10-second nature news digest

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

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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.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 13, 2018 [07/13/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


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.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 6, 2018 [07/06/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


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.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 28, 2018 [06/29/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


In its fight against rhino poachers, India lets the dogs out [06/28/2018]
- Since 2011, two dog squads have been deployed to help protect the greater one-horned rhinos of India’s Assam state.
- Together, the squads are credited with assisting in more than 46 arrests.
- Both the dogs and their handlers go through intensive training to develop and maintain their skills and the crucial bond that allows them to work as a team.


Belize Barrier Reef gets UNESCO upgrade [06/28/2018]
- UNESCO has announced that the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which it added to the World Heritage List in 1996, has been removed from its list of ‘sites in danger.’
- The system’s seven sites are a significant habitat for threatened species, including sea turtles, manatees, and marine crocodiles.
- The area is also a popular tourist destination and global hotspot for diving.
- The site was added to UNESCO’s list of sites in danger in 2009 due to the destruction of mangrove forests and marine ecosystems, the looming threat of offshore oil extraction, and unsustainable coastal development.


The plastic crisis sinks to a new low in the deep sea [06/28/2018]
- Plastic water bottles and snack-food packaging can be found in the deepest parts of the oceans, a new study has found.
- By poring over the three decades of deep-sea videos, researchers have found that fragments of plastic made up one-third of the debris, of which, 89 percent were single-use items such as plastic bags and water bottles.
- However, how all that plastic reaches the deep sea and affects deep sea creatures is still unclear.


Rwandan people and mountain gorillas face changing climate together [06/27/2018]
- The Critically Endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), has been brought back from extinction’s brink in Rwanda, with numbers in the Virunga Mountains around Volcanoes National Park estimated at 604 individuals in 2016, up from 480 in 2010. But long-time observers say climate change is bringing new survival challenges to the area.
- Longer and deeper droughts in recent years have caused serious water shortages, which impact both local farmers and the mountain gorillas. People now must often go deep into the park to find clean water, which increases the likelihood of contact with the great apes, which increases the likelihood for the transfer of human diseases to the animals.
- Hotter temps and dryer conditions could also pressure farmers to move into gorilla habitat in future, as they seek more productive cropland at higher altitudes. Also, as the climate changes, bamboo availability may be decreasing, depriving gorillas of a favorite food. This could force troops to forage outside the park in croplands, possibly leading to conflict.
- Forced changes in diet could impact gorilla nutrition, making the great apes more susceptible to disease. A major disease outbreak could be disastrous due to low population numbers. Scientists urge more research to understand how climate change affects human behavior, which then affects gorillas, and how the fate of the two primates intertwines.


Nature retention, not just protection, crucial to maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems: Scientists [06/27/2018]
- In a paper published last week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, a team of Australian researchers argue that we need to shift conservation goals to focus on diverse and ambitious “nature retention targets” if we’re to truly safeguard the environment, biodiversity, and humanity.
- The researchers, who are affiliated with Australia’s University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), make a distinction between targets aimed at retaining natural systems and the current model that seeks to achieve targets for setting aside land as protected areas.
- Rather than simply setting a certain amount of the planet’s land and seas aside, nature retention targets would establish the baseline levels of natural system functions that we need to preserve in order to ensure the health of ecosystems and the services they provide.


Uncertainty around Madagascar mine in wake of cyclone [06/27/2018]
- The Ambatovy mine complex near Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina is a massive operation to extract nickel and cobalt from the country’s rich soil.
- The $8 billion complex represents the largest-ever foreign investment in the country.
- Over the years, local residents have suspected the mine of causing environmental and health problems, including air and water pollution.
- Locals now fear that Tropical Cyclone Ava, which hit Toamasina hard in January, may have exacerbated these problems — fears that Ambatovy and local officials assert are unfounded.


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


For Madagascar’s park managers, the science literature is out of reach [06/26/2018]
- The park directors and conservation managers responsible for managing Madagascar’s protected areas tend not to rely on scientific research to make on-the-ground decisions, opting instead for experience and advice from others, a new study has found.
- Several managers, for instance, felt there was “limited research of relevance to them and their needs.”
- Others complained that even when relevant research was carried out, researchers often did not share the results with them.
- Overall, Madagascar’s protected area managers need better access to research, and more relevant research, to help them manage the country’s parks more efficiently and effectively, the study’s authors write.


‘Screen, not just green’ infrastructure projects to help economies and the environment [06/26/2018]
- Bill Laurance, a tropical ecologist at Australia’s James Cook University, argues that scientists should work to slow the pace of infrastructure development around the world.
- ‘Delaying’ the process of development will allow time for the merits — and the potential dangers to the environment, communities and economies — to be debated publicly.
- While many of these projects are viewed as wholly positive because they’re intended to connect markets and create jobs, a lot of them ‘should not happen,’ Laurance said.


Honduras: Indigenous Garifuna use radio to fight for their land [06/25/2018]
- The Garifuna, an Afro-indigenous ethnic group, have inhabited eastern Honduras since the late 18th century, collectively owning and conserving large tracts of Honduras’s rich coastal ecosystems.
- In recent decades both their way of life and their ancestral lands have been increasingly threatened by the relentless encroachment of powerful private interests in Honduras’s burgeoning tourism and biofuel industries.
- The Garifuna have been mounting a resistance, aided in part by a network of community radio stations.
- In addition to serving up traditional music and shows on health and nutrition, domestic violence, substance abuse, and other topics, the stations have helped raise the profile of people struggling to protect indigenous lands and ways of life and serve as a strong means of mobilization, according to local activists.


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


Latam Eco Review: Ports imperil Colombian crocodiles [06/23/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of June 11 – 17. Among the top articles: Port projects in northern Colombia threaten the mangrove habitats of American crocodiles. In other news, the Waorani people of Ecuador use camera traps to record an astonishing diversity […]

Last Glimpses of a Cambodian Paradise? Documenting an area on the eve of its likely destruction (commentary) [06/22/2018]
- The sheer scale of the logging operations in Cambodia’s Virachey National Park makes it a wonder that there’s anything left of the forest, especially as the timber just keeps flowing into Vietnam unabated. In fact, Cambodia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates.
- Yet there is still plenty of wildlife, at least in Virachey National Park, where I have been part of a team that has been conducting a wildlife survey for four years now.
- All hope could well be lost — man/progress must be served. But are the nails firmly placed in the biodiversity coffin and awaiting final pounding? Perhaps not.
- 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, June 22, 2018 [06/22/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Coral reef ‘oases’ that thrive amid threats give hope for conservation [06/22/2018]
- Scientists have identified 38 coral reef “oases” in the Pacific and western Atlantic that have either “escaped,” “resisted” or “rebounded” from declines in coral cover, even as neighboring reefs have not.
- While these success stories do not discount reports that many coral reefs across the world are under grave threat, they do offer examples of places where corals are doing better, or not as bad, as coral communities elsewhere, scientists say in a new study.
- The researchers are hopeful that the framework they’ve developed to identify the coral reef oases will be helpful in pinpointing oases across other ecosystems as well.


New ‘goblin spiders’ from Sri Lanka named after Enid Blyton characters [06/22/2018]
- Scientists have discovered nine new species of “goblin spiders” in Sri Lanka, of which they’ve named six after popular goblin characters from Enid Blyton’s children’s books.
- Two of the nine newly described species belong to genera (Cavisternum and Grymeus) that have never been recorded outside of Australia before.
- Most of the newly described goblin spider species seem to occur only in a few sites, or just a single forest patch, and may all be critically endangered, the authors of the study think.


Orangutan forest school in Indonesia takes on its first eight students [06/21/2018]
- A forest school in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, funded by the Vienna-based animal welfare organization Four Paws and run by the local organization Jejak Pulang, has just started training its first eight orangutan orphans to learn the skills they need to live independently in the forest.
- Borneo’s orangutans are in crisis, with more than 100,000 lost since 1999 through direct killings and loss of habitat, particularly to oil palm and pulpwood plantations.
- Security forces often confiscate juvenile orangutans under 7 years of age, and without their mothers to teach them the skills they need, they cannot be released back into the forest.
- Jejak Pulang’s team of 15 orangutan caretakers, a biologist, two veterinarians and the center’s director aim to prepare the orphaned orangutans for independence.


Amber deposits yield oldest evidence of frogs in wet, tropical forests [06/20/2018]
- Scientists have found the oldest frog fossils known to have been preserved in amber, from deposits in northern Myanmar.
- These fossils, together with other fossils of mosses and bamboo-like plants recovered from the same amber deposits, provide the first definitive evidence that the amber-trapped frogs lived in wet, tropical forests alongside dinosaurs some 99 million years ago, researchers say.
- One of the four frogs, which was trapped in sap alongside an unidentified beetle, has a nearly intact skeleton, and has been described as a new, extinct species, Electrorana limoae.


Puan, the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, dies at 62 [06/20/2018]
- Puan, the world’s oldest living Sumatran orangutan, was euthanized on June 18 at Perth Zoo in Australia due to age-related complications.
- Her death left an incredible legacy of 11 children and a total of 54 descendants across the world, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the global Sumatran orangutan zoo population.
- Due to her genetic legacy, Puan played a vital role in ensuring the survival of the species, which has been categorized as critically endangered.


Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted [06/19/2018]
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month.
- The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials.
- Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood.
- Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.


Animals are becoming night owls to avoid humans [06/19/2018]
- By analyzing 76 studies and activity patterns of 62 mammal species, including bears, deer, coyotes and tigers, researchers have found that large mammals are 1.36 times more active at night in areas with high human presence compared to areas with low human presence.
- These results seemed to be consistent across species and continents.
- Animals seem to be becoming more nocturnal not only to avoid direct threats like hunting, but to avoid even recreational human activities like hiking and mountain biking.


One tortoise at a time: Q&A with zoo veterinarian Justin Rosenberg [06/19/2018]
- In April, authorities discovered around 10,000 radiated tortoises, believed to be destined for the Asian pet trade, in an abandoned house in southwestern Madagascar.
- The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) took the animals to its rescue center in Ifaty, and soon, veterinarians and keepers from around the world began traveling to Madagascar to help the animals.
- Currently, between 9,000 and 10,000 tortoises are alive, with around 100 still in need of critical care.
- Mongabay spoke with a veterinarian who spent several weeks at TSA’s facility about the ongoing efforts.


Oil palm plantations in Amazonia inhospitable to tropical forest biodiversity: Study [06/18/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal PloS One late last year, the Brazilian Amazon has about 2.3 million square kilometers (nearly 900,000 square miles) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, making it one of the largest areas in the world for potential expansion of the palm oil industry.
- Researchers investigated the responses of tropical forest mammals to living in a landscape made up of a mosaic of 39,000 hectares (more than 96,000 acres) of mature oil palm plantations and 64,000 hectares (a little over 158,000 acres) of primary Eastern Amazon forest patches in the Brazilian state of Pará.
- They write in the study that their results in the Amazon “clearly” reinforce “the notion that oil palm plantations can be extremely hostile to native tropical forest biodiversity, as has been shown in more traditional oil palm countries in South-East Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.”


‘Not all doom and gloom’: Q&A with conservation job market researchers [06/18/2018]
- Intense competition, a flood of unpaid internships, a prevalence of short-term work, high student-loan debt: young conservationists are reporting a tough, rough time in the job market.
- A recent study in Conservation Biology attempts to uncover some concrete data on the hard-to-quantify conservation job market in an effort to help students prepare themselves for the competitive hunt for paid employment.
- Mongabay interviewed study co-authors Jane Lucas, who is now doing a postdoc at the University of Idaho, and Evan Gora, who is now doing a postdoc at the University of Louisville, to hear what they learned.
- Their advice? Start researching the job market early, even before you’re actively looking for work. Reach out to people who have the career you want. And make sure you’re gaining diverse skills.


Latam Eco Review: Paddington Bear Captured on Camera in Peru [06/15/2018]
Among the top articles from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of June 4 – 10 was one about a golden spectacled bear named after Paddington Bear that was caught by a camera trap for the first time in Peru. In other news, the debate on hydroelectric plants intensifies in Colombia, and […]

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 15, 2018 [06/15/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Primate-rich countries are becoming less hospitable places for monkeys, apes and lemurs [06/15/2018]
- New research shows that many of the 65 percent of the world’s primate species found in four countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo — face the threat of extinction.
- The scientists involved in the study used maps of primate ranges and information on the threats they face to predict what might happen to the animals through the end of the 21st century.
- They found that increases in the amount of land turned over for human food production could cause the primate habitats to shrink substantially in these countries.
- However, the team also found that intensive conservation measures could dramatically reduce the loss of primate habitat by 2100 and potentially avert the mass extinction of these species.


There’s now an app for mapping seagrass, the oceans’ great carbon sink [06/14/2018]
- A new online tool aims to crowdsource an image and location database of the world’s seagrass, in a bid to shed light on the threatened and fast-receding underwater flowering plants.
- Anyone with a camera and internet access can upload images of seagrass beds and location info to SeagrassSpotter, available on desktop and mobile apps.
- Project Seagrass, the group behind the mapping tool, hopes it will help countries that are seagrass hotspots but lacking data, like Indonesia, to improve efforts to conserve these vitally important carbon sinks.
- Globally, the group hopes to obtain at least 100,000 records by engaging people from all around the world to collect data about seagrass in their locality. All collected data will be made freely available.


The diversity of biodiversity: Connecting shrews, ants and slime molds with carbon storage [06/14/2018]
- Research has shown that, in some cases, high-carbon forests support high levels of biodiversity.
- But a recent study, which looked at a wide variety of species groups, demonstrates that regrowth forests can support a greater number of representatives of some species groups.
- The findings support the conclusion that recovering forests should be included in conservation planning alongside old-growth forests.


Renowned wildlife conservationist Russell Mittermeier awarded 2018 Indianapolis Prize [06/13/2018]
- Mittermeier, a primatologist, herpetologist, and highly accomplished conservationist, is the seventh recipient of the prestigious prize, which has been awarded by the Indianapolis Zoological Society along with $250,000 in prize money every two years since 2006 to “the most successful animal conservationist in the world.”
- He spent 11 years at WWF–U.S. before becoming president of Conservation International (CI) in 1989. It was while he was at CI that Mittermeier first heard of the concept of “biodiversity hotspots” — a concept he would go on to popularize and utilize to achieve a number of conservation successes.
- “Russ Mittermeier is a consummate scientist, a visionary leader, a deft policy advocate and an inspiring mentor to many,” Michael Crowther, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, said in a statement. “Perhaps most important, he is a consistent winner in the battles for species and ecosystem survival.”


Hunting, fishing causing dramatic decline in Amazon river dolphins [06/13/2018]
- Both species of Amazon river dolphin appear to be in deep decline, according to a recent study. Boto (Inia geoffrensis) populations fell by 94 percent and Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) numbers fell by 97 percent in the Mamirauá Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil between 1994 and 2017, according to researchers.
- Difficult to detect in the Amazon’s murky waters, both species are listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN. But researchers maintain that if region-wide surveys were conducted both species would end up being listed as Critically Endangered.
- The team noticed scars from harpoon and machete injuries on the dolphins they caught. Interviews with fishermen confirmed the team’s suspicions: dolphins were being hunted for use as bait. The mammals also get entangled in nets and other fishing gear, are hunted as food, eliminated as pests, and suffer mercury poisoning.
- Researchers believe the passage and enforcement of new conservation laws could save Amazon river dolphins, and halt their plunge toward extinction. But a lack of political will, drastic draconian cuts to the Brazilian environmental ministry budget, and continued illegal dolphin hunting and fishing make action unlikely for now.


Mongabay discusses technology’s role in conservation at Seattle event [VIDEO] [06/13/2018]
- A team from Mongabay discussed new applications of technology for conservation with representatives of Seattle Audubon and Acate Amazon Conservation during an event at Seattle Central College, Washington.
- In this video recording, the panelists discuss topics ranging from bioacoustics to remote sensing and AI and answer questions from the audience.


Climate change could be killing Africa’s giant baobabs [06/13/2018]
- More than half of the oldest and largest trees in a recent study died — or had significant parts of their structures die — between 2005 and 2017.
- Nearly all of these trees were at least 1,000 years old, and one was nearly 2,500 years old.
- The researchers believe that higher temperatures and more than a decade of drought in southern Africa, likely due to climate change, may have killed these baobabs.


Audio: How soundscapes are helping us better understand animal behavior and landscape ecology [06/12/2018]
- On today’s episode, we take a look at soundscape phenology and the emerging role it’s playing in the study of animal behavior and landscape ecology.
- The Mongabay Newscast previously looked at how soundscapes are being used in phenological studies when we talked about the great Sandhill crane migration on the Platte River in the US state of Nebraska. Today, we take a deeper dive into soundscape phenology with researcher Anne Axel, a landscape ecologist and professor at Marshall University in the US state of West Virginia.
- Axel tells us all about this new field of study and plays a few of the recordings that have informed her research in this Field Notes segment.


Citigroup limits financing for mines that dump tailings at sea [06/12/2018]
- Following pressure from advocates, Citigroup said last month that it will not fund any future mining projects over $50 million that dispose of mine waste in the oceans.
- Tailings, a fine-grained, often toxic slurry left over after the processing of mined ore, are still disposed of in oceans, lakes and rivers in several countries.
- Mines in Papua New Guinea, Norway and Chile are proposing to dispose of tailings in the ocean.
- Local communities are often most affected by pollution from mines and have vocally opposed tailings disposal in the ocean in Norway and Papua New Guinea.


Latam Eco Review: More than 100 new species in Bolivian park [06/08/2018]
Among the top articles from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of May 23 – June 3 is one about researchers who were surprised to find more than 100 possible new species in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park. In other news, given the possibility of an oil concession on their territory, the Waorani are […]

Super plane, satellites help map the Caribbean’s hidden coral reefs [06/08/2018]
- Satellites, aircraft and scuba divers are creating the first ever high-resolution map of coral reefs throughout the Caribbean region.
- Layers of data with 10-centimeter (4-inch) resolution will reveal the extent of damage from recent hurricanes and identify pockets of living coral to protect, as well as ailing coral that can be restored.
- The maps will be used to declare new marine protected areas, guide management plans and select areas for post-hurricane restoration.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 8, 2018 [06/08/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


‘I’m only going to eat animals I kill myself’: Q&A with Louise Gray, author of ‘The Ethical Carnivore’ [06/08/2018]
- Mongabay recently talked with Gray about her unusual year, the paradox of being a hunter who cares about animal welfare, and her new adventures in service to the humble vegetable.
- Can we be sure that as we wipe the plate after seared scallops we are not wiping the ocean floor of its plants and corals? What sleight of hand really distinguishes humane from cruel? And how much deforested land does it take to make a steak?
- These are some of the questions that Louise Gray set out to answer in her 2016 book “The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat.”


Mexico’s ejidos are finding greater sustainability by involving youth and women [06/07/2018]
- Ejidos now control more than two-thirds of Mexico’s 64 million hectares (158 million acres) of forest. They have generally proven to be an effective means of preserving those forests while creating economic opportunities for local communities through sustainable farming, ranching, and forestry operations.
- But ejidos themselves face challenges that must be overcome in order to ensure their sustainability. Chief among them has been the lack of inclusion of youth and women, an issue many ejidos have begun to seriously address over the course of the past decade.
- The traditional hierarchies built into ejido communities once posed what many observers saw as a serious threat to the future viability of the ejido system. But young people now represent a hopeful future not just for the ejidos they come from and plan to return to in order to ply their newly acquired skills, but also, perhaps, for the future of conservation in Mexico.


New technology leads to the arrest of eight people suspected of trafficking wildlife parts [06/07/2018]
- Eight men, including three government officials, all from African countries, have been arrested for allegedly trafficking wildlife body parts to Southeast Asia.
- Officers from the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, based in Nairobi, Kenya, used data analytics software to track down the alleged smugglers, who were arrested in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo in May.
- The investigation linked the accused to shipments of pangolin scales and elephant tusks seized in Southeast Asia.


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


Field Museum honors Peruvian organization for its conservation work with indigenous groups [06/05/2018]
- The Instituto del Bien Común, a Peruvian organization that works with indigenous communities, has received this year’s Parker/Gentry award for conservation from the Field Museum of Chicago.
- The organization has mapped more than 7,000 indigenous territories in Peru, which serve as a baseline for the Peruvian government on indigenous land.
- The group was also involved in the effort to designate Yaguas National Park, the country’s newest protected area, in January this year.


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


Latam Eco Review: Deforestation encircles Colombia’s Caquetá titi monkey [06/01/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of May 21-27. Among the top articles: deforestation is clearing the tiny habitat of Colombia’s Caquetá titi monkey. In other news, a court gives Peru’s health ministry 30 days for an emergency health plan for communities affected […]

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 1, 2018 [06/01/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Madagascar court upholds sentence for environmental activist [05/31/2018]
- In September 2017 a farmer named Raleva questioned a mining company about its permits during a meeting in his village in southeastern Madagascar. He was promptly arrested on charges of impersonating a local official.
- In October, he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, but immediately released on parole — a common tactic in Madagascar that appears to be aimed at silencing opposition.
- On May 22, an appeals court announced its decision to uphold the conviction.
- Advocacy groups are now trying to put together a legal team that can take the case to Madagascar’s Supreme Court.


Norwegian government report sharply critical of funding for tropical forest conservation [05/31/2018]
- A recent report by Norway’s Office of the Auditor General had some tough criticisms for the country’s International Forests and Climate Initiative (NICFI), one of the chief funders of REDD+ initiatives around the world.
- The Office of the Auditor General said that its investigation found “that progress and results are delayed, that current measures have uncertain feasibility and effect, and that the risk of fraud is not well-managed.”
- Responding to the report, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Ola Elvestuen, said that it provided some useful insights and that its recommendations would be followed up on. However, Elvestuen said he disagreed with many of the report’s key conclusions.


Death by hippo poop: Scientists solve a fish massacre in the Mara River [05/30/2018]
- In the Mara River in Kenya, an overload of hippo feces can deplete the oxygen in the river water, resulting in mass fish die-offs downstream, a new study has found.
- Hippo pools are not just oxygen-poor, but also full of ammonium, hydrogen sulfide, methane and carbon dioxide — byproducts of microbial metabolism, some of which are potentially toxic to fish, the researchers say.
- When it rains heavily, the feces-laden, oxygen-poor water from the hippo pools gets flushed downstream, causing fish deaths.
- These frequent fish-kill events provide a great resource for the scavenger community in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, and have likely shaped The Mara River’s ecosystem, scientists say.


Audio: Mexico’s ejidos find sustainability by including women and youth [05/30/2018]
- On today’s episode, a special report on the community-based conservation and agroforestry operations known as ejidos in Mexico.
- Mongabay Newscast host Mike Gaworecki traveled to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in February to visit several ejidos in the states of Quintana Roo and Campeche. Ejidos are lands that are communally owned and operated as agroforestry operations, and they’ve proven to be effective at conserving forests while creating economic opportunities for the local rural communities who live and work on the land.
- But ejidos have also faced a threat to their own survival over the past decade, as younger generations, seeing no place for themselves in the fairly rigid structure of ejido governance, have moved out of the communities in large numbers. At the same time, the lack of inclusion of women in the official decision-making bodies, known as ejidatario assemblies, has also posed a challenge.


Bolivia’s Madidi National Park home to world’s largest array of land life, survey finds [05/30/2018]
- A two-and-a-half-year biological survey of Madidi National Park in Bolivia added 1,382 species and subspecies of plants and animals to the list of those living in the park.
- The team believes that 124 species and subspecies may be new to science.
- WCS, the organization that led the study, said the 18,958-square-kilometer (7,320-square-mile) park is the world’s most biodiverse protected area.


There may be hope for the extremely rare ‘sneezing monkey,’ report finds [05/29/2018]
- In a new report, researchers have confirmed the presence of five subpopulations of the extremely rare Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: three in Myanmar and two in China.
- Logging, proposed hydropower projects, road construction and hunting continue to threaten the species.
- However, the creation of two new protected areas to safeguard the monkeys’ habitat, one each in Myanmar and China, as well as improved cross-border collaboration between the two countries is helping reduce the risk of extinction for the species, researchers say.


Geneticists: It’s time to mix the Sumatran rhino subspecies [05/29/2018]
- The Sumatran rhino populations living in Borneo and Sumatra have been genetically separated for hundreds of thousands of years.
- The species as a whole has no more than 100 living individuals in the wild, and perhaps as few as 30. Another nine are in captivity.
- In a recent study of Sumatran rhinos’ mitochondrial DNA, geneticists argue it’s time to combine the subspecies, despite the potential risks and drawbacks.
- The question is given extra urgency with plans afoot to capture a female rhino in Indonesian Borneo.


Mining, erosion threaten Indian rhino haven [05/28/2018]
- India’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest population of the greater one-horned rhinoceros, is under great risk of losing its connectivity with the larger Karbi Anglong landscape due to mining, quarrying and river erosion, a new report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has warned.
- The NTCA report and directive comes in response to a complaint filed by activist Rohit Choudhury alleging significant environmental degradation and habitat destruction in the foothills of Karbi Anglong, a prime elephant habitat during the flood season.
- Illegal mining and stone crushing aside, the NTCA report highlighted river erosion as a “natural threat” to Kaziranga. But experts caution that erosion is a natural part of Kaziranga’s flood-plain ecology, and isn’t necessarily bad.


Biomass study finds people are wiping out wild mammals [05/28/2018]
- A team of scientists mined previous studies for estimates of the total mass of carbon found in each group of organisms on Earth as a way to measure relative biomass.
- Plants house some 450 gigatons of the 550 gigatons — or about 80 percent — of the carbon found in all of Earth’s life-forms, the team found, and bacteria account for another 15 percent.
- Humans represent just a hundredth of a percent of the Earth’s biomass, but we’ve driven down the biomass of land animals by 85 percent and marine mammals by about 80 percent since the beginning of the last major extinction about 50,000 years ago.


Palm oil certification? No silver bullet, but essential for sustainability (commentary) [05/25/2018]
- We need a global standard on what constitutes sustainable palm oil and a common system to implement it. Arriving at this consensus requires a convening body to connect every link in the palm oil supply chain, across different countries and jurisdictions.
- A recent report from Changing Markets Foundation, released with additional comments by NGOs such as FERN, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Mighty Earth, and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, criticizes the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and proposes that certification standards are — as stated by the same NGOs — ‘holding back the progressive reform of the sector’ and may even be causing ‘active damage.’
- This report disregards some of the important realities in the industry and on the ground, and fails to offer practical solutions. Simply bashing certification because of its imperfections puts the advances made at risk, instead of helping develop standards and synergies that facilitate compliance across the global palm oil supply chain.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Latam Eco Review: Peru’s first environmental court [05/25/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of May 14 -20. Among the top articles: an environmental court seeks to stop environmental crimes in the most deforested region of Peru. In other news, with elections around the corner in Colombia, experts take a closer […]

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 25, 2018 [05/25/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Researchers propose framework for designing PES programs that better deliver socioeconomic benefits [05/24/2018]
- The authors of a study recently published in the journal Science Advances developed a framework for examining the numerous ways Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs affect socioeconomic outcomes by taking into account how PES programs are linked to various livelihood activities.
- The researchers applied their framework to two PES programs in China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, both designed to reduce the degradation of panda habitat due to human activities like agricultural expansion, timber harvesting, and fuelwood collection.
- They found that households in Wolong Nature Reserve would have been better off financially had they not enrolled their land in either of these PES programs and instead continued to grow and sell crops.
- The researchers write that using their framework for understanding all of the underlying effects on local livelihoods, however, it is possible for conservation practitioners to anticipate obstacles and design management strategies for PES programs that improve their socioeconomic performance.


Guardians of India’s rhinos find it takes a village to fight poachers [05/24/2018]
- Adjacent to an international border and with roads, a rail line and tea plantations within its boundaries, India’s Jaldapara National Park — home to more than 200 rhinos — is particularly vulnerable to poaching.
- The forest department works closely with local residents to protect rhinos, and 40 percent of tourist revenues are earmarked to support community projects.
- Forest department strategies range from rehabilitation of confessed poachers to joint exercises with the police and border patrol.


Chinese giant salamander is at least five species — all nearly extinct [05/24/2018]
- Scientists who spent four years surveying the Chinese giant salamander’s preferred river habitats across 97 counties in China spotted only 24 individuals at four sites.
- None of the 24 individuals were “pure natural forms,” the researchers found, and were likely farm releases or escapees.
- The Chinese giant salamander also represents not one but at least five different species-level lineages. However, the large extent of hybridization in these animals through farming could mean that these distinct lineages are already functionally extinct.


Rangers face a ‘toxic mix’ of mental strain and lack of support [05/24/2018]
- Wildlife rangers are facing numerous psychological pressures leading to potentially serious mental health implications.
- Rangers tackling wildlife crime and defending natural habitats in parts of Africa and Asia are frequently subjected to violent confrontations inside and outside their work.
- Many rangers see their families as little as once a year, causing immense stress to personal relationships.
- There is currently very little awareness of the mental strain placed on rangers, and a dearth of research into the potential mental health issues they face.


Making the most of conservation science (commentary) [05/23/2018]
- Increasing numbers of scientific papers on conservation are published every year, but for many people these remain inaccessible behind paywalls, difficult to locate in a vast ocean of research, or time-consuming to read.
- There are increasing attempts to bring the evidence for particular questions together in digestible formats, such as systematic reviews or Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series. One such enterprise is the Conservation Evidence project, which assesses the evidence for the effectiveness of conservation interventions.
- A new edition of the book ‘What Works in Conservation,’ produced by Conservation Evidence, is available and free to download. This book helps us to see which conservation interventions have been shown to work, which have been shown not to work, and where we need more evidence.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Hunters are wiping out hornbills in Ghana’s forests [05/23/2018]
- According to a new study, Ghana is losing hornbill species to “uncontrolled” hunting, mostly for meat, from its forested parks and reserves.
- The researchers found that the five largest species of hornbills in the Bia Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have disappeared in recent decades.
- The authors of the paper suggest that increased enforcement will help protect threatened hornbills, as well as other wildlife species, in areas under intense pressure from humans.


Trio of studies challenges Indian government claim of increasing forest cover [05/23/2018]
- Three studies published over the past seven months show that forest cover in India is declining, contrary to findings from the latest Forest Survey of India report.
- One study found 16 to 30 percent forest loss in the eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, while another study found that the Eastern Ghats lost nearly 16 percent of their forest area between 1920 and 2015.
- The third study, which analyzed patterns of forest cover across India from 2001 to 2014, found “significant negative changes” in the seasonal green cover, with the highest decline recorded in tropical moist deciduous forests.


Fishing gear poses the greatest danger to young great whites off the West Coast of the U.S. [05/22/2018]
- Fishing lines and nets pose the most significant threat to the survival of young white sharks in the waters off Mexico and southern California, according to a new study.
- A team of scientists used a relatively “untapped” but ubiquitous storehouse of data to develop a statistical model for the survival rates of juvenile white sharks.
- The researchers calculated that 63 percent of young white sharks living in this part of the Pacific survive annually, but that nearly half probably come in contact with gillnets set by commercial fishers.
- The findings point to best practices, such as barring gillnets from inshore “nurseries” and asking fishers to check their nets for trapped sharks more regularly, that could help protect great whites.


In unsuspecting Indian villages, the international rhino horn trade takes a toll [05/22/2018]
- The vast majority of villagers around India’s Jaldapara National Park live in harmony with the area’s wildlife, but a small minority get involved in rhino poaching.
- Experts and former poachers say villagers are recruited by organized poaching syndicates. Locals serve as guides and lookouts, while syndicates arrange for the transport and sale of rhino horns.
- From West Bengal, rhino horns are taken to India’s northeastern states and then across the border to Myanmar and eventually to China.


African vultures under the gun as lead ammunition takes a toll [05/22/2018]
- Fragments of lead ammunition in abandoned animal carcasses may be poisoning Africa’s vultures, a new study has found.
- Researchers found elevated blood lead levels among vultures in hunting areas and during hunting season in Botswana.
- This study adds to the growing evidence from around the world that identifies lead ammunition as a problem for a number of bird species.
- South African hunters are sympathetic to vultures but oppose a total ban on lead ammunition, citing the cost and availability of lead-free alternatives.


Lessons for developing countries in expansion of Madagascar’s protected area network [05/21/2018]
- Between 2003 and 2016, protected area coverage in Madagascar was quadrupled, from 1.7 to 7.1 million hectares. Whereas most protected areas (PAs) established in Madagascar prior to 2003 were managed solely by the Malagasy government, post-2003 PAs adopted a variety of new management and governance systems.
- The aggressive growth of Madagascar’s PA system and the diversity of approaches employed make for a particularly poignant case study, according to the authors of a recent paper published in the journal Biological Conservation that looks at what other developed countries can take away from Madagascar’s experience.
- The researchers hope that the successes achieved and the challenges identified via their examination of Madagascar’s efforts to expand its PA system might help inform how global protected area coverage continues to expand.


Venezuela’s hungry hunt wildlife, zoo animals, as economic crisis grows [05/21/2018]
- Venezuela is suffering a disastrous economic crisis. With inflation expected to hit 13,000 percent in 2018, there has been a collapse of agricultural productivity, commercial transportation and other services, which has resulted in severe food shortages. As people starve, they are increasingly hunting wildlife, and sometimes zoo animals.
- Reports from the nation’s zoos say that animals are emaciated, with keepers sometimes forced to feed one form of wildlife to another, just to keep some animals alive. There have also been reports of mammals and birds being stolen from zoo collections. Zoos have reached out to Venezuelans, seeking donations to help feed their wild animals.
- The economic crisis makes scientific data gathering difficult, but a significant uptick in the harvesting of Guiana dolphin, known locally as tonina, has been observed. The dolphin is protected from commercial trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- The grisly remains of hunted pink flamingos have been found repeatedly on Lake Maracaibo. Also within the estuary, there has also been a rise in the harvesting of sea turtle species, including the vulnerable leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and the critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).


Documenting the African elephant’s ‘last stand’: Q&A with filmmakers Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson [05/21/2018]
- “Walking Thunder,” a film by Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson, tracks elephants across Africa.
- The couple’s son, Lysander, guides viewers through his discovery, first of the elephants and peoples of Africa, and then of the threats they face.
- Christo calls the film a “prayer” for the species.


Tiny marsupials that practice ‘suicidal’ mating declared endangered [05/21/2018]
- On May 11, the Australian government officially declared two species of recently described antechinuses, a mouse-like marsupial, as endangered.
- The species are famed for their marathon mating sessions that leave the males so exhausted that they die.
- Both species occur only in high-altitude forests, and are threatened by climate change, habitat loss and threats from feral cats, cattle and horses.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 18, 2018 [05/18/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Latam Eco review: Coca threatens world’s best organic coffees [05/18/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of May 7 -13. Among the top articles: the assassination of two activists who opposed the Hidroituango hydroelectric project revives the debate around megaprojects in Colombia. In other news, centuries-old trees cut for parquet floors in Peru, […]

TV host Ellen DeGeneres to visit Rwanda in mountain gorilla conservation effort [05/18/2018]
- Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year established a fund that will finance the building of a campus in Rwanda to support conservation and protection efforts for the critically endangered mountain gorilla.
- The campus is being built in collaboration with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and DeGeneres is scheduled to visit the site in the Virunga Mountains next week.
- The initiative has been welcomed by conservationists and Rwandan government officials, and has received financial support and endorsements from prominent figures in Hollywood.


Humans are leaving their mark on the world’s protected areas, study finds [05/17/2018]
- About one-third of the world’s total protected area — around 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) — bears the scars of substantial degradation at the hands of humans, according to research published in the journal Science.
- The researchers found that large parks and reserves held to the toughest standards are doing significantly better than those with laxer controls.
- The authors argue that assessments of the effectiveness of protected areas should be considered, especially as governments try to meet one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets calling for protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area by 2020.


Will China’s new ban on the ivory trade help or hurt? (Commentary) [05/16/2018]
- At the end of 2017, China announced that it had closed down the domestic legal trade in ivory, to global acclaim.
- The new ban represents all the makings of excellent global public relations, but conservationist Karl Amman asks whether it will do more harm than good for elephants without effective enforcement.
- The post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


‘Rainbow’ chameleon among three new species described from Madagascar [05/16/2018]
- Researchers discovered the brilliantly colored rainbow chameleon, now named Calumma uetzi, during an expedition to the remote Sorata massif in northern Madagascar in 2012.
- Over surveys between 2015 and 2016, the researchers found another new species of chameleon, now dubbed Calumma juliae, in a 15-square-kilometer patch of forest. The researchers were unable to find any males of this species.
- They also found only a single male specimen of the third new chameleon species, Calumma lefona, spotted in Andrevorevo in northern Madagascar.


Sifaka lemurs listed as “critically endangered” amid mysterious die-off [05/15/2018]
- In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in Berenty Reserve near Madagascar’s southern tip.
- It’s one of the largest lemur die-offs scientists can remember.
- Experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown.
- At a large IUCN meeting held last week in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, primate specialists decided to uplist all nine sifaka species from endangered to critically endangered.


Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans [05/15/2018]
- On today’s episode, renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle joins us for an in-depth conversation about marine conservation.
- Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy.
- She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.


Higher incomes, not higher carbon dioxide levels, drive forest gains, study finds [05/15/2018]
- New research indicates that higher levels of economic development, rather than carbon dioxide, are responsible for some countries’ gains in forest cover.
- The findings contradict several climate change models that point to the role that higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere can play as a “fertilizer” for plants.
- Policy decisions should account for the role that development plays in the health of forests, the authors say.


Scientists highlight 9 potentially new reef fish species off West Papua [05/14/2018]
- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province.
- The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity.
- However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.


Longest recorded whale shark migration eclipses 20,000 kilometers [05/14/2018]
- Scientists followed the movements of a whale shark for nearly two and a half years as she swam more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) from the coast of Central America to the Marianas Trench near Asia.
- Whale sharks, whose numbers have dropped by more than half in the past 75 years according to the IUCN, are taken by fishing boats for their fins, cartilage, meat and teeth, and studies have shown that boats bringing tourists to swim with the largest fish in the ocean change the species’ behavior.
- Given these threats, scientists hope studies such as this one will help guide conservation policy aimed at protecting these animals throughout their migrations.


Report unmasks indiscriminate killer of elephants: poaching not for ivory, but for skin [05/14/2018]
- Myanmar has seen an increase in the number of elephants killed over the past several years, with some of the carcasses found skinned.
- A report by the U.K.-based conservation group Elephant Family has identified growing demand for elephant skin products from Myanmar’s giant neighbor, China, which it blames for driving elephant poaching in the Southeast Asian country.
- Conservationists are calling on the Myanmar government to boost law enforcement, beef up forest patrols, and increase conservation outreach and awareness on elephants in the country.
- Warning: Some images may be disturbing or graphic.


A boon for birds: Once overlooked, China’s mudflats gain protections [05/11/2018]
- The shoreline of the Yellow Sea has been transformed dramatically over the last half-century as mudflats have been filled in with rock and soil, replacing dynamic, natural tidal zones with solid ground for ports, chemical plants and farmland.
- Losing the intertidal flats has proved devastating for the millions of shorebirds that funnel through the Yellow Sea during migration.
- In January, the Chinese government announced a sweeping package of reforms aimed at ending much of the land reclamation taking place on the mudflats.
- “Stunned joy” is how one bird conservationist described her reaction to news of the reforms, which she said could avert one of the biggest extinction crises facing migratory birds — if they work.


Latam Eco Review: Colombia’s last nomadic tribe faces extinction [05/11/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 30 – May 6. Among the top articles: more than 20 families of the last nomadic indigenous peoples of Colombia face a serious food crisis. In other news, a new app allows fisherfolk and others […]

Tanzania’s Maasai losing ground to tourism in the name of conservation, investigation finds [05/11/2018]
- An investigation by the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, has turned up allegations that the government of Tanzania is sidelining the country’s Maasai population in favor of tourism.
- The government and some foreign investors worry that the Maasai, semi-nomadic herders who have lived in the Rift Valley for centuries, are degrading parts of the Serengeti ecosystem.
- The authors of the Oakland Institute’s report argue that approaches aimed at conservation should focus on the participation and engagement of Maasai communities rather than their removal from lands to be set aside for high-end tourism.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 11, 2018 [05/11/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


New species of shrew discovered on a single mountaintop in the Philippines [05/11/2018]
- The newly described Palawanosorex muscorum, or the Palawan moss shrew, is known to live only near the peak of Mount Mantalingajan on Palawan Island in the southern Philippines.
- The shrew has a stout body and broad forefeet with long claws, which it uses to dig through humus on the forest floor to look for earthworms.
- The moss shrew has no close known relatives in Asia, and how it came to live on Mount Mantalingajan is a mystery, researchers say.


Sumatran habitat for tigers, orangutans gets a partial reprieve from development [05/10/2018]
- The Aceh provincial government has vowed to protect Gunung Leuser National Park, the core part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, by canceling infrastructure projects in the park.
- However, questions linger over the future of the remaining part of the wider ecosystem, where planned infrastructure projects remain unaffected by the latest pledge.
- Activists have called on the provincial government to recognize the wider Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh’s spatial plans so that the region is excluded from any infrastructure development that could threaten the habitat of the many endangered species living there.


Can India’s ‘People’s Forest’ also serve as a haven for rhinos? [05/10/2018]
- Jadav Payeng, India’s “Forest Man,” transformed a barren island in Assam state into a 550-hectare (1,360-acre) forest that hosts rare species including rhinos, tigers and elephants.
- Some conservationists fear that the animals living on the island are vulnerable to poaching, since the forest lacks formal protected status and therefore is not allotted official forest guards.
- Payeng, however, resists seeking formal protected status for the forest, fearing it would limit local peoples’ access to the forest’s resources.


Wildlife decimated by the surge in conflicts in the Sahara and the Sahel [05/09/2018]
- An escalation in the number of conflicts across the Sahara and the Sahel in Africa is driving down numbers of the region’s wildlife, a new study finds.
- The authors found that the number of conflicts in the region has risen by 565 percent since 2011.
- At the same time, 12 species of vertebrate have either gone extinct or are much closer to extinction as a result of conflicts in the region.


Indonesian activists protest China-funded dam in orangutan habitat [05/09/2018]
- The Chinese government plans to fund a massive hydroelectric power dam in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, where the newly described Tapanuli orangutan lives.
- Activists staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta on May 8, coinciding with a state visit by Premier Li Keqiang, to condemn Beijing’s involvement in the project.
- In a letter submitted by the demonstrators to the embassy, they demanded China withdraw its support for the project due to the massive environmental threats posed by the endeavor.


South Georgia declared ‘rat-free’ in largest-ever rodent eradication program [05/09/2018]
- Ships of sealers and whalers arriving on South Georgia brought with them rats and mice that spread over much of the island, eating eggs and chicks of the native birds.
- To counter the problem of invasive rats, the South Georgia Heritage Trust launched a $13.5 million rodent eradication operation in 2011, using helicopters to drop poisoned bait in every part of the island that could be infested with rodents.
- In the final phase of monitoring that concluded in April this year — a six-month survey that included three trained sniffer dogs — the SGHT team found no signs of rats or mice.


Pleistocene climates help scientists pick out targets for conservation in Brazil’s forests [05/08/2018]
- A team of scientists looked for places in the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest that have had stable weather patterns for a long time — going back to the Pleistocene Epoch — but that don’t fall within the boundaries of existing parks or reserves.
- They measured the efficiency of the current network of protected areas in these areas, and they also came up with a prioritization scale for conservation efforts that incorporated the locations of intact forest landscapes.
- The team reports that protected areas in the Amazon are four times as efficient at safeguarding these “climatically stable areas” as protected areas in the Atlantic Forest.


Humpback whales near Antarctica making a comeback, study finds [05/08/2018]
- Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found.
- Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing.
- So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.


Pangolins on the brink as Africa-China trafficking persists unabated [05/08/2018]
- Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with more than a million snatched from the wild in the past decade, according to IUCN estimates. The four Asian species have been hunted nearly to extinction, while the four African species are being poached in record numbers.
- The illegal trade largely goes to China and other East Asian nations, where pangolin meat is an expensive delicacy served to flaunt wealth and influence. Pangolin is also a preferred ingredient in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa. Traditional healers in Sierra Leone use pangolin to treat 59 medical conditions, though there is no evidence of efficacy.
- In 2016, pangolins were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations. But laws and enforcement in African nations, along illegal trade routes, and in Asia continue to be weak, with conservationists working hard to strengthen them.
- Pangolins don’t thrive in captivity, but the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife have succeeded in rescuing confiscated pangolins and restoring them to the wild. Six U.S. zoos are trying to raise pangolins as part of the controversial Pangolin Consortium project — only 29 of 45 imported individuals remain alive.


Crisis in Venezuela: Caparo Experimental Station invaded by 200 farmers [05/07/2018]
- The Caparo Forest Reserve in Barinas state, Venezuela, created in 1961, covers almost 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres). The Caparo Experimental Station, located within the reserve, encompasses 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) and has been under the administration of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) since 1982 for scientific research and education.
- The reserve has been heavily degraded in past decades, as farmers intruded and burned forest to make way for crops. But the Experimental Station’s forest has remained mostly intact. In January, 200 members of the 777 Christ Ambassadors Cooperative (Cooperativa Embajadores de Cristo 777) invaded the Experimental Station. Mongabay reports from the scene.
- The intruders claim to have a legitimate permit for the tract. But the courts have nullified that permit and ordered an eviction. The National Guard failed to remove the invaders, so in April on a visit to the site, the Ecosocialism minister promised the settlers new land elsewhere. At the start of May, the squatters remained in place in an apparent standoff.
- The ULA is concerned about the threat the invasion poses to one of the last major surviving tracts of Colombian-Venezuelan lowland forest. The ULA continues seeking the community’s eviction, with a series of protests by academics and NGOs scheduled for May in Caracas. The groups are asking that the Caparo Reserve and Experimental Station are given national park status.


Black rhinos return to Zakouma National Park in Chad [05/07/2018]
- The NGO African Parks and its partners in South Africa and Chad reintroduced six black rhinos to Zakouma National Park on May 4.
- Chad’s oldest national park had not had rhinos since the early 1970s, when they were wiped out by hunting.
- After a brief acclimation period in transitional bomas, or enclosures, the rhinos will be released into a protected sanctuary in the park.
- Around 5,000 black rhinos remain on the African continent, and poaching for their horns, used in traditional Asian medicine, continues to be a threat to their survival as a species.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 4, 2018 [05/04/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Latam Eco review: An Andean condor chooses her own protected area in Ecuador [05/04/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of April 16 – 22. Among the top articles: Colombian activist Francia Márquez receives the Goldman Prize and Peruvian biologist Kerstin Forsberg wins the Whitley Award. And in Ecuador, a condor’s flight demarcates a protected area. The […]

India’s foxes and monkeys are dumpster diving and eating food scraps [05/04/2018]
- In Spiti Valley in northern India, red foxes can be seen rummaging through kitchen waste. Such dumpster diving could potentially bring wild animals in close proximity to humans and increase conflict, researchers say.
- Increasing reliance of wild animals on food waste could affect other ecological processes.
- In the state of West Bengal, for example, some troops of rhesus macaques spend most of their time “begging or chasing” tourists for food. These troops, unlike the forest-dwelling ones, contribute very little to the dispersal of seeds, researchers have found.


Indonesia cites twisted bowel in death of Javan rhino [05/04/2018]
- Last month, rangers in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park found an adult male rhino dead on a beach.
- A necropsy determined the rhino’s death was due to complications from a twisted bowel, putting to rest fears of poaching or contagion.
- Despite the death, the Javan rhino population has shown stable growth with the birth of two calves earlier this year, putting the tally at minimum 68 individuals.


There is still a chance to save the Sumatran rhino (commentary) [05/03/2018]
- In 2017, rhino experts from around the world and government officials reached a consensus that saving the Sumatran rhino requires the capture and consolidation of remaining wild populations in intensively managed captive breeding facilities.
- A female rhino has been identified for immediate capture in Indonesian Borneo.
- In this commentary, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader Margaret Kinnaird and IUCN Species Survival Commission Chair Jon Paul Rodriguez say that local and international conservation groups are ready to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to save the Sumatran rhino through captive breeding and release into safe sites.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.




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