that hold them, along with his close friend Thomas S. Kaplan, a U.S. entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Ocean acidity stifles coral-anchored communities [08/06/2018]
- Researchers working in the seas around Japan found that higher levels of carbon dioxide, like those found around volcanic vents in the ocean floor, diminish the diversity of corals and other lifeforms. - The study took place at the convergence of marine temperate and subtropical climates. - Their findings indicate that rising acidity could inhibit coral growth and reduce the number of species living in these ecosystems.
Largest king penguin colony in the world has shrunk by 90% [08/06/2018]
- In 1982, researchers estimated that there were more than 500,000 breeding pairs and over 2 million king penguins on the remote Île aux Cochons, or Pig Island, a French territory in southern Indian Ocean. - More than three decades later, by 2017, the number of king penguins on the island had dropped drastically to just about 200,000 penguins, including some 60,000 breeding pairs, researchers report in a new study. - The reasons for this decline are still unknown, but the researchers hope that further field studies will be able to verify the massive drop and identify the factors that led to it.
Biodiversity and the society of superlatives (commentary) [08/03/2018]
- The media is full of references to the vast number of species in tropical ecosystems: “Megadiverse Ecuador;” “Colombia, the most biodiverse country on Earth;” “Life at its purest!” Every tropical country has its own. But the way we use these superlatives and the richness that they try to represent tells us something important about the way in which we perceive and relate to biodiversity and natural systems. - Perpetuating this bias can lead us down two slippery paths. First, it masks the complexity of natural systems and the diversity of life strategies. The importance of an ecosystem is reduced to a measurement of the number of species that it harbors. Second, we end up ignoring the intrinsic value of species and ecosystems. - Changing this misplaced emphasis on species richness will require significant reforms in all levels of our education systems. In the name of conservation, Nature has been turned into an economic asset and, in many instances, its usefulness for humans has become the only value that we can bring to light for the common citizen. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Nitrogen pollution is choking forests’ carbon-protecting fungi [08/03/2018]
- Forests exposed to high nitrogen pollution in the U.S. are associated with low abundance of carbon-protecting ectomycorrhizal fungi, a new study has found. - The loss of these ectomycorrhizal fungi means that a lot of soil carbon is likely being released back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change, researchers say. - The loss of ectomycorrhizal fungi could also mean fewer mushrooms and loss of potential antibiotics and other important biological compounds.
Indonesia adds hundreds of birds to protected species list [08/03/2018]
- Indonesia has revised its list of protected species of plants and animals that are endemic to the country for the first time since 1999. - A total of 919 endemic species, most of them birds, are now banned from trading and hunting in one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth. - Wildlife experts in Indonesia have welcomed the update, but also warned that technical changes may hinder law enforcement against wildlife crime. - With the new list, conservation activists also expect people to hand over captive species that are now protected under the law.
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.
Belt and Road Initiative could doom the world’s rarest ape (commentary) [08/02/2018]
- When Chinese President Xi Jinping extolls China’s Belt & Road Initiative, he uses words like “green”, “low carbon” and “sustainable”. Is this reality or just ‘greenwashing’? - In Sumatra, Indonesia, a key element of the Belt & Road would greatly imperil the rarest species of great ape in the world. - The Batang Toru hydro-project is shaping up as an acid test of the Belt & Road Initiative. Because if China and its Indonesian partners will press ahead with this project despite all the scientific evidence that it is a terrible idea, then how can we believe any of China’s promises about a “sustainable” Belt & Road? - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
95 percent of all lemur species face high risk of extinction, experts say [08/02/2018]
- More than 50 experts in primate conservation from around the world recently convened in Antananarivo to review the conservation status of the 111 species and subspecies of lemurs, all endemic to Madagascar, and provide updated threat assessments for the IUCN Red List. - They found that 105 lemurs — 95 percent of all known lemur species and subspecies — might qualify as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction in the wild. - The updated assessments produced by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group must still undergo a review process before they are fully validated, but the group’s findings would increase the number of lemurs listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List from 24 to 38.
A ‘perfect policy storm’ cuts puma numbers by almost half near Jackson, Wyoming [08/01/2018]
- A 14-year study following 134 tagged mountain lions north of Jackson, Wyoming, found a 48 percent reduction in their numbers. - The researchers found that the combination of the reintroduction of wolves and increases in elk and mountain lion hunting led to the precipitous drop. - Lead study author and Panthera biologist Mark Elbroch recommends suspending puma hunting for three years in the region to allow the population to recover.
India’s dancing deer and their unique floating home are under threat [07/31/2018]
- The critical floating habitats of the rare sangai, or dancing deer, in Loktak Lake in Manipur, India, are losing out to mushrooming agricultural practices and human settlements, a new study has found. - The loss of floating islands from the southern and northern part of Loktak is a “major concern,” the study noted, one that could lead to the “destruction of the only floating national park in the world.” - Much of the changes in the unique floating meadows of Loktak Lake can be attributed to the construction of the Ithai barrage on the Manipur River in 1979 for a hydroelectric project, researchers say.
Tracking the shift of tropical forests from carbon sink to source [07/31/2018]
- Improved maps of carbon stocks, along with a better understanding of how tropical forests respond to climate change, are necessary to meet the challenge of keeping the global temperature below a 2-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) rise, according to scientist Edward Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh. - Currently, tropical forests take up roughly the same amount of carbon as is released when they’re cleared or degraded. - But climatic changes, which lead to more droughts and fires resulting in the loss of tropical trees, could shift the balance, making tropical forests a net source of atmospheric carbon.
The mystery of the sick turtles: Q&A with animal disease detectives Chrissy Cabay and Daniel Woodburn [07/30/2018]
- A puzzling shell disease is affecting western pond turtles, a species listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, in the state of Washington in the U.S. - Researchers from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium are investigating if disinfection practices that keep zoos clean could actually be removing good microbes that are beneficial for turtles, making them vulnerable to shell disease when they are released into the wild. - Other experts, from the University of Illinois’s Zoological Pathology Program, are trying to understand what causes the disease and how it spreads. So far, they have discovered a new species of fungus that appears to be associated with the lesions that are characteristic of the shell disease. - Mongabay spoke with Chrissy Cabay of Shedd Aquarium and Daniel B. Woodburn of the University of Illinois to find out more about their work.
Indonesia forest assessment casts an optimistic light on a complex issue [07/30/2018]
- Indonesia, home to the world’s third-largest span of tropical rainforest, has published its first ever report on the state of its forests. - The reckoning is largely positive, highlighting declines in both the deforestation rate and forest fires in 2016 and 2017, thanks to policies spurred by devastating blazes in 2015. - Chief among these is a program banning the clearing of peatlands and ordering plantation companies to restore and conserve areas of peat within their concessions. - However, the rate of progress on the peat protection program, as well as community forest management reform, remains slow and underfunded. Experts also warn that the progress recorded over the past two years aren’t necessarily sustainable.
Community groups in Cambodia say logging surged with approaching election [07/29/2018]
- Cambodia’s general election campaign has been accompanied by illegal logging, local leaders say, which can be a way for political parties to fund their activities. - Facing scant and fractured opposition, the Cambodian People’s Party and its leader, Hun Sen, who has served as prime minister for 33 years, were expected to win. - Community forestry leaders noted an uptick in felled trees and suspected collusion between the enforcement rangers and the illegal loggers, particularly in July.
Latam Eco Review: Witchcraft and wildlife trafficking in Peru [07/27/2018]
Among the most read stories at our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were articles about a hydropower project in one of Bolivia’s most diverse protected areas; Colombian Air Force drones that revealed alarming deforestation in Tinigua Park; and wildlife trafficking and witchcraft in Peru. Bolivia’s Ivirizu hydroelectric project threatens the biodiversity of Carrasco National […]
10 of 11 black rhinos now dead after relocation attempt in Kenya takes tragic turn [07/26/2018]
- Last month, officials with the Kenya Wildlife Service attempted to move 11 endangered black rhinos from two national parks, Nairobi and Lake Nakuru, to a third, Tsavo East. Nine of them died shortly after arriving in their new home from what an autopsy has shown to be salt poisoning. - Today, the Kenyan government announced that a tenth rhino has died and that the eleventh — now the sole survivor of the translocation operation — was attacked by lions yesterday and is clinging to life. - The black rhinoceros is a Critically Endangered species, according to the IUCN Red List. Only about 5,500 individuals are believed to survive in the wild today, 750 of them in Kenya.
In Malaysia, an island drowns in its own development [07/26/2018]
- Malaysia’s Penang Island has undergone massive development since the 1960s, a process that continues today with plans for transit and land-reclamation megaprojects. - The island is increasingly facing floods and landslides, problems environmentalists link to paving land and building on steep slopes. - This is the second in a six-part series of articles on infrastructure projects in Peninsular Malaysia.
Global marine wilderness has dwindled to 13 percent, new map reveals [07/26/2018]
- New research examining the effects of 19 human stressors on the marine environment shows that only 13 percent of oceans can still be considered wilderness. - Of the remaining wilderness, much of which is located in the high seas and at the poles, less than 5 percent falls under protection, and climate change and advances in technology could threaten it. - The authors of the study call for international cooperation to protect the ocean’s wilderness areas, including a “Paris Agreement for the Ocean,” which they hope will be signed in 2020.
Why mangroves matter: Experts respond on International Mangrove Day [07/26/2018]
- July 26 is International Mangrove Day, dedicated to the unique forests that survive at the interface of land, river and sea. - Mangroves protect coastlines from storm surges, filter out pollutants, and are home to a wide array of diverse life. - However, mangroves have declined rapidly around the world, losing out to shrimp farms, tourist resorts, agricultural and urban land over the past decades. - What does the disappearance of this special forest ecosystem mean for our planet? Experts respond.
Forest communities pay the price for conservation in Madagascar [07/25/2018]
- In a two-year investigation of a REDD+ pilot project, a team of researchers spoke with more than 450 households affected by the establishment of a large protected area called the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, a 3,820-square-kilometer (1,475-square-mile) tract of rainforest in eastern Madagascar. - The REDD+ project, supported by Conservation International and the World Bank, was aimed at supporting communities by providing support for alternative livelihoods to those communities near the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor protected area. - They found that the REDD+ project’s preliminary studies identified less than half of those negatively affected by the Corridor’s designation. - The team also discovered that the value of the one-off compensation, in the form of support to pursue other livelihoods, fell far short of the opportunity costs that the communities are likely to face as a result of losing access to the forest in the coming decades.
Indigenous stewardship is critical to success of protected areas (commentary) [07/25/2018]
- A recent article in Science reports that, while the portion of the world’s terrestrial surface allocated to protected areas has grown to around one-sixth of the area available, a significant number of these areas are so compromised by human pressures that they may be unable to meet their conservation goals. - What we increasingly understand is that if we are to address the threats posed by activities ranging from logging and mining to agriculture and urbanization effectively, we must seek out local solutions where possible. That means drawing on the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and safeguarding their rights. - In case after case, the world’s remaining strongholds of biodiversity remain intact thanks to the stewardship of the people living there. That is why conservation organizations have supported Indigenous Peoples and local communities as they negotiate with governments to win recognition of resource rights. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Trump Admin unveils plan to weaken the US Endangered Species Act [07/24/2018]
- The Trump Administration has unveiled a plan to revise regulations that implement portions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), which conservationists say would cripple the law adopted in 1973 to protect imperiled species and critical habitat. - A proposal announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) last week would, for the first time ever, allow economic impacts to be considered when determining how to protect plant and animal species under the ESA. - Further components of the proposal would make it easier to delist an endangered species, impose “a non-exhaustive list of circumstances” in which the designation of critical habitat can be rejected because it “would not be prudent,” and change the parameters under which federal agencies are required to consult with the USFWS and NOAA Fisheries before taking any action that might impact a listed species or cause the “destruction or adverse modification” of habitat. - The ESA is credited with having been instrumental in the recovery of bald eagles, gray whales, grizzly bears, and a number of other species.
A warmer climate tinkers with Arctic spider’s choice of prey [07/24/2018]
- A team of researchers found that higher temperatures led Arctic wolf spiders to eat fewer insect-like springtails in study plots. - Springtails eat fungus, an essential decomposer in the Arctic ecosystem, so with more springtails around in the warmer study plots, there was less decomposition. - The scientists suggest that this change in prey preference could modulate the effects of a warming climate on the carbon that’s released from the thawing tundra.
Colombia pledges to produce deforestation-free chocolate [07/23/2018]
- On July 17, Colombia signed up to the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, an effort that aims to achieve deforestation-free cocoa production, becoming the first Latin American country to make this commitment. - One of the country’s largest chocolate manufacturing companies, Casa Luker, and the members of the National Cocoa Federation have also joined Colombia in this pledge. - The Colombian government has been working to boost cocoa production to improve the country’s competitiveness as a cocoa producer internationally and is looking at cocoa as a potential replacement for crops like coca, the plant used to make cocaine.
New species of shark named after pioneering ‘Shark Lady’ Eugenie Clark [07/20/2018]
- Scientists have just described a new species of shark from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean. - The new species was formally named Squalus clarkae or Genie’s Dogfish, in honor of the late marine biologist Eugenie Clark, best known for her pioneering work on sharks, which earned her the nickname of “Shark Lady.” - The newly described big-eyed shark belongs to the dogfish family, a group of small sharks that live primarily in deep waters and reproduce slowly.
Latam Eco Review: Ecuadoran court demands Chevron pay $9.5 billion in damages [07/20/2018]
Among the most read stories at our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were articles about the legal victory of communities in Ecuador’s Amazon against Chevron; the animals in a dry forest on a private protected area in Peru; discoveries by camera traps in a jaguar refuge in Bolivia; the threat of extinction to the […]
Securing a future for Grevy’s zebras and the cultures of northern Kenya (commentary) [07/19/2018]
- Grevy’s zebras were once widespread across the Horn of Africa, but their numbers were decimated by poaching and civil unrest during the 1970s and 80s. Fewer than 3,000 endangered Grevy’s zebras remain worldwide today. - Habitat loss and competition with people and livestock for water and pasture pose a bigger threat than poaching to the species’ survival today. - Conservation initiatives devised and implemented at the grassroots level hold the key to the species’ future. Local efforts by the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) seek to promote sustainable grazing practices and employ local communities in monitoring zebra movements, thereby safeguarding both the area’s natural and cultural heritage. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Plant communities roar back after rat removal from Pacific islands [07/19/2018]
- In a multi-year study, scientists found that tree seedlings were more than 5,000 percent more abundant after rats were eradicated from Palmyra Atoll, a group of 25 small islands in the Pacific Ocean. - Invasive rats, brought by ships over the past few centuries, eat tree seedlings and vegetation, in addition to driving down seabird numbers. - Managers eradicated the islands’ rats in 2011, and within a month, seedling densities had increased.
India’s pre-election changes to green laws draw criticism [07/19/2018]
- In the final year of its tenure, the Indian government is making a dash to revamp the country’s major environmental laws meant to protect forests, coasts and wildlife, and tackle air pollution. - Environmentalists say that the hasty changes seem to have been proposed in quick succession to avoid wider and detailed consultations with all concerned stakeholders. - They also allege that the proposed changes to existing environmental laws are not focused on protecting and conserving the environment, but aim to ease the growth of industries — a promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just before the 2014 general elections.
Cross-border camera trap research puts wild Amur leopard number at 84 [07/19/2018]
- Scientists working in Russia and China have used camera traps to estimate that 84 Amur leopards remain in the wild. - Previous studies tracked the cats using their footprints in snow, but the camera trap photographs allowed the researchers to identify individual animals by their unique spot patterns. - The team found that 20 percent of the Amur leopards appeared on both sides of the border between China and Russia, highlighting the importance of cross-border collaboration.
Red flags abound as a warming Arctic opens up to shipping [07/18/2018]
- Ship traffic through the Arctic is expected to increase dramatically as global warming renders a growing proportion of the region ice-free. - Conservationists warn that the higher number of vessels raises the risks of pollution, oil spills, and disturbances to marine mammals from propeller noise. - They propose a slate of regulatory measures that could help mitigate the anticipated impacts, which could then be extended to other vulnerable maritime regions.
Pushing Vietnam’s shrimp industry toward sustainability [07/17/2018]
- Shrimp farming is one of the biggest industries in Vietnam, and the government is pushing to expand it, having announced plans last year to boost exports from $3 billion in 2016 to $10 billion by 2025. - But there are significant environmental problems associated with current farming methods, which contribute to deforestation, erosion, land subsidence and rising salinity levels that are threatening the stability of the entire Mekong region. - The Vietnamese government and a range of international development partners are working to improve the way the country farms shrimp, with an emphasis on small-scale operators. - However, the reality is that most farmers are reluctant to change.
Indigenous peoples control one-quarter of world’s land surface, two-thirds of that land is ‘essentially natural’ [07/17/2018]
- A new study makes a significant contribution to the growing body of research showing that recognizing the land rights of and partnering with indigenous peoples can greatly benefit conservation efforts. - An international team of researchers produced a map of the terrestrial lands managed or owned by indigenous peoples across the globe, which in turn allowed them to assess “the extent to which Indigenous Peoples’ stewardship and global conservation values intersect.” - The researchers determined that indigenous peoples have ownership and use or management rights over more than a quarter of the world’s land surface — close to 38 million square kilometers or 14.6 million square miles — spread across 87 countries and overlapping with about 40 percent of all terrestrial protected areas on Earth.
New species of venomous snake discovered by accident in Australia [07/17/2018]
- While researching sea snakes in the mining town of Weipa in Australia’s remote Cape York Peninsula, a team of biologists chanced upon a black and white snake that’s new to science. - The venomous snake, now named Vermicella parscauda, belongs to a group of snakes called bandy bandies that live in burrows and feed on a specialized diet of blindsnakes. - So far, the team has found only six individuals of the new species in the Weipa area, a site with large-scale bauxite mining, which could suggest that the burrowing snake might be in trouble.
Peru: A decade-long quest to protect the world’s largest tropical glacier [07/17/2018]
- The Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru’s Canchis province is the world’s largest tropical glacier, but it has been melting steadily — a harbinger of climate change. - The ice cap is part of the proposed 810-square kilometer (310-square-mile) Regional Conservation Area of Ausangate, which is intended to preserve water sources, wetlands, and vulnerable species like the vicuña. - After a decade in development, in part due to a prolonged consultation process with the area’s indigenous Quechua communities, the conservation area will be presented for government approval in August.
EU demand siphons illicit timber from Ukraine, investigation finds [07/17/2018]
- Corrupt management of Ukraine’s timber sector is supplying the EU with large amounts of wood from the country’s dense forests. - The London-based investigative nonprofit Earthsight found evidence that forestry officials have taken bribes to supply major European firms with Ukrainian wood that may have been harvested illegally. - Earthsight argues that EU-based companies are not carrying out the due diligence that the EU Timber Regulation requires when buying from “high-risk” sources of timber.
‘Single-minded determination’: China’s global infrastructure spree rings alarm bells [07/17/2018]
- Governments across Southeast Asia have embraced billions of dollars in construction projects backed by China as they rely on infrastructure-building to drive their economic growth. - But there are worries that this building spree, under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), makes no concessions for environmental protections, and even deliberately targets host countries with a weak regulatory climate. - Beijing has also been accused of going on a debt-driven grab for natural resources and geopolitical clout, through the terms under which it lends money to other governments for the infrastructure projects. - In parallel, China is also building up its green finance system, potentially as a means to channel more funding into its Belt and Road Initiative.
Bold initiative aims to protect coral reefs in the Dominican Republic [07/16/2018]
- Coral reefs of the northern Caribbean have undergone widespread change over the past century, driven by coastal development, pollution, over-fishing, the introduction of invasive species, and increasing ocean temperatures. - A new and unique marine protected area, the Southeast Marine Sanctuary, has recently been declared, covering 786,300 hectares of reef environment, thus making it one of the largest protected areas in the Caribbean. - The marine sanctuary will be divided into two zones, each to be co-managed by a diverse group of stakeholders organized into a nonprofit. The structure of its oversight – a collaboration among numerous stakeholders, from the federal government to local fishermen and from environmental groups to hotel associations – makes this new marine sanctuary remarkable.
Protecting PNG’s oceans: Q&A with marine activist John Aini [07/16/2018]
- John Aini is a prominent indigenous leader in his native Papua New Guinea who has won multiple awards for his grassroots activism in marine conservation. - In a recent speech Aini outlined a number of threats to the country’s environment and indigenous peoples, including logging, mining, palm oil plantations and, most recently, the world’s first underwater mining operation, which is slated to begin production next year. - This is the second of Mongabay’s two-part interview with Aini at the recent International Marine Conservation Congress in Malaysia.
Angry farmers set fire to offices of Madagascar eco group, gov’t agency [07/13/2018]
- Large swaths of forest inside northwestern Madagascar’s Bongolava Forest Corridor, a protected area, have been burned to make way for commercial corn farming, raising the fortunes of many residents accustomed to living on the edge of subsistence. - Last month, angry farmers armed with sticks and machetes stormed into the northwestern city of Boriziny, also known as Port–Bergé, to demand the release of people arrested for illegally clearing farmland inside the protected area. - The group destroyed the offices of the local nonprofit that manages the protected area and set fire to the building it shares with an outpost of the environment ministry, as well as to the homes of the group’s coordinator and the government administrator for the area. - The episode highlights the difficulty of achieving meaningful conservation in an area where the populace largely views ecological goals as conflicting with an important source of income.
Scientists urge Indonesian president to nix dam in orangutan habitat [07/13/2018]
- Twenty-five of the world’s top environmental scientists have sent a letter to Indonesia’s president, seeking a halt to a planned hydroelectric dam in the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the rarest species of great ape on Earth. - The scientists also slammed the Chinese government for funding the project as a part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, saying it has disregarded the environmental consequences of building and operating the dam. - The developers of the project have dismissed the criticism, saying they will enforce strong environmental safeguards to protect the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.
After devastating floods in 2013, an Indian state ignores the lessons [07/13/2018]
- In 2013, the state of Uttarakhand in northern India witnessed one of the biggest natural disasters in independent India’s history when heavy rains and flash floods resulted in the destruction of thousands of lives and property. - According to experts, the disaster’s impacts were exacerbated by unabated illegal construction on river floodplains and the government’s relentless pursuit of hydropower projects. - Five years since the floods, the state is continuing to push for hydropower projects, which has residents and experts worried. - Mongabay-India staff writer Mayank Aggarwal and video editor Kartik Chandramouli traveled to Uttarakhand to see how the state has dealt with the disaster’s aftermath.
Another Cecil? Secrecy surrounds June trophy lion hunt [07/13/2018]
- A U.S. trophy hunter baited and killed a male lion on June 7th in Umbabat Private Nature Reserve, a part of Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Suspicions are that the animal shot was Skye, a beloved lion in the region. - U.S. citizen Jared Whitworth allegedly paid nearly $80,000 for the hunt. Authorities say the animal killed wasn’t Skye, but have offered no proof. Skye hasn’t been seen since the day Whitworth made his kill, and one of the lion’s cubs was found dead, which often happens when other males take over a pride. - If the killed lion was Skye, this would be a breach of South African regulations, because the lion was too young to be legally hunted. Authorities also say that if it is confirmed that the lion was baited, that could violate South African laws. - In response, the U.S. Humane Society and Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking it to reject importation of the mystery lion’s body. In March, the Trump administration’s USFWS announced a new policy to consider African trophy import permits on a case-by-case basis.
Latam Eco Review: Spectacled bears in the spotlight [07/13/2018]
Among the most read stories at our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were articles about camera traps providing new insights into the spectacled bear’s natural habitat in Peru, and in Ecuador both private and governmental initiatives which are successfully fighting to protect the dry forest ecosystem in the southern part of the country. The […]
Madagascar’s native fauna defenseless against toxic invasive toads [07/13/2018]
- Toxic Asian common toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) have spread rapidly around the port city of Toamasina on Madagascar’s east coast, raising concerns that the invasive amphibians could take a severe toll on the island’s unique wildlife species. - A recent paper vindicates those concerns: through a genetic analysis of 77 endemic species, scientists found that just one demonstrated clear resistance to toad toxins. - A separate estimate published last month suggests there are now over 7 million Asian common toads in Madagascar. Reports suggest they arrived accidentally with mine construction equipment prior to 2010.
‘Decolonizing conservation’: Q&A with PNG marine activist John Aini [07/12/2018]
- John Aini is a prominent indigenous leader in his native Papua New Guinea who has won multiple awards for his grassroots activism in marine conservation. - One of the defining points of his activism is the push to “decolonialize” conservation by engaging local and indigenous communities to a greater degree than typically practiced by large international NGOs. - This is the first of Mongabay’s two-part interview with Aini at the recent International Marine Conservation Congress in Malaysia.
Solution to ocean’s plastic waste problem ‘starts with product design’ [07/12/2018]
- Solutions aimed at tackling the problem of plastic in the ocean need to focus on the design of plastic products, a group of researchers said at the ESOF18 conference in Toulouse, France. - Some of the proposed solutions, such as those aimed at gathering plastic rubbish at sea with nets, are “concerning,” chemist Alexandra Ter Halle said, as they could also harm marine life. - Though plastics themselves do pose significant dangers to marine life, plastic products can also help to limit our environmental footprint, marine biologist Richard Thompson said, so we should find ways to make them reusable and easily recyclable.
Krill fishing companies pledge to protect key food of Antarctic animals [07/12/2018]
- A majority of krill fishing companies have announced their commitment to voluntarily stop harvesting the tiny crustaceans from vast areas of the Antarctic Peninsula, including around important breeding penguin colonies. - These companies are all members of the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK), representing 85 percent of the krill fishing industry in the Antarctic. - The companies have also pledged to support the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Antarctic, the details of which will be finalized by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at a conference in Australia later this year.
Species evolve more than twice as fast at poles as in tropics: study [07/12/2018]
- Considering the swarming biodiversity at the equator, and the lack of diversity near the poles, scientists have long assumed that species evolve more rapidly in warm waters. But a new study of the evolutionary development of 30,000 fish species has turned that idea on its head. - Biologists found that a fish species in the tropics split into a new species on average every 10 to 20 million years. But near the poles, that average rate is roughly every four million years – more than twice as fast. - The reason may be the far more extreme and less stable climatic conditions found near the poles. This results in more frequent extinctions, which clears out species diversity and empties ecological niches, setting the stage for the next new burst of species formation in other groups of organisms. - But if species form faster at the poles than in the tropics, why isn’t there greater biodiversity in the Arctic and Antarctic than at the equator? One possibility: while speciation is more rapid at the poles, extinctions may be more numerous too. But this still isn’t clear, and more research will be needed to find out.
Rhino poop gives villagers in India a conservation incentive [07/11/2018]
- Elrhino company uses the fiber from rhino dung, along with other locally available products, to produce high-end paper products. - The founders of the company aim to help preserve India’s greater one-horned rhinos by giving villagers a financial incentive to help protect the species. - The company employs local residents to collect rhino waste, to work in the paper factory, and to produce decorations for its paper products.
Coral reefs thrive next to rat-free islands, new study finds [07/11/2018]
- A team of ecologists examined the impacts that invasive rats on tropical islands have on coral reef ecosystems. - Because rats eat seabird eggs and young, they can decimate seabird populations. - With fewer seabirds depositing their guano on islands, coral reef ecosystems near rat-infested islands can’t support as much life. - The findings suggest that eradicating rats from tropical islands could be a straightforward way of bolstering the health of coral reefs.
Vietnam’s bear bile farms are collapsing — but it may not be good news [07/11/2018]
- Consumer interest in farmed bear bile seems to be declining in Vietnam, according to a new study, but this raises concerns for both captive and wild bears. - Farmers are now spending very little on food for the bears, for instance, and often kill the bears after seven to eight years of extensive bile extraction. - Moreover, bear farming appears to be less lucrative than illegal hunting of wild bears because of both high consumer demand for wild-sourced products and underresourced law enforcement, the authors write.
RSPO fails to deliver on environmental and social sustainability, study finds [07/11/2018]
- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is widely considered the strongest certification scheme for the commodity, which is grown largely on plantations hacked out of tropical forests that are home to critically endangered species such as orangutans. - A new study has found that RSPO-certified plantations perform no better than non-RSPO estates on a series of sustainability metrics, including species and habitat conservation, as well as social benefits to local communities. - The researchers attributed the scheme’s shortcomings to a lack of clarity on its central objectives, as well as weak environmental safeguards. - For its part, the RSPO has disputed the study’s findings, citing other reports that it says highlight a net positive impact to the environment and communities from certification.
Zimbabwe’s chiefs revive tradition to save the country’s last pangolins [07/10/2018]
- Asian pangolins are fast dwindling for the illegal international trade, and traffickers are now targeting African pangolins for new supply, raising fears in Zimbabwe that they could wipe out the country’s last pangolins. - However, traditional leaders, with the support of the Zimbabwean government, are playing a strong role in protecting the country’s remaining pangolins. - They are reminding their communities of age-old myths and beliefs about pangolins, as well as imposing heavy fines on those who harm them, to instill a sense of collective responsibility among the people.
Tiger, clouded leopard skins among illegal wildlife parts seized in Malaysia [07/09/2018]
- Malaysian authorities have seized wildlife parts worth 500,000 ringgit ($124,000) during a raid in the town of Kuala Lipis, outside Taman Negara, the country’s oldest national park. - Officials also arrested six Vietnamese nationals — four men and two women — alleged to be part of a larger tiger-poaching gang. - The confiscated animal parts include two entire tiger pelts suspected to have come from critically endangered Malayan tigers. Each of those pelts is estimated to be worth 200,000 Ringgit ($50,000) on the black market.
Investigation reveals illegal trade cartels decimating vaquita porpoises [07/09/2018]
- An investigation has exposed new details of the illegal trade in the totoaba fish’s swim bladder. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the primary reason vaquita porpoises are headed toward extinction. - Elephant Action League’s investigation has identified the people involved and the routes they use to smuggle the bladders to buyers in China.
Ice-free passage for ships through the Arctic could cause problems for marine mammals [07/09/2018]
- A new study suggests that increased ship traffic in the Arctic, as ice there melts due to climate change, could disturb marine mammal species. - In their assessment of 80 subpopulations living along the Northwest Passage and Russia’s Northern Sea Route, 42 are likely to be affected by a greater number of commercial ships, researchers found. - The team suggests that mitigation measures, such as those employed in other parts of the world to protect North Atlantic right whales, could be effective.
Latam Eco Review: Five newly described snakes named by auction in Ecuador [07/06/2018]
Among the top stories published by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were features about five newly described snake species being named by auction in Ecuador, and news that Bolivia’s Madidi Park could possibly be the most biodiverse park on Earth. The banner image above shows one of the newly described snakes, a Bob […]
And then there were 12: Why don’t we hear about extinction until it’s too late? (commentary) [07/06/2018]
- Species threatened with extinction often don’t get the public’s attention until they no longer exist. - The author, zoologist Sam Turvey, argues that more attention to these critical cases is required. - Ahead of International Save the Vaquita Day on July 7, Turvey points out that the world’s most endangered marine mammal is dangerously close to extinction, and it’s not alone. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Nearly four decades of cycling race video reveals climate change’s effects [07/05/2018]
- A team of ecologists has used video from key locations along the route of the annual Tour of Flanders cycling race to understand how plants are responding to regional rises in temperature. - After watching more than 200 hours of footage from 36 years of the race, the team found that trees began producing flowers and sprouting leaves earlier in the season. - By 2016, trees were 67 percent more likely to have produced leaves by the time of the race than in the 1980s. By comparison, few if any trees had leaves before 1990. - The researchers believe that analyses of video from other cycling races and similar annual events could yield new insights into the ecological changes that temperature changes instigate.
Orangutan found shot, hacked at palm plantation with history of deaths [07/05/2018]
- An orangutan previously captured from an oil palm plantation in Borneo and released into a nearby national park has been found dead inside the plantation, with extensive bullet and knife wounds. - The killing is the third being investigated this year, and the fifth recorded at the plantation in question, run by a subsidiary of palm oil giant Best Agro Plantation, since September 2015. - The company says it has made efforts to protect the wildlife entering its plantation, but declined to answer questions about the string of orangutan deaths. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Lab-grown embryos raise hope of saving near-extinct rhino [07/05/2018]
- For the first time ever, scientists have successfully used IVF techniques to combine sperm from the near-extinct northern white rhino with eggs from the more abundant southern white rhino to create viable hybrid embryos. - The researchers hope to implant the embryos into surrogate female southern white rhinos to produce hybrid baby rhinos that can then ensure that at least some of the northern white rhino DNA is preserved. - Such IVF techniques can also be used to rescue populations of other endangered rhino species, such as the Sumatran rhino, researchers say. - But other experts say that while the science is promising, the underlying threat to the survival of all rhino species remains the insatiable demand for the animals’ horns.
Implicit gender, racial biases may hinder effectiveness of conservation science, experts warn [07/04/2018]
- Implicit gender and racial biases are just as prevalent in the conservation science community as elsewhere, experts say, and could be harming the effectiveness of the work being done, particularly in developing countries. - The mostly male and Western scientists working in this field may be shutting out important contributions from local researchers and practitioners in tropical developing countries, as well as preventing a diversity of perspectives in the scientific literature. - Having a diverse team and being inclusive at every step, especially in the decision-making process for a conservation project, are some of the ways to resolve these biases, the researchers suggest.
Fingerprinting technology gives investigators an edge against pangolin traffickers [07/04/2018]
- Researchers in the U.K. have modified the gelatin lifters used in criminal forensic investigations so they can pick up clues from pangolin scales and other illegally traded wildlife body parts. - Wildlife guards in Kenya and Cameroon are using packs of the gelatin lifters in the field to gather evidence. - The researchers say this new technology allows wildlife conservation officials to collect this evidence more quickly in remote areas, which in turn helps to ensure their safety.
Rare nursery for baby manta rays discovered in Gulf of Mexico [07/03/2018]
- Adult giant manta rays can be seen in subtropical and tropical waters around the world, but baby and juvenile mantas are rarely encountered. - So when marine biologist Joshua Stewart saw several baby and juvenile mantas at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off Texas and Louisiana, he was surprised. - By looking through 25 years of dive data from the sanctuary, including photographs of manta rays, Stewart and his team confirmed that the sanctuary was a nursery ground for the mantas.
Payments for ecosystem services can boost social capital in addition to forest management: Study [07/03/2018]
- New research finds that a national payments for ecosystem services (PES) program in Mexico not only benefits the environment but supports social relationships in local communities, as well. - Two US-based economists, Oregon State University’s Jennifer Alix-Garcia and Amherst College’s Katharine Sims, led a team that looked at how participation in PES programs impacted social relationships in Mexico’s agrarian communities — local governance structures that make joint decisions about land management and are formally recognized by the Mexican government. Approximately half of forested land in Mexico is governed under these communal structures. - As detailed in PNAS, the researchers found that participation in Mexico’s PES program improved “community social capital” — defined as “the institutions, relationships, attitudes, and values that govern human interactions” — by 8 to 9 percent.
Smartphone app helps indigenous communities fight deforestation [07/02/2018]
- Using a system called ForestLink developed by Rainforest Foundation UK, members of the Masenawa community documented the presence of an illegal gold mining camp in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. - The police then responded by destroying the mining equipment at the camp and arresting five people suspected of participating in illegal mining. - The biodiverse Madre de Dios region of the Amazon has been besieged by illegal gold mining, which has caused widespread deforestation.
Latam Eco Review: Chocolate as a conservation strategy [06/29/2018]
The most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of June 18- 24 include features in honor of Colombia’s World Cup team (Humboldt Institute created “Colombian Biodiversity Team” cards profiling the country’s most iconic wildlife) and in other news, Peruvian farmers in a region once dominated by narcotrafficking now seek […]
‘Urban Raptors’: Q&A with authors of book on ecology and conservation of city-dwelling birds of prey [06/29/2018]
- Nest cameras have been set up in cities across the United States to give viewers an intimate look into the nesting activities of urban-dwelling birds of prey like eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls. These raptors represent a rare instance of wildlife thriving amidst the hustle and bustle of areas densely populated by mankind. - Raptor researchers Clint W. Boal and Cheryl Dykstra are co-authors of Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities, a new book that explores the science of how these birds of prey have adapted to city life and what humans can do to support them. - Mongabay spoke with Boal and Dykstra about the urban raptor species discussed in the book, what kinds of unique threats the birds of prey face in cities, and how important these urban populations are to overall raptor conservation.