Visualizing the impacts of human disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity [07/26/2017]
- Efforts to protect biodiversity often focus on keeping forests and the habitat they represent from being cut down. But research published in the journal Nature last year suggests that forest degradation resulting from human activities is perhaps just as urgent a threat to biodiversity as deforestation. - According to the study, man-made disturbances in Pará’s tropical forests have resulted in levels of biodiversity loss equivalent to clearing 92,000 to 139,000 square kilometers (around 35,500 to 53,700 square miles) of pristine forest. - If that kind of raw data is hard to wrap your brain around, that’s where Silent Forest comes in. Thiago Medaglia described it as “a journalistic data visualization project” in an email to Mongabay.
Working with communities to fight fires in Way Kambas National Park [07/26/2017]
- Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra supports populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants, along with hundreds of other species. - In 1997, forest fires hit 70 percent of the park, killing many animals and hampering regeneration in previously logged areas. - Local authorities and conservation groups are now working with residents to prevent and fight fires, with notable success.
How effective are wildlife corridors like Singapore’s Eco-Link? [07/26/2017]
- Man-made wildlife corridors are becoming a popular policy tool to create connectivity between natural areas for animals – but how well are they working? - Early data suggests the [email protected] has helped some species, including the critically endangered Sunda pangolin. - More research is needed to understand which species benefit from eco corridors and why.
Conserving the World’s Remaining Intact Forests (commentary) [07/25/2017]
- Intact forests are among the few places on earth where native trees and animals can fulfill their ecological roles outside the influence of industrial humankind. - Some interpret “intact” to mean absent the influence of people, but people have lived within forests the world over for millennia and we are only beginning to understand how they have – and continue to – influence them. - We cannot solve our most pressing environmental and development problems by compromising the few areas that remain whole. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Business owners in top Belize destination want increased mangrove protections [07/25/2017]
- Towns like San Pedro depend on attractions like Hol Chan Marine Reserve to bring tourists but loss of mangroves on land is a threat to clean water and healthy reefs - A number of business owners would like to see better mangrove protections and planning documents developed - Up to one third of Belize citizens work in the tourism sector, more than agriculture
Audio: Global megadam activism and the sounds of nature in Taiwan [07/25/2017]
- Activists from around the world attended the conference to strategize around stopping what they see as destructive hydropower projects. As Bardeen relates in her commentary, many attendees at the conference have faced harassment, intimidation, and worse for their opposition to dam projects, but they’re still standing strong in defense of free-flowing rivers. - We also speak with Yannick Dauby, a French sound artist based in Taiwan. Since 2002, Dauby has been crafting sound art out of field recordings made throughout the small country of Taiwan and posting them on his website, Kalerne.net. - In this Field Notes segment, Dauby plays a recording of his favorite singer, a frog named Rhacophorus moltrechti; the sounds of the marine life of the corals of Penghu, which he is documenting together with biologists; the calls bats use to echolocate (slowed down 16 times so they can be heard by human ears!); and more! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Flood hits India’s Kaziranga National Park, killing four rhinos [07/24/2017]
- Annual monsoon floods are a natural part of Kaziranga National Park's ecosystem but pose multiple threats to animals, including the risk of drowning or getting poached or hit by cars while fleeing rising water. - According to officials, 81 animals have been killed in this year's flood, including four rhinos. Another 78 animals have been stranded or injured. - Mitigation measures include increased monitoring by rangers, police and drones; closely tracking the speed of vehicles through the park; and the construction of artificial highlands. - Authorities are also considering a controversial proposal to build a road-cum-embankment to prevent floodwaters from inundating the park.
Pangolin hunting skyrockets in Central Africa, driven by international trade [07/24/2017]
- The study pulled together information on markets, prices and hunting methods for pangolins from research in 14 countries in Africa. - Pangolins are hunted for their meat in some African countries, and their scales are used in traditional medicine, both locally and in several Asian countries, including China. - The researchers found that as many as 2.71 million pangolins from three species are killed every year across six Central African countries – at least a 145 percent increase since before 2000. - They recommend better enforcement of the 2016 CITES ban across the entire supply chain, from Africa to Asia.
Meet the new giant sunfish that has evaded scientists for centuries [07/24/2017]
- Scientists have named the new species the Hoodwinker sunfish or Mola tecta (derived from the Latin word tectus meaning disguised or hidden). - The team is yet to determine the Hoodwinker's range, but they have found the fish around New Zealand, off Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales (Australia), South Africa and southern Chile. - The Hoodwinker sunfish can grow up to 2.5 meters (over eight feet), the team estimates, and its slimmer, sleeker body doesn't change much between juveniles and adults.
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
On the front lines of conservation: How do rural women feel? [07/21/2017]
- Researchers interviewed women living inside a national park in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau about how the park affects their daily lives. - The women felt the park was the cause of malnutrition because chimpanzees and baboons in particular damaged their crops and they did not receive compensation. - Although reluctant to participate in conservation, they hoped the researchers could help provide compensation and improve their lives.
Will banning trade in fins help endangered sharks? Some experts say no [07/21/2017]
- The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017, introduced before Congress on March 9, would terminate the possession and trade of shark fins in all 50 U.S. states and 16 territories. - Activists and advocacy groups often cheer these bans as a way to protect sharks. Internationally about 70 of the planet’s 400-plus shark species now face extinction, often due to overfishing.. - However, some experts argue that better tracking to determine whether imported fins were caught sustainably, followed by trade restrictions on those that weren’t, represent the best steps toward saving threatened shark species. - Some go so far as to argue that a U.S. trade ban may do more harm than good, by crushing a domestic industry that exports sustainably caught fins to markets in Asia and allowing less-sustainable fisheries to take up the slack.
Big forests, big ag: Are rainforests the right place for industrial agriculture? (commentary) [07/21/2017]
- Gabon remains a relative stronghold for endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and forest elephants. - Singapore-based Olam International, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, has agreed not to plant palm oil in protected wetlands, and also set aside conservation areas and corridors for wildlife in its concessions in Gabon. - But there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of clearing 26,000 hectares in the middle of one of the world’s most forested countries. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Climate change is increasing the mortality rate of African wild dog pups [07/20/2017]
- The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), a native of sub-Saharan Africa, is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, which reports that there are only an estimated 6,600 adults in 39 subpopulations left in the wild — and that their numbers continue to decline due to ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with humans, and infectious disease. - Compounding these threats to the species’ survival, according to a paper published in the Journal of Animal Ecology yesterday, climate change appears to be increasing the mortality rate for African wild dog pups. - Researchers discovered that the packs spend less time hunting in hot weather. They also found that more pups died as the days got hotter, which they theorize is because, simply put, decreased hunting time means less food to feed the young.
Behind rising rhino numbers in Nepal, a complex human story [07/19/2017]
- The fortunes of the indigenous Tharu people and Nepal's rhinos have been linked for centuries. - The establishment of Chitwan National Park in 1973 deepened the marginalization the Tharu, evicting thousands from their land and depriving them of access to the forest. - Since the 1990s, conservation groups have been working to develop a community-based conservation model that includes the Tharu. - Other ethnic groups have long remained outside the community conservation model, and have in some cases turned to poaching for income.
Mothers vs. loggers: the destruction of Białowieża Forest splits Poland [07/19/2017]
- A bark beetle outbreak has led Polish officials to begin large-scale logging across old-growth Białowieża Forest, home to bison, wolves and a rich cultural history. - The logging is opposed by everyone from scientists to the UN to the European Commission to a group of mothers concerned about the world their children will inherit. - The European Commission has recently declared that all logging should cease.
Charcoal and cattle ranching tearing apart the Gran Chaco [07/19/2017]
- The year-long probe of Paraguay’s charcoal exports by the NGO Earthsight revealed that much of the product was coming from the Chaco, the world’s fastest-disappearing tropical forest. - Suppliers appear to have reassured international supermarket chains that it was sustainable and that they had certification from international groups such as FSC and PEFC. - But further digging by Earthsight revealed that the charcoal production methods used may not fit with the intent of certification. - Several grocery store chains mentioned in the report have said they’ll take a closer look at their supply chains, and the certification body PEFC is reexamining how its own standards are applied.
Investigation finds ‘thriving’ rhino horn trade in Asia [07/18/2017]
- Over 11 months, EAL investigators posed as potential buyers and identified 55 'persons of interest' involved in the trade of rhino horn. - The group mapped out the routes by which rhino horn – valued at tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram – arrives in China. - Recorded conversations during the investigation allude to the fact that dealers and traders understand that rhinos face the threat of extinction.
Nepal’s rhino numbers rise, thanks to national and local commitment [07/18/2017]
- Nepal's population of greater one-horned rhinos has fluctuated wildly over the past century. - Widespread in the early 1900s, rhinos were reduced to a few pockets by the 1950s and around 100 individuals in the 1970s. - Conservation efforts boosted the population by the 1990s, but the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency took a devastating toll. - Numbers are now rising again, a trend attributed to commitment at both the grassroots and the highest levels of government.
Inflated quotas for captive-bred wildlife in Indonesia may aid traffickers: report [07/18/2017]
- Indonesia's captive breeding plan is meant to enable the legal wildlife trade while protecting the country's natural riches, including its incredible biodiversity. - But "unrealistically high" quotas for the maximum production of certain species in the plan are likely being taken advantage of by wildlife traffickers, according to a new study. - The Indonesian environment ministry official in charge of setting the quotas says his department has audited the country's breeding centers to ensure their professionalism and quality.
As Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem faces multiple threats, local resistance grows [07/17/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth. - The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as "In Danger" since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month. - The local government's plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser. - Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area's human residents as well as to wildlife.
Transforming business as usual in Indonesia: an interview with Aida Greenbury [07/17/2017]
- Aida Greenbury is the former Chief Sustainability Officer at Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant with extensive operations in Indonesia. - Greenbury was the lead internal architect for APP's 2013 forest conservation policy, which is today one of the most ambitious zero deforestation commitments in the plantation sector. - Greenbury left APP in May and is today working on collaborative initiatives to protect and restore ecosystems.
First ever photos of wild lion nursing leopard cub [07/17/2017]
- Five-year-old lioness named Nosikitok is currently collared and monitored by KopeLion, a conservation NGO in Tanzania. - The circumstances that brought the lioness and the leopard cub together still remain a mystery. - She is believed to have recently given birth to her second litter of cubs and scientists think that the lioness's maternal instincts may have driven her towards caring for the little leopard.
Colombia expands indigenous reserves near key deforestation hotspot [07/14/2017]
- The Puerto Sabalo - Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves are both located in the province of Caquetá, which has the highest rate of forest loss in Colombia. - The expansion of the two reserves connects Chiribiquete with Predio Putumayo, the country's largest indigenous reserve, creating a conservation corridor slightly larger than the entire country of Honduras. - A recent report by the Mapping the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) shows that cattle ranching and agricultural development have opened a new deforestation hotspot in Caquetá province’s Amazon rainforests — and that deforestation is expanding towards Chiribiquete National Park.
Big mammals flourish as Cerrado park’s savanna comes back [07/14/2017]
- The study examined a state park in the Brazilian Cerrado, which contains land used in recent decades for eucalyptus plantations, cattle ranching and charcoal production. - The researchers used camera traps, recording the dry season presence of 18 species of large mammals. - In a subsequent analysis, they found that the number of large mammals found in the ‘secondary’ savanna was similar to numbers found in untouched regions of the Cerrado.
Catching the buzz: acoustic monitoring of bees could determine pollination services [07/13/2017]
- The services of pollinating animals are necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of flowering plants, and the majority of these pollinators are bees. - Characteristics of individual bees, including their body size and tongue length, result in unique buzz signatures and allow for the study of the bee’s productivity. - To help the productivity of bees’ pollination services, researchers have developed an inexpensive method of measuring each bee’s acoustics that will eventually be available for the public’s use.
Illegal mining threatens last remaining habitat of green peafowl in China [07/13/2017]
- China is home to about 500 green peafowls, all of which are known to occur only in the Yunnan province. - The mining operations — that include construction of roads, mine shafts and storehouses — are all illegal, the report says. - Greenpeace's investigation also revealed that two roads servicing a hydropower project have been built inside the core area of Konglong River Nature Reserve.
Empowering communities fighting new mines: an interview with filmmaker Jessie Landerman [07/13/2017]
- Local communities often suffer from environmental degradation and human rights abuses when mining companies move into their territories. - A new series of videos shows local communities that they are not alone by sharing stories of how other communities have combatted, with some success, mining giants. - The organization is screening the films for various impacted communities worldwide.
Audio: DJ remixes the sounds of birds, lemurs, and more to inspire conservation [07/12/2017]
- Our first guest is Ben Mirin, aka DJ Ecotone, an explorer, wildlife DJ, educator, and television presenter who creates music from the sounds of nature to help inspire conservation efforts. - In this very special Field Notes segment, Mirin discusses his craft and some of the challenges of capturing wildlife sounds in the field — including why it can be so difficult to record dolphins when all they want to do is take a bow ride on your boat. - We also speak with Cleve Hicks, author of a children’s book called A Rhino to the Rescue: A Tale of Conservation and Adventure, not only to express his love of nature but to help raise awareness of the poaching crisis decimating Africa’s rhino population. - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Fighting climate change with compassion, one letter at a time [07/12/2017]
- DearTomorrow cofounders hope to inspire climate action today by having people write letters their children will open in 2050. - The initiative seeks to make climate change more pressing by imagining what the world will be like in three decades. - Anyone can write a letter – and Kubit and Shrum have made sure their program accepts people with different political, religious or cultural beliefs.
Ongoing mass extinction causing ‘biological annihilation,’ new study says [07/11/2017]
- Building on research in which they showed that two species have gone extinct per year over the past century, a team of biologists analyzed the population trends for 27,600 vertebrates around the world. - They found that nearly a third of the animals they looked at were on the decline. - In a closer look at 177 well-studied mammals, the team found that all had lost 30 percent or more of their home ranges, and 40 percent had lost at least 80 percent of their habitat.
Study: Biodiversity poorly protected by conservation areas worldwide [07/10/2017]
- The study identified the highest concentrations of species, phylogenetic and functional biodiversity on Earth and determined how well the current network of protected areas encompasses these dimensions. - The three facets of biodiversity overlap on only 4.6 percent of land on Earth, with only 1 percent under protection. - The research points to areas that could be prioritized to maximize the amount of unique biodiversity protected.
A spotty revival amid decline for China’s endemic leopards [07/07/2017]
- The North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) is one of nine leopard subspecies and an endemic to China. - The cats’ population has shown signs of revival in certain parts of the country in recent years, according to conservation groups - However, industrial development and infrastructure construction remain major threats to the integrity of the leopards’ habitat and conflicts with people over livestock in their mountainous territories are intense.
African great ape bushmeat crisis intensifies; few solutions in sight [07/07/2017]
- Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are all Critically Endangered or Endangered, and continue to decline toward extinction due to habitat loss and degradation, disease, and illegal hunting. - Great ape poaching, which supplies growing urban and rural bushmeat markets, is now at crisis levels across Central Africa, and despite conservationists’ efforts, is showing no sign of slowing down. - Vast networks of logging roads, modern weapons, cell phones, cheap motorized transportation, and high demand for wild meat in urban centers is driving the booming bushmeat market. - Africa’s great ape sanctuaries rescue some survivors, and active outreach to local communities offer a partial solution. Educational programs for children and adults, teaching the value of great apes, are seen as essential.
Hong Kong officials seize ‘largest ever’ ivory shipment worth $9 million [07/07/2017]
- The customs authorities discovered the tusks inside a 40-feet Malaysian consignment declared as "frozen fish". - Following an initial investigation, the authorities have arrested the owner and two staff members of a trading company in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. - In December last year, Hong Kong government announced a three-step plan to phase out domestic ivory trade by the end of 2021.
Rare fishing cat photographed in Cambodia [07/06/2017]
- One researcher spotted a young fishing cat in the sanctuary in broad daylight, suggesting the population may not be under heavy pressure. - Globally, the cat’s numbers have plummeted by over 30 percent in the last 15 years, putting the species at high risk of extinction. - Research on the fishing cat began only in 2009, but it is already believed to be extinct in Vietnam; meanwhile, there are no confirmed records in Laos PDR and scarce information from Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. - This article is a news analysis by a non-Mongabay writer. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Is Brazil’s Forest Code failing to reduce deforestation? [07/06/2017]
- Engagement with the land registration system that underpins the Forest Code was initially high, but the researchers found that it had little bearing on the amount of illegal deforestation. - Only 6 percent of farmers surveyed said they were actively restoring deforested parts of their land, while 76 percent said that they would only do so if forced by authorities. - After dropping off substantially in the late 2000s, deforestation rates are once again on the rise, reaching their highest levels since 2008 last year.
Merabu’s efforts to keep the carbon in its trees [07/05/2017]
- Merabu residents harvest a variety of non-timber forest products. - “The forest is our storehouse,” one resident explains. "We have a village forest and a backup forest.” - One observer says the village could dispose of its plastic better.
Indonesia is running out of places to put rescued animals [07/04/2017]
- The head of the state conservation agency in North Sumatra says both of her rescue centers are over capacity. She is having to send animals to zoos. - The glut is due to an increase of people handing over protected species to the government, in line with efforts by authorities and NGOs to raise awareness of the law. - Dedicated facilities exist to receive some species, but for others, authorities have had to improvise.
As habitat fragmentation increases, so does extinction risk: study [07/04/2017]
- A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), set out to quantify habitat fragmentation and extinction risk for more than 4,000 land-dwelling mammal species. - Even when accounting for factors like range and body size, fragmentation was found to be a significant predictor of extinction risk. - The study also mapped "fragmentation hotspots," and found that very little high-suitability mammalian habitat falls within protected areas.
Harry Potter may have sparked illegal owl trade in Indonesia [07/03/2017]
- Owls were rarely recorded in the country's bird markets in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, but this trend appears to have changed in the late 2000s. - Surveys of 20 bird markets in Java and Bali conducted between 2012 and 2016 revealed that owls are now widely traded, with at least 12,000 Scops owls being sold in Indonesia's bird markets each year. - Most of these owls are caught from the wild, making the trade largely illegal.
Rate of human-wildlife conflict in India has researchers making urgent appeals for solutions [06/30/2017]
- Between 2011 and 2014, Dr. Krithi Karanth, a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Sahila Kudalkar, a research associate with the Centre for Wildlife Studies, surveyed 5,196 families from 2,855 villages adjacent to 11 different wildlife reserves in western, central, and southern India. - The researchers found that 71 percent of households surveyed have lost crops to wild animals, 17 percent have lost livestock, and three percent have had human injury or death result from a run-in with wildlife. - Tallying these losses and understanding the methods used to mitigate the impacts of human-wildlife conflict is crucial to designing better policies to deal with the problem, Karanth and Kudalkar write in the study.
The women who live alongside rhinos in India [06/30/2017]
- India's rising population of greater one-horned rhinos brings residents of villages bordering protected areas into proximity with the animals. - Women — who are generally responsible for collecting fodder, fuelwood and other forest products — are particularly likely to have encounters with rhinos. - In Manas and Orang national parks, where authorities allow local women access to the parks' buffer zones, such sightings are a source of joy and pride. - In Kaziranga, where access has been cut off, women express resentment that their fortunes have so far not risen in tandem with the rhinos'.
Photos: Four new species of burrowing frogs discovered in India [06/30/2017]
- The four new species include Kadar Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya kadar), CEPF Burrowing Frog (F. cepfi), Manoharan’s Burrowing Frog (F. Manoharani) and Neil Cox’s Burrowing Frog (F. neilcoxi). - Two of the newly described frogs, the Kadar Burrowing Frog and CEPF Burrowing Frog, could be facing serious threats, the researchers warn. - The Rufescent Burrowing Frog was previously listed as a Least Concern species under the IUCN Red List because of its wide distribution, but the new study shows that the species is actually restricted to a much smaller area.
Hard but worth it: researchers fight invasives on Subantarctic islands (commentary) [06/29/2017]
- Sealers and subsequent human visitors to the Southern Ocean’s windswept islands brought with them a variety of invasive species, such as mice, rats, cats, sheep, and goats, that have wrought havoc on the islands’ native wildlife and ecosystems. - On Marion Island, midway between South Africa and Antarctica, researchers and conservationists completed the largest successful cat eradication on an island in history in 1993. - Marion Island’s wildlife has largely rebounded from the sealers and cats, but invasive mice continue to take a toll. - The author points to other recent successful eradications of invasive species on Subantarctic islands and argues that they are a wise investment with benefits for wildlife as well as research into the region’s ecology and the effects of climate change. The views expressed are the author’s own, not necessarily Mongabay’s.
‘Tracking Gobi Grizzlies:’ Book excerpt and Q&A with Douglas Chadwick, wildlife biologist and author [06/29/2017]
- Gobi bears, or mazaalai in Mongolian, actually belong to the species Ursus arctos, more commonly known as brown bears or grizzly bears, though they’re the only bear of any species known to make their home exclusively in desert habitat. - Due to the impacts of climate change in their already punishing environment, it’s believed that there may be just 30 or so Gobi bears left in the world. - In this Q&A, Chadwick discusses why now was the right time for Tracking Gobi Grizzlies to be written, the conservation status of Gobi bears, and just how important the endangered bear’s survival is to the overall Gobi Desert ecosystem.
Protecting fish and fishers: Economists say catch shares work [06/29/2017]
- New research points to the efficacy of catch share programs in the U.S. by halting the ‘race to fish’. - According to the study, catch share programs extend fishing seasons significantly, benefitting fish populations and species impacted by bycatch. - However catch shares remain controversial at the policy level because they can lead to consolidation of the fishing industry, though some programs are working on mitigating this by barring corporations from participating.
Conservation comics to the rescue [06/28/2017]
- Comics are great for sharing conservation science with people of all ages in new ways. - Kids and teachers can print these comics out and fold them into a mini comic book. - The researchers and topics shown in these comics are real.
A dangerous path: New highway could jeopardize tigers in India [06/28/2017]
- Conservationists have witnessed several unsettling deaths of tigers in Corbett National Park recently, one of India’s most important tiger parks. - The state government of Uttarakhand, however, is moving forward on a plan to upgrade a road through the park into a full, public highway leading to alarm among tiger conservationists. - Officials are currently discussing turning portions of the highway into a flyover, allowing wildlife to pass underneath, but even this would only mitigate the impact.
Surprisingly, Indonesia’s most famous dive site is also a playground for whales and dolphins (commentary) [06/27/2017]
- Raja Ampat — an island chain in Indonesia’s West Papua province — is world renowned for its beautiful and unique marine biodiversity. But its marine mammals have not received as much attention. - Half of the 31 whale and dolphin species found in all of Indonesia — 16 different types — have been regularly observed there. - However, a designated long-term study of the behavior of whales and dolphins there has yet to be conducted. We don’t know much about them; more to the point, we don't know how to effectively protect them. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Audio: The fight to save Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [06/27/2017]
- One of the richest, most biodiverse tropical forests on the planet, Leuser is currently being targeted for expansion of oil palm plantations by a number of companies. - Tillack explains just what makes Leuser so unique and valuable, details some of her organization’s investigations into the ongoing clearance of Leuser in violation of Indonesia’s moratorium on deforestation for new oil palm plantations, and how consumers like you and me can help decide the fate of the region. - We also welcome to the show research ecologist Marcone Campos Cerqueira for our latest Field Notes segment. Cerqueira has recently completed a study that used bioacoustic monitoring to examine bird ranges in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and he’ll share some of his recordings with us on today’s show.
Logging in Malaysia’s Ulu Muda forest threatens wildlife and water supplies [06/26/2017]
- The Ulu Muda forest is the primary source of water for four million Malaysians, as well as for industry and agriculture. - The forest is also home to a huge diversity of species, including the Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, sambar deer and clouded and spotted leopards. - Although the federal government imposed a ban on logging in the reserve in 2003, local authorities have allowed commercial logging to increase over the past decade.
Is intensification of beef production really a solution to Amazonian deforestation? [06/23/2017]
- Beef production has become a major driver of tropical deforestation, responsible for as much as 65 percent of rainforest destruction caused by the global agricultural commodities trade in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a 2015 study. - One proposed means of slowing the rate at which forests are being destroyed to create pastureland for cattle in the Amazon and other tropical regions is intensification, or the adoption of technologies and practices that allow for the production of more beef on less land. - “Based on a historical comparison between the US, a fully intensive system, and Brazil, one moving in that direction, we suggest that cattle ranching will intensify as a result of conservation investments (reductions in capital and land subsidies) rather than intensifying in order to produce conservation results,” the researchers write in the article.
Footprints in the forest: The future of the Sumatran rhino [06/23/2017]
- Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) remain in the wild, a number many biologists say is too low to ensure the survival of the species. - Several organizations have begun to build momentum toward a single program that pools resources and know-how in Malaysia and Indonesia, the last places in Southeast Asia where captive and wild rhinos still live. - Advocates for intensive efforts to breed animals in captivity fear that an emphasis on the protection of the remaining wild animals may divert attention and funding away from such projects. - They worry that if they don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino may pass a point of no return from which it cannot recover.
Dried lizard penis being sold online as rare ‘magical’ plant root [06/22/2017]
- The fake Hatha Jodi are not only being sold in stores in India, but also through major online retailers like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Snapdeal and Etsy to customers around the world. - Laboratory tests have confirmed that the Hatha Jodi being sold online as plant roots are in fact dried penises of the Bengal monitor lizard and the Yellow monitor lizard, as well as their plastic replicas. - The Bengal and Yellow monitor lizards are listed under Appendix I of CITES, which bans their global trade.
When it comes to rhino conservation, Asia and Africa can learn a lot from each other [06/21/2017]
- Despite its proximity to Asian markets for trafficked rhino horn, Nepal has lost only four rhinos to poaching since 2011. - Experts credit this success to a combination of top-down enforcement and efforts to involve the community in conservation. - Protected areas in Africa that have collaborated with area residents have shown promising results, suggesting lessons from Nepal can be successfully applied elsewhere. - In turn, conservationists say Nepal can benefit from African countries' expertise in promoting wildlife tourism, and alternate models of benefit sharing.
Research suggests less affluent countries more dedicated to wildlife conservation than rich countries [06/20/2017]
- A team of researchers with Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and non-profit conservation organization Panthera looked at 152 countries and compiled what they call a Megafauna Conservation Index in order to evaluate each country’s contributions to the conservation of the world’s biodiversity. - African countries Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, together with South Asian nation Bhutan, were the top five megafauna conservation performers, the researchers found. - Norway came in at sixth, the top-ranked developed country, followed by Canada, which came in at eighth. The United States ranked nineteenth, lower than countries like Malawi and Mozambique that are among the least-developed in the world.
Religious leaders: Rainforest protection a ‘moral imperative’ [06/20/2017]
- The three-day event, held in Oslo, Norway, includes discussions between NGOs, government agencies, universities, indigenous groups and major religions. - The event marks the launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which seeks to build on the moral case for rainforest protection with tangible metrics and goals. - Indigenous and religious leaders from 21 countries attended the event, organized by the UN Development Programme, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we've laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity's demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo's staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called "the greatest writer in America".
Ring-tailed lemurs down by 95 percent? Maybe not. [06/19/2017]
- Two studies published this winter claim that Madagascar’s iconic ring-tailed lemur has suffered a 95 percent decline in its population and that only some 2,400 animals remain alive. - A new paper published in the International Journal of Primatology claims those studies exaggerate the severity of ring-tailed lemur declines. - It contends that the other papers have methodological problems, including misinterpretation of existing literature, incomplete sampling of lemur populations, and restricted geographic coverage.
Whale entanglements skyrocket off the U.S. West Coast [06/19/2017]
- Whale entanglements are rising, leading to concerns that current regulations are inadequate. - The most commonly entangled whale is the humpback. - California’s Dungeness crab fishery is responsible for a third of last year’s whale entanglements.
Wildlife ecologist killed in Rwandan national park by recently translocated rhino [06/16/2017]
- "It is with utmost regret that I inform you that Krisztián Gyöngyi was killed this morning by a rhinoceros in Akagera National Park in Rwanda while out tracking animals in the park,” Peter Fearnhead, CEO of the non-profit conservation organization African Parks, announced in a statement. - According to Fearnhead, Gyöngyi was a rhino specialist who had more than five years of experience monitoring and conserving rhinos in Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park, both in Malawi. - In a joint initiative of the Rwandan government and African Parks, which employs more than 600 rangers and manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries, 18 Eastern black rhinos were airlifted from South Africa to Akagera National Park.
Elusive seabird breeding grounds discovered in Chilean desert [06/16/2017]
- A Chilean expedition into the Atacama Desert has located the first known breeding grounds of the ringed storm-petrel, a seabird of unknown population size that is endemic to the western coast of South America. - The nests, located in natural cavities in the desert’s rocks and salt pans, were found 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the Pacific coast, where the birds feed and spend most of their time. - Chilean scientists see the discovery as critical to estimating the stability and size of the ringed storm-petrel population and determining the threat posed by mining and proposed wind farms in the region.
If we wish to save the Javan rhinoceros, we must work to know it (commentary) [06/15/2017]
- The Javan rhino survives in a single population of roughly 60 individuals in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. - Despite successful efforts to protect the park's rhinos from poachers, the species remains at risk due to multiple threats including lack of genetic diversity, disease and natural disasters. - Designing effective conservation strategies requires filling crucial gaps in knowledge about the population's size, status and behavior. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
‘The ones we named are all dead now’: dolphins and fishers struggle to survive in Myanmar [06/13/2017]
- Irrawaddy dolphins and traditional fishermen hunt cooperatively along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. - Electro-fishermen are threatening this tradition by illegally overfishing the river. - The government of Myanmar and the Wildlife Conservation Society have responded by working together to implement ecotourism programs and conservation policies.
30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi [06/13/2017]
- The discovery of the elusive okapi, once believed to be a mythical unicorn, was one of the most exciting taxonomic findings of the twentieth century. - To protect this shy, giraffe-like animal, wildlife conservationist John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in 1987. - During the past three decades, the project team has seen both successes and challenges, from political unrest to a brutal rebel attack in 2012 that killed 6 people and 14 okapis.
Tropical forest diversity and carbon richness not linked, study finds [06/12/2017]
- Scientists theorize that increased forest biodiversity also increases productivity (growth), and therefore carbon sequestration. But, a new large-scale study found no consistent relationship in tropical forests studied in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo. - Research by 100+ scientists combines data from 360 1-hectare plots in Amazon, Congo, and Borneo forests, resulting in one of the largest datasets yet to examine the relationship between tropical tree diversity and carbon storage. - Tropical forests differ markedly between continents, researchers found: Borneo forests were a triple hotspot for biodiversity, carbon and threat, making a compelling global case for prioritizing their conservation. African plots tended toward higher carbon stocks and lower diversity; South American plots had lower carbon stocks. - The researchers urge conservationists not to generalize forest attributes when setting conservation strategies, but instead to measure the diversity, productivity, and carbon storage capabilities of each forest in order to make informed conservation decisions. This approach could enhance the success of REDD+ and other programs.
Guatemala provides an example of community forest management for Indonesia [06/12/2017]
- In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, 9 community forestry concessions have been managing over 350,000 hectares of forest for more than 15 years. The communities aim to manage the concessions sustainably, earning income from timber and non-timber forest products and tourism. - Indigenous communities in Indonesia are currently in the process of mapping, titling and restoring their customary forests after Indonesian president Joko Widodo pledged to grant 12.7 million hectares for community concessions by 2019. - Representatives travelled to Guatemala to learn how this has been done by communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. - The Indonesian representatives hope to use the model of Guatemalan forest communities as a starting point for their own concession management.
In rare move, Brazil’s Temer ups conserved lands by 282,000 hectares [06/09/2017]
- President Temer announced the expansion of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Goiás; the Taim Ecological Station, Rio Grande do Sul; and the Biological Reservation Union, in Rio de Janeiro; along with the creation of Ferruginous Fields National Park, Pará — increasing conserved lands by more than 282,000 hectares. - Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park sees the biggest expansion, increasing from 65,000 hectares (251 square miles) to 240,000 hectares (927 square miles). Its protection is seen as vital to the preservation of biodiversity in the Cerrado, where only 3 percent of land is federally protected. - The protection of 282,000 hectares comes as Temer and Congress finalize plans to reduce the National Park of Jamanxim and National Forest of Jamanxim by 587,000 hectares (2,266 square miles) — an Amazon land deal criticized by conservationists and expected to benefit the agribusiness lobby that helped put Temer in power.
Field Notes: Pond turtle studies could help sea turtles survive toxic algal blooms [06/08/2017]
- Harmful algal blooms (HABs), dubbed “red tides,” occur worldwide. When ingested, tiny, toxin-producing algae threaten marine and human life. These events — sometimes natural, but often human-induced — now happen annually on the U.S. Gulf Coast and kill endangered turtle species. - Physiologist Sarah Milton, at Florida Atlantic University, researches the effect of HABs on freshwater turtles to improve treatment for endangered sea turtles that are rescued from toxin-filled waters. - Milton found that pond turtles tolerate far more algal toxin than similar sized mammals can survive — resistance possibly rooted in their ability to dive, living without oxygen for months. Understanding this ability could help sickened sea turtles rescued during harmful algal outbreaks. - Understanding the cellular mechanisms that allow pond turtles to maintain brain and body function during anoxic conditions could also help scientists improve outcomes for people who have suffered oxygen-deprivation events, such as stroke, which trigger irreversible brain cell death.
Can marine reserves help counteract climate change? [06/08/2017]
- Even if the nations of the world manage to meet their most ambitious goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100, elevated carbon dioxide levels will continue to stress and damage the oceans for the next half-century. - A new paper contends that marine reserves protected from fishing and other human exploitation can reduce the damage from acidification, rising sea levels, storm intensification, and other effects of climate change. - By sequestering and storing carbon, these protected areas can also benefit the whole planet, according to the paper. - The Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development calls on coastal nations to protect 10 percent of their waters by 2020, but the authors argue that 30 percent may be required to effectively counter the effects of global climate change.
Extinction in the wild looms for two California fish (commentary) [06/08/2017]
- The delta smelt is a three-to-four-inch long, silvery-blue fish that has long been at the center of California’s contentious water wars. - The species lives only in the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and its numbers have been declining for decades as enormous quantities of freshwater are diverted through the state’s vast network of aqueducts and canals. - The freshwater river flow also replenished Chinook salmon spawning grounds and freshened habitats (reducing salinity) in San Francisco Bay for waterfowl, Dungeness crab, and countless other aquatic flora and fauna in an immense system of sloughs, mudflats, and marshes. Now, however, most of that water is diverted to California’s thirsty farms and clamoring, growing cities. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Vaquita survival hinges on stopping international swim bladder trade [06/08/2017]
- Recent investigations by the Elephant Action League and WWF have uncovered the complicated trade in fish swim bladders from the Gulf of California that is pushing a porpoise known as the vaquita toward extinction. - A two-year-old gillnet ban so far has not yet stemmed the declining numbers of vaquita, which are down 50 percent since 2015 and 90 percent since 2011. - Not more than 30 vaquita remain in the wild, making it the most endangered cetacean on the planet. - The swim bladders can sell for as much as $20,000 per kilogram.
Bringing rhinos back to India’s parks [06/07/2017]
- Launched in 2005, the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 aimed to boost the population of rhinos in Assam State and expand the species' range within the state from three protected areas to seven. - Manas National Park was the first to receive translocated rhinos. The animals appeared to adapt well to their new home, but poachers repeatedly struck the park. - The program then turned to Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary, but the rhinos moved there grew sick and died. - Conservationists still believe the overarching goal of boosting the state's rhino population to 3,000 by 2020 is achievable.
‘Crunch time for biodiversity’: Farming, hunting push thousands of species toward extinction [06/07/2017]
- Eighty percent of threatened animals are losing ground - literally, in the form of habitat loss - to agriculture. - Up to 50 percent of threatened birds and mammals face extinction at the hands of hunters. - In a study published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists explores solutions to avoid destroying the habitats of these animals, such as increasing yields in the developed world and minimizing fertilizer use.
Gabon pledges ‘massive’ protected network for oceans [06/06/2017]
- The network of marine protected areas covers some 53,000 square kilometers (20,463 square miles) of ocean, an area larger than Costa Rica. - The marine parks and reserves could also draw tourists eager to catch a glimpse of the humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that all shuttle through Gabonese waters. - Government officials are in the process of overhauling how they manage fisheries, and they hope the move to protect Gabon’s territorial waters will improve the country’s food security and give its citizens a better chance to earn a living from fishing.
Small but not forgotten: Gibbons need more attention (commentary) [06/06/2017]
- Gibbons are frequently misidentified as monkeys, and few people are familiar with the taxonomic diversity represented by this primate family. - With the inclusion of the recently discovered Skywalker hoolock, there are now 17 recognized species of gibbon, and all but one of them are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN Redlist. - By failing to recognize the broad diversity within the gibbon family, policy makers and local stakeholders may underestimate the threat to individual species. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
One of Malaysia’s last rhinos euthanized to ‘end her suffering’ [06/05/2017]
- Puntung was one of three Sumatran rhinos known to survive in Malaysia, and one of fewer than 100 representatives of this Critically Endangered species. - Her health first raised concern in March, when she was found to suffer from an abscess in her jaw. - Dental surgery was successfully performed in April, but she was then found to have squamous cell cancer. - Veterinarians determined the disease was fatal and that treatment would only prolong her suffering. Puntung was euthanized just after dawn on Sunday, June 4.
Conservation group African Parks to look after West African wildlife [06/05/2017]
- The 10-year agreement includes funding of $26 million. - African Parks and the government of Benin aim to double wildlife populations in the park by training guards and shoring up protections from poaching. - The effort will create some 400 jobs and benefit the overall economy, say representatives of the government and the NGO.
Financing sustainable agriculture possible, if terms fit farmers’ needs [06/02/2017]
- Worldwide, more deforestation results from the push for farmland than any other cause. - The Global Canopy Programme reports that funding aimed at encouraging a move away from deforestation-based agriculture and toward more sustainable methods must be designed to address the needs of farmers. - Loans with longer terms and lower interest rates can help farmers who are switching to sustainable agriculture survive the ‘valley of death’ – that is, the first few years of new methods before their production becomes profitable.
New York detective work saves rhinos in South Africa (commentary) [06/02/2017]
- The slaughter of rhinos is due to demand for the very appendage that distinguishes a rhino from other creatures – its horn. Rhino horn has long been used in Asian traditional medicine, but the recent surge in the illegal horn market in countries like Vietnam and China has sent the price of horn skyrocketing to upwards of $65,000 (USD) per kilogram – more than the price of gold. - Southeast Asia isn’t the only market for smuggled rhino horns. In New York City, wildlife law enforcement officers and port authority agents are finding rhino horn in shipping containers and commercial luggage destined for markets in the United States and beyond. - One of the major anti-poaching operations funded by the Wild Tomorrow Fund with money from court-ordered donations by sellers of illegal ivory busted in New York City is the dehorning of a black rhino population at Phinda Private Game Reserve. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Breaking a fence-breaking habit: maintaining the fences that reduce human-elephant conflict [06/02/2017]
- Fencing is increasingly used to separate humans and wildlife, but some elephants learn that their tusks do not conduct electricity and use them to break through even electric fences. - To discourage further fence-breaking at one South African elephant sanctuary, a manager developed a “tusk brace,” a stiff wire glued into a small groove in each tusk that conducts the electricity from the tip to the more sensitive base beneath the animal’s lip. - The braces reduced break-throughs by the repeat offenders, with no observable negative effects, though their use may be most appropriate with animals that are monitored regularly. - As development expands into previously natural areas, keeping such fences maintained, for the safety of both people and elephants, may become an unfortunate necessity.
New carbon map will help protect the DRC’s rainforests [06/01/2017]
- The DRC is home to 60 percent of the Congo rainforest, the second-largest contiguous tract of tropical forests in the world. - According to WWF, which partnered with the the Ministry of Environment of the DRC and researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to map the aboveground biomass in the Central African country, the new carbon map will prove invaluable to the implementation of REDD+ initiatives in the DRC, and can also help guide land-use planning and development decisions. - Researchers were able to map the aboveground biomass in the DRC down to the one-hectare level using high-resolution airborne Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, in combination with satellite imagery and machine learning geospatial algorithms.
Reef Market Economy: Energetics key to keeping fish in the sea and the store [06/01/2017]
- Many coral reefs have lost their top predators due to overfishing, changing the structure of their food chains. - Researchers have found that when top predators are overfished, medium-sized predators benefit, but to the overall detriment of the ecosystem. - Local communities worldwide depend on coral reef fisheries for income and easily accessible protein, but better management is needed for these fisheries to last.
Audio: Frances Seymour on why rich nations need to start paying up to protect the world’s tropical forests [05/31/2017]
- Seymour shares her thoughts on why now was such an opportune moment for the publication of the book, whether or not the large-scale investment necessary to protect the world’s tropical forests shows signs of materializing any time soon, and which countries are leading the forest conservation charge. - We also welcome Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer back to the program to answer a question from Newscast listener Brian Platt about which 'good news' stories are worth talking about more in these tough times for environmental and conservation news. - All that and the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
Lizard DNA reveals India’s grasslands are likely pre-human – and need protection [05/31/2017]
- Researchers have described 5 species of lacertid lizards in the genus Ophisops in India’s tropical grasslands, but recent genetic research shows there may be at least 30 species. - Tropical grasslands have been largely ignored by the Indian government, according to researchers, and are hugely threatened by conversion to agriculture. - Recognizing tropical grasslands as pre-human, natural ecosystems with rich biodiversity and endemic species may be the first step to better protection.
Is the snow leopard actually 3 distinct subspecies? [05/30/2017]
- All snow leopards were believed to belong to one monotypic species, Panthera uncia, prior to the present study. - Though the cats’ range is immense, extending across 1.6 million square kilometers (more than 600,000 square miles) and 12 Asian countries, while also being largely inaccessible to humans, as it includes some of the highest and coldest mountain ranges in the world, hunting and poaching still pose such a serious threat to snow leopards that an estimated population of just 3,500 to 7,000 individuals remains in the wild today. - After performing the first-ever range-wide genetic survey of snow leopards, researchers determined that there are three primary “genetic clusters” of the big cats, each of which qualifies as its own subspecies.
‘Who wants to go for holiday to see large clear-cuts?’: Slovakia turns against its national parks [05/29/2017]
- Conservationists slam the Slovakian government for mismanaging its most known national park, Tatra National Park, home to capercaillie and a number of other charismatic species. - The IUCN is currently mulling downgrading Tatra National Park’s status due to logging, hunting, and overdevelopment without environmental safeguards. - If that downgrade passes, it could have an impact on tourism to Tatra National Park – as its wildlife populations decline and its forests vanish.
Cheetahs return to Malawi after decades [05/29/2017]
- The cheetahs have been moved into special enclosures called bomas for now, where the animals will learn to adapt to their new home under constant supervision. - After spending some time in the bomas, the cheetahs will be released into the wider park. - The cheetahs are the first large predator to be reintroduced into Liwonde National Park, and are said to be in good health.
Why gender matters in conservation [05/26/2017]
- Over recent decades, conservation organizations have started listening to local communities for insight into how best to protect dwindling ecosystems. But only recently have some of them begun tuning in the voices of women, specifically. - By adopting a “gendered approach” to conservation, some organizations believe they can improve both environmental and social outcomes. - Kame Westerman, the Gender and Conservation Advisor at the NGO Conservation International, helps her group adopt the gendered approach in its projects.
Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species. - In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area. - However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.
Singapore is world’s second largest shark-fin trader: TRAFFIC [05/26/2017]
- In 2012-2013, Singapore exported $40 million worth of shark fins, closely following Hong Kong’s $45 million, and imported $51.4 million worth of fins, following Hong Kong's $170 million. - More than 72 percent of Singapore's shark fin exports went to Hong Kong, mainland China and Japan in 2012-13. - Spain, Namibia and Uruguay were the top three sources of shark fins during this period, accounting for more than 66 percent of Singapore’s imports.
Slight bumps in protected areas could be a boon for biodiversity [05/26/2017]
- Increasing protected areas by 5 percent in strategic locations could boost biodiversity protection by a factor of three. - The study examined global protected areas and evaluated how well they safeguard species, functional and evolutionary biodiversity. - More than a quarter of species live mostly outside protected areas. - The new strategy from the research leverages the functional and evolutionary biodiversity found in certain spots and could help conservation planners pinpoint areas for protection that maximize all three types of biodiversity.
On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. - The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics. - In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.
Bowling for Rhinos: a grassroots project with global reach [05/25/2017]
- Since the original event in 1987, Bowling for Rhinos — a project run completely by volunteers — has raised more than $6 million to support rhino conservation efforts around the world. - Funds have supported ranger units that protect the Asian rhino species, as well as conservation programs for black and white rhinos. - Fundraisers, which happen across the United States, go beyond just bowling — some groups opt to host events like Painting for Rhinos or Winos for Rhinos. - Some participants and supporters point to Bowling for Rhinos as an antidote to feelings of hopelessness in the face of national and global environmental problems.
When it comes to the IUCN Red List, accuracy is the order of the day (commentary) [05/25/2017]
- It is clear that the IUCN tries to ensure that its criteria for determining threat status can be uniformly applied across all species. It is also clear that IUCN has applied this valuable service for a long time, for which we should all be grateful. - The approach we have used takes advantage of the enormous amounts of freely available geo-referenced data to build much more accurate range maps based on expert filtered citizen science sightings, a plethora of high resolution ecological and geophysical data from the Western Ghats, and well-tested statistical tools. - Since these data can now be found for many places in the world and for many taxonomic groups, we call on IUCN to embrace this approach. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Rugged innovation: Meeting the challenges of bringing high tech DNA analysis to the field [05/25/2017]
- Expeditionlab’s GENE is a fusion of laboratory equipment and do-it-yourself (DIY) technological components adapted to conduct DNA extractions, amplifications, and sequencing outside of a standard laboratory setting. - Researchers traveled to the Kabobo Massif in the Democratic Republic of Congo to collect wildlife samples and test the process of species’ identification in the field using Gene. - The Expeditionlab team faced a host of challenges, including a shortage of electricity and hot, humid tropical weather, for which they successfully adapted the portable laboratory.
Nepal burns more than 4,000 confiscated wildlife parts [05/24/2017]
- These illegally trafficked items were burned in Chitwan National Park in front of nearly 300 people. - The wildlife parts, which were part of the burn, have been collected over the last 20 years. - Officials hope that this burning will act as a deterrent to wildlife traffickers.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia. - They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation. - Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.
Skewed sex ratio spells danger for rhinos in India’s Gorumara National Park [05/22/2017]
- Gorumara National Park, in India's West Bengal State, is home to a small but steadily growing population of greater one-horned rhinoceroses, currently numbering 51 individuals. - Despite its overall growth, the sex ratio of the park's rhino population is severely imbalanced, with more reproductive-aged males than females. - Ideally, there should be more females than males. A male-heavy population threatens the long-term reproductive and genetic viability of the population, as well as leading to increased conflict over mates. - Until this spring, Gorumara had been relatively free of poaching since the 1990s. However, two dead rhinos were found in April, and another suspected poaching incident was reported May 18.
Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year. - In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual. - Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard." - His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.
China’s first national park, an experiment in living with snow leopards [05/19/2017]
- Sanjiangyuan National Park is expected to open in 2020 as China’s first park in its new national park system. - As many as 1,500 endangered snow leopards (Panthera uncia) live in the area. The cats are subject to poaching and persecution in retaliation for their predation on livestock, which are edging out their natural prey. - The new park seeks to capitalize on the reverence many local Tibetan Buddhists have for wildlife, employing a conservation model that engages the public and attempts to ease tensions between people and predators. - The new national park system is intended to create a more effective kind of protected area than currently exists in China.
Meet the 2017 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [05/19/2017]
- The winners include Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela, Indira Lacerna-Widmann from Philippines, Ian Little from South Africa and Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia. - At an awards ceremony held last evening at the Royal Geographic Society in London, each of the six winners received £35,000 (~$46,000) in project funding to help scale up their work. - Zafer Kizilkaya, a 2013 Whitley Award winner from Turkey, received this year's Gold Award (£50,000) for his conservation project "Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline".
A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world. - Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.” - Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.
Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal. - Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency. - Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.
Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems. - We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe. - We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. - In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.
With poaching curtailed, a new menace to Nepal’s wildlife [05/17/2017]
- Since 2011, with poaching largely under control in the country, conservationists in Nepal have been paying increasing attention to the risks of diseases spreading to wildlife from domesticated animals. - Domesticated animals near Chitwan National Park form a reservoir of pathogens that could cross to wildlife. Veterinarians have already identified tuberculosis in a dead rhino and a suspected case of canine distemper in a leopard. - The country currently lacks facilities to fully analyze and respond to the threat of diseases, but local and international groups are working to rapidly increase capacity.
Field Notes: Reinvigorating wild parrot populations with captive birds [05/17/2017]
- Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country. - Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaws from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered. - Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts. - Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaws as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.
More than 300 smuggled tortoises seized in Malaysia [05/17/2017]
- Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport raided the cargo area of the airport on May 14 following a tip-off, and found the tortoises packed into five boxes labeled as stones. - The boxes reportedly arrived on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar, and were registered with a fake business address in Malaysia. - No arrests have been made yet, but the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, officials say.
Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi). - The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach. - Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade. - Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.
Manmade noise pollution even more prevalent in US protected areas than researchers expected [05/16/2017]
- About 14 percent of the land mass in the United States has been afforded some kind of legally protected status, and noise pollution is noticeable even in these more remote areas where manmade disturbances are supposed to be kept to a minimum. - According to a study published this month in the journal Science, the noise pollution from airplanes, highways, industry, and resource extraction is encroaching ever further into U.S. protected areas designed to preserve habitat for biodiversity. - Using baseline sound levels for each study area established by machine learning algorithms that took into account geospatial features of the area, the researchers determined that anthropogenic noise pollution exceeds three decibels (dB), essentially doubling background sound levels, in 63 percent of the nation’s protected areas.
Burning wood: Can the EU see the forest for the trees? [05/16/2017]
- A new report argues that forests need more protection from the biomass industry in the EU, which is deforesting the American south to produce energy abroad. - EU policy considers burning woody biomass as carbon neutral, even though other countries and many scientists say that doesn’t add up. - Demand for wood pellets in the EU is growing: last year, the UK imported 8 million tons. This demand is leading to high quality wood – not waste – being burned.
Son Doong Cave: Tourism and conservation coexist in one of Vietnam’s largest national parks [05/16/2017]
- Home to the world's largest cave, Son Doong, the park gets thousands of visitors per year. - Tourism in the area has also benefited the local economy, leading to a decrease in unsustainable use of area resources such as timber. - Despite government plans to install a cable car for tourists, area guides remain optimistic about the future of the park and the cave.
Should we be optimistic about the future of the earth? (commentary) [05/15/2017]
- After the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit, it is clear that much can be accomplished in conservation with creative thinking - The author of “Running with Rhinos: Stories from a Radical Conservationist” calls for more collaboration and less litigation - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Environment secretary of São Paulo faces controversies over management plans of protected areas [05/15/2017]
- The suspension of the implementation of MPs affects over a million hectares of marine regions and oceanic islands. - One MP is under investigation following accusations that the secretariat surreptitiously introduced changes to decrease the level of protection for some areas. - Critics accuse the environment secretary of putting industrial interests over the defense of the environment.
Drylands greener with forests than previously thought [05/12/2017]
- The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, increases global forest cover estimates by 9 percent. - Using very high resolution imagery, the team calculated that dryland forest cover was 40 to 47 percent higher above current totals. - The researchers calculate that 1.1 million hectares (4,247 square miles) of forest covers the Earth’s drylands.
Crabbing gone commercial: Brazilian mangroves threatened by shift in local traditions [05/12/2017]
- A new method of crabbing is bringing indigenous people a larger catch, but requires cutting mangroves and killing crabs indiscriminately. - Crabbers’ dependence on intermediaries is complicating the crabbing business by shackling them to informal loans and pressuring them to achieve greater harvests. - A researcher recommends a return to more traditional crabbing techniques and organizing cooperatives to give more power to the crabbers.
50 new spiders discovered in Australia [05/12/2017]
- The two-week expedition in Australia's Cape York Peninsula involved 23 scientists, indigenous rangers and traditional owners. - This expedition will likely result in the greatest number of new species of spiders discovered on a Bush Blitz research trip, scientists say. - The researchers are now identifying and describing the spiders for formal scientific classification.
Hong Kong Ivory traders encouraging buyers to smuggle ivory: TRAFFIC [05/11/2017]
- Exporting ivory bought in Hong Kong to mainland China would involve crossing an international border, which is illegal and in violation of CITES regulations. - But 27 of the 74 traders that TRAFFIC surveyed encouraged buyers to take ivory out of Hong Kong without obtaining CITES permits. - While some shopkeepers suggested hiding small ivory trinkets in bags and luggage, others offered more detailed strategies to conceal purchased ivory.
Howler monkeys booming in Belize sanctuary 25 years after translocation [05/10/2017]
- Disease, hurricanes and hunting wiped out the native howler monkeys living in the Cockscomb Basin by the 1970s. - Between 1992 and 1994, 62 black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) were relocated from a nearby reserve. - After surveying the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in March and April, scientists figure there are at least 170 howler monkeys – and perhaps many more – living all over the 51,800-hectare (128,000-acre) preserve.
Extremely rare bay cat filmed in Borneo [05/09/2017]
- Researchers photographed the bay cat while conducting a wildlife survey in the Rungan Landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. - The forests in this landscape include peat swamps and heath, a habitat type in which bay cats have not previously been recorded, scientists say. - The team has not released the exact location of the potentially new population of bay cats because the forest where the cat was filmed is not legally protected.
DRC’s Garamba National Park: The last giraffes of the Congo [05/09/2017]
- Today there are only 46 giraffes left in Garamba National Park, in Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a nearly 2,000 square-mile area. - Garamba is situated in a dangerous part of Africa crawling with heavily armed poachers and various guerilla groups. - Garamba is one of 10 national parks and protected areas in 7 countries managed by African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization.
Protected species in Gulf of Mexico could take decades to recover from Deepwater Horizon oil spill [05/08/2017]
- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles in the Gulf, according to findings detailed in a special issue of the journal Endangered Species Research, published in January, comprised of 20 studies that collectively represent more than five years’-worth of data collection and analysis by scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their partners. - The research was performed as part of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), a process required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in which NOAA investigates the types of injuries to wildlife caused by an oil spill, determines the number of animals that were harmed, and develops a restoration plan designed to address the primary threats to impacted species. - In a statement, NOAA offered this succinct summation of the results of the studies: “The research indicates that populations of several marine mammal and sea turtle species will take decades to rebound. Significant habitat restoration in the region will also be needed.”
Anti-trafficking activist held without trial in Madagascar [05/08/2017]
- Clovis Razafimalala has been working to end rosewood trafficking in Madagascar since 2009. - He has been imprisoned since September on charges of unauthorized rebellion and burning state files and property during a protest he maintains he did not participate in. - No trial date has been announced, although one is supposed to be set by May 26. - Activists say his case raises concern for the civil rights of Malagasy environmental activists.
Fighting a plant to save rhinos in Nepal [05/05/2017]
- Mikania micrantha, a plant native to the Americas, has been present in Chitwan National Park since the 1990s. As of 2010, it was present in 20 percent of the park, becoming a threat to wildlife and local people's livelihoods. - The plant is particularly prevalent in habitats like wetlands, grasslands and riverine forests, which are also favored habitats for the more than 600 one-horned rhinos living in the park. - Mikania chokes out native fodder species, pushing rhinos and other grazers out of the safety of the park and increasing human-wildlife conflict, researchers have found. - Mikania is extremely difficult to eradicate since plants produce up to 40,000 seeds per year and can re-root from even small stems. Efforts are underway to improve removal strategies and engage local communities in the work.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru's forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru's parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
Scientists rediscover ‘lost’ monitor lizard in Papua New Guinea [05/05/2017]
- The only specimen of the monitor lizard Lesson collected on New Ireland never reached its destination in France and was not studied in detail. - Since then, it has been believed that the monitor lizards on New Ireland are the common mangrove monitors (Varanus indicus). - But the new study confirms that the monitor lizards on New Ireland are a distinct species.
Balinese rituals fuel spike in trafficking of endangered sea turtles [05/05/2017]
- Indonesia is home to six of the world’s seven sea turtle species. International rules prevent any of them from being traded internationally, and the domestic trade is heavily controlled. - After Bali's high priests issued a strict regulation in 2005 on the use of turtles in ceremonies, consumption of their meat dropped dramatically. - But a recent series of busts seem to indicate a significant surge in turtle smuggling to the island. - For now, Indonesian authorities' main strategy appears to be education.
Vandals ravage Mother Nature (commentary) [05/04/2017]
- Given the popularity of National Parks, Forests, and Monuments, the number of vandals is quite low, but they have an everlasting impact that scars our natural heritage. - Penalties for vandalism in protected areas can be increased by an act of Congress, but that would only be an effective tactic if it either dissuades people from destroying our heritage or if the culprits are caught and properly penalized. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Over the bridge: The battle for the future of the Kinabatangan [05/03/2017]
- Proponents of the project contend that a bridge and associated paved road to Sukau would have helped the town grow and improve the standard of living for its residents. - Environmental groups argue that the region’s unrealized potential for high-end nature tourism could bring similar economic benefits without disturbing local populations of elephants, orangutans and other struggling wildlife. - The mid-April cancellation of the bridge was heralded as a success for rainforest conservation, but bigger questions loom about the future of local communities, the sanctuary and its wildlife.
Human-wildlife conflict is decimating leopard numbers in one of their last African strongholds [05/03/2017]
- A research team led by Dr. Samual Williams of the Department of Anthropology at Durham University in the UK conducted a long-term trap survey from 2012 to 2016 in order to study the leopard population in South Africa’s Soutpansberg Mountains, one of the leopard’s last strongholds in Africa. - They found that the cats’ population density decreased by 44 percent between 2012 and 2016. That means that, based on a previous estimate of their abundance, the leopard population in the Soutpansberg Mountains has decreased by two-thirds since 2008, Williams and his co-authors note in the study. - While the researchers argue that, based on their findings, a current ban on leopard hunting in South Africa should not be lifted in areas where the species is facing sharp declines in numbers, they add that efforts to reduce often-lethal conflicts between leopards and humans might have an even bigger impact.
Mexican ecologist José Sarukhán wins 2017 Tyler Prize [05/03/2017]
- Sarukhán co-founded Mexico's biodiversity agency, CONABIO, in 1992 - CONABIO is the largest national biodiversity database in the world, with over 11.2 million specimens - He accepts the award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, May 4, 2017
Audio: A deep dive into the study of marine wildlife through bioacoustics [05/03/2017]
- Here at the Mongabay Newscast, we’re very interested in acoustic ecology, perhaps for obvious reasons: Acoustic ecology, sometimes known as ecoacoustics or soundscape studies, is the study of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment as mediated through bioacoustics, or the sounds that are produced by and affect living organisms. - In order to highlight the findings of this exciting line of research, we’ve created our ongoing Field Notes segment. And in this particular Field Note, which takes up the entire episode, Leah Barclay plays for us several of the underwater recordings she’s made of humpback whales, the Great Barrier Reef, water insects, and more. - Find all that plus the top news in this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Rwanda welcomes 20 black rhinos to Akagera National Park [05/03/2017]
- The 20 black rhinos are of the eastern subspecies (Diceros bicornis michaeli). - African Parks, the NGO that manages Akagera National Park in cooperation with the government of Rwanda, says that it has rhino trackers, canine patrols and a helicopter to protect the rhinos from poaching. - Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos exist in Africa. Their numbers have been decimated by poaching for their horns, which fetch high prices for use in traditional Chinese medicine. - Officials hope that the new rhino population will boost Akagera National Park's visibility as a ecotourism destination.
Preserving orangutan culture an ingredient for successful conservation [05/02/2017]
- Scientists once thought that all animal behavior was instinctual, but now know that many animals — particularly social animals — are able to think and to learn, and to display culturally learned behaviors. - Orangutans are one animal in which occurrences of culture have been fairly well proven, with orangutan groups at different study sites displaying variant behaviors that have neither environmental nor genetic origins, meaning they can only be cultural in nature. - Among these cultural behaviors are basic tool making and use for food harvesting, purposeful vocalizations, and variations in nest building materials and methods. Scientists fear habitat loss and crashing populations could cause this cultural heritage to vanish. - The loss of varied cultural behaviors could potentially make orangutans less adaptable to changes in their environment at a time when, under extreme pressure from human development, these great apes need all the resources they can muster.
A return to mixed roots in a Sumatran forest [05/02/2017]
- The indigenous Rejang are rediscovering multicropping after years spent focusing on coffee monoculture. - The Rejang generally abandoned polyculture after the national government established a national park on their lands. - Multicropping helps them make money year-round instead of just when it's time for the coffee harvest.
Saving the most endangered plants in the world [05/02/2017]
- Most of Nagalingum's recent research focuses on cycads, palm-like plants with stout trunks and a crown of stiff, hard leaves. - Cycads are believed to be as old (or even older) than dinosaurs. - Of the 300-odd recognized species of cycads today, about two-thirds are seriously threatened by extinction.
Conservation lessons from the bonobos [05/01/2017]
- Lola ya Bonobo, the world’s first bonobo sanctuary, was founded in 1994 by Claudine Andre, who came to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at a young age, and who, after a chance meeting with a bonobo at the Kinshasa zoo, dedicated her life to the species. Today, Lola has been recognized worldwide as a model for primate rehabilitation. - The sanctuary primarily credits “inclusive conservation” for its success, a process by which Lola not only cares for rescued DRC bonobos, but also for nearby human communities — supporting farms, schools and medical facilities. The communities in turn support Lola. - The bonobos at the sanctuary — often traumatized after being rescued from the great ape trade — spend years in rehabilitation, being served by human foster mothers and other caring Lola staff. When deemed ready, bonobo troupes are returned to the wild Congo.
Delicate Solomon Island ecosystem in danger of heavy logging [05/01/2017]
- Foreign and domestic companies are making a push – at times using allegedly unethical means – for the timber found on the island of Nende in the Santa Cruz chain of the Solomon Islands. - The island’s old-growth forests are home to animals like the Santa Cruz shrikebill, which is found nowhere else on Earth. - Concerns have been voiced that logging could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, from the watersheds in the mountains down to the coral reefs ringing the island, if large-scale logging is allowed to proceed.
Corruption drives dealings with logging companies in the Solomon Islands [05/01/2017]
- The old-growth forests on the island of Nende anchor a unique ecosystem that hold creatures found nowhere else and that have supported communities for centuries. - Logging companies are eager to harvest the island’s timber, which could be worth as much as SI$10 million ($1.26 million). - Scientists worry that logging would destroy everything from the mountain sources of the island’s fresh water to the reefs where sedimentation as a result of logging could kill coral. - Conservation groups and sources from within the provincial government have charged that the companies are using coercion and bribes to convince landowners and development organizations to back their plans to log Nende’s forests.
Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
Philippines bans new open-pit metal mines [04/28/2017]
- The Philippines has banned new open-pit gold, copper and silver mines, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Regina Lopez announced April 27. - Lopez cited the need to protect biodiversity, evidence of injuries to communities and water supplies, and violations of environmental law by the mining industry. - Since taking office in July, Lopez has lauched an aggressive campaign to force the mining industry to improve its practices. - The ban could be one of Lopez's last acts in office; on May 3, she faces review from a legislative committee that includes people linked to the mining industry.
As forests disappear, human-elephant conflict escalates in Nepal [04/28/2017]
- Asian elephants are responsible for destroying crops, buildings, and even injuring or killing local people in Nepal. - A new study argues that Nepal’s government has not done enough to help villages in elephant areas. - Researchers measured the willingness-to-pay of villagers in offsetting elephant damage.
Overestimated range maps for endemic birds in India’s Western Ghats lead to underestimated threats, study finds [04/27/2017]
- In a paper published earlier this week in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers detail their findings that suggest the IUCN has “vastly” overestimated the geographic range sizes for 17 of 18 endemic birds studied in the Western Ghats. - In some cases, the researchers write in the study, the range maps supplied by BirdLife International (BLI) and used by the IUCN for its threat assessments of birds in the Western Ghats included “large areas of unsuitable habitat” and were so off that the threat status should be changed “for at least 10 of the 18 species based on area metrics used by the IUCN for threat assessment.” - The head of the IUCN Red List says that the study's authors made a "fundamental error" in applying threat assessment criteria to their datasets, however, adding that just two of the 10 birds identified in the study need to be examined more closely. - The key to the updated range maps created by the researchers behind the Biological Conservation study is citizen science. In particular, the researchers used data from eBird, an online checklist program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And on the point of the usefulness of citizen science, the researchers and the IUCN are in full agreement.
Illegal trade threatens nearly half the world’s natural heritage sites: WWF [04/27/2017]
- Poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing of rare species protected under CITES occurs in 45 percent of the natural World Heritage sites, a new WWF report says. - Illegal harvesting degrades the unique values that gave the heritage sites the status in the first place, the report says. - Current approaches to preventing illegal harvesting of CITES listed species in World Heritage sites is not working, the report concludes.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
Conserving Congo’s wild places on a shoestring [04/25/2017]
- The park operates on a budget so small they can hardly afford to patrol the 76,000 hectares (188,000 acres) of mangroves, waterways, beach and ocean. - Though the beach and savannah portions of the park are partially protected areas, a handful of communities have continuously lived there since long before the park’s creation. - Park officials and rangers face the difficult task of protecting the vast area with just a handful of rangers and are up against generations of ingrained practices by residents, such as poaching turtles and their eggs.