Decapitated orangutan found near palm plantations shot 17 times, autopsy finds [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian authorities have found 17 air gun pellets in the headless body of an orangutan found floating in a river in Borneo’s Central Kalimantan province earlier this week. - The body was found in an area close to five plantations, whose operators the government plans to question about the killing of the protected species. - Orangutans are often killed in human-animal conflicts, and wildlife activists have slammed the authorities for not doing enough to prosecute such cases. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Pope set to visit site of deforestation, indigenous struggle in Peru [01/19/2018]
- Pope Francis plans to visit Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian region of Madre de Dios Friday morning on his trip to South America. - He will speak with indigenous communities in a coliseum. - Madre de Dios had the second-highest rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, with 208 square kilometers (80 square miles) of forest cover loss as a result of farming, logging and mining.
Facebook being used for illegal reptile trade in the Philippines [01/19/2018]
- Researchers from TRAFFIC, who monitored 90 Facebook groups over a three-month period in 2016, recorded 2,245 live reptile advertisements representing more than 5,000 individual animals from 115 taxa. - Most advertisements were for the ball python and the Burmese python, and also included critically endangered species such as the Philippine crocodile and the Philippine forest turtle. - At least 80 percent of the documented online traders on Facebook were selling reptiles illegally, the report concluded.
U.S. National Park Service advisory panel disintegrates [01/17/2018]
- On Monday, 9 of 12 members of the advisory council resigned in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, citing more than a year of waiting for meetings that are required by law. - The board is responsible for National Parks stewardship, and they often interface with the public and scientific experts. - Advisory councils generally for agencies and their board members are chosen or re-approved by the administration of the newly-elected leader.
Company to probe for minerals close to Mekong River dolphin habitat [01/17/2018]
- The Phnom Penh Post reported today that Medusa Mining, an Australian company, plans to invest $3 million over four years in explorations for gold, copper, oil, gas and precious stones in tributaries of the Mekong River in Cambodia. - Irrawaddy river dolphins, an endangered species of cetacean, live in the Mekong adjacent to the areas slated for exploration. - Only about 80 dolphins remain in the Mekong River, and, although their numbers are on the rise, they face threats from gillnets, dams, boat traffic and water pollution, which could be exacerbated by mining activity.
Belize imposes offshore oil moratorium to protect reefs [01/15/2018]
- Belize stopped the exploration for oil in its waters as of Dec. 29, 2017. - Environmentalists and local businesses opposed a 2016 plan to begin wider oil exploration around Belize, halting those plans within weeks. - Tourism contributes about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Quartz, and 50 percent of Belize’s 190,000 people depend on tourism or fishing for their livelihoods. - Conversely, WWF estimated that an oil spill would cost $280 million in cleanup costs.
A Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $323,000. Can the species be saved? [01/12/2018]
- A single Pacific bluefin tuna sold for 36.45 million yen, or $323,111, during the famed New Year auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market last Friday, Jan. 5. - The sale took place amid ongoing concerns over the dire status of stocks of the species, Thunnus orientalis, which are now at 2.6 percent of pre-fishing levels. - An international agreement reached in September aims to rebuild Pacific bluefin populations to 20 percent of pre-fishing levels by 2034. - Observers are urging countries to fulfill their commitments under the agreement in order to preserve the species.
Indonesia’s Aceh extends moratorium on new mining sites [01/12/2018]
- The governor of Indonesia’s Aceh province has extended for another six months a moratorium on issuing new mining permits. - The government says it will use the extended moratorium period to review and improve the management of the province’s mining sector. - The freeze has been in place since 2014, and has been credited by activists with saving hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest in Aceh — home to critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants — from being cleared.
Natural World Heritage Sites in trouble, especially in the Tropics [01/11/2018]
- From the Great Barrier Reef to the Galapagos Islands and the forests of central Africa, over a third of Natural World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO are under threat from myriad problems. - Of the seventeen locations with a critical conservation outlook, sixteen are in the Tropics, and the majority of those are in Africa. Less than half of African World Heritage sites received a “good” outlook. Lack of funding in developing nations is a major problem. - Sites harboring rich biodiversity, such as Virunga and Garamba national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, are especially at risk. - The most common threats to Natural World Heritage Sites are invasive non-native species, unsustainable tourism, poaching, hydroelectric dams, and logging, with climate change the fastest growing threat.
There’s a new member of the lemur family [01/11/2018]
- Grove’s Dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus grovesi) was discovered in two of Madagascar’s national parks, Ranomafana and Andringitra, both of which are part of the Rainforests of Atsinanana UNESCO World Heritage Site. - The new lemur is a nocturnal primate that is smaller than a squirrel. The fur on its back, limbs, and head are a reddish-brown in color, and there are brownish-black rings around its large eyes. - The species was named for British-Australian biological anthropologist and primate taxonomist Colin Groves, who passed away last year.
Wars kill wildlife in Africa’s protected areas, study finds [01/11/2018]
- Researchers have found that wars and armed conflict have led to severe declines in large mammal populations in Africa’s protected areas. - Even low-grade, infrequent conflicts were enough to reduce large mammal numbers, the study found. - Despite devastation, wild animal populations can recover if efforts are made to conserve them, the researchers conclude.
Lions deal blow to giraffe numbers by targeting young, study finds [01/11/2018]
- New research demonstrates that lions can diminish the number of young giraffes in a population by more than 80 percent. - The giraffe species was recently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, after its numbers dropped by nearly 40 percent in just three decades. - A 2015 estimate puts numbers at 97,500, down from 157,000 in 1985. - The findings could prompt the rethinking of conservation strategies aimed at protecting giraffes.
Indonesian ex-soldier among three jailed for illegal trade in Sumatran rhino, tiger parts [01/10/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has jailed three men for the illegal trade in endangered Sumatran rhino and tiger parts. - An ex-Army captain and a middleman were sentenced to two years for trying to trade in a rhino horn, while a similar sentence was handed down to a man convicted of trapping and killing a tiger and trying to sell it - While both the Sumatran rhino and Sumatran tiger are deemed critically endangered, or just a step away from being extinct in the wild, conservationists say enforcement of local laws meant to protect them remains lax.
Audio: Lessons from indigenous peoples about coping with climate change, plus the call of the night parrot [01/09/2018]
- Happy new year to all our listeners out there! On our first episode of 2018, we speak with the author of a book about the resilience of indigenous peoples in the face of climate change, and we’ll hear some recordings of the elusive night parrot in Australia! - Our first guest today is Gleb Raygorodetsky, the author of The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change, which details the author’s experiences with a number of Indigenous cultures and the ways their lives on their traditional territories are being reshaped by the impacts of global warming. - Our second guest is Nick Leseberg, a PhD student at the University of Queensland in Australia whose work focuses solely on the night parrot, a species endemic to Australia that scientists have only recently been able to study. Just four years ago, nobody knew what a night parrot sounded like — but now Leseberg is here to play us some of the calls he’s recorded in this Field Notes segment.
Reliance on natural healing cultivates respect for nature in Indonesian village [01/09/2018]
- A small village in the Indonesia island of Sulawesi is keeping alive a tradition of healing based on remedies derived from locally grown herbs and other plants. - The importance of traditional medicine to the community means the villagers have long been diligent about protecting the forest in which the plants grow. - This has translated into hefty fines for unregulated logging or poaching of local wildlife, including the maleo, a bird found only in Sulawesi.
Global warming, pollution supersize the oceans’ oxygen-depleted dead zones [01/09/2018]
- Large areas of the world’s oceans are rapidly losing oxygen as a result of global warming and pollution, threatening marine ecosystems and the hundreds of millions of people who depend on them, according to a new study. - The scientists expect deoxygenation to increase well beyond these so-called dead zones as long as human-driven global warming continues. - Despite the grim outlook for the oceans, the researchers suggest that cutting fossil fuel use and protecting vulnerable marine life could tackle the problem.
‘AudioMoth’ device aims to deliver low-cost, power-efficient monitoring of remote landscapes [01/08/2018]
- UK-based researchers who have developed a low-power, open-source acoustic monitoring device say it shows promise for monitoring wildlife and illicit incursions by mankind into remote habitats. - The researchers say that the device, which is about the size of a matchbox, can be made for as little as $43 per unit — a price-point that could be key to ensuring coverage across large landscapes, where numerous monitoring devices are required. - The AudioMoth can be programmed to monitor wildlife populations by recording the calls of specific target species while at the same time serving as an alert system when the sounds of human exploitation, such as the blast of a shotgun or the roar of a chainsaw, are detected.
Rhino DNA database helps officials nab poachers and traffickers [01/08/2018]
- A DNA-based system is helping authorities prosecute and convict poachers and rhino horn traffickers in Africa. - RhODIS, as the system is called, is built on a foundational database with genetic information from nearly 4,000 individual rhinos. - By comparing the frequencies of alleles in confiscated horn and horn products with those in tissue from a poached animal, investigators can then come up with a probable match for where that horn came from. - So far, RhODIS has been instrumental in nine convictions in East and Southern Africa.
IUCN, UN, global NGOs, likely to see major budget cuts under Trump [01/08/2018]
- President Donald Trump has proposed cutting foreign aid funding to nations and inter-governmental organizations by 32 percent, about $19 billion – cuts the U.S. Congress has yet to vote on. Voting has been delayed since September, and is next scheduled for 19 January, though another delay may occur. - One inter-governmental organization on Trump’s cutting block is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) best known for its global Red List, the go-to resource for the status of endangered species planet-wide. Over the past four years the U.S. contributed between 5 and 9 percent of the IUCN’s total framework funding, and 4 to 7 percent of its programmatic funding. - Currently it remains unclear just how much, or even if, the IUCN budget will be slashed by Congress, leaving the organization in limbo. Another organization potentially looking at major cuts under Trump is TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network. - Also under Trump’s axe are the UN Population Fund ($79 million), the Green Climate Fund ($2 billion, which no nation has stepped up to replace), and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ($1.96 million annually, funding already replaced by other nations for 2018).
U.S. zoos learn how to keep captive pangolins alive, helping wild ones [01/05/2018]
- The Pangolin Consortium, a partnership between six U.S. zoos and Pangolin Conservation, an NGO, launched a project in 2014 which today houses fifty White-bellied tree pangolins (Phataginus tricuspis). - Common knowledge says that pangolins are almost impossible to keep alive in captivity, but the consortium has done basic research to boost survival rates, traveling to Africa and working with a company, EnviroFlight, to develop a natural nutritious insect-derived diet for pangolins in captivity. - While some conservationists are critical of the project, actions by the Pangolin Consortium have resulted in high captive survival rates, and even in the successful breeding of pangolins in captivity. - The Pangolin Consortium is able to conduct basic research under controlled conditions at zoos on pangolin behavior and health ¬– research that can’t be done in the wild. Zoos can also present pangolins to the public, educating about their endangered status, improving conservation funding.
Meet Indonesia’s new honeyeater species from Rote Island [01/05/2018]
- A new bird species from Indonesia has been described by a group of scientists after it was first observed in 1990, a paper said. - The bird, which belongs to the honeyeater family, has been named after Indonesia’s first lady, Iriana Joko Widodo, as a way to promote the protection of the species. - The researchers said the newly described species’ population was primarily threatened by deforestation to clear land for residential and agricultural use.
Reef bleaching five times more frequent now than in the 1980s, study finds [01/04/2018]
- Severe coral bleaching is now happening about every six years, whereas in the 1980s, it took place every 25 to 30 years. - Severe bleaching can kill the reef’s constituent corals. - It takes at least a decade for a reef to recover from bleaching. - Unless humans act to halt the rise of global temperatures, scientists predict that we’re headed for a time when bleaching might be an annual occurrence.
Rainforests: the year in review 2017 [01/04/2018]
- 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots. - This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests. - Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017.
New ‘ghost’ scorpion among several species recorded for the first time in Malaysian rainforest [01/04/2018]
- For the first time ever, scientists have surveyed the rainforest of Penang Hill comprehensively. The 130-million-year old forest is believed to have never been cut before and has remained largely unexplored. - Among the exciting discoveries is a potentially new species of “ghost” scorpion, and numerous first records for Penang Hill. - With a more complete understanding of the forests of Penang Hill, the scientists hope to nominate Penang’s forest as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Rhino horn seizure taps into Southeast Asian trafficking ring [01/03/2018]
- Officials confiscated 12.5 kilograms (27.6 pounds) of South African rhino horn on Dec. 12. - The seizure led to the arrest of a member of the Bach family, which is suspected of running a wildlife trafficking syndicate from Thailand. - The NGO Elephant Action League provided Thai authorities with information that led to the arrest, as well as that of another wildlife trafficking ‘kingpin’ in December.
U.S. court ruling complicates Trump’s elephant and lion policy [01/02/2018]
- A federal appeals court has found that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures in 2014 when it banned importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. The USFWS failed to seek public comment at the time, among other infractions. - This new ruling puts the Trump administration decision, made in November, ending the ban and allowing elephant trophy hunting imports, into question. - Further complicating matters is Trump’s dubbing of the November USFWS decision as a “horror show,” and his putting of the policy on hold awaiting his response. To date, Trump has said nothing further. - The way things stand now, U.S. hunters can import elephant trophies from South Africa and Namibia. They can import lion body parts from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. But the legality of importing elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe remains in limbo.
Reefscape: A global reef survey to build better satellites for coral conservation [01/02/2018]
- While science has fully documented only a small portion of reef species that occur around our planet, we know that human activities have taken an extensive toll on reef ecosystems worldwide. - To gather a more comprehensive understanding of the condition of global reef ecosystems, we need a way to assess and monitor them on a large geographic scale. - With our partners, we are planning a new satellite mission for global reef ecosystems, which will advance our ability not only to map reef extent, but also to monitor changes in coral reef health. - This post is the first in a series that will chronicle field work ongoing for the next year to develop an understanding of reef characteristics that need to be monitored from Earth orbit.
In a Papuan district, tribes push to revive a legacy of sustainability [01/02/2018]
- Two tribes in the foothills of the Cyclops Mountains in eastern Indonesia have ratified a village regulation that aims to formalize their age-old traditions of sustainable forestry, farming and fishing. - Though practiced for generations, the traditions have increasingly been abandoned in favor of higher-yield — but destructive — practices such as indiscriminate logging and blast fishing. - The new regulation stipulates customary fines on top of those imposed under national legislation, which the tribes say the government must do more to enforce.
Ivory trade in China is now banned [01/02/2018]
- China has shut its legal, domestic ivory markets and banned all commercial ivory trade. - Conservationists have welcomed this ban, calling it “one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation”. - But for China’s ivory ban to work, neighboring countries must follow suit, conservationists say.
Waterbirds flock to well-run countries, new study shows [12/29/2017]
- A new study demonstrates that how a country is governed is the factor that has the most influence on waterbird populations. - Governance plays a bigger role than climate change or human population booms. - The authors suggest that waterbirds, which include ducks, flamingos and pelicans, could serve as indicators to demonstrate the impact that governance has on biodiversity in general.
New checklist catalogs every vascular plant in the Americas [12/28/2017]
- A team of 24 researchers pulled together information from plant checklists across the two continents and added it to the Tropicos database. - With the details of all of the species in one place, scientists now have a public, searchable checklist with nearly 125,000 species. - The authors note that having a checklist like this one to serve as a baseline is helpful to scientists and policymakers alike.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct. - Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities. - In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.
In rural Indonesia, women spearhead the fight to protect nature [12/27/2017]
- This past July, some 50 environmental defenders, most of them women, from across Indonesia’s rural areas gathered for a discussion at an Islamic boarding school in West Java. - The event highlighted women’s increasingly leading role in the grassroots movement to protect the country’s indigenous cultures, its natural resources and its long-held, but now threatened, traditional wisdoms and customs that champion sustainable development. - Researchers say these women are at the leading edge of a new wave to defend and protect their homeland.
2017’s top 10 ocean news stories [12/27/2017]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2017. - Huge new ocean protected areas and steps toward an international treaty to protect the high seas brought hope. - Meanwhile, the U.S.’s decision to drop out of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and an intensely destructive Atlantic hurricane season spotlighted the unfolding threat of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Prince Harry becomes president of conservation group [12/27/2017]
- Prince Henry of Wales – better known as Prince Harry – is joining African Parks as President of the South Africa-based wildlife conservation organization. - Prince Harry has been working with African Parks since July 2016. - Prince Harry will work closely with the leadership of African Parks. - The news comes just a month after Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement.
The top 6 moments from the Mongabay Newscast in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Now that we’ve arrived at the end of 2017, we’ve decided to take a break from our regular production schedule and instead take a look back at some of the most compelling conversations we featured on the Mongabay Newscast this year. - From world-famous conservationists like Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson to renowned musicians like Paul Simon and best-selling authors like Margaret Atwood, we welcomed a lot of truly fascinating people onto our podcast in 2017. - Here are six of our favorite quotes from the Newscast this year, which will hopefully provide jumping off points for you to dig in more deeply.
Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development. - As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow. - Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.
Chainsaws imperil an old-growth mangrove stronghold in southern Myanmar [12/27/2017]
- Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southern-most state, is home to the country’s last remaining old-growth mangrove forest. The trees support village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the coast. - But logging for charcoal and fuel wood, much of it illegal, is taking a toll. Studies show that roughly two-thirds of the region’s remaining mangrove forests have been degraded, with consequences for people and wildlife. - Conservationists are attempting to expand community forestry and set up mangrove reserves to combat the widespread degradation.
Glimmer of hope as Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino shows signs of recovery [12/27/2017]
- The worst appears to be over for Iman, Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, after she suffered massive bleeding from a ruptured tumor in her uterus earlier this month. - Veterinarians and rhino experts are hopeful but cautious about Iman’s recovery prospects, and continue to provide around-the-clock care. - The rhino is Malaysia’s last hope for saving the nearly extinct species, which is thought to number as few as 30 individuals in the world.
So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? [12/26/2017]
- Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018. - Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans. - UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities. - Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.
Video: Power lines killing the last remaining Great Indian Bustards in India [12/26/2017]
- Of the 160-odd great Indian bustards remaining in the wild, about 140 occur in the Thar desert in Rajasthan, India. - The bird’s prime habitat in Thar, however, is being taken over by a growing, dense network of wind turbines and electric power lines that have become a death trap for the birds. - Even a few accidental deaths due to collisions could lead to extinction of the species, according to experts. - Conservationists and forest department officials have recommended mitigation measures, but nothing has been implemented on ground.
Experts to China: cooperate or South China Sea fisheries may collapse [12/21/2017]
- More than half the fishing vessels in the world operate in the South China Sea, where sovereign rights have been an object of fierce contention among bordering countries. - Scientists have been warning that the sea is fast becoming the site of an environmental disaster, the impending collapse of one of the world’s most productive fisheries. - Now a group of experts that includes geopolitical strategists as well as marine biologists is calling on the disputing parties to come together to manage and protect the sea’s fish stocks and marine environment. - Effective management hinges on China’s active participation, but it remains unclear whether that country, now the dominant power in the sea with a big appetite for seafood, will cooperate.
Know your ESA: an online resource for Endangered Species Act docs and data [12/20/2017]
- The ever-increasing number of species needing protection, inadequate funding, and poor understanding of how and where the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been implemented have made it difficult to assess the law’s success. - A free, online platform offers access to and analyses of troves of ESA-related documents and data—including otherwise unavailable materials—on species, agency consultations, decisions, and effectiveness. - By making these data more accessible, the platform aims to help the conservation community better understand how the ESA is implemented and where it can improve.
Armed conflict was not always ‘good’ for preventing deforestation in Colombia (commentary) [12/20/2017]
- I too used to be part of the camp that worried about the implications of the peace accord for the forests of Colombia. I used to think that the armed conflict did indeed contribute to forest conservation — full stop. - Today, I have a different view. And I would go even further: I think it is rather misleading to make an umbrella statement that “armed conflict is good for preventing deforestation” in Colombia. - I’m saying this after doing in-depth studies on the relationship of armed conflict and deforestation in the Latin American country. I, together with my research partners, found that several factors determine the extent of deforestation in Colombia. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesia seeks to slap money-laundering label on illegal fishing [12/20/2017]
- Indonesia wants to include illegal fishing in a U.N. convention on transnational crime, in order to bring anti-money-laundering tools to bear on the problem. - The government is intent on ending poaching and unsustainable fishing, and has already made waves for its public policy of seizing and scuttling illegal foreign fishing boats operating in its waters. - Indonesian waters represent one of the world’s largest capture fisheries.
Zanzibar’s red colobus monkeys much more numerous than thought [12/18/2017]
- The team logged 4,725 hours over 2 years tracking down more than 4,000 individual Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus kirkii). - Protected areas house nearly 70 percent of the monkeys they found, where monkey groups tended to be larger and to have more females than those outside of parks and reserves. - The team also found that a relatively small number of young monkeys survive to adulthood, and they concluded that the overall population might be declining.
Do protected areas work in the tropics? [12/18/2017]
- To find out if terrestrial protected areas are effective in achieving their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 56 scientific studies. (See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, protected areas do appear to reduce forest cover loss. But other ecological outcomes of protected areas, like biodiversity or illegal hunting, remain extremely understudied. - The evidence on socioeconomic impacts is very thin. What limited rigorous research exists shows that protected areas do not exacerbate poverty generally, but anecdotal studies suggest that protected areas could be making other aspects of people’s well-being worse off. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino falls ill [12/17/2017]
- Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, which was captured from the wild for a captive-breeding program to save the species, has fallen ill from a ruptured tumor in her uterus. - Veterinarians have been unable to provide the necessary medical treatment because of the rhino’s behavior and adverse conditions on the ground. - The captive-breeding program was dashed by the death of the only other female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia earlier this year and the refusal of the Indonesian government to share a frozen sperm sample for artificial insemination.
Recognition of Mentawai tribes marks Indonesia’s latest piecemeal concession to indigenous groups [12/15/2017]
- The Mentawai district legislature last month passed a regulation that recognizes the region’s indigenous communities. - The regulation is the latest in a series of district-level policy moves in the wake of a landmark 2013 Constitutional Court ruling that ended state control over customary lands. - The move has been hailed as a positive development by advocates for indigenous empowerment, although the pace of progress at the national level remains sluggish.
DNA analysis shows Sumatran rhinos peaked during last Ice Age, never recovered [12/14/2017]
- Genome analysis shows that the Sumatran rhino has been on the path toward extinction for almost 12,000 years, as the end of the last Ice Age cut off much of its former territory, a new report says. - Habitat loss from deforestation and overhunting further devastated the species’ population, and it has never recovered. - Scientists continue to make the case for captive breeding as the best effort to boost the rhino population and stave off extinction.
Building a refuge where trawlers now ravage Cambodia’s marine life [12/14/2017]
- In Cambodia’s Kep Archipelago, fleets of trawlers dragging weighted, electrified nets have reduced the area’s once sprawling seagrass meadows to a sludgy underwater wasteland and sent fisheries into a tailspin. - Here and around the world, seagrass meadows are in decline. But these critical habitats serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for many marine organisms, as well as bulwarks against climate change and ocean acidification by capturing carbon dioxide. - In the Kep Archipelago a small NGO is working to establish a marine refuge that will keep the trawlers at bay so seagrass meadows can recover and depleted fish stocks can return to life.
Land reclamation threatens extremely rare spoon-billed sandpipers in China [12/14/2017]
- Every year, the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper makes a crucial three-month stopover at Tiaozini mudflats in Jiangsu province on China’s eastern coast. - The Jiangsu government, however, has already converted 67.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini’s coastal waters into land and plans to reclaim another 599.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini by 2020. - Conservationists say that virtually all spoon-billed sandpipers that currently use Tiaozini could disappear if the reclamation goes ahead as planned, pushing the species to extinction.
African Parks backs marine reserve brimming with wildlife in Mozambique [12/14/2017]
- The conservation NGO African Parks signed an agreement to manage Bazaruto Archipelago National Park in Mozambique. - Leaders established the park in 1971, but recent illegal fishing and unregulated tourism has threatened the ecosystem and its economic value, African Parks said. - The park is home to 2,000 species of fish and hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and mammals, including some of the last dugongs in the western Indian Ocean.
For Papuan villagers practicing conservation, a bid to formalize the familiar [12/14/2017]
- Indigenous Papuans of Saubeba village last month gave their support for a government-backed program to designate Tambrauw district, rich in biodiversity, a conservation zone. - The villagers already practice sustainable management of the district’s lush forests and its resources, on which their lives depend. - The discussion also sought to find solutions for land conflicts that often put legally vulnerable ethnic groups in peril as Tambrauw district pushes for the passage of an indigenous rights bill. - One anticipated outcome of all this is the prospect of developing an ecotourism industry centered on the region’s natural riches, including its birds-of-paradise.
Audio: Amazon tribe’s traditional medicine encyclopedia gets an update, and conservation effectiveness in Madagascar examined [12/12/2017]
- On today’s episode, we’ll get an update on an ambitious effort to document traditional indigenous healing and medicinal practices in the Amazon and speak with the reporter behind Mongabay’s popular new series on conservation efforts in Madagascar. - Our first guest on today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Christopher Herndon, who, as co-founder and president of the group Acaté Amazon Conservation, has supported the Matsés people in planting healing gardens, which are basically living pharmacies as well as classrooms, and to document their traditional healing and plant knowledge in an encyclopedia. - Our second guest is Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety, the writer behind our recent series on the effectiveness of conservation interventions in Madagascar.
Study: RSPO certification prunes deforestation in Indonesia — but not by much [12/12/2017]
- Oil palm plantations certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil had less deforestation than non-certified plantations, according to a new analysis. - Certification’s effect on the incidence of fires and the clearing of forest from peatlands was not statistically significant. - The research demonstrates that while certification does reduce deforestation, it has not protected very much standing forest from being cut down.
CITES rejects Madagascar’s bid to sell rosewood and ebony stockpiles [12/12/2017]
- The standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had its annual meeting in Geneva November 27 through December 1. - The committee rejected Madagascar’s petition to sell its stockpiles of seized rosewood and ebony that had been illegally cut from the country’s rainforests. - CITES delegates agreed that while a future sale of the stockpiles might be possible, Madagascar was not yet ready for such a risky undertaking, which could allow newly chopped logs to be laundered and traded overseas. - Other notable outcomes of the CITES meeting dealt with the sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), pangolins, and the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus).
Monkey business: Building a global database of primate conservation studies (commentary) [12/12/2017]
- While one primate — Homo sapiens — has flourished and spread across the planet, about 60 percent of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction. Conservation of these intelligent, complex creatures can be challenging on many levels. - Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with researchers at the University of Cambridge (where I work), have just published the results of a three-year project gathering the data on how well primate conservation initiatives have worked to conserve species from lemurs to chimpanzees. - The idea is simple: to present the current evidence for every intervention people might do to conserve primates, so that primate conservationists can learn from the best available data at the click of a mouse. This global database on primate conservation interventions is available to view for free. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
As 2017 hurricane season ends, scientists assess tropical forest harm [12/11/2017]
- This year’s Atlantic hurricane season – one for the record books – ended on 30 November, seeing six Category 3 to 5 storms wreaking massive destruction across the Caribbean, in the U.S. and Mexico. While damage to the built environment is fairly easy to assess, harm to conserved areas and species is more difficult to determine. - Satellite images show extensive damage to the 28,400-acre El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, the United States’ only national tropical rainforest. However, observers on the ground say the forest is showing signs of a quick recovery. - More serious is harm to already stressed, endangered species with small populations. El Yunque’s Critically Endangered Puerto Rican parrot was hard hit: out of 50 endemic wild parrots, 16 are known dead. Likewise, the Endangered imperial parrot endemic to Dominica, spotted just three times since Hurricane Maria. - Ecosystems and species need time to recover between storms. If the intensity of hurricanes continues to increase due to escalating global warming as predicted, tropical ecosystem and species resilience may be seriously tested.
Scientists call for cheetahs to be listed as Endangered [12/11/2017]
- Only about 3,577 adult cheetahs remain in southern Africa, a new study has found. - More than 50 percent of these animals live on unprotected lands, where they are sometimes persecuted due to conflict with local farmers. - Revising the status of the cheetah from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List could help conservationists create more awareness about the species and “open more avenues to fund conservation and population monitoring efforts,” researchers say.
New study: Gorillas fare better in logged forests than chimps [12/11/2017]
- A study in the northern Republic of Congo found that gorillas and chimpanzees both became scarcer at the onset of logging. - However, gorillas move backed into logged areas more readily, while chimpanzees were more likely to stay away. - The researchers believe that gorillas are better able to cope with logging because they’re not as territorial as chimps and they seem to be more flexible in their eating habits.
Tanzania used as case study for quickly and cheaply identifying wildlife corridors in need of conservation [12/08/2017]
- Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a methodology that they say can help identify the most important wildlife corridors to keep open in a cost-effective and timely manner. - In a study summarizing their results published in the journal PloS one, the authors note that wildlife populations that are isolated due to not having access to corridors that allow them to move between protected areas can suffer from compromised genetic variability and are less able to shift their range in response to global climate change. - The researchers used what they describe as “least-cost methods” to develop a methodology for assessing wildlife corridors at a national scale, which they then applied to Tanzania as a case study.
Abandoned by their sponsors, Madagascar’s orphaned parks struggle on [12/08/2017]
- A dozen protected areas that were created amid the rapid buildup of Madagascar’s conservation sector in the aughts were later abandoned by their NGO sponsors after the political crisis of 2009. - Among these so-called orphan protected areas is the 606-square-kilometer (234-square-mile) Bongolava Forest Corridor in the country’s northwest. The U.S.-based NGO Conservation International spent 15 years spearheading Bongolava’s creation, then abandoned the project in 2012. - A year ago, a scrappy group of locals returned to Bongolava to resuscitate the protected area. Working with a slim budget, they are confronting both intense pressure for farmland inside the protected area and widespread corruption. - This is the eighth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
The world’s newest great ape, revealed a month ago, is already nearly extinct: IUCN [12/07/2017]
- This week, the world’s newest great ape Tapanuli orangutan was officially categorized as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN as the species lost over 80 percent of its global population over generations due to habitat loss. - The classification of the orangutan came in conjunction with the conservation union releasing its latest Red List of “Threatened” Species which added thousands of animal and plant species. - The list is a mixed bag of good and bad news for conservation.
Forest Code falls short in protecting Amazonian fish [12/07/2017]
- A team of scientists reports that Brazil’s Forest Code doesn’t address significant impacts that agriculture can have on fish habitat in the rainforest’s streams and tributaries. - The study cataloged more than 130 species of fish, some of them new to science, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon. - The authors argue for protections that encompass entire basins and the complex drainage networks that together form the lifeblood of the Amazon rainforest.
In rural Indonesia, a village learns to embrace its forest through sustainability [12/06/2017]
- In August, the village of Taba Padang in southwest Sumatra was recognized by the Indonesian government for practicing the best community-based forestry management this year. - Less than a decade ago, however, many of its residents were being arrested for planting in a nearby forest, deemed off-limits because of its protected status. - In 2010, newly elected village chief Yoyon embarked on a years-long process to obtain state approval to allow the farmers to manage nearly 10 square kilometers of land in the forest. - In exchange, the farmers are prohibited from creating plantations, must agree to protect the animals that live there, and must guard the land against fire.
Activists seek protection for Indonesia’s karst amid building boom pressure [12/05/2017]
- Activists in Indonesia demand the government to issue a new regulation aimed at better protecting the country’s karsts, the unique rocky landscapes that are home to species found nowhere else on Earth. - The current regulation governing the management of this limestone topography fails to frame karst preservation in terms of its role as an ecosystem supporting a diverse range of animal and plant life. - Activists argue that efforts to regulate the protection of the landscape have received opposition from influential powers that depend on the mineral deposits that make up the karst.
Deforestation in Sumatra carves up tiger habitats into ever smaller patches [12/05/2017]
- Twelve years of deforestation in Sumatra have broken the habitats of its native big cat into smaller fragments, a new study says. - Only two of the remaining tiger forest landscapes in Sumatra are believed to have populations that are viable for the long term, both of which are under threat from planned road projects. - The researchers are calling for a complete halt to the destruction of tiger-occupied forests in Sumatra and the poaching of the nearly extinct predator.
Huge new ocean reserves announced in Mexico, Arctic [12/05/2017]
- The past couple weeks have brought major news about two important marine protected area projects. - On November 24, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree creating the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, protecting nearly 150,000 square kilometers (close to 58,000 square miles) from all fishing and extractive activities. It is said to be the largest ocean reserve ever created by Mexico. - Less than a week later, on the night of November 30, countries including Canada, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, among others, announced that they had reached an agreement to protect 2.8 million square kilometers (more than 1 million square miles) of the central Arctic Ocean from commercial fishing.
Entanglements hamper reproduction as right whale population slides [12/05/2017]
- Just 451 North Atlantic right whales remain, down from 458 in 2016 and 483 in 2010. - Entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes remain the two most important threats to right whale survival. - A study published in November in the journal Ecology and Evolution finds that fewer females are surviving than males and the interval between calving is growing longer.
Extreme seasonal changes in Amazon river levels threaten forest conservation by indigenous people [12/04/2017]
- The Amazon has experienced intense floods and droughts for the past 10 years, a likely effect of climate change. - Surveys taken of animals between 2009 and 2015 showed terrestrial mammal populations dropped by 95 percent during intense floods, whereas aquatic animals suffered dramatic declines during an extreme drought. - Scientists fear these seasonal extremes will drive the Cocama people of Peru out of the forest, depriving it of its primary conservationists.
Pulp and paper giant sues Indonesian government over peat protection obligation [12/03/2017]
- A company owned by the billionaire Tanoto family of Indonesia is seeking to overturn a government decision to invalidate its plans to operate on peatlands. - The parties are clashing over new rules issued by the Indonesian government in the wake of the 2015 fire and haze crisis. - The government recently rezoned some areas within the company’s concession for conservation, but the company argues it should be allowed to keep operating on them for now.
Catch-all fisheries are squeezing Asia’s seahorses [12/01/2017]
- Tens of millions of seahorses are traded each year as pets, trinkets and for use in traditional medicine. - But the greater threat comes from incidental bycatch by indiscriminate fishing gear, according to researchers. - Seahorse researchers argue that improving fishing practices would protect seahorses, as well as many other species and their habitats.
Forced out or killed: rare chimps go missing from Cameroon mountain forest [12/01/2017]
- The Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) is the least numerous subspecies of chimpanzee, with a total population almost certainly less than 9,000, and probably less than 6,000 individuals. - The estimated population is far smaller in Cameroon, where just four known populations number some 250 individuals, all located in the Northwest region. - One of those groups, known as “The Great Apes of Tubah” was until recently found in the unprotected Kejom-Keku Mountain Forest. - But the chimps haven’t been seen in three years, and conservationists fear they’ve been killed or forced to move on. A new road into the Kejom-Keku area has resulted in the loss of half its forest, as herders, farmers, loggers and poachers move in.
From rescue to research: training detection dogs for conservation [12/01/2017]
- Conservation and research teams have used detection dogs to locate illegal wildlife products, weapons, invasive species, and, particularly, wildlife scat–a non-invasive way to collect dietary, hormonal, and genetic information contained in fecal material. - Training detection dogs builds on their obsessive drive to play by associating a target substance with the play reward. - Handlers are instrumental in interpreting a dog’s behavior and ensuring it searches efficiently and effectively for its targets. - Detection dogs are a cost-effective way to collect wildlife data, though the costs of international transport may limit their use by smaller conservation groups.
Petition for Indonesian government to save Sumatran rhino garners global support [12/01/2017]
- More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to do more to save the critically endangered Sumatran rhino from extinction. - The petition was launched several days after a Mongabay series looked into the current state of the species, which may number as few as 30 individuals in the wild. - The series also identified the Indonesian government as hampering much-needed efforts to stave off the disappearance of the Sumatran rhino from poaching and habitat loss.
Indonesians race to save their disappearing lakes, before it’s too late [11/30/2017]
- Seventeen lakes in the Southeast Asian nation are in “critical” condition. One of them, Lake Limboto in northern Sulawesi, is shrinking rapidly and could disappear by 2025. - Recently, government officials and researchers from across Indonesia gathered on Lake Limboto’s shores, declaring that a national agency should be established to handle the issue. In December they will meet again, hoping to attract the attention of President Joko Widodo. - One of the most pressing problems at Limboto is the lake’s shrinking increases the risk of flooding in nearby Gorontalo city.
‘Extreme concern’: Report gives glimpse into scale of Kalimantan bird trade [11/30/2017]
- More than 25,000 birds from nearly 150 species, including those on the brink of extinction, were found for sale at hundreds of shops across Indonesian Borneo, according to a recent report. - The report is said to be the first to provide data on the trade in Kalimantan, which is increasingly being targeted by trappers and traders who have decimated bird populations in Java and Sumatra. - The researchers are calling for more surveys on bird populations in the wild and stronger law enforcement to protect endangered species.
Malaysia seizes 337 kg of pangolin scales worth nearly $1 million [11/30/2017]
- The 337 kilograms of pangolin scales had been mailed from Sarawak and Sabah in 13 different boxes, and were being exported to Hong Kong. - With this latest seizure, Malaysian customs officials have confiscated a total of 15,000 kilograms of scales in just seven months, according to TRAFFIC. - The origin of the scales is still unknown, officials say.
Carbon dreams: Can REDD+ save a Yosemite-size forest in Madagascar? [11/29/2017]
- When Makira Natural Park launched in 2005, it seemed to present a solution to one of the most intractable problems in conservation: finding a source of funding that could be counted on year after year. - The sale of carbon offset credits would fund the park itself as well as development projects aimed at helping nearby communities improve their standard of living and curtail deforestation. - But more than a decade later, carbon buyers are scarce and much of the funding for community development has been held up. And although deforestation has slowed considerably in and around Makira, it is falling well short of deforestation targets set at the outset of the project. - This is the seventh story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
WATCH: Rare sighting of mother Sunda clouded leopard and cubs caught on film [11/29/2017]
- On the afternoon of November 6, while traveling through Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, photographer Michael Gordon came across a sight he was not expecting: a Sunda clouded leopard mother with her cubs. - “When I first saw the clouded leopards from a distance I thought it was just some macaques on the road,” he told Mongabay. “Once I realized that it was actually three clouded leopards I stopped the car right away. I had my camera close by, but with only a 15mm macro lens attached. I wasn’t sure whether to just enjoy the moment or go into the boot of the car and change lenses. I figured I would regret it badly if I didn’t record it.” - The Sunda clouded leopard, found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, is such a rare and elusive big cat that it’s traditionally been rather difficult to study, never mind casually sight while driving through the forest.
New carbon maps of Sabah’s forests guide conservation in Borneo [11/29/2017]
- Airborne LiDAR mapping combined with satellite imagery analysis has provided scientists, government agencies and NGOs with a “wall-to-wall” account of the carbon held in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The study, led by ecologists from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, revealed that more than 40 percent of the forests with the highest carbon stocks aren’t covered by the state’s most stringent protections. - The findings give wildlife biologists the chance to examine how carbon stocks correlate with the presence of biodiversity; NGOs the opportunity to identify new high-carbon areas to set aside under oil palm certification schemes; and the Sabah government the information to determine which forests are the most valuable and therefore need further protections.
Trump’s indecision on trophy hunting reignites heated debate [11/28/2017]
- On November 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted a ban on the U.S. import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The president put a hold on the order two days later, calling trophy hunting in a tweet a “horror show.” He has yet to make a final determination regarding the USFWS order. - At the same time, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the establishment of the International Wildlife Conservation Council. One goal of the body will be to promote with the U.S. public the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to [trophy] hunt.” - While trophy hunting does provide revenue for land and wildlife conservation in some special cases in Africa, the new U.S. council will likely have its work cut out for it, since many Americans no longer see trophy hunting of endangered species as ethical. - Conservationists counter pro-trophy hunting advocates by noting that rampant government corruption in nations like Zimbabwe and Zambia make it unlikely that most trophy hunting revenues ever reach the African preserves, local communities or rangers that need the funding.
Audio: Margaret Atwood on her conservation-themed graphic novel, dystopian futures, and how not to despair [11/28/2017]
- Today’s episode features best-selling author and environmental activist Margaret Atwood as well as the founder of a beverage company rooted in the Amazon whose new book details the lessons he’s learned from indigenous rainforest peoples. - Margaret Atwood, whose novels and poetry have won everything from an Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction to the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, recently tackled a medium she is not as well-known for: comic books. Not only that, but she has written a comic book series, called Angel Catbird, that “was a conservation project from the get-go,” she told Mongabay. - Our second guest is Tyler Gage, co-founder of the beverage company Runa. “Runa” is the word the indigenous Kichwa people use to describe the effects of drinking guayusa; it translates to “fully alive” — which also happens to be the name of a new book that Gage has just published detailing the lessons he learned in the Amazon that led to the launch of Runa and its mission to partner with indigenous communities in business.
Peru: Illegal mining devastates forests in Amazonas Region [11/28/2017]
- In the past five years, a group of miners from the Amazonas Region and Madre de Dios have destroyed about 20 hectares of forest, not including the constant contamination from the Pastacillo stream, in the Río Santiago district. - Although two bans have been put in place, the Wampis community claims that the illegal activity continues to grow.
Indonesia to kick off 10-year plan to save critically endangered helmeted hornbill [11/28/2017]
- The Indonesian government is currently drafting a 10-year master plan to protect the endangered helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), set to be launched in 2018. - The program will comprise five action plans: research and monitoring; policies and law enforcement; partnerships; raising public awareness; and funding. - The helmeted hornbill has been driven to the brink of extinction by poaching for its distinctive scarlet casqued beak, which is pound-for-pound three times as valuable as elephant ivory.
Storytelling empowers indigenous people to conserve their environments [11/27/2017]
- Indigenous storytelling is a powerful tool for preserving biocultural diversity, conservation scientists propose. - Conservationists should rise above the field’s historic malpractice by listening to stories and truly collaborating with indigenous people. - To successfully collaborate, conservationists must regard indigenous knowledge as valid, act in accordance with standing traditions and maintain a humble willingness to learn.
Peru: the man who overcomes fear to defend the forest [11/27/2017]
- The vice president of the Tambopata National Reserve management committee has reported invasions and threats on several occasions. - Demetrio Pacheco says that he has found burned and fallen trees inside his concession.
In search of the fireface: The precarious, scandalous lives of the slow lorises of Java [11/26/2017]
- Cute and fuzzy but also vicious and venomous, Javan slow lorises have been driven to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. - The Little Fireface Project in West Java is the first long-term research project focusing on the critically endangered primate. - In addition to making strides toward understanding how to care for and reintroduce lorises to the wild, the project has revealed new details about the species’ complex, and often reality-show-worthy social behavior.
Brilliant blue tarantula among potentially new species discovered in Guyana [11/24/2017]
- In the forests of the Potaro plateau of Guyana, scientists have discovered a bright blue tarantula that is likely new to science. - The discovery was part of a larger biodiversity assessment survey of the Kaieteur Plateau and Upper Potaro area of Guyana, within the Pakaraima Mountains range. - Overall, the team uncovered more than 30 species that are potentially new to science, and found several species that are known only from the Kaieteur Plateau-Upper Potaro region and nowhere else.
Culture keeps cattle ranching going in the Brazilian Amazon [11/23/2017]
- A recent study finds that financial incentives to move people away from cattle ranching don’t address cultural and logistical hurdles to changing course. - Even though ranchers could earn four times as much per hectare farming soy or up to 12 times as much from fruit and vegetable farming, many stick with cattle as a result of cultural values. - Ranchers, along with small-scale farmers, could benefit from targeted infrastructure investments to provide them with easier access to markets, according to the study. - The researchers argue that their findings point to the need for policies that take these obstacles into account.
The tenacity of tigers: how the biggest cat varies across its range (photos) [11/22/2017]
- This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species. - This month Jonathan C. Slaght writes about tigers. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, WCS’s staff photographer.
Biofuel project near India’s rhino heartland sparks protests [11/22/2017]
- India’s state-owned Numaligarh Refinery Limited and Finnish firm Chempolis Oy plan to build a bioethanol refinery near Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam State. - The project is touted as green and sustainable, but faces opposition from local activists who fear it will cause pollution, increase human-wildlife conflict, and negatively impact the habitat of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife. - Activists also cite concerns about the project’s environmental impact assessment process, and its proposed location in an officially designated “no-development zone.”
Another blow to troubled Madagascar rare earth mine [11/22/2017]
- German and Singaporean business interests have been attempting to start a rare earth mine on northwestern Madagascar’s Ampasindava peninsula. - According to some scientists, going forward with the project would pose grave long-term threats to local people and the surrounding rainforest, including a protected area home to endangered lemurs and other unique wildlife. - The project has been beset by ownership uncertainty, an ongoing investigation into one of its owners for financial misconduct, and permit delays. - Now its concession, previously valued at over $1 billion, has been reappraised at just $48 million.
Unquestioning defence of ‘militarized conservation’ is naïve (commentary) [11/22/2017]
- In a recent article, Niall McCann attacks critiques of the “militarization” of conservation by academics such as Professor Rosaleen Duffy of the University of Sheffield in the UK. - McCann’s position and argument not only fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents the position of many committed conservationists but also uses an array of flawed and incomplete arguments to defend increasingly militant enforcement of wildlife crime. - We share McCann’s concern about the fact that many species, and the natural world as a whole, face huge challenges over the coming decades. Law enforcement is one of an array of tools that play an important role in species protection. However, it is not without it’s own issues and problems. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
eBay is outselling the darknet in the illegal wildlife trade, fret researchers [11/22/2017]
- Repeated searches of markets on the dark web have found negligible trace of illegal wildlife products. - This news is troubling, conservationists say, because it suggests that traders are content to sell wildlife products on mainstream websites like eBay, where they rely on the sheer volume of transactions and lack of regulation to mask their activity. - Regulating the wildlife trade on sites like eBay can be complex because the legality of sales is difficult to establish. - Machine learning — developing computer systems capable of monitoring and policing online transactions — holds promise for enforcement on the surface web, but is currently hampered by online market operators’ failure to engage with the issue.
Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. - However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. - For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
From friends to strangers: The decline of the Irrawaddy dolphin (commentary) [11/20/2017]
- Now critically endangered, the last of the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are concentrated in nine deep-water pools over a 190-kilometer stretch of the Mekong between Cambodia’s Sambor district and Khone Falls on the Lao border. - Today the Mekong’s dolphins face a new threat. The proposed Sambor Dam on the river’s mainstream would catalyze the extinction of the remaining dolphin population and have disastrous consequences for many other fish species, as well as the communities that depend on them. - Can Cambodia bring this river dolphin back from the brink of extinction? - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Trump puts controversial decision allowing elephant trophy imports ‘on hold’ [11/20/2017]
- Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported to the U.S., lifting a previous ban under former President Barack Obama. - This move sparked criticism not only from conservationists and animal rights activists, but also from some President Trump supporters. - Following the widespread criticism, Trump tweeted that he would announce his decision on trophy imports next week.
To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests [11/17/2017]
- In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation. - The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss. - With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.
Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ [11/17/2017]
- Celebrated conservationist and Mongabay advisor Jane Goodall spoke with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler for the podcast just before departing for her latest speaking tour (she travels 300 days a year raising conservation awareness). Here we supply the full transcript. - This wide-ranging conversation begins with reaction to the science community’s recent acceptance of her six decade contention that animals are individuals with personalities, and moves on to discuss trends in conservation, and she then provides an update on the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s global projects. - She also challenges trophy hunting as an effective tool for funding conservation (“It’s rubbish,” she says), shares her positive view of China’s quickly growing environmental movement, talks about the key role of technology in conservation, and discusses a range of good news, which she states is always so important to share. - Amazingly, Dr. Goodall reports that JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots now has perhaps as many as 150,000 chapters worldwide, making it probably the largest conservation movement in the world, with many millions having been part of the program. An effort is now underway to document them all.
A tranquilizer shortage is holding back rhino management plans in India [11/16/2017]
- Conservationists rely on a semi-synthetic opioid called Etorphine HCl to tranquilize rhinos for veterinary care, translocation and other critical interventions. - Due to export regulations in South Africa, and red tape at home, Indian states face a critical shortage of the drug. - The lack of Etorphine is already holding up translocation plans in several protected areas, and preventing veterinarians from caring for injured animals.
Video: Thousands of illegally caught African gray parrots being rehabilitated [11/16/2017]
- The Wildlife Conservation Society has released a video showing seized African gray parrots being treated at a rescue facility built specially for the rehabilitation of these birds. - The birds were collected from the wild in the Republic of the Congo, and were most likely being smuggled to markets in Europe and the Middle East. - So far, the WCS team has rehabilitated and released almost 900 parrots back into the wild.
Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar [11/15/2017]
- Officials in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region say lemur is served illegally in restaurants. - One conservationist says people use a code to order lemur meat. - More than 90 percent of lemur species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Can the Solomon Islands’ Gold Ridge Mine serve as a new model for resource extraction in the South Pacific? [11/15/2017]
- After 17 years of foreign ownership and a checkered environmental history, the Solomon Islands’ Gold Ridge mine is now being led by a local landowner-driven joint venture. - The company saw its first major test in April 2016, when rainfall triggered a spillover from the mine’s tailing dam. However, independent tests found the water quality downstream remained safe. - Though concerns still remain, the new ownership structure could be a model for mining operations elsewhere in the region.
Audio: Dr. Jane Goodall on being proven right about animals having personalities, plus updates direct from COP23 [11/15/2017]
- On today’s episode, we speak with the legendary Jane Goodall, who truly needs no introduction, and will have a direct report from the United Nations’ climate talks happening now in Bonn, Germany. - Just before Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler was scheduled to speak with Goodall recently, research came out that vindicated her contention, which she’s held for nearly 60 years, that animals have personalities just like people. So we decided to record her thoughts about that for the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest today is Mongabay contributor and Wake Forest University journalism professor Justin Catanoso, who appears on the podcast direct from COP23 to tell us how the UN climate talks are going in Bonn, Germany, what the mood is like amongst delegates, and how the US delegation is factoring into the talks as the Trump Administration continues to pursue a pullout from the Paris Climate Agreement.
More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study [11/15/2017]
- The researchers used satellite data to measure forest carbon values and camera trap photographs to tally the mammal species present in forests and oil palm plantations. - Finer-scale data did reveal that high-carbon areas do support more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction. - Experts say that this research validates the high carbon stock approach for identifying priority areas for conservation. - Still, further research is required to better understand the role of connectivity between high-carbon forests in supporting biodiversity.
4 sperm whales dead after mass stranding in Sumatra [11/14/2017]
- A pod of 10 sperm whales beached earlier this week in shallow waters in western Indonesia. - Despite attempts by authorities and residents to push the animals back out into deeper water, four of the whales died after being stranded overnight. - Experts are looking into what caused the whales to swim so close to shore.
Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood [11/13/2017]
- The Madagascar government has petitioned wildlife regulators under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for permission to sell its stockpiles of seized rainforest wood. - Some campaigners warn that traffickers stand to benefit from any such sale and fear it could herald a “logging boom” in the country’s remaining rainforests. - The CITES committee will consider the proposal at the end of this month.
Indonesian president recognizes land rights of nine more indigenous groups [11/12/2017]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month gave several indigenous communities back the land rights to the forests they have called home for generations. - The total amount of customary forests relinquished to local groups under this initiative remains far short of what the government has promised, and looks unlikely to be fulfilled before the next presidential election in 2019. - At a recent conference in Jakarta, a senior government official said the president would sign a decree to help more communities secure rights.
Citizen scientists around the world are monitoring elephants in Gabon via camera traps — and you can too [11/10/2017]
- Camera traps have proven to be a powerful tool in conservationists’ arsenal for monitoring forests and wildlife. But the mountains of data they capture need to be sifted through in order to be useful, which often presents a significant challenge for cash-strapped conservationists and researchers. - To meet this challenge, a team led by Anabelle Cardoso, a PhD candidate at Oxford University in the UK, has turned to another promising new method that is reshaping the way research is done in modern times: citizen science. - Slow population growth and the ivory poaching crisis have driven down the numbers of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in recent years. “We want to conserve these beautiful creatures, but to do that effectively we need to know where these elephants are and how many of them there are, so we can pick the best places to focus our efforts,” Cardoso and her colleagues write.
Trump family planning policy may up population, hurt women, environment [11/10/2017]
- In January, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule, first introduced under Ronald Reagan. It requires foreign NGOs receiving U.S. global family planning assistance to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” with non-U.S. funds. - According to Marie Stopes International (MSI), the gag rule could result in a minimum of 2.2 million abortions from 2017-2020, with 21,700 women dying as a result. And that only accounts for services lost from MSI. - Research shows that the gag rule is also likely to increase population growth in the developing world by reducing the ability of organizations to provide family planning services. This could endanger the environment in a variety of ways. For example, population growth puts more pressure on forests and wildlife. - A lack of family planning can lead to large families, with women spending more of their time on childrearing, largely leaving them out of any active role in community sustainability and conservation projects, as well as education programs that train them in sustainable livelihoods.
The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands [11/10/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino edges closer to extinction, aggressive interventions have stalled. Even ongoing efforts like ranger protection have been undercut by lack of government support. - As of May, conservation groups are united in their calls to ramp up captive-breeding efforts in Indonesia, but the government has not yet responded. - Frustrated conservationists cite bureaucracy, risk aversion, opaque and arbitrary decisions, and territorial squabbling as barriers to progress — but remain hopeful the government will act in time.
Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? [11/09/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino’s population dwindled, conservationists were locked in a debate about whether resources should be directed toward captive breeding or protecting wild populations. - With captive breeding efforts showing success, and wild populations becoming non-viable, the pendulum has swung in favor of captive breeding. - Experts agree that action is needed now more than ever, but any steps rely on support from the Indonesian government.
Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles [11/08/2017]
- Over the past six years, Madagascar has spent millions of dollars and devoted countless person hours to figuring out how to dispose of vast stockpiles of highly valuable, illegally logged rosewood, much of it cut from the country’s rainforests following a 2009 coup. - To do so, the government must conduct a comprehensive inventory of the stockpiles, among other requirements issued by CITES. The World Bank has supported the effort with at least $3 million to $4 million in murky ad hoc loans. - The current state of affairs, with untold thousands of rosewood logs still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands more stacked outside government offices, is widely seen as facilitating continued corruption and illicit activity. - This is the sixth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? [11/08/2017]
- Some claim a small but viable population of about a dozen rhinos persists deep within the forests of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on Sumatra’s southwestern coast. - Camera traps haven’t captured a single rhino there since 2014, spurring doubts there are any rhinos remaining at all. - The disputed numbers lead to questions about what should happen to any rhinos that might remain in the park — and to the rangers assigned to protect them.
Top 10 most widely traded animals in the Golden Triangle identified in new report [11/08/2017]
- Recent surveys by WWF and TRAFFIC have identified 10 of the most widely trafficked animals in the Golden Triangle. - These top 10 animals are: the tiger, elephant, pangolin, bear, rhinoceros, serow, helmeted hornbill, gaur, leopard, and turtles. - The wildlife markets in the Golden Triangle cater mostly to tourists from China and Vietnam, the report noted.
Scientists plan to map a ‘safety net’ for Planet Earth [11/07/2017]
- The mapping effort, to be led by Washington, D.C.-based non-profit research organization RESOLVE together with Globaïa, an NGO based in Quebec, Canada, and Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Viçosa, aims to identify the most critical terrestrial regions to protect as we work towards the goal of conserving 50 percent of the world’s land area. - Scientists and conservationists have argued for years that setting aside at least half of the world’s land mass as off-limits to human enterprise is necessary if we are to conserve our planet’s biodiversity. - The “safety net” that RESOLVE and its partner institutions plan to map out will consist of a network of wildlife corridors that connect every protected area on Earth and link them up with other high-priority landscapes, as well, even those that are unprotected.
WildSpeak conservation photography event set for Washington, D.C. [11/07/2017]
- WildSpeak 2017 will gather some of the world’s leading conservation photographers, filmmakers, and scientists in Washington, D.C. to explore the role of visual media in improving science communication and conservation outcomes on November 14 and 15. - The annual event is hosted by the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). - ILCP’s new director Susan Norton shares some incredible images made by ILCP fellows and some thoughts about what’s exciting about this year’s event and the conservation photography field generally.
Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left [11/07/2017]
- In 1986, scientists estimated there could be as many as 800 Sumatran rhinos left. That fell to 400 in 1996, then 275 in 2008. - Today the official estimate is 100 rhinos, but almost all experts believe that figure is overly optimistic. - Adding up the minimum estimate for each of the four known wild populations yields a total of just 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left on earth, plus another nine in captivity.
Breeding-age female vaquita dies after being taken into captivity [11/06/2017]
- A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called VaquitaCPR that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating “sea pens.” - Late last month, scientists with VaquitaCPR took the first of the marine mammals into captivity. Though the 6-month-old calf became so stressed by its capture that the team quickly chose to release it back into the wild, Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a scientist with the Mexican government who heads the VaquitaCPR program, suggested that the fact that they were able to successfully find and capture a vaquita at all was an encouraging sign. - This past weekend, however, it was announced that another vaquita — a breeding-age female — was taken into captivity and subsequently died. This has prompted calls to shut down the vaquita capture program altogether.
Recent report: Totoaba trafficking a conservation and security problem [11/06/2017]
- The NGO C4ADS reports that the trade of totoaba swim bladders to feed Asian markets is as much a security issue as a conservation problem. - Fishermen and women in the Gulf of California have continued to pursue the critically endangered fish, despite the ban on gillnets, which have also decimated the vaquita porpoise. - Vaquita in the wild number fewer than 30 animals, scientists say. - C4ADS has published the results of its investigation with evidence of the overlap between totoaba traders and drug traffickers on a new website, and will published their recent report in Spanish.
Three rhinos killed in 48 hours in India’s Kaziranga National Park [11/06/2017]
- An adult female rhino was killed by poachers Nov. 2, and a female and her calf Nov. 4, in Kaziranga National Park. - Kaziranga, which is home to the world’s largest population of greater one-horned rhinoceros, had previously only lost two rhinos to poachers in 2017. - State officials have vowed to provide park guards with more sophisticated arms, while park authorities cite the need to more surveillance inside the park’s difficult terrain.
Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species [11/06/2017]
- With an estimated population of less than 800, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan is already at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. - The Indonesian government will come up with a strategy to protect the orangutan, including the establishment of protected forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. - The government will also review a plan to build a hydroelectric plant in an area with the highest known density of Tapanuli orangutans.
Indonesian NGOs lawyer up against environmental crimes [11/06/2017]
- NGOs in North Sumatra have joined forces to set up a network of legal experts in environmental law. - The region has long suffered from environment-related crimes that often are handled poorly by the authorities. - The team will push for stronger enforcement of environmental law and justice in the province.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Madagascar environmental activist convicted, sentenced — and paroled [11/02/2017]
- At a community meeting on September 27, a farmer named Raleva asked to see the permits of a gold mining company trying to restart work in his village in southeast Madagascar. - He was arrested and held in prison for about one month. On October 26, a judge sentenced him to two years in prison, and then promptly released him on parole. - This follows a recent pattern in the country in which activists are often given suspended sentences, seemingly as a way of keeping them quiet.
A new species of orangutan from Indonesia (analysis) [11/02/2017]
- Scientists have described a third species of orangutan. - The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is found in the Tapanuli region of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province. - The species is already considered at risk of extinction. - This guest post is an analysis by researchers, including authors of the paper that describes the new primate species.
Environmental policy under the Kuczynski Administration: Steps forward for conservation efforts in Peru (commentary) [11/02/2017]
- Many national and foreign initiatives exist to curb deforestation in Peru; these range from the implementation of sustainable management plans to the purchase of carbon credits. Still, domestic environmental policy remains a key factor in preserving biodiversity. - The election of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in June 2016 held the potential for an improved approach towards environmental conservation. - While it is still too early to determine Kuczynski’s environmental legacy, a recent series of events suggest that Peru is trying to find a balance between its need for development and the protection of its biodiversity. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesian Supreme Court strikes down regulation on peat protection [11/02/2017]
- Indonesia’s Supreme Court has quashed a ministerial regulation obliging forestry companies to relinquish and protect carbon-rich concessions in protected peat areas. - The regulation was part of a package of new rules meant to prevent a recurrence of the annual fires that burn across Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones. - Businesses, labor unions and politicians had expressed concern over the regulation, saying that it would result in loss of productivity and massive layoffs. - The government says the court ruling will not hamper the nation’s efforts to protect its peatlands.
Fish vs. forests? Madagascar’s marine conservation boom [11/01/2017]
- Inspired by early successes in marine conservation, locally controlled fisheries projects have expanded quickly along Madagascar’s 3,000-mile-long coastline over the past 15 years. - Now that growth is poised to skyrocket, with rising interest in fisheries management and conservation from international donors, including a planned injection of more than $70 million by the World Bank. - But the scale of funding for marine conservation has prompted concerns from both small NGOs that already work on fisheries and advocates of terrestrial conservation, who point to the uneven track record of locally controlled fisheries projects around the country. - This is the fifth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Audio: Impacts of gas drilling on wildlife in Peru and a Goldman Prize winner on mercury contamination [11/01/2017]
- On today’s episode: a look at the impacts of drilling for natural gas on birds and amphibians through bioacoustics, and a Goldman Prize winner discusses her ongoing campaign to rid mercury contamination from the environment. - Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Jessica Deichmann, a research scientist with the Center for Conservation and Sustainability at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Deichmann led a study that used acoustic monitoring, among other methods, to examine the impacts on wildlife of a gas drilling platform in the forests of southeastern Peru. - Next, we talk with 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Yuyun Ismawati, an environmental engineer from Indonesia who currently lives in the UK. As the founder of an NGO called BaliFokus and a steering committee member of IPEN, a non-profit based in Sweden that works to improve chemicals policies and practices around the world, Ismawati has made it her life’s mission to stop the use of mercury in activities like gold mining that cause the toxin to leach into the environment and thereby threaten human health and wildlife.
Carbon sequestration role of savanna soils key to climate goals [11/01/2017]
- Savannas and grasslands cover a vast area, some 20 percent of the earth’s land surface — from sub-Saharan Africa, to the Cerrado in Brazil, to North America’s heartland. They also offer an enormous and underappreciated capacity for carbon sequestration. - However, the role of forests in storing carbon has long been emphasized over the role of savannas (and savanna soils) by international climate negotiators, resulting in policies such as REDD+ for preserving and restoring forests, with no such incentives for protecting grasslands. - Scientists warn that the planting of trees, such as nonnative eucalyptus in Africa and Brazil, could be counterproductive in the long term, potentially contributing to climate change emissions while harming grassland biodiversity and altering ecosystems. - As participants prepare to meet for the COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany next week, grassland scientists are urging that policymakers turn an eye toward savannas, and begin to develop incentives for preserving them and their carbon storing soils. More research is also needed to fully understand the role savannas can play in carbon sequestration.
Is Cambodia’s plan to reintroduce tigers doomed to fail? [11/01/2017]
- As recently as 1999, Cambodia was home to one of the world’s largest tiger populations. Today the Indochinese tiger is considered functionally extinct in the country. - Cambodia is now looking to emulate the profitable success of India’s tiger reserves by reintroducing the big cats to its own forests - Experts say poaching, rampant corruption and weak law enforcement could spell disaster for the endangered animals.
Brilliantly colored ‘lost’ salamander rediscovered after 42 years [11/01/2017]
- The striking, yellow-hued Jackson’s climbing salamander was first reported to science in 1975, then never recorded again. - But last month, a guard at a recently created amphibian reserve in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes Mountain range spotted a juvenile of the species while he was patrolling. - Conservationists are excited because the salamander was “rediscovered” in a reserve especially created to help protect the habitat of amphibians like the Jackson’s climbing salamander.
Indonesians plant trees to nurse seagrass back to health in Wakatobi [10/31/2017]
- Long understudied and misunderstood, seagrass is now being recognized for its importance around the world as a carbon sink but also as an essential part of people’s daily lives. - But it is also being lost at an incredibly fast rate, equal to the loss of rainforests, according to researchers. - On an island in Indonesia’s Wakatobi National Park, communities are planting trees and educating local people to save seagrass, for present and future generations.
Is the Forest Stewardship Council going to stay ‘fit for purpose’ for this century? (commentary) [10/31/2017]
- Reflecting on the General Assembly in Vancouver, held earlier this month, has me questioning whether FSC is going to stay fit for purpose for this century, or whether it is going to be held back by misguided economic self-interest. - The idea is that members of the three FSC chambers – social, environmental, and economic – come together to shape the future of the certification system by discussing and voting on motions that fundamentally affect the way FSC is run. But is that really still the case? - For the first time in the eight FSC general assemblies I’ve attended over the past 20+ years, I wondered whether this is a network with a shared vision that is innovative, adaptive, and progressive. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Trump budget undercuts U.S. commitment to global wildlife conservation [10/30/2017]
- President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would make extensive cuts to already underfunded programs to combat wildlife trafficking and to aid African and Asian nations in protecting elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins and other endangered wildlife. - Trump’s budget proposes a 32 percent across-the-board cut in U.S. foreign assistance, affecting hundreds of sustainability, health and environmental programs. - Major cuts would come to the Department of State, USAID, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs. - Congress needs to approve a 2018 budget by December, and no one knows if it will approve the president’s desired deep cuts. However, hostility from the administration and many in the GOP to wildlife programs is unlikely to go away any time soon, with more and larger reductions in years to come.
Parks and reserves ‘significant’ force for slowing climate change [10/30/2017]
- Protecting tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 amounted to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to a 29 percent cut in deforestation rates. - The authors used statistical models to estimate the amount of CO2 that would have been released if currently protected areas in South America, Asia and Africa had instead been cleared. - The researchers argue that their findings bolster the conservation case for safeguarding tropical forests.
A roar for nature in Indonesia: Q&A with the poet behind ‘Indigenous Species’ [10/30/2017]
- “Indigenous Species” is a book-length poem that highlights environmental crimes and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. - The literary work has been performed at international events since 2013 and was published last December. - Mongabay caught up with poet Khairani Barokka to discuss her book, activism and environmental issues in literature.
Indonesia’s big development push in Papua: Q&A with program overseer Judith J. Dipodiputro [10/27/2017]
- Papua and West Papua provinces are among President Joko Widodo’s top focus in his ambitious infrastructure development program for Indonesia’s remote and under-developed regions. - Not everyone supports the program, however, due to the environmental impact it poses and the cost to local communities. - Mongabay speaks with Judith J. Dipodiputro, who heads a special presidential working group for Papua and West Papua, about progress, challenges and solutions in both provinces. - Dipodiputro believes infrastructure development is crucial for realizing equal rights for Papuans.
RAPP to retire some plantation land in Sumatra amid government pressure [10/27/2017]
- A subsidiary of paper giant APRIL has agreed in principle to retire a large part of its plantations in eastern Sumatra for conservation purposes, following government orders. - The company initially refused to comply with what it saw as an illegal order, and warned of a 50 percent reduction in supply from its concessions. - In giving up part of its concessions, RAPP is demanding to be compensated with new land — something the government has agreed to do in stages.
Supporting conservation by playing a game? Seriously? (commentary) [10/26/2017]
- Can you answer important questions about conservation by playing a game? Yes, and it works. - In August, ForDev, the research team I lead, was invited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Congo Basin Office to facilitate a workshop of their Regional Working Group on High Conservation Values. FSC’s goal was to define regional indicators for the management of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) within certified forest concessions. - We combined the MineSet role-playing game with facilitation techniques to help members of the Working Group understand each other, integrate research outputs in their discussions, and support the decision-making process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Lemur species losing favorite food to climate change, new study says [10/26/2017]
- The greater bamboo lemur tends to feed on nutritious bamboo shoots, switching to the woody trunk of the plant only during the dry season. - A longer dry season due to climate change could force them to subsist on this less-than-optimal food source for more of the year, potentially pushing this critically endangered species closer to extinction, according to a new study. - This discovery could have implications for other threatened species, like the giant panda, that depend on one type of food.
As Grauer’s gorillas cling to survival, new population found [10/26/2017]
- Since 1994, civil war has left over 5 million people dead and wildlife decimated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Today, heavily armed militia and illegal miners prospect for “conflict minerals” needed for modern electronic devices made and sold in the U.S. and around the globe. - Hunters have targeted Grauer’s gorillas to feed miners and militias: in just two decades, these great apes have declined by 77 percent. A 2016 survey found only 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas, the world’s largest primates, still hanging on in the most rugged parts of eastern DRC. - The good news: a bold group of scientists, under the protection of armed rangers, has found 50 previously uncounted Grauer’s gorillas in DRC’s Maiko National Park. And more may exist within the 4,000 square-mile park. - The bad news: the US House of Representatives voted last month to defund the “Conflict Mineral Rule,” which required US companies to report where conflict minerals, such as coltan used in cell phones and computers, were sourced. The Senate has yet to take action on the legislation.
Two scientists and a NASA astronaut just biked across the Brazilian Amazon and want to tell you about it [10/25/2017]
- On Sept 26, two scientists and a NASA astronaut completed TransAmazon +25, a bike trek across the Brazilian Amazon. - What makes this trip particularly interesting is that one of the cyclists, Osvaldo Stella, a mechanical engineer with the non-profit Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) in Brazil who works with small-scale farmers and other landowners to preserve and restore forests, did the same ride 25 years ago. - Stella was accompanied on the journey by Paulo Moutinho, a co-founder and senior scientist at IPAM and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center in the USA; as well as Chris Cassidy, an astronaut with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Navy SEAL. - “Gold mining, deforestation, and pastures covered many of the areas that were covered with forest 25 years ago,” Stella told Mongabay. ”The cities are larger but have not changed much in their overall appearance. One more sign that the current economic model generates much impact to the environment but little improvement in the quality of life of the people.”
Building conservation’s brain trust in Madagascar [10/25/2017]
- Foreigners have dominated scientific research in Madagascar, with more than 9 out of 10 publications on biodiversity led by foreigners from 1960 to 2015. - A series of programs aimed at boosting early career Malagasy scientists is now bearing fruit as local researchers take on leadership roles in conservation. - But Madagascar’s higher education system remains weak and deeply under-funded, so that the best chance of rigorous training and support for graduate work often comes through connections overseas. - This is the fourth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
First vaquita ‘rescued’ in bid to save the porpoise from extinction [10/25/2017]
- A project to save a small, critically endangered porpoise called the vaquita in the Gulf of California succeeded in capturing a 6-month-old calf in mid-October. - Veterinarians noticed signs of stress, so they made the decision to release it back into the wild, rather than keep it in a sea pen. - The project’s leaders are heartened by the experience and hope to round up more vaquita to keep them safe from the still-present threat of gillnet entanglement in the northern Sea of Cortez.
Rhino poacher sentenced to 18 years in prison [10/25/2017]
- A court in Malawi has convicted and sentenced a rhino poacher to 18 years in prison for killing an adult female black rhinoceros. - Two of his accomplices were also handed sentences of ten and eight years each. - The recent 18-year sentence might serve as a deterrent to would-be poachers, some experts say.