Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
Philippines bans new open-pit metal mines [04/28/2017]
- The Philippines has banned new open-pit gold, copper and silver mines, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Regina Lopez announced April 27. - Lopez cited the need to protect biodiversity, evidence of injuries to communities and water supplies, and violations of environmental law by the mining industry. - Since taking office in July, Lopez has lauched an aggressive campaign to force the mining industry to improve its practices. - The ban could be one of Lopez's last acts in office; on May 3, she faces review from a legislative committee that includes people linked to the mining industry.
As forests disappear, human-elephant conflict escalates in Nepal [04/28/2017]
- Asian elephants are responsible for destroying crops, buildings, and even injuring or killing local people in Nepal. - A new study argues that Nepal’s government has not done enough to help villages in elephant areas. - Researchers measured the willingness-to-pay of villagers in offsetting elephant damage.
Overestimated range maps for endemic birds in India’s Western Ghats lead to underestimated threats, study finds [04/27/2017]
- In a paper published earlier this week in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers detail their findings that suggest the IUCN has “vastly” overestimated the geographic range sizes for 17 of 18 endemic birds studied in the Western Ghats. - In some cases, the researchers write in the study, the range maps supplied by BirdLife International (BLI) and used by the IUCN for its threat assessments of birds in the Western Ghats included “large areas of unsuitable habitat” and were so off that the threat status should be changed “for at least 10 of the 18 species based on area metrics used by the IUCN for threat assessment.” - The head of the IUCN Red List says that the study's authors made a "fundamental error" in applying threat assessment criteria to their datasets, however, adding that just two of the 10 birds identified in the study need to be examined more closely. - The key to the updated range maps created by the researchers behind the Biological Conservation study is citizen science. In particular, the researchers used data from eBird, an online checklist program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And on the point of the usefulness of citizen science, the researchers and the IUCN are in full agreement.
Illegal trade threatens nearly half the world’s natural heritage sites: WWF [04/27/2017]
- Poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing of rare species protected under CITES occurs in 45 percent of the natural World Heritage sites, a new WWF report says. - Illegal harvesting degrades the unique values that gave the heritage sites the status in the first place, the report says. - Current approaches to preventing illegal harvesting of CITES listed species in World Heritage sites is not working, the report concludes.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
Conserving Congo’s wild places on a shoestring [04/25/2017]
- The park operates on a budget so small they can hardly afford to patrol the 76,000 hectares (188,000 acres) of mangroves, waterways, beach and ocean. - Though the beach and savannah portions of the park are partially protected areas, a handful of communities have continuously lived there since long before the park’s creation. - Park officials and rangers face the difficult task of protecting the vast area with just a handful of rangers and are up against generations of ingrained practices by residents, such as poaching turtles and their eggs.
Namibia’s low cost, sustainable solution to seabird bycatch [04/25/2017]
- Accidental take of marine animals by commercial fisheries is a serious global environmental problem, with 40 percent of the world’s ocean fishing totals disposed of as bycatch annually. - Roughly 63 billion pounds of unwanted wildlife — seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles, countless fish species, rays, and cephalopods — are killed as bycatch due to the swallowing of baited hooks or entanglement in nets. - Nambia, once known as the “world’s worst fishery” regarding avian bycatch is addressing the problem. It has installed “bird-scaring” lines on the nation’s 70 trawlers and on its 12 longline fishing vessels, and has also adopted other low cost methods to minimize avian bycatch, which once killed more than 30,000 birds annually. - The Meme Itumbapo Women’s Group, known for its seashell necklaces and other jewelry, is now sustainably manufacturing and supplying the bird-scaring lines from their headquarters “Bird’s Paradise,” in Walvis Bay, Namibia. The hope is that these combined efforts will reduce avian bycatch by 85-90 percent in the near future.
2 wildlife rangers shot and killed by poachers in Congo park [04/24/2017]
- While out patrolling on April 11, Ari and Afokao heard gunshots. - The patrol unit followed signs and tracks until they discovered a group of six poachers who were cutting up a freshly slaughtered elephant carcass. - A shootout followed, in which both Ari and Afokao were fatally shot.
Women could be a key to great ape conservation in the Congo [04/21/2017]
- The Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), and Coopera are all organizations working with women in and around the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help advance great ape conservation through education, empowerment, healthcare and food security access. - Some examples: BCI helps fund pilot micro-credit projects for women who want to launch business enterprises, including soap and garment making. GRACE employs women as surrogate mothers for newly orphaned gorillas during an initial 30-day quarantine period. - GRACE also provides women and their families with bushmeat alternatives by teaching them to care for and breed alternative protein sources. Coopera helps provide alternative food sources through ECOLO-FEMMES, an organization that trains women in livestock breeding and agriculture to reduce great ape hunting in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. - Coopera, working with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, engages young rape victims in tree planting to provide food sources to wild chimpanzees. JGI’s women’s programs in Uganda and Tanzania keep girls in school through peer support, scholarship programs and sanitary supply access. Educated women have smaller families, reducing stress on the environment.
Mapping indigenous lands in Indonesia’s tallest mountains [04/21/2017]
- Local NGOs in the Baliem Valley of Indonesia's Papua province are working with indigenous peoples to map their customary territories. - Over the past two decades, one foundation has mapped 19 of the 27 customary territories in Papua's Jayawijaya district. - Some communities who were initially suspicious of the program have decided to trust it.
Canceled: Plans for a bridge in a critical wildlife area in Borneo have been scrapped [04/20/2017]
- Plans for the Sukau Bridge, crossing the Kinabatangan River near a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo, raised a global outcry. - "We are not going ahead with the bridge," Sabah Forest Department Chief Conservator Sam Mannan announced at an event in London. - In explaining his decision, Mannan reportedly cited a recent letter by celebrated naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, as well as concerns expressed by scientists, NGOs and corporations.
Study finds there are ways to mitigate deforestation risks of palm oil expansion in Africa [04/20/2017]
- It’s been estimated that, over the next five years, as much as 22 million hectares (or more than 54 million acres) of land in Central and West Africa could be converted to oil palm plantations. - Seven African nations signed a pledge dedicating themselves to the sustainable development of the palm oil sector, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco last November. - According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters earlier this month, those seven nations, which collectively represent 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, have good reason to be proactive when it comes to managing the rollout of oil palm operations within their borders. But there is also reason to hope that oil palm expansion in Africa will be done more sustainably in Africa.
No safe forest left: 250 captive orphan chimps stuck in sanctuaries [04/20/2017]
- Cameroon currently has more than 250 rescued chimpanzees living in three chimp wildlife sanctuaries. Attempts to find forests into which to release them — safe from the bushmeat and pet trade, and not already occupied by other chimpanzee populations — have failed so far. - The intensification of logging, mining and agribusiness, plus new roads into remote areas, along with a growing rural human population, are putting intense pressure on un-conserved forests as well as protected lands. - Unless habitat loss, poaching and trafficking are controlled in Cameroon, reintroduction of captive chimpanzees may not be achievable. Some conservationists argue, however, that reintroduction of captive animals is needed to enhance genetic resilience in wild populations. - If current rates of decline are not curbed, primatologists estimate that chimpanzees could be gone from Cameroon’s forests within 15 to 20 years.
Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra [04/20/2017]
- The two men were each sentenced to eight months imprisonment in Jambi province. - Conservationists said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment. - The maximum sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars, and activists are pushing for that to be revised upward, too. - Last year several tiger part smugglers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined 50 million rupiah.
Brazil moves to cut Amazon conservation units by 1.2 million hectares [04/19/2017]
- Under the cover of Brazil’s current political crisis, the Congress — dominated by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby — is pushing forward measures to dramatically slash the size of conservation units in Pará state in the eastern Amazon, removing conservation protection from 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million acres) of forest. - The moves, yet to be approved by the full Congress, would reduce Jamanxim Flona (National Forest) by 480,000 hectares, Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve by 180,000 hectares, the National Park of Jamanxin by 344,000 hectares, and the Itaituba II National Forest by 169,000 hectares. - The dismembered portions of the conservation units would be re-designated as Areas of Environmental Protection (APAs), where private land ownership, agriculture and forest clearing is allowed. Brazilian agribusiness — wealthy ranchers and farmers — are likely to benefit significantly from the shift, while forests and biodiversity would suffer. - Some of the conservation units have received significant funding from foreign donors, including the European Union and the World Bank. The congressional measures must now go for approval to the lower Chamber of Deputies and then to the Senate. Both measures must be approved by the end of May or lose validity. Approval seems likely.
Forest conservation might be an even more important climate solution than we realize: Study [04/19/2017]
- Trees are a crucial regulating factor in the cycle of water and heat exchange between Earth’s surface and atmosphere — and thus forests play a key role in regulating local climates and surface temperatures, according to the authors of the study. - The researchers discovered that forests often help keep temperate and tropical regions cooler, while contributing to warming in northern high-latitude areas. - “Forests play a more important role in cooling the surface in almost all regions of the Earth than was previously thought,” Kaiguang Zhao, an assistant professor of environment modeling and spatial analysis at The Ohio State University and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Scientists launch global search for 25 ‘lost’ species [04/19/2017]
- The first phase of the this campaign, launched today by the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), will see groups of scientists spreading out across the world in search of "25 most wanted lost species". - Collectively, these 25 species have not been seen in more than 1,500 years. - The top 25 species include 10 mammals, three birds, three reptiles, two amphibians, three fish, one insect, one crustacean, one coral and one plant, found across 18 countries.
Audio: Crystal Davis, director of Global Forest Watch, on conservation and Big Data [04/18/2017]
- Mongabay has partnered with Global Forest Watch (GFW) over the years, and GFW has even funded some of our coverage of global forest issues. - Crystal Davis fills us in on how the GFW tool and dataset is being used to inform forest conservation initiatives right now, new features planned for the future, and her thoughts on the ways Big Data is changing how we approach conservation. - We also speak with Francesca Cunninghame, the Mangrove Finch Project Leader for the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, in our latest Field Notes segment.
Documenting the fight to save Borneo’s animals [04/18/2017]
- After graduating from school, Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski was on a fairly conventional career path for a young businessman. - But the more successful his agency became, the more Gekoski felt like something was missing. - So he quit the business and embarked on a totally new adventure: wildlife filmmaking. - Gekoski spoke about his unusual career path, his passion, and filmmaking during an April 2017 interview with Mongabay.com.
Wildbook: a social network for wildlife [04/18/2017]
- Wildbook is an open-source software platform that helps collaborative projects store and manage wildlife data. The user-friendly interface makes it easy for citizen scientists to contribute animal photos to be used as data for scientific studies. - Wildbook uses the Image Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS) to semi-automatically analyze the photos and determine, based on an animal’s unique markings, if it is a new individual or an animal already in the database. - The compiled images can help scientists assess species distributions, movement patterns and human-wildlife interactions, which, in turn, can support management and conservation decisions.
Nepal tests fencing approach to protect farms and elephants [04/18/2017]
- With people and wildlife co-existing ever more closely, conflict situations often arise. What to do? Shooting animals is a frequent solution. In Nepal, an alternative approach is tried. - The Himalayan Tiger Foundation is working with the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), WWF-Nepal and the authorities of Bardiya National Park to test a new approach for keeping elephants and people separated. - An electric fence has been developed that should stop elephants from raiding people’s crops and houses, but allow other wildlife, people and cattle to pass through unhindered. - Fences only work where communities support and maintain them. Getting this support is not easy. Co-financing schemes appear necessary to create the required sense of ownership from communities.
Fantastic Beasts star Alison Sudol talks conservation and inspiration [04/17/2017]
- In an exclusive interview, the breakout star of the latest Harry Potter movie argues that it’s deeply important for people to connect with nature - “Art has a profound ability to connect people to their own hearts, and to each other,” she says, and uses her art to inspire others - She is herself inspired by how much more there is to know about nature, and were she not performing for large audiences, would perhaps like to study marine mammals
Rhino poachers in Borneo: Q&A with a conservationist who lived with them [04/17/2017]
- Fiffy Hanisdah Saikim — now a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation — spent two years living with Tidong communities on the outskirts of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysian Borneo. - These communities included both poachers and people employed in ecotourism and conservation programs centered around the Sumatran rhino and other endangered species. - According to Saikim, attempts to engage communities in anti-poaching programs can succeed when they demonstrate that conservation has better long-term economic returns than poaching. - The Sumatran rhino is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia, but Saikim believes lessons from Tabin can be applied in places where rhinos still exist in the wild.
Connectivity and coexistence key to orangutan survival on croplands [04/13/2017]
- Orangutans are in drastic decline, largely due to habitat loss. From 1973–2010, Borneo lost 39 percent of its forests; estimates say that another 37 percent of orangutan-suitable habitat will be converted to agricultural use there through 2025. Similarly, 60 percent of habitat suitable for Sumatran orangutans was lost between 1985 and 2007. - If orangutans are to survive in the wild through the 21st century, researchers will need to discover ways in which the animals can be helped to coexist with humans within agricultural landscapes. Researchers are also looking for creative ways to provide connectivity between remaining forest patches to promote and preserve genetic resilience. - Scientists Gail Campbell-Smith, Marc Ancrenaz and others have shown that orangutans can use croplands, including oil palm plantations, if humans work to prevent conflict. Noise deterrents, such as bamboo cannon guns, along with the education of farm laborers and agribusiness companies, are techniques helping to reduce animal-human conflicts. - Researcher Marc Ancrenaz and colleagues provided orangutans and other arboreal wildlife with rope bridges over small rivers in Malaysia — a successful approach to providing connectivity. It took four years for orangutans to begin using the bridges, but now young orangutan males use the structures to disperse more widely.
Researchers say advanced statistical models can make traditional wildlife surveys more reliable [04/12/2017]
- Calculating a moving average is a common way researchers "smooth" out the irregularities in year-to-year counts produced by the way the counts are actually performed. - Yet this method has never been subjected to much scrutiny, according to Brian Gerber of Colorado State University and William Kendall of the U.S. Geological Survey, the authors of a study published late last month in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. - Gerber and Kendall used the results of 31 annual surveys of sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) in North America’s Rocky Mountains to examine how accurate moving averages really are, then compared those results to the estimates produced by a more advanced statistical approach known as a hierarchical Bayesian time series (HBTS) model.
Great apes in Asian circus-style shows on rise — so is trafficking [04/12/2017]
- Asian zoos, circuses and safari parks are mounting large-scale productions with costumed, dancing, roller-skating great apes. Investigations show that nearly all of these trained primates were not bred in captivity, but illegally traded out of Africa and Indonesia, with destinations in China, Thailand and other Asian countries. - The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that the illegal trade may have removed as many as 22,218 great apes from the wild between 2005-2011. An estimated 64 percent were chimpanzees, whereas 56 percent of great apes seized by authorities were thought to be orangutans. - Wild young apes are traumatized by their capture, and many die along the supply chain, or with their final “owners” by whom they are frequently poorly treated. Young great apes trained in captivity become increasingly unmanageable as they age, and many are “retired” to tiny, solitary cages, or simply disappear. - Trafficking arrests are rare. UNEP recorded just 27 arrests in Africa and Asia between 2005-2011, over which time more than 1,800 cases of illegally trafficked great apes were documented, with many more undetected. Solutions are in the works, but time is running out for the world’s great apes if they are to be conserved.
Bordering extinction: Can technology offer ecologically-sound alternatives to the proposed U.S.-Mexico wall? [04/12/2017]
- An impermeable border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as proposed by the Trump Administration, is expected to harm the border region’s wildlife and natural communities. - Technologies exist that can help planners and decision-makers design a border control system that controls human movement without harming the natural movement of wildlife, water, and essential nutrients across the landscape. - Without accommodations for wildlife, even the most innovative technology cannot prevent the negative impacts of a cement wall on the ecosystems of the American southwest.
Graffiti campaign brings rhino conservation message to urban Vietnam [04/12/2017]
- The campaign is aimed at educating locals and engaging neighborhood residents about the cost of sought-after rhino horn. - A prominent French graffiti artist, Suby One, is one of the artists whose work is featured in the campaign. - After difficulty obtaining government approval, the campaign put up 17 pieces of art throughout the month of March.
Rare barking deer photographed in Vietnam [04/11/2017]
- This is only the third site in Vietnam where the giant (or large-antlered) muntjak has been photographed in the last decade, conservationists say. - The giant muntjac is the largest species of muntjac, or barking deer. - It lives a cryptic life in the remote rainforests of the Annamite Mountain range in Southeast Asia. - Overhunting and habitat loss has wiped out the muntjac from across most of its previous range.
One-horned rhino killed by poachers in Nepal [04/11/2017]
- The body of a male one-horned rhinoceros was found with its horn gouged out on Saturday in Nepal's Chitwan Park. - Chitwan Park was gearing up to celebrate three consecutive years without any rhino poaching. - Nepal has one of the world's most effective anti-poaching programs, and the country's rhino population is on the rise.
Brazil slashes environment budget by 43% [04/07/2017]
- Brazil accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest tropical forest. - After several years of decline, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on the rise again. - Environmentalists say that the budget cut will "profoundly [impact] deforestation -- and, consequently, Brazil's climate targets."
Murky future for freshwater fish in the Amazon floodplains [04/07/2017]
- An extreme drought in 2005 decreased many freshwater fish species abundance in areas like Lago Catalão, and many haven’t recovered yet. - Drought overturned the ecology of the lake over time – big fish populations declined while little fish boomed. - The shift has direct impacts on diets in the region since many local people depend on fish for protein, meaning that climate change is already influencing food reserves here.
South Africa makes it legal to sell rhino horns [04/06/2017]
- Commercial rhino breeders have welcomed the decision, arguing that an open, legal trade in rhino horns will end the poaching of rhinos and will help pay for their protection. - However, several conservationists argue that there is no domestic market for rhino horns within South Africa and that a legal domestic trade would only worsen rhino poaching in the country. - The Environment Affairs Minister said that all domestic trade in rhino horn would be subject to obtaining the relevant permits and to applicable provincial legislation being obtained.
Illegal bushmeat trade threatens human health and great apes [04/06/2017]
- Hunting for bushmeat impacts over 500 wild species in Africa, but is particularly harmful to great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos — whose small, endangered populations struggle to rebound from over-hunting. Along with other major stressors including habitat loss, trafficking and climate change. - Bushmeat brings humans into close contact with wildlife, creating a prime path for the transmission of diseases like Ebola, as well as new emerging infectious diseases. Disease spread is especially worrisome between humans and closely related African great ape species. - Bushmeat consumption today is driven by an upscale urban African market, by illegal logging that offers easy access to remote great ape habitat, plus impoverished rural hunters in need of cash livelihoods. - If the bushmeat problem is to be solved, ineffective enforcement of hunting quotas and inadequate endangered species protections must be addressed. Cultural preferences for bushmeat must also change. Educational programs focused on bushmeat disease risk may be the best way to alter public perceptions.
Successful Colombian rainforest project exposes problems with carbon emissions trading [04/06/2017]
- The Chocó-Darién Conservation Corridor, as the community’s REDD+ project is called, is the first REDD+ project to be certified in Colombia. In 2012 it was the first REDD+ project operating on community land in the world. - COCOMASUR, an organization representing 2,600 Afro-Colombians, utilizes a team of forest rangers to monitor the tropical rainforest. - Despite their success, now the community is struggling to get compensated due to a carbon trading market that has “bottomed out.”
In Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, conservation efforts drown in a sea of eucalyptus [04/05/2017]
- Since 2001, Brazil has almost doubled its area of protected land without increasing its conservation budget. - In the central corridor of the Atlantic Forest, protected areas are scattered among large extensions of eucalyptus monocultures maintained by pulp companies. - With limited resources and facing powerful companies, those in charge of protected areas are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Audio: WildTech covers the high- and low-tech solutions making conservation more effective [04/04/2017]
- Sue shares with us some of the most interesting technologies and trends that she sees as having the biggest potential to transform the way we go about conserving Earth’s natural resources and wildlife. - Also on the program, we feature a live-taped conversation with Jonathan Thompson and Clarisse Hart, two scientists with the Harvard Forest, a long-term ecological research project of Harvard University. - Guest co-host and Mongabay editor Becky Kessler helps lead a conversation about Thompson and Hart’s work, including a study they released looking at multiple scenarios for the future of Massachusetts’ forests that they say changed the way they approach research altogether.
Kaziranga: the frontline of India’s rhino wars [04/04/2017]
- Kaziranga National Park in India's Assam State is home to around 2,400 one-horned rhinos, as well as elephants, tigers and hundreds of other mammal and bird species. - India's rhinos were hunted nearly to extinction by the early 20th century, but have rebounded since the park was established. However, rhino horn is highly sought in the black market and poaching remains a constant threat. - Rangers in Kaziranga rely on antiquated weaponry to face off against poachers, whose links with international crime syndicates mean they are often better armed and better financed than forest guards. - The park's approach to conservation has drawn criticism from indigenous rights group Survival International, a critique that gained prominence in a recent BBC documentary.
Jurisdictional certification approach aims to strengthen protections against deforestation [04/04/2017]
- Jurisdictional certification brings together all stakeholders across all commodities within a district or state to ensure the entire region is deforestation-free. - A few tropical forest regions have long used the jurisdictional approach; with proven success, more regions are now following suit. - Pilot programs in Brazil and elsewhere exemplify the successes and challenges of the jurisdictional approach.
Ebo forest great apes threatened by stalled Cameroon national park [04/03/2017]
- Cameroon’s Ebo forest is home to key populations of tool-wielding Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, along with an unspecified subspecies of gorilla, drills, Preuss’s Red Colobus, forest elephants, and a great deal more biodiversity. - The forest is vulnerable, unprotected due to a drawn-out fight to secure its status as a national park. Logging and hunting threaten Ebo’s biodiversity. The Cameroonian palm oil company Azur recently began planting a 123,000 hectare plantation on its boundary. - The Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working successfully to change the habits of local people who have long subsisted on the forest’s natural resources — turning hunters into great ape guardians. But without the establishment of the national park and full legal protection and enforcement, everyone’s efforts may be in vain.
Reptiles being sold openly and illegally in Moroccan markets [04/03/2017]
- Several species of lizards, snakes, tortoise and crocodiles are being traded openly in Moroccan markets for use in traditional medicine. - Much of the trade is illegal, researchers say. - Since this trade is largely unregulated, scientists are yet to understand the effects of the trade on the species' populations.
Officials, Greenpeace nab four boats for illegally fishing near Guinea-Bissau [04/03/2017]
- Between March 21-24, Greenpeace and officials from Guinea-Bissau’s Fisheries Surveillance Department sent four boats into the port of Bissau, where the companies that own the boats face sanctions for unpaid fines for past violations, improperly indicating the names of vessels, and what’s known as ‘illegal transshipment.’ - Two of the boats were owned by a Spanish company, and the other two were owned by companies based in China, which has by far the most ‘distant-water fishing’ boats at sea of any country. - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that, in 2009, the fisheries off West Africa had the highest rates of overexploitation in the world.
From CEO to Conservation Legend: An Interview with Kristine Tompkins [03/31/2017]
- In addition to protecting habitat, Tompkins and her team are reintroducing megafauna – from giant anteaters to jaguars – back into Iberá National Park. - Tompkins calls climate change a ‘disaster’ and ‘horrifying,’ says the signs are obvious in South America. - She continues to preserve land in Chile and Argentina after losing her husband and conservation partner, Doug Tompkins, in 2015.
UN launches campaign to take out ocean trash [03/30/2017]
- UNEP launched a global campaign last month aimed at eliminating two of the chief sources of ocean trash by 2022: microplastics frequently used in cosmetics and single-use plastic products like shopping bags. - Ten different countries had already joined the campaign at the time of its launch, according to UNEP. Indonesia, for instance, pledged to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025, while Uruguay announced a tax on single-use plastic bags slated to take effect later this year. - It’s estimated that more than 600 marine species are impacted by marine litter in the oceans, and that 15 percent of those species that are harmed by ingesting or becoming entangled in ocean trash are already endangered.
New species of wild ginger discovered in DR Congo [03/30/2017]
- Scientists have named the new ginger plant Aframomum ngamikkense after the proposed Ngamikka National Park in the Misotshi-Kabogo Massif. - The species is currently known only from forests at higher elevations of 1,500-2000 meters, where the plant occurs in large patches. - This discovery adds to the growing list of 50-odd known species of ginger found throughout Africa including Madagascar.
Paying for healthcare with trees: win-win for orangutans and communities [03/28/2017]
- In 2016, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) was declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Orangutan habitat is fast disappearing due to deforestation caused by industrial agriculture, forest fires, slash and burn agriculture, and logging. - One of the most important remaining P. pygmaeus populations, with roughly 2,000 individuals, is in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park. Alam Sehat Lestari (Healthy Nature Everlasting, or ASRI) is partnering with U.S. NGO Health in Harmony and effectively reducing illegal logging in the park via a unique healthcare offering. - When communities were asked what was needed to stop them from logging conserved forest, the people answered: affordable healthcare and organic farming. Expensive medical costs were forcing people to log to pay medical bills, while unsustainable agricultural practices depleted the soil, necessitating the use of costly fertilizers. - The two NGOs opened an affordable health clinic, and later a hospital, offering discounted medical service to communities that stop logging. Forest guardians, recruited in every village, encourage people to curb deforestation. They also monitor illegal activity and reforestation, while offering training in organic farming methods. And the program works!
Survey of previously inaccessible region of Myanmar reveals many endangered species [03/28/2017]
- 17 of the 31 species are threatened, including tigers, Asian elephants, Phayre’s langurs, and dholes. - The camera traps also detected images of the indochinese leopard across all survey sites, suggesting that Karen State could be supporting one of the most significant leopard populations remaining in South-east Asia. - A major concern in the region is poaching of high value species like tiger and elephant for the international illegal wildlife trade, the researchers say.
Extinct mammoths and rhinos portend a grim future in a warming climate [03/28/2017]
- The new analysis shows that, while hunting caused problems for cold-dwelling rhinos and mammoths, and in some cases drove them from certain areas completely, the changing climate ultimately led to their extinction. - Hunting pressure also eradicated some species of horses, but others, such as wild horses (E. przewalskii) and donkeys (E. asinus), were able to survive. - Along with deer, these mammals probably survived because of their smaller sizes, increased mobility and higher reproductive rates than either mammoths or rhinos. - With just a 1-degree Celsius rise in Earth's temperature per century, we could see the same rise in temperatures over the next 500-1,000 years that took 10,000-15,000 years at the end of the last ice age.
World’s second breeding population of Indochinese tigers discovered in Thailand’s forests [03/28/2017]
- The world’s second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) confirmed in Eastern Thailand’s Dong-Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex - a UNESCO World Heritage site. - Remarkable discovery now makes Thailand home to two breeding populations of this tiger subspecies, a significant step toward ensuring their long-term survival in the wild. - Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and conservation groups Freeland and Panthera have conducted a scientific survey on the tiger population using the ‘photographic capture-recapture’ method, indicating a density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometers. - While conservationists welcome these exciting new findings, they warn of the continued decline of tigers elsewhere in Thailand and across their global range.
A Sumatran king’s 1,400-year-old vision for sustainable landscape planning [03/28/2017]
- Indonesia's South Sumatra is an epicenter of the annual peat fires that ravage the archipelago country. - The province has become a staging ground for projects like KELOLA Sendang, which is intended to promote sustainable landscape management in an important tiger habitat. - More than a millennium ago, the ruler of the Srivijaya kingdom put forth his own vision for sustainable prosperity — one of which today's policymakers could take heed.
Ecuadorian province protects 90% of its land area [03/27/2017]
- The Pastaza Ecological Area of Sustainable Development aims to regulate the use of natural resources, conserve the tropical humid forest, and the flora and fauna of the area. - Seven indigenous nationalities live inside the area: Shuar, Achuar, Kichwa, Sapara, Andoa, Shiwiar and Waorani. - The area also focuses on improving the development of communities and indigenous nationalities that live within the territory. A zoning process next year will define the actual conservation areas that will comprise most of the Pastaza conservation area.
Sand mining ban lifted on beach in Suriname, causing public backlash [03/27/2017]
- Sand mining could decrease the ability of Braamspunt beach to protect Suriname’s capital city from rising sea levels and storms surges. - Conservationists also fear for sea turtles nesting on the beach, which may be disturbed by the bright lights and loud noises of the industrial activity. - Sand mining in coastal environments has become a global industry, threatening biodiversity and natural defenses against climate change.
Yellow fever is killing howler monkeys in Brazil [03/27/2017]
- Brown howler monkeys are extremely susceptible to yellow fever, and an outbreak can cause local extinctions. - Hundreds of brown howler monkeys are estimated to have died at the RPPN-FMA reserve due to yellow fever. - Fortunately, the critically endangerd muriquis (also found in the reserve) seem less susceptible to yellow fever than the howler monkeys.
Will Madagascar lose its most iconic primate? [03/24/2017]
- Ring-tailed lemurs have suffered a drastic population decline in the last 15 years due to habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for the pet trade. - The ring-tailed lemur is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Madagascar’s other lemur species, providing an urgent need for increased conservation capacity on the island. - Ring-tailed lemurs could recover quickly if threats were removed, given their well-known adaptability.
A Czech zoo is dehorning its rhinos [03/24/2017]
- The dehorning is in response to an incident in Paris earlier this month, in which poachers broke into a zoo near the city, shot dead a 4-year-old male white rhino, and hacked off one of its horns. - The Dvůr Králove Zoo, home to 21 rhinos, sawed the horns off its first rhino on March 20. - The authorities said that the horns will be stored in a "safe place" outside the zoo.
Jokowi reiterates commitment to indigenous rights [03/23/2017]
- Instead of attending the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago last week in Sumatra as planned, Jokowi invited representatives of the organization to meet in Jakarta on Wednesday. - He told them he would push parliament to pass a law on indigenous rights and said he would form a task force to support the movement. - The administration is planning to recognize the rights of 18 more communities to the forests they call home, an area spanning a total of 590,000 hectares, the president said.
Marine protected areas suffer from lack of funds, staff [03/22/2017]
- About 65 percent of the 433 surveyed MPAs reportedly suffered from inadequate budget for the management of the protected areas. - Nearly 91 percent of MPAs lacked sufficient staff to carry out critical management activities. - The findings suggest that effective biodiversity conservation is not just dependent on environmental conditions or MPA features (such as MPA size, fishing regulations), but is also heavily dependent on available capacity.
Plans to mine coal in South African protected area trigger conservation battle [03/22/2017]
- In 2016, Indian company Atha-Africa Ventures was given permission to mine coal within the Mabola Protected Environment - The deal required signatures from South Africa's mineral resources and environmental affairs ministers. News that both officials had granted their approval was only revealed last month after public information requests by activists. - Mabola is classified as a Strategic Water Source Area, and conservationists fear underground mining there could pollute or dry up vital fresh water.
Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach? [03/22/2017]
- Researchers interviewed 173 self-admitted rural poachers living in the margins of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania to understand why they harvest bushmeat. - While poverty was a major factor, not all poachers were destitute; a sizeable proportion say they poach to supplement their income. - How the villagers view their financial status compared to others reflected their poaching activities. - Conservation strategies should adopt a multidimensional approach to target those who are well-off in addition to the poor, according to the researchers.
Audio: Paul Simon on his new tour in support of E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth initiative [03/21/2017]
- The 12-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter recently announced on Mongabay.com that he is embarking on a 17-date US concert tour, with all proceeds benefitting Half-Earth, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso interviewed Paul Simon about his long-time friendship with E.O. Wilson and why Dr. Wilson’s Half-Earth idea inspired him to get involved in this environmental cause. - We also feature another Field Notes segment, this time with Zuzana Burivalova, a conservation scientist at Princeton University who has recorded the soundscapes of over 100 sites in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
New ‘stone’ frog discovered in Vietnam [03/21/2017]
- Researchers first collected specimens of the frog in 2013 while surveying forests covering limestone hills in Vietnam's Lai Chau and Tuyen Quang Provinces. - After analyzing and comparing this frog's appearance, call, as well as DNA with that of closely related frogs, the team confirmed that it was indeed a new species. - Unfortunately, the researchers suspect that the new species is already threatened with extinction and recommend listing it as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
“Endangered species to declare?” Europe’s understudied bushmeat trade [03/20/2017]
- Bushmeat can be purchased in Europe’s capital cities, with the meat of endangered species such as primates and pangolins available. But the scale of the problem is not fully understood as few studies have been undertaken at airports and other points of entry to determine its scope. - In a Paris airport study, 134 passengers arriving from Africa were searched over a period of 17 days; nine were found to be carrying a total of 188 kilograms (414 pounds) of bushmeat. A more recent study of bushmeat arriving from Africa at two Swiss airports found that one third of meat seized was from threatened CITES species including pangolins, small carnivores and primates. - Based on what evidence there is of the trade, some appears to be organized for profit, with traffickers transporting suitcases full of bushmeat to sell on the black market. Africans who reside in Europe also sometimes bring back bushmeat from Africa as a “taste of home,” potentially contributing to the risk of spreading diseases that may be found in the meat. - Researchers are urging that DNA analysis tools be used more widely to learn what species are being transported as bushmeat into Europe, and to bring about more prosecutions of bushmeat traffickers who are dealing in endangered species. But with customs officials already stretched, and bushmeat a low priority, the technology is rarely utilized at present.
Catching up to the Ruby Seadragon: new species raises new questions [03/20/2017]
- The ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) avoided scientific detection for so long due to its deepwater habitat and the fact that bodies changed color after they perished. - The discovery has raised new questions about the evolution of seadragons. - Researchers don’t know how threatened the ruby seadragon is, but have petitioned the government for proactive protections.
Indonesia’s indigenous peoples will have to keep waiting for a promised task force on their rights [03/18/2017]
- President Joko Widodo's administration announced some new initiatives at this week's indigenous peoples congress in Sumatra, but not the task force on their rights participants had been hoping for. - The president's chief of staff said it was more efficient for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to address the matter directly. - Attention now turns to who will be selected to lead the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago for the next five years. A decision will be made on Sunday.
Saving orphaned baby rhinos in India [03/17/2017]
- The Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, near Kaziranga National Park in Assam State, is currently home to nine greater one-horned rhino calves, including eight orphaned in monsoon floods last year. - Carers at the center hand raise these young rhinos with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves. - Since 2002, the center has raised and released 14 rhino calves, along with young from other species including elephants and wild buffalo. - Raising these vulnerable animals requires years of painstaking effort.
World’s first fluorescent frog discovered [03/17/2017]
- The polka dot tree frog is the first record of a fluorescent amphibian, researchers say. - The scientists traced the fluorescence to a new group of molecules, which they named hyloins, occuring in the frog's lymph tissue, skin and glandular secretions. - Fluorescence in these tree frogs most likely enhances brightness and visual detection among individuals under conditions of moonlight or twilight, researchers say.
Drones and artificial intelligence image processing improving the ‘koality’ of wildlife monitoring [03/16/2017]
- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) paired with artificial intelligence image processing can provide data that helps researchers evaluate the health and conservation status of Australia’s koala population. - ProgrammingUAVs with a complex hierarchy of algorithms, designed to identify and differentiate between individual animals in the wild, allows researchers to automatically classify data while conducting aerial surveys. - Researchers continue to advance the program’s algorithms to make this monitoring method more accurate, powerful, and widely applicable.
13,000 acres of cloud forest now protected in Colombia [03/16/2017]
- Cacica Noría Regional Protected Area safeguards one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. - The reserve will be managed by CorAntioquia, the Anorí Environmental Working Group and Proaves. - Despite protection, the new park remains threatened by climate change.
Jokowi cancels appearance at rare indigenous peoples congress [03/16/2017]
- This week marks the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. The event takes place once every five years. - Indonesian President Joko Widodo had been scheduled to deliver a speech. He would have been the nation's first top official to attend. - Last last year, Jokowi recognized the rights of nine communities to the forests they call home. The development was welcomed by indigenous groups even as they called for him to replicate it on a far larger scale. - "This congress is a deadline for Jokowi to keep his promises. Otherwise there will be a political decision."
Climate change-induced bleaching decimating Great Barrier Reef [03/15/2017]
- In 2016, scientists reported the largest die-off ever on the Great Barrier Reef. - Some 70,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment in the tourism industry, and it’s worth about $5 billion annually. - The study’s authors report that repeated exposure to higher-than-normal sea temperatures submarines the corals’ chances at recovery. Even corals that survive don’t appear to be more tolerant of extreme temperatures, and high water quality – important for coral regrowth – doesn’t seem to offer much protection against bleaching.
Among their many impacts, roads are driving rapid evolutionary adaptation in adjacent populations [03/15/2017]
- The global road network covers close to 40 million miles, and is projected to grow by 60 percent by 2050. - The field of road ecology, which has emerged over the past two decades, has looked at a variety of roads’ negative consequences, such as roadkill, contamination runoff, and forest and habitat fragmentation. - As scientists continue to add to our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics that lead to adaptation and maladaptation in road-adjacent populations, our ability to predict and in turn reduce negative road effects will also increase, the authors argue.
Keeping up with the Juncos: How birds thrive or die in the suburbs [03/15/2017]
- New study finds that some bird species, the adapters, thrive in the suburbs while others, the avoiders, don’t. - Avoider species require specific ecological components for survival, ones that are rarely found in developed areas. - The implications for tropical birds may be large. Researchers believe there are more ‘avoider’ species in the tropics.
Americans live increasingly far from forests — which is a problem for wildlife [03/14/2017]
- Giorgos Mountrakis and Sheng Yang of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry analyzed satellite-derived land cover data in order to look at geographic patterns of forest loss in the continental US during the 1990s. - The average distance from any point in the U.S. to the nearest forest increased some 14 percent just between the years 1990 and 2000 — a difference of about one-third of a mile. - They found that total forest cover loss across the country during that decade was close to 35,000 square miles (a little over 90,000 square kilometers), a decline of about 2.96 percent, or roughly an area the size of the state of Maine.
Warming climate coaxes carbon from down deep in temperate soils [03/14/2017]
- The study looked at the release of carbon in temperate soils down to 100 centimeters (39.4 inches). - A 4-degree Celsius rise in soil temperature led to an increase of 34-37 percent in the amount of carbon released. - If all soils to react in the same way, that could unleash an amount of carbon into the atmosphere equivalent to about 30 percent of what human activities emit, according to the authors.
As America’s Endangered Species List turns 50, uncertainty abounds [03/14/2017]
- On March 11, 1967, 78 animals were added to the Endangered Species List following the passage of the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. - That legislation laid the groundwork for the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1969 and greatly strengthened in 1973. - But with the new administration promising a roll-back of environmental regulations, there are concerns that protections for endangered species could suffer. - J Mark Fowler, a wildlife advocate and filmmaker, says this development would be a tragedy for America and the world.
Breakthrough boosts hope for treating contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils [03/14/2017]
- The devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has spread across most of the Tasmanian devil's range and has wiped out more than 80 percent of these animals in Tasmania. - In a new study, researchers could successfully trigger the devil’s immune system to recognise and destroy established DFTD tumours. - The findings show that a DFTD vaccine is feasible, researchers say.
Big data timber exchange partners with FSC in Brazil [03/13/2017]
- BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. - Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber. - The partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
Q&A with Abdon Nababan, outgoing head of Indonesia’s indigenous peoples alliance [03/13/2017]
- The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago holds its congress once every five years. The next one will take place this week in Tanjung Gusta village on the island of Sumatra. - The Southeast Asian country is one of the planet's most ethnically diverse, with hundreds of different languages spoken within its borders. - After 10 years at the organization's helm, Abdon Nababan will yield his position to someone new.
Iconic musician Paul Simon announces tour supporting biodiversity [03/13/2017]
- Twelve-time Grammy winner Paul Simon spoke to Mongabay during a recent conference in Durham, North Carolina. - Proceeds from the tour will support the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - He spoke to Mongabay about optimism, life on Earth, and more during an hour-long conversation. - It was widely reported in 2016 that the performer was considering retirement from touring, but has now heeded Wilson's call for saving biodiversity.
Tracking the numerous tactics used to attack environmental protections around the globe [03/10/2017]
- The international team of researchers behind the study note that Earth’s wild fauna and flora would be far worse off if it wasn’t for the legal protections they are already afforded, such as biodiversity laws that control the exploitation of wildlife and designate certain areas as off-limits to human industry in order to protect vital habitat. - But these laws face constant tests as proponents of economic development seek to weaken their ability to regulate human activities that impact the natural world. - The researchers are maintaining a list of attempts to weaken biodiversity laws by country on a github repository and invite conservationists, scientists, and the general public to make contributions.
Controversial policy could spur tiger trade in China [03/10/2017]
- In China, around 6,000 captive tigers are raised on “farms,” often under inhumane conditions, and their pelts sold for hefty sums in a poorly regulated market upheld through legal loopholes by the Chinese government. Breeding tigers on these farms is legal, but sale of their parts is not — something that may be about to change. - The State Forestry Administration, tasked with protecting wildlife and overseeing China’s tiger farms, is now deciding whether to commercialize tigers by adding them to a list of legally farmed wildlife, paving the way for tiger parts to be sold to supply a growing Chinese luxury market. - Long used in Chinese medicine, tiger products are now a status purchase for China’s wealthiest and most powerful. Collectors stockpile tiger bone wine; tiger skins are regularly gifted to seal business deals. Some wealthy Chinese hold “visual feasts” where guests watch a tiger be killed and cooked — then eat it. - Breeding tigers for trade in their parts contravenes a 2007 decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty signed by 183 nations, including China. There is pressure in China and abroad to shut down tiger farms, even as Chinese business interests lobby to expand a lucrative industry.
Climate change driving widespread local extinctions; tropics most at risk [03/09/2017]
- Climate change forces three fates on species: adapt, flee or die. A new meta-analysis compiled data from 27 studies to see how species distributions have changed over timescales of 10-159 years, and included 976 species. Almost half (47 percent) had seen some local populations disappear along the warming edge of their ranges. - The tropics were especially vulnerable to climate change-driven local extinctions. The data showed that 55 percent of tropical and subtropical species experienced local extinctions, whereas the figure was only 39 percent for temperate species. Though the tropical data set was not large, this higher tropical risk concurs with past studies. - Tropical species are at greater risk due to climate change because they live in some of the world’s hottest environments, so are already at the upper limit of known temperature adaptation, are restricted to small areas, particular rare habitats, and narrow temperature ranges, or have poor dispersal ability and slow reproductive rates. - Scientists see multiple solutions to the problem: beyond the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, they recommend conserving large core areas of habitat, and preserving strong connectivity between those core areas, so plants and animals can move more freely between them as required as the world warms.
Reducing Asia’s hunger for rhino horn [03/09/2017]
- In 2015, the most recent full year for which data is available, more than 1,350 rhinos were killed for their horns in Africa and Asia. - The vast majority of rhino horn is bound for destinations outside of the source country, meaning that conservationists in places like South Africa or India can do little to fight demand. - Demand reduction efforts currently center on China and Vietnam, the primary destinations for poached rhino horn. - Effective demand reduction campaigns require research into consumer behavior and careful targeting of messages.
Notorious elephant poacher, ‘The Devil’, sentenced to 12 years in jail [03/09/2017]
- Mariango was arrested in October 2015 with his brothers Lucas Mathayo Malyango and Abdallah Ally Chaoga while attempting to smuggle 118 tusks worth over $863,000. - Aged 47, Mariango was one of the poachers featured in the Netflix documentary film, The Ivory Game, produced by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. - He also stands accused of supplying ivory to Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese national nicknamed “Queen of Ivory,” who is on trial in Tanzania for smuggling ivory worth $2.5 million.
Poachers kill rhino at French zoo [03/08/2017]
- Poachers killed four-year-old rhino named Vince at the Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park near Paris. - Vince's keeper found him the next morning, with one of his horns hacked off, probably with a chainsaw, the zoo said in a statement. - Two other white rhinoceros living in the Thoiry zoo — Gracie aged 37 and Bruno aged 5 years — have "escaped the massacre" and are safe, the zoo said.
Audio: Meet the ‘Almost Famous Animals’ that deserve more conservation recognition [03/07/2017]
- The Almost Famous series was created in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action for under-appreciated species. Glenn tells us all about how species get selected for coverage and his favorite animals profiled in the series. - We also feature another installment of our Field Notes segment on this episode of the Newscast. - Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, recently helped establish a new genus of galagos, or bushbabies, found in southeastern Africa. We play some of the calls made by galagos in the wild, and Luca explains how those recordings aid in our scientific knowledge about wildlife.
The last elephants of Cambodia’s Virachey National Park [03/07/2017]
- Virachey is Cambodia’s largest national park, with 3,325 square kilometers of mountainous jungle, upland savannas, and deep river gorges spanning across Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces in the extreme northeast of the country. - Economic Land Concessions, some of which have now been revoked, chipped away at the area of the park that borders Vietnam, while selective illegal logging takes place throughout Virachey (and every “protected area” in Cambodia) and poaching is rife. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Rare beaked whale filmed underwater for the first time [03/07/2017]
- True's beaked whale is difficult to spot at sea, and remains a poorly studied species. - By analyzing stranding data and live sightings of the whale, researchers confirm that the Azores and Canary Islands may actually be a hotspot for studying the natural behavior of the species. - For the data-scarce whale species, live sightings and video recordings are highly valuable because they add to information that helps identify a species accurately. - This in turn can help scientists monitor the status of their populations and protect them.
Nearly half of Mount Oku frogs are in danger of croaking, study finds [03/07/2017]
- Survey work discovers at least 50 amphibian species living on Mount Oku, a dormant volcano in Cameroon. - Mount Oku’s puddle frogs are vanishing – and no one knows why. Some species may already be extinct. - Researchers say survey work is often overlooked for ‘sexier’ science, but this could hamper saving species.
An indigenous group reforests its corner of coastal New Guinea [03/07/2017]
- Residents of Yepem on the Indonesian half of New Guinea island are undertaking a reforestation project with the local government. - Respect for nature is a fundamental part of the worldview of the local Asmat people. - Locals' biggest problem is a lack of clean water.
Many tree species in eastern US may be unable to adapt to changing climate, study finds [03/06/2017]
- A Woods Hole Research Center study of 40 tree species finds balsam fir, quaking aspen, black cherry, yellow birch, red maple, sugar maple, and red spruce among the most vulnerable species to warming temperatures. - The study’s outcomes are designed to assist managers of the United States' national parks prioritize how best to use limited resources to battle climate change in their forests, or actively engage in assisting tree species migration. - West Virginia forests, because of complex terrain and large, intact tracts of land, were found to be more resilient to climate change than other parts of the eastern US.
Where the forest grants went [03/06/2017]
- With a view to providing a map of forest philanthropy, the Environmental Funders Network’s Forest Funders Group – an affinity group for foundations focused on forest conservation – has developed a methodology for describing forest grants by geography, focal issue, and approach. - The mapping has been piloted on grants data submitted by five European-based foundations that made 652 grants between them in the study period (2011 to 2015), averaging £3.1m per year. - Although this captures just a fraction of the forest grants made worldwide, it yields tantalising points for reflection. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A Christmas Miracle? Perhaps someday [03/06/2017]
- In the 1990s most of Christmas Island’s lizard species began plummeting. The cause remains a mystery. - Scientists began a captive breeding program in 2009 – saving two species – but one species had already gone extinct and another is extirpated from the island, but can still be found elsewhere. - Researchers will not be able to reintroduce the captive species until the cause of the decline is uncovered.
Nitrogen pollution slows down forest decomposers [03/06/2017]
- Soil fungi are the primary decomposers in temperate forests. - Scientists found that fungi species reared in nitrogen polluted soils were able to decompose far less plant material than the same species collected from less polluted soil. - Even when fungi from polluted areas were grown in un-polluted petri dishes, they still could not decompose as well as fungi collected from cleaner soils. - Researchers hypothesize that nitrogen pollution could be altering how fungi metabolize nitrogen.
African Parks gets $65M for conservation in Rwanda and Malawi [03/05/2017]
- African Parks will receive $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to bolster conservation efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and beyond. - The funds will go toward African Parks' management of Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi; Akagera National Park in Rwanda; and five still-to-be-identified protected areas in other countries. - African Parks privately manages protected areas, effectively taking over operations traditionally managed by governments.
Trapped elephants face attacks by mob in India [03/03/2017]
- The herd of about 25 elephants is "trapped" within dense human habitation in an area called Athgarh in the state of Orissa in India. - The elephants take shelter in some of the small forest patches during the day, and go out to look for food in the evenings, which mostly constitutes of crops, getting harassed in the process. - Conservationists say that harassing elephants has now become a form of entertainment in the area.
The promise and potential of tropical forests: Q&A with forests expert Frances Seymour [03/03/2017]
- The future impact and longevity of community-based tropical forest protection will rely heavily on greater investment, the authors say. - People in first-world nations can have a significant impact on reducing deforestation by practicing more responsible consumerism, according to Seymour and Busch. - According to the authors, tropical deforestation generates a large share of global carbon emissions, which can be combated in part through investment via incentives from wealthy nations.
HSBC to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms [03/03/2017]
- A recent Greenpeace report accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil and grabbed community lands. - The investigation prompted scores of people to join a campaign to change the bank’s policies, including thousands of HSBC’s own customers. - The bank's new policy requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatland by June 30, and provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by Dec. 31, 2018.
The two sides of Indonesia’s Baluran National Park [03/02/2017]
- A recent commentary piece by Dr. Erik Meijaard provides a comprehensive view of the current situation and conservation actions undertaken in Baluran National Park as compared to time he spent there in the 1990’s - However, as so often happens with this beautiful park, the focus remained on the well-known part that has earned it the nickname ‘Africa of Java,’ the area surrounding the Bekol savannah in the southeastern reaches of the park. - If one were to slice the park horizontally in two, right through mount Baluran, and compare the northern and southern parts, a sharp contrast would become visible, a contrast of mooing and ringing bells. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Need a Trump break? Meet Obama’s fish [03/02/2017]
- Researcher names new species of deep coral fish after the 44th President of the U.S. - Scientists don’t know if the new species is threatened, but it is found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. - Discovery hints at how many species still await names.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
A Bornean village conserves a forest the government listed for cutting [03/02/2017]
- Residents of Bawan village in Indonesia Borneo applied for a permit to manage their land as a "village forest," a form of community forestry being pushed by President Joko Widodo's administration. - The national government had designated the area as "production forest," meaning it could be sold to a plantation or mining company, but residents chose instead to protect the land. - “I consider Bawan’s village forest a champion project," said Lilik Sugiarti, a USAID representative who helped to bring it about.
A golden jackal settles down just outside of Prague [03/01/2017]
- With complete disregard for political boundaries, the golden jackal (Canis aureus) settles down in shrub-land near Prague. - An individual golden jackal repeatedly modeled for the cameras as researchers documented its unprecedented move into the Czech Republic. - The jackal's arrival in the Czech Republic, however, raises questions about its legal status in the country and across the EU.
Cars and STDs killing koalas in Queensland [03/01/2017]
- Scientists analyzed more than 20,000 hospital records of koala disease and death from 1997 to 2013. - Car accidents seem to be the major cause of koala death. - Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that also affects humans, is the second most frequent cause of koala death in southeast Queensland. - Koalas in the state are also frequently killed by domestic dogs.
Field Notes: Finding Jacobo; an Andean cat captivates conservationists [02/28/2017]
- The Andean cat ranges from remote areas of central Peru to the Patagonian steppe. Perfectly adapted to extreme environments, this small feline is threatened by habitat degradation and hunting, but most of all it suffers from anonymity: it’s hard to save an animal that no one ever sees. - So few of these endangered cats are scattered across such vast landscapes that even most of their advocates have never seen the species they’re trying to protect. But the conservation efforts that could save this cat could also preserve the wild places where Andean cats live. - When a male Andean cat was found wandering around a soccer field, Andean Cat Alliance members agreed to forego the extraordinary opportunity to study the animal in captivity, and try instead to return “Jacobo” to the wild. - Andean Cat Alliance coordinators Rocío Palacios and Lilian Villalba orchestrated the multinational volunteer release effort. Conservationists equipped Jacobo with a GPS collar and hope that tracking his travels will reveal new data about this secretive cat, considered a symbol of the Andes.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
7 new frogs discovered in India, some smaller than a thumbnail [02/27/2017]
- All the newly described species belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. - Apart from being tiny, these frogs live a secretive life under forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation and they sound like insects, making it difficult for researchers to locate them. - But these species seem to be common and abundant in the locations they were found, researchers say. - Despite being commonly encountered, all seven species might be threatened by habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
The Spirit of the Steppes: Saving Central Asia’s saiga [02/27/2017]
- The Critically Endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica) once numbered in the millions. This large antelope was perhaps best known for making one of the last of the world’s remaining great mammal migrations — a trek sweeping twice per year across the steppes of Central Asia. - Saiga populations declined more than 95 percent by 2004, according to the IUCN. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan banned hunting in the 1990s, but the horns of male saiga are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and illegal trafficking is a major threat; if not curtailed the trade could doom the species. - In the 21st century, international NGOs and regional organizations such as the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) formed partnerships with Central Asian nations to better conserve the species. And their work was paying off, until 2015. - That’s when disease killed over 200,000 adult saiga of the Betpak Dala population in Central Kazakhstan. At the end of 2016, the Mongolian herd was hit hard by a new viral infection, with 4,000 saiga carcasses buried so far. But the saiga is reproductively resilient, and could be saved, if the species receives sufficient attention, say conservationists.
Feral cats now dominate the Australian landscape [02/27/2017]
- Feral cats occupy 99.8 percent of the Australian continent. - Cats, brought by European explorers on ships, are blamed for the extinction and endangerment of numerous mammal species found nowhere else. - The government plans to cull two million feral cats, but researchers say a more pointed approach – focusing on breeding ground – could be more effective in the long-term.
Renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson calls for preserving half of Earth to save biodiversity [02/22/2017]
- In Half-Earth, Wilson argues that the situation facing humanity and biodiversity is so desperate that it requires a dramatic response: dedicating fully half of the planet’s surface area to nature and natural forces, an arrangement a New York Times interviewer calls “an improbable prescription for the environment.” - Wilson’s proposal calls not for removing people living in and depending on the natural resources of wildlands around the world, but for managing these areas in a manner that would preserve their living legacies of biodiversity, something akin to how World Heritage Sites are managed. - Through his nearly 90 years of exploration, inquiry and controversy, the visionary Wilson has taken positions and pointed toward destinations that ultimately have prevailed – that which was considered outside of accepted thinking or conventional wisdom has become mainstream. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
How acoustic monitoring gave us a last chance to save the vaquita [02/22/2017]
- Monitoring the vaquita’s vocalizations has allowed scientists to closely and accurately monitor the species’ unfortunate decline. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the biggest threat to the vaquita. They are killed as bycatch, drowning in nets meant for the fish. - Conservationists say the next step is to capture vaquitas for captivity, a highly controversial plan with major risks.
Scrapping Nigerian superhighway buffer isn’t enough, say conservation groups [02/22/2017]
- The superhighway project, intended to stimulate the Cross River state economy, will no longer include a 20-kilometer-wide buffer zone along its 260-kilometer length. - The NGO Wildlife Conservation Society said minimizing the destruction necessary for the buffer zone was an important step, but that it will still disrupt communities and wildlife. - Representatives of the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, told the media that they intended to move forward with the superhighway despite the criticism.
Audio: Naomi Oreskes on what stories we can’t let get lost in the noise of 2017 and why scientists should speak up [02/21/2017]
- Because there is so much uncertainty around the new Trump Administration, especially around its energy, environment, and climate policies, we decided to dedicate this episode to trying to answer some of those questions. - We continue to take a look at what this year will bring for energy and the environment under President Trump with Bobby Magill, a senior science writer for Climate Central and the president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. - We also welcome Jeff Ruch, executive director of the non-profit service organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to share with us what he’s been hearing so far from employees of the Environmental Protection Agency about their concerns with the Trump Administration’s environmental policies.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
Scimitar-horned oryx return to the Sahara nearly two decades after going extinct in the wild [02/20/2017]
- This is the second group to be returned to the wild since the species was listed as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List in 2000. - Eight female and six male scimitar-horned oryx were released on January 21 in the hopes that they would join the herd of 21 oryx that were reintroduced to Chad’s Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve on August 14, 2016. - The initial group of oryx — 13 females and 8 males — have reportedly thrived in their new habitat. In fact, on September 21, 2016, the herd welcomed what is believed to be the first scimitar-horned oryx born in the wild in more than 20 years.
African bush babies gain a new genus [02/20/2017]
- Genetic data has pointed toward a unique group of dwarf galagos living in Africa for a long time, but the physical similarity between the primates in the Galago family has confounded scientists. - Using these genetic clues as a guide, a team of researchers examined the skulls and teeth of galagos and analyzed their calls. - They concluded that five species previously placed in other genera should be placed in a sixth genus of the family Galagidae. They chose the name ‘Paragalago’ for the new genus.
Singapore’s wild bird trade threatens exotic species [02/20/2017]
- About 48 of the 108 species observed in Singapore's bird markets were listed in either CITES Appendix I or II, which means that their international trade is restricted. - Unfortunately, most birds being sold in the markets are not listed in CITES, meaning that these birds are not subject to international regulations. - Information about the harvesting, breeding, and trading of animals in Singapore is very hard to obtain, making it difficult to ascertain the impact of the trade on the birds' wild populations.
It’s World Pangolin Day! [02/18/2017]
- Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal. - Populations of all eight species of pangolins are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, mainly due to the demand for their meat and scales. - Hopefully, increased protection and attention will give these animals a chance to bounce back from near-extinction.
Saving Jamaica Bay’s diamondback terrapins [02/16/2017]
- The Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a turtle species native to coastal tidal marshes in the eastern and southern United States. - Its population in New York City's Jamaica Bay has declined by more than half in the last decade – to an estimated 10,000 turtles today. - The underlying causes for this decline are a mystery, but researchers are now engaged in a multi-year study to identify them. As the terrapin plays a crucial role in the ecosystem’s health and resiliency, their findings have important implications for Jamaica Bay.
Camera traps proving to be powerful tool for studying endangered species in remote locations [02/15/2017]
- The only known population of the Sira curassow, a large bird in the Cracidae family listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, resides within the Sira Communal Reserve, a chain of isolated and high-elevation outcrops of the Peruvian Andes. - Any monitoring technique that can potentially allow closer study of the Sira curassow (Pauxi koepckeae) is of critical importance in order to inform management strategies for the preservation of the species. - The authors of a study published earlier this month in the journal Endangered Species Research say that the discovery that camera traps are such an effective tool for detecting the Sira curassow makes it possible to perform a robust assessment of the bird’s distribution and population size for the first time.
Seven ‘most wanted’ elephant poachers arrested in Malaysia [02/15/2017]
- The poachers were caught in a joint operation between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Malaysia's Armed Forces on February 10. - During the raid, the authorities seized animal parts worth about $112,300, as well as hunting gear and firearms, including shotguns, machetes, knives, bullets, explosives and firecrackers. - During subsequent raids on February 11 and 12, Perhilitan officers seized two elephant tusks, elephant meat, and more weapons and equipment.
Endangered species and habitats threatened by US-Mexico border wall [02/14/2017]
- In late January, the Trump administration announced that it will be moving forward with plans to build ‘the wall’ along the southern border with Mexico. - According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an impregnable wall running across the entire 2,000-mile border between the two countries would “potentially impact” more than 111 endangered species, 108 migratory bird species, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Revisiting Java’s little Africa: Indonesia’s safari potential [02/14/2017]
- Baluran National Park is a reserve in eastern Java, Indonesia. - Baluran may be the closest one can get to the equivalent of India’s or eastern and southern Africa’s experience of open savannas teeming with wildlife in Indonesia. - This post is a commentary -- the views expressed are those of the author.
India’s Manas National Park illustrates the human dimension of rhino conservation [02/13/2017]
- Manas National Park, one of India's rhino conservation areas, is at the heart of a proposed homeland for the Bodos, an indigenous ethnic group. - From the 1980s until 2003, the park was engulfed by armed conflict, and its rhino population was wiped out. During this period, the Bodos were frequently portrayed as hostile to conservation efforts. - A 2003 peace accord paved the way for the establishment of autonomous local governance, and the restoration of rhinos to the park. Former guerrillas now serve as anti-poaching patrols. - With the Bodos in power, a new group has been cast as ecological villains: Bengali Muslims living in the fringes of the park.
Field Notes: Predicting how the pet trade spreads infectious disease [02/13/2017]
- The exotic animal trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the US is the world’s leading importer. While the US government is on the alert for well known animal-transmitted diseases, there is no mandatory health surveillance for most animals coming though US ports for commercial distribution. - Live animal imports could bring new diseases into the US and infect endemic wildlife, with devastating consequences as, for example, was seen with the worldwide exposure of amphibians to Chytrid fungus which resulted in the decline of more than 200 species. - Elizabeth Daut is drawing on her training as a veterinarian and her extensive experience with wildlife to create a computer model that evaluates the risk of importing infectious diseases to the US via the exotic animal trade. - Predictions produced by her model could help prioritize which species and exporting countries might warrant extra attention at ports of entry. With a better understanding of disease risks, government agencies could improve surveillance and develop better infectious disease prevention plans.
Increasing tree cover threatens world’s most endangered antelope [02/13/2017]
- Between 1985 and 2012, tree cover in hirola’s habitat has more than doubled. - This increasing encroachment by trees is likely to blame for the decline in hirola populations in Africa, researchers say. - Decline in elephant and cattle numbers in the region, an increase in browsing livestock, and increased drier conditions could have resulted in the increasing tree cover.
Trophy hunters overstate contribution of big game hunting to African economies: Report [02/10/2017]
- Humane Society International (HSI) timed the release of the report to coincide with the start of Safari Club International’s (SCI) annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 1. - US-based SCI, one of the world’s largest trophy hunting advocacy organizations, released a report in 2015 that claimed trophy hunting-related tourism contributes $426 million annually to the economies of eight African countries and creates more than 53,400 full- and part-time jobs. - But the HSI report, prepared by Melbourne, Australia-based consultancy Economists At Large, found that SCI had “grossly overstated the contribution of big game hunting to eight African economies and that overall tourism in Africa dwarfs trophy hunting as a source of revenue,” according to a statement.
Trump administration delays listing of rusty patched bumblebee as endangered [02/10/2017]
- In January, 2017, the US FWS declared that it was placing the rusty patched bumblebee on the U.S. endangered species list. - The listing would have taken effect today, making it the first wild bee species to be declared endangered in the continental US. - But the USFWS has tentatively postponed the bee’s listing from February 10 to March 21.
Ecological trap ensnares endangered African penguins [02/10/2017]
- Juveniles of the Western Cape population of African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered species, still frequent a subpar hunting ground, even though other options are within reach. - This population of penguins has declined by 80 percent in recent decades. - The current research projects that Western Cape penguin numbers are half of what they would be without this ecological trap.
Anger rises over human-elephant conflict in Tanzania [02/09/2017]
- On January 29, 2017, approximately 200 farmers from the village of Malinzanga in Tanzania stormed the office of the village chairman demanding something be done to protect their crops from elephants. - Malinzanga is one of 23 agrarian villages that flank the eastern border of a large network of protected areas in Southern Tanzania, most notably Ruaha National Park. - Ruaha and the surrounding territory currently support the largest population of elephants in East Africa, with just over 20,000 individuals. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat [02/09/2017]
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. - Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012. - Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population. - Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
Fighting rhino poaching in India, CSI-style [02/09/2017]
- RhODIS, the Rhino DNA Index System, relies on a database of rhino DNA collected from across rhino range states in Africa. - The system, developed in South Africa, allows investigators to link captured poachers and confiscated horns to specific poaching incidents. - Researchers are currently working to expand the database to include Asian rhino species. - This year, India is expected to be the first Asian country to roll out the program as part of its anti-poaching strategy.
Public criticism forces U.S. congressman to back off public land disposal bill [02/09/2017]
- The law would have allowed the sale of 3.3 million acres (1.34 million hectares) of public lands 'deemed to serve no purpose for taxpayers.' - Supporters, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who introduced the bill to the House of Representatives, said that getting rid of the excess lands would provide the federal government with cash and rural communities with development opportunities. - Chaffetz pulled the bill after an outcry from conservation groups and the public concerned about the loss of federal lands.
Giant catfish clocks longest ever freshwater migration [02/08/2017]
- The dorado catfish uses the massive Amazon River as its roadway, beginning its journey at the river's headwaters. - It spawns in the far western Amazon, then drifts thousands of miles towards the estuary in the opposite direction. - After two to three years in the estuary, the catfish makes its way back towards the headwaters through the Amazon floodplain.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence [02/07/2017]
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species. - The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development. - Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
New species of dwarf lemur discovered in Madagascar [02/07/2017]
- The lemur's body is only about 16 to 17 centimeters long, with an additional 16 centimeters long tail, making it one of the smallest lemurs in its genus Cheirogaleus. - The lemur has a grey body and a white underbelly, and its tiny hands and feet are lightly colored. - It is separated from other species of dwarf lemurs both genetically, and geographically, the authors say.
Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong [02/03/2017]
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian. - At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding. - When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked. - While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
How ‘jobless men managing the sea’ restored a mangrove forest in Java [02/03/2017]
- In the 1980s and early 90s, fish farming thrived in Brebes, on the north coast of Indonesia's main central island of Java. - The industry's steady growth saw local residents chop down mangrove stands to make way for aquaculture ponds. But the development brought unintended consequences. - In response, a group of local residents embarked on an ambitious tree-planting campaign.
New population of rare Dryas monkey videotaped for the first time [02/03/2017]
- Fewer than 200 Dryas monkeys are believed to survive in the wild today. - Videotaping the secretive monkeys was not easy. - Researchers set up cameras on the ground, in the understory and even climbed very tall trees to attach cameras in the canopy. - The team hopes that their camera trapping exercise will help them document where new Dryas populations live.
There are now just 30 vaquita left in the wild [02/02/2017]
- According to a recent report by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), there are now just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - About 49 percent of the remaining vaquita population was lost between 2015 and 2016, CIRVA found. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are much in demand, especially in China.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
The Philippines declares more than 100,000 acres as critical habitat [02/02/2017]
- Critical habitats — portions of land outside protected areas that have known habitats of threatened or endemic species — are usually small, focusing on one or a few species. - The newly declared Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat is the Philippines’ largest, and aims to protect several threatened species. - The declaration of CNCH involved over three years of negotiations with various stakeholders including Indigenous Peoples communities, government agencies, universities, non-government and private-sector organizations.