10-second nature news digest

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

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In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 19, 2019 [07/19/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


The ambitious plan to recover and rewild the feisty, dwarf cow [07/19/2019]
- Although critically endangered, the population of tamaraw has stabilized and grown over the last two decades.
- Conservationists along with indigenous people are now planning on using the core population to rebuild and rewild other populations across the island of Mindoro.
- Conservationists say none of this would be possible without the active supoort of Mindoro’s indigenous tribal groups, who are leading efforts to restore the tamaraw.


Congo government opens Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to oil exploration [07/18/2019]
- In 2018, the government of the Republic of Congo opened up several blocks of land for oil exploration overlapping with important peatlands and a celebrated national park.
- According to a government website, the French oil company Total holds the exploration rights for those blocks.
- Conservationists were alarmed that the government would consider opening up parks and peatlands of international importance for oil exploration, while also trying to garner funds for their protection on the world stage.


Indonesian officials foil attempt to smuggle hornbill casques to Hong Kong [07/18/2019]
- Indonesian authorities have arrested a woman for allegedly attempting to smuggle 72 helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) casques to Hong Kong.
- The distinctive-looking bird is critically endangered, its precipitous decline driven by poaching for its casque — a solid, ivory-like protuberance on its head that’s highly prized in East Asia for use as ornamental carvings.
- Tackling the hornbill trade will be on the agenda at next month’s CITES wildlife trade summit in Geneva.


In Madagascar, villagers oppose plans for a dam that would inundate their land [07/18/2019]
- A dam project in Madagascar’s central highlands, still in its planning stages, would submerge several villages, forcing hundreds or thousands of people out of their ancestral homes.
- Residents at risk of being displaced oppose the dam, and civil society groups argue that its potentially large size and social impact are not justified by the relatively small amount of power it would produce.
- The Italian company behind the project insists it’s not yet clear if the project is feasible and has made no definitive plans to build the dam.


From over 100,000 species assessments in IUCN update, zero improvements [07/18/2019]
- The latest IUCN Red List update, which includes assessments of 105,732 species, lists more than 28,000 species as threatened with extinction.
- The declines of many of these species can be attributed to human overexploitation, according to the IUCN. The red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus), for example, has moved from vulnerable to endangered in 2019, largely because of threats from illegal hunting for bushmeat and conversion of much of the monkey’s Atlantic coast forest habitat in West Africa to agriculture.
- More than 5,000 trees from 180 countries, and 500 deep-sea bony fish species like the bioluminescent lanternfishes, were also added to the Red List this year.
- No species was assessed as having genuinely improved in status enough to earn it a place in a lower threat category, according to the IUCN.


The frog and the university: Meet the niche new species from Sri Lanka [07/18/2019]
- The recent discovery of a new frog species in a niche habitat in Sri Lanka’s cloud forest has highlighted the need for conserving the Indian Ocean island’s dwindling montane habitats.
- The frog, Lankanectes pera, is named after the University of Peradeniya, the country’s oldest, and dwells only in pristine streams flowing through canopy-covered montane forests in the highest reaches of the Knuckles Mountain Range.
- Researchers are calling for extensive studies to inform conservation actions for the species, which they’ve recommended be classified as critically endangered, given its small range and population.


U.S. Virgin Islands bans coral-damaging sunscreens [07/17/2019]
- On June 25, lawmakers in the U.S. Virgin Islands voted to ban common chemical sunscreen ingredients that can damage coral reefs.
- With the ban, the U.S. Virgin Islands joins a handful of other jurisdictions around the world pioneering action on harmful sunscreens.
- It will be the first such ban to take effect in the United States, followed by Hawaii and Key West, Florida, and among the first internationally.


We are planting trees everywhere: Q&A with Madagascar’s environment minister [07/17/2019]
- Alexandre Georget, a founder of Madagascar’s first green party in 2008, is the country’s new environment minister.
- In an interview with Mongabay, Georget discussed the government’s reforestation plans and outlined how he expected to approach its 2019 goal of reforesting 40,000 hectares.
- He also described the government’s new position on the sale of confiscated illegally harvested precious timber, in advance of the upcoming CITES meeting in August.


Orangutan habitats being cleared in areas near palm oil mills, report finds [07/17/2019]
- A new study identifies the palm oil mills in Indonesia with the most clearance of orangutan habitat happening around them.
- The top 10 mills are all on the island of Borneo and are producing palm oil that makes its way into the supply chains of consumer goods giants such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Avon, Mars, Mondelēz and more ⁠— companies that promised long ago to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation.
- Just because deforestation is happening around a palm oil mill does not mean it is being done by an entity supplying that mill with palm fruits. But it is a strong red flag that this may be the case.
- Several of the consumer goods giants contacted by Mongabay said they were either actively investigating the deforestation or suspending trading with the mills. Others were more vague in their responses.


Newly described tree species from Tanzania is likely endangered [07/17/2019]
- Researchers have described a new species of tree from the Usambara mountains of northeastern Tanzania.
- The tree, which grows up to 20 meters (66 feet) in height, has been named Mischogyne iddii after Iddi Rajabu, a resident botanist at the Amani Nature Reserve, where some individuals of the tree can be found.
- The newly described species is known from only two locations in the Usambara mountains, and the researchers estimate that fewer than 50 individuals remain, suggesting a threat category of endangered on the IUCN Red List for the species.


Study finds lemurs in degraded Madagascar forest skinny and stunted [07/15/2019]
- In Madagascar’s Tsinjoarivo rainforest, adults of the critically endangered diademed sifakas living in the most degraded of forest fragments tend to be skinnier, and young individuals show stunting, compared to individuals living in more intact parts of the forest, according to a new study.
- Skinny bodies in adults could mean that their nutritional intake is compromised in the disturbed areas, researchers say, while young sifakas could be growing more slowly in the most disturbed areas in response to reduced nutrition in the diet.
- Sifakas living in less-disturbed forest fragments, however, don’t appear to be in poorer health than those in continuous, intact forests. This could be because the long-lived sifakas are likely resilient to moderate habitat changes, the researchers say.
- But threats could add up and cause local populations to disappear, the researchers add.


More than 10,000 animals and plants seized in massive global operation [07/12/2019]
- A 26-day worldwide effort in June termed Operation Thunderball, coordinated by Interpol and the World Customs Organization (WCO), led to seizures of thousands of protected animals and plants.
- Confiscated items included more than 2,600 plants, nearly 10,000 live turtles and tortoises, more than 4,300 birds, 23 live primates, 30 big cats, 440 pieces of elephant tusks, nearly 10,000 marine wildlife animals and their products, and 74 truckloads of timber.
- Based on intelligence gathered before the operation was launched, the authorities identified wildlife trafficking routes and smuggling hotspots, which then led to seizures and almost 600 people being identified as suspects.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 12, 2019 [07/12/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


‘Dangerous’ new regulation puts Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands at risk [07/12/2019]
- The Indonesian government has effectively rescinded protection for much of its carbon-rich peatlands by issuing a new regulation that limits protection to the area of a peatland ecosystem where the peat is the thickest.
- Concession holders will now be allowed to exploit areas outside these “peat domes,” as long as they maintain the water table, in a mechanism seemingly borrowed straight out of the pulpwood industry playbook.
- Under previous regulations, areas with a layer of peat 3 meters (10 feet) or deeper were off-limits for exploitation, and any companies with such areas in their concessions were obliged to restore and protect them. These areas are now open to exploitation, as long as they’re not considered part of the peat dome.
- Activists warn the new regulation will encourage greater exploitation of Indonesia’s fast-diminishing peatlands, increasing the risks of fire, carbon emissions, and failure to meet the government’s own emissions reduction and peat restoration goals.


Eat the insects, spare the lemurs [07/11/2019]
- To solve the twin challenges of malnutrition and biodiversity loss in Madagascar, new efforts are promoting edible insects as a way to take pressure off wildlife that people hunt for meat when food is scarce.
- Insects are widely eaten in Madagascar. They are also incredibly nutritious and one of the “greenest” forms of animal proteins in terms of their land, water and food requirements and their greenhouse gas emissions.
- One program is testing the farming of sakondry, a little-known hopping insect that tastes a lot like bacon. Another is setting up a network of cricket farms.
- Other attempts to reduce reliance on forest protein include improving chicken husbandry in rural areas.


‘Let us trade’: Debate over ivory sales rages ahead of CITES summit [07/11/2019]
- Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe want to sell off their ivory stocks to raise money for conservation.
- Growing human and elephant populations in these southern African countries have provoked increased human-wildlife conflict, and the governments see legal ivory sales as a way to generate revenue for conservation and development funding.
- Other countries, most notably Kenya, oppose the proposal, on the grounds that previous legal sales stimulated demand for ivory and coincided with a sharp increase in poaching.


Asian elephants gang up in a bid to survive an increasingly human world [07/11/2019]
- Adolescent elephants in south India are adapting to human-dominated landscapes, probably to learn from older bulls how not to get killed by people.
- These unusual associations, which can last for several years, were not recorded 20 years ago.
- Researchers say it’s important to use this information to mitigate human-elephant conflict, including by not removing old bulls that don’t raid crops, which can pass down this behavior to young elephants.


Can jurisdictional certification curb palm oil deforestation in Indonesia? (commentary) [07/10/2019]
- In this commentary, Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute and John Watts and Silvia Irawan of Inovasi Bumi argue that the surge in oil palm expansion in Indonesia since the early 2000s has caused deforestation, environmental degradation and social conflicts; strategies to reduce these negative impacts have seen only modest success.
- The authors say the jurisdictional certification pilots of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) represent a promising new approach to these issues. The RSPO pilot in Seruyan — a district that has experienced many of these problems — has led to several innovations, including an agricultural facility that provides technical support to smallholders while managing funds received from companies, implementation of the “jurisdiction-wide environmental protection plan” regulation, a mechanism for resolving land conflicts, and a method for mapping and registering independent smallholders.
- Deforestation may be on the decline in Seruyan, with the exception of the El Niño related fires of 2015 and 2016. Through jurisdictional certification, there is the potential to protect 480 thousand hectares of standing forests and restore 420 thousand hectares of forests.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Snowy owl summer: Raptor rehabilitation center releases Arctic visitor [07/10/2019]
- A snowy owl injured on its Massachusetts wintering grounds was brought to Tufts Wildlife Clinic this spring.
- In nature, wildlife must heal fast or perish if they can’t find food or defend themselves from predators, but the lucky ones are brought to a clinic specializing in injured animals.
- Tufts Wildlife Clinic at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University is one such place.
- Mongabay interviewed the clinic’s assistant director about the healing path of “snowy 397” before his eventual successful release.


Vaquita habitat now listed as ‘World Heritage in Danger’ [07/10/2019]
- The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has decided to list the Sea of Cortez and its islands in Mexico’s Gulf of California, the only place where the critically endangered vaquita is known to occur, on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
- The porpoise’s numbers have dropped drastically, from around 300 in the mid-2000s to just 10 individuals, according to the latest estimate, mostly as a result of getting entangled in gillnets used in the poaching of totoaba fish.
- The continuing illegal totoaba trade poses a threat to the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site, the World Heritage Committee said, recommending that the site be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.


Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats, but threats remain [07/10/2019]
- Western chimpanzees are adapting to survive in severely degraded habitat, a new study says.
- However, the study also finds the abundance of western chimpanzees in Sierra Leone is impacted by even secondary roads.
- Ensuring the long-term survival of western chimps calls for changes in agriculture, roads and other development, researchers say.


After a lengthy delay, still no green light for Sri Lanka’s red list [07/09/2019]
- The rediscovery in recent years of species long thought to be extinct has sparked calls by scientists for an update of Sri Lanka’s red list of threatened species.
- The current list is based on assessments from 2012, and a scheduled update in 2017 was missed because of procedural delays and resource constraints.
- Conservationists have also called for the red-listing criteria used in Sri Lanka to be consistent with the global guidelines set out by the IUCN, in order to ensure consistency in conservation efforts.
- They also want more species recovery initiatives based on the national red list, to make better use of the data to optimize conservation efforts.


Deadly virus detected in wild frog populations in Brazil [07/09/2019]
- Researchers have detected the first case of ranavirus infection in both native frog species as well as the invasive American bullfrog in the wild in Brazil.
- While the study cannot attribute ranavirus as the cause of death for the observed American bullfrog tadpoles, the findings suggest that ranavirus is spread in the wild, the researchers say.
- Ranavirus infections could be far more widespread in Brazil, and may have simply gone unnoticed until now, the researchers add.


In Indonesia, a land ‘left behind’ weighs its development alternatives [07/09/2019]
- After defeating a plan to turn much of the Aru Islands into a series of giant sugar plantations, indigenous people in the eastern Indonesian archipelago are mulling how to raise their standard of living without sacrificing their rich environment.
- Time may be short: Indonesia’s minister of agriculture appears to be pushing another corporate-backed agribusiness plan in Aru involving Andi Syamsuddin Arsyad, an up-and-coming tycoon better known as Haji Isam. The two visited Aru together last year.
- Some Aruese believe development focused on tourism or fisheries would be a better fit for the delicate, small-island ecosystem, home to some of Indonesia’s last best rainforest and famous for its birds-of-paradise.


In Nigeria, a highway threatens community and conservation interests [07/09/2019]
- Activists and affected communities in Nigeria’s Cross River state continue to protest plans to build a major highway cutting through farmland and forest that’s home to threatened species such as the Cross River gorilla.
- The federal government ordered a slew of measures to minimize the impact of the project, but two years later it remains unclear whether the developers have complied, even as they resume work.
- Environmentalists warn of a “Pandora’s box” of problems ushered in by the construction of the highway, including illegal deforestation, poaching, land grabs, micro-climate change, erosion, biodiversity loss and encroachment into protected areas.
- They’ve called on the state government to pursue alternatives to the new highway, including investing in upgrading existing road networks.


Heart of Ecuador’s Yasuni, home to uncontacted tribes, opens for oil drilling [07/05/2019]
- Ecuador’s environment ministry has approved the environmental assessment plans to drill for oil in Ishpingo, the last field of the controversial ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) project in Yasuni National Park.
- Saving Yasuni from oil extraction has long been a priority for conservationists, since former president Rafael Correa launched the ITT initiative in 2007, asking for international donations in return for keeping oil in the ground. The initiative failed in 2013.
- Ishpingo is the most controversial of the three ITT fields as it overlaps with the Intangible Zone, home to two uncontacted indigenous communities, the Tagaeri and Taromenane; the government claims it will not expand into this area.
- The Ecuadoran government also signed a new decree that now allows oil platforms to be constructed within the Intangible Zone’s buffer area, which was previously forbidden.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 5, 2019 [07/05/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Chance rescue turns out to be first record of elusive tortoise species in India [07/05/2019]
- Two tortoises that a range officer in Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India rescued from a group of boys turned out to be the impressed tortoise (Manouria impressa), an elusive species that has never been recorded in India before.
- Researchers who have studied the reptile in Myanmar say the high-elevation habitat in Arunachal Pradesh where the tortoises were found is quite similar to that in Myanmar.
- Very little is known about impressed tortoises, and researchers and the range officer hope that a long-term survey will be launched to find more individuals of the species in India.
- For now, the two rescued individuals have been sent to a zoo in the state’s capital.


Environmental defenders in Peru’s Madre de Dios face double jeopardy [07/05/2019]
- In the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, men and women have resisted the threats of mining and illegal logging for 12 years.
- Operation Mercury 2019, launched to eradicate illegal gold mining, also increased harassment of these environmental defenders. For this report, Mongabay Latam recorded their stories.
- No matter what land defenders do, they still lose: if they report illegal activities on their concessions they are threatened by those who are caught; and when they don’t alert anyone out of fear, the authorities sometimes fine them for not reporting the transgressions.


Stylish jumping spider named after late fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld [07/04/2019]
- Researchers have named a previously undescribed species of black-and-white jumping spider Jotus karllagerfeldi, after the late fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, known for his signature black-and-white style.
- In addition to Karl Lagerfeld’s jumping spider, researchers have described four more new-to-science species of jumping spiders in the new paper, including J. albimanus, J. fortiniae, J. moonensis and J. newtoni.
- All five newly described species belong to a group of miniscule spiders called the brushed jumping spiders, males of which can be extremely colorful and are known to perform elaborate mating dances using a brush of long, colorful bristles on their legs to wave to the females.
- Despite being colorful and charismatic, very little is known about brushed jumping spiders, researchers say, urging amateurs who photograph these spiders to lodge their specimens with museums so that more new species can be described.


Slight warming could be enough to heighten risk of malaria: Study [07/04/2019]
- New research has found that malaria parasites need less time to develop at lower temperatures than previously thought.
- Earlier research postulated that malaria transmission in cooler areas was unlikely because parasites took longer to mature than the lifespans of their mosquito hosts.
- The researchers found that the parasites needed between 31 and 37 days to develop at 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) — substantially lower than the 56 days postulated by previous research and well within the lifespan of female mosquitoes.


Ocean currents spin a web of interconnected fisheries around the world [07/04/2019]
- Most marine catches are made within a given country’s territorial waters, but the fish most likely originated in spawning grounds in another country’s jurisdiction, a new study shows.
- The modeling of catch, spawning and ocean current data shows that the dispersal of baby fish caught by ocean currents creates an interconnection between global marine fisheries.
- The finding highlights the need for greater international cooperation in protecting marine ecosystems everywhere, as an estimated $10 billion worth of fish spawn in one country and are caught in another every year.


Study: Vast swaths of lost tropical forest can still be brought back to life [07/03/2019]
- A new study has once again emphasized the importance of restoring degraded tropical forests in the fight against climate change.
- Using high-resolution satellite imagery, the study identifies more than a million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of lost tropical rainforest across the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia as having high potential for restoration.
- The researchers say there’s no time to waste on reforestation efforts, but caution that the type of reforestation undertaken must be carefully considered.
- Countries such as China have increased their forest cover through the extensive planting of a single tree species, but studies have shown that monoculture tree plantations are inferior to natural forests when it comes to capturing carbon, hosting wildlife, and providing other ecosystem services.


Lost in translation: Green regulations backfire without local context [07/03/2019]
- Strong green regulations modeled on those in industrialized countries don’t always have the intended effects of reducing conflict and environmental degradation, new research shows.
- These rules can place onerous burdens on small-scale producers that ultimately force them to go around the regulations, at times leading to more conflict and harm to the environment.
- The study’s author argues that regulations should be flexible enough to accommodate small-scale producers and the unique challenges they face.


Travelogue: Ground-truthing satellite data in Borneo (Insider) [07/03/2019]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his visit to Indonesian Borneo last month.
- The goal of the Kalimantan trip was to ground-truth some GPS points that satellite data via Global Forest Watch suggested could be areas of recent deforestation.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.


Madagascar mine ignites protests, community division [07/02/2019]
- An Australian mining company, Base Resources, plans to break ground soon on a mineral sands mining project in southwestern Madagascar.
- Base Resources says the project represents a development opportunity for the region. It has the support of most government officials and local mayors.
- But local opposition groups have called for an end to the project, citing the negative environmental impact it could have and insisting that it’s been made possible only through corrupt land deals.
- The battle over the project has played out in the Malagasy media for several years and is reaching a fever pitch as the project nears fruition. In the latest development, a Madagascar court released nine community members held for six weeks on accusations of participating in the destruction of Base Resources’ exploration campsite.


Search for a new home for Javan rhinos put on hold [07/02/2019]
- The Indonesian government says plans to establish a second habitat for the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros have been put on hold.
- The species numbers an estimated 68 individuals, all of them corralled in a national park on the western tip of the island of Java.
- Conservationists had for years considered finding a second habitat outside the park to establish a new population of rhinos, given the risks they currently face from disease and natural disasters.
- However, the top contender for a second habitat currently serves as a military training ground, leaving conservationists to find ways to expand the rhinos’ suitable habitat within the national park.


As opposition wanes, a Malaysian land reclamation project pushes ahead [07/02/2019]
- When Mahathir Mohamad was elected Malaysia’s prime minister in May 2018, Chinese-backed developments were put in the political crosshairs.
- Forest City, a massive mixed-use development being built off the southern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, had already attracted controversy due to concerns about its impact on fisheries, seagrass beds, mangroves, and relations with neighboring Singapore.
- Although it’s been a bumpy political year for Forest City’s developers, construction continues on the project, as does debate over its environmental impacts.


Casualty of peace? Study shows rise in deforestation after conflicts [07/02/2019]
- A new study records a dramatic increase in the deforestation rate in four countries emerging from years of conflict.
- One of the countries studied, Sri Lanka, saw its deforestation rate in the five years after the end of its quarter-century civil war jump by 31.5 percent compared to the last five years of the conflict.
- Similar surges were seen in the three other countries: Peru, Ivory Coast and Nepal. The four countries saw an average spike in the five-year post-war period of 68 percent, against the world mean rate of 7.2 percent.
- Corruption at different scales, lack of funding for the entities in charge of forest and environmental management, inadequate policies, poor implementation are identified as key drivers of deforestation in these biodiversity hotspots.


An Indonesian forest community grapples with the arrival of the outside world [07/01/2019]
- Siberut Island, part of the Mentawai archipelago in western Indonesia, is recognized as a U.N. Biosphere Reserve due to its outstanding cultural and ecological value.
- The traditions of the indigenous Mentawai people, including agroforestry and customary land tenure, have allowed the people of the island live off the forest without depleting it.
- Roughly half of the island is protected as a national park. The rest, however, has been parceled out for timber and biomass plantations, road building, and the development of a special economic zone including a yacht marina and luxury resort.


Indigenous Iban community defends rainforests, but awaits lands rights recognition [07/01/2019]
- Over the past half century the rainforests of Borneo have been logged, strip-mined, burned, and converted for monoculture plantations. The forests that local people primarily relied upon for sustenance are now felled to feed commodities into the global market.
- But the Dayak Iban of Sungai Utik community in Indonesian Borneo has managed to fend off loggers and land invaders from their forest home.
- Sungai Utik’s efforts to sustainably manage its community forest in the face of large-scale deforestation and cultural loss across Borneo have won it accolades, including the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Equator Prize last month.
- During a June 2019 visit, Mongabay spoke with Apay Janggut, or “Bandi”, the head of the Sungai Utik longhouse about his community’s traditional practices, resistance to loggers, and efforts to adapt to issues facing indigenous peoples around the world.


Six endangered North Atlantic right whales died last month alone [07/01/2019]
- In June this year, six endangered North Atlantic right whales were spotted dead in Canadian waters, including a 40-year-old breeding grandmother, and a 34-year-old grandfather.
- With only some 400 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) estimated to survive today, researchers and conservation groups are worried.
- Necropsies carried out so far suggest that some of the whales died from collisions with ships.
- Entanglement in fishing gear is another leading cause of death among this extremely threatened species of baleen whale.


La Mosquitia: Dangerous territory for scarlet macaws in Honduras [07/01/2019]
- The scarlet macaw (Ara macao), with its iconic red, blue and yellow plumes, is the national bird of Honduras. It inhabits forests from northern Central America to the southern Amazon, but the northern subspecies (A. m. cyanoptera) is particularly imperiled.
- “Ecotrafficking,” the term for wildlife trafficking in Honduras, is a major problem in La Mosquitia, the part of eastern Honduras, near the border with Nicaragua.
- Today, around 600 scarlet macaws inhabit the pine forests of Gracias a Dios, the Honduran department where Mabita is located. Anaida Panting and her family oversee 38 scarlet macaw nests and 30 great green macaw (Ara ambiguus) nests.


What happens to an ecotourism town when the wildlife doesn’t show? [06/28/2019]
- Since the mid-1990s, the town of Donsol in the Philippines has based its economy around tourists viewing whale sharks.
- Whale sharks are migratory fish. And while they showed up in reliable numbers during the first decade of Donsol’s venture into shark tourism, their numbers have become highly unpredictable in the past decade for reasons still unknown.
- Tourism has declined as well, with 2018 registering the fewest visitor arrivals since whale shark tourism started. The local economy, which it had buoyed, is now flagging, although 2019 seems off to a strong start for both whale sharks and tourists.
- Wildlife tourism, by nature, is susceptible to biodiversity loss and changes in animal behavior; it places host communities on a thin line between profit and loss.


An ill-deserved reputation threatens Sri Lanka’s ‘secretive snake’ [06/28/2019]
- A widely held misperception of the threat it poses and changes to its habitat are threatening the existence of the Sri Lankan keelback, a mildly venomous snake that inhabits the island’s southwest, new research says.
- The expansion of agriculture and infrastructure development in rural areas is contributing to the loss and fragmentation of the species’ habitat.
- Researchers have called for further study into the keelback to achieve a better conservation assessment of the species, which in turn can inform national policies to ensure its survival.


Altered fish communities persist long after reefs bleach, study finds [06/28/2019]
- In a new study, bleached reefs in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Seychelles had fewer predators like snappers and groupers and more plant-eating fish such as parrotfish and rabbitfish.
- The researchers found that this change in the composition of fish species persisted for more than a decade and a half after bleaching occurred in 1998.
- Scientists expect bleaching events to occur more frequently as a result of climate change, making it likely that these shifts in fish communities will become permanent.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 28, 2019 [06/28/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Sri Lanka, in bid for species protection, is stymied by lack of data (commentary) [06/27/2019]
- Sri Lanka was supposed to host the 18th Conference of the Parties to CITES in May 2019, but the event has been rescheduled for Geneva in August due to security concerns after the Easter Sunday bombings.
- Sri Lanka is involved in nine proposals concerning 43 species, the most for a single party at the upcoming CoP. Six of the proposals concern species of reptiles and spiders endemic to Sri Lanka or South Asia, and the other three concern species of saltwater fish.
- The CITES Secretariat has recommended rejecting four of Sri Lanka’s proposals and adopting five, highlighting how lack of data is hampering conservation efforts in the country.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Southeast Asian countries pledge to tackle marine plastic waste crisis [06/27/2019]
- Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including some of the biggest producers of the plastic waste in the oceans, have declared their commitment to addressing the trash crisis.
- Together with China, the ASEAN members Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand account for half of the 8 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans each year.
- Any meaningful action to tackle the problem should focus on reducing the production of plastic to begin with, rather than dealing with the waste after the fact, an environmental activist says.
- A growing refusal by Southeast Asian countries to take in plastic waste from developed countries for processing could provide the impetus for action by the global community to cut back on plastic production.


New film details wrenching impact of illegal rhino horn trade on families [06/27/2019]
- A new short film, titled Sides of a Horn, looks at the impacts of the illegal trade of rhino horn on a community in South Africa.
- The 17-minute film follows two brothers-in-law, one who is a wildlife ranger and another who contemplates poaching as a way to pay for his ailing wife’s medical care.
- A trip to South Africa in 2016 inspired British filmmaker Toby Wosskow to write and direct the short feature, which was publicly released June 25.


Documentary seeks to tip the scales against illegal pangolin trafficking [06/27/2019]
- New film aims to raise awareness and strengthen protection and conservation of pangolins.
- Hunting and trafficking of these animals in Africa has sharply intensified to meet demand from Asia in recent years.
- Pangolins have historically been used for traditional medicine, decoration and gift-giving across Africa.


Food choice leaves some lemurs more vulnerable to loss of forest habitat [06/26/2019]
- The gut microbes of some lemur species are specialized to help in digesting food found in their habitats, a new study has found.
- Lemurs are only found in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, and are one of the most threatened primate groups in the world.
- The study suggests the mostly leaf-eating group of lemurs known as sifakas, in the genus Propithecus, host gut microbes that are specialized for their diets and therefore less adaptable to food sources found in other habitats.
- Madagascar reports alarming rates of deforestation, losing 2 percent of its primary rainforest just last year, the highest rate of any country.


Keeping stray rhinos safe is a challenge on fringes of Nepal park [06/26/2019]
- Since 2018, two rhinos have fallen into septic tanks in settlements near Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, one of which died.
- These incidents highlight the difficulties in keeping wandering rhinos safe amid a building boom in the park’s buffer zones.
- Park authorities and municipal officials have traded blame over who should be responsible for developing and enforcing wildlife-friendly building codes.
- Adding to the problem, many residents lack the resources to plan buildings according to existing codes, much less the more stringent standards of wildlife-friendly codes, and enforcement is already a challenge


Great Indian bustard eggs being collected to kick-start captive breeding [06/25/2019]
- The critically endangered great Indian bustard is now down to just 160-odd individuals, most of them surviving in the Thar Desert in India’s Rajasthan state.
- In a last-ditch effort, wildlife researchers along with the forest department have started a hunt for the birds’ eggs to begin the process of captive breeding of the species. Last week, they managed to collect two bustard eggs from the wild; they have permission to collect up to six a year.
- Two captive breeding facilities for the bustard are being built: a main, bigger facility in the south of Rajasthan, and a second, smaller facility in the west, close to where many of the wild birds breed.
- This is the first time that great Indian bustard eggs have ever been collected from the wild for the purpose of captive breeding, and protocols are still being figured out, says Rajasthan’s chief wildlife warden.


Having taken a toll in Chile, salmon industry arrives in Argentina [06/25/2019]
- Argentina’s National Aquaculture Project, signed with Norway in March 2018, aims to spur the development of the salmon industry in Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago at the southern tip of South America.
- Environmentalists and scientists fear that errors committed on the Chilean side of Patagonia will be repeated, to the detriment of the environment on the Argentinian side.
- Among the environmental impacts of the Chilean salmon industry are escapee fish that become established as introduced species, pollution from farms’ waste food and feces, and the overuse of antibiotics.


National parks: Serving humanity’s well-being as much as nature’s [06/25/2019]
- A new study finds that living near a protected area in the developing world decreases poverty and increases childhood health.
- Parks with tourism or multi-use were the best at delivering benefits to local populations.
- There is an untold part of this story: conflict with wildlife was not incorporated into the study.


Angola pledges $60m to fund landmine clearance in national parks [06/25/2019]
- The Angolan government has announced a $60 million commitment to clear landmines in Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga national parks in the country’s southeast.
- The region is part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area — home to incredible natural biodiversity, but also one of the most heavily mined regions of Angola.
- International funding for landmine clearance has fallen by 80 percent over the last 10 years, and without new funding Angola will miss its target of clearing all landmines by 2025.
- The HALO Trust, a demining NGO, and the Angolan government hope that clearance of landmines will stimulate conservation in southeastern Angola and provide alternative livelihoods such as ecotourism to alleviate poverty and diversify the country’s economy away from oil.


Belize to protect critical wildlife corridor that’s home to jaguars and more [06/24/2019]
- The government of Belize has approved a proposal to protect the Maya Forest Corridor, a key stretch of jungle linking some of the region’s largest wilderness areas.
- Once the corridor is secured, it will create the largest contiguous block of forest in Central America, experts say.
- The Maya Forest Corridor is home to iconic animals like the jaguar; the critically endangered Central American river turtle; the endangered Central American spider monkey or Geoffroy’s spider monkey; and the endangered Baird’s tapir.
- There is, however, a lot of work to be done before the Maya Forest Corridor gains official legal protection, including securing key privately owned patches of forest in the area.


Venezuela’s isolated indigenous groups under siege from miners, disease and guerrillas [06/24/2019]
- The Hoti, Yanomami and Piaroa, isolated indigenous groups in Venezuela, are under threat on several fronts.
- Mining, legal and illegal, is disturbing their lands. Some have been forced to labor in the mining industry and others have decided to leave their territories and go deeper into the forest.
- The measles epidemic that has erupted in Venezuela has decimated the Yanomami, and the government has failed to set up health services in their territories.
- The arrival of guerrilla groups like the ELN and FARC dissidents are a constant threat to isolated indigenous peoples.


Logging road construction has surged in the Congo Basin since 2003 [06/24/2019]
- Logging road networks have expanded widely in the Congo Basin since 2003, according to a new study.
- The authors calculated that the length of logging roads doubled within concessions and rose by 40 percent outside of concessions in that time period, growing by 87,000 kilometers (54,000 miles).
- Combined with rising deforestation in the region since 2000, the increase in roads is concerning because road building is often followed by a pulse of settlement leading to deforestation, hunting and mining in forest ecosystems.


Mongabay investigative series helps confirm global insect decline [06/24/2019]
- In a newly published four-part series, Mongabay takes a deep dive into the science behind the so-called “Insect Apocalypse,” recently reported in the mainstream media.
- To create the series, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists on six continents and working in 12 nations, producing what is possibly the most in-depth reporting published to date by any news media outlet on the looming insect abundance crisis.
- While major peer-reviewed studies are few (with evidence resting primarily so far on findings in Germany and Puerto Rico), there is near consensus among the two dozen researchers surveyed: Insects are likely in serious global decline.
- The series is in four parts: an introduction and critical review of existing peer-reviewed data; a look at temperate insect declines; a survey of tropical declines; and solutions to the problem. Researchers agree: Conserving insects — imperative to preserving the world’s ecosystem services — is vital to humanity.


Science community rallies support to save Madagascar’s natural riches [06/24/2019]
- Madagascar is set to host the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s 56th annual meeting in July.
- The organizers have launched a petition to garner support for urgent actions that must be taken to preserve the island nation’s unique biodiversity.
- The petition will be presented to the country’s president, who has been invited to sign it and recognize it as the Declaration of Ivato, after the site where the meeting will take place.
- The document, available in four languages, can be accessed online until Aug. 2.


The mine that promised to protect the environment: A cautionary tale [06/21/2019]
- In 2004, mining behemoth Rio Tinto made a bold commitment not just to protect but to “improve” the environment at its mining sites in ecologically sensitive areas around the world, through a strategy it called “net positive impact.”
- A site in southeastern Madagascar where it was opening an ilmenite mine amid a gravely threatened coastal forest that’s home to unique species found nowhere else on the planet seemed like a good place to start.
- A little more than a decade later, however, the initiative was dead: facing financial headwinds and falling behind on its pledges, Rio Tinto abandoned the NPI strategy in 2016.
- In an article in the July issue of Scientific American, Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety tells how Rio Tinto came to make that promise and then to renege on it — and describes the result for Madagascar’s coastal forest and the people who live there.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 21, 2019 [06/21/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


All that glitters: Cameras spot Asian golden cat in more than one shade [06/20/2019]
- Cameras placed across the Dibang Valley in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh have captured Asian golden cats with six different coat colors.
- These include five colors previously described from different parts of the cat’s distribution across Asia — golden, gray, cinnamon, melanistic (black) and ocelot (spotted) — as well as a previously unrecorded dark pattern of tightly spaced rosettes.
- The study’s authors suspect that the different forms allow the Asian golden cat to be extremely adaptable, especially because the species occupies diverse habitats in the Dibang Valley, where competing predators such as tigers and snow leopards also occur.
- Other researchers say the colors may be more of a continuum rather than clear-cut distinct forms, and that further study is needed to test the possible influence of other factors on the coat colors and patterns, including climatic conditions such as light exposure and temperature.


A four-year ox-cart ride around Madagascar: Q&A with Alexandre Poussin [06/20/2019]
- Alexandre Poussin and his family recently completed a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) oxcart ride around Madagascar, visiting sanctuaries for the island’s unique biodiversity that are off the beaten path.
- Poussin witnessed firsthand the destruction of Madagascar’s forests and the threat faced by endemic species found there.
- The French traveler and writer is encouraging tourists to the island to help protect its natural heritage.


’Livestock revolution’ triggered decline in global pasture: Report [06/19/2019]
- Since 2000, the area of land dedicated for livestock pasture around the world has declined by 1.4 million square kilometers (540,500 square miles) — an area about the size of Peru.
- A new report attributes the contraction to more productive breeds, better animal health and higher densities of animals on similar amounts of land.
- The report’s authors say that technological solutions could help meet rising demand for meat and milk in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, without reversing the downward trend.


Sumatran rhinos to get a new sanctuary in Leuser Ecosystem [06/18/2019]
- A third captive-breeding sanctuary for the nearly extinct Sumatran rhino is set to be built in Indonesia, according to a top official.
- The facility, scheduled to open in 2021, will be located within the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, home to what’s believed to be one of the largest populations of the critically endangered species.
- Global and local rhino conservation groups have welcomed the plan and pledge to help with financial and technical support for the new facility.
- Indonesia currently has two captive-breeding centers for the rhinos: in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park, which holds seven rhinos, and Borneo’s Kelian forest, which has a single rhino.


At least one species has been lost on more than half of Earth’s land area [06/18/2019]
- A study published in the journal Frontiers In Forests And Global Change last week largely supports the conclusions of the IPBES report released last month, determining that there is less intact habitat harboring its original community of life than has previously been estimated. And the authors of the study say their findings show that methods used to determine the most important areas for wildlife conservation using remote sensing and global datasets may not be accurately assessing faunal intactness.
- Researchers found that at least one species has gone extinct on 54.7 percent of our planet’s land area (not including Antarctica), with some sites losing as many as 52 species. Even many forests identified as being intact because they have intact canopies have lost species below the canopy, the researchers found.
- They conclude: “Recent papers have highlighted the small percentage of remaining wilderness or intact sites and yet our results indicate that truly intact sites with a full complement of species are likely to be much rarer still.”


Recreational divers help researchers track movements of rare stingray [06/18/2019]
- The smalleye stingray, thought to be widely distributed across the Indo-West Pacific, is rarely seen and is listed as “data deficient” on the IUCN Red List.
- By compiling photographs and videos of the stingrays taken opportunistically by both research teams and recreational divers over the last 15 years off the coast of Mozambique, the only place the giant rays are regularly spotted, researchers have created a photographic database of the animals.
- This database is now helping researchers gain some of the first insights into this elusive species. For example, researchers found that a female stingray had made a 400-kilometer (250-mile) round trip to birth her pups.


First Nations have created a robust conservation economy in Great Bear Rainforest: Report [06/17/2019]
- Over the past decade, First Nations have created a robust conservation economy in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world, through investments in sustainable development and environmental stewardship projects that link the health of nature to the wellbeing of indigenous communities, according to a new report.
- The report was issued last week by Coast Funds, an Indigenous-led conservation finance organization created in the wake of historic land-use agreements signed by First Nations and the Canadian province of British Columbia in 2006.
- The nearly $82 million in funding Coast Funds approved for 353 projects between 2008 and 2018 attracted more than $286 million in additional investment in the region, the organization reports. First Nations’ sustainable development projects in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii have had substantial local economic impacts, leading to the creation of more than 1,000 permanent jobs and the founding or growth of 100 businesses, per the report.


Primates lose ground to surging commodity production in their habitats [06/17/2019]
- “Forest risk” commodities, such as beef, palm oil, and fossil fuels, led to a significant proportion of the 1.8 million square kilometers (695,000 square miles) of forest that was cleared between 2001 and 2017 — an area almost the size of Mexico.
- A previous study found that 60 percent of primates face extinction and 75 percent of species’ numbers are declining.
- The authors say that addressing the loss of primate habitat due to the production of commodities is possible, though it will require a global effort to “green” the international trade in these commodities.


Deforested areas bleed heat to nearby forests, drive local extinctions [06/17/2019]
- Forests play an important role in cooling the Earth.
- Deforestation doesn’t just contribute to temperature increases where it occurs but also in adjacent forests, according to a new study.
- This leaking of heat into adjacent forests puts species living there at risk by pushing up temperatures that are already rising due to climate change.
- This is bad news for countries like Madagascar, which not only hosts many endemic species with limited habitat, but also has alarming rates of deforestation.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 14, 2019 [06/14/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Leopards get a $20m boost from Panthera pact with Saudi prince [06/14/2019]
- Big-cat conservation group Panthera has signed an agreement with Saudi prince and culture minister Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Farhan Al Saud in which the latter’s royal commission has pledged $20 million to the protection of leopards around the world, including the Arabian leopard, over the next decade.
- The funds will support a survey of the animals in Saudi Arabia and a captive-breeding program.
- The coalition also hopes to reintroduce the Arabian leopard into the governorate of Al-Ula, which Bader heads and which the kingdom’s leaders believe could jump-start the local tourism sector.


CITES to move wildlife trade summit from Colombo to Geneva this August [06/13/2019]
- An international summit on the global wildlife trade will be moved from Sri Lanka to Switzerland, following a lengthy delay sparked by terrorist bombings in the South Asian country during Easter services in April.
- The 18th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES was originally scheduled to run May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, but will now take place in Geneva from Aug. 17 to 28.
- The CITES announcement follows a comprehensive U.N. security assessment that concluded on May 31.
- There was pressure to get the summit going with minimal delay, given the number of conservation programs and activities dependent on the outcome of the meeting, for which delegates had proposed increased trade protections for a host of plant and animal species.


The Great Insect Dying: How to save insects and ourselves [06/13/2019]
- The entomologists interviewed for this Mongabay series agreed on three major causes for the ongoing and escalating collapse of global insect populations: habitat loss (especially due to agribusiness expansion), climate change and pesticide use. Some added a fourth cause: human overpopulation.
- Solutions to these problems exist, most agreed, but political commitment, major institutional funding and a large-scale vision are lacking. To combat habitat loss, researchers urge preservation of biodiversity hotspots such as primary rainforest, regeneration of damaged ecosystems, and nature-friendly agriculture.
- Combatting climate change, scientists agree, requires deep carbon emission cuts along with the establishment of secure, very large conserved areas and corridors encompassing a wide variety of temperate and tropical ecosystems, sometimes designed with preserving specific insect populations in mind.
- Pesticide use solutions include bans of some toxins and pesticide seed coatings, the education of farmers by scientists rather than by pesticide companies, and importantly, a rethinking of agribusiness practices. The Netherlands’ Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery includes some of these elements.


Out on a limb: Unlikely collaboration boosts orangutans in Borneo [06/12/2019]
- Logging and hunting have decimated a population of Bornean orangutans in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Indonesia.
- Help has recently come from a pair of unlikely allies: an animal welfare group and a human health care nonprofit.
- Cross-disciplinary collaboration to meet the needs of ecosystems and humans is becoming an important tool for overcoming seemingly intractable obstacles in conservation.


Is REDD ready for its closeup? Reports vary [06/12/2019]
- As the world’s governments look to curb global warming, protecting what’s left of Earth’s tropical forests is crucial. That means REDD+ could have a huge role to play — but debate is currently raging as to whether or not REDD-based projects can actually deliver the level of emissions reductions necessary to avert runaway global climate change.
- Many REDD+ projects are built around the idea of carbon offsetting. In a recent investigative article, ProPublica’s Lisa Song writes that, despite their enormous appeal, carbon offsetting programs don’t always lead to the emissions reductions they’re meant to produce.
- In “case after case,” Song writes, she found “carbon credits hadn’t offset the amount of pollution they were supposed to, or they had brought gains that were quickly reversed or that couldn’t be accurately measured to begin with.”
- However, the ProPublica report has been criticized by advocates of carbon credit schemes who say that Song has failed to tell the whole story.


Homestay programs in Nepal’s rhino hub hold promise and pitfalls for locals [06/12/2019]
- When faced with criticism that local people don’t benefit from wildlife tourism to Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, officials and conservationists point to homestay programs set up in communities on the park’s borders.
- These homestay programs aim to provide the communities with alternative livelihoods and to create an incentive to protect forests and wildlife.
- In the villages of Amaltari and Barauli, two very different homestay programs have been established, catering to different groups of visitors. Both models have their strengths, but also their shortcomings.


New rainforest gecko joins growing list of reptiles unique to Sri Lanka [06/11/2019]
- A new species of day gecko, Cnemaspis godagedarai, has been described in Sri Lanka, bringing the island’s number of endemic geckos in the genus Cnemaspis to 25.
- The new gecko, named after a national hero in the fight against British colonial rule, shares its microhabitat with seven other species of endemic reptiles, making the conservation of their habitat critical to their survival.
- With more than 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s species being endemic to the island, and a majority of them restricted to the wet zone, the country needs special species conservation mechanisms, researchers say.


For the Philippine eagle, a shot at survival means going abroad [06/11/2019]
- The Philippines has loaned off two Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) to Singapore for a 10-year breeding agreement, part of wider efforts to protect the species against disease outbreaks and natural calamities.
- Prior to the agreement, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) managed the only sanctuary of its kind in the world for this critically endangered species.
- Despite rigorous community-oriented programs to protect the eagles, human activity, including hunting and habitat destruction, remains the biggest threat to the Philippine eagles.


Inside an ambitious project to rewild trafficked bonobos in the Congo Basin [06/11/2019]
- A decade ago, a troop of formerly captive bonobos was for the first time reintroduced to the wild in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Following that successful reintroduction, a new troop of 14 bonobos is now in the process of being released and is anticipated to be fully in the wild by September.
- Congolese conservation group Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) is working to make sure the communities surrounding the release site feel invested in the project.


Dam in Ethiopia has wiped out indigenous livelihoods, report finds [06/11/2019]
- A dam in southern Ethiopia built to supply electricity to cities and control the flow of water for irrigating industrial agriculture has led to the displacement and loss of livelihoods of indigenous groups, the Oakland Institute has found.
- On June 10, the policy think tank published a report of its research, demonstrating that the effects of the Gibe III dam on the Lower Omo River continue to ripple through communities, forcing them onto sedentary farms and leading to hunger, conflict and human rights abuses.
- The Oakland Institute applauds the stated desire of the new government, which came to power in April 2018, to look out for indigenous rights.
- But the report’s authors caution that continued development aimed at increasing economic productivity and attracting international investors could further marginalize indigenous communities in Ethiopia.


Canada passes ‘Free Willy’ bill to ban captivity of all whales, dolphins [06/11/2019]
- On June 10, Canada’s House of Commons passed a bill that bans the practice of keeping cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in captivity in the country.
- Bill S-203 also prohibits breeding of the animals and collecting reproductive materials from them. The only exceptions to these provisions will be in cases of rescues and rehabilitation, licensed scientific research, or “in the best interests of the cetacean’s welfare.”
- The legislation, also known as the “Free Willy” bill, allows Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland in Niagara Falls, the only two facilities in Canada that still house cetaceans, to continue to keep their animals as long as they do not breed or bring in any new individuals.


Bumpy ride for conservation in PNG as lack of roads hinders activities [06/10/2019]
- Much of Papua New Guinea remains inaccessible by road and the existing roads are often in poor condition.
- While lack of road access has historically helped to keep ecosystems intact, it comes with both social and environmental downsides.
- Some communities are negotiating with resource extraction companies who promise to provide roads and other needed services. Lack of infrastructure also hampers efforts to monitor and protect the environment.
- Some NGOs, whose work suffers from difficult and expensive travel to project areas, call for carefully planned expansion of the road network.


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


Caribbean nations boost protection for extremely rare largetooth sawfish [06/08/2019]
- On June 5, Caribbean countries agreed to boost protection for the largetooth sawfish by adding it to Annex II of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol under the Cartagena Convention.
- Plants and animals added to Annexes I and II of the SPAW Protocol are afforded the highest levels of protection, with countries falling within the Caribbean region committing to ban the collection, possession or killing of the species, prohibit their commercial trade, and take steps to reduce disturbances to the species.
- Experts have welcomed the measure, but say that SPAW countries must “follow through with their obligations to implement protections.”
- Legal protection aside, education and local community involvement is key to giving species like sawfish “a fighting chance,” experts say.


New pilot whale subspecies revealed: Q&A with marine biologist Amy Van Cise [06/07/2019]
- For centuries, Japanese seafarers have noted two distinct types of pilot whale in their waters: One with a squarish head and dark body, the other a bit bigger with a round head and a light patch on its back.
- The two types have long been officially classified simply as forms of the same species, short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), but a new genetic study finds that they are actually distinct subspecies.
- The finding is just the latest shake-up of the cetacean family tree after the discoveries of new whale species in recent years.
- Mongabay spoke with the new study’s lead author, Amy Van Cise, a marine biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, about the science of whale taxonomy and what her team’s discovery means for the conservation of short-finned pilot whales.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 7, 2019 [06/07/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Alliance launches plan to save the planet [06/07/2019]
- Healthy and productive ecosystems sustain life on Earth, but face accelerating threats from human behavior.
- A new initiative however aims to counter that trend by fundamentally transforming food, city, energy, and production and consumption systems.
- The Global Commons Alliance, launched this week at the Ecosperity 2019 conference in Singapore, will do this through an approach that leverages the best science to provide actionable guidance to businesses, governments, and the general public.
- Over 500 companies have committed to set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.


Twice as many fishing vessels now, but it’s harder to catch fish [06/06/2019]
- The global fishing fleet has more than doubled from about 1.7 million boats harvesting fish in 1950 to 3.7 million fishing vessels in 2015.
- More fishing vessels have become motorized as well: while only 20 percent of the world’s fishing vessels were powered by motors in 1950, this number rose to 68 percent in 2015.
- The growing fishing fleet is, however, catching less seafood for the same effort.
- There are geographic variations: while Asia’s fishing fleet has dramatically increased over the past decades, catching fewer fish for the same effort, fleet sizes in North America and Western Europe shrank slightly, accompanied by an increase in fish catch per unit effort.


The Great Insect Dying: Vanishing act in Europe and North America [06/06/2019]
- Though arthropods make up most of the species on Earth, and much of the planet’s biomass, they are significantly understudied compared to mammals, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. Lack of baseline data makes insect abundance decline difficult to assess.
- Insects in the temperate EU and U.S. are the world’s best studied, so it is here that scientists expect to detect precipitous declines first. A groundbreaking study published in October 2017 found that flying insects in 63 protected areas in Germany had declined by 75 percent in just 25 years.
- The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme has a 43-year butterfly record, and over that time two-thirds of the nations’ species have decreased. Another recent paper found an 84 percent decline in butterflies in the Netherlands from 1890 to 2017. Still, EU researchers say far more data points are needed.
- Neither the U.S. or Canada have conducted an in-depth study similar to that in Germany. But entomologists agree that major abundance declines are likely underway, and many are planning studies to detect population drops. Contributors to decline are climate change, pesticides and ecosystem destruction.


‘You don’t find orchids; they find you’: Q&A with botanist Edicson Parra [06/06/2019]
- Edicson Parra has not only discovered more than 20 new species of orchids in his home country of Colombia, but has also used his expertise in orchid diversity to help halt development, road and mining projects that would have otherwise threatened their forest habitats.
- But studying orchids can be a dangerous challenge in Colombia, due to drug traffickers and threats to environmentalists in the country.
- Parra says orchids could be “one of the most sensitive of all Earth’s taxa.” Orchids are particularly vulnerable and fragile to deforestation, including edge effects, making protecting large tracts of forests key to their survival.


Why more women should be included in the leadership of Virunga National Park (commentary) [06/05/2019]
- Since 2014, the number of female park guards serving in Virunga National Park, located in war-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been gradually increasing. Today, 29 women serve in the ranks of this 731-strong force.
- There has been a flurry of international media attention to the women who chose the ranger profession. But so far, nobody has looked at how the presence of these women affects the functioning of the ranger force, and the relations between the park and the population living in its vicinity.
- While gender equality is not a guarantee for improving park-people relations, we believe the integration of women in Virunga’s administrative and security structures needs to be reinforced, in particular at the higher echelons. Gender equality is not only of inherent importance, but — as our research indicates — also corresponds to a strong demand among the population living around the park.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Colombia’s El Paujil Reserve expands in dying Magdalena Valley [06/04/2019]
- The U.S.-based Rainforest Trust and its Colombian partner, Fundación ProAves, bought 477 hectares (1,178 acres) of land around El Paujil Nature Reserve, expanding the protected area to 3,983 hectares (9,843 acres).
- El Paujil Nature Reserve in Colombia’s Magdalena Valley is one of the last bits of remaining lowland rainforest in the region.
- The Magdalena Valley, sandwiched between the Chocó and Amazon rainforests, is rich in biodiversity and home to several endemic species, many of which are endangered.
- It has lost almost 98 percent of its forest area over the years, due to logging, coca production, cattle ranching and other agriculture activities. These threats have only increased since the end of a decades-long insurgency in 2016.


Lemur yoga: Fueling the capture of wild lemurs? (commentary) [06/03/2019]
- In April, the BBC published a fawning article about an English hotel that is offering lemur yoga classes featuring endangered ring-tailed lemurs. Knowing full well that this media coverage would negatively impact lemurs living in the wild, we contacted the BBC, hoping to mitigate the damage.
- In today’s digital age, every lemur kept in captivity, either in Madagascar or abroad, is fueling — directly and indirectly — the illegal extraction of lemurs from the wild.
- Not a week goes by without more news of the precipitous decline of Madagascar’s biodiversity. And while it will take tens of millions of dollars to protect what is left, refusing to engage in exploitative encounters and sharing your lemur selfie online is a good place to start.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


The Great Insect Dying: A global look at a deepening crisis [06/03/2019]
- Recent studies from Germany and Puerto Rico, and a global meta-study, all point to a serious, dramatic decline in insect abundance. Plummeting insect populations could deeply impact ecosystems and human civilization, as these tiny creatures form the base of the food chain, pollinate, dispose of waste, and enliven soils.
- However, limited baseline data makes it difficult for scientists to say with certainty just how deep the crisis may be, though anecdotal evidence is strong. To that end, Mongabay is launching a four-part series — likely the most in-depth, nuanced look at insect decline yet published by any media outlet.
- Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and researchers on six continents working in over a dozen nations to determine what we know regarding the “great insect dying,” including an overview article, and an in-depth story looking at temperate insects in the U.S. and the European Union — the best studied for their abundance.
- We also utilize Mongabay’s position as a leader in tropical reporting to focus solely on insect declines in the tropics and subtropics, where lack of baseline data is causing scientists to rush to create new, urgently needed survey study projects. The final story looks at what we can do to curb and reverse the loss of insect abundance.


Long-term ecological research threatened by short-term thinking [06/03/2019]
- Long-term ecological research (LTER) is carried out through a worldwide network of biological field stations and related monitoring programs.
- Information gathered by these programs helps scientists understand the present and make predictions for the future, which is especially important at this time of increasing global ecological change, researchers argue.
- However, funding to continue this research is continually threatened by short-term fiscal considerations: the U.S. president’s 2020 budget has proposed cuts that would affect the programs, for example.
- “If we want to know what we are doing to ourselves as well as the rest of life on Earth, we must engage in long term ecological research,” conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy told Mongabay.


New nets make shrimp trawling more sustainable in Latin America and Caribbean [06/03/2019]
- When fishers accidentally catch non-target species, they either sell the so-called bycatch or throw it back into the ocean, almost always dead.
- Newly invented nets have allowed shrimp trawlers to reduce bycatch by 20 percent.
- Globally, almost 10 million tons of potentially usable fish are thrown back into the ocean every year.


Mass die-offs of puffins in Alaska may be linked to climate change [05/31/2019]
- Between October 2016 and January 2017, the carcasses of hundreds of severely emaciated seabirds, mostly tufted puffins, washed onto the beaches of St. Paul Island, off Alaska.
- Not all birds that die wash up on a beach and are discovered. So the researchers ran an analysis and estimated that between 2,740 to 7,600 tufted puffins died during that time.
- Upon examining the carcasses, the researchers found that the birds had most likely died of starvation linked to shortage in prey triggered by climate change and a warming ocean.


Brazil green-lights oil prospecting near important marine park [05/31/2019]
- In April, the president of Brazil’s environmental regulatory agency authorized the auction of seven offshore oil blocks located in highly sensitive marine regions.
- In doing so, he ignored technical recommendations made by his own environmental team — a first in the team’s 11-year history.
- The environmental team argued that if there were to be an oil spill, the contamination could affect the coasts of two Brazilian states, including the Abrolhos Marine National Park, which is considered the most biodiverse area in the South Atlantic.
- More broadly, the Brazilian Congress is also considering a bill that would profoundly change the way environmental authorizations are issued, abolishing the need for licenses for most farming and infrastructure activities and accelerating the procedure for other ventures.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 31, 2019 [05/31/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


For Sri Lanka villagers, monkey business feeds off human actions [05/31/2019]
- The feeding of monkeys on religious and cultural grounds by communities in north central Sri Lanka is turning the animals into pests that raid kitchens and farms.
- Where human-sourced food is available to monkeys, their populations have swelled, as opposed to those groups of monkeys reliant on a more natural diet.
- Proposed long-term solutions involve creating exclusive habitats supporting all biota, and creating public awareness, researchers say.


Chile pledges to make its fishing vessel tracking data public [05/31/2019]
- In mid-May Chile finalized an agreement to publicly share proprietary data from its satellite system for monitoring fishing boats via Global Fishing Watch (GFW), an online interactive mapping platform that tracks ship movements across the globe.
- The country joins Indonesia and Peru, whose data already appear on the GFW platform, as well as Namibia, Panama and Costa Rica, which have pledged to do so.
- Countries are motivated to go public by the prospect of enhancing their ability to enforce fishing regulations, keep an eye on foreign fishing fleets operating outside or transiting through their waters, and, in Chile’s case, prevent the spread of disease in its salmon aquaculture industry.


Chinese banks risk supporting soy-related deforestation, report finds [05/30/2019]
- Chinese financial institutions have little awareness about the risks of deforestation in the soy supply chain, according to a report released May 31 from the nonprofit disclosure platform CDP.
- China imports more than 60 percent of the world’s soy, meaning that the country could play a major role in halting deforestation and slowing climate change if companies and banks focus on stopping deforestation to grow the crop.
- Around 490 square kilometers (189 square miles) of land in Brazil was cleared for soy headed for China in 2017 — about 40 percent of all “converted” land in Brazil that year.
- As the trade war between the U.S. and China continues, China may increasingly look to Latin America for its soy, potentially increasing the chances that land will be cleared to make way for the crop.


The world’s biggest reptile fair is also a hub for traffickers [05/30/2019]
- On June 1, a quarterly event in Germany which touts itself as the largest reptile trade show in the world, will again sell tens of thousands of reptiles.
- The fair, referred to as “Hamm”, is a meeting point for aficionados seeking the rarest and best reptiles, including animals that are threatened with extinction and may have been poached from the wild.
- Conservationists criticize the fair saying that it is the biggest hub for the legal and illegal trade in reptiles in the world.
- While national laws protect many of the reptile species, legal loopholes allow the trade to persist.


Community conservation in Namibia requires balance and understanding (commentary) [05/29/2019]
- In a recent article, John Grobler recounted his experiences from a one-week visit to Nyae Nyae Conservancy in Namibia. Mr. Grobler’s report, based on brief experiences in Nyae Nyae and a cursory study of the Namibian conservancy system, leaves much to be desired.
- Grobler implies that the Namibian conservancy program has been less successful in terms of conserving wildlife and providing benefits to local people than the government and supporting NGOs claim. In order to judge the Namibian conservancies, one needs to first place them within the broader African conservation context.
- This context allows us to examine a more central question about conservancies, one that has been incorrectly answered by many. What exactly are Namibian conservancies, and what is their purpose?
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


What is magic without ape parts? Inside the illicit trade devastating Nigeria’s apes [05/29/2019]
- Beliefs regarding the spiritual powers of apes drive a thriving trade in ape body parts in Nigeria and beyond.
- In many cultures within Nigeria, chimpanzee and gorilla parts are believed to provide protection from evil spirits and curses, or allow communication with ancestors.
- Due to a lack of data, the trade in ape body parts is sometimes viewed as simply a by-product of the much larger trade in bushmeat. Mongabay’s reporting suggests that the body part trade is, in its own right, a complex, well-organized and far more lucrative business.


Altered forests threaten sustainability of subsistence hunting [05/29/2019]
- In a commentary, two conservation scientists say that changes to the forests of Central and South America may mean that subsistence hunting there is no longer sustainable.
- Habitat loss and commercial hunting have put increasing pressure on species, leading to the loss of both biodiversity and a critical source of protein for these communities.
- The authors suggest that allowing the hunting of only certain species, strengthening parks and reserves, and helping communities find alternative livelihoods and sources of food could help address the problem, though they acknowledge the difficult nature of these solutions.


Vets rule out poaching and disease in recent death of rare Javan rhino [05/29/2019]
- In March, a Javan rhinoceros was found dead in a protected area at the western tip of the Indonesian island.
- A necropsy carried out by veterinarians has now determined that the young rhino bled to death, due to injuries likely sustained during a fight with an adult male rhino.
- The finding rules out earlier fears that the rhino may have been killed by poachers or contracted an infectious disease from livestock living near the park.
- The estimated population of the critically endangered animals is now at a minimum 68 individuals.


Underwater ultrasound scanner to support manta conservation [05/28/2019]
- Researchers used a new contactless ultrasound device to scan reef manta rays in the wild, enabling them to assess the animals’ maturity and reproductive status underwater.
- The successful scanning of a pregnant female manta produced clear images of her fetus.
- By helping researchers better understand the factors that influence the timing and location of mantas’ breeding, the researchers say, the ultrasound technology can help them determine reproductive rates and guide manta conservation strategies.


Conservation groups concerned as WHO recognizes traditional Chinese medicine [05/28/2019]
- The World Health Organization (WHO) will include traditional Chinese medicine in the revision of its influential International Classification of Diseases for the first time.
- The move concerns wildlife scientists and conservationists who say the WHO’s formal backing of traditional Chinese medicine could legitimize the hunting of wild animals for their parts, which are used in some remedies and treatments.
- The WHO has responded by saying that the inclusion of the practice in the volume doesn’t imply that the organization condones the contravention of international law aimed at protecting species like rhinos and tigers.


Last male rhino in Malaysia dies [05/27/2019]
- A Sumatran rhino affectionately known as Tam died May 27 following months of poor health.
- Tam was the last male Sumatran rhino known to survive in Malaysia. One female of the species is now living in Malaysia.
- When he was captured in 2008, researchers hoped he would contribute to efforts to breed the critically endangered species in captivity. Tam died without reproducing.


Earth’s hidden tree-microbe network mapped for the first time ever [05/27/2019]
- For the first time ever, researchers have mapped the underground network of microbes connecting forest trees around the world using an enormous data set of more than 1.1 million forest plots.
- Mapping the forest microbe network required global collaboration and high computing capabilities.
- The new maps confirm patterns that have been long suspected. For example, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi dominate forests in the warmer tropics while ectomycorrhizal fungi are more widespread in colder boreal and temperate forests.
- The predicted maps are, however, limited by the geographic coverage and sampling density of trees across the world. While the coverage is good in developed countries, it is relatively poor in developing countries like India, China and countries in the tropical region, the researchers say.


Study suggests MPAs and fisheries closures can benefit highly migratory marine species [05/24/2019]
- Conventional wisdom holds that marine protected areas don’t offer much in the way of protections to highly migratory species of marine life, given that those species are unaware of the imaginary borders humans draw on maps to delineate such areas.
- New research finds that, to the contrary, large MPAs can confer benefits on migratory marine species — but only when they are carefully designed, strictly enforced, and integrated with sustainable fisheries management.
- The study, published last month in the journal Marine Policy, explores whether or not there are any benefits of “targeted spatial protection” measures, including large-scale fisheries closures and marine protected areas (MPAs), for highly migratory species like billfishes (such as swordfish and marlins), pelagic sharks (such as blue, great white, mako, silky, and thresher sharks), and tuna — and highlights ways that spatial protection for migratory pelagic species can be improved.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 24, 2019 [05/24/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Ecuador’s isolated indigenous tribes: Stuck between oil and state neglect [05/24/2019]
- Following the dissolution of Ecuador’s Ministry of Justice, responsibility for the country’s isolated indigenous peoples changed hands.
- It’s the latest in a series of shake-ups, yet several experts said the government has not been able to adequately protect vulnerable isolated tribes.
- They said the oil industry’s advance into the rainforest remains the greatest threat to these tribes.


Malaysia’s last male rhino is fading fast, officials say [05/24/2019]
- Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, Tam, has experienced an abrupt decline in health due to old age, authorities say.
- Veterinarians and rhino keepers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah state are providing round-the-clock palliative care, but say Tam appears to have suffered multiple organ failure.
- If he dies, Malaysia would be left with one last Sumatran rhino, a female, Iman, whose own health has weakened due to a ruptured tumor in her uterus.
- Conservationists say stakeholders, including the government of Indonesia, home to most of the remaining Sumatran rhinos on Earth, have been far too slow to work together on efforts to save the species.


Plants are working hard to keep pace with increasing carbon dioxide [05/23/2019]
- Global photosynthesis in terrestrial plants, or the amount of atmospheric carbon that plants are absorbing to create organic matter, has increased in nearly constant proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, a new study has found.
- Using computer models, researchers found that elevated carbon dioxide levels drive increase in leaf area of plants in the tropics. In higher latitudes, though, rising global temperatures appears to be what’s driving increases in both leaf area and growing seasons.
- This increase in global photosynthesis will likely slow in the future, the researchers say.
- Plants are providing a helping hand by slowing down the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and we should take advantage of that by reducing emissions and conserving forests, the researchers say.


Ñembi Guasu: Huge new conservation area in Bolivia’s Gran Chaco [05/23/2019]
- The new protected area spans more than 12,000 square kilometers (4,650 square miles) of well-conserved forests and is home to a massive number of animal and plant species.
- Among the area’s 300 species of birds and 100 species of mammals are jaguars, pumas and night monkeys.
- The protected zone is also home to the Ayoreo indigenous community, which is in a state of voluntary isolation.


How climate change could throw Māori culture off-balance [05/23/2019]
- Māori culture is at risk due to predicted changes in the ranges of two culturally important native plants, kuta and kūmarahou.
- Under projected climate change models, traditional weavers will face a shortage of kuta, a grass-like sedge used for weaving, in their ancestral harvesting sites.
- Kūmarahou, a shrub used for medicinal purposes, will become more abundant, devaluing the plant as a form of cultural currency in Māori tradition.


Documentary on world’s rarest ape generates film festival buzz [05/23/2019]
- The first documentary ever made about the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest and most threatened species of great apes, is racking up awards at film festivals around the world.
- U.K.-based filmmaker Matt Senior says his interest in the orangutan, which was only described as a new species in 2017, was piqued by a Mongabay article.
- Only 800 of the apes are believed to exist in the Batang Toru forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Their habitat is under threat from a massive Chinese-funded hydropower project being built in the area.
- Matt says he hopes the documentary will raise public awareness about this newest species of orangutan and the very real threats pushing it toward extinction.


For India’s imperiled apes, thinking locally matters [05/23/2019]
- Northeastern India is home to two ape species: eastern and western hoolock gibbons.
- Populations of hoolock gibbons in India are both protected and harmed by practices and beliefs specific to the human communities with whom they share their habitats.
- In several gibbon habitats, local indigenous people are leading conservation efforts that are deeply informed by local circumstances.
- The fortunes of different gibbon populations within India show that there is no one-size-fits-all conservation strategy for apes.


For migrating songbirds, ‘baby shark’ is more than just an annoying tune [05/22/2019]
- Researchers who opportunistically examined the stomach contents of tiger sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico over eight years found that the sharks had been eating land-dwelling songbirds.
- The months during which the researchers encountered tiger sharks with birds in their guts coincided with the peak timings for coastal bird sightings for 11 species of songbirds, suggesting that the shark-bird interactions could be linked to the annual migration of these terrestrial birds.
- Surprisingly, most of the recorded shark-bird interactions occurred during the fall, when the migrating songbirds are about to start crossing the Gulf of Mexico and are presumably well-rested.
- The researchers speculate that unpredictable storms could be forcing the migratory birds to the water, making them easy prey, especially for baby tiger sharks that are yet to learn how to forage.


The health of penguin chicks points scientists to changes in the ocean [05/22/2019]
- A recent closure of commercial fishing around South Africa’s Robben Island gave scientists the chance to understand how fluctuations in prey fish populations affect endangered African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) absent pressure from humans.
- The researchers found that the more fish were available, the better the condition of the penguin chicks that rely on their parents for food.
- This link between prey abundance in the sea and the condition of penguin chicks on land could serve as an indicator of changes in the ecosystem.


Wildlife trade summit may move to Geneva amid Colombo security concerns [05/22/2019]
- A month after the devastating Easter Sunday terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka that resulted in the postponement of the 18th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES, the Geneva-based secretariat appears likely to hold the meeting in its home city.
- The meeting, originally scheduled for May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, was postponed indefinitely amid security concerns following the April 21 series of bombings at churches and hotels that claimed more than 250 lives in the Indian Ocean island.
- A U.N. security assessment is currently underway in Sri Lanka, with the findings expected to be submitted to the CITES Secretariat by May 31.
- Conservationists say the delay will affect much-needed funding and activities to protect species from the international wildlife trade.


Bauxite mining and Chinese dam push Guinea’s chimpanzees to the brink [05/21/2019]
- Guinea is home to about half of the world’s critically endangered western chimpanzees.
- A bauxite mining boom is driving the chimpanzees from their habitats in Guinea’s Boké region. To compensate, two mining firms agreed in 2017 to fund the establishment of Moyen-Bafing National Park, home to an estimated 5,300 chimpanzees.
- The national park is itself threatened by a bauxite mine and a proposed hydroelectric dam — projects that could kill as many as 2,800 of the great apes.


Interest in protecting environment up since Pope’s 2015 encyclical [05/21/2019]
- New research into the usage of environmentally related search terms on Google suggests that interest in the environment has risen since Pope Francis released Laudato Si’ in 2015.
- Laudato Si’, a papal encyclical, argues that it is a moral imperative for humans to look after the environment.
- Researchers and scholars believe that the pope’s support for protecting the environment could ripple well beyond the 16 percent of the world’s population that is Catholic.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 17, 2019 [05/17/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Red colobus conservation in Zanzibar: A cautiously optimistic tale [05/17/2019]
- Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park was established in 2004 to protect the endangered Zanzibar red colobus.
- Initially met with conflict and resistance, the conservation project has now been embraced by local communities because they directly share in half of all tourism revenues.
- This kind of community forest management could prove a successful model for other conservation sites in Tanzania and beyond.


’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil [05/16/2019]
- The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees.
- The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store.
- The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.


At 2,624 years, a bald cypress is oldest known living tree in eastern North America [05/16/2019]
- One bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) growing along the Black River in the state of North Carolina in the United States is at least 2,624 years old as of 2018, a new study has found.
- This estimate, researchers say, makes it the oldest known living tree in eastern North America; the fifth oldest-known continuously living, sexually reproducing, non-clonal tree species; and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.
- The trees’ growth rings serve as a valuable record of the region’s climate, including rainfall patterns.
- Large swaths of these ancient bald cypress stands still remain unprotected and need urgent conservation, researchers say.


An urban ‘butterfly experience’ in Sri Lanka [05/15/2019]
- A private sector initiative is setting up urban butterfly gardens in Sri Lanka, creating butterfly sanctuaries.
- The creator of the urban butterfly habitats is proposing the replication of his conservation model to support the survival of butterfly populations.
- Though there is high endemism, Sri Lanka’s butterflies are threatened by multiple causes including habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and increase in alien species.


Public education could curb bushmeat demand in Laos, study finds [05/15/2019]
- A recent survey of markets in Laos found that the demand for bushmeat in urban areas was likely more than wildlife populations could bear.
- The enforcement of Laos’s laws controlling the wildlife trade appeared to do little to keep vendors from selling bushmeat, but fines did appear to potentially keep consumers from buying bushmeat.
- The researchers also found that consumers could be turned off of buying bushmeat when they learned of specific links between species and diseases.


On the island of Java, a social forestry scheme creates jobs at home [05/15/2019]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to transfer 127,000 square kilometers of state land to communities, but progress has been slow.
- In Kalibiru, outside the central Javan city of Yogyakarta, one community forest management program has generated impressive revenues for local governments and incomes for community members.
- Some locals say they’re now less likely to migrate away from Kalibiru for higher pay.


Audio: Exploring a hidden rainforest on an isolated mountain in Mozambique [05/14/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Julian Bayliss, a conservation scientist and explorer who recently discovered a hidden rainforest on top of an isolated mountain in Mozambique.
- Like many other mountains in eastern Africa, Mount Lico is what’s known as an “inselberg” — a German word that means “island mountain.” Bayliss initially spotted the forest atop Mount Lico using Google Earth. He then confirmed its existence via drone reconnaissance, before mounting a campaign to actually scale Mount Lico’s sheer, 410-foot cliffs and explore the forest firsthand.
- On this episode, Julian Bayliss discusses what it was like to behold the unspoiled forest atop Mount Lico for the first time, the new species he found there, and the significance of the pottery he discovered in the rainforest even though no locals have ever been to the top of the mountain.


Penguin and seal poop powers life in Antarctica, study finds [05/14/2019]
- In Antarctica, where colonies of penguins and elephant seals aggregate, their droppings, rich in nitrogen, enrich the soil and support thriving communities of mosses, lichens and invertebrates, a new study has found.
- Ammonia released from penguin and elephant seal feces can influence an area up to 240 times the size of the animal colony, the researchers found.
- These findings can be used to create maps of Antarctica’s biodiversity hotspots, the researchers say.


Coops, community, and agroforestry: Q&A with coffee entrepreneur Dean Cycon [05/13/2019]
- Agroforestry is an agricultural technique that combines trees with shrubs, crops and livestock in a system that produces food, supports biodiversity, builds soil horizons and water tables, and sequesters 45 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere worldwide.
- Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee has become a successful marketer of organic beans grown in agroforestry systems across the tropics, and has won several international sustainability awards for its direct, people-centered approach to development.
- The company sources organic beans from farmer cooperatives who have implemented agroforestry systems that provide shade for the coffee plus fruit and timber trees that are also useful to people, bugs, birds, and other animals.
- The 2019 World Agroforestry Congress in Montpellier, France, from May 20-22, aims to bridge the gap between agroforestry science and its practical implementation worldwide.


Climate change spurs deadly virus in frogs in the U.K. [05/13/2019]
- As temperatures climb, ranaviruses cause more frog deaths over a longer part of the year, according to a new study.
- The researchers combined data from outbreaks of disease caused by ranaviruses in common frogs (Rana temporaria) with laboratory investigations.
- They say that shaded areas and deeper ponds could provide refuges for afflicted animals that might slow the spread of the virus, but they also caution that this “short-term solution” is only a stopgap as the warming climate continues to make life difficult for amphibians.


Hunting for rare plants in inaccessible spots: Q&A with drone pilot Ben Nyberg [05/13/2019]
- For decades, botanists at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Hawaii have rappelled down dangerously steep cliff faces using ropes, hung out of helicopters and walked through some very remote valleys to look for, and conserve, rare, native plants. Several cliffs and valleys, however, have remained inaccessible.
- Drones are now helping the NTBG staff access and survey some of these difficult-to-reach parts of the Hawaiian islands.
- Mongabay recently spoke with Ben Nyberg, a GIS coordinator and drone specialist at NTBG, about the use of drones for plant conservation.


Reptile haven of Sri Lanka yields up new species of rough-sided snake [05/11/2019]
- A newly discovered “rough-sided” snake in Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Massif bears testimony to the island’s unique reptile life and also highlights how habitat loss is threatening species survival, a new paper says.
- A unique feature of Aspidura desilvai is its unusual color pattern, which reflects the soil color of its habitat and gives it the look of a well-preserved wine.
- The new species faces multiple threats, ranging from significant habitat loss through forest fragmentation, illegal cardamom plantations, uncontrolled gem mining, forest fires, and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.


Lions vs. porcupines: A thorny tale with a moral about man-eaters [05/10/2019]
- African lions do not usually feed on porcupines. However, in the absence of preferred prey like wildebeests, zebras and other ungulates, they can turn to the prickly rodents.
- Many of these encounters, according to a new study that documented 50 of them, don’t end well for the lions, which can be wounded or die from the quills.
- A lion wounded in a porcupine encounter, and thus impaired from hunting and feeding, may turn to hunting softer targets such as humans and cattle.
- The choice of porcupine as food also suggests the absence of other prey which may also lead a lion to prey on humans.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 10, 2019 [05/10/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Wild Kingdom’s Jim Fowler has died [05/09/2019]
- Jim Fowler, a zoologist best known for hosting Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, has died.
- Fowler won four Emmy awards and found cross-over success as a wildlife correspondent for the ‘Today’ show and a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight’ show
- After Wild Kingdom ended in 1988, Fowler continued his conservation education work, winning a number of accolades for his efforts.


Social media enables the illegal wildlife pet trade in Malaysia [05/09/2019]
- Conservationists say that prosecuting wildlife traffickers in Malaysia for trading in protected species isn’t easy, as traders have several loopholes to aid their efforts.
- One wildlife trafficker known as Kejora Pets has been operating in Peninsular Malaysia for years, selling “cute” pets to individuals through social media.
- Malaysia’s wildlife act doesn’t address the posting of protected animals for sale on social media, and operators like Kejora Pets appear to avoid ever being in possession of protected animals, allowing them to skirt statutes aimed at catching illicit traders.
- Proposed changes to Malaysia’s wildlife act could offer some relief to besieged populations of protected species by making it easier to prosecute online trafficking of protected animals.


Meet the new species of venomous pit viper described from India [05/09/2019]
- Wildlife researcher Rohan Pandit and his teammate Wangchu Phiang first stumbled upon the new-to-science pit viper species in May 2016 while surveying biodiversity in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India.
- In a new paper, researchers have described this species and named it Trimeresurus arunachalensis, or Arunachal pit viper.
- While the researchers have described the Arunachal pit viper based on a single specimen, they say the species’ unique features distinguish it from all the other known species of pit vipers.


New map shows warming waters where coral reefs could be under threat [05/08/2019]
- A new interactive map can help you identify, in near-real-time, areas where the sea is warming up at alarming levels, increasing the risk of coral reef bleaching.
- The Coral Reefs at Risk of Bleaching Operations Dashboard, launched by Esri, a company that creates geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping software products, relies on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch program.
- While the satellite data itself isn’t new, the way the data is displayed is more understandable for the general public, the tool’s developer says.
- The Esri map distills NOAA’s data and displays regions that are facing both high heat stress, increasing the risk of coral bleaching, such as those under Alert 1 and Alert 2 categories, as well as areas where the likelihood of coral bleaching is low or none at the moment, such as those under “Warning” and “Watch.”


‘To save a forest you have to destroy a nicer one’: U.S. Marines target forest in Guam [05/08/2019]
- The U.S. Marine Corps is building a base on Guam that will destroy 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of limestone forest, habitat for numerous endangered species.
- As mitigation, the military is funding forest “enhancement” to remove invasive species from fenced zones and restore seed dispersal by native birds.
- The fence’s success depends on maintenance into perpetuity, but biologists on Guam question how long funding will really last.




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