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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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.


Climate change is causing marine species to disappear from their habitat twice as fast as land animals [05/07/2019]
- New research finds that marine animals have disappeared from their habitat due to global warming at twice the rate of wildlife on land.
- According to the study, published late last month in Nature, the loss of whole populations of ocean-dwelling species not only depletes the genetic diversity of those species, but can also trigger a cascade of impacts on predators and prey, thereby altering entire marine ecosystems.
- The heightened vulnerability of marine life to global warming could have significant implications for the food supply and economies of seafood-reliant human communities.


’Unprecedented’ loss of biodiversity threatens humanity, report finds [05/07/2019]
- The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a summary of far-reaching research on the threats to biodiversity on May 6.
- The findings are dire, indicating that around 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction.
- The full 1,500-page report, to be released later this year, raises concerns about the impacts of collapsing biodiversity on human well-being.


In Ethiopia, a community leans on customs to save an antelope from extinction [05/06/2019]
- By 1992, the animal had been hunted almost to extinction in the Senkele Swayne’s Hartebeest Sanctuary, one of the last places where it’s found.
- Traditional leaders banded together to convince their community to end the hunting of the hartebeest for food, on the grounds that it went against their age-old customs.
- The Swayne’s hartebeest population has since rebounded, although threats to its survival remain, both from natural predation and from human activities.


Radio drama encourages Belizean fishers to follow the rules [05/06/2019]
- The Belizean radio show “Punta Fuego” teaches local fishing communities about fishing regulations.
- Listeners can phone in to the show’s “Talking Fuego” segment and interact with hosts and conservation experts.
- The show aims to earn fishers’ support for the expansion of “replenishment zones.” In April, the government approved these new strictly protected areas to give marine species a break from fishing pressure.
- Critics say the show doesn’t address a wider problem: fishers won’t follow regulations that the government does not enforce, even if they understand the purpose.


All you need is human feces: The strange world of dung beetle sampling [05/06/2019]
- Dung beetles have emerged as one of the most intensively studied animal groups in tropical rainforests.
- They are very easy and cheap to survey and are strong indicators of the health of rainforests and the presence of diverse mammal communities.
- Dung beetles also carry out critical roles and functions in rainforests, including spreading seeds and nutrients, but some of these are unraveling as humans drive species to extinction.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 3, 2019 [05/03/2019]
- 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.


In traffic-blighted Penang, transport upgrade plans raise hopes and fears [05/03/2019]
- The government of Penang, Malaysia, has big plans to upgrade the state’s transport system via a new network of highways, bridges, tunnels and rail lines.
- While many are hopeful the new roads will ease the island’s infamous traffic, conservationists are concerned that the plan will lock Penang into a car-oriented future.
- One highway project has already been hit by a deadly landslide, adding to residents’ concerns.


In Indonesia, bigger catches for a fishing village protecting its mangroves [05/03/2019]
- For years, weak law enforcement and low public awareness meant environmentally dangerous practices were commonly employed in countries like Indonesia.
- But local and national government reforms, combined with customary traditions and ambitious NGO programs, are beginning to address the problem.
- One village in western Borneo has seen a dramatic recovery in fish stocks after temporary fisheries closures were enacted.


Hippos poop a lot of silica, and that’s critical for Africa’s rivers and lakes [05/02/2019]
- By chomping on large amounts of silica-rich grass at night, then defecating into the Mara River during the day, hippos help move silicon from land to the water — something that’s vital for the health of the river and lakes further downstream, a new study has found.
- Researchers analyzed samples of soil, water, grass and hippo feces from various points along the Mara River, and found that hippos alone were likely contributing more than 76 percent of the silicon being transported along the river.
- If the Mara River’s hippos decline in number, it could lead to a reduction in the amount of silicon that makes its way to the lakes. This in turn could result in algal blooms that can use up the oxygen in the lakes downstream and kill the fish.


It’s now or never for Madagascar’s biodiversity, experts say [05/02/2019]
- As Madagascar’s recently elected president completed his first 100 days in office, experts identify five priority areas for conservation.
- In a new comment piece in Nature Sustainability, the experts highlight the need for setting conservation goals that are aligned with the sustainable development of the country.
- Strengthening the rights of local people and the rule of law is key to successful conservation, the authors say.
- Urgent steps include tackling environmental crime, investing in protected areas, and mitigating environmental impacts from infrastructure development.


In Sri Lanka, a tiny new orchid bears an elephant’s name [05/01/2019]
- A new orchid species found only in Sri Lanka has been named after a wild elephant killed for its tusks in 2017.
- The botanists who discovered Pteroceras dalaputtuwa say they named it in the hope of highlighting the need to conserve the island’s rich plant and animal biodiversity.
- The surveys that yielded the new species also led to the rediscovery of another endemic orchid species, Pteroceras viridiflorum that was considered extinct and not seen in nearly 150 years.


Drone rediscovers Hawaiian flower thought to be extinct [05/01/2019]
- A drone surveying a cliff face in a remote part of Kalalau Valley in Hawaii’s Kaua‘i Island has confirmed the presence of Hibiscadelphus woodii, a relative of hibiscus that was last seen alive in 2009, and thought to be extinct.
- Biologists first spotted four H. woodii plants in March 1991, but three of the plants were crushed and killed by falling boulders between 1995 and 1998. The remaining known individual was last observed alive in 2009, and then seen dead in 2011.
- However, by flying into difficult-to-reach areas, drones are uncovering secrets of previously unexplored cliff habitats.


Mobile app encourages Indian fishers to free entangled whale sharks [05/01/2019]
- When whale sharks in waters off the Indian state of Gujarat get trapped in fishing nets, a new mobile app lets fishers easily document their release.
- Conservationists and fishers alike hope the app will speed up the compensation fishers receive for damaged nets.
- However, fishers say the compensation, a maximum of 25,000 rupees ($360), should be increased to reflect the true loss of their revenue during their downtime without nets.


Western chimp numbers revised up to 53,000, but development threats loom [05/01/2019]
- A new survey of data from the IUCN’s Apes Database indicates that there are nearly 53,000 western chimpanzees in West Africa.
- The number is significantly higher than previous estimates, which placed the population closer to 35,000, but the subspecies remains categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The authors of the study say their findings can help governments in the region ensure that proposed infrastructure projects do as little harm to the remaining chimpanzee populations as possible.


Audio: Saving forests and biodiversity by providing affordable healthcare [04/30/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Kinari Webb, founder of Health in Harmony, an organization using healthcare for humans to save rainforests and their wildlife inhabitants.
- In the decade since Heath in Harmony launched its healthcare-for-conservation program in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park, infant deaths in local communities have been reduced by more than two-thirds, the number of illegal logging households in the park has gone down by nearly 90 percent, the loss of forest has stabilized, 20,000 hectares of forest are being replanted, and habitat for 2,500 endangered Bornean Orangutans has been protected.
- Webb talks about radical listening, the tremendous impacts for rainforests and orangutans of providing affordable healthcare to local communities, and her plans to expand Health in Harmony’s efforts outside of Indonesia on this episode of the Newscast.


Building the world’s biggest MPA: Q&A with Goldman winner Jacqueline Evans [04/30/2019]
- In July 2017, the South Pacific nation of the Cook Islands made a bold bid to convert its entire territorial waters, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), into a mixed-use marine protected area.
- Called Marae Moana, or “sacred ocean,” the MPA spans almost 2 million square kilometers (772,200 square miles), making it the biggest in the world, although only parts of it are strictly protected from fishing and other extractive activities.
- Jacqueline Evans, a marine conservationist, was the driving force behind the MPA.
- This week, Evans was awarded a prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work on Marae Moana.


Javan rhino found dead in Indonesia, bringing global population down to 68 [04/30/2019]
- The body of a juvenile male Javan rhinoceros was discovered last month in a mud pit in Ujung Kulon National Park, the sole remaining habitat for the species.
- The death of the rhino, known as Manggala, brings the known global population of his species down to 68 individuals.
- The body was intact when found, and preliminary investigations indicated the rhino did not die due to an infectious disease. A detailed post-mortem is being conducted, with results expected May 7.
- The body bore multiple wounds, leading park officials to suspect Manggala may have been attacked by an adult rhinoceros.


Meet the winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize [04/29/2019]
- This year is the 30th anniversary of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
- Also called the Green Nobel Prize, the annual award honors grassroots environmental heroes from six continental regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and islands and island nations.
- This year’s winners are Alfred Brownell from Liberia, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia, Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia, Jacqueline Evans from the Cook Islands, Alberto Curamil from Chile, and Linda Garcia from the United States.


An epic Pacific survey reveals mixed fortunes for green and hawksbill turtles [04/29/2019]
- An expansive survey over 13 years of green turtles and hawksbill turtles found the population of the former rebounding in the Pacific Basin.
- Both these species are historically threatened by overexploitation, fishing bycatch and habitat loss, and are protected under CITES.
- While green turtle numbers remained stable or increased in the regions covered by the in-water survey, hawksbill turtle numbers remain low.
- Another major study released this week found that warming global temperatures impact cold-blooded marine animals, such as turtles, twice as much as terrestrial ectotherms.


Phasepardhis and the lesser florican (commentary) [04/26/2019]
- Across India, grasslands are highly degraded and mismanaged ecosystems. Often considered wastelands, they face the constant threats of being turned into tree plantations by the Forest Department, devoured by urban expansion and industrial development, or converted for cultivation of agricultural crops.
- At the root of these practices are pre-independence colonial policies. Such policies have continued in post-independence times, severely impacting the habitat and consequently populations of birds like the lesser florican and the great Indian bustard.
- Phasepardi people face a fate similar to their habitat, the grasslands, and their co-inhabitants, the grassland birds. Together with Phasepardhi youth, non-profit organization Samvedana has initiated a process towards conservation of the lesser florican, re-generation of degraded grasslands, and strengthening livelihoods and dignity for the Phasepardhis.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Large emperor penguin colony suffers ‘catastrophic’ breeding failure [04/26/2019]
- Until recently, the emperor penguin colony at Halley Bay on the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic was one of the world’s largest, supporting between 14,000 to 25,000 breeding pairs, or around 5 to 9 percent of the bird’s global population.
- Since 2016, satellite images have shown that the colony has suffered a complete breeding failure, something that’s never been recorded before.
- This breeding failure started in 2016 when, following abnormal stormy weather, the sea ice broke up in October, long before the chicks had fledged and were ready to go out to sea. In 2017 and 2018, the sea ice broke up early too, leading to the likely death of all chicks.
- Around the same time, there was a massive increase in the numbers of emperor penguins at the Dawson-Lambton Glacier penguin colony 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Halley Bay, suggesting that many of the emperor penguins from Halley Bay had moved to Dawson-Lambton.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, April 26, 2019 [04/26/2019]
- 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.


Creating a high-tech island to save one of the world’s rarest birds [04/25/2019]
- Scientists in New Zealand are combining tracking, genomics, and drone technologies to save the kākāpō, the giant flightless parrot nearly eradicated by invasive predators, such as dogs, rats, and cats brought by human settlers.
- Data loggers on a predator-free island read information emitted by transmitters worn by each of the birds and send the data to the research team; the information tells researchers where birds are nesting, when birds are sick, and when (and with whom) a given bird mated.
- The team supplements natural kākāpō breeding with artificial insemination, including flying a sperm-carrying drone that can swiftly move sperm from a male to an appropriate female across the island, which the researchers believe helps keep the sperm more viable when it reaches the female.
- For this, scientists “match” male and female kākāpō using genetic analysis to determine how closely related the two birds are and choose mates that are most distantly related. The research team is reviewing genomic data from all adult kākāpō for clues about fertility and disease.


Indonesia trains its citizens to deal with sea-mammal strandings [04/24/2019]
- The waters around Indonesia serve as both a habitat and an important migratory route for dozens of species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.
- These cetaceans, however, are often found dead on Indonesian beaches, or alive but unable to return to deeper waters themselves.
- To prevent the deaths of marine mammals that strand themselves on its shores, the government has sought to establish a network of first responders equipped with the knowledge and training to deal with problem.
- Experts say what’s more important than providing an adequate response is to reduce the threats that lead to the strandings, including by improving the management of marine habitats and tackling pollution in the sea.


Bird flu in Namibia’s penguins wanes, after killing nearly 500 [04/24/2019]
- More than 450 African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered animal, have died in an outbreak of bird flu on three islands off the coast of Namibia.
- The virus, H5N8, is thought to have been introduced to the colonies, which hold 96 percent of Namibia’s penguins, by another bird traveling from South Africa, where a similar outbreak occurred in 2018.
- The disease appears to be abating, and researchers are hopeful that the country’s penguins will recover.
- However, they continue to face threats from food shortages caused by overfishing and climate change.


Virus may have caused mysterious foot disease in Chile’s rare huemul deer [04/24/2019]
- Researchers say they believe they have identified the potential cause of a foot disease that affected 24 huemul deer in Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins National Park between 2005 and 2010.
- Preliminary results from tests on tissue samples taken from an infected fawn suggest that a parapoxvirus, a group of viruses that commonly infect and cause lesions in livestock, could have been the main cause of the foot disease.
- If the pox virus is indeed the disease agent, then it’s an additional threat to the endangered species because these viruses are highly contagious, researchers say.
- The study’s authors say they suspect the parapoxvirus may have come from cattle that was illegally introduced in the national park in 1991.


Camera trap study finds a threatened high-elevation mammal community in Peru [04/23/2019]
- A new camera trap study, the results of which were published in the journal Oryx last week, seeks to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the Cerros del Sira’s mammalian inhabitants.
- An international team of scientists from Peru and the UK led by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, a biologist at Peru’s National University of Cusco, deployed 45 camera traps from 2015 to 2016 in the Sira Communal Reserve, part of the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha Biosphere Reserve.
- Aside from revealing the distribution of and threats to the Cerros del Sira’s mammal community, the results of the camera trap survey led to a number of other insights.


Study documents how Sri Lanka’s protected reptiles are traded as pets [04/22/2019]
- A new research paper has highlighted how rare lizards found only in Sri Lanka are trafficked and sold as exotic pets, prompting conservationists to renew their call for enhanced global protection for several of these species.
- Much of the species studied in this survey of the online trade, in particular a family of colorful lizards known as dragon lizards, ended up in Europe.
- These lizards can sell for more than $1,000 each, with single specimens and breeding pairs fetching higher prices as the trade continues to thrive, despite domestic and international restrictions on wildlife trade and collection.


Community buy-in stamps out elephant poaching in Zambian park [04/22/2019]
- No elephants were poached in Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park in 2018, and the surrounding area had a 50 percent decrease in poached carcasses found.
- The North Luangwa Conservation Programme, a partnership between the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the country’s Department of Parks and Wildlife, has been around since the late 1980s and has focused its efforts on community involvement in stopping poachers from going after elephants, rhinos and other wildlife in the park.
- Staff of the program say the participation of the communities living near the park’s borders is critical to protecting the elephants of North Luangwa.
- The broader Luangwa ecosystem is home to more than 63 percent of Zambia’s elephants.


The extinction clock ticks for the little-known Philippine pangolin [04/22/2019]
- With the Palawan pangolin’s population decimated by poaching and its habitat lost to urban creep, scientists and conservationists are in a race against time to save and document everything about this forest dweller.
- From 2001 to 2017, the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC recorded 38 seizure incidents in which the Philippines was the country of origin, transit point or end destination for pangolin shipments. A total of 667 pangolins were seized in these busts


Sage spending to save species (commentary) [04/22/2019]
- As we unite to celebrate the 49th Earth Day today, let us also unite to shift the conservation paradigm from intervention to prevention. If we can make the necessary investments to save species of “Least Concern” today, we’ll forego hiring armed guards to save the last of their kind in the future.
- The architecture of the current conservation funding structure is in need of an overhaul to allow greater distribution of resources across all species, regardless of their conservation status, in order to strategically and wisely allocate the life-saving dollars bestowed upon the environmental community.
- Procrastination has a hefty price tag, both in what we stand to lose financially and intrinsically for our planet. While species protection is costly, recovery of the survivors is exponentially greater.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


On one island, a microcosm of Vietnam’s environmental challenges [04/22/2019]
- It is also a popular tourist destination, and like many parts of the country faces the challenge of balancing development with environmental protection.
- Tenuous conservation success stories can be found here, but current and future developments in surrounding areas pose acute threats.


Jane Goodall on Leonardo DiCaprio, her 85th birthday, and the need for hope [04/21/2019]
- Primatologist Jane Goodall is arguably the world’s best known conservationist for her research on chimps and her efforts to raise awareness on environmental issues globally.
- On April 3rd, Jane turned 85 and was honored by the City of Los Angeles for her contributions to the planet. And actor Leonardo Dicaprio hosted a star-studded birthday dinner for her.
- For the occasion, Mongabay’s founder Rhett Butler interviewed Jane about some examples of why she remains optimistic for wildlife and wild places.
- Disclosure: Jane is a member of Mongabay’s advisory council.


Cities may save some species from extinction, but they don’t save species’ ecological functions [04/19/2019]
- Some species are not only able to adapt to life in urban areas but actually thrive and grow more abundant than they might have in their natural surroundings.
- Thus some cities have been declared urban conservation hotspots — but research published last year shows that while those cities might help preserve robust populations of otherwise threatened species, they do not help preserve the crucial ecological functions of those species.
- If species and the ecological functions they provide are allowed to disappear altogether from natural habitats and only continue to persist in urban areas, that could have “long-term, unexpected effects on ecosystems,” researchers say.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, April 19, 2019 [04/19/2019]
- 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.


Singapore acquits trader in world’s biggest rosewood bust, worth $50m [04/19/2019]
- On April 8, Singapore’s highest court acquitted a businessman who brought Malagasy rosewood valued at $50 million into the city-state in 2014, one of the largest wildlife seizures in the history of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- The move reversed the ruling of a lower court that had sentenced the businessman to jail time and imposed $1 million in fines for importing protected wildlife.
- The court ordered Singapore authorities to return the rosewood to the businessman and his firm “as soon as practicable.”
- Environmental groups have been looking on anxiously as the case wound its way through Singapore’s courts for nearly five years, only to be disappointed by the final verdict.


Sri Lanka calls for increased protection for endemic lizards [04/18/2019]
- Sri Lanka is seeking greater international protection for several lizard species found nowhere else on Earth.
- The country hosts the next meeting of CITES next month, where it will propose several endemic lizard species for inclusion in the convention’s Appendix I, including the Knuckles pygmy lizard (Cophotis dumbara), considered critically endangered.
- Domestic laws already exist to protect this and other species, but experts say they need to be better enforced to tackle the smuggling that threatens the reptiles’ survival.


Rise in crocodile sightings linked to habitat degradation in Indonesia [04/18/2019]
- The capture of a saltwater crocodile by Indonesian villagers last February was the latest in a series of increasingly frequent — and occasionally deadly — sightings of the reptiles near human settlements.
- The animal was eventually released by the local conservation agency into an unsettled area.
- Conservation officials say the destruction of the crocodiles’ habitat by blast fishing and conversion of coastal areas into farms may be driving the animals out of the wild and closer to villages.
- Officials have called on villagers not to harm the animals if they catch them, given that they’re a protected species under Indonesian law.


Swelling amount of plastic in the ocean confirmed by new study [04/17/2019]
- A new study used log books from 60 years of plankton research to document the increase in the amount of plastic in the ocean.
- The study’s authors tabulated the entanglements of the continuous plankton recorder, a sampling device that’s towed behind ships, revealing a significant increase in plastic in the ocean since the 1990s.
- Scientists have long suspected such a trend but have been unable to demonstrate it with data until now.


Omura’s whale much more widespread across the globe than previously thought [04/17/2019]
- The global range of the world’s most recently discovered large whale species is starting to come into focus — as are the man-made threats to the species.
- Salvatore Cerchio of the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts led a team that published a paper in Frontiers in Marine Science in March that includes a map of all known sightings of the elusive Omura’s whale (Balaenoptera omurai), demonstrating that the whale has a much larger range than previously thought.
- Given the new information they had about the global range of Omura’s whale, the researchers determined the whales face threats from, “at minimum, ship strikes, fisheries bycatch and entanglement, local directed hunting, petroleum exploration (seismic surveys), and coastal industrial development.”


China seizes over 2,700 elephant tusks in massive bust [04/17/2019]
- In one of the biggest busts in recent years, Chinese officials have seized 2,748 elephant tusks weighing more than 7 tonnes, the General Administration of Customs announced earlier this week.
- The ivory was confiscated during a joint operation by customs authorities and police across six provinces on March 30.
- Customs authorities added that since the beginning of 2019, they had filed 182 cases of smuggling of endangered wild species, seized more than 500 tons of endangered wildlife and their products, and arrested 171 suspects, disrupting 27 criminal gangs.
- China instated a ban on the domestic trade in elephant ivory in 2018.


IUCN calls for moratorium on projects impacting rarest great ape species [04/17/2019]
- The IUCN has cited “ongoing and new threats” to the Tapanuli orangutan, found in a single forest ecosystem in northern Sumatra, to call for a suspension and reassessment of projects being undertaken within the ape’s habitat.
- With a population of no more than 800 individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is the world’s rarest and most threatened great ape species.
- Roads through the Batang Toru ecosystem where it lives have fragmented the orangutan’s population.
- The most high-profile threat is a planned hydropower plant and dam in the ape’s habitat, which scientists and conservationists have increasingly called to be halted.


A park in Bolivia bears the brunt of a plan to export electricity [04/17/2019]
- A 290-megawatt hydroelectric dam is under construction in Bolivia’s highly biodiverse Carrasco National Park.
- The project is one of several intended to create energy for export, likely to Brazil and Argentina.
- Experts have questioned whether approval should have been given to build a dam in a protected area, especially given the fact that 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land are due to be cleared.
- The area is home to as many as 700 bird and 3,000 plant species.


Last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle dies in China [04/16/2019]
- On April 13, the world’s only known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle died in China’s Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo following an attempt to artificially inseminate her, leaving behind just three confirmed individuals of the species.
- The female turtle had been moved more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Changsha Zoo to Suzhou Zoo in 2008 in the hope that she would mate and produce offspring with the 100-year old male turtle that also lived in captivity at Suzhou.
- The old turtle couple, however, failed to produce any offspring naturally, and several attempts at artificial insemination did not yield viable eggs.
- After the fifth attempt at artificial insemination, the female died during recovery from anesthesia. The male recovered from the procedure.


A fishy translocation highlights dangers of ‘taxonomic inflation’ [04/16/2019]
- New research has uncovered how undocumented translocations of endemic fish species in Sri Lanka resulted in scientists mistakenly describing what they believed to be a new species of “fire rasboras,” a fish popular in the aquarium trade.
- A population of the Rasboroides fishes, translocated in 2003 to a habitat where it had previously never been recorded as occurring, formed the basis for an erroneous finding in 2013.
- The new study that corrects this mistake calls for strict adherence to IUCN guidelines on translocation of species and the prohibition of intentional release or introduction of species without legal sanction.
- It also highlights the potential for misdirection of scientific research and conservation initiatives that can arise from declaring new species that aren’t, a practice known as taxonomic inflation.


Colorful display of newly described stick insects confounds scientists [04/16/2019]
- Most stick insect species blend into their surroundings to avoid predators.
- But the males of two newly described species from madagascar, Achrioptera manga and Achrioptera maroloko, are brightly colored.
- Some scientists believe this allows them to attract females, even at the risk of being spotted by predators.
- Their distinctive hues make them potential flagship species for the biodiversity-rich regions where they were discovered: the forests of Montagne des Français and Orangea.


Waters off Galápagos have way more alien species than previously known [04/16/2019]
- The waters off the Galápagos Islands have nearly 10 times more alien marine invertebrates than previously recorded, a new study has found.
- The study recorded a total of 53 non-native marine invertebrates (animals that lack a backbone, such as marine worms, sea squirts or moss animals) in the waters off two islands in the archipelago, up from five that were previously known.
- Researchers suspect there are many more non-native species present in the Galápagos waters that remain to be discovered.


Conservation may offer common ground in Afghan conflict [04/15/2019]
- War, drugs, corruption, and terrorism are terms Westerners are more likely to associate with Afghanistan than biodiversity conservation. But Alex Dehgan says conservation has the potential to offer a bridge toward a more peaceful Afghanistan.
- Dehgan lays out his case in a new book titled The Snow Leopard Project And Other Adventures In Warzone Conservation. The book follows Dehgan’s unorthodox career from a biologist and legal expert in Russia to his time with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) setting up Afghanistan’s first national park.
- Dehgan argues that there is “an implicit understanding” among Afghans “of the links between conservation of the natural environment and their survival”.
- Dehgan spoke about his adventures in conservation in Afghanistan in an April 2019 interview with Mongabay.


Deforested habitats leave migratory birds ill-prepared for journey north [04/15/2019]
- Migratory birds are experiencing precipitous population declines due to land-use change in Central and South America.
- These birds rely on forested areas in their southern overwintering grounds for sustenance, but these have been widely replaced by less hospitable agricultural landscapes.
- Some vulnerable migratory birds use tropical hardwood plantations at the same rate as forests, making these for-profit agricultural lands an attractive prospect for conservation, especially in contrast with poorer habitats like cattle pasture.
- Agroforestry solutions, such as the retention of tall trees, can also provide habitat for at-risk species like the golden-winged warbler while providing ecosystem services to farmers.


To rescue Sumatran rhinos, Indonesia starts by counting them first [04/15/2019]
- In February, authorities in Indonesia held an exercise for Sumatran rhino researchers to track and tally the remaining wild population of the species.
- The government aims to finalize an official count of the critically endangered rhino within three years, according to the environment ministry.
- Natural breeding for the rhinos has been particularly difficult as the remaining individuals live in fragmented lowland forests away from each other. On top of that, rhinos are slow breeders and the females have a short fertility period.
- Estimates of the current size of the wild Sumatran rhino population range from 30 to 100 individuals. Another nine live in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia.


Deforestation diminishes access to clean water, study finds [04/15/2019]
- A recent study compared deforestation data and information on household access to clean water in Malawi.
- The scientists found that the country lost 14 percent of its forest between 2000 and 2010, which had the same effect on access to safe drinking water as a 9 percent decrease in rainfall.
- With higher rainfall variability expected in today’s changing climate, the authors suggest that a larger area of forest in countries like Malawi could be a buffer against the impacts of climate change.


In Bali, a village hews to unwritten rules to manage its forest [04/14/2019]
- Pengotan is a village of around 3,800 on the southern side of Bali’s Mount Batur.
- Walk into a house here in Pengotan and chances are someone will be weaving bamboo to be used in offerings.
- Much of the law of the land is informed by customary tradition, the perarem, handed down from previous generations.


Solving the mystery of the UK’s vanishing hen harriers [04/12/2019]
- The numbers of breeding hen harriers, one of England’s rarest birds and a protected species, dropped sharply in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- To better understand why hen harriers were vanishing, researchers tracked the movements of 58 birds using satellite-based tags in conjunction with remote sensing land management data.
- Birds with tags that stopped transmitting spent their last week of life predominantly on moors where hunters shoot grouse and were 10 times more likely to disappear or die when grouse moors dominated their ranges, suggesting they were killed.
- The findings indicated that 72 percent of the tagged harriers were either confirmed or considered very likely to have been illegally killed.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, April 12, 2019 [04/12/2019]
- 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.


Scientists urge overhaul of the world’s parks to protect biodiversity [04/11/2019]
- A team of scientists argues that we should evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas based on the outcomes for biodiversity, not simple the area of land or ocean they protect.
- In a paper published April 11 in the journal Science, they outline the weaknesses of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which set goals of protecting 17 percent of the earth’s surface and 10 percent of its oceans by 2020.
- They propose monitoring the outcomes of protected areas that measure changes in biodiversity in comparison to agreed-upon “reference” levels and then using those figures to determine how well they are performing.


Virtual Reality 360-degree video: An “empathy-generating machine” for conservation outreach? [04/11/2019]
- New video technology that films in 360 degrees brings viewers into the middle of the action and is set to become a powerful outreach tool to build understanding and empathy for wildlife and wild places.
- Small off-the-shelf cameras rugged enough to film in the wild are relatively inexpensive, easy enough for field researchers and other filming novices to use, and sufficiently sophisticated to collect videos of resolutions higher than 5 megapixels.
- At a recent presentation at National Geographic, four VR-360 filmmakers strongly endorsed the technology as a tool to inspire and nurture empathy in viewers for a range of conservation issues.


No rhino census this year as Nepal runs short of funds for survey [04/11/2019]
- A planned census of Nepal’s greater one-horned rhinoceros will not take place this year due to a lack of funds.
- Revenue from ticket sales at national parks is divided between the government’s general budget and funds to support local communities, leaving wildlife officials dependent on donors to finance activities like the census.
- This year’s census was believed to be particularly critical because large numbers of Nepal’s rhinos are dying due to unexplained or natural causes, prompting questions about the carrying capacity of Chitwan National Park, the country’s rhino stronghold.
- Experts believe a census this year could reveal a decline in population, a politically unpalatable outcome in a country where rhino conservation is a matter of national prestige.


Peru: Get to know the diverse wildlife of the cloud forests of Pampa Hermosa | VIDEOS [04/11/2019]
- Biologist Sean McHugh, along with filmmaker and photographer Jasmina McKibben, recently traveled to the Colibri cloud forest in Peru’s Pampa Hermosa district in search of the spectacled bear.
- At least 25 different species of mammals were observed in a rarely-investigated area of the Junín region of Peru.
- Two spectacled bears and a new population of yellow-tailed woolly monkeys were captured on video.


Russia plans to release nearly 100 belugas, orcas from icy ‘whale jail’ [04/10/2019]
- Russian authorities have announced that they will release all 97 whales currently being held captive in Russia’s Far East.
- The whales made news in November last year when an aerial drone video showed several of them cramped inside small, rectangular sea pens at Srednyaya Bay, which the local media labeled a “whale jail.”
- The initial video showed some 90 belugas and 11 killer whales or orcas in the pens, caught by four companies that allegedly planned to illegally sell the animals to Chinese aquariums and amusement parks. Experts believe some of the whales may have since died.


Indonesia creates three marine protected areas within Coral Triangle [04/10/2019]
- Indonesia has designated three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters of eastern North Maluku province.
- The new protected zones are expected to improve the local fisheries sector and support national food security.
- The establishment of the areas is part of the government’s target to create 200,000 square kilometers (77,200 square miles) of MPAs by 2020; it has already achieved 96 percent of that goal.


There is no conservation justification for bringing the tapir back to Borneo (commentary) [04/09/2019]
- The past few years there has been a dedicated lobbying/promotional campaign among local amateur naturalists, professional conservationists, and international researchers to bring back Malay tapirs, Tapirus indicus, to Borneo.
- A recent article in Mongabay is yet another push towards this intended goal. It is well-written and a welcome contribution to this important discussion. Unfortunately, it misses a few important points.
- The introduction of tapirs to Borneo is not needed at this point in time and — more importantly — it serves no real or perceived conservation needs at present or in the near future.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland [04/09/2019]
- A large mineral sands mine in southeastern Madagascar has trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for drinking water, two recent studies confirm.
- Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23 memo, more than five years after the breach initially occurred.
- Rio Tinto will hold its annual general meeting April 10 in London.
- The director of an NGO that commissioned one of the studies is a shareholder and said she hopes to speak about what’s happened at the lake.


Hunting pumas to save deer could backfire, new research suggests [04/09/2019]
- A new study finds that the age of individual pumas near Jackson, Wyoming, had the greatest influence over the prey they chose to hunt.
- Older mountain lions went after elk, among the largest prey species in the study area, while the younger cats hunted small animals like raccoons as well as mule deer.
- The research calls into question the validity of recent wildlife management plans in the western United States to grow mule deer populations by culling mountain lions, the authors say.


Ice-free Alps? It could be a reality by 2100 [04/09/2019]
- Even without additional warming, Alpian glaciers stand to lose 50 percent of their glacial mass by 2050 because of warming that has already occurred.
- The Alps are not just an iconic tourist destination, they also feed rivers and support ecosystems downstream.
- A majority of ice loss cannot be avoided, researchers say, but stronger actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions can help limit the loss.


Natural forests best bet for fighting climate change, analysis finds [04/09/2019]
- Natural forests store more carbon for longer compared to plantations and agroforestry.
- The carbon sequestration potential of natural forests is 40 times greater than that of plantations, a new analysis has found.
- But countries like Brazil, China and Indonesia are relying more on expanding plantations to meet their regreening goals.
- About 66 percent of forest restoration commitments in tropical and subtropical countries involve planting some kind of agricultural crop.


Belize to nearly triple area under strict marine protected areas [04/08/2019]
- The government of Belize has approved a plan to expand its marine areas designated as no-take zones from 4.5 percent to 11.6 percent of its total waters.
- Much of the expansion will cover deep-sea areas at depths ranging from 200 to 3,000 meters (660 to 9,850 feet), currently underrepresented in Belize’s system of marine protected areas, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
- The expansion will also include a no-take area in Belize’s exclusive economic zone, covering an extensive coral reef complex known as the Corona Reef.


Study concludes that nature benefits when more women make land management decisions [04/08/2019]
- A study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and published in the journal Nature Climate Change last month explored whether or not gender quotas for local governing bodies could help reduce deforestation while addressing local inequalities at the same time.
- For the study, researchers traveled to 31 villages near collectively managed forests in three developing countries — Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania — and asked 440 forest users in those communities to play a tabletop simulation game in which they had to make decisions about how many trees to harvest from a shared forest. The participants were divided into groups of eight, and half the groups were required to have women as 50 percent of their members. The other half of the groups had no gender quotas.
- The authors write in the study that their results “show that gender quotas make interventions more effective and lead to more equal sharing of intervention benefits.”


Fishing for sharks in Honduras’s sanctuary seas: Q&A with biologist Gabriela Ochoa [04/08/2019]
- In 2011, Honduras declared the creation of a shark sanctuary encompassing all its waters.
- A 2016 decree allows for the sale of sharks caught incidentally, but in the absence of monitoring and inspection, hundreds of sharks are still being caught daily during certain seasons to supply an Easter-time demand for dried fish.
- Mongabay spoke with marine biologist and conservationist Gabriela Ochoa, who studies Honduras’s ongoing shark fishery, about the trade.


Planning without action will see the Javan rhino go extinct (commentary) [04/08/2019]
- Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia’s Java island is the last remaining habitat on Earth for the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros.
- The rhino population is holding steady, but its survival is threatened by natural disasters and a genetic bottleneck due to its small population.
- Conservation efforts, particularly finding a second home for these creatures in a lower-risk area, have long been planned, and now is the time to implement all of them to protect the rhinos from extinction.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Climb confirms that the world’s tallest tropical tree tops 100 meters [04/07/2019]
- A team of scientists has found and mapped the tallest tree on record in the tropics, standing at more than 100 meters (328 feet).
- Climber Unding Jami with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership scaled the tree and verified its height.
- The structure of the tree, determined from airborne lidar surveys as well as laser scans from the ground and drone photographs, provides insight into why these trees grow so high.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, April 5, 2019 [04/05/2019]
- 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.


On a wing and a prayer? Evidence for ways to conserve bats (commentary) [04/05/2019]
- Globally, around a quarter of bat species are threatened by factors including habitat loss, roost destruction, hunting, and climate change.
- To find the most effective ways of conserving these creatures, researchers at Conservation First, the University of Leeds, and the University of Cambridge (where I work) have updated a report that gathers together information on how well attempts to conserve bats actually worked.
- While the new bat synopsis gathers more information than ever before on ways to reduce the impact of developments from roads to lighting and from farming to forestry, it still highlights shocking gaps in the evidence.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Indonesia arrests 7 for allegedly selling Komodo dragons over Facebook [04/05/2019]
- Indonesian officials have arrested seven suspected members of a trafficking network that sold at least 40 Komodo dragons, along with other rare species, through Facebook and other social media platforms.
- Komodo dragons are found only in Indonesia and are a protected species, which means the suspects could face up to five years in prison and up to $7,000 each in fines for trading the animals.
- Six baby Komodo dragons were seized from the suspects, and are now being cared for by conservation officials ahead of a possible release back into the wild.
- The arrests have highlighted the dominant role of social media platforms in facilitating the illegal trade in Indonesia’s protected wildlife, with up to 98 percent of transactions believed to be carried out online.


New species of skink from Angola has waited over 70 years to be described [04/03/2019]
- In the 1950s and 60s, two Belgian herpetologists suspected the occurrence of a new-to-science species of skink based on specimens from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But neither of them got around to describing the species in their lifetimes.
- Now, a team of researchers surveying amphibians and reptiles in Cagandala National Park in Angola have formally described the long-tailed skink in a new study.
- Named Trachylepis raymondlaurenti or Laurent’s long tailed skink in honor of Raymond Laurent, the researchers suggest a conservation status of Least Concern for the skink for now.


In Bosnia-Herzegovina, grassroots opposition stalls another hydropower project [04/03/2019]
- Residents of a small Bosnian village kept watch day and night for years so that construction vehicles could not access the site of a proposed dam just upstream that would threaten their river’s health.
- Protests like it have become common here and in other Balkan nations such as Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia, where a growing trend of hydroelectric power projects aims to capitalize on the region’s having many of the last free-flowing rivers in Europe.
- Plans have been laid for nearly 3,000 new hydro dams across the Balkans, a 300% increase in the past two years.
- The people of Kruščica are celebrating a recent win: a judge revoked the dam’s construction permits in December, citing a lack of community consultation.


Audio: Debunking myths about sloths is crucial to stopping the sloth crisis [04/02/2019]
- On today’s episode, we talk with zoologist Rebecca Cliffe about why the popular perception of sloths as lazy creatures is completely unwarranted — and why debunking myths like this about the animals is especially important right now.
- The increasing global popularity sloths have enjoyed in recent years has not translated into an increase in protection. That’s why Cliffe sought to debunk some persistent myths about sloths in her 2017 book — myths that she says still need debunking today.
- Cliffe tells us all about how moving slow is actually a survival strategy that has been so successful that sloths are some of the oldest mammals on our planet, the current “sloth crisis” driven by forest fragmentation and people taking “sloth selfies,” and what you can do to help protect sloths.


To stop extinctions, start with these 169 islands, new study finds [04/02/2019]
- New research shows that culling invasive, non-native animals on just 169 islands around the world over roughly the next decade could help save almost 10 percent of island-dwelling animals at risk of extinction.
- A team of scientists surveyed nearly 1,300 islands where 1,184 threatened native animals have collided with 184 invasive mammals.
- Their analyses gave them a list of 107 islands where conservationists could start eradication projects by 2020, potentially keeping 80 threatened species from sliding closer to extinction.


Solomon Islands: Oil stops spilling but environmental toll still being calculated [04/02/2019]
- On Feb. 5, a Hong Kong-based bulk carrier, the MV Solomon Trader, ran aground off a remote island in the Solomon Islands. It spilled heavy fuel across coastal waters, beaches and a sensitive coral reef system not far from a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- On March 18, the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office reported that salvage experts have finally stabilized the beleaguered ship and stopped the fuel leak.
- An estimated 80 metric tons (88 tons) of heavy fuel oil escaped from the ship, but the government maintains that the full environmental impact of the spill remains to be determined.
- The Solomon Islands government, aided by Australia, began a cleanup operation in early March that continues.


Crab season to be cut short in California to protect whales and turtles [04/01/2019]
- A settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will close California’s Dungeness crab fishery three months early in 2019 to reduce the chances that whales and other sea life will become entangled in fishing gear.
- The crabbing season in 2020 and 2021 will also be shuttered early in places where high concentrations of whales come to feed in the spring, such as Monterey Bay.
- Conservationists applauded the changes, saying that they will save animals’ lives.
- The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations was also involved in hammering out the settlement, and its representative said that the new rules, while “challenging,” would help the industry move toward a “resilient, prosperous, and protective fishery.”


Indigenous groups in Ecuador convene to talk resistance in the Amazon [04/01/2019]
- The meeting was the first time the three groups met in their own territory.
- The assembly was called in response to an announcement by Ecuador’s Minister of Energy and Non-renewable Resources in 2018, who said Blocks 86 and 87 in Ecuador’s eastern Amazon are for sale and “there will be no problems because the communities are in other blocks.”
- In response, the three nations, whose territories overlap with Blocks 86 and 87, are demanding the free, prior and informed consent process and a stop to all oil, mining and hydroelectric projects in the Amazon.


Deadly fungal disease has devastated more than 500 amphibian species [04/01/2019]
- In 2007, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, was implicated in the decline or extinction of up to 200 species of frogs.
- Now, by scanning through evidence, researchers have found that in all, chytrid fungus-linked deaths have contributed to the decline of at least 501 amphibian species — that’s 6.5 percent of all amphibian species described by science so far. 
- Of these, some 90 species are presumably extinct and another 124 are suffering severe declines, researchers say.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, March 29, 2019 [03/29/2019]
- 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.


Meet Mini mum, Mini ature, Mini scule: Tiny new frogs from Madagascar [03/28/2019]
- Researchers have named three previously undescribed, extremely small species of frogs from Madagascar Mini mum, Mini ature, and Mini scule. All of them belong to Mini, a genus that is entirely new to science.
- The new study describes two more species of tiny frogs, Rhombophryne proportionali, and Anodonthyla eximia, both smaller than thumbnails, just like the Minis.
- The newly described frogs from Madagascar are, however, known only from a handful of locations. While the researchers recommend placing three of the species in a threatened category of the IUCN Red List, two species are data deficient.


Fishery on the brink: The fight to save the Nassau grouper [03/28/2019]
- The Nassau grouper, a commercially valuable reef fish found in the Caribbean, is now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.
- Nassau groupers migrate yearly to breed at massive gatherings known as spawning aggregations, where they are an easy target for fishers.
- Fisheries management officials say they often lack the resources to enforce fishing regulations, leaving the Nassau grouper’s spawning aggregations vulnerable to illegal harvest in Belize and throughout the region.


New report lays out low-carbon development path for Indonesia [03/28/2019]
- The Indonesian government published a report showing how the country could reap tremendous economic benefits by transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
- According to the report, a low-carbon development path could deliver an average of 6 percent GDP growth per year until 2045, with continued gains in employment, income growth and poverty reduction.
- This strategy would also cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions nearly 43 percent by 2030, exceeding Indonesia’s international climate target.
- The low-carbon model would require Indonesia to cut its reliance on coal, whereas the government’s current plan is to build more coal-fired power plants.


Better than sex? For hard-to-breed rhinos, technology strives for a solution [03/28/2019]
- Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are being developed to improve the outcomes of captive-breeding programs for rhinos.
- If successful, these efforts could help create a self-sustaining reserve population and help diversify the gene pool of wild populations.
- ARTs have been successfully used in both humans and livestock since the 1970s, but have not been as effective in wildlife species such as rhinos.
- Experts say they believe ART could play an important role in rhino conservation, but caution that these technologies are only one part of the solution.


New research teases apart complex effects of naval sonar on whales [03/28/2019]
- A pair of recent studies shows the unique responses of different whales to sonar, typically used by navies to detect submarines.
- Sonar sounds have been linked to hearing loss, deadly mass strandings and interference with whales’ communication with each other.
- One of the studies found that the distance the whales were from sonar sounds didn’t matter — they generally fled whether they were close to or far from it.
- Another study showed that sonar affected the feeding patterns of deep-diving blue whales, but not those that were feasting on krill at the surface.


Ocean acidification could impact Atlantic cod populations more severely than previously thought [03/27/2019]
- A 2016 study determined that, at the ocean acidification levels expected by the end of the century if we do nothing to draw down CO2 emissions, twice as many cod larvae will die within their first 25 days, causing the number of cod who reach maturity and reproduce to drop by 8 and 24 percent for the Western Baltic and Barents Sea populations, respectively.
- Scientists hoped that those cod who managed to reach maturity might be helping the species adapt to the conditions brought on by global climate change. But new research appears to have dashed those hopes.
- The new study, which was published in the journal Global Change Biology last month, found that surviving cod larvae suffer significant organ damage and developmental delays that could cause problems throughout their lifetimes.


Ascension, the Atlantic ‘Galápagos,’ to get massive marine reserve [03/27/2019]
- The British government has announced the creation of a fully protected “no-take” marine protected area (MPA) in the waters around Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean.
- The MPA will cover 443,000 square kilometers (171,000 square miles), making it one of the largest MPAs in the Atlantic.
- The British government has joined calls for the protection of 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.


How digital technologies can transform nature conservation engagement (commentary) [03/26/2019]
- At this crucial time, a digital leap can provide an opportunity to drastically improve individuals’ engagement in nature conservation by addressing the gaps in the current customer experience preventing more people from getting involved.
- Our market research indicates that 82 percent of donors do not fully know where their money is going or whether is having an impact. Donors get frustrated by their inability to track the impact of their donation and select the specific location, project, or wildlife they would like to support. This limited user experience lags behind digital norms and makes it particularly challenging to compel more people to get involved.
- People should not have to sacrifice transparency and ease-of-use to reap the benefits of supporting nature conservation. With advanced consumer demands and technology trends, there is an opportunity for improved engagement models that address the current gaps.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Malaysian state chief: Highway construction must not destroy forest [03/26/2019]
- The chief minister of Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, said that the Pan Borneo Highway project should expand existing roads where possible to minimize environmental impact.
- A coalition of local NGOs and scientific organizations applauded the announcement, saying that it could usher in a new era of collaboration between the government and civil society to look out for Sabah’s people and forests.
- These groups have raised concerns about the impacts on wildlife and communities of the proposed path of the highway, which will cover some 5,300 kilometers (3,300 miles) in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.


Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of Costa Rica’s indigenous Bribri, slain by gunmen [03/26/2019]
- Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of the Bribri indigenous people, was murdered at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre in Costa Rica on the night of March 18.
- Rojas, who was a coordinator of the Frente Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas, or the National Front of Indigenous People (FRENAPI), was leading a movement to reclaim indigenous land from non-indigenous settlers — a fight that had resulted in numerous death threats to him and others in the past.
- In a statement, FRENAPI said it placed full responsibility for Rojas’s murder on the government of President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and demanded “an immediate explanation of this latest incident of blood and violence against the Indigenous people of Costa Rica.”


Study maps where tunas, sharks and fishing ships meet [03/25/2019]
- By analyzing the trails of 933 fishing vessels and more than 800 sharks and tunas in the northeast Pacific, researchers have identified regions where the two tend to overlap in a new study.
- While the ships could be traced back to 12 countries, most that operated within the high seas part of the study region belonged to just five countries: Taiwan, China, Japan, Mexico and the United States.
- The study found that 4 to 35 percent of all the species’ core habitats overlapped with commercial fishing ships. But where they overlapped differed: for species like the salmon shark, most of the overlap occurred within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or domestic waters of the U.S. and Canada, while 87 percent of blue shark overlap with fishing occurred in the high seas
- Such fish-fishing overlap maps would be particularly useful for guiding fisheries management in the high seas, researchers say.


Nepal reckons with the dark side of its rhino conservation success [03/25/2019]
- A recent film glorifying rangers in Chitwan National Park, and a Buzzfeed investigation highlighting human rights abuses by those same rangers, have prompted debate over Nepal’s conservation practices.
- The country has achieved remarkable success in protecting species like the greater one-horned rhino, and conservationists say efforts to engage with and support communities around Chitwan have greatly increased since the 1990s.
- Rights activists say local people suffer due to a prevailing attitude that disregards the rights of historically marginalized people and denies them a genuine role in policymaking.


Latam Eco Review: Pumas hate disco and Ecuador’s newly described glass frog [03/23/2019]
Ecuador’s most recently described glass frogs, a model plan for coastal management in Colombia, and using lights to scare away pumas in Chile were among the top recent stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Colombia: Integrated coastal management protects local species and culture A fisheries zoning plan is protecting both local species and artisanal fishing […]

World’s fastest shark, and many others, edge toward extinction [03/23/2019]
- Seventeen species of sharks and rays have joined the list of those threatened with extinction, according to the latest updates from the Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the IUCN, which recently assessed the population trends of 58 shark and ray species.
- Among them is the shortfin mako, the world’s fastest known shark, whose threat status has been uplisted from vulnerable to endangered, as well as its cousin, the longfin mako.
- Three shark species — the Argentine angelshark, whitefin swellshark and smoothback angelshark — have been uplisted to critically endangered from lower threat categories.


Combining artificial intelligence and citizen science to improve wildlife surveys [03/22/2019]
- Migratory species play a key role in the health of the Serengeti ecosystem in East Africa, but monitoring their populations is a time- and labor-intensive task.
- Scientists studying these wildebeest populations compared expert observer counts of aerial imagery to corresponding counts by both volunteer citizen scientists and deep learning algorithms.
- Both novel methods were able to produce accurate wildebeest counts from the images with minor modifications, the algorithms doing so faster than humans.
- Use of automated object detection algorithms requires prior “training” with specific data sets, which in this case came from the volunteer counts, suggesting that the two methods are both useful and complementary.


‘Managed resilience’ not a successful strategy for conserving coral reefs, researchers find [03/22/2019]
- Coral reefs in protected areas that regulate fishing and pollution have declined to the same extent as reef systems in unprotected areas, according to recent research.
- The study, published in the Annual Review of Marine Science in January, determined that ocean warming is the primary cause of the global decline of reef-building corals.
- The researchers behind the study say their findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence that shows so-called “managed resilience” efforts, such as controls on fishing and pollution, don’t help coral reefs cope with the impacts of climate change.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, March 22, 2019 [03/22/2019]
- 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.


Indonesia investigates mass shark deaths at captive-breeding facility [03/22/2019]
- An investigation is underway after 127 sharks died at a captive-breeding facility in a marine national park in Indonesia.
- Experts suspect poor water quality may have triggered the die-off.
- The breeding facility, operating since 1960 and a key attraction inside Karimunjawa National Park, was shut in June 2018 after a visitor swimming in one of the floating cages was bitten by a shark.


Sri Lanka’s biodiversity on show: Q & A with tourism and wildlife minister John Amaratunga [03/22/2019]
- In May, Sri Lanka will host the latest CITES conference, which is expected to give a strong boost to the island’s tourism industry, including wildlife tourism, a key revenue generator.
- Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism development and wildlife, John Amaratunga, tells Mongabay there are multiple benefits of playing host to the conference, as a country re-emerging as a tourism hub and rated the top destination in 2019 by Lonely Planet.
- The host country, known globally for its biodiversity, intends leveraging the international wildlife trade summit to draw global attention to its wildlife tourism and conservation efforts.
- The conference is expected to strengthen sustainable wildlife tourism initiatives that will both promote and protect the island’s fauna, flora and other cultural assets.


With the legal rights to their forest secure, an indigenous community plans for the future [03/21/2019]
- The indigenous Kasepuhan community in Lebak, Indonesia, is one of the lucky few for whom the government has recognized their rights to the lands they have occupied for generations.
- Now, local youths are hoping to attract visitors from nearby Jakarta and boost coffee production as a means of creating jobs at home.
- “Now we have this clarity,” says Engkos Kosasih, a young Karang man who hopes to put the Karang forest here on the map for ecotourism. “It’s easy to start making plans for the next five or 10 years.”


Mongabay’s top 5 forests stories of 2019 (so far) for International Forests Day [03/20/2019]
Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.Forests have been at the core of Mongabay’s coverage since our founding 20 years ago. So for the International Day of Forests 2019, below are the top 5 most read stories about forests published so far this year at our site, in no particular order. You can also read all of our stories about forests […]

Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest.
- They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas.
- The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.


‘The ultimate agricultural practice’: Q&A with organizers of World Agroforestry Congress 2019 [03/20/2019]
- Agroforestry is an agricultural technique that combines growing trees alongside shrubs, crops and livestock in a system that produces food, supports biodiversity, builds soil horizons and water tables, and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. Mongabay has been publishing a special series on its implementation and impact worldwide.
- 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.
- Mongabay interviewed two of the key people involved, including congress organizer Emmanuel Torquebiau, who is also a senior scientist with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).
- Keynote speaker Christian Dupraz is a senior scientist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and also shared his thoughts about the goals and potential of the event.


Protecting small, old-growth forests fails to preserve bird diversity: Study [03/20/2019]
- Recent research suggests that designating small fragments of old-growth temperate forests as protected areas is not sufficient to halt loss of bird diversity, and that better monitoring and management of forests is required to achieve conservation goals.
- A research team led by Jeffrey Brown, a doctoral student at Rutgers University in the U.S., used data spanning a 40-year time period to study bird populations in Mettler’s Woods, a 64-acre old-growth forest within the Rutgers-owned William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest in the state of New Jersey.
- Mettler’s Woods is one of the last uncut stands of oak-hickory forest to be found in the United States. It would, on its surface, appear to provide ideal habitat for many bird species. But nine birds known to historically inhabit the forest no longer nest there, and many other species have lower populations than expected.


Audio: What underwater sounds can tell us about Indian Ocean humpback dolphins [03/19/2019]
- On today’s episode, we speak with marine biologist Isha Bopardikar, an independent researcher who is using bioacoustics to study humpback dolphins off the west coast of India.
- Last month, Mongabay’s India bureau published an article with the headline “What underwater sounds tell us about marine life.” As Mongabay contributor Sejal Mehta notes in the piece, the world beneath the ocean’s surface is a noisy place, with animals sounding off for a number of purposes. Now, of course, humanity is interjecting more and more frequently, intruding on the underwater soundscape.
- As Isha Bopardikar tells Mehta in the Mongabay India piece, in order to understand how marine animals use the underwater space and how human activities affect their behavior, we need hard data. That’s where her current work off the west coast of India comes in. In this Fields Notes segment, Bopardikar plays for us some of her dolphin recordings and explains how they are informing her research.


Tear down the dams: New coalition strives to enshrine rights of orcas [03/19/2019]
- A new coalition of scientists, indigenous peoples, community groups and lawyers is pushing for legal recognition of the rights of an endangered orca population living in the Salish Sea.
- The population, known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales, numbers just 75 individuals, down from 98 in 1995.
- The orcas are imperiled by noise and chemical pollution, the impending construction of Canada’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, and, most of all, severe salmon shortages caused by the damming of the rivers that feed into the sea.


Bid to protect Borneo’s wild cattle hinges on whether it’s a new species [03/18/2019]
- The Bornean banteng is considered to be a subspecies of the banteng found on Java, but some scientists are arguing the animal should be recognized as its own species.
- Local indigenous communities are trying to protect the banteng, invoking customary law to fine their own members and outsiders who hunt it. Community planning has spaced rice fields farther apart so that the banteng have room to travel.
- In the headwaters region of the Belantikan River in central Borneo, only 20 or 30 Bornean banteng are known to remain.


Super variable California salamander is ‘an evolutionist’s dream’ [03/18/2019]
- The ensatina is a widespread salamander species that can be found in forests along the entire western coast of North America.
- It is one of only two species that broadly lives up to the “ring species” concept: the ensatina is considered to be a single species, but is characterized by a chain of interconnected populations around California’s Central Valley that can look strikingly different. While the intermediate populations can interbreed, the forms at the southern ends of the loop are so different that they can no longer mate successfully everywhere they meet.
- Ensatinas are among the key predators on the forest floors they occupy, and play a critical role in sequestering carbon.
- Researchers are now trying to figure out if ensatinas and other North American salamanders have any natural defenses against the deadly Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans fungus.


Invasive plants a fast-growing threat to India’s rhinos [03/18/2019]
- In 2018, biologists observed the invasive plant Parthenium, known locally as congress grass, establishing itself in grasslands of India’s Pobitora National Park.
- Invasive species threaten protected areas in Assam state, and herbivores like the greater one-horned rhinos that live within them, by crowding out the native plants animals rely on for food.
- Each of Assam state’s four rhino reserves currently faces threats from invasive plants including Parthenium, Mimosa, Mikania and water hyacinth.
- Experts are contemplating the use of several strategies to tackle invasive plants, including manual removal and the introduction of biological control agents such as the Mexican beetle that feeds on Parthenium.


Possible vaquita death accompanies announcement that only 10 are left [03/18/2019]
- The environmental organization Sea Shepherd said it found a dead vaquita in a gillnet on March 12.
- One day later, scientists from the group CIRVA announced that around 10 — as many as 22 or as few as six — vaquitas survive in the Gulf of California.
- Despite a ban on gillnets used catch totoaba, a fish prized for its swim bladders used in traditional Chinese medicine, vaquita numbers have continued to decline.


AI and drone-based imagery improve power to survey cryptic animals [03/15/2019]
- Developing effective management strategies for threatened species like koalas requires knowing where and how many are in a target area, but surveying cryptic low-density animals can lead to variable estimates.
- A recent study has introduced a new automated method for wildlife detection using a pair of object detection machine learning algorithms to detect animals’ heat signatures in drone-derived thermal imaging.
- By understanding error rates of different survey methods and including appropriate technology, the researchers say, wildlife monitoring can become more efficient and effective.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, March 15, 2019 [03/15/2019]
- 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.


New maps show where humans are pushing species closer to extinction [03/15/2019]
- A new study maps out how disruptive human changes to the environment affect the individual ranges of more than 5,400 mammal, bird and amphibian species around the world.
- Almost a quarter of the species are threatened by human impacts in more than 90 percent of their range, and at least one human impact occurred in an average of 38 percent of the range of a given species.
- The study also identified “cool” spots, where concentrations of species aren’t negatively impacted by humans.
- The researchers say these “refugia” are good targets for conservation efforts.


Local communities feared repression from WWF, investigation finds [03/14/2019]
- An investigation by Buzzfeed News revealed how for years, paramilitary anti-poaching forces funded and trained by WWF have killed and tortured indigenous villagers on the fringes of national parks.
- Even after the conservation nonprofit was made aware of the human rights abuses in 2015, it continued supporting armed eco-guards around the world and pushed for a new national park in the Republic of Congo.
- WWF was aware of concerns of violent repression raised by indigenous Baka communities in the Congo, but did not report this to the EU, one of the main funders of the new park.
- WWF confirmed to Mongabay that the new park would not go ahead if consent couldn’t be obtained from the Baka.




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