Jaw-dropping footage: conservationists catch Javan rhino in mud wallow [11/19/2018]
- With just 68 individuals surviving in a single site, the Javan rhino is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals. - The species is so elusive that conservationists have studied it for years without meeting one in the flesh. Even images are rare. - Now, newly released video and photos from a recent expedition by Global Wildlife Conservation and WWF show a Javan rhino wallowing in a mud bath.
Deforested, degraded land restoration a top priority for African leaders [11/19/2018]
- African leaders met at a summit to discuss land restoration across the continent on Nov. 13, ahead of the U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. - Representatives from several African countries shared their countries’ pledges to restore hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of degraded and deforested land in the coming decades. - The summit’s leaders said they hoped the deliberations during the day-long summit would help African countries in both their contributions to international targets and to the improvement of their natural ecosystems for the benefit of their citizens.
Panama, Namibia plan to reveal fishing fleet data via online map [11/19/2018]
- Panama and Namibia have planned to publicly share information on their fishing fleet in their waters via the open-access mapping tool by Global Fishing Watch (GFW). - Both nations say such a move would be crucial in improving transparency in fisheries management and protecting their oceans. - GFW’s mapping platform provides both general data for the public and more detailed information seen only by authorities. - The tool helps identify if a boat is fishing during the closed season of a particular species; if it enters an unauthorized area; or if it sails into a protected area.
Peru shares its fisheries surveillance data with the world [11/16/2018]
- Late last month, the Peruvian government made public its satellite surveillance data on 1,300 commercial fishing vessels plying Peru’s waters via the open-access platform Global Fishing Watch. - Only the Peruvian government and companies in the fishing sector had access to the data previously. - With this move, Peru became the second country in the world, following Indonesia, to make public data from fishing vessels’ Vessel Monitoring Systems, a method of satellite surveillance. - The country aims to use GFW as a tool to fight illegal fishing and overfishing.
Latam Eco Review: Rampant roadkill and shrinking seaweed stocks [11/16/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, investigated Colombia’s roadkill rates; Chile’s marine forests; and Chinese energy projects in Ecuador. Mammals pay highest toll on Colombia’s highways Plans to double Colombia’s highway network by 2035 represent a major threat to wildlife conservation. A roadkill app and research have documented some 11,000 roadkill incidents, […]
Plan to ship gorillas from DRC to Zimbabwe raises alarm [11/16/2018]
- The head of Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority says the agency plans to receive a donation of gorillas and okapis from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), part of a wildlife exchange program that recently saw 10 white rhinos sent to the DRC from Zimbabwe. - The plan, officials say, is still being worked out. But the prospect has raised alarm over the welfare of the animals, the impact on the local ecosystem, and the possibility that animals from the DRC could be infected with Ebola. - Zimbabwe has previously sold wild animals for display in China, leading some activists to fear the gorillas and okapis could ultimately end up in that country — an allegation Zimbabwean authorities strongly deny.
Google searches reveal public interest in conservation is rising [11/15/2018]
- The number of Google searches for conservation-related topics has been increasing since 2004, a new study has found. - In fact, interest in both conservation and climate change-related topics seem to be tightly linked and rising similarly. - While the rise in Google searches for conservation-related terms doesn’t necessarily translate to increased support for conservation, what it does suggest is that conservationists must continue to communicate their results to reach all the people interested in conservation and environmental issues, researchers say. - The study’s co-author, Rhett A. Butler, is Mongabay’s founder and CEO, while lead author Zuzana Burivalova was also the lead researcher on Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series published in 2017-18.
More than one-third of critically endangered plants cannot be conserved in seed banks [11/15/2018]
- New research finds that seed banking alone is not sufficient to conserve the world’s threatened plant and tree species. - According to a paper published in the journal Nature Plants this month, researchers at the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew found that 36 percent of critically endangered species produce “recalcitrant seeds,” which means that they cannot tolerate being dried out and thus can’t be frozen at -20°C, the process required for them to be preserved in a seed bank. - On the other hand, very few wild relatives of crop species and medicinal plants were found to be unsuitable for conventional seed banking.
For the two Congos, lessons in a peatland partnership with Indonesia [11/15/2018]
- Officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo visited Indonesia recently to see firsthand the country’s experience with managing tropical peatlands. - The three countries have committed to joint efforts to study and conserve peat forests, particularly in the Congo Basin. - Protecting peat is seen as a crucial move in the fight against climate change, given the huge amounts of greenhouse gases locked in peat soils.
High sea levels thousands of years ago aided island formation [11/15/2018]
- A recent study has found that high sea levels were critical to the formation of coral reef islands in the Indian Ocean thousands of years ago. - The findings suggest that rising sea levels driven by climate change might not destroy all coral reef islands. - However, the authors caution that the same higher-energy waves that help build these islands could also destroy the infrastructure on them that humans depend on. - They also say that, for coral reef island formation to occur, the reef must be healthy to begin with — something that risks being negated by rising water acidity and temperature, both the result of climate change.
A lucky child: Mongabay’s origin story (insider) [11/14/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler tells the origin story of Mongabay. - Inspired by his love for nature and motivated by real-world losses, the groundwork for Mongabay was laid at a very early age. - Rhett launched Mongabay in his early 20s to raise interest in the natural world and awareness about what is happening in wild places like tropical rainforests. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
‘Not all hope is lost’ as outlook for mountain gorillas brightens [11/14/2018]
- The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of mountain gorillas from Critically Endangered to Endangered today. - The new assessment cites the subspecies’ growing numbers, now at around 1,000 individuals, and the conservation efforts on its behalf. - Scientists say that, while this is an important milestone, mountain gorillas’ survival depends on continued conservation.
Republic of Congo names new national park, home to gorillas, elephants [11/14/2018]
- The new Ogooué-Leketi National Park is the Republic of Congo’s fifth national park. - It borders Batéké Plateau National Park in neighboring Gabon, and together the two parks form a transboundary protected area covering more than 5,500 square kilometers (2,120 square miles). - The official designation of Ogooué-Leketi National Park comes after three logging concessions that overlapped with the proposed park area were finally closed down. - All of the rights-holding communities that live close to the Ogooué-Leketi National Park were involved in the process of creating the protected area, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Congo program.
‘No one is helping us’: Venezuelan conservation crippled by crisis [11/14/2018]
- Many conservationists have fled Venezuela since an economic crisis began in 2014. - Those who have chosen to remain behind complain of a lack of funding and resources, and say they feel abandoned by the international community. - Despite incredible difficulties, some conservationists are still able to take action, including rediscovering a long-lost bird.
Audio: A Half-Earth progress report from E.O. Wilson [11/13/2018]
- On this episode, a progress report on the Half-Earth Project direct from legendary conservation biologist E.O. Wilson. - When Mongabay contributor Jeremy Hance spoke with Dr. Wilson back in January of 2017, Wilson said he’d found the goal of Half-Earth was energizing for people — and he tells us on this episode of the podcast that this continues to be true, as the conservation community has responded eagerly to the Half-Earth goal. - Wilson also discusses why he sees Half-Earth as a “moonshot” and how close we currently are to protecting half of Earth’s lands and waters.
PNG to create 7,500 square kilometers of new marine protected areas in Bismarck Sea [11/13/2018]
- Papua New Guinea has announced its commitment to creating 7,500 square kilometers of marine protected areas in the Bismarck Sea by 2021. - The new MPA network will encompass 2,500 square kilometers of coastal areas around Tikana and Lavongai islands including key coral reef systems in the Bismarck Sea, as well as 5,000 square kilometers of offshore areas identified as high priorities for marine conservation in New Ireland Province. - The PNG government has pledged to triple the coverage of its current MPA network, and this new 7,500-square-kilometer (nearly 2,900-square-mile) commitment will achieve that goal. According to WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper, the new MPAs will also help the country meet its Aichi Target goal of protecting 10 percent of its territorial waters and coastline by the year 2025.
Chile: Mining waste continues to be expelled into the sea [11/13/2018]
- A major mining company is dumping its waste into the sea off the Chilean city of Huasco without authorization from environmental authorities. - The waste suffocates marine life, destroys habitat and contaminates the water column with toxic heavy metals. - Despite sanctions against the company for violating regulations, it continues to dump mining waste into the sea as it has for 40 years.
China restores ban on rhino and tiger parts, for now [11/13/2018]
- In an announcement on Oct. 29, the Chinese government said it would permit the controlled use of rhino horn and tiger bone, obtained from farmed rhinos and tigers, for medical purposes. - China has since walked back the decision, postponing the implementation of the new regulations temporarily. - Even with the ban restored for now, activists are concerned that the message about the acceptability of animal parts in traditional Chinese medicine lacks clarity, and say they hope the ban will be reinstated permanently.
Honduras aims to save vital wildlife corridor from deforestation [11/13/2018]
- Honduras has pledged to remove livestock from the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to jaguars, tapirs and macaws. - The reserve is found in the Moskitia region’s rainforests, around 30 percent of which have been cleared in the past 15 years, largely due to cattle and livestock ranching. - Conservation groups hailed the move as one that would benefit both Honduras and the world because of the region’s biodiversity and carbon stocks.
End of funding dims hopes for a Sumatran forest targeted by palm oil growers [11/09/2018]
- The Harapan lowland rainforest in Sumatra, one of only 36 global biodiversity hotspots, could be lost to oil palm plantations within the next five years. - The Danish government, which since 2011 has funded efforts to restore the forest and keep out encroaching farmers, will cease its funding at the end of this year. No other sources of funding are in sight to fill the gap. - The Danish ambassador to Indonesia says local authorities need to take on more of the responsibility of protecting the forest. - He says relying on donor funding is unsustainable over the long term, and has called for greater emphasis on developing ecotourism and trade in non-timber forest products.
Latam Eco Review: Hungry manatees and grand theft tortoise [11/09/2018]
The recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, concerned hungry manatees in Venezuelan zoos; giant tortoises stolen from the Galápagos Islands; and a ban on free, prior and informed consent in Colombian extractive projects. Venezuelan zoos struggle to feed their animals Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis is affecting the ability of researchers and zoo […]
In West Papua’s Arfak Mountains, local leaders plot ecotourism boom [11/09/2018]
- The governors of Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces recently signed a pledge to conserve 70 percent of the land in their jurisdictions, home to some of the best forest left in the country. - In the newly established district of Pegunungan Arfak, local leaders believe ecoutourism can boost the economy while also protecting the environment. - They hope to follow the example set by Costa Rica, an ecotourism success story that generates almost $3 billion in annual revenue for that country.
Four of six black rhinos translocated to Chad are now dead [11/08/2018]
- Four of the six black rhinos reintroduced to Chad’s Zakouma National Park from South Africa in May are now dead, authorities say. - Two of the rhinos were found dead recently, following from the deaths of two other rhinos in October. - Authorities say the rhinos were not poached, and suggest they may have been having trouble adapting to their new habitat. More tests will be needed to determine the cause of death. - The deaths in Zakouma come just months after 11 black rhinos died within days of being reintroduced into Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park in July.
Roads divide opinions along with forests, study finds [11/08/2018]
- A team of researchers found that support for new road construction was split among indigenous communities living in Malaysia. - In general, people living in communities near an existing highway were more likely to support roads than those living in villages farther away from the highway. - The authors write that the findings lend support to the need for comprehensive social impact assessments before and during the construction of new roads.
Troika of trouble for Bolivia’s Cordillera de Sama Reserve [11/08/2018]
- Overgrazing and the construction of a highway, in addition to more severe and extreme droughts and cold spells, have significantly impacted the delicate ecosystem of Bolivia’s Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve. - Water is the most affected resource, even though the reserve is protected and an internationally important wetland. - Concerns remain that the changes could irreversibly alter the ecosystem.
For Javan rhinos, the last holdout may also be a deadly disease hotspot [11/08/2018]
- The Critically Endangered Javan rhino survives in just a single population in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. - In addition to environmental threats such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, the rhino is threatened by diseases that could be transmitted from both domestic livestock and native wild cattle living in and near the park. - Zoonotic diseases that pose a potential threat include trypanosomiasis and hemorrhagic septicemia.
Researchers say orangutans are declining, despite Indonesian government’s claims [11/07/2018]
- Researchers say a recent Indonesian government report inaccurately claims that the orangutan population in the country is increasing, which could have significant implications for future conservation plans. - The report, issued by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, states that the populations of 19 priority species, including orangutans, “increased by more than 10 percent” between 2015 and 2017. - But, in a letter published in the journal Current Biology on Monday, researchers say that that assertion “is in strong contrast” to many recently published and peer-reviewed scientific studies on the status of the three orangutan species.
Invisible plant-enemy interactions drive diversity in forest fragments [11/07/2018]
- The constant tussle between plants and their “natural enemies”, like fungi and insects, play an important role in determining diversity of seedlings in fragmented forests, a new study has found. - When the natural enemies were knocked off, the diversity of seedlings inside forest fragments reduced drastically, while diversity closer to the edge did not change much. This suggests that the effect of fungi and insects in maintaining plant diversity could be weakening at forest edges. - The study hints at how cryptic plant-enemy interactions are important considerations when thinking about conservation of plant communities in fragmented forests.
Are deep sea reefs really a lifeboat for our vanishing corals? [11/07/2018]
- Mesophotic reefs are little-known ecosystems that range from 30 to 150 meters (100 to 500 feet) below the ocean’s surface. - A new study has cast doubt on the extent to which mesophotic reefs may be a refuge for shallower species hit by overfishing, warming waters and extreme weather. - It finds that mesophotic reefs are just as vulnerable as shallower reefs to warming seas and ocean acidification — both impacts of climate change — and storm damage. - Climate change remains the gravest threat to coral ecosystems, both shallow and mesophotic.
Protection flip-flop leaves rare Indonesian shrikethrush in harm’s way [11/07/2018]
- The Sangihe shrikethrush is an elusive songbird found only on a single remote island in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province. - The species, which numbers less than 300 in the wild, was one of hundreds granted protected status by the Indonesian government earlier this year. - But the government inexplicably struck it from the list soon after, leaving wildlife activists concerned that the lack of protection will harm efforts to conserve the species. - Activists say one workaround would be to push for protective measures by local authorities.
Parrotfish, critical to reef health, now protected under Mexican law [11/07/2018]
- The government of Mexico added 10 species of parrotfish to its national registry of protected species in October. - In a letter to the government, the environmental NGO AIDA argued that parrotfish and other herbivorous fish, whose numbers have been declining due to fishing, are necessary to maintain the health of coral reefs. - AIDA has embarked on a three-year project to work with policymakers to protect herbivorous fish in Mexico and five other Latin American countries.
Savanna fires, a boon to grazers, cast rhinos into a ‘food desert’ [11/06/2018]
- Fire is a common tool used in conservation areas across Africa to help regenerate grass for grazers, reduce encroachment of bushes, and control ticks and diseases. But how fire affects rhinos and their food has remained unclear. - Researchers have found that black rhinos in Serengeti National Park prefer to graze in spots that burn just once in 10 years, and actively avoid areas that are burned frequently. The park’s managers carry out controlled burns at least once a year. - The study found that fires reduce the availability of the plants that the black rhinos prefer to eat. - The researchers have called for an adaptable fire strategy that allows burning in some areas to benefit grazers such as wildebeest and zebra, and avoids fires in rhinos’ preferred habitats.
Local fishers oppose $2.7 billion deal opening Madagascar to Chinese fishing [11/05/2018]
- Two months ago, a little-known private Malagasy association signed a 10-year, $2.7 billion fishing deal — the largest in the country’s history — with a group of Chinese companies that plans to send 330 fishing vessels to Madagascar. - Critics of the deal include the country’s fisheries minister, who said he learned about it in the newspaper; environmental and government watchdog groups; and local fishers, who are already struggling with foreign competition for Madagascar’s dwindling marine stocks. - Critics say no draft of the deal has been made public and the association that signed it did not conduct an environmental impact assessment or any public consultation. - The issue has drawn media attention in the run-up to the presidential election on Wednesday. The incumbent and a leading candidate, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, was present at the fisheries deal’s signing, although he later claimed not to be familiar with it.
Bear-human conflict risks pinpointed amid resurgent bear population [11/05/2018]
- New research maps out the potential risk “hotspots” for black bear-human conflict based on an analysis of conditions that led to nearly 400 bear deaths between 1997 and 2013. - The study area covered the Lake Tahoe Basin and the Great Basin Desert in western Nevada. - The methods used to predict risks based on environmental variables could help wildlife managers identify and mitigate human-carnivore conflict in other parts of the world, the authors write.
Why top predators matter (insider) [11/03/2018]
- Few species have faced such vitriolic hatred from humans as the world’s top predators. - Even where large areas of habitat are protected, the one thing that is often missing is top predators. - Jeremy Hance writes about three studies that reveal just how important top predators are to their ecosystems. - This is an insider story. To read, please become a member.
Latam Eco Review: Killing jaguars for arthritis creams and wine [11/02/2018]
The top stories last week from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed the fate of Suriname’s hunted jaguars, Bogota’s urban forest preserve, and Chile’s Humboldt Archipelago. Suriname’s jaguars killed for arthritis creams and wine Suriname’s jaguar population is being decimated for the Asian market in arthritis cream, soap, aphrodisiacs and even wine, according to an […]
Call to protect dwindling wilderness ‘before it disappears forever’ [11/01/2018]
- Just 23 percent of wilderness on land and 13 percent of wilderness at sea remains, according to new maps of global human impacts. - Five countries — Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil — contain 70 percent of the remaining wilderness. - The authors of the suite of studies argue that wilderness protection should move to the forefront of the conservation agenda.
‘At capacity’? A Nepali park reckons with its rhinos [11/01/2018]
- An investigation into a recent increase in natural deaths among the 600 greater one-horned rhinos in Chitwan National Park suggested the park may have reached its carrying capacity for the species. - The park and its resources are facing pressure both from a growing population of rhinos within the park and from increasing human settlement on its periphery. - Assessments of the park’s carrying capacity for rhinos vary wildly, ranging from 500 to more than 2,000, leading to differences of opinion about the role overcrowding could play in rhino deaths.
17 new brilliantly colored species of sea slugs described [11/01/2018]
- Researchers have just described 17 stunning new species of sea slugs that live among coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. - All the species belong to the genus Hypselodoris, and come in a wide variety of colors. - Researchers reorganized the genus Hypselodoris, adding new-to-science species to the group, and revealing secrets of the evolution of their brilliant color patterns.
Zoos: Why a revolution is necessary to justify them (insider) [11/01/2018]
- Jeremy Hance writes about zoos. - You and I and all of us are the reason these animals sit behind glass or bars; we are the reason only a fraction of their habitat remains; we are the reason they have been driven to almost nothing and may very well, sooner than we can imagine, be extinct and gone, forever cast from existence. - What right do we have to this authority? And what right do zoos have to exist, if not to show us our illusion of mastery, our waste of creation, and our responsibility to make it right — as right as it can be? - This is an insider story. To read, please become a member.
Language and conservation (insider) [11/01/2018]
- Using an example from a trip to Zimbabwe and Botswana, Jeremy Hance writes about the words we choose matter when it comes to conservation. - A trip to Africa to see its wildlife should be an experience that goes well beyond entertainment: it should be educational, enlightening, moving, spiritual and, ultimately, transformative. - When a guide refers to species by silly nicknames, one can’t help but feel that the guide places little value on their own wildlife. - This is an insider story. To read, please become a member.
Thousands of radiated tortoises seized from traffickers in Madagascar [10/31/2018]
- More than 7,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises were confiscated by authorities from suspected wildlife traffickers in Madagascar on Oct. 24. - The seizure happened in the same area where a similar bust, involving nearly 10,000 tortoises of the same species, took place in April. - The NGO Turtle Survival Alliance is working with the Madagascar environment ministry to care for the surviving tortoises.
Chile mine and port project nears approval despite scientific opposition [10/31/2018]
- The Chilean agency responsible for marine reserves did not take scientific information specified by its regional office into consideration when considering a proposed mining and port project. - The Dominga project would be established within the foraging zones of species living in neighboring marine reserves. - Two hundred scientists sent a letter to President Sebastián Piñera explaining the need to protect this space. Marine science experts like them say that the project’s area of influence underestimates impacts and will affect nearby protected areas. - In April 2018, the Environmental Court ruled in favor of the project, but it is currently before the Supreme Court after an NGO lodged an appeal to invalidate the ruling.
$10bn pledged in new commitments to protect the world’s oceans [10/30/2018]
- Representatives of governments, the private sector, civil society groups and philanthropic organizations have pledged billions of dollars to protect vast swaths of the world’s oceans. - The impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and climate change on the world’s oceans were a focus of recently concluded Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia. - Cooperation between governments is needed to prevent the world’s oceans from experiencing devastating damage from an onslaught of factors led by climate change.
What’s killing Nepal’s rhinos? [10/30/2018]
- Nepal has had remarkable success at tackling the poaching of its greater one-horned rhinos. But since 2015, it has witnessed a sharp increase in deaths from unknown or natural causes. - A number of theories have been advanced to explain the deaths: habitat degradation in Chitwan National Park and its surroundings leading to increased conflict over resources; the area reaching its natural carrying capacity for rhinos; a “baby boomer” die-off; or a simple shift in cause of death from death by poaching to death by natural causes. - The government commissioned a study into the problem, but the report has not been published
With a feast of grubs, a tribe makes its case for forest stewardship [10/30/2018]
- The indigenous Kombai tribe of Indonesia’s Papua region are seeking recognition of their right to manage their ancestral lands, in a bid to thwart the encroachment of oil palm plantations in the last great expanse of unspoiled wilderness in the country. - They face legal hurdles to their bid, including a lack of clarity over the status of previously defunct logging concessions on their land, and onerous requirements to prove to the authorities their ties to the land. - The administration of President Joko Widodo has pledged to issue customary forest titles to indigenous communities nationwide, but none of the tribes in Papua has received such recognition. - Activists say empowering indigenous communities to manage their own forests is a key step to fighting climate change, because these communities tend to be better stewards of the forest than their own governments.
China legalizes use of tiger bone and rhino horn for traditional medicine [10/30/2018]
- China has legalized the “controlled” use of rhino horn and tiger bone for medical use and cultural purposes, the government said in an announcement. - China banned the trade in tiger bone and rhino horn in 1993, and removed both products from the list of medical ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine’s pharmacopoeia and curriculum. The latest decision reverses that 25-year ban. - Conservationists worry that legalization of the trade could provide cover for illegal activities, threatening the already imperiled global populations of the endangered animals.
Tsetse fly numbers dwindle in the warming Zambezi Valley [10/29/2018]
- Tsetse flies carry the microorganism that causes sleeping sickness in humans and livestock, but a recent study reveals that their numbers have dropped at a site in the Zambezi Valley as temperatures have climbed. - Sleeping sickness, known also as trypanosomiasis, is a debilitating and potentially deadly disease to humans that also kills perhaps 1 million cattle each year. - The study’s authors say that the decline of the tsetse in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley might be accompanied by a rise in their numbers in cooler locales where they once weren’t as prevalent.
Latam Eco Review: Wandering hippos, condor central, and the macaw trade [10/26/2018]
Top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, last week followed high-flying condors to their lowland home; hippos wandering through Colombia’s jungles; and scarlet macaws in their last holdout in Central America. Ecuador’s León River is ‘condor central’ No matter how high or how far Ecuador’s condors soar, they always return home to a semi-desert, […]
Africa’s slender-snouted crocodile is not one but two species [10/26/2018]
- The critically endangered slender-snouted crocodile is not one but two species, a new study has found. - While the West African crocodile continues to retain its original name Mecistops cataphractus, the Central African species has been named Mecistops leptorhynchus. - The description of M. leptorhynchus makes it the first new living crocodile species to be named and detailed in more than 80 years. - As two species, the slender-snouted crocodiles are smaller in numbers and are at greater risk of extinction.
Whales and dolphins change the way they communicate in a noisy ocean [10/26/2018]
- Two independent teams of biologists looked at the impact of ambient sound from ships on whales and dolphins. - The research on whales revealed that noise from a passing ship led humpbacks in the vicinity to stop singing, sometimes for 30 minutes after the ship had passed. - In the study on dolphins, the scientists showed that dolphins abbreviated their whistles in response to the sound. - Both teams raised concerns about whether sound in the ocean increases the stress on marine mammals and how it might affect their ability to communicate with fellow members of the same species.
Bird-rich Indonesian island yields up new songbird species [10/26/2018]
- Researchers have described a new species of songbird found only on the Indonesian island of Rote — the second new avian discovery there in less than a year. - The Rote leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus rotiensis) was initially assumed to be the same species as the Timor leaf-warbler from a neighboring island, but closer studies of its physical characteristics and genetic analyses have distinguished it as its own species. - Rote is home to a large number of species found only there or on neighboring islands, but lacks any major terrestrial protected area.
Citizen Ape: The fight for personhood for humans’ closest relatives [10/24/2018]
- The great ape personhood movement aims to extend legal personhood to apes, a distinction that recognizes these non-human animals as beings with the capacity to hold both rights and duties - The movement has had several notable successes in advocating for changes to laws, and in individual court verdicts freeing apes from captivity in harsh conditions. - Proponents hope that granting apes legal rights will also help bridge the gap between humans and non-human animals, along with the greater natural world. - The great ape personhood movement draws on both modern philosophy and on indigenous traditions that recognize apes as creatures with complex societies and rich emotional lives.
CITES rejects another Madagascar plan to sell illegal rosewood stockpiles [10/24/2018]
- At a meeting in Sochi, Russia, earlier this month, CITES’s standing committee rejected Madagascar’s latest plan to sell off its stockpiles of illegally harvested rosewood, largely because the plan called for local timber barons to be paid for their troves of wood. - Environmental groups argued that operators who logged illegally should not be rewarded for it, and delegations from several African countries reportedly opposed the plan because they feared their own timber barons would learn the wrong lesson from the deal. - Madagascar’s environment ministry released a statement after the meeting indicating that it would take the recommendations made by the CITES committee into account in revising the plan for submission again in 2019.
Absent for decades, zebras reintroduced to park in southern Tanzania [10/24/2018]
- Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners in Tanzania released 24 zebras into Kitulo National Park on Oct. 12 and 13. - The Kitulo Plateau in Tanzania’s southern highlands includes high-elevation grasslands, a unique habitat that requires fire and grazing animals to maintain its plant diversity. - The reintroduction, with plains zebras from Mikumi National Park, is part of a broader effort to “rewild” the southern highlands after decades of wildlife hunting and livestock grazing.
Two black rhinos found dead in Chad after move from South Africa [10/24/2018]
- Two of the six black rhinos that were flown from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad in May this year have died. - The two rhinos, a male and a female, were not poached, African Parks said, but the exact cause of death is not yet known. - The translocation of the six rhinos marked the return of critically endangered black rhinos to Chad after nearly 50 years of the species’ absence. - The four surviving rhinos are still alive and are being closely monitored, African Parks said.
Study warns of dire ecological, social fallout from Sumatran dam [10/23/2018]
- A new study warns that the environmental impact of a planned hydroelectric plant in Sumatra’s unique Leuser Ecosystem will be much greater than initially thought. - The area is the last place on Earth that’s home to wild tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants — all critically endangered species whose habitat would be flooded and fragmented by the dam and its roads and power lines, activists say. - They also warn of the dam exacerbating disaster risks to local communities, in a region already prone to flooding, landslides and earthquakes. - Activists are mulling a lawsuit to void the project permit, but the developer says it has done everything by the book and that the new study is based on an outdated environmental impact analysis.
Chinese demand wiping out forests in the Solomon Islands: New report [10/22/2018]
- Logging companies are harvesting timber from the forests of the Solomon Islands at about 19 times the sustainable rate, according to an analysis by the watchdog NGO Global Witness. - More than 80 percent of the Solomons’ log exports go to China. - Global Witness is calling on China to build on its efforts to develop its “Green Supply Chain” by requiring companies to verify that the timber they import comes from sustainable and legal sources.
Illegal cheetah trade continues through Instagram, 4sale, YouTube [10/22/2018]
- Between February 2012 and July 2018, a total of 1,367 cheetahs were offered on sale through 906 posts on social media, a new analysis by the Cheetah Conservation Fund has found. Almost all of the investigated cheetah sale offers appear to be illegal. - Instagram alone accounted for some 77 percent of the posts, followed by 4sale, a Kuwait-based mobile app, and YouTube. - Nearly all of the posts had some link to the Gulf states, with more than 62 percent linked to users in Saudi Arabia, the analysis found.
Bolivian coca crops follow a planned highway through indigenous lands [10/19/2018]
- Bolivia’s Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory hosts 33 hectares (82 acres) of illegal coca crops, despite being an ostensibly protected area. - Indigenous leaders blame the encroachment on the coca growers who formally occupy part of the park and are steadily expanding beyond their territory and into indigenous lands. - Central to the conflict is a planned highway that would cut through the park and has already splintered the indigenous community into camps opposing or supporting the project.
Audio: Racing to save the world’s amazing frogs with Jonathan Kolby [10/18/2018]
- On this episode, we discuss the global outbreak of the chytrid fungus, which might have already driven as many as 200 species of frogs to extinction. - Our guest is biologist and National Geographic explorer Jonathan Kolby, who founded the Honduras Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Center, or HARCC for short, to study and rescue frogs affected by the chytrid fungus. Tree frogs in Cusuco National Park in Honduras, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth, are being decimated by the aquatic fungal pathogen. - In this Field Notes segment, Kolby plays for us some recordings of the frog species he’s working to save from the deadly fungal infection in Honduras and says that there might be hope that frogs and other amphibians affected by chytrid can successfully cope with the disease.
Politics and peace: The fate of Colombia’s forests (commentary) [10/18/2018]
- Juan Manuel Santos will be forever remembered as the president who ended one of the world’s longest armed conflicts, establishing a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016. - While the peace accords have shaped his image at home and abroad, they do not represent his entire presidential legacy. In addition to lowering the domestic poverty, unemployment, and murder rates, Santos advanced the country’s environmental agenda during his two terms. This should not be undervalued. - Deforestation in the post-conflict era has grown at an alarming rate. Rather than a policy solution, Santos’ environmental legacy should be viewed as an initial step in securing the fate of Colombia’s forests. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
In a first, DRC communities gain legal rights to forests [10/18/2018]
- Provincial authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have approved forest concessions for five communities. - Following the implementation of a new community forest strategy in June, this is the first time the government has given communities control of forests. - Sustainable use of the forest is seen by conservation and development organizations as a way to both combat rural poverty and fight deforestation.
Myanmar expands protected area for rare Irrawaddy dolphin [10/17/2018]
- The Myanmar government has expanded the Irrawaddy Dolphin Protected Area, initially spanning 74 kilometers (46 miles) of the Irrawaddy River, to include a 100-kilometer (62-mile) stretch of the river. - Use of gillnets is restricted within the new protected area, and damaging activities such as electric or dynamite fishing and gold mining are strictly prohibited. - An additional 100-kilometer stretch has been designated as a buffer zone, with milder restrictions. - A survey this year put the number of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Irrawaddy River at 78.
5 bird species lose protections, more at risk in new Indonesia decree [10/17/2018]
- Five bird species in Indonesia have lost their protected status under a new ministerial decree, issued last month in response to complaints from songbird collectors. - The decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, which effectively sets the stage for any species to be dropped from the list if it is deemed of high economic value to the songbird fan community. - Scientists and wildlife experts have criticized the removal of the five species from the protected list, and the new criteria for granting protected status. - Indonesia is home to the largest number of threatened bird species in Asia, but their populations in the wild are severely threatened by overexploitation.
Scientists map the impact of trawling using satellite vessel tracking [10/17/2018]
- Using satellite tracking data, researchers have come up with new maps showing the impact of trawling in 24 regions around the world. - Trawling produces a sizable portion of the world’s seafood but is also seen as destructive and indiscriminate. - The team found that trawlers fished 14 percent of the ocean in the areas they studied, leaving 86 percent untouched. - But the study did not include parts of the world known to have high levels of trawling activity, leading one researcher to question whether the authors “over-interpreted” their results.
Can social media save great apes? [10/16/2018]
- Bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees face a fight for survival, and social media offers a new tool to help people connect with these endangered great apes. - Conservation groups say that, handled correctly, social media can help raise awareness — and funds. - What’s good for social media isn’t always good for apes. Experts caution that posts featuring interactions between humans and animals or unusual animal behavior should be accompanied by explanations that put the images into context.
One-two punch of habitat loss, capture hammers Southeast Asian birds [10/16/2018]
- The combined impact of habitat loss and exploitation has been underestimated in the assessment of dangers to bird populations in Southeast Asia, a new report says. - Of the 308 species studied by researchers, up to 90 could go extinct by the end of this century. - The researchers have called for urgent policy intervention to curb deforestation and throttle the caged-bird trade, warning that dozens of species could otherwise be lost.
$25m in funding to help African gov’ts prosecute poachers, traffickers [10/15/2018]
- The African Wildlife Foundation has pledged $25 million to projects aimed at combating the illegal wildlife trade across the continent over the next four years. - The Nairobi-based NGO invests in outfitting wildlife rangers, training sniffer dogs to detect illicit shipments, and community-based development. - AWF president Kaddu Sebunya emphasized the need to invest in homegrown solutions to the crisis when he announced the funding at the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference, held Oct. 11-12 in London.
Can we buy our way out of the sixth extinction? [10/15/2018]
- A new study finds that conservation spending has lessened the environmental impacts of ongoing development around the world. - The researchers developed a model that any policymaker can use to see how much money is required to offset the environmental damage done by development, population growth and economic growth. - However, some researchers believe the relentless focus on economic expansion could hurt our efforts to achieve sustainability in the long term.
Latam Eco Review: Millennial trees and Pacific coral larvae [10/12/2018]
Top recent stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, include a multi-country series on illegal logging, traveling coral larvae, and a treaty to protect environmental defenders. Peru’s millennial trees could disappear in 10 years Peru’s Shihuahuaco trees (Dipteryx micrantha) take hundreds of years to grow but could be lost in a decade. Listed as critically […]
Fire fundamentally alters carbon dynamics in the Amazon [10/12/2018]
- With higher temperatures and increasingly severe droughts resulting from climate change, fires are becoming a more frequent phenomenon in the Amazon. - New research finds that fires fundamentally change the structure of the forest, leading it to stockpile less carbon even decades after a burn. - The research also shows that the burning of dead organic matter in the understory can release far more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.
Scientists, conservationists: Give Nobel Peace Prize to Jane Goodall [10/11/2018]
- Scientists and conservationists argue that primatologist Jane Goodall should receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. - Goodall’s groundbreaking research uncovered startling revelations, including tool use by chimpanzees, that blurred the lines between humans and animals. - Goodall, a U.N. Messenger of Peace, now travels around the world to encourage living in harmony with the natural world.
Top Madagascar shrimp co. moved millions among tax-haven shell companies [10/11/2018]
- Aziz Ismail, 85, a French citizen born in Madagascar, bought into Madagascar’s shrimp business in 1973. His empire, known generally as Unima, now includes at least eight privately held companies in Europe and Africa that are mainly involved in seafood from Madagascar, where operations are centered. - Ismail has also owned a British Virgin Islands-based shell company called Ergia Limited since 2000. In the last decade, Ergia appears to have had financial transactions totaling several million dollars with another apparent shell company in Mauritius that has close ties to Unima, and with Unima companies in Europe. - Although owning and using offshore companies is generally legal, tax and law enforcement officials are increasingly scrutinizing transactions through tax havens like the British Virgin Islands and Mauritius. Tax inspectors from Madagascar and other experts said Unima’s use of multiple offshore companies raises the risk of lost taxes for one of the world’s poorest countries. - Files obtained from the now-defunct Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca as part of the “Panama Papers” were the basis for this investigation by Mongabay and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
It’s déjà vu for orangutans, devastated by climate change and hunting once before [10/11/2018]
- The fossil record shows that orangutan numbers and range declined rapidly in the late Pleistocene area; by 12,000 years ago they remained in only around 20 percent of their original range. - A recent study concludes that the twin pressures of climate change and human hunting were responsible for this rapid decline. - The study’s authors say their research indicates that humans and orangutans have co-existed for millennia, and can continue to do so if proper conservation measures are taken. - Their research suggests that far more attention needs to be paid to the impact human hunting has on modern orangutan populations.
In a Colombian sanctuary, once-trafficked birds fly again [10/11/2018]
- Colombia is home to the most important aviary in South America, a sanctuary containing almost 2,000 birds. - The privately run National Aviary of Colombia serves as a refuge in which birds representing 165 different species have a second chance at life after escaping the hands of illegal wildlife traffickers. - So far in 2018, Colombian authorities have rescued nearly 4,000 birds — victims of a trafficking industry that has become the third-largest illicit economy in the country.
In a rhino stronghold, indigenous wood-carvers cut through stereotypes [10/10/2018]
- Local artisans near northeast India’s Kaziranga National Park say their wildlife-inspired woodcraft is an expression of nature-friendly values, and counters stereotypes of tribal people as antagonistic to conservation. - Small, locally owned workshops face competition from big-city businesses who control prime retail locations and can undercut their prices. - Carving a fast-growing local wood by hand, sculptors say theirs is a green craft, and should be promoted and supported by the government.
Whales not enough sustenance for polar bears in fast-changing climate [10/10/2018]
- Scientists believe that whale carcasses may have helped polar bears survive past upswings in temperatures that melted the sea ice from which they usually hunt seals. - As the current changing climate threatens to make the Arctic ice-free during the summer, this strategy may help some populations of polar bears to survive. - But according to new study, whale carcasses won’t provide enough food for most bear populations because there are fewer whales than there once were, and human settlements, industry and shipping could affect the bears’ access to any carcasses that do wash ashore.
Indonesian government puts off Sumatran rhino IVF program [10/10/2018]
- Indonesia says a long-awaited program to breed Sumatran rhinos through IVF has been postponed, citing the lack of viable eggs from a female rhino in Malaysia. - The news becomes the latest setback in the years-long saga between the two countries, with some conservationists in Malaysia blaming the Indonesian government inaction for the dwindling odds of a successful artificial insemination attempt. - There are only an estimated 40 to 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, scattered on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
Plastic trash from the ‘sachet economy’ chokes the Philippines’ seas [10/09/2018]
- The Philippines generates an enormous amount of trash and is the third worst ocean plastic polluter in the world, according to a 2015 study in the journal Science. - The trash is piling up on land, clogging coastlines, spilling into the sea, and traveling to remote corners of the globe as the country fails to meet targets for improved waste management that it signed into law 18 years ago. - The central government claims it’s done all it can, and that the onus is on local governments and the Philippine people to solve the problem. - But environmental advocates disagree, saying the government could do more, including pressuring multinational corporations to change how they package their products.
Int’l protections not stopping pangolin overexploitation in Cameroon [10/08/2018]
- A recent report indicates that the 2016 listing of pangolins under CITES Appendix I, outlawing their international trade, is not translating into protections for the anteater-like animal at the local level in Central Africa. - The study used data gathered from an investigation in Cameroon. - Pangolins are considered the world’s “most illegally traded wild mammal” by the IUCN, and scientific research in 2017 found that between 420,000 and 2.71 million pangolins are hunted from Central African forests each year.
Loss of forest elephant may make Earth ‘less inhabitable for humans’ [10/08/2018]
- A new review paper finds that the loss of Africa’s forest elephants has broad impacts on their ecosystems, including hitting several tall tree species, which play a key role in sequestering carbon dioxide. - Forest elephants disperse large seeds, keep the forest canopy open, and spread rare nutrients across the forest, benefiting numerous species across the African tropics. - While the IUCN currently defines African elephants as a single species, scientists believe it long past time to split them into two distinct species, savanna and forest, to bolster protection for both from the ivory trade.
To conserve West Papua, start with land rights (commentary) [10/05/2018]
- West Papua Province in Indonesia retains over 90 per cent of its forest cover, as well as some of the world’s most biologically diverse marine areas. - The drive to become a conservation province, however, runs the risk of repeating past mistakes that have disadvantaged indigenous communities and left their customary land rights unrecognized. - We recommend that the recognition of customary land and resource rights should be prioritized, followed by strengthening the management capacity of customary institutions while improving the markets and value for forest-maintaining community enterprise, as we illustrate with the District of Fakfak. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Deforestation surges in Virunga National Park in the wake of violence [10/05/2018]
- In the DRC’s Virunga National Park, rangers and wildlife are caught in the crosshairs of a brutal civil conflict. - Forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch detected more than 1,100 hectares (2,718 acres) of tree cover loss from May to September. - The recent uptick coincides with the temporary closure of the Virunga after rebel forces killed a park ranger and kidnapped two British tourists. - The primary driver deforestation is likely charcoal production. Illegal logging and land clearing for agriculture are also presumed to play a role.
Latam Eco Review: Kissable sharks and spectacled bears [10/05/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed a new green-eyed shark species in Belize, salmon farms in Patagonia, blast fishing in Peru, a cocaine-laden plane in a Peruvian park, and an Andean bear mystery, also in Peru. Belize’s tiny sixgill shark species at risk “A little shark so adorable, you want […]
Dam project pushes threatened orangutans from forest to farms [10/05/2018]
- Critically endangered Tapanuli orangutans are starting to flee from their only known habitat in Sumatra and encroaching on plantations, as the development of a controversial hydropower project in the Batang Toru forest gets underway. - The finding comes just days after the project developer joined forces with the local government and a prominent university to speed up the pace of development ahead of the 2022 deadline. - Indonesia’s environment ministry has ordered the developer to revise its environmental impact assessment, but conservationists say there are far too many problems with the project for it to continue. - A key risk that remains unaddressed is the proposed dam’s location along a known fault line, which critics of the project say could have disastrous consequences in a region known for its high level of seismic activity.
Frogs coping with fatal fungus in Panamanian forest, study finds [10/05/2018]
- Scientists discovered that frogs in the El Copé forest appear to have found a way to live with chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), a fungus that is still devastating amphibian populations in other parts of the world. - The team found that surviving frog species had similar survival rates whether they were infected with chytrid or not. - The results offer the possibility that frog communities, though altered, can stabilize after these catastrophic events.
Young right whale dies, likely from entanglement in fishing gear [10/03/2018]
- A young North Atlantic right whale died off the coast of Massachusetts in August, probably as the result of entanglement in fishing gear. - After centuries of hunting, the right whale population in the North Atlantic has failed to recover, in large part because they’re prone to getting entangled in fishing gear. - Only about 450 of the animals remain, after 17 died between late 2016 and 2017, and no new calves were observed last winter.
New tree species from Cameroon is possibly already extinct [10/03/2018]
- Nearly 70 years ago, Edwin Ujor of the Nigerian Forestry Service collected a specimen of a tree from a forest high up in the Bamenda highlands in Cameroon. - Now, in a new study, researchers have formally described the Ujor specimen as a new species named Vepris bali. - The researchers believe the species is either critically endangered or already possibly extinct, mainly because it has been found in only one location, and because the higher-altitude regions from which the Ujor specimen was collected have mostly been cleared for agriculture.
The rhino reckoning [10/02/2018]
- The Sumatran rhino captive-breeding program caught 40 rhinos from 1984 to 1995. To date, the program has produced five calves. - Some view these figures as evidence of a colossal failure. Others point to the births achieved as proof of the program’s eventual success. - Momentum has been growing to relaunch efforts to capture wild rhinos. The most significant step yet was the September announcement of a new initiative dubbed the Sumatran Rhino Rescue.
Ape sanctuaries in the DRC brace themselves as Ebola hits the country [10/02/2018]
- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak, which has already claimed 105 human lives, is making great-ape conservation more challenging in an already volatile region. - The disease can be transmitted between humans and apes, so conservation groups in the country need to take extra precautions to keep the animals in their sanctuaries safe. - Most at risk is the GRACE gorilla sanctuary, situated four and a half hours from a city where Ebola has been confirmed. - Researchers say the outbreak is not currently a significant threat to wild ape populations.
Kenya’s Mijikenda people revive sacred homesteads to protect the forest [10/01/2018]
- Kenya’s Mijikenda indigenous people have long revered and protected the forests surrounding their ancestral homesteads, known as kayas, which dot the country’s southeastern coast. - Today, the 45 kayas and their surrounding forests face many threats. Illegal logging, mining, agricultural encroachment, land grabbing, and a spate of murders targeting the very elders who protect them have all worn away at the kayas’ biological and cultural integrity. - In response, the Mijikenda, with the help of outside NGOs, have launched new efforts to protect the kaya forests, starting with an effort to revitalize their traditional culture among the younger generation.
Largely banned industrial chemicals could wipe out killer whales, study warns [10/01/2018]
- New research shows that despite countries phasing out polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) more than 40 years ago, the chemicals remain a major threat to killer whales around the world, and could wipe out most populations in just 30 to 50 years. - Killer whale populations that occur in least PCB-polluted parts of the ocean, such as those around the poles, Norway and Iceland, still have a large number of individuals and are at low risk. - However, populations occurring in waters that have had historically high concentrations of PCBs, such as those around Japan, Brazil, the northeast Pacific, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the U.K., are all tending toward complete collapse in the next few decades, according to the study’s modeled scenarios.
Ahead of election, deforestation continues to climb in the Brazilian Amazon [09/30/2018]
- Newly released analysis of satellite data by Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, shows that deforestation in the Amazon is continuing to climb. - Imazon’s deforestation alert system detected 545 square kilometers of forest clearing in August, a tripling of the area deforested the same month a year ago - The Brazilian government’s own deforestation detection system, run by the national space research institute INPE, also shows a recent rise in deforestation, albeit a substantially less dramatic increase relative to Imazon. - The apparent rise in deforestation this year in Brazil is not unexpected due to current political and economic trends.
Scientists urge world leaders to scale up ambitions to protect global biodiversity [09/28/2018]
- Research has shown that a sixth mass extinction event is underway and largely driven by human activities. With the global population set to balloon to 10 billion people by 2050, which will more than double the current demand for food and water, scientists are increasingly calling for mankind to set aside sufficient amounts of ecosystems on land and at sea to ensure the survival of the many species with which we share planet Earth. - Yet, according to Jonathan Baillie, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist of the National Geographic Society, and Ya-Ping Zhang, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, “Current levels of protection do not even come close to the required levels.” - To preserve global biodiversity and safeguard the provision of critical ecosystem services, ambitions must be ratcheted up in 2020, when the world’s governments will meet at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Beijing, China to set biodiversity targets for the future, Baillie and Zhang argue.
Massive loss of mammal species in Atlantic Forest since the 1500s [09/28/2018]
- A new study examined the loss of mammal species in the Atlantic Forest, which is currently only about 13 percent of its historical size. - Forest clearing for agriculture, along with hunting, has cut the number of species living at specific sites throughout the forest by an average of more than 70 percent. - The researchers call for increased restoration efforts in the Atlantic Forest to provide habitat and allow the recovery of these species.
The great rhino U-turn [09/28/2018]
- As the 20th century drew to a close the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program, launched in 1984, had yet to produce a single calf. - Home to the last two Sumatran rhinos in the United States, the Cincinnati Zoo made several key discoveries about the species’ reproductive behavior, including the fact that females only ovulate when they have contact with males. - Andalas, the first Sumatran rhino bred in captivity in more than a century, was born in Cincinnati in 2001. This success, and the subsequent birth of four other calves, has led to a re-evaluation of the program as a whole. - Now, attention is turned to breeding centers in the rhinos’ original habitat as the future of captive breeding efforts.
Latam Eco Review: Shark ceviche, bat-friendly tequila, and protein-rich worms [09/27/2018]
Recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, revealed Peruvians’ hidden shark diet, new species in Colombia’s Chiribiquete National Park, dire predictions from Mexico’s “Batman,” and more. Peruvians are eating shark and don’t know it Three out of four Peruvians recently surveyed were found to have eaten shark meat without knowing it. The problem stems […]
New survey results show Nepal is on track to double its tiger population by 2022 [09/26/2018]
- Data gathered from camera trap surveys conducted across most of Nepal’s tiger habitats between 2017 and 2018 show that there are now 235 of the big cats who call the South Asian country home. - That represents a 19 percent increase over the 198 tigers found during a nationwide study completed in 2014. Nepal’s first census, in 2009, found 121 tigers. - These numbers put Nepal firmly on the path to becoming the first nation to double its tiger population since the Tx2 goal — which seeks a doubling of the global tiger population by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger on the Asian lunar calendar — was adopted by the world’s 13 tiger range countries at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.
New species of neon-colored fish discovered off Brazil [09/26/2018]
- While diving in the waters surrounding Saint Paul’s Rocks, an archipelago off Brazil, in June last year, researchers discovered a stunning pink-and-white neon-colored fish that’s new to science. - The researchers were so taken by the colorful fish that they did not notice a large six-gill shark swimming very close to them. For its “enchanting” beauty, they named the fish Tosanoides aphrodite, or the Aphrodite anthias, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty. - Aphrodite anthias is the only known species of the genus Tosanoides found in the Atlantic Ocean. All the other known species of Tosanoides live in the Pacific Ocean.
Dress like a polar bear: learning to love muskoxen at 15 below zero [09/25/2018]
- Enduring subzero temperatures that make your face freeze, dressing as a bear, and getting chased by an angry male muskox, are all in a day’s work for biologist Joel Berger. His experiences and scientific insights are featured in a new book that focuses on the lives and survival strategies of muskoxen and other cold-adapted animals. - The autobiographical book, “Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edge of the World,” profiles Berger’s studies of inhospitable ecosystems, ranging from the high latitudes above the Arctic Circle, to the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. - Mongabay contributor Gloria Dickie interviews Berger to see what makes a human want to live and work in some of the Earth’s most brutal environments. The quick answer: to see how barely studied Northern and alpine large mammals — especially muskoxen — are adapting, or not adapting, to a rapidly warming world. - Berger’s findings regarding instinctual and learned behavior, evolution and survival in a globally warmed world turn out to be revelatory not only to cold-adapted animals, but also relevant to wildlife species around the globe — and to the scientists who want to conserve them.
China’s primates could disappear by end of this century, study warns [09/25/2018]
- China has some 25 species of primates, of which 15 to 18 have fewer than 3,000 individuals surviving in the wild, according to a new study. - Two species of gibbons have become extinct in China in just the past two decades, while two other species of gibbons have fewer than 30 individuals in the country. - Researchers warn that primate distributions in China could shrink by 51 percent to 87 percent by the end of this century. - Expanding suitable habitat for primates is critical, the researchers say, as is prioritizing a network of protected corridors that can connect isolated primate subpopulations.
A herd of dead rhinos [09/24/2018]
- An agreement to launch a captive breeding program was brokered in 1984. By 1985, key participants began pulling out, including the Malaysian state of Sabah. - Despite the setbacks, efforts to capture rhinos quickly got up and running. Keeping the animals healthy proved to be a much greater challenge. - By 1995, nearly half of the 40 rhinos caught were dead, and none of them had successfully bred in captivity.
Limi Valley: A threatened Shangri-La for wildlife (commentary) [09/24/2018]
- Despite being extremely rich in wildlife and biodiversity, all is not well in in Nepal’s Limi Valley, an area of global importance for highland wildlife, both flora and fauna. - The valley is facing an increasing number of anthropogenic and natural threats, the most prominent being human-wildlife conflict and the illegal wildlife trade. In spite of these challenges to conservation, however, the area also provides ample opportunities to address the issues it is facing. - The Limi Valley is in need of well-thought-out, long-term conservation initiatives. However, any initiatives aimed at conserving the unique biodiversity of the area in the long-run must address the complex issue of human-wildlife conflict. This will involve working directly with local people in alternative livelihood and income generation activities. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New species of blood-red coral found off Panama coast [09/21/2018]
- Researchers have found a new species of bright red coral in Hannibal Bank, an underwater seamount off Panama’s Pacific coast. - The new coral, Thesea dalioi, is only the second known species of Thesea found in the eastern Pacific, the researchers say. - Researchers named the new coral after Ray Dalio, a U.S. philanthropist and hedge fund manager whose foundation supports ocean exploration. - The reefs on Hannibal Bank, where T. dalioi was discovered, occur in low-light environments that are thought to be fragile habitats made of a high diversity of corals, algae and sponges.
Activists say Indonesia dragging its heels on indigenous rights [09/20/2018]
- Legislation of a long-awaited bill on indigenous rights continues to be mired in red tape, as activists accuse the government of stalling the process. - The start of deliberations in parliament was scheduled for Aug. 16, but has now been pushed back to Sept. 27 because the government has still not submitted an inventory of sticking points. - The government says it still needs input from various ministries, particularly on funding for programs under the bill, which it had previously cited as a reason for shelving the legislation. - The urgency to pass the bill comes as a study finds that at least a third of the carbon managed by indigenous communities in tropical and subtropical countries lies in forests where they lack legal title, putting them, their forests and the carbon they store at great risk.
1984: the meeting that changed everything for Sumatran rhinos [09/20/2018]
- A 1984 agreement between zoos, conservationists and government officials marked the formal beginning of an international program that brought 40 Sumatran rhinos into captivity in an attempt to ward off extinction. Within 11 years, the program collapsed. - The program was long viewed as an epic failure due to high mortality rates and the lack of live births for over a decade; it also paved the way for later breeding successes that just may offer the Sumatran rhino hope for the future. - As conservationists mull a new plan to capture more rhinos, what lessons do past efforts offer?
Wildlife detectives link smuggled African elephant ivory to 3 major cartels [09/20/2018]
- By matching DNA from elephant tusks found in major illegal ivory shipments, and using information on the ports of origin of the shipments, researchers have pinpointed three major cartels that moved most of Africa’s large illegal ivory shipments between 2011 and 2014. - These three cartels operated from Entebbe in Uganda, Mombasa in Kenya, and Lomé in Togo. - The researchers hope that links established in the study will help tie ivory-trafficking kingpins to multiple large ivory seizures, and strengthen the case against them.
Indonesia’s Teater Potlot takes on the plight of the Sumatran tiger [09/19/2018]
- A seventh-century Srivijaya king, Srijayanasa, believed progress should bring merit to man and creature alike. - “Puyang,” a play by a South Sumatra theater group, explores the undoing of this pact through the eyes of a mythical tiger. - Today, there are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers believed to be living in the wild, as plantation and mining interests raze their forest homes.
As turtles go, so go their ecosystems [09/19/2018]
- Turtles are among the most threatened of the major groups of vertebrates in the world, a new review paper says, perhaps even more so than birds, mammals, fish or amphibians. - Of the 356 species of turtles recognized today, about 61 percent are either threatened or have become extinct in modern times. - Turtles contribute to the health of a variety of environments, including desert, wetland, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and losing these animals could have serious ecological consequences, researchers say.
Indonesian province calls time-out on mining [09/19/2018]
- The new government of East Nusa Tenggara, a mineral-rich province in eastern Indonesia, has pledged to reform its mining sector as officials and environmentalists cite the lack of benefits from the extractive industry. - The administration said it would not accept new mining license applications, and that those awaiting approval would be rejected. - Some environmental groups have praised the new government’s plan to reform the mining sector, calling it a positive step for sustainability.
Audio: How the social sciences can help conservationists save species [09/18/2018]
- On this episode, we take a look at how the social sciences can boost conservation efforts. - Our guest is Diogo Verissimo, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Oxford in the UK and the Institute for Conservation Research at the US-based San Diego Zoo Global. Verissimo designs and evaluates programs that aim to change human behavior as a means of combating the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. - While we all come in contact with marketing campaigns nearly every single day of our lives, conservationists have been much slower to employ marketing principles in the interest of influencing human behaviors that are harmful to the planet. We discuss with Verissimo the intersection of social marketing and conservation science — in other words, how the social sciences can provide us with a better understanding of human motivation and behavior and help create a more sustainable world.
Study games out oil palm development scenarios in Borneo [09/17/2018]
- The study authors quantify what will happen under a business as usual (BAU) approach, a strict conservation plan (CON), and expansion guided by sustainable intensification (SUS-INT). - Under a BAU scenario, all land currently zoned for corporate oil palm concessions are utilized to their maximum capacity. - At the other end of the spectrum, the CON scenario considers what will happen if Indonesia’s 2011 forest moratorium preventing new concessions on primary forest and peatland is applied to all currently undeveloped land, and companies adhere to zero-deforestation commitments. - In between the two, the SUS-INT option considers what would happen if plantations are expanded only in non-forested and non-peat areas, while yields are increased through improved cultivars and intensive management.
Latam Eco Review: Gold fever in Peru and cryptic fish from the deep [09/14/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, followed new deforestation from gold mining in Peru, new fish species deep in Chile’s sea, mining on Ecuador’s beaches, and hundreds of dead turtles in Mexico. Gold mining tears through Peru’s Amazon A new study shows that gold mining in Peru’s Madre de Dios region has […]
How much plastic is too much plastic for sea turtles? [09/14/2018]
- Researchers in Australia examined the digestive tracts of 246 dead sea turtles collected from along the coast of the state of Queensland and counted up to 329 pieces of plastic. - Younger turtles were found to have consumed considerably higher amounts of plastic pieces than adult turtles, the study found, possibly because they are less selective about what they eat. The young turtles also drift with ocean currents, just like plastic debris tends to do, and both might end up aggregating in the same places. - The higher the number of plastic pieces a turtle has inside its gut, the higher the chance of it being killed by the plastic. For an average-sized turtle, ingesting more than 14 pieces of plastic translates into a 50 percent likelihood of death.
Tagging and tracking the Tour de Turtles [09/13/2018]
- The Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Tour de Turtles kicked off last month, tagging and tracking 17 sea turtles during a marathon migration. - Turtles wear small transmitters during the annual event as they travel thousands of miles to from their nesting beaches to feeding grounds. - Data collected from satellite telemetry help scientists gain a clearer understanding of how four species of turtles behave at sea, furthering efforts to protect endangered species.
Forests and indigenous rights land $459M commitment [09/12/2018]
- A group of 17 philanthropic foundations has committed nearly half a billion dollars in support of land-based solutions to climate change and the recognition of indigenous peoples’ and traditional communities’ collective land rights and resource management. - The announcement is notable because it brings together a range of philanthropies that have often taken a siloed approach to tackling the world’s social and environmental problems. - The pledge, which includes both previous commitments and new money, raises the profile of two often overlooked opportunities in climate change mitigation: forests, which could help meet up to a third of global emissions targets by 2030, and indigenous and local communities, whose lands comprise nearly a sixth of global forest cover. - The foundations signed an agreement stating five shared priorities, ranging from the rights of indigenous communities to transitioning toward more sustainable food systems.
Why keep Africa’s dryland forests alive? [09/12/2018]
- Small holder farmers from 6,000 Malian households have restored 320 hectares of land through a combination of on-farm natural tree regeneration, water harvesting, moisture retention technologies, improved soil filtration, and enhanced soil humus. - This is just one of many efforts currently underway to restore Africa’s dryland forests. There are many obstacles left to overcome, but as the Mali example clearly shows, there are successes to celebrate and build upon, as well. - In sub-Saharan Africa, 80 percent of charcoal and firewood used by about 2.4 million people is harvested in woodlands found in the dryland areas. Experts say it’s time to start packaging these fragile yet rich and highly adaptive ecosystems into investment opportunities.
Illegal wildlife trade on Facebook in Thailand open ‘for all to see’ [09/12/2018]
- In a rapid assessment in 2016, carried out for just 30 minutes a day over a total of 23 days, wildlife trade watchdog TRAFFIC found 1,521 listings of live wild animals for sale on Facebook in Thailand. - The animals on offer belonged to at least 200 species, of which about half are protected by the country’s laws, while the rest aren’t regulated at all. - More than 500 individuals listed were mammals, with 139 listings of the Sunda slow loris, a threatened primate. - The listings also included the critically endangered helmeted hornbill and Siamese crocodile.
Conservation groups herald protection of tiger habitat in Malaysia [09/11/2018]
- The state government of Terengganu has set aside more than 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) for critically endangered Malayan tigers and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia. - The state’s chief minister said the newly created Lawit-Cenana State Park’s high density of threatened species made the area a priority for protection. - The park is home to 291 species of birds and 18 species of mammals, including elephants, tapirs and pangolins.
The search for survivors in a post-nuclear reefscape [09/10/2018]
- The United States tested its largest thermonuclear bomb in 1954 over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, generating radioactive fallout downwind, including over remote Rongelap Atoll. - We surveyed protected reefs of Rongelap and neighboring Ailinginae Atoll, finding extremely variable coral condition and widespread evidence of recent ocean warming. - Variation in reef condition underscored an increasing need to assist diver-based surveys with improved satellite and aircraft imaging to assess the health of the coral reefs. - Climate change mitigation is paramount to coral reef survival, as increasing ocean temperature could trump earlier nuclear radiation as a driver of reef degradation in the Marshall Islands.
Aligning forces for tropical forests as a climate change solution (commentary) [09/08/2018]
- Tropical forest governments need help to achieve their commitments to slow deforestation and are not getting it fast enough; companies could deliver some of that help through strategic partnerships, especially if environmental advocacy strategies evolve to favor these partnerships. Aspiring governments also need a mechanism for registering and disseminating their commitments and for finding potential partners. - Climate finance is reaching most jurisdictions, but not at the speed or scale that is needed. Tropical forest governments need help making their jurisdictions easier to do business in and more bankable; they are beginning to develop innovative ways to use verified emissions reductions, to create industries and institutions for low-carbon development, and to establish efficient, transparent mechanisms for companies to deliver finance for technical assistance to farmers. - Partnerships between indigenous peoples and subnational governments have emerged as a promising new approach for both improving representation of forest communities in subnational governance and delivering greater support, unlocking climate finance in the process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 7, 2018 [09/07/2018]
- Of this lost forest, 90,000 hectares were in the environmental corridor that connects the national natural parks of La Macarena and Serranía del Chiribiquete. - The government was late to arrive at the territories left by the now-extinct FARC guerrilla group. - New paramilitary groups, including the ELN guerrillas, criminal gangs and drug trafficking enterprises have taken control of the territory, causing immense environmental and social damage. - The region is now facing an acceleration of what many have long feared: deforestation, land grabbing, expansion of the agricultural frontier and an increase in illicit crops and illegal mining.
Indonesia gives in to bird traders, rescinds protection for 3 species [09/07/2018]
- The Indonesian government has removed three popular songbirds from its newly updated list of protected species. They are the white-rumped shama, straw-headed bulbul and Javan pied starling — a critically endangered species. - The move comes amid protests from songbird owners and breeders, who have raised concerns about loss of livelihoods. - The owners and breeders now say they will push for more species to be removed from the list. - Conservationists and scientists have blasted the ministry for backing down and called into question its assessment that protecting the three species would have had an adverse economic impact.
8 species of birds have possibly gone extinct over past few decades [09/06/2018]
- A new study has found that eight species of birds are likely to have completely disappeared in the past couple of decades. - Researchers recommend that three species currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List be reclassified as extinct, while one be treated as extinct in the wild. - Four more bird species are dangerously close to extinction, if not already there, and should be re-classified as critically endangered (possibly extinct), researchers say.
‘Diaper Brigade’ fights a chemical crisis in Java’s rivers [09/06/2018]
- Indonesian biologist Prigi Arisandi leads a movement to tackle the dumping of millions of disposable diapers into rivers across Indonesia’s Java Island every year. - Used diapers contain a long list of chemical components that don’t degrade easily, contaminating river ecosystems. - Fishing the diapers from the rivers is a quick solution. Over the long term, Prigi says, governments and diaper manufacturers must establish better waste management policies, and consumers must cut back on their use of disposable diapers.
Improving rural credit in Brazil: More production, better environment (commentary) [09/06/2018]
- One of the biggest challenges for the global economy is to use natural resources more efficiently, increasing food and energy production while preserving the environment. - Brazil is at the center of this process, since it has abundant natural resources and is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world—the fourth largest according to FAO (2016). Controlling deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening the agribusiness should occur together. - The primary public policy for Brazilian agriculture is rural credit. A thorough analysis of the rural credit system shows the need to reform the policy, simplify the rules, improve distribution channels, and more closely align it with the Brazilian Forest Code. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A civic outcry in Malaysia forces a Chinese builder to live up to its eco-friendly tag [09/05/2018]
- Forest City, a massive land reclamation project built by a Chinese developer and backed by the sultan of Johor state in Malaysia, was initially allowed to begin construction without a detailed environmental impact assessment. - Facing public protests, and concern from neighboring Singapore, the government halted the project and required a laundry list of design changes to the city, which is projected to house 700,000 people upon completion. - The project is marketed as an eco-friendly “future city,” but has been met with concern by environmentalists. China’s involvement has also caused political problems, including an announcement in August that Malaysia will not allow foreigners to purchase property in the development. - This is the final installment in a six-part series on infrastructure development in Peninsular Malaysia.
Diverse family of algae could help corals survive warming seas [09/05/2018]
- Scientists have found that some algae that associate with corals are much more diverse and much older than previously thought. - The origin of certain algae occurred at around the same time corals began building reefs on a grand scale around the world, the researchers showed. - The diversity of these algae could boost corals’ resistance to higher ocean temperatures.
87 elephants found dead in Botswana, one of last safe havens for the species [09/05/2018]
- At least 87 elephants were killed by poachers in recent months, conservation nonprofit Elephants Without Borders said based on an ongoing aerial survey in northern Botswana. - Given that the current aerial survey is only halfway through, conservationists worry the final number of poached elephants will be much higher. - The government of Botswana, however, has refuted the organization’s claims and called the figures “unsubstantiated,” in a statement published on Twitter.
Monitoring the ambitious land restoration commitments in Africa [09/03/2018]
- Announcements by Burkina Faso and Tanzania at the GLF Africa Conference, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya this week, brings restoration commitments under AFR100 to a total of 96.4 million hectares by 27 African countries. - Making pledges is one thing, however, while monitoring and tracking progress in actually achieving these restoration goals is another. Attendees of the GLF Africa Conference were keenly aware of this challenge, and a variety of tools for monitoring and tracking restoration activities was a topic of much discussion. - Restoration requires more than the planting of trees, as Charles Karangwa, an IUCN Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Coordinator, noted at the conference: “Countries must enact polices, allocate budget to restoration implementation, track and learn from their progress.”
New Zealand penguins make ‘crazy’ 7,000-km round trip for food [09/03/2018]
- Until recently, researchers did not know where the Fiordland penguins of New Zealand, known locally as tawaki, went to hunt during their pre-moult summer period. - A new study that tracked 17 penguins has found that the birds made a round trip of up to 6,800 kilometers (4,225 miles) in 2016, making it one of the longest-known pre-moult penguin migrations to date. - The penguins went nearly halfway to Antarctica, traveling to the sub-tropical front south of Tasmania or to the sub-Antarctic front to hunt, the researchers found. - It’s not clear why they went so far, given that other penguin species in New Zealand seem to find enough food in the waters near their breeding colonies. Researchers say more studies over several seasons and involving more individual penguins are needed.
The secret life of the southern naked-tailed armadillo [09/03/2018]
- The southern naked-tailed armadillo spends 99.25 percent of its time underground. If by chance you locate one above ground, it can dig away in a matter of seconds. - The air of mystery surrounding this species led Desbiez and his team to seek out any information they could about its day-to-day activities and its natural history in Brazil’s Pantanal region. - Unlike other species that Desbiez studies, such as the giant armadillo and the giant anteater, the southern naked-tailed armadillo is rated as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Madagascar: Where young whale sharks party [08/31/2018]
- Whale sharks don’t need help being spectacular. The world’s biggest fish is impressive in nearly every aspect, growing as long as 12 meters (40 feet) and weighing up to 21 tons. - A new study in the journal Endangered Species Research used photo-identification techniques based on the sharks’ distinctive spots to discover a new hotspot for juvenile whale sharks around the tiny island of Nosy Be, in northwest Madagascar. - This is a rare bit of good news for a species that, like many other sharks, is struggling to survive in oceans increasingly subject to the negative impacts of human activity.
Cheap prices lead to more exotic pets in the wild, research finds [08/30/2018]
- New research shows that exotic amphibians and reptiles sold inexpensively as pets are more likely to end up in the wild, where they can pose problems for native wildlife. - The authors of the study believe that many pet owners may not fully understand the responsibility of owning these animals, some of which can grow to large sizes and live for decades. - They suggest that limiting the numbers of certain species popular as pets could help limit their often-destructive impact on ecosystems.